Help me hate my Master Summoner PC less!


Advice

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Hello all,

I'm running the Carrion Crown adventure path; we're currently on Broken Moon, at the Stairs of the Moon.

One of my PC's is a level 7 Summoner, Master Summoner archetype.

He never uses his Eidolon, instead just summoning 1d3+1 Small Elementals (Lightning, Fire, Mud, etc.) every round (he has the Superior Summoner feat giving him the +1 to the number he summons). He can do this 9/day and they stay summoned for 9 minutes each time.

I'm having a hard time as the DM with this character. Here are my problems:

1) It slows down everything. We play on roll20, and I have to make tokens for the new elementals every time, not to mention a new initiative spot for them, etc.

2) It seems overpowered. He basically summons a whole bunch of weak meat shields. Even if the elementals do little damage, they still represent another threat for the monsters to attack.

3) It fills up the board. With the flying elementals, he usually wants to stack them too. (What kind of rules are there for this type of stacking? The elementals themselves are small size, even if they do go in a square...)

Now, I don't want to hate this character. I realize that he has very little in the way of attacking spells, and his summons are basically it. I don't want to neuter this character, but I feel like he's overpowered. Is this all in my head and he's really not that powerful? Is there some weakness I am missing? Something I should be paying attention to? Do you folks have any advice how I should handle this going forward?


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Protection from Blank defends against summoned creatures of the same alignment.

Use creatures that gain a benefit from slaying creatures. That'll teach him to use low hd creatures. Area spells work well.

Uhhh...but yeah. Keep in mind that the Master Summoner has some difficulty doing anything else. His eidolon is weaker and he has a heavier reliance on his summoned creatures. They're not permanent so you could always space encounters out. Feel free to have enemies retreat and seal the way to buy time for the durations to run out.

OH! DR. DR absolutely trounces summons.


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The Magic Circle spells have a caveat in them that makes them particularly effective against summoned creatures. Check it out.

As for the sheer number of summons, enemies with AoE and/or Cleave should make short work of them.

As for slowing the game down... yeah, they'll do that. Not much way around it.


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Well, just right off the bat--make tokens for all the elementals in advance and have them act on the same turn as the player.

What's really gonna challenge this guy are area effects. Consider inserting someone with a wand of burning hands or the like--whatever fits Carrion Crown. Those elementals will go down fast. Better yet, a guy with Great Cleave, who will love that the Summoner is making it so easy to pull off so many attacks per round. Terrain control spells will also hurt the heck out of certain elementals.

And if the summons aren't doing much damage, have your monsters be smart and ignore them. ;D


If you summon the right elementals (almost always earth), they will do tons of damage.

You can try to summon less and more powerful critters. You will be nerfing yourself, but if it will be more fun for everyone...

Change superior summoning by summon good monster and check the hound archon and the foo lion. Both are very good (archon is more versatile).


Aeric Blackberry wrote:

If you summon the right elementals (almost always earth), they will do tons of damage.

You can try to summon less and more powerful critters. You will be nerfing yourself, but if it will be more fun for everyone...

Change superior summoning by summon good monster and check the hound archon and the foo lion. Both are very good (archon is more versatile).

We're not trying to make him more effective. The GM is looking for ways to rebalance his game with tons of summon monsters mucking up the fights.


Not a permanent solution, but design a dungeon around the idea that it can only contain X amount of monsters at a time and anytime that limit goes over a disintegration spell is cast on the creature with the least amount of HD. I know you're playing a AP, so you could possibly build that into the adventure. In any case, Master Summoners are hard to deal with and I believe Master Summoners, Synthesists, and Broodmaster summoners are no longer legal in Pathfinder Society. I usually use their ban list to help make my games easier and prevent characters like the Master Summoner from ruining games like these, at least when dealing with modules. I feel I can handle classes like that a whole lot better when I am gming custom campaigns.


Hand out the control of the summons to other players. That way all will get more playing time, and the fight might even go a bit faster.


Dreadful Carnage and a high intimidate To demoralize everyone in 30 ft radius whenever one dies. Breath weapons. Magic missiles that target the character despite his horde. The Control Summoned Creature spell.

Can he communicate with them? Seems like they could get into trouble after the attacking the enemy is done without direction. Make sure you are designing for the action economy in your encounters so they aren't rolling over everything.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Leisner wrote:
Hand out the control of the summons to other players. That way all will get more playing time, and the fight might even go a bit faster.

This is a good idea in most cases but especially when dealing with something like roll 20. If you make all elementals go on the same initiative and 3 different players act for them, it would be close to as long to resolve as the turn for another player. Its what I do in table play with something like this and it works well. I'd imagine given the limitations of roll 20 where you can only do as fast as you can click it will have an even more dramatic impact.

Liberty's Edge

Give everyone a time limit to perform their actions or they loose them.

Ask the player if you trust him to roll all his attacks beforehand along with damage so on their turn all he has to give you is the AC they hit and the damage they do.

Oh and if you are summoning something you need to have the stats and figures ready. Don’t have the stats and something to represent it you don’t summon it.

This is what I do when I get larger groups with many people. It gets cumbersome having a summoner and a druid in the party with everyone taking cohorts or using spells to raise undead companions.

Sic


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What I would do, as a GM in this case is simply roll with it.
Take a look at it first from the player of the summoner's perspective. He's obviously having a ton of fun controlling his army of mini-minions and not looking to severely unbalance the game. There really isn't any reason to punish him, since there are quite literally a TON of ways you can limit his effectiveness or just shut him down outright.
Instead, maybe you should throw in a few encounters where his little guys actually get a chance to really shine instead of just being a swarm of nameless redshirts?
On the other hand, if his playstyle is bogging down the flow of combat overmuch, then it's less a player issue and more a mechanics problem. Waves of summoned monsters (as well as large numbers of player-controlled NPCs or any sort) can seriously affect the flow of any combat oriented game and should be adjusted as soon as it becomes a real problem at the table. If your players aren't having an issue with it, then it's really not a problem at all. Just discuss everything with the players out of game and see what everyone thinks.

Personally, I have never had a problem with masses of die rolls in a game. I mean I ran a several year long campaign where I GMed for 2 players who ran a total of between 18 and 30 characters for the entirety of the game, including high level Druids and Conjurers, and we still fondly remember the game 15 years+ later.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
lordfeint wrote:

What I would do, as a GM in this case is simply roll with it.

Take a look at it first from the player of the summoner's perspective. He's obviously having a ton of fun...later.

Agree with above post.

Without knowing all the specifics I still have some suggestions if you think it is necessary that you may or may not have tried.

First the player not the GM is responsible for all the aspects of the summons. He should be sending you tokens before the game session way in advance. Or you can do what I prefer when running lots of summons that you don't have a token handy for and go with generic tokens. Basically circles with 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. I keep these on a Roll20 page called "Tokens"

On the summoner's turn, he should be ready to go with all his actions. I play in roll 20 and my turns with summons are done in about 10 seconds.

Macros for all pet/summon combat actions.

My roll20 turns looks like:
Each pet rolling single attack:
d20+5 on hit 1d8+4

1d20+5=17
1d8+4=9

etc...takes seconds.

Never take time out of the session to look up a stat block. He should already have them and be ready to PM it to you if necessary.

Never take time out of the session to decide what to summon. He should already know.

A given round may take a few minutes for everyone to go which gives you plenty of time to plan out what you are going to do.

The same issues comes up with followers, druid animal companions, etc...I never have had an issue when the player was prepared.

I mean you can have the same time issues with a wizard player who takes half an hour to decide to cast magic missile. It's happened to me. Full table, he was last in the initiative, level 1 and still took half an hour. It didn't really affect me, but boy you could see the other players just waiting to jump in :)

Or the barbarian who doesn't know how if he wants to rage or power attack...and then doesn't have the math already done and spends the next few minutes counting on his fingers because he keeps losing track. And then forgets he's enlarged and what that does to his weapon dice. Or strength.

Silver Crusade

I don't have a master summoner, but I have a summoner and 7 other PCs so here's my 'inexpert' methods.

1.) The elementals are pretty damn tough and good for a lot of situations, so think outside the box a little. That air elemental is going to whirlwind, so give him gribblies to whirlwind. While he's busy re-enacting Twister with kobolds he 1.) Isn't causing too much trouble to the main bad guy and 2.) The player gets to feel badass.

2.) The summons will usually be a few levels behind the other monsters, the difference is with the stuff like huge earth elementals and the like, but by that point the opponents should be beefy too (fire giants, fiends).

3.) Summons have communication issues that eidolons don't. If the summon goes out of vision range, it acts on its order. It doesn't get to improvise. Also, you gotta be able to speak the language, or all it can do is attack.

4.) For simplicity, summons go on the summoner's turn. No new init for all the mobs.

5.) Tight battlefields. If the area is 5 by 5, then the summoner can't really even pull in a huge air elemental, or even a lot of lesser elementals.

6.) The summons are tied to the summoner. Without an eidolon to back him up, or something to guard him (very few summoners remember this), you clonk the summoner, and his summons go poof. Even feats that let eidolons persist don't apply to the summons if he's using his summoner summon power.

7.) Don't fear the guy who can summon two huge elementals. Fear the guy who can summon six large ones. Whirlwind never stops giving the hurt.


I understand where the OP is coming from, I've had a PC alongside a master summoner. Fortunately our Master Summoner was very well prepared, so it didn't take nearly as long as it could have. Unfortunately, it still took a fairly long time. Rerednaw, it's easy to say that. It's also easy to keep track of one animal companion. Keeping track of 4 summons whose stats and abilities can change at the drop of a hat is much harder.

The summoner probably also is a buffer, so his summons rolls are further changing. And he's got to keep track of things like which ones have flanking bonuses and which ones don't. I'm not saying it's an impossible task, but it is difficult. He might want to buff a summon on his turn and then have it attack. So he works things out like a good player and has his buffed monster attack stats all ready to go.

Then just before his turn his summoner gets grappled, or a monster flies, or goes invisible, or somebody casts darkness, or a million other things that are going to change what he does and make it so he has to rework everything. It happens.

As far as being overpowered, most people on the boards agree that the Master Summoner is one of two of the most powerful archetypes of the most powerful class in the game. Make of that what you will, and do what you need to do for your game to be enjoyable.


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OP - you're not wrong. Master Summoner is a complete disaster of an archetype, tacked on to summoner, which is pretty much a complete disaster of a class. Your experience is shared by many. I'd like to highlight some very good advice from above:

1.) Turn Time Limit. If you trust your player not to cheat, have him spend other people's turns rolling the attacks/damage for his minions. Then, on his turn, he can just ask "Does this hit? Does this hit?", etc, and tally the damage from the attacks that hit.

2.) If you want a fight to be even, there's a few things you can do:

2a.) Protection from <summoner alignment> pretty much shuts down all summoned critters, and is outrageously hard to dispel. Same with circle of protection from <summoner alignment>

2b.) Lots and lots of AOE damage.

2c.) Chokepoints - if there are only a few places a fight can happen, a mass of summons is less useful

2d.) Specific anti-summon weapons, like Runeforged: Liberal (http://www.d20pfsrd.com/magic-items/magic-weapons/magic-weapons-non-core/r uneforged-weapon?tmpl=%2Fsystem%2Fapp%2Ftemplates%2Fprint%2F).

Hope this helps.

-Cross


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
awp832 wrote:
I understand where the OP is coming from, I've had a PC alongside a master summoner. Fortunately our Master Summoner was very well prepared, so it didn't take nearly as long as it could have. Unfortunately, it still took a fairly long time. Rerednaw, it's easy to say that. It's also easy to keep track of one animal companion. Keeping track of 4 summons whose stats and abilities can change at the drop of a hat is much harder...

@AWP: Not sure what you are trying to say. I play summoners with multiple summons and dynamic stats and resolve my turns in seconds. The only delays are when the GM asks me in game a question on the rules. In Roll20 I then copy and paste the relevant sections of the PRD. If it's face to face I just hand the book/tablet over or read it out loud.

So sure I find it easy. Spreadsheets, macros, copies of the rules handy. I don't consider that to be an undue burden. I consider it to be part of the obligation to not to hold up the game for my fellow players. While it's a spot of work, I don't feel it to be hard work.

And when I play a Druid (who summons of course) it's exactly the same. Send pet in, summon, buff, etc...

I consider this the same as being a GM. Npcs statblocks can change, even more so on the fly because you are contending with a party of PCs who can through all sorts of debuffs and dispels at you on top of the buffs the npcs apply to themselves.

I didn't advise pre-rolling because some GMs like seeing the rolls on the table. In Roll20 (or most VTT), rolling in advance in the middle of other people's turn turns clogs the chat channel (or the GM's if I PM) with intra-battle spam which causes confusion. But on my turn all I do is click the macro 3 times (if I have 3 monsters) and the results are there. If it's allowed at a table then yeah I will gladly pre-roll and have the numbers up and ready to go.

So far when I have asked if there is a different way the table would prefer I run my turns, I have not gotten any suggestions. So I'm hoping everyone is having fun :)


Crosswind wrote:
OP - you're not wrong. Master Summoner is a complete disaster of an archetype, tacked on to summoner, which is pretty much a complete disaster of a class.

I have to disagree, the class and archetype is fine and not overpowered. The issues of time have similar problems to other classes that don't work well with others, like stealth based characters that need to keep separation or split from the party for them to do their thing. They work fine in small groups (4 or under) but are a pain for GMS and groups at 5+. The 1d4+1 summons are so weak that most level appropriate monsters can just eat AoOs from them. If the encounters get murdered by actions of those summons through action economy, then bring more monsters instead of solos and pairs. You don't need specific hard counters for the summons. Heck just having a wizard blast an AoE of the appropriate type can eliminate the horde in a round. If he summons more do it again. Completely fine use of enemy actions and if anything it keeps those actions being directed at the party.

Silver Crusade

Resist the urge to do the 'this particular item to oppose class' thing. It starts breaking disbelief when every tribe of giants for inexplicable reasons begins casting protection from whatever spells, or everyone has a banishment rod.

How do the players deal with overwhelming odds, or more bodies opposing them? Thats how your opponents should react.

The summoner has a grab bag, but they're not game breaking unless you 1.) Slavishly adhere to the encounter design rules (which are guidelines anyway), 2.) Treat monsters as statbags and not characters.

Elementals are dangerous, but thats why they're a class feature. Its also why charisma is a big thing for the summoner, having to explain, cajole or otherwise compel his summons to do what he wants them to do.

"Elemental, go open that door!" He might 'open' it by smashing it in, or burning it. Instead of just the knob.

Maybe that eladrin you summoned wants to do things with more of a flair.

And evil creatures might do horrible things if you word your commands too widely.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I am pretty sure that summoned creatures other than an eidolon are always supposed to act on the summoner's initiative rather than their own. The eidolon has its own initiative only because of its semi-independent status as the summoner's "pet" -- but that should not be an issue because this master summoner wisely keeps his underpowered eidolon out of combat.

So yes, all those summoned creatures will slow things down, but you really don't have to make things worse by giving them their own initiatives. The Summon Monster I spell description actually says, "This spell summons an extraplanar creature (typically an outsider, elemental, or magical beast native to another plane). It appears where you designate and acts immediately, on your turn." Nothing in the (Master) Summoner's Summon Monster ability overrides that, so you are actually slowing down the game with an undesirable house rule when you roll initiative for each separate summoned monster.

Silver Crusade

Well the argument the PC will likely make is that the summons from the master summoner have longer duration, thus leading to situations where the thing is already 'out' when the long knives come out.

I'd still make him roll using the summoner's init as again, the creatures need to be directed as unlike an eidolon they don't have the benefit of that internal self-guidance or intimate control.


Crosswind wrote:

OP - you're not wrong. Master Summoner is a complete disaster of an archetype, tacked on to summoner, which is pretty much a complete disaster of a class. Your experience is shared by many. I'd like to highlight some very good advice from above:

1

Right. Don’t hate him, ban the class. It’s a HUGE spotlight hog and it’s unfair to the rest of the group. Not to mention it makes more work for the DM.

Sczarni

This might seem blunt suggestion, but up the challenge rating of encounters. I learned recently that I have been coddling to much my players so I UP-ed the challenge by CR +2 or CR +3. Working good so far.

What's actually trouncing your NPC's is action economy of elementals and the fact that there is abundance of them.

The simplest way to solve this is just to ask player not to play a summoner. I know that some people would hate to hear this response, but as a GM, I am having enough trouble already tracking up to 5 NPCs and everything else. Among other things, elementals can make encounters trivial, make other PC's feeling useless and at higher levels it only gets worse. In fact, expect that at higher levels his round will last for 10 minutes while he rolls out all those attacks and damage.

The not so simple way to solve this is by adding additional difficulty to each encounter, which requires alot of time to invest in. Out of top of my head, your best friend is gonna be Fiendish Template, monsters with reach, spellcasters and unique Intelligent monsters who will quickly notice who is controlling those elementals (a simple devil can teleport near summoner easily and rip him apart).

Adam


Mortavius wrote:
1) It slows down everything. We play on roll20, and I have to make tokens for the new elementals every time, not to mention a new initiative spot for them, etc.

Make the tokens ahead of time. You know he's going to summon so many things, so make them already.

Mortavius wrote:
2) It seems overpowered. He basically summons a whole bunch of weak meat shields. Even if the elementals do little damage, they still represent another threat for the monsters to attack.

It's weak, if anything. Summoning a tier down means that they are 'weak meat shields'.. now ask yourself how a party would react to them? They'd area effect if they were in the way, they might ignore them, etc.. Now ask yourself who are you representing? If it's an enemy party, then act the same. If it's a dumb NPC creature, then act appropriate for that NPC, etc. If it's mindless, then giving such fodder is always a good plan... the party should always be able to outthink mindless creatures!

Mortavius wrote:

3) It fills up the board. With the flying elementals, he usually wants to stack them too. (What kind of rules are there for this type of stacking? The elementals themselves are small size, even if they do go in a square...)

Such creatures will each be in their 5'x5'x5' cube.

Now, personally *I* would control the NPCs including the summons. Run them quickly and efficiently. Shouldn't bog you down. I'm not as familiar with your software/online component.. but that's how I would do it on a real tabletop.

Most people who complain about summons do so because either they cannot handle them well, or they let a player run them that can't handle them well.

-James

The Exchange

You can ask your buddy to re-stat himself as a Wizard (Conjurer) with a familiar, but don't expect an ecstatic response.

As a side note, I'm fond of web, slow and entangle when enemies rely heavily on multitudes of weak summons. Anything that forces the PCs to send in their summons one or two at a time - narrow corridors, etc. - helps too.


There is a really important bit of the original post people seem to be consistently overlooking here:

Mortavius wrote:
I'm running the Carrion Crown adventure path;

So none of these suggestions to rebalance every encounter around this character are particularly practical.

Regardless of how they can or cannot be made to work in a homebrew game, within the context of an adventure path, the master summoner archetype is straight-up unworkable, and really should never be allowed. There is even a big sidebar warning about how much it can slow things down and pointing out that it's largely designed for games with only a single PC.

My suggestion, at this point, would be to sit this player down, explain that you really didn't take a good enough look at this archetype before approving it, and propose that he drops the archetype (giving him a chance to tweak his eidolon and feats accordingly). Baseline summoners are still, honestly, one of the harder classes to deal with in an AP, but they can't flood the map with summons like that.

I would also suggest, when dealing with any character that plans on summoning things while using a maptool/roll20/etc. setup, that you keep a wad of icons on standby for anything they plan to summon (or require the player to do so). Without something like this, it just slows things down entirely too much.


There exists an app for the android called Summoner PF RPG that pregens your summoned critters (SNA or SM) with stat blocks, allowance for multiples, and feats the summoner may have. Its either free or cheap.
The simple way to do this is one init check for the player, everybody rolls dice for attacks and picks 4-5 to move, and its slick like butter. He will have to General his own troops, which is the burden of being a master summoner. He has to Pre-prepare stat sheets of what he wants to summon in bulk. The class works, it has weaknesses, and its nothing an AOE spell cant dispatch in a hurry.
For mudule control, arent there spells that grab control of summoned creatures? That would be mostly sad. Or for real mayhem, an enemy master summoner.


Googleshng wrote:
Regardless of how they can or cannot be made to work in a homebrew game, within the context of an adventure path, the master summoner archetype is straight-up unworkable, and really should never be allowed.

Balderdash.

A druid can summon as much as a master summoner, and they've been able to do so since 3.5 without problems.

The 'issue' is that some players cannot handle their summons well. Frankly, the DM should be running them in the first place.

It's not a real problem, and if done right doesn't slow down the game like an entangle, black tentacles, or other slow down control spell can.

-James


I think a GM who's unwilling to make alterations to his published adventures will is going to have less fun than the one who's willing to tinker to fit the PCs.

Silver Crusade

I am playing a MS and the way I do it is

1. pick 1-3 monsters per level that you will use

2. have them on 3X5 cards and give them to other players to roll for.

My DM had the same concerns that you are expressing however,as long as you have a player that is well prepared things should go fairly smoothly. I rarely use my SLA more than twice in an encounter and when I do it is for battlefield control along with the pit spells, grease, etc.

Most important my fellow players do not feel overshadowed and love my summoner for the buffs and protection I offer.


james maissen wrote:
Googleshng wrote:
Regardless of how they can or cannot be made to work in a homebrew game, within the context of an adventure path, the master summoner archetype is straight-up unworkable, and really should never be allowed.

Balderdash.

A druid can summon as much as a master summoner, and they've been able to do so since 3.5 without problems.

Read the class, you are quite wrong. They get a large number of bonus Summons spells, 5 + his Charisma modifier, and the monsters last 10 times as long. So a 7th level summoner gets 21+ summons spells, while a Druid gets 14. And did I mention they last MINUTES per level, not rounds? So they can last into the next combat even longer. Even if not two combats, a MS can easily summon 5 times (each can have several creatures, of course) before combat occurs, while if a Druid tries that time runs out.

As he said: the master summoner archetype is straight-up unworkable, and really should never be allowed.

Heck, even JJ said the Summoner class as a whole was a mistake.


Kobold Cleaver wrote:
I think a GM who's unwilling to make alterations to his published adventures will is going to have less fun than the one who's willing to tinker to fit the PCs.

Why should he kowtow to just one of his players, the one who is hogging table time and the spotlight? There are FOUR players at the table, not just one.


Thank you all for your feedback on this issue, it's very appreciated.

Just to clarify a few points,

1) I don't want to single out this PC or specifically attack him. I know that's no fun for the player. Also, I fully realize that summoning flocks of monsters is basically the only strength this PC has. And I don't want to take that away from the PC, just mitigate it where it seems too powerful. Or, where it seems to ME to be too powerful, and maybe I'm wrong there.

2) The Protection from X and Magic Circle spells are a great suggestion. Unfortunately, they don't do any good in most situations with this PC, because he's been summoning Elementals, which are Neutral. :( But I thank you all for bringing it up, because I'll be sure to keep it in mind if this PC summons anything other than Elementals.

3) DR does work, but it's not fool-proof. For example, the lycanthropes have DR 10/silver. They are immune to the Lightning elemental's regular damage, but the extra electric damage they cause gets right through that DR.

4) So when he summons them, the spell has a casting time of 1 round. Does that mean when it comes around time to the Summoner's next action, the Elementals all appear and act just before him on the turn order? With it being roll20 interface, I have to put them in somewhere, and assign them a number.

5) Is it true that when the Summoner dies the summoned creatures disappear? I think that's reasonable, but I'd like to be able to point to something to back that up.

6) I love the idea of having the elementals do things from their own perspective. Elementals breaking down doors, because there are no doors on the elemental planes, etc.

7) I am very appreciative of the suggestion of not allowing things not allowed by the Pathfinder Society. I think I'm going to implement that going forward, but it's not fair to ask the players to change existing characters.

8) I think the action economy is exactly what's bothering me, that, and the way the battlefield is filled with all these elementals. It stops me from even moving my monsters when he surrounds them with summons.

9) With the small flying elementals, I'm unclear of the rules for combat. Technically, each elemental takes up a square. But we all know that a small elemental doesn't take up the same amount of space as a medium one. The player has tried to argue in the past that he can stack the flying elementals on top of each other. What would your rulings in this situation be?

10) Finally, my game fluctuates between 5-7 players, with 6 being the normal amount. Can anyone point me in the direction of how to modify encounters for this? I'm very hesitant to modify things as presented, just because I'm always worried that I'll make things too hard or too easy.


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Mortavius wrote:

Hello all,

I'm running the Carrion Crown adventure path; we're currently on Broken Moon, at the Stairs of the Moon.

One of my PC's is a level 7 Summoner, Master Summoner archetype.

He never uses his Eidolon, instead just summoning 1d3+1 Small Elementals (Lightning, Fire, Mud, etc.) every round (he has the Superior Summoner feat giving him the +1 to the number he summons). He can do this 9/day and they stay summoned for 9 minutes each time.

I'm having a hard time as the DM with this character. Here are my problems:

1) It slows down everything. We play on roll20, and I have to make tokens for the new elementals every time, not to mention a new initiative spot for them, etc.

2) It seems overpowered. He basically summons a whole bunch of weak meat shields. Even if the elementals do little damage, they still represent another threat for the monsters to attack.

3) It fills up the board. With the flying elementals, he usually wants to stack them too. (What kind of rules are there for this type of stacking? The elementals themselves are small size, even if they do go in a square...)

Now, I don't want to hate this character. I realize that he has very little in the way of attacking spells, and his summons are basically it. I don't want to neuter this character, but I feel like he's overpowered. Is this all in my head and he's really not that powerful? Is there some weakness I am missing? Something I should be paying attention to? Do you folks have any advice how I should handle this going forward?

I am just ashamed at the way your player is playing. As someone who has played a Master Summoner before I can tell you two things.

1) I never stated out an Eidolon. The whole point of MS is to not need it.

2) My turns never took longer than a minute.

My suggestions:

Have player roll out to-hit and damage rolls before his turn. That way all he has to do is read out the results to you.

"Does X break AC?"
"Yes"
"Y damage"
"Does Z break AC?"
"No"
"Does Q break AC?"

And so forth

As a house rule, punish the player if he takes too long, by having his summons go rogue. There is 0 excuse as an MS for taking forever. It is not a class to be played lightly.

Silver Crusade

Small elemental occupies just as much space as a medium creature. Until you start getting smaller, you fill that space. They can't stack in a square (thats why I mentioned tight confines). If they're airborne, think of the spaces like 5 foot blocks. Its gotta be at least five feet /up/ and the room might not be able to account for that without squeezing.

Action economy is answered by adding in more of your own, and as you have about as many players as I do (and I have a summoner too...) here are my suggestions.

Your base CR is your party's APL+2.

You do not ever want a single big baddie. You want a lot of threatening guys. And you want minions. You want gribbly little dudes.

The party wants to bring a small army, fight it with small armies. A good rule of thumb is about 3-4 gribbly nobodies (like apl-4) to each player. Flavor to taste. You want stuff that can cause trouble, but not overwhelmingly.

Like if they're 7th level characters, throwing a lot of kobolds at them. The kobolds aren't really a threat, but ignoring them can be dangerous.


Mortavius wrote:

7) I am very appreciative of the suggestion of not allowing things not allowed by the Pathfinder Society. I think I'm going to implement that going forward, but it's not fair to ask the players to change existing characters.

8) I think the action economy is exactly what's bothering me, that, and the way the battlefield is filled with all these elementals. It stops me from even moving my monsters when he surrounds them with summons.

9) With the small flying elementals, I'm unclear of the rules for combat. Technically, each elemental takes up a square. But we all know that a small elemental doesn't take up the same amount of space as a medium one. The player has tried to argue in the past that he can stack the flying elementals on top of each other. What would your rulings in this situation be?

7> Some PFS rules are due to its nature rather than anything else. Don't look for blind solutions, rather evaluate everything on its own merits.

8> He doesn't get extra actions. *You* are the DM, and as such you run all the NPCs. Summons attack the nearest enemy unless directed to do otherwise. Regardless he does not get to move them around like a chessmaster.

9> Small characters take up a 5x5x5 cube. Period. Now he could have a second one in the cube *above* the 5x5x5 cube on the ground with a second elemental, etc.

Not every class is 'I move and I hit', and that is one of the best parts about D&D. Don't see it as a negative.

On the flip side, run things properly. You control the summons. He places them on the ground when they are brought into being, but after that they are yours. The summons will attack the nearest enemy that they perceive, and not always the enemy that the summoner desires. Likewise they do not seek to 'roadblock', but rather are looking for combat. Again unless he is directing them otherwise during his 6 second combat round (and is speaking their language to do so).

Run right, a master summoner is not a big deal. Many 'shut down' spells will slow down combat far more than a bunch of summons.

However if you let someone else run those NPCs, and they are slow.. well then that's on you.

Simply demand that he have index cards made out for each of the summons that he brings in. Heck make a template for him to use for the cards while you are at it. When he summons something, then he has to hand you the card for them.

-James


Quote:
4) So when he summons them, the spell has a casting time of 1 round. Does that mean when it comes around time to the Summoner's next action, the Elementals all appear and act just before him on the turn order? With it being roll20 interface, I have to put them in somewhere, and assign them a number.

If he is casting Summon Monster from a spell slot, yes. However, he is most likely using the Summoner's spell-like ability, which only requires a standard action. Since the summons act immediately and his turn has already started, I'd suggest putting them after him in initiative.

Quote:
5) Is it true that when the Summoner dies the summoned creatures disappear? I think that's reasonable, but I'd like to be able to point to something to back that up.

No. Summon Monster has a duration of rounds a level, not concentration. The summoner can dismiss the spell, but only with a standard action. This suggests that whatever magic maintains the spell is gathered when it is cast and persists regardless of the summoner's future actions. Thus, killing or knocking out the summoner should have no effect on the summons.

The poster who suggested that killing the summoner would banish the summons was likely thinking of the eidolon, which is banished if the summoner is unconscious, asleep or dead.

If you wanted to house rule that the summons go as well, you could cite the following from the description of the Summon Monster ability:

Quote:
Drawing upon this ability uses up the same power as the summoner uses to call his eidolon. As a result, he can only use this ability when his eidolon is not summoned.

Since summoning monsters uses the same power as calling the eidolon and sleeping, getting knocked unconscious, or dying disrupts that power enough to banish the eidolon, it seems logical those conditions would also disrupt the power enough to banish the summons.

This is logical, but I would still consider it a house rule; it's based on a fluff sentence designed to provide a justification for the base summoner's "no summoning when the eidolon is out" restriction, not the rules themselves.

I've never played or seen a summon monster specialist, so I can't offer specific advice about dealing with summoners. However, I'd argue that every player has a responsibility to play in a way that keeps the game fun for everyone else, including the dungeon master. If he's making the game dull for you or the other players and you've made a reasonable attempt to compensate by adjusting the challenges, talk to him and see if you can come up with a solution that works for everyone. He won't be happy, but if he's a mature player that cares about the rest of the group's fun, he should understand.


DrDeth wrote:
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
I think a GM who's unwilling to make alterations to his published adventures will is going to have less fun than the one who's willing to tinker to fit the PCs.
Why should he kowtow to just one of his players, the one who is hogging table time and the spotlight? There are FOUR players at the table, not just one.

Why should he kowtow to adventure writers he's never met, who themselves SAY that he should alter the adventure to fit his PCs? There are four players at the table, not zero.


james maissen wrote:
However if you let someone else run those NPCs, and they are slow.. well then that's on you.

I disagree.

Playing a Master Summoner is not something you should do if you cannot handle it.

Master Summoner was banned in PFS (along with many other minion heavy archetypes) because of players like OP's who were not playing responsibly.

If you want to play the best class at summoning, then you better know how to play summons.

It's a demanding class and requires constant effort to keep running smoothly.


Marthkus wrote:
james maissen wrote:
However if you let someone else run those NPCs, and they are slow.. well then that's on you.

I disagree.

Playing a Master Summoner is not something you should do if you cannot handle it.

I'm not saying that the player shouldn't be competent.

What I am saying is that this belief that the player runs NPCs is not grounded in fact. The DM runs the NPCs, and that includes the summons.

Sure most DMs let players run those NPCs, but if they cannot.. why is the DM letting them?

-James


james maissen wrote:


8> He doesn't get extra actions. *You* are the DM, and as such you run all the NPCs. Summons attack the nearest enemy unless directed to do otherwise. Regardless he does not get to move them around like a chessmaster.

No, they are not NPC's, they are part of his class abilities.

And, with a few orders he can direct them.


james maissen wrote:


What I am saying is that this belief that the player runs NPCs is not grounded in fact. The DM runs the NPCs, and that includes the summons.

Sure most DMs let players run those NPCs, but if they cannot.. why is the DM letting them?

-James

They are not NPCs, they are a class feature, or a spell. The DM doesn;t say what they do anymore than the DM sez where the fireball goes.

"This spell summons an extraplanar creature (typically an outsider, elemental, or magical beast native to another plane). It appears where you designate and acts immediately, on your turn. It attacks your opponents to the best of its ability. If you can communicate with the creature, you can direct it not to attack, to attack particular enemies, or to perform other actions. "


DrDeth wrote:

They are not NPCs, they are a class feature, or a spell. The DM doesn;t say what they do anymore than the DM sez where the fireball goes.

"This spell summons an extraplanar creature (typically an outsider, elemental, or magical beast native to another plane). It appears where you designate and acts immediately, on your turn. It attacks your opponents to the best of its ability. If you can communicate with the creature, you can direct it not to attack, to attack particular enemies, or to perform other actions. "

Sorry, but they are, indeed creatures and not features.

Your character can direct them should the PC be able to communicate with the NPC in question, and the NPC in question will obey.. but that's different from a group/hive mind.

And the caster can indeed say where the creatures appear, but he does not direct their actions beyond verbal orders. Just as he cannot instruct the fireball to ignore some of the creatures within the blast.

In this lovely game of ours the players each get to play a single PC. They don't get to play other characters. It's fairly simple.

-James


Tell the player you are getting tired of all the extra work with their multiple summons clogging up every encounter. It isn't fair to you or the other players. Ask the player to change their character to something else, perhaps a vanilla summoner with one pet.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I just noticed that the player is making a mistake against his own interests -- if he is 7th level, his spell-like ability is Summon Monster IV. Since Small Elementals are on the Summon Monster II list, he is actually entitled to d4+1 of them, or d4+2 with Superior Summoning.

Control is an issue that can be addressed with ranks in Linguistics skill -- he needs to learn as many outsider languages as possible to give orders to his summoned minions. And note that there is no telepathic link as there is with an eidolon, so if he wants to direct their actions, he has to shout orders to them in a language that they can understand.

To nerf a master summoner, try having battles in underground dungeons can also help nerf a master summoner who likes to flood the battlefield with his minions. I often have difficulties with my summoner in dungeons, and he is a standard summoner who usually has only his eidolon summoned.


DrDeth wrote:
james maissen wrote:


What I am saying is that this belief that the player runs NPCs is not grounded in fact. The DM runs the NPCs, and that includes the summons.

Sure most DMs let players run those NPCs, but if they cannot.. why is the DM letting them?

-James

They are not NPCs, they are a class feature, or a spell. The DM doesn;t say what they do anymore than the DM sez where the fireball goes.

"This spell summons an extraplanar creature (typically an outsider, elemental, or magical beast native to another plane). It appears where you designate and acts immediately, on your turn. It attacks your opponents to the best of its ability. If you can communicate with the creature, you can direct it not to attack, to attack particular enemies, or to perform other actions. "

As far as PFS is concerned, summons are part of the player's sphere.

Summoning AT ALL in PFS requires owning a bestiary and they will argue you blue in the face that summons are spell effects not NPCs ergo you have to own the rules for them to use them.


demontroll wrote:
Tell the player you are getting tired of all the extra work with their multiple summons clogging up every encounter. It isn't fair to you or the other players. Ask the player to change their character to something else, perhaps a vanilla summoner with one pet.

Really the player can just do the work. If he's not willing to do the work, he shouldn't play the class.


That is way too much dice rolling!

I play a little more fast and lose, if you summon 7 (or 70) creatures that do 7X damage in round 1, you will have 7-Z creatures in round two, and you will lose creatures each successive round.


Depending on how many creatures he has summoned at once, you might want to consider using mass combat rules.
Ideally, you would make your own mass combat rules to fit your group. If this is to time-consuming/hard (quite understandable), I'd suggest the mass combat rules from Heroes of Battle (3.5). These have a focus on PCs in/against an army.

If you don't have Heroes of Battle (I think it's out of print, unfortunately), you can use the mass combat rules in Ultimate Campaign (which are available for free on the pfsrd). These are more focused on army vs army combat, so you will need to adjust them a bit to account for the fact that just one person has an army, but they should work.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'm not familiar with Roll20, but can't you just make the tokens ahead of time and keep them on the edge of the map until it's time to bring them in?

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