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Ontario Pathfinder Society | Asmodean Advice – Summon Monster, Part One
Asmodean Advice – Summon Monster, Part One

Asmodean Advice – Summon Monster, Part One

Hi Everyone,

Since this is my first column, let me introduce myself. My name is Brian. I’ve been playing D&D for 15 years or so, and I started playing Pathfinder organized play 3 years ago at Comic-Con in San Diego. I got involved with local organized play at Fan Expo last year, and I’ve been playing pretty constantly since then. I enjoy being on both sides of the GM screen and do so in fairly equal amounts. For my first column, I decided to write about something near and dear to my heart: summoning monsters.

In the future, I’d like to know what you guys want me to look into. For those of you in Toronto that frequent Dueling Grounds, feel free to say hi and give me your requests. For everyone else, feel free to send me an email. I can’t promise the most optimized answers, but I can hopefully give you some fun alternative insights. Without further ado, here’s my insight on summoning monsters…


So, you want to summon a monster. One of the biggest benefits of summoning monsters is the versatility it gives you. You don’t have to choose which monster you summon when you prepare or pick the spell. In fact, you don’t have to decide what you want to summon until you complete the spell (1 round casting time in most cases).

Sometimes you just need a tank, but sometimes you need a little more finesse, something that can turn the tide of a battle with a rarely used spell-like ability. The following is the list of monsters I like to keep stats on hand for.

Summon Monster I

Your first summon monster spell. There aren’t a lot of extra abilities on this list, but you do get to summon monsters with movement types PCs don’t usually have at low levels.

* Eagles will allow you to attack pesky flying creatures, or ones that are shooting at you from atop walls. With an 80 movement speed, they can usually cover the entire battle map in 1 or 2 rounds. They also get 3 melee attacks when full attacking. At first level, that’s not bad.
* Dolphins have a swim speed and if you’re creative you can find a way to help a drowning ally with them.
* It’s dark outside and for some reason no one has a wayfinder, the light spell, or even a torch? Well, a Fire Beetle’s ability can take care of that for a short while.

Summon Monster II

* Elementals are a cool option on this list. In the Air Elemental you have a better flying creature than the eagle. The Earth Elemental is a pretty heavy hitter for its level. If you’re in a burning building and are having a hard time putting it out, the Water Elemental’s Drench ability can help with that. For the pyros out there, the Fire Elemental’s attacks can set enemies on fire with a failed save.
* Another interesting monster on this list is the Lemure. Did the enemy just cast deeper darkness? A Lemure can see in that. Unfortunately, they’re not intelligent so you can’t tell them to sit on the object that is emanating the darkness, but they can provide a distraction while your team regroups.
* Finally, the Giant Spider adds a couple of nice low level abilities. Using a web to entangle an opponent is always fun (for you, not for the GM). They also have a low level strength damaging poison. Remember multiple bites increase the DC of the poison.

Summon Monster III

* One of my favourite early level tanks is on this list. The Aurochs make good blockers due to their large size. They also have a fairly decent bang for a 3rd level spell. They can trample a medium-sized creature (the enemy gets to either make a save for half damage or take an AOO). Getting 3 of them on the board increases their trample DCs, lets them trample large sized creatures and clogs up the battlefield so you can pick off lone opponents.
* As an alternative to the Auroch, an augmented summoned leopard can get up to five attacks and has pounce.
* The Lantern Archon is also on this list. It seems like a fairly innocuous creature, but is extremely good at dealing with creatures with DR. Two touch attacks that completely bypass DR add up over the course of a few rounds. Having a few of these on the table with someone to cast haste will chip away at the toughest enemies. Their menace ability makes all enemies within 10 feet (that fail a save) shaken. It’s a fairly nice debuff for not having spent an action. Having a small outsider menace a Runelord is pretty hilarious (true story). It also has the ability to cast Aid at will (1d8+3 temporary HP plus bless on one ally).
* Finally, the Dretch has some nice spell-like abilities. It can cast Stinking Cloud (which is a 3rd level spell). Getting that plus a monster on the field is just gravy. The Dretch’s Cause Fear spell probably has too low a DC for the level you can summon it at, but it is there and sometimes enemies roll a one on their saves (see the Runelord comment above).

So these are my favourite low level summon targets. Next time I’ll go over Summon Monster IV to VI.

7 Comments

  1. Sailen - September 11, 2013, 2:34 pm

    Good write-up, Brian! I am looking into building a summoner as my second PFS character. I will have to pick you brain sometime.

  2. Blaise

    Blaise - September 11, 2013, 8:15 pm

    Great advice here. 🙂 Summoning is something my Cleric does all too rarely. Neat ideas here.

  3. Adam

    Adam - September 14, 2013, 3:43 pm

    One thing to note is that Augment Summoning doesn’t affect a creature’s SLAs one bit. Don’t feel like it’s a mandatory feat if you’re going more for the stinking cloud than the meatshield.

  4. Paul Jackson

    Paul Jackson - September 15, 2013, 8:10 pm

    If an ability is based on constitution augmented summoning definitely affects them. So, while you’re probably right that there are no (or few, at any rate) SLA’s there are other abilities that one might want that ARE affected, Poison being the most obvious example springing to mind but I’m sure there are others.

    One plea : Don’t overdo summoning. It can completely dominate play if overdone. Partly its a power thing but mostly its that it just takes too much time at the table. And, if you summon, be VERY VERY prepared. There is NOT time to dither, there is not time to look up stats on your phone.

    • sulaco

      sulaco - September 15, 2013, 10:24 pm

      Agreed, Paul. This is doubly true if one has Augmented Summoning or are summoning creatures with a template (celestial, for example). It can be hectic enough trying to keep track of the summoned creatures themselves without having to adjust stats and abilities on the fly.

      What I do, and I am certainly not the only one, is to make a set of index cards – one for each summonable creature – with all the modifiers factored in. Quick and simple. In general if one cannot access the summoned creature’s abilities as easily as one can access one’s own PC then don’t summon.

  5. TheGreatBrain - September 17, 2013, 3:57 pm

    Augment Summoning is nice, but the Spell Focus (Conjuration) prerequisite may make it too expensive unless your tactics focus heavily on summoning and Conjurations that allow saving throws. The PFS Wizard swap of Scribe Scroll for any one Spell Focus mitigates this cost, but you still have to choose Conjuration over any other school that may have more options that benefit from a DC boost, AND that only helps wizards.

    If that IS your concept, and you’ve done your due diligence to ensure that you don’t dominate your games in terms of time used and raw power, then Augment Summoning does lead to Superior Summoning. The difficulty with this feat is that making good use of it makes it even harder to ensure that you aren’t hogging the spotlight and/or detracting from the enjoyment of others.

    I would strongly recommend that anyone playing a PC that prepares or knows summoning extracts/spells/SLAs keep the stats of EVERYTHING they might summon on hand, including all possible variations you might use — fiendish, celestial, augmented, advanced, giant, moonlight/daylight/starlight, etc.

    Players of the other types of PCs that go beyond the normal economy of actions, meaning those with companions, eidolons, familiars and mounts, (and cohorts, followers and hirelings for non-PFS gaming) are expected to be completely ready for their ‘adjuncts’ to act expeditiously, so it’s pretty reasonable and fair to expect the same of players of PCs that summon. (Even if it isn’t fair or reasonable, you, as the player doing the summoning, can expect that others will have that expectation of you!) It’s certainly more work, but that’s the price of the incredible versatility (and power) of summoning! YMMV.

  6. Paul Jackson

    Paul Jackson - September 18, 2013, 1:46 pm

    With recent books there are now LOTS of VERY good conjuration spells that require saves. Some arguably abusively good (snowball, create pit line spring to mind. There are others). So the cost of that Spell Focus feat is now greatly diminished.

    Personally, I like to keep Summons Spells in my pocket for when things go south (even with characters who have invested several feats into summoning).. I don’t use them except when the situation is going south or a summons would be REALLY useful. Admittedly that is easier for my druid who can spontaneously swap in summon spells and so never needs to actually memorize any.

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