Set in the 12th century C.E. a trend seems to spread like wildfire across the kingdom: many young mages are practicing sealing a slain magical creature into all kinds of melee weapons, most commonly a broom, as a bronze sword is considered a luxury.

The seal will bind the magical essence of the slain creature to the artifact and imbues it with a magical property, occasionally two. The magical properties can range from spitting out a fireball to casting an area-of-effect spell such as blizzard.

Contractual summoning is different as there is no material or any item involved. In order to perform a summoning the user must go through a tedious ritual to form a pact with the magical creature, usually one much more powerful than those found around the kingdom.

I often wonder, given the incredibly low rate of success for contractual summoning, why do so many veteran mages still prefer this method rather than simply sealing a slain magical creature into a weapon?

  • 8
    $\begingroup$ A creature you can give orders too is vastly more useful than a single purpose item. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented May 12, 2020 at 3:36
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Why would you use a broom? A quarterstaff or cudgel would be vastly more useful as a cheap, readily available, melee weapon. $\endgroup$
    – Tonny
    Commented May 12, 2020 at 8:48
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ 12th century CE is way after the end of the bronze age. Did you mean a steel sword, or 12th century BCE perhaps? Also, if you must slay the magical creature first, isn't it assumed you already have a weapon on your person you could be using? Maybe not a sword, but axes, sycles, and pitchforks would be just as common as brooms for commoners to own, and far more useful to enchant. If you want to go with a mage trope and you are hunting magical beasts, then you probably have a bow and arrows. Perhaps wands are just arrows with the head and fletchings pulled off. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented May 12, 2020 at 14:31
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Chronocidal I was not saying that they would have a steel swords, but that by the 12th century CE, if they had a sword, it would not be made out of bronze. Even in feudal Japan where metalworks were highly restricted, peasants still had access to a variety of pointy mild steel tools which would make much better weapons than a broom. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented May 12, 2020 at 20:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki-ReinstateMonica: Unless it's set in the Americas, where they hadn't even reached the Bronze Age in the 12th century CE, with most of the Americas still being "Stone Age", with the Andes alone producing copper tools (having not yet developed bronze). We're already talking about a world with magic; nothing says technology has to have followed the same curve as the real world; magic changes all sorts of starting conditions that might delay the introduction of iron, or accelerate the introduction of bronze. $\endgroup$ Commented May 13, 2020 at 23:10

16 Answers 16


the magical creature usually much more powerful than those found around the kingdom

That's a big reason. This is similar to asking why someone would lug a 22-pound machine gun into battle when you could carry a 1-pound Glock instead. Being able to project greater power than the other guy can make all the difference in a battle.

Here's a different perspective. Veteran mages may have great respect for magical creatures. They are opposed to any type of forced servitude, even for slain creatures. As a result, they create contractual relationships instead of forcibly binding those creatures.

  • 6
    $\begingroup$ TIL just how heavy that machine gun is. I thought it would be much lighter than that. $\endgroup$ Commented May 12, 2020 at 11:51
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ It's 17lb empty, 22lb loaded. That is actually very light for a machine gun. Machine guns need to be heavy to reduce recoil and make the spray of bullets more controllable. Of note, other full-auto weapons called sub-machine guns like the H&K UMP 45 are much lighter, but also fire much weaker pistol rounds (9×19mm parabellum in this case) to offset the need for weight. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented May 12, 2020 at 14:41
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki-ReinstateMonica The weight of a LSW/SAW like that usually has next to nothing to do with managing kickback, that's just a nice benefit. Most of it involves making he gun itself robust enough to safely handle firing dozens of bullets at about Mach 2.5 every second. The amount of mechanical stress is such that you can't use cheap lightweight materials for it, especially for gas operated designs like the M249. $\endgroup$ Commented May 12, 2020 at 16:50
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @AustinHemmelgarn The BAR was the first American LMG and it fired higher powered rounds, was made from lower quality steel, and only weighed 16lb. The main reason cited for discontinuing the BAR was that very few soldier were able to control it. Learning from this, weight to recoil was a primary factor in the design of the M60 and subsequent SAW LMGs. Metallurgy has come a long way in the past 100 years; so, you easily make an M855A1 firing LMG weigh as little as 5-6lb, but the recoil would make it useless without being hard-mounted to something. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented May 12, 2020 at 20:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @stannius "MK19 Grenade Launcher" Cue Tim The Tool Man Taylor grunting $\endgroup$
    – Kevin
    Commented May 13, 2020 at 20:10

Monsters still have to be slain
In order of forcing the essence of a beast into the item, it still has to be defeated or at least dominated. Not every weak magic student can do that, especially the more potent monster essences. So it’s way easier to haggle your soul for some sweet demonic support.

Limitation of the items
As you stated, the essence must be infused into weapons, while a broom is more common than a bronze sword. Obviously a broom is way less adept at keeping strong magical effects, while a sword with the right inbuilt guarding runes is much stronger but almost certainly too expensive.
If you don't have to bind the essence into a weak carrier weapon, the spells are way stronger, even compared to the optimized sword.

Far more potent summons
As you stated, a pact can be formed with an entity much more powerful than found around in the kingdom. So the only way for a veteran to maximize his power is to form a pact with those much stronger entities.


Justice has a side-kick, and his name is Smackdown.

If you make a contract with a magical creature, you have the option of setting terms that are agreeable to both sides and leave both sides on friendly terms for future dealings.

But killing a creature, and sealing that creature's soul in an artifact has this risk: If the artifact is damaged beyond a certain point, the creature's soul is freed to roam. The experts agree that killing a creature tends to piss it off, so the end result is a hostile spirit, highly difficult to detect and out for the offending mage's blood. And he might bring friends, or bring the mage's conduct to whatever higher powers are at work in the world.


Because step 2 of sealing is to slay the creature. (Step 1 is, of course, to find or summon it)

This has two limitations: First, you have to be able to slay it (whereas a contractual summoning just means you need to either impress it or offer it something that it desires), which limits the power available. Second, it's dead.

A magical item created this way has a finite charge, and will eventually weaken and stop working. It cannot adapt to circumstances, and is stuck with the same one or two effects. Even gathering vast armies to slay absurdly powerful monsters with which to craft items falls prey to these limitations: there's a reason why the Emperors no longer use the power of the Heavenly Sword of Storms, the Mirror Shield of Truth, or the Pendant of Abundant Wealth - over the generations, they have been drained to merely symbolic artifacts with no remaining power.

Killing a young salamander to create a sword that throws fireballs might be fast, easy and cheap when compared against contracting a Fire Ogre to transform itself into a sword, and your sword won't suddenly turn back into a Fire Ogre and wander off when the contract expires. But the Ogre-sword recharges itself automatically, can cast fireballs of different strengths (including mini fireballs in rapid-fire or a shotgun spread), can summon walls of fire, can control fire or protect you from it, and - if all else fails - can turn back into a large monster and punch your enemies in the face.


To piggyback off of Andrew's answer:

Veteran mages may have great respect for magical creatures. They are opposed to any type of forced servitude, even for slain creatures. As a result, they create contractual relationships instead of forcibly binding those creatures.

...here are other considerations: Ethics, Reputation, and Avoidance of Vengeance

Mages who are known to kill and bind the essence of magical creatures will surely be considered barbaric to any of the magical creatures themselves, and possibly to ethical mages who value the lives of magical creatures. The mages who possess these weapons would surely be seen as existential threats to any magical creatures who are aware, and would be hunted down.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This, so much. Reputable people wouldn't do this in your world for the same reason they don't rob banks in ours: Society sees to it that crime doesn't pay. Sure, robbing banks might be lucrative in the short term (if not as much anymore as it used to be) but in the long term it will really kick you in the teeth. $\endgroup$
    – Ton Day
    Commented May 14, 2020 at 10:44
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ There was a story in one Shadowrun splatbook about some jerk of a mage using fire elementals as, essentially, kamikaze bombs -- sending them to manifest near a target, then forcibly channeling a big fireball through them and bypass any protection or cover the target might have had. Another mage that hears about it points out that every single elemental he'll ever summon will fight tooth and nail against their control, and the first one that breaks free will flat out kill him, because the spirits remember. $\endgroup$ Commented May 14, 2020 at 14:06

Contractual Magic can't be stolen from you

It's not all upside that anyone with basic understanding of magic can use artifacts. While artifacts make for nice heirlooms, there have been to many anecdotes of powerful mages killed by thieves and overzealous apprentices. Why pay you gold to cast fireballs if I could just take your artifact for myself?


Hygiene, health and safety

You say:

I often wonder despite the incredible low rate of success for contractual summoning, why are there so many veteran mages still preferred this method than simply sealing a slain magical creature into a weapon?

Wild creatures are natural reservoirs for all kinds of nasty things, such as:

  • Broken prions (which cause scrapies, a.k.a. mad cow disease, called kuru in humans)
  • Viruses (which cause flu's, sometimes global SARS pandemics)
  • Bacteria (which cause botulism, diarrhea, cholera, syphilis)
  • Worms (which enter your system and parasitise you, may cause cysticercosis)

As you can see, not having to handle dead animals saves you tons of ManaCoin every year in cure potions.

Also dead animals smell bad until you cook them with at least a fire 3 set to volcanic.

You should also keep in mind that wizards, sorcerers and mages are expected to be antisocial geeks with wicked, intriguing quirks that the peasantry will find weird because they don't understand it. It seems to be a requirement for magic.

In the times of old, they used to resort to such things as satanism, oath-breaking, promiscuity and drug abuse. In these modern times though, they are resorting to environmentalism, tree hugging, veganism and drug abuse. This leads to a mentality which tends to avoid the sacrifice of animals for a variety of reasons. At one end of the spectrum they avoid all animal suffering, at the other end they propose such arcane notions as "sustainable growth" and "responsible slaughter" which "should guarantee only the required protein intake of people but no excess beyond that". Which is kinda infuriating because, how are we supposed to obtain the XP we need to level up if we can't wipe the black forest clear of wolves? Everybody knows there will always be more bears, but them mages claim that respawning (or "spontaneous generation" as they call it) is a lie...

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I would be happy to live and play in your progressive magical realm. $\endgroup$
    – KalleMP
    Commented May 12, 2020 at 16:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ As Cleric of the Blood God, if there wasn't spontaneous generation how are we here today? Checkmate Magethiests. $\endgroup$
    – IT Alex
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 13:54

Greater control. Power is one issue, but the bigger matter is negotiating what magical properties are to be used. If one out of ten contracts fails, it is better than when one out of twenty brooms cast the blizzard you want, and that after all the bother of killing the creature.



Summoning provide a larger catalogue. Most of other planes magical beast are something else than your countryside jackalope. Sure you can simply travel in other planes hunting, real beast. But it's really less convenient, than choosing in the Summoning Circle Catalogue.


Drop bear are excellent sealed in arrow head. They make Volley fire deadlier. The issue is they have been hunt close to extinction. But summoning catalogue provide a large variety of Zombie Drop bear, Cursed Drop bear, Phantom Drop bear, etc. Bring them back directly from the 9 circles of hell. They can bless/Curse large Volley of arrow instead of sealing them in every one of them.
While the stock of living drop bear is in constant diminution, the dead one are increasing. Summonned beast have a couldown, but they go back into the pool of available one after some time. Slain beast does not resurrect to get slay again.

Different purpose:

Sealed Magical beast is a nice preparation for a fight. There are different best in slot seals for every class, items, and specialization. It's more like long term enchant.

Summoning can be prepared, but has to be use at the right time.
The beast is summoned for a limited time periode. They are more like a short time buff.


For the same beast, the efficacy of summonned vs sealed is a long time debate. While newly sealed Drop Bread arrow head, don't show the same vehemence than a 400 years sealed one. As the beast grow thirsty. A century starved Drop Bread arrow head, is just as deadly than a summoned one. Hell has the tendency to push beast ferocity to their limits.


You're asking why people don't just commit murder to get what they want rather than doing it by entirely legal, ethical means?

I guess not everyone is that evil. Or maybe it's just me.


The seal will bind the magical essence of the slain creature

You mean its soul. Or something close enough that the difference is academic/theological.

Which immediately offers a whole series of ethical reasons why someone wouldn't do it -- in fact, it's quite possible that while most people aren't too bothered by the idea of killing a creature for food or to make useful things from the mortal remains it won't be needing anymore, they'd have significantly more trouble with the idea of trapping part of its soul for eternity to power your magical gizmo.

You also mention that at least some types of magically powerful creatures exist that are sentient enough to bargain and make contracts with. There's a TVTrope that covers the concept, "Powered By A Forsaken Child" (Deliberately not linking because that site will consume you for the next several hours if you're careless). This definitely seems like the kind of thing polite society would object to and make laws about. It also strikes me that a society that at least tries to be more or less benevolent and is aware that not al sentient creatures have the same shape or appearance would write its laws to err widely on the side of caution as to whether a given creature is considered sentient...

More to the point, you note yourself that the type of creatures that can be bargained with are significantly more powerful and capable than the ones generally killed in order to stuff their souls into a rune weapon. It's entirely possible that the more powerful ones take a severely dim view of the process, and that their immediate reaction to seeing someone holding a rune weapon is to try to kill the owner and destroy the weapon in order to free the souls contained within; at the very least, you can generally forget about getting an amicable response trying to bargain with one.

Anyway, ethical considerations aside for the moment, it comes down on whether you're okay with having less power but more control (kill a critter and enslave its 'magical essence' into your rune weapon) or more power but less control (summon a more powerful creature and convince it that helping you is worth its time)


Sealing is acceptable only for bounty hunting and in time of war

As several other answers have pointed out, if you have to kill a creature to seal it in an object, then those who practice this art indiscriminately are going to make enemies. Lots of powerful enemies. Some will be very old and powerful creatures, who (being old) are wise enough to know that someone willing to murder indiscriminately for power is only kept from trying to kill you by fear, and the more powerful they become, the less afraid of you they are.

Consequently the naked power-hungry folks who simply murder anyone they can get away with murdering? They will draw the kind of attention to themselves that gets them killed.

What's left? Bounty hunting and privateering. When there's a war on, and magical creatures are fighting each other, powerful mages aligned with one side or the other will become privateers, fighting for trophies. When magical creatures break certain laws of their kind, the kind of sin that really shocks the conscience of magical society in general, they'll get marked for death and bounty hunters can not only seal them into an item, but they'll get paid for their trouble.

But outside of that, people don't do much sealing. Certainly, there is no chance of sealing becoming a fad that all the young magicians are doing (like the question contemplates). Because...

Crime doesn't pay

We in our world have a problem. Banks have a lot of money. They represent a big target. Your question is very similar to someone who wants to know 'why do people work for a living when they could just rob banks?'

Society doesn't want people robbing banks. So it chooses to set things up so when someone does it anyway, there are consequences. Terrible, ruinous consequences, designed to ensure the particular bank robber can't do it again, and others who might otherwise consider this career path will think twice.

Likewise, unless the magical creatures are all really dumb, they'll know that they're going to have a bad time if they allow human society to come to regard them as so worthless that not only does nobody think twice about killing them for profit, it's the hot new fad. So they won't do any such thing. Long before sealing becomes that widespread they will take action.

When it's only a few mages doing it, they'll get mage society at large to condemn the practice and create an inquisition to root out deviant magecraft. Why would mages sign onto this? Because they need the magical creatures.

If that doesn't work they'll go to war with the Necromancers over the issue.



[...] usually one much more powerful than those found around the kingdom.

As you said, contractual summoning is much more powerful. If you are a veteran mage, you would like to have powerful abilities which match your skills.


Contractual summoning appeared before the existence of bind magic. Veteran magicians prefer to follow ancient traditions.


In order to perform a summoning the user must go through a tedious ritual to form a pact with the magical creature.

So in order to perform a summoning ritual, you must be very proficient in this art. Having summons are a clear show of your expertise and talent.

Maybe, one requirement to become an "archmage" (status of powerful magician) is having a summon.


Contractual summoning is different as there is no material or any item involved.

You don't require items to bind this magic. That means they can't be stolen nor broken (yet killed).

You didn't tell much about summoning, but I guess you can summon creatures. Creatures heal their wounds, items need repairing. A creature can defend by its own and help you (it's sentient), a melee weapon doesn't.


You can wield a single weapon. Maybe two, but then you run out of hands. Summons doesn't require the usage of your hands to fight.


Bind a creature requires its death. Some magicians may be against murdering.


The seal will bind the magical essence of the slain creature to the artifact and imbues it with a magical property, occasionally two. The magical properties can range from spitting out a fireball to casting an area-of-effect spell such as blizzard.

So each item can do between one and two things. Summons doesn't have this limitation, they retain all their power. They can archive almost anything in the scope of their abilities.

  • $\begingroup$ The answer that uses the question itself to answer it, +1. $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Commented May 15, 2020 at 1:26

Because magical creatures are very special, and still have some free will even after death. The spells that seal them in are usually enough to override that, but a particularly annoyed or stubborn deceased creature can cause your item to fail from time to time.

A broomstick that always launches fireballs on command is great - a broomstick that launches fireballs almost always is still powerful, but a lost less useful.

Contractual obligations are something that both sides like to stick to.


Magical Agency

An enchanted object can do precisely the one thing it's meant to do, and it does it alright. But it's limited. It hurls a fireball, or summons a short-lived blizzard, or heals most ailments.

It doesn't have any capacity for using its judgement or other intelligent behaviour.

For contrast, the summoned creature can understand what is asked of it and perform much more complicated requests.
For example, a healing wand might fix your cancer, but it also regrows the finger you cut off to use your Assassin's Hidden Blade...
Whereas you can include a clause about ignoring that if you contract a summoned creature to do it instead.

Contracts are more flexible. You can ask a demon to kill every left-handed red-head in town, but its nearest equivalent would be a Wand of Nukes, which is rather more indiscriminate.


1. The Power Of Improvisation.

A weapon imbued with the power of an unwilling spirit can do very few things. This analogy is like (if you've seen Clone Wars) a droid to a Jedi. Both can follow orders, the clone being better at the taking orders and far easier to produce than a Jedi, taking hours to produce compared to the years of training of a Jedi. Yet Jedi are still vastly superior to droids - why?

This is because of one and only one reason. Jedi can think for themselves. Sure a tactical droid can create maneuvers, but the Jedi can think on their feet, something which a droid simply can't do.

The droid is comparable to the imbued object, whereas the Jedi is comparable to the contractually summoned spirit. Your object has a limited capacity, it can only do what you tell it to do. "Go do this", you say. Well, it does that, something unprecedented happens, your object is done for. But the spirit, well it can improvise, and fulfill the objective a different way.

2. Intimidation and Status.

A true mage is not one to use weapons like swords or maces; a true mage needs only his mind to crush his enemies. The wannabe mages running around, well they don't have the skill and experience of a true mage, and they don't have a true mage's attitude. Also a mage - a good one, at least - should be benevolent and diplomatic, a real mage does not need to trap a spirit by force to obtain its power, a mage will use his greatest weapon - his mind, to make the spirit join him of its own free will.

Also, skilled mages who are capable of completing the ritual, understand that the easiest way to win a battle is to intimidate your opponent out of fighting. So imagine this battle on a vast plain. One one side, we have Wannabe Mage and his spiritual weapons/tools. On the other side, we have a real mage who... appears to be alone. Wannabe mage chants a few words and his weapons fly to his side, pointing at the real mage. The real mage slams his staff into the ground, an army of spirits appearing beside him. Clearly, at this point, the real mage has already won, but let's give wannabe mage the edge.

Wannabe's magic weapons defeated the spirits. Now real mage is dead... right? Wrong. Real mage starts chanting and twirling his staff, rising above the ground, emanating blinding blue light. The light is gone, the mage simply looks at the wannabe sighing, he magics up a chair and a glass of mead, and watches. The wannabe's weapons clatter to the ground, magic, energies, and auras swirling around, coming out of the weapons. The energies condense into spirits, angry ones, emanating anger, and power. Eyes glowing red, snarling. At this point, the wannabe runs. The real mage being benevolent calls the spirits off.

And the third and last reason, as evidenced in the previous paragraph, is the inanimate objects act as a cage for very unwilling, angry spirits. Any experienced mage will simply grab the attention of the spirits with a simple true-light-emanation spell, makes them contractually serve him, then all he has to do is overpower the containment magic keeping the spirits trapped, and the spirit trapper is done for, then he simply frees the spirits and the battle is won, with little effort from his side.

Hope this helps!


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .