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Summon Monster Variants Edit

The summon monster and summon nature’s ally spells provide effective and versatile options for spellcasters of every level. In addition to their obvious effectiveness during combat, each summoning spell can potentially add further diversity and interesting flavor to groups of conjurers or even individual summoners. This variation might be as simple as allowing a group of conjurers access to monsters of only one alignment or subtype or as complex as creating individualized summoning lists for each spellcaster.

Themed Summoning Lists Edit

Themed summoning lists provide many interesting possibilities for variant summoners, and they can add a tremendous amount of flavor and character to the spellcasters in your game. With this variant, you choose the monsters available to a spellcaster or to a group of spellcasters by selecting a theme the monsters to be summoned must all share. By selecting different themes for different groups of spellcasters, you give each group’s summoning a unique flavor.

To create a variant list, simply start with the standard list of monsters and add and remove creatures of the appropriate power level. This allows an individual spellcaster access to a much smaller number of monsters at each level, but the spells remain versatile and effective.

Without a goal in mind, however, this procedure tends to create a very haphazard list. Start with a basic concept, or theme, to guide your selection. Choose a theme from those listed below or make one up yourself. Once you have a theme in mind, try to limit your list only to creatures that fit the theme.

Sample themes include alignment (law, chaos, good, or evil), base creature type (such as animal, elemental, fey, or outsider), creature subtype (such as fire or shapechanger), and template (such as celestial or fiendish).

Simply choosing a theme like this doesn’t always yield a perfect list, occasionally leaving a level without a suitable monster. As long as you can find a template that fits the theme, though, you can solve this problem. Simply choose a base monster and apply the template that fits the theme, then compare the monster’s adjusted CR, Hit Dice, and special abilities to the monsters available at the spell level. If the monster seems to match the power and abilities of the monsters at the same spell level, it’s probably okay to add that monster to the themed list.

For example, when building the sample list for the Defenders of the World Stone group that is described below, there was only one monster from the existing summon nature’s ally V list that fit the theme (the earth elemental). Although the ankheg is a magical beast not normally subject to a summon nature’s ally spell, its burrowing and acid spit abilities made it a natural for the list. Adding the earth creature template from Manual of the Planes brought the ankheg to the proper power level. In addition, adding the template provided a stronger link with the World Stone and its connection to the Elemental Plane of Earth.

Sample Themed Lists: Defenders of the World Stone Edit

Atop a broad, gentle slope, the World Stone sits, connecting the Material Plane to the Elemental Plane of Earth. The powerful natural magic of the World Stone stands as an emblem to the stoic power of nature. This power, however, has long attracted those who would exploit it for their own gain rather than use it for the protection of nature. A steadfast group of loyal druids guards the World Stone against such incursions, and it in turn grants them great power to summon earth creatures. If you use this variant in your campaign, druids devoted to defending the World Stone summon the following monsters with summon nature’s ally spells.

Creature Template Alignment CR
Summon nature's ally I
Badger - N 1/2
Dog Earth1 N 1/3
Summon nature's ally II
Small Earth Elemental - N 1
Wolf Earth1 N 1
Summon nature's ally III
Dire Badger - N 2
Dire Weasel Earth1 N 2
Stone Spike2 - N 2
Summon nature's ally IV
Medium Earth Elemental - N 3
Earth Mephit - N 3
Salt Mephit - N 3
Minor Xorn - N 3
Summon nature's ally V
Ankheg Earth1 N 4
Large Earth Elemental - N 5
Summon nature's ally VI
Huge Earth Elemental - N 7
Rhinoceros Earth1 N 6
Average Xorn - N 6
Summon nature's ally VII
Greater Earth Elemental - N 9
Elder Xorn - N 8
Summon nature's ally VIII
Dune Stalker2 - NE 9
Galeb Duhr2 - N 9
Summon nature's ally IX
Elder Earth Elemental - N 11
Unicorn, Celestial Charger Earth1 NG 14
1 Appears in Manual of the Planes
2 Appears in Monster Manual II

Sample Themed Lists: The Light of Heavens Edit

A group of clerics following the teachings of Heironeous and Corellon Larethian and some good-aligned conjurers banded together to pursue their common goals. Primarily made up of humans and elves, the organization also include some aasimars and half-celestial creatures. Through the summoning of celestial creatures, this group works to dispel the fear that many have of the practitioners of magic and to bring the Material Plane closer to the ideal of the Upper Planes. Members of the Light of Heavens summon monsters from the custom list given below.

Creature Template Alignment CR
Summon monster I
Dog Celestial LG 1/3
Hawk Celestial or air1 CG 1/3
Porpoise Celestial NG 1/2
Summon monster II
Dog, Riding Celestial CG 1/2
Eagle Celestial or air1 CG 1/2
Summon monster III
DireBadger Celestial LG 2
Elemental, small (air or fire) - N 1
Hipogriff Celestial CG 2
Summon monster IV
Lantern Archon - LG 2
Bariaur2 - CG 3
Giant Eagle Celestial or air1 LG 4
Lion Celestial CG 4
Summon monster V
Hound Archon - LG 4
Brown Bear Celestial LG 5
Elemental, Medium (air or fire) - N 3
Summon monster VI
Eladrin, Bralani - CG 6
Elemental, large (air or fire) - N 5
Polar Bear Celestial LG 6
Summon monster VII
Elemental, huge (air or fire) - N 7
Avoral - NG 7
Summon monster VIII
Elemental, greater (air or fire) - N 9
Dire Bear Celestial LG 9
Summon monster IX
Elemental, elder (air or fire) - N 11
Roc Celestial LG 11
1 Appears in Manual of the Planes
2 Appears in Book of Exalted Deeds and Manual of the Planes

Sample Themed Lists: Petitioners of the Gnoll God Edit

A loose alliance of savage gnoll adepts, demented human clerics and conjurers, and a handful of desperate spellcasters of more exotic origins pay tribute to the demon-god of gnolls. In return for their devotion, they are allowed to summon minions directly from his legions of demonic and shadow-infused gnolls and demons. If you use this variant list in your campaign, spellcasters devoted to the gnoll god summon the following monsters with summon monster spells, regardless of their class.

Creature Template Alignment CR
Summon monster I
Dire Rat Fiendish CE 1/3
Hawk Fiendish CE 1/3
Summon monster II
Ghoul (extraplanar) - CE 1
Gnoll Fiendish CE 1
Hyena Fiendish CE 1
Summon monster III
Demon, Dretch - CE 2
Elemental, small (earth or fire) - N 1
Gnoll, 1st-level fighter Fiendish CE 2
Hyena Shadow1 CE 2
Summon monster IV
Dire hyena (as dire wolf) Fiendish CE 4
Dire hyena (as dire wolf) Shadow1 CE 4
Ghast (extraplanar) - CE 3
Howler - CE 3
Summon monster V
Elemental, medium (earth or fire) - N 3
Gnoll, 4th level Barbarian Fiendish CE 5
Marrash 2 - CE 5
Summon monster VI
Elemental, large (earth or fire) - NN 5
Chaos Beast - CN 7
Gnoll, 5th level Ranger Fiendish CE 6
Summon monster VII
Elemental, huge (earth or fire) - N 7
Demon, Babau - CE 5
Gnoll, 7th level Rogue Shadow1 CE 8
Summon monster VIII
Elemental, greater (earth or fire) - N 9
Gnoll, 8th level Fighter Fiendish CE 9
Demon, Vrock - CE 9
Summon monster IX
Elemental, elder (earth or fire) - N 11
Demon, Bebilith - CE 10
Demon, Hezrou - CE 11
1 Appears in Manual of the Planes
2 Appears in Monster Manual II

Individualized Summoning Lists Edit

In this variant, each spellcaster has a unique list of monsters she can summon with any single summon monster or summon nature’s ally spell. When a spellcaster first gains access to a summon spell, she chooses one monster from the list. This chosen monster is the only monster she can summon with that spell. The GM is free to choose the means through which characters can add monsters to their summon lists with this variant, but it’s important that the method be consistent for all spellcasters. Here are some suggestions for determining when spellcasters may add monsters to their summoning lists.

Add one monster to one summoning list whenever access to a new spell level is gained. Most characters using this option won’t have more than a couple of monsters available for each spell. Most favorable for characters with access to a number of summon spells (such as clerics and druids).

Add one monster to each summoning list whenever access to a new spell level is gained. Characters using this option have the most monsters available for their lowest-level (or first gained) summon spells, and fewer for those spells gained at higher levels. Most favorable for characters with access to a number of summon spells (such as clerics and druids).

Add one monster to one summoning list to which the caster has access (or knows, for characters with a limited number of spells known) whenever a new spellcasting level is gained. Similar to the first option, though each list is about twice as long.

Add one monster to each summoning list to which the caster has access (or knows, for characters with a limited number of spells known) whenever a new spellcasting level is gained. Similar to the second option, but each list is about twice as long.

Add a monster to the appropriate summoning list whenever the character witnesses another spellcaster summon that creature. With this variant, the GM might also require a successful Spellcraft check (DC 15 + spell level) to learn how to summon the new creature.

The sample individualized lists presented below were generated using the “add one monster to one summoning list whenever a new spellcasting level is gained” procedure. Both spellcasters gain access to a 9th-level summon spell at 17th level. Because of this, it’s best for them to simply pick a monster from their highest available list at levels 1st through 17th. However, because the number of 9th-level spells they can cast each day is severely limited, they are often best served by adding monsters to lower-level summoning lists at class levels 18th through 20th. This explains the strange order of levels at the end of the individualized summoning lists. For example, when Caldark Eberkson reaches 18th level, he has access to only two 9th-level spells per day. Although he prepares the summon monster IX spell nearly every day, the elder earth elemental is the best possible choice for him in nearly every combat, and adding a new monster to his summon monster IX list doesn’t help him much. Instead, he adds the celestial dire tiger to his summon monster VIII list.

Sample Individualized Lists: Caldark Eberkson Edit

A dwarf cleric with a penchant for melee combat, Caldark Eberkson has had considerable success in using the first round of combat to summon a physically powerful monster and then wading into combat beside it. Gundark’s individualized summoning list is described below.

The list below was constructed using the procedure in which the caster gains access to a new monster on one summoning list each time he gains a level. With Gundark’s tactics and personality in mind, the first monster taken at any spell level is a large, physically powerful monster. Subsequent monsters at the same spell level tend to have more versatile movement or spell-like abilities.

Level Creature Template Alignment CR
Summon monster I
1st Badger Celestial LG 1/2
2nd Hawk Celestial LG 1/2
Summon monster II
3rd Wolf Celestial LG 1
4th Shark Celestial LG 1
Summon monster III
5th Black bear Celestial LG 2
6th Elemental, small (fire) - N
Summon monster IV
7th Lion Celestial LG 4
8th Archon, Lantern - LG 2
Summon monster V
9th Brown Bear Celestial LG 5
10th Elemental, medium (fire) - N 3
Summon monster VI
11th Dire Lion Celestial LG 7
12th Whale, Orca Celestial LG 7
Summon monster VII
13th Elephant Celestial LG 9
14th Guardinal, Avoral - NG 9
Summon monster VIII
15th Elemental, greater (fire) - N 9
16th Lillend - CG 7
18th Dire Tiger Celestial LG 10
Summon monster IX
17th Elemental, elder (fire) - N 11
19th Roc Celestial LG 11
20th Guardinal, leonal - NG 12

Sample Individualized Lists: Gwenna Greenbottle Edit

A halfling druid who favors ranged combat from atop her long-time riding dog animal companion, Gwenna Greenbottle prefers to summon mobile monsters capable of keeping up with her mount’s speed and fast enough to stay between her and her opponents in the midst of a running battle.

The list below was constructed using the procedure in which the caster gains access to a new monster on one summoning list each time she gains a level. With Svenna’s tactics and personality in mind, the first monster taken at any spell level is a swift animal, usually one capable of flight. Subsequent monsters at the same spell level tend to be larger quadrupeds capable of serving as temporary mounts.

Level Creature Template Alignment CR
Summon nature's ally I
1st Owl - N 1/4
2nd Wolf - N 1
Summon nature's ally II
3rd Dire Bat - N 2
4th Black Bear - N 2
Summon nature's ally III
5th Giant Eagle - N 3
6th Dire Wolf - N
Summon nature's ally IV
7th Arrowhawk, juvenile - N 3
8th Unicorn - CG 3
Summon nature's ally V
9th Griffon - N 4
10th Polar Bear - N 4
Summon nature's ally VI
11th Elephant - N 7
12th Dire Bear - N 7
Summon nature's ally VII
13th Arrowhawk, elder - N 8
14th Elemental, Greater - N 9
16th Dire Tiger - N 8
20th Djinni, genie - NG 5
Summon nature's ally VIII
15th Roc - N 9
19th Dire Shark - N 9
Summon nature's ally IX
17th Elemental, elder (earth) - N 11
18th Unicorn, celestial charger - CG 13

Behind the Curtains: Summoning Lists Edit

A lot of this variant’s potential to enrich the game requires that you differentiate summoners along specific lines and assign each a different list, lending a specific flavor to each group. Here are a few ways in which you can categorize spellcasters who use summoning spells.

  • By wizard specialization (wizard vs. conjurer; other specialist wizards might also have unique lists).
  • By class wizard vs. sorcerer, arcane vs. divine, each class, and so on).
  • By race (dwarves summon earth creatures, elves summon fey creatures, and so on).
  • By home region (nation, city, plane, and so on).
  • By current location (for example, when near a volcano, spellcasters summon fire creatures).
  • By caster alignment.
  • By gender.
  • By spellcasting guild.
  • By individual.



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