So, in my story, there are six main categories of magical abilities, and everyone's able to have 5 abilities at a time. Each category of power has its own limitations on, and rules for, their use, and one category, called "Tribute", allows you to temporarily disable a certain number of your other powers to manifest something into the world: either an object, a totem that alters physics in the area around it, or a loyal animal companion. These will persist until they are either dismissed by their creator or destroyed, and either way the tribute power and the powers tributed to make the creation will remain unusable for an hour after the creation's destruction or dismissal.

Now I like this concept, but a problem with it stuck out at me almost immediately:

Nobody would want to have them.

No warrior with any significant backing or funding would disable any of their own powers in exchange for a cool magic sword if they could have their squire conjure it for them, or pay a civilian to borrow theirs, and still have all of their own powers intact. And the same goes for familiars: just have somebody who'll be far away from danger summon their own and then instruct it to follow someone else's orders. Boom, same benefit, but without anyone who'll actually get into a fight paying the price to their power.

While obviously for people and organizations with limited resources or manpower this wouldn't be an option, it still seems to me that it'd be pretty lame to have an entire category of cool powers that would never see personal use in "high level play", as it were, because whenever you have the option it's always better for someone else to use them for you. So naturally the obvious course of action was to contrive mechanisms to make this sort of abuse impossible.

For items, I figured that since all tribute powers are all manifestations of the user's spirit animal / familiar, they have a mind of their own and, upon recognizing an attempt by somebody other than their master to use them, they instantly teleport back to their master's side.

The world-altering totems aren't a problem because they're stationary and are generally intended to be used by more than just their creator.

But for summoned beasts? I can't think of anything to prevent the "I want you to do what this guy says" exploit that wouldn't involve making them amazingly unhelpful to people working with a group, or creepily sociopathic towards anyone who isn't their master (the main character has one of these and I want him to be an endearing and likable animal companion for him).

Why would using somebody else's summoned familiar, ordered to obey you, not work, or at least not work well enough to keep people from making the sacrifice to their powerset to use their own?

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    I like the creepily sociopathic to non master idea. That will give your endearing likable animal some depth. Because you know, it only looks like an endearing and likable animal. – Willk Sep 11 at 1:24
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    I think your assumption that no-one will limit their powers to get a decent artifact/totem/familiar is incorrect. Maybe you might consider rephrasing the question (or asking a new one) to make it broader - why someone agrees to (temporarily) limit their abilities transferring part of it into artifact/totem/familiar. You'll see it produces plenty of new opportunities. Everything comes at the cost and what you describe here seems a reasonable cost. So it will work for sure. Anyway - nice idea, really. – Ister Sep 11 at 13:56
  • @Ister It's not that it couldn't be worth it, it's just that if there's no tangible advantage to using YOUR creations specifically, then it would always be more optimal and efficient in any sort of combat situation to use somebody else's weapons and summons, because then you'd have the weapon/ally AND all of your powers. – Jason Clyde Sep 11 at 13:59
  • Ability to stab enemy with lesser force when your familiar is distracting him can be an advantage that weighs out limiting your own power. If you are injured to the extent where you can't heal yourself, having a fully capable unicorn of your own creation can be a life-saver. If enemy has a shield that only a break-through +5 sword can break then you might want having it even though it makes yourself weaker in total. And you just found out in the heat of a battle. Just few examples. Once again - you can ask it separately as technically it's quite a different question. – Ister Sep 11 at 14:09

19 Answers 19

up vote 29 down vote accepted

The summoned creature only communicates with its owner telepathically meaning you can't just order it to obey someone else as they have no means to communicate to it.

The summoned creature only has a range of of a kilometer meaning its owner has to remain close by otherwise the creature will dissipate.

The summoned creature is empathically linked to the owner meaning they feel what the creature feels.

Just a few possible ideas.

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    I like the telepathy bit, that's pretty much a perfect solution for the live summons case. – Black Sep 11 at 1:43
  • Hmmm... The telepathy one could work... so basically the familiar, while smarter than the average animal, is no more capable of understanding human speech? Hm... Yeah... I mean they could still probably be trained to recognize simple commands like other animals, but using your own would give you waaaaaaaaay better precision and control. – Jason Clyde Sep 11 at 2:04
  • the range may be a key one here – sure, pay someone else to summon, but now you have to keep them in your party and protect them... – Dan W Sep 12 at 14:25
  • @JasonClyde: Is it the familiar, or a familiar? In the latter case, you'd have to train each one anew each time it is summoned. – Matthieu M. Sep 13 at 8:17
  • Accepted. The telepathy suggestion is the best suggestion that works in the world I built and gives a significant advantage to using your own. In addition, it also doesn't entirely render the concept of "summon rentals" impossible, and as user55223's answer pointed out, getting rid of that entirely is probably a big mistake. – Jason Clyde Sep 18 at 16:19

What if not everyone's creations are equal?

Let's look at your problem:

No warrior with any significant backing or funding would disable any of their own powers in exchange for a cool magic sword if they could have their squire conjure it for them, or pay a civilian to borrow theirs, and still have all of their own powers intact.

Put this in D&D terms:

  • Your level-18 great warrior can make himself a +5 vorpal sword.
  • His squire can make him a +2 sword of sharpness.
  • A civilian can make him a +0/+1 sword.

Many warriors in that situation would sacrifice one of their abilities to get the +5 vorpal sword.

The same idea works for familiars, companions, totems, etc. An ancient gold dragon is a lot more useful to have around than a young squirrel.1


But couldn't there be powerful people who create items to lend them out? Sure, a retired level-16 warrior can lend anyone a +4 vorpal sword. But how many of those are there? Not many, so the few that exist are in high demand. It takes a lot of money, or a major quest, or a year on a waiting list, to get him to do it for you.

Not to mention that when you're in real danger, facing an unexpected attack by an archlich, that retired warrior isn't around. You make your own sword, or you don't have one.


But what if you're going on a quest to save the world, and have a whole kingdom backing you?

Well, yeah, in that case, they'll pull together whatever resources they have to get you the great artifacts you need. Unless they need those artifacts to defend the city while you're off on your commando mission, in which case they may not be able to afford to give you anything too exciting.


1. OK, Doreen Green might disagree, but then her power is liking squirrels in the first place, so I'm not sure what happens if she gives up that power to get a squirrel…

  • This opens the possibility of a vulnerable supply line. If you opponent can find your source, they will not be able to win against you. There would be a new occupation of assassin that would seek and kill the defenseless conjurer of your +4 Vorpal sword right before battle. – Jammin4CO Sep 11 at 16:23
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    @Jammin4CO While that might occasionally be useful, I think it would be very rare. To avoid facing a great warrior on your own turf, you’re facing a nearly-as-great warrior in his home fortress, which is probably harder. Plus, his regular clientele are most of the top warriors in the land, so unless you’re going for evil overlord all-or-nothing climactic battle here, the powerful enemies you make won’t be worth it. But that very rarity might make it a great story idea—the hero doesn’t know he’s walking into an EO AoN CB until the inconceivable happens and his vorpal sword vanishes… – abarnert Sep 11 at 16:54
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    @Jammin4CO Or, more briefly: a level-16 warrior who’s retired to build a fort is hardly defenseless. – abarnert Sep 11 at 17:06
  • @abarnert assassins don't generally FACE the warrior though, they stab them in the back/poison them/drop something on them/etc. But getting into position to do that would definitely be very hard, so whether that's worth it or not is very questionable. Also, why would a warrior build a fort, wouldn't he live in a lord's fort or something like that? That introduces the ability to pose as help or something. – Aethenosity Sep 11 at 17:36
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    @abarnert I'm think more of the retired warrior providing a boon to his son who is going to battle. He is not fighting so what does he need his abilities for? He provides tribute that his son may be stronger. BUT if you attack the father with a coordinated attack on the son, the son will become weak at a tactically inopportune moment without expecting it. Add to that the loss of that boon means his father is in trouble and you have further distraction. – Jammin4CO Sep 11 at 20:36

The summoned creature is not a slave. It is a sidekick.

You can allow someone else to ride your horse. You can have your slave work someone else's farm. But if your friend decides to help out someone, he does it as a favor to you; he chooses to do so. If you abuse your friendship it might not last. He will not do what you ask him to do and he might get less enthusiastic about you too because he feels you are taking advantage of him.

The familiars are autonomous entities. They are not bound demons compelled by geas. Your familiar is with you because it thinks you are great. The familiar chooses you and vice versa. A bond based on friendship must be maintained. Don't screw it up.

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    +1 Forgot about this way of doing familiars. Which is sad because it's trope in current fiction. Loyalty but earned loyalty! – Black Sep 11 at 1:47
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    Re "You can allow someone else to ride your horse." Some horses do have distinct preferences in riders. I almost always ride my friend's horse, and she rides mine, simply because they work a lot better that way. – jamesqf Sep 11 at 5:35
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    @jamesqf - that would be a good thing for this story. One persons familiar has a very distinct preference for a specific friend of that person. Now why might that be... – Willk Sep 11 at 13:45
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    @Willk: Because they're individuals and have personalities. Can you really say why you like one person, and don't care for another? For another example, my old dog used to be one of my neighbors' four dogs, but she and I just liked each other so much that she became my dog. The other three were just ok dogs... – jamesqf Sep 12 at 3:52
  • Also, your familiar may feel bound to obey your orders to work for someone else, but that doesn't mean they like it or will put there best effort into it. "Borrowed falcon, get help." Annoyed falcon flies off and comes back with a piece of paper that says "help" on it – Kevin Sep 12 at 20:05

Why don't warriors pay someone to hold a shield in front of them?

After all, No warrior with any significant backing or funding would disable any of their own hands in exchange for a cool magic shield if they could have their squire use it for them ... and still have all of their own hands free.

Of course, this never actually happens, because a skilled warrior doesn't use a shield as a tool, but as an extension of themselves. That shield becomes part of their arm, and as a result, the feedback loop between the warrior and their shield is as small as possible. The warrior thinks "I need this shield here", and the shield goes there. Once you introduce another step (our trusty shield-wielding squire), the feedback loop gets bigger. No matter how good our squire is at catching errant arrows, the warrior will always put their shield where they want it faster than the squire can.

Likewise, I assume great warriors view their tributes as an extension of themselves as well. I assume they know and understand their tributes better than anything else too. Therefore, when it comes time to rely on a tribute or familiar why would they possibly rely on someone else's?

"I want you to do what this guy says" is an enormous feedback loop. In the same way a squire simply can't defend the warrior better than they can defend themselves (and if they can, then the two need to switch jobs), a squire's familiar will never be able to protect the warrior as well as the warrior's can; it's an extension of the wrong person. Sure, the warrior could be shouting "go there", "eat that guy", "come back" the whole fight, but that's far less reliable than a familiar with whom you're bonded. Plus, if there's any level of empathetic bonding (the familiar can feel what you feel), you've made the feedback loop even bigger again. A familiar which can sense that you realized your back's exposed is far more valuable than one which just has to guess.

On top of that, warriors become familiar with the tools they've been using, and can use them better than others. Have you ever played a game where you trade in your weapon for one that's objectively better, but drastically different? Did it take some getting used to? Sure, after a while you were better than before, but there's a learning curve to these things. I'm betting most warriors don't want to fight with a weapon they're still working out. Using someone else's tribute puts you on that learning curve again. You simply can't be in the middle of a fight and be thinking "ok, if I attack this guy over here, is my squire's familiar going to attack him with me, or will it make sure noone sneaks up behind me?" You just can't; you'll die. You have to know these things before the fight begins.

Just as important as raw fighting ability is tactics and foresight, and no great warrior would sacrifice these.

Why should your squire summon their familiar in the first place? If their familiar is sufficiently amazing, perhaps they are the leader, and the knight is just there for muscle.

It sounds to me like the issue is that the power of this "Tribute" is not sufficiently tied to the power that is being given up. Match the power of the tribute to the power being given up, and you get rid of all the problems. You wouldn't have a squire summon a familiar because the squire's familiar is weak and you have to consider that the squire might have been of more use with all their magic. Likewise, if an awesome warrior's familiar or totem is sufficiently awesome, it may be worth the trade.

Also, always remember the opportunity cost is paid by someone. Someone has to lose a magic ability for a while. That person will need to either make sure they sell their magic for what it's worth, or get enslaved by underselling it. Perhaps the issue is that your squire's union isn't doing their job at the negotiating table. Negotiate higher wages!

Alternatively, if everyone's totems/familiars are amazing, build a world around that! Have wars where the side with the highest population wins because they can summon a bunch of familiars and overwhelm the other side, even though they may not have much training. There were battles in Korea between the US and Chinese soldiers which were basically dominated by the Chinese ability to put a large number of human bodies with guns on one side of the battlefield. Large numbers are a real factor in real battles.

On a related note, I played a MMORPG a while back where one class was truly defined by their pets. It created an interesting dynamic where players of this class would be brought into groups because their pet was awesome, and then they basically put themselves on "follow" and hung around in the back not paying attention to the game. Their pet did all the damage. So you can indeed create systems where the familiar/pet/etc. pattern is not properly balanced. Just don't do that =)

While there are already a lot of great answers I agree with, I'd like to tackle this problem from a bit different angle.

Summoning at a time of need gives you flexibility

Suppose you are going on a prolonged adventure, and you aren't sure what to expect. Which familiars would you take? You can't just grab a pair of every kind of beast, because, you know, logistics. So you take a bull, a squirrel and a giant eagle, hoping those would cover all your bases.

First you come to a mountain stream, with a rope-bridge straining across. It starts cracking as soon as the bull tries to step on it, so you have to send him back. Then you arrive to a cave system, with narrow tunnels leading to the other side. The giant eagle can't fit in, and doesn't know where the other exit is. She flies around while you delve inside, then gives up and returns to her master. With a magic squirrel as your only companion, you find yourself at an edge of some swamp. The air smells weird, but it's not a problem for you. You realise all too late that squirrel's small body isn't as resistant to poisoning. And now you are left alone, all of your borrowed familiars gone.

Compare that to summoning whatever beast you need. Sure, you give up some of you power, but you get the exact tool you need right now. Exploring dungeons? Summon a trusty fiery Balrog. Need to get to that volcano? Okay, you lose your powers of water-breathing, but get a giant eagle to carry you all the way. Invited to a king's castle as a guest of honour? Suddenly, a venomous snake appears in king's bedroom. If you can choose what you summon, then exchanging a fixed power for a familiar of choice is often a superior option.

There is also the issue of trust. How can you be sure the invoker won't dispel the summon right when you need it the most. Or have it backstab you in that big drama moment.

A long time friend will have that trust to not betray you like that, but a random stranger you payed a few gold coins for the summon won't.

There can be a few rental businesses that will rent out summons. However that market is underregulated so a few years ago a lot more of untrustworthy summon-rental shops cropped up that will typically not honor the rental agreement and damaged the reputation of the rental practice as a whole. After the high cost of summons disappearing like that at critical times the adventurers are very reluctant to entrust their lives to rented summons at all.

This is a classic problem. Generally solved by the fact that the summons is either:

a) Completely loyal to the summoner

or

b) Completely disloyal to the summoner

Summoned Familiars:

In case A, they are actively interested in following commands from their summoner. Summoner, possibly dead, tell them to let Person X inherit their familiar, etc? Then the summons is going to do everything in it's power to get back by it's master's side or protect it's memory/possessions.

In case B, you have classic demon summons, they're just out to kill you anyway, so while it doesn't really matter who they're following around... somebody more well-versed in handling them might be better. This would be the case of "You're not learned enough to be controlling my familiar". Ordering case B to treat someone else as their master is a recipe for suicide.

Demon: "Should I prevent anything that could drop your future battle prowess?"

New Master: "Yeah. I don't want to be less powerful. That's why I got you in the first place."

Demon: "Time to go kill my previous master. Wouldn't want him taking me back from you..."

Case A is generally going to require an emotional summons. Which makes items tricky. So moving onto those:

Summoned items are essentially like a blacksmith's master product. There can be only 1. Okay maybe that's not quite true. But the idea is your Tribute skill takes a minimum of 2 slots on a person. Have the magnitude of each person's slots be something innate/trainable (or both). Having a peasant make you a sword might be some trash iron sword. A person that devotes their life might make a masterpiece. A +1 sword if you will. On top of this, a peasant might only be able to devote 1 slot to a Tribute. While a trained/talented person could devote more. If they devote four slots to the Tribute instead of 1 then maybe the more excellent person might make a +4 sword. But the same person could have easily become a force of reckoning on their own. They would already be a warrior, but acting as a squire for someone else. There's no personal benefit to this. Yes you could make the Voltron Warrior, with +4 pieces from multiple warriors. But what's the incentive? You'd need a significant enough reason to stop each warrior from wielding their own +4 and an incentive for them to sacrifice their other slotted powers in the first place. In other words: Shit probably has to hit the fan. ALSO, if summoned items don't survive after a person's death then the person who summoned them is an additional weak point on the warrior in question. If every link in their chain mail was forged via Tribute then not only are they protecting the town but they have to. There's also the potential for their sword to randomly disappear in battle if their master blacksmith suddenly dies or is assassinated.

TL;DR Summons conflict of interest, greed of Tribute-rs, "unknown factor" of vulnerability for second-hand users, skill at manipulating someone else's creation.

The Summon is just a projection, and has no inherent powers of its own. The real power is still utilised by the Summoner - that is where the "spent" abilities are invested.

With a summoned creature, this is not much of an issue: When Summoner and Summon are in the same area, the summon can be directed around in much the same way as managing troops in an RTS, or given basic commands to follow autonomously, such as "go there", "fetch that" or "attack that person", but not more complicated ones like "attack the people wearing red shirts, unless their cuffs have 3 or more stripes or they are holding a 3-pointed dagger".

If the Summon and Summoner are in different locations, then this can cause disorientation - to issue accurate commands, the Summoner needs to "borrow" the Summon's senses, but this splits their concentration between the Summon and their body. One option is to sequester yourself away somewhere safe and control the summon directly - but, at this point, you are more of a shape-shifted party member instead of a borrowed summon.

As for artifacts such as swords/shields/bows/spears/magic staves - these (typically) only work so long as the Summoner is aware that they are being used - if the Summoner doesn't know that you are firing their Bow of Shaded Sky, then the "Multiplication of Arrows" effect won't take place, and you only fire a single arrow. Also, some summoned items will only work for the summoner - especially ones that are "telepathically controlled".

Again, this can be worked around by making your artifact feed-back to the Summoner - if pulling the trigger on the Lightning-Boom-Stick sends a sends a signal back to the Summoner in the moment it takes to 'charge' before firing, then it will work so long as they are alive and conscious.

In psychology and ethology, imprinting is any kind of phase-sensitive learning (learning occurring at a particular age or a particular life stage) that is rapid and apparently independent of the consequences of behaviour. It was first used to describe situations in which an animal or person learns the characteristics of some stimulus, which is therefore said to be "imprinted" onto the subject. Imprinting is hypothesized to have a critical period.

When you summon a familiar, you have to bind it to you via imprinting. You may tell them to follow and obey domeone else, but the familiar will always make its way back to you. Depending on how intelligent the familiar is, they may even rationalize the reason they do so.

The summon is a power of a person manifest. It makes sense that the summon would be feeding off that person's power. You can have a good amount of limits based on this.

Perhaps the summon requires to "recharge" at his owner once in a while, putting a time limit on a summon away from it's owner.

The energy requirement to keep the summon alive isnt that high, but the owners energy loses power with distance. If it moves too far the summon will not be sustainable by the owner and dissipate.

The owner might need to keep a small amount of concentration to keep powering the summon or it'll dissipate shortly after. That's easy when the summon is around but if you cant see it or fall asleep it can dissipate without the new "owner" knowing when or why.

Then theres the usual reasons you can imagine like summons having a mind of their own and that causing things like not cooperating with others, unwilling to risk their wellbeing when their owner isnt directly threatened or similar reasoning. Perhaps the summon simply isnt capable of understanding the other person and will just wander off.

Or the summoned creatures strength is linked to the summoners capability.

Another intriquing question: why are there still warriors? Couldnt you just summon 5 creatures, send them in (with other people's summons for example) and if it fails try again in an hour while you keep your distance? Or you summon two or three and use the remaining powers to support your summons?

Why not just have people rent their familiars/magic equipment out? That sounds pretty different and interesting. You could have an entire industry built around lending people aid like that. You could have rituals and customs, and sworn oaths regulating how people lend their familiar to others. You could haven noble families who try to keep their familiars completely within their own family, and other nobles who lease them out far and wide. People might have to trade favors, or marriage, or swear an oath of loyalty to a family to get access to their familiar.

You could do a lot of interesting things with the particulars as well. When a familiar die, maybe that strikes back at the summoner and weakens them significantly. Accidentally killing someone because the familiar you lent them died could leave you with enemies. Maybe there is a way to inherit familiars/relics, so long as the new owner pays the price. Then a family could keep one familiar/relics in service as long as someone in it is willing to pay the price. Who gets that honor? How easy and common is that?

You could have romantic stuff, like a knight going into battle with the loyal hound his wife summoned, who protects him in battle.

It feels like you have an interesting concept, and you are asking about ways to make it more generic and plain and boring.

  • Fair point. The issue I have is that the way it currently stands, there's no real benefit to using your own, which basically makes it a bad idea to use your own rather than someone else's, and that makes a lot of things less interesting. You're right that maybe I shouldn't make it impossible, but there should be some tangible advantage to using your own that justifies the personal cost. – Jason Clyde Sep 11 at 13:56

Simply, cost

I assume that magic is a skill or rare gift. So to summon a mighty displacer beast you have to be a damn good wizard and disable all your other skills.

So, there won't be many wizards that can do that and they'll charge a lot of money for their services. Also it'd likely be a lease - a wizard can rent you out a planar demon for a day, after a day he will unsummon it unless you keep paying him.

And it's gonna be crazy expensive.

It's likely that the wizard would be vulnerable while doing this so they will take a lot of precautions as well as it driving up the cost. It might also require a lot of mental energy to maintain.

Familiar specific ideas

Increase the danger to the caster, drives up the cost / infeasability.

If you make it so the familiar must remain near to the caster, the wizard must come with you and also has no defensive capability during that time, since half his magic is gone. Risky and expensive.

If you make it so the familiar can only 'hear' (or receive commands in the case of pointing etc.) the caster (so the caster doesn't have to come into doom-dungeon with you), then it will probably do something stupid. You'll give it a command to protect a person, and then it will start killing everything that comes close, friend or foe. It'll essentially be useless except as maybe a pack mule. That may also be influenced by the intelligence of the creature.

In D&D if a familiar dies then it cripples the caster. You could apply the same to familiars and even objects, such that if the item is damaged or destroyed it hurts the caster. They likely won't want to summon things for you if there's a risk of damage.

One way to achieve this would be to make it very risky for the lender.

If the item/familiar is to far away, it will begin to fade over time, as well as the invested power. If it is destroyed or banished and the caster is not close to it, only a fraction of the power invested will return.

There could be also a way to absorb a part of the power, and by doing so stealing it from the Caster.

There are a number of ways you could approach this.

Investment of Power

Firstly, you need to ask yourself - what happens to all of the other 'powers' if they're invested into the object or creature? Do they manifest as more than simply a powerful item or creature? One option would be to utilise these powers to not only make the object more powerful, but also to limit its power.

Take a sword, for instance. All of the powers are required to make the sword, irrespective. So, the user knows that the sword is going to take their powers, but couldn't they be channelled into the sword in different ways. For instance, one of the powers could be utilised to make the sword unbreakable, one to give it a constant electrical charge, another to make it razor sharp, and so on.

Or an animal; all powers make the animal, but you could give the creature wings, speech, intelligence, telepathy.

Power invested into such a creature or object should not be diminished - it should be externalised, creating a super-powered object reflecting the creator's own abilities.

Psychic Linkage

Telepathy brings me onto the next idea. Should you disregard the first idea, why not also give a creature or object a continuous psychic link with its creator. Such objects could be used for espionage - any other being that touches the object or creature would have their thoughts opened up to the originator.

Bound Creations

The most simple way around this is to make the power bound to the originator. If someone else attempts to use the item or creature it reacts unpredictably, to the detriment of the user.

This is similar to what @Renan has suggested, however, as the powers belong to the originator in the first place, then the created object or creature are bound to them naturally.

Taking it Further...

Finally, you may want to consider that, if the powers used to create the object or creature are bound, or there is a psychic link, then perhaps it can be controlled remotely, or at least its whereabouts known.

An addendum to the multitude of other good answers here is a relatively straight forward solution, which can be used in addition to any number of them.

The Tribute creations disappear when the summoner is unconscious, and can only be summoned to the location of the summoner. When your squire goes to sleep at night, the sword he created vanishes. When the mighty (but elderly) retired hero takes his afternoon nap, the ancient gold dragon familiar he summoned vanishes. Neither one can be re-gifted unless the recipient is near enough to the summoner for the hand off to happen. That's not a problem if the squire is traveling with his knight, but it presents a problem if he is left at home, or if he dies in a battle.

In a pinch, you make sure your squires are safe, and kept awake. But if one of them falls asleep due to sheer exhaustion while you're facing some ancient horror from beyond time & space, you've got problems, so it's probably better for you to use the Tribute ability to create your own gear for the really important stuff.

World-altering, permanent objects might require the investment of more than one person, and/or more than one power, making them the work of great masters at the end of their careers or lives, or entire teams of lesser journeymen, dedicated to maintaining that single object.

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    When you think about it, many of the powers which manifest an observable phenomenon would also be Tribute powers. For example, if you create a blast of fire, that's manifesting something in exchange for one of your available powers for a short time. Tribute doesn't end up being an alternative, so much as a utility catch-all term for 'we didn't already classify this ability as something else'. – Theo Brinkman Sep 12 at 16:38

Time Constraints

Tribute is great, but anything that it creates lives on borrowed time, commensurate to the power of the summoner:

  • untrained/squire: a few seconds to a minute,
  • journeyman: a minute to 10 minutes,
  • master: 10 minutes to an hour,
  • best of best: there are legends that some invididuals could maintain their conjuration for half a day; but everybody knows it's exaggerated.

And thus Confidence

In such a situation, wow can a mighty warrior borrow a conjured up sword with confidence? They cannot:

  • if the master is close, then they are at risk; should they get embroiled in trouble, they may accidentally dismiss the sword.
  • if the master is far, then by the time the warrior get their hands on the sword, it's unclear how long they've got before it winks out.

Few warriors will trust their lives to a conjured sword which can wink out at any time; or at least, few living warriors are there to tell the tale of the time it happened to them, for it's generally fatal.

All your mentioned problems come from one thing: the limitation is on the summoner, not on the user. So put the limitation on the user. Sure you can make the limitation on the summoner as well, it would be weird to summon a magical item or beast from another realm without any repercussions. But also add the limitations on the user.

If you are a magician with a borrowed sword, you still need your hands to cast spells. If you lend a magical beast, you still need to communicate your plans, whether verbally or through psychic link. If you are Ash Ketchum, you still need to be strong enough to control your Charizard.

"I know what you're using it for"

Here's a small idea: the creator of the item / familiar knows what the item is being used for and how once the summon is dismissed?

Imagine a mission of secrecy, or perhaps you simply you don't want people to know what or who you're slashing with that awesome summoned "sword of power"... In this case getting it from someone else is a major risk.

Also, this would allow for some... interesting spy games. If someone could replace your sword with their own, for example?

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