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My Aztec shaman character, Chimalli, is primarily a spirit summoner, using Willpower (5)+Charisma (7) to resist drain. He has one level of the Focused Concentration quality (+1).

Is there any easy way that I can increase drain resistance for summoning? Are there any items/qualities/whatever I can get to increase his resistance? What's the cheapest in terms of karma cost?

The Sacrifice metamagic is not beyond the realm of possibility if I can find a teacher (it's highly appropriate to the Aztec tradition, after all). However, it would be hard to use this in combat summoning, since it takes two full Complex actions (I would have to maintain Increased Reflexes, also.), and I have to have something to kill handy.

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I'll leave this in a comment, since it doesn't address your actual question, but you might consider just keeping a bunch of summons on standby. I'd have to go look at the rules, but you could conceivably bind enough to have one for every possible task. (Not to mention you can find and kill any target without having to leave your meeting location...I love summons). –  Cthos May 7 '11 at 20:14
I will... if/when I get filthy rich. Possibly after buying a couple more foci. =) I have a spirit ally, which is a huge help - but he can't Manifest. Right now, I'm using unbound spirits for most tasks. –  RMorrisey May 7 '11 at 21:33
Yeah, money helpful. I'll see if I can get you a legit answer later this evening. Are you doing this at character creation, or will you need to buy these things with Karma? What do you have in terms of resources right now? What is your spirit ally? –  Cthos May 7 '11 at 22:42
I'm buying this stuff with Karma. His spirit ally is a jaguar spirit named Itonal, which means "Shadow" in the language of the Aztecs. A beast spirit (Force 6) who is Chimalli's Nahualli - the other half of Chimalli's soul, in the Aztec tradition. During combat, Chimalli can cast shapeshift to turn himself into a Great Cat, and call upon Itonal to possess him. During the night, while Chimalli sleeps, the jaguar spirit takes control, and wanders the material world in Chimalli's body. (This is an alternative form of the Dream Spirit Pact from SM, which I negotiated with the GM.) –  RMorrisey May 8 '11 at 2:28
Just as an aside--when SR4 changed the dice mechanics, they also made it a lot harder to avoid drain at least occasionally. I'm not sure the designers fully intended things to be this way, but nonetheless your options are fairly limited in SR4 even for easy summons. Perhaps try to do your summoning whenever possible at times when you can recover from drain? –  Ichoran May 10 '11 at 17:14
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2 Answers

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It is very difficult to increase drain resistance. You have identified the likely routes, with the potential extra option of a Mentor spirit, drugs to ignore the pain, or 'ware to soak the damage.

From here:

All magicians use Willpower plus another mental attribute appropriate to their tradition to resist Drain.

The base Drain Value for Spellcasting is listed in the spell’s description (see p. 195.) For Summoning and Binding spirits, the Drain Value is twice the number of hits (not net hits) generated by the spirit during the Opposed Test. Each hit on the Drain Resistance Test reduces the Drain Value by one. Any remaining Drain is suffered by the magician. Drain is usually Stun damage, though there are situations in which it can be transformed into Physical damage (see the Sorcery and Conjuring sections).

Therefore there are two routes to reducing drain, increasing attributes or cheesing the opposed test.

Now, Mentor spirit with spirits of man (according to this) may modify that test. (support here).

In the same area, they suggest better living through chemistry:

Buy Stim patches that let you ignore stun damage modifiers (No-Pain is even better)

From the same source, they note that you cannot use foci to resist drain:

Errata clarified that NO focus can help with drain.

Sacrifice does seem quite useful:

Sacrifice requires two Complex Actions completed consecutively. Taking any other action between the two required actions will negate the attempt. The initiate first performs a normal melee attack using the appropriate melee weapon skill. The target may attempt to parry, block, or dodge as normal. If the target is restrained or prone, appropriate melee modifiers apply (see p. 148, SR4). While any living creature can be used as a donor, the blood of sapient donors (metahumans and critters with the Sapience ability, such as sasquatches and dragons) is more potent. For each box of Physical Damage inflicted on a sapient donor, the Drain in the subsequent action is reduced by 1. For non-sentient critters, the DV is reduced by 1 for every 3 boxes of damage (possibly less if the donor is significantly smaller than an average human). Spirits can never be donors, even if they are currently possessing a living body. An initiate may use himself as a donor, drawing on his own life force to reduce the Drain of his spells. A blood magician can inflict any desired level of Physical damage on himself. Sacrifice is the prerequisite for a number of advanced metamagic techniques.

This neatly reduces the utility of the "Bag of Rats" and causes some interesting moral problems. On the other hand, it also doesn't require the death of the target.

This is absolutely the way to go if you're the kind of shammy who summons a big expletive spirit at the beginning of the day and has it hang around. I get the sense that in-combat summoning is kind of inefficient and difficult in the first place.

This page suggests some 'ware alternatives:

I wanna make a hermetic mage with the restricted gear quality and Pain Editor cultured bioware for an extra die to my drain pool and to make it so he doesn't pass out unless he's dead. Is that cheesy? Of course, I know it would be up to my GM, but I am just wondering what the general consensus is on that combo. I was also thinking of getting Cerebral Booster, but I didn't that that was cheesy because it's pretty common.

But that is a massive sacrifice...

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A lot of those options don't actually increase your resistance to drain, they just cancel out the consequences of taking out said drain. Which might be equally beneficial, but not necessarily what the OP was wanting. –  Cthos May 21 '11 at 17:50
Though various -wares to up various attributes isn't a bad thing, aside from dropping your magic rating...which made me think of a question that might not have been asked yet! –  Cthos May 21 '11 at 17:52
What 'ware will actually increase my linked attributes (W+C) for purposes of drain resistance? I feel like I looked, and had trouble finding anything. My mentor spirit is the cat, which does not give me a summoning bonus (as far as I can remember, I will check, though.) –  RMorrisey May 22 '11 at 1:11
looking at: denver.wikidot.com/info:cultured-information Pain Editor gives +1 will, no Penalties for mental (stun) damage and No unconciousness due to deadly stun. So that's the biggie. Alternatively a trauma damper: Subtract one box from any Stun Damage. Shift one box from Physical Damage to Stun Damage. It seems 'ware is more about mitigating the consequences than dodging them. Still, a -1 essence combo as referenced in the post seems quite attractive if you're designing for it. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton May 22 '11 at 8:50
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Drain is a bit of a problem for mages who want to rely on spells rather than use them as an 'oh shit' button. Having your casting stat and willpower at a highish level is good, but drain (especially in a background count) can often scale much faster than even your attribute cap in both.

There are a few esoteric methods that help with this.

Fetishes. You learn a spell that requires you to have a specific item, or kind of item, on your person/in your hand to cast it. This allows you to add +2 dice to resist drain.

Centreing focuses. From Street Magic, these focuses are pricy, but add their Force to dice pools to resist drain.

Free Spirits. A Drain Pact with a free spirit adds some large number of dice to resist drain, but can have roleplaying disadvantages.

You can also redirect drain to an ally spirit, but that can and will kill them off pretty quick, and also piss them off.

Platelet Factories and Trauma Damper together cost less than 1 essence, and reduce drain damage considerably.

Get Initiated. As well as making your magic more potent, the Centreing metamagic (each grade of initiation grants you a metamagic, of which, Geomancy (Street Magic), Masking, and Centreing are particularly useful) adds dice to resist Drain equal to your Initiation Grade.

The Focused Concentration Positive Quality can be bought at either 10 BP or 20 BP (or negotiate with the GM to buy it with karma) and helps you resist drain.

Ultimately, though, especially as you start gaining extra Magic ranks from Initiation, you'll start to have to moderate your magic use more and more, not overcasting and even going under your maximum force. Magic is meant to be used in moderation, and that's why drain is such an ass to deal with.

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