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Unearthed Arcana


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 alignement or subtype or as complex as creating individualized summoning lists for each spellcaster.
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 selevting a theme the monsters to be summoned must all share. By selecting different themes for diggerent groups of spellcasters, you give each group's summoning a unique flavor.

To create a variant list, simpley start with the standard list of monsters and add and remove creatures og the appropriate power level. This allows an infividual 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, 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 in the standard lists, it's probably ok to add the monster to the themed list.

For example, when building the sample earth themed list below, there was only one monster from the existing summon nature's ally V list that fit the theme (the Large 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 theme of the list.

Sample Shemed List: Stone/Earth
Summon nature's ally I
Summon nature's ally II
Elemental, Small (Earth)
Summon nature's ally III
Dire Badger
Dire Weasel
Stone Spike2
Summon nature's ally IV
Elemental, Medium (earth)
Earth mephit
Salt mephit
Xorn, minor
Summon nature's ally V
Elemental, Large (earth)
Summon nature's ally VI
Elemental, Huge (earth)
Xorn, Average
Summon nature's ally VII
Elemental, Greater (earth)
Xorn, Elder
Summon nature's ally VIII
Dune Stalker2
Galeb Duhr2
Summon nature's ally IX
Elemental, Elder (earth)
Unicorn, celestial charger
1 Appears in Manual of the Planes.
2 Appears in Monster Manual II.

Sample Themed List: Heavens
Summon monster I
Celestial or air1CG1/3
Summon Monster II
Dog, riding
Celestial or air1CG1/2
Summon monster III
Dire Badger
Elemental, Small (air or fire)
Celestial or air1CG2
Summon monster IV
Archon, lantern
Giant eagle
Celestial or air1LG4
Summon monster V
Archon, hound
Brown bear
Elemental, Medium (air or fire)
Summon monster VI
Eladrin, bralani
Elemental, Large (air or fire)
Polar bear
Summon monster VII
Elemental, Huge (air or fire)
Guardinal, avoral
Summon monster VIII
Elemental, Greater (air or fire)
Dire bear
Summon monster IX
Elemental, Elder (air or fire)
Celestial or air1LG11
1 Appears in Manual of the Planes.
2 Appears in Book of Exalted Deeds and Manual of the Planes.

Sample Themed List: Fiendish Gnoll
Summon monster I
Dire Rat
Summon monster II
Ghoul (extraplanar)
Summon monster III
Demon, dretch
Elemental, Small (earth or fire)
Gnoll, 1st-level fighter
Summon monster IV
Dire hyena (as dire wolf)
Dire hyena (as dire wolf)
Ghast (extraplanar)
Summon monster V
Elemental, Medium (earth or fire)
Gnoll, 4th-level barbarian
Summon monster VI
Elemental, Large (earth or fire)
Chaos Beast
Gnoll, 5th-level ranger
Summon monster VII
Elemental, Huge (earth or fire)
Demon, Babau
Gnoll, 7th-level rogue
Summon monster VIII
Elemental, Greater (earth or fire)
Gnoll, 8th-level fighter
Demon, Vrock
Summon monster IX
Elemental, Elder (earth or fire)
Demon, bebilith
Demon, hezrou
1 Appears in Manual of the Planes.
2 Appears in Monster Manual II.

Individualized Summoning Lists

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 DM 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 a spellcaster 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 characrers 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 characrers 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 charater witnesses another spellcaster summon that creature. With this variant, the DM might also require a successful Spellcraft check (DC 15 + Spell level) to learn how to summon the new creature.

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 summoning 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 the dwarven cleric below reaches 18th level, he has access to only two 9th-level spells per day. Although he prepares the summon monster XI 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 List: Dwarven Cleric
A dwarf cleric with a penchant for melee combat, he has had considerable success in using the first round of combat to summon a physically powerful monster and then wading into combar beside it. His 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 this dwarven cleric'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 and spell-like abilities.

Summon monster I
Summon monster II
4thShark, MediumCelestialLG1
Summon monster III
5thBlack bearCelestialLG2
6thElemental, Small (fire)-N1
Summon monster IV
8thArchon, Lantern-LG2
Summon monster V
9thBrown bearCelestialLG5
10thElemental, Medium (fire)-N3
Summon monster VI
11thDire lionCelestialLG7
12thWhale, orcaCelestialLG7
Summon monster VII
14thGuardinal, avoral-NG9
Summon monster VIII
15thEarth Elemental, Greater-N9
18thDire tigerCelestialLG10
Summon monster IX
17thEarth elemental, elder-N11
20thGuardinal, leonal-NG12
Sample Individualized List: Halfling Druid
A halfling druid who favors ranged combat from atop her long-time riding dog animal companion, she 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 this halfling druids' 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.

Summon natures's ally I
Summon natures's ally II
3rdDire bat-N2
4thBear, black-N2
Summon natures's ally III
5thEagle, giant-NG3
6thDire wolf-N3
Summon natures's ally IV
7thArrowhawk, juvenile-N3
Summon natures's ally V
10thBear, polar-N4
Summon natures's ally VI
12thDire bear-N7
Summon natures's ally VII
13thArrowhawk, elder-N8
14thElemental, greater-N9
16thDire tiger-N8
20thDjinni (genie)-NG5
Summon natures's ally VIII
19thDire shark-N9
Summon natures's ally IX
17thEarth elemental, elder-N11
18thUnicorn, celestial charger-CG13

A lot of this variant's potential to enrich the game requires that you differetiate 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.