Friday, June 23, 2006

03.4 Magic: Conjuration

Conjuration is my least favorite of the spell colleges. Not because it's broken, but because it involves an incredible level of bookkeeping. Keeping track of all six dire badgers that you've just summoned is silly -- which round they appeared, how much damage they've suffered, if and when they rage and so on. This seems counter-intuitive to what being a spellcaster is all about.

Being a "math mage" in D&D is a lot like Magneto getting a degree in auto repair. Why bother learning to fix a carborator when you can rebuild the entire car with your mind and then make it fly. Can you imagine Gandalf sitting there calculating the exact distance and round in which to summon/bolster a giant eagle?

Chances are, wizards go to school to avoid doing chores. And doing math (while roleplaying) is a lot like washing dishes. While everyone else is having fun planning their attacks, you're moving dice, keeping track of hit points, tallying rounds before the badgers dispel, and so on.

Nonsense, I say. Nonsense.

So what's the solution? How do we simplify and improve the present system? How do we make summoning an interesting alternative to what's in the game now, while still maintaining fun? How can we re-theme the college, without completely unhinging everything in place.

While, I don't have an immediate or singular answer for you, I do have some ideas that I think you'll like.

For starters, consider getting rid of the summoning spells. If you do this, conjuration needs something else to fix it and I have plenty of ideas for that. But, even if you don't replace them altogether, the rest of the conjuration spells are still pretty bad ass. Granted some of the spells are going to move to other colleges and a few are going away from the list altogether, but the 4th to 8th level conjuration spells are pretty cool. Teleport alone makes this an amazing college.

If you don't like the idea of REMOVING summoning completely, you can make monster summoning random. Instead of PCs always summoning the mathematically perfect monster for the situation, a random beast from the list appears instead.

There's also the potential for only casting one summoning spell at a time, so you can't have 1,600 dire weasals on the battlefield overrunning the five lizardmen the DM stated-out this week. This means that additional casting of summon monster XX bolsters the beasts that are already in play, giving them an additional number of hit dice equal to the level of the summon monster cast. I'm not sure if this is exploitive or not yet, but it doesn't seem all that broken to summon a dire eagle and them give him 7d8 additional hit points with a summon monster vii spell.

But I don't use this spell enough to see all the angles at the moment.

Lastly, there's the option of making summoned things very powerful, but you only get one at a time and they stick around for a longer time. This means designing all new spells (well, modifying the existing one's heavily). This is my personal choice and how I intend to use the summoning spells in my home campaigns.

In order to do this right, I'd like to steal an idea from the Final Fantasy Series where a single celestial entity is summoned, based on the power level of the mage. If three new summoning spells are created for each level (which is a lot of work), then we can personalize the spells to do things that the PCs can't.

Let me explain... perhaps the level 1 summoning spells summon a Lawful, Neutral, or Chaotic spirit to aid the PCs. The lawful one looks like a small angel, but it attacks with a silver weapon. The neutral one looks like an animal spirit, but it deals extra damage with its powerful claws (perhaps keen claws), and the chaotic one looks like a small demon and its touch deals acid damage.

The spirits are pound for pound as strong as a 2nd level PC, since the monster is only going to be around for a short time anyway. Once a monster has been summoned, additional ones cannot be summoned, but additional summoning spells can be cast bolster the summoned creature. This new method of summoning is going to require that I create new spells. So, check out the first one I made and then give me a few days to come up with a methodology to expound from.

Summon Monster I
Level: 1
Components: V, S
Casting Time: 1 round
Range: Close
Effect: One summoned creature
Duration: 2 rounds/level
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: No

This spell summons and extraplanar guardian from the plane of Law, Neutrality, or Chaos. Each level requires three different sets of stats depending on the alignment of the creature.

However, that's a lot of design work and could take longer than it took to write this entire post. So, for now, send me some ideas and I'll try to get these done in the background of these "magic" posts.

The Rest of the College
But, conjuration is about FIVE different types of magic, but only SUMMMONING seems to get any attention. Calling, creation, healing, and teleportation are neglected. For obvious reasons teleportation can't be used at a low levels, but healing isn't even an option for arcane spellcasters. Calling and summoning seem too similar to justify too separate notation about and creation really needs to appear more often. There's all sorts of cool utility here.

Lastly, there's a bunch of direct damage dealing spells that do not belong under conjuration at all... and I'm sure someone got it in their head at WOTC that thematically it seems like conjuration to bring a ball of acid into your hand, but but that logic chill touch would also be a conjuration spell.

So. We definately need to move around some of the spells, which you'll see below. The most important changes are the cure spells* being added to the wizard list. Since a lot of people are sick of religion and clerics in their home campaigns, it makes a great deal of sense to put healing magic into the hands of wizards. And while they cannot heal as well as a cleric of the same level (and this will change the dynamic of how often and when the PCs fight someone), this is better than no healing magic at all. Even if DMs have clerics in their campaigns, a conjuration specialist that can cast cure spells is a huge boon for a party. And it is highly recommended that in a campaign with more than one spellcaster in the group, healing spells only be available to conjuration specialists.

I've added or invented a few new spells, as well, which shouldn't need explanation beyond what I've written. But feel free to post if you feel so inclined.

Feats
Before I forget, we need to address spell components and the Spell Focus (conjuration) feat. Since I've removed acid splash and acid arrow from conjuration (they are direct damage spells and don't belong here), there is little cause for a save DC increase from this college. And perhaps 25% of the spells that have a save DC associated with them, really require an increase at all (incindiary cloud, for instance, affects so many targets that a save DC increase of +1 isn't going to make much mathematical difference).

So, Spell Focus (conjuration) becomes one of two things. It either increases the duration of a conjured thing (effective and simple, yet boring alternative), increases the saving throw bonuses of a conjured thing (by +2), increases the attack value of a conjured thing (by +1), or makes a conjured thing more difficult to dispel (spell resistance 11 + spell level). I don't like this last one two much, because not everything is dispelable or worth dispelling. And because conjuration covers such a wide range of "stuff" its difficult to narrow down what sort of bonuses this college could earn from this feat. I wish I had a better answer, but I don't.

As for spell components, these should increase the hardness, toughness, and AC of summoned thing by +2. It's simple, thematic, and requires less bookkeeping than anything else I could come up with. The component, however, should match the thing being summoned... a feather for a bird, a piece of stone for stoneskin and so on.

As an aside, I abolutely geek out for unseen servant. I think it's one of the best spells in the game. Completely under-utilized. The quintessential spell for paranoid, lazy, logistical, or utilitarian mages. Kevin Millard at AEG truly showed me how cool this spell could be.

Okay, below is a list of the Conjuration spells as I see them. Print it out and give it to your friends.

0-LEVEL SORCERER/WIZARD SPELLS (CANTRIPS)
Create Water: Creates 2 gallons/level of pure water.
Summon Monster 0: Calls tiny extraplanar animal or insect to aid you. 10 minutes/level

1ST-LEVEL SORCERER/WIZARD SPELLS
Cure Minor Wounds*
Mundane Creation: As minor creation, but 1 minute/level.
Mount: Summons riding horse for 2 hours/level.
Obscuring Mist: Fog surrounds you.
Summon Monster I: Calls extraplanar creature to fight for you.
Unseen Servant: Invisible force obeys your commands.

2ND-LEVEL SORCERER/WIZARD SPELLS
Cure Light Wounds*
Fog Cloud: Fog obscures vision.
Glitterdust: Blinds creatures, outlines invisible creatures.
Minor Dimension Door: Allows for the teleportation of items across a short distance.
Rope Trick: How long was this going to get cataloged incorrectly?
Summon Monster II: Calls extraplanar creature to fight for you.
Summon Swarm: Summons swarm of bats, rats, or spiders.

3RD-LEVEL SORCERER/WIZARD SPELLS
Blink: Involves a teleportation like movement ability, which is defined on page 173 of 3.5 as a conjuration power. Are you sure they edited this thing?
Minor Creation: Creates one cloth or wood object.
Phantom Steed: Magic horse appears for 1 hour/level.
Sleet Storm: Hampers vision and movement.
Stinking Cloud: Nauseating vapors, 1 round/level.
Summon Monster III: Calls extraplanar creature to fight for you.

4TH-LEVEL SORCERER/WIZARD SPELLS
Cure Moderate Wounds*
Dimension Door: Teleports you short distance.
Secure Shelter: Creates sturdy cottage.
Solid Fog: Blocks vision and slows movement.
Summon Monster IV: Calls extraplanar creature to fight for you.
Wall of Fire: These deal damage secondarily and should be conjuration.
Wall of Ice: Silly.

5TH-LEVEL SORCERER/WIZARD SPELLS
Cloudkill: Kills 3 HD or less; 4–6 HD save or die, 6+ HD take Con damage.
Fabricate: Arguably a conjuration ability. And thematically part of the creation spell thread.
Mage’s Faithful Hound: Phantom dog can guard, attack.
Major Creation: As minor creation, plus stone and metal.
Planar Binding, Lesser: Traps extraplanar creature of 6 HD or less until it performs a task.
Secret Chest: Hides expensive chest on Ethereal Plane; you retrieve it at will.
Summon Monster V: Calls extraplanar creature to fight for you.
Teleport: Instantly transports you as far as 100 miles/level.
Wall of Force: Perhaps this one crosses both Evocation and Conjuration?
Wall of Stone: Creates a stone wall that can be shaped.

6TH-LEVEL SORCERER/WIZARD SPELLS
Acid Fog: Fog deals acid damage.
Cure Serious Wounds*
Superior Creation: As major creation, but item is of masterwork nature.
Planar Binding: As lesser planar binding, but up to 12 HD.
Summon Monster VI: Calls extraplanar creature to fight for you.
Wall of Iron M: 30 hp/four levels; can topple onto foes.

7TH-LEVEL SORCERER/WIZARD SPELLS
Instant Summons: Prepared object appears in your hand.
Mage’s Magnificent Mansion: Door leads to extradimensional mansion.
Phase Door: Creates an invisible passage through wood or stone.
Plane Shift: As many as eight subjects travel to another plane.
Summon Monster VII: Calls extraplanar creature to fight for you.
Teleport, Greater: As teleport, but no range limit and no off-target arrival.
Teleport Object: As teleport, but affects a touched object.

8TH-LEVEL SORCERER/WIZARD SPELLS
Incendiary Cloud: Cloud deals 4d6 fire damage/round.
Maze: Traps subject in extradimensional maze.
Planar Binding, Greater: As lesser planar binding, but up to 18 HD.
Perfect Creation: As major creation, but item is of magical nature.
Summon Monster VIII: Calls extraplanar creature to fight for you.
Trap the Soul: Imprisons subject within gem.

9TH-LEVEL SORCERER/WIZARD SPELLS
Gate: Connects two planes for travel or summoning.
Refuge: Alters item to transport its possessor to you.
Summon Monster IX: Calls extraplanar creature to fight for you.
Teleportation Circle: Circle teleports any creature inside to designated spot.

The summon monster spells need to be fixed and the cure spells are negotiable, but this is my list.

Thoughts?

1 comment:

Ancient Gamer said...

I can honestly say I've always had a problem with the 'Summon Creature' spells the way they were written.

In my campaigns the spells have always called to a creature that was already in the area to appear and help. If you're in a dungeon, it may be a rat. In the woods, a badger, etc. You can ask for a certain creature (reach out with your mind), but that doesn't mean you'll get it.

This interpretation, however, prety much guts summoning from conjuration.

I'll have to put some more thought into it.