View Full Version : D&D 3.x Other Poking at summoning

2014-05-09, 05:31 AM
The purpose of this whole exercise is too see if there is a way to make summoning less overpowered. One of the reasons (I feel) that summoning is overpowered is that the mage just happens to know about all those different summon options provided by their respective spells (Summon monster (http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/SRD:Summon_Monster_I) and Summon nature's ally (http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/SRD:Summon_Nature%27s_Ally_I)).

Imagine if you will the following:

A desert mage, who has lived his entire life in the desert. Has only fought desert, fire and earth related creatures. Never in his life encountered anything even remotely fiendish.
For the first time in his life he is on a boat, being attacked by sea monsters... what does he do...

*Generic desert mage #2 summons a fiendish dire shark*

I'm sure you'll all agree with me that something like that makes no sense. There are quite a few ways to handle something like this, varying from "proper role-playing" on the part of the player to the use of UA's variant rules for summoning (http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/UA:Summon_Monster_Variants).

So with all that in mind, I propose that a number of basic rules need to be met before a summoner can summon creatures of a specific type:
He must be aware of their existence
He must know enough about them
They can't be (much) stronger than the summoner
The amount of details a summoner can remember is limited (similarly so is his summoning list)

The summoner must be aware of the creature's existence
This rule is (besides common sense) a good way for a DM to limit the available summons of any character.

Find something wildly unbalancing? Just don't have your PC's find any form of books about them. And of course don't use them in encounters (or somehow prevent your players from figuring out what they encountered).

Rule wise: The summoner must have either "encountered and identified" a specific creature (type) or found and studied detailed books about them before he try to summon one of its kind.

The summoner must know enough about the summoned creature
This rule is intended to keep summons making in game sense. Think of it in a similar fashion as scrying and teleportation magic works, where your previous knowledge makes it easier/harder/impossible to achieve certain results.

Would it make sense for that character to know about that? The aforementioned desert mage would not (logically) know enough about sharks to think about summoning one, let alone succeeding in doing so. Similarly that idiot of a mage that has a hard time keeping the elf and the gnome apart should not be able to pull obscure mystical creatures out of his ass to solve every problem in his path.

Rule wise: The summoner must succeed in a knowledge check (DC: 10 + HD or CR? - Maybe allow a gather information check in some cases? - Also perhaps use these (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?247417-Fixing-Knowledge-checks-made-to-identify-creatures) knowledge DC's) before being able to summon a particular creature.

Note: Combine with the previous rule to combine pre-existing knowledge with this attempt to gather/remember information (in the style of divination magic).

A summoned creature can't be (much) more powerful than its summoner
This is mostly intended to keep from unbalancing summoners (even further). In general the SRD summoning spells already do this by limiting summons to specific spell levels.

He should be a summoner, not the guy with the "I win" button. Being able to summon dragons at low levels would make most of the party (and plot) irrelevant. Similarly, certain creatures can unbalance the game even at higher levels (think: noble genie (wish) - or anything else mentioned in "summoning handbooks" as being a great summon (if your DM allows it) and such. If someone really loves it, not just because it's the best for that spell level, it's probably broken).

Rule wise: If you go by existing summoning spells, nothing is needed. If you customize the list, use something along the following guideline (Source (http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?96812-Summon-Monster-for-Equivalent-CR&p=1691670&viewfull=1#post1691670) as well as poking at the SRD summons):

Spell CL CR
Summon Monster 1 1 CR 1/2 or less
Summon Monster 2 3 CR 1
Summon Monster 3 5 CR 2
Summon Monster 4 7 CR 3
Summon Monster 5 9 CR 4
Summon Monster 6 11 CR 5 or 7
Summon Monster 7 13 CR 7 or 9
Summon Monster 8 15 CR 9 or 11
Summon Monster 9 17 CR 11 or 12

For the lower levels, a guide is roughly 1/2 CL. Later it increases somewhat. Note that these are guidelines and some creatures will end up in higher lists than their CR would indicate, while others (mostly fighter style creatures) will have a "too high" CR for their spell level.

Note: There are some creatures with awesome abilities at quite low CR's (think creatures with low level planeshift and other utility spells or SLA's that don't use costly material components or XP). Feel free to put these on a "not allowed" list. Either they are mentally too powerful to be summoned or protected by entity Y or maybe that part of the creature is so hard to understand that when they are summoned, they don't have it.

The summoner should be limited in the amount of creatures he knows how to summon
If the wizard can only remember so many spells per day and the sorcerer only knows that X of them, why should the summoner be able to remember a near infinite (when you start including other creatures) amount of possible summons.

Rule-of-thumb: if you can't remember all the details of all your characters summons, then he probably has too many. I can't really think of any nice situations for this one, just refer back to the whole spellbook/spells known thing.

Rule wise: Have a summoner keep a dedicated book in which he records his knowledge/observations/etc of creatures he wants to summon. Each creature takes up X (1-3?) pages and when he is preparing his spells for the day have him prepare a few (3 per "summon monster *"?) possible creatures. For sorcerers have a similar preparation at the start of the day, even though he doesn't need to prepare his spells.

Beyond all this, today I had a few half baked ideas which I think might make for a more interesting summoner.
Inspiration comes from:
Pokemon (bare with me)
Any form of collectable card game
TES V: Skyrim (soultrap, thank you)
And finally some other ideas (collecting your enemies souls to get stronger/know more about them) that never quite made it into anything homebrewwy

To-be-developed class features:
Storing/Capturing fallen enemies somehow so you can summon them (store in book/gems?)
Storing up to CL=CR, summoning up to CR = 1/2 CL (plus some bonus points at higher levels)
Mix and match with certain warlock features (eldritch blast and severally limited invocations - maybe some blast shapes)
Lots of knowledge skills (and a decent amount of skill points)
"Stored" summons can either be one time use (if they are killed there is a chance you can't summon them again), miss fire (summoning creatures with too high CR might result in hostile summons - so will keeping them out too long) or be re useable (if they don't die, you can put them back into the storage medium - makes you want to keep your summons alive).
Possible invocations: dream walking/planewalking to "recruit/harvest" possible summons. (And the nasty stuff you occasionally bump into: "Meet Mr. Balor when you are hunting imps") Probably with some form of auto-success if you don't bump into something like that and you are hunting low CR critters.
System for gaining some summons per level up (you name 2 that might apply, your DM names 2 and 2 are taken randomly from SRD summoning lists, and role that die?).
Using "stored" creatures to power magic items (1-5 XP per CR?)

Anyhow, I'll be poking at this for a bit this weekend (as I don't feel like continuing with my Dragonhearted class right now). Let me know what you think (on both parts: "rules for summoning" and "basics for a class")

2014-05-09, 10:07 AM
The idea of having to make a knowledge check to summon a new creature is a good one.

The CR limiter is odd: according to the table no CR 12 creature can be summoned

2014-05-09, 10:24 AM
That, I believe, is called a type (now fixed).

Realistically, the odd CR 13 creature can be found on the 9th level versions of the SRD summoning lists. It's not absoulte, it's a decent guide line.

2014-05-09, 10:30 AM
... That got fixed different how I expected. I expected a range (11 to 13) rather than curtail the available creatures

2014-05-11, 12:54 PM
Summons are powerful because they grant action economy, same as 3.5 animal companions.

I would look at pathfinder animal companions as an example on how to modularize their stats.

2014-05-11, 11:58 PM
The purpose of this whole exercise is too see if there is a way to make summoning less overpowered. One of the reasons (I feel) that summoning is overpowered is that the mage just happens to know about all those different summon options provided by their respective spells
I completely agree. And not only that there are so many options, but that a single spell slot carries so many options. One "Summon Monster" spell prepared is as versatile as half a dozen different non-summoning spells.

The summoner must be aware of the creature's existence
This rule is (besides common sense) a good way for a DM to limit the available summons of any character.
While a good idea, I find rules of this sort problematic to institute. If it's a matter of Knowledge checks, well... that's what a Wizard is for. If it's pure fiat... well, a rules-heavy game like D&D doesn't run well on pure fiat. How many monsters should the player be expected to know about? What about when he writes a backstory with a summoning-specialist mentor? What about when he starts trading summoning knowledge with other wizards in-game? Either a dedicated summoner will quickly learn his options again, or the restrictions will start to look really arbitrary. (As a general rule, anything that hurts casual players more than powergamers is a bad idea)

The summoner must know enough about the summoned creature
Same as above, only more so.

The summoner should be limited in the amount of creatures he knows how to summon
Absolutely... though not easy to do in the context of the spells as written. I don't know about a "summon book." Maybe instead each time you "learn" the spell, it comes with X monsters known-- that way it fits more neatly into the standard mechanisms for learning spells. If you prepare the spell, you have to pick which monster you'll summon when you prepare it. Druidic spontaneous summoning can die in a fire.

Anyway, if you're looking for "summoning done right" examples, I humbly submit my Conjurer (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?317495-The-Conjurer-summons-teleports-and-balance-Oh-my!-%28Fixed-List-Caster-Project%29), who handles all summoning through a class feature.

2014-05-12, 02:48 AM
Oh, interesting class, I like it.

As for your comments:

Awareness should never be a knowledge check, it should be related to actual in game experiences (or role played research - maybe a knowledge check to see if you even know about it to think about researching it?). Trading with other wizards is something I hadn't thought about, might mess things up.

Knowing enough is very much a knowledge check and yea, that can start running into problems.

However, combine the two though, and you might get something interesting. (DC 30+CR (or HD) for things you've only heard vague stories about // DC 25+CR for creatures you've heard proper stories about/done some research on // etc etc // all the way to DC 10 for something you've seen/fought/dissected/dealt with repeatedly. With notes exchanged with another wizard giving a -5 on the DC (or +5 on the check) for the higher DCs? (but not on the "I've seen it, dissected it" type of easier checks)).

And yea, executing the limit is hard. X known is decent (and quite similar to UA's methods - like those more with the slow learning). The monster/summon book was just a method of making it physical, using something similar to how sorcerers are limited in their spells know would be just fine (or just including a few creatures in the original spell, also works).