Summon Monster Action Economy

Skills, Feats, Equipment & Spells

A question on the action economy for Summon Monster came up during Affair At Sombrefell hall. I didn't see any other threads on this.

Summon Monster spell wrote:


Casting Material Casting, Somatic Casting, Verbal Casting
Range 30 feet
Duration concentration, up to 1 minute or until dismissed

You summon a level 0 creature from the summon monster list. This creature fights for you until the spell ends. The creature gains the summoned trait. The spell automatically ends if the monster’s Hit Points drop to 0. Summoned creatures have 2 actions per turn (which they use when you Concentrate on the Spell) and can’t use reactions. The creature attacks your enemies to the best of its abilities. If you can communicate with it, you can attempt to command it as part of your action to Concentrate on a Spell, but the GM determines the degree to which it follows your commands. Heightening the spell increases the maximum level of monster you can summon. You can always summon a monster of a lower level than the spell allows.

Emphasis mine.

We read this so that summoned monsters appear immediately when the spell is cast, but only act on the next turn, when the summoner concentrates on the spell. This, combined with having no reactions, made a summoned Animated Armor a very poor frontliner, even against level 0 zombies. The summoner was a cleric, and opted to use a 3-action heal to blast those zombies out of existence the next turn, rather than concentrate on the summon.

Rules-wise this is actually quite elegant, it works a lot like Summon Monster did in PF1, but is less clumsy in actual play. Like all spells, summons could use a bit of a buff, but I can't really have an opinion on that before I see one in actual use - the zombies lumbered up to the Animated Armor here, but with only 2 actions, they never got to attack it. Anything smarter than a zombie would just walk past an Animated Armor, as it has no reactions. Some might think it does have Attacks of Opportunity and thus refrain, but since AoOs are so rare (not a single creature in this scenario had it, on either side, unless I missed it), most creatures would just assume the armor doesn't have them either.

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The summoned creature gets to act immediately. From page 195:



A creature called by way of a conjuration spell or effect
gains the summoned trait. A summoned creature can’t
summon other creatures, create things of value, or cast
spells that require an expensive material component
or special focus. It can take only 2 actions on its turn,
and can’t take reactions. Otherwise, it uses the standard
abilities for a creature of its kind.
When you finish casting the spell and when you spend
an action to Concentrate on the Spell, the summoned
creature then takes its 2 actions.
After its actions, you
continue with the rest of your turn. You can direct a given
summoned creature only once per turn; Concentrating on
a Spell for a summoned monster more than once on the
same turn doesn’t give that monster any more actions. If
you don’t Concentrate on the Spell during your turn, the
creature takes no actions, assuming it isn’t dismissed due
to the spell having a duration of concentration.
Summoned creatures can be banished by various spells
and effects and are automatically banished if reduced to
0 Hit Points, or if the spell that calls them is dismissed.

You could argue that the text in Summon Monster overrides the general rule, but because it's parenthetical, it seems more likely to be an incomplete reminder of how the rules work.

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Both rules apply since they don't contradict each other.

You summon the monster and it immediately takes 2 actions. Then, while the spell is active, you can concentrate once per round on your subsequent turns to allow the monster two actions.

The bolded part in the OP is a reminder that the monster does not act on its own initiative but rather on the summoner's initiative when he concentrates.

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They should change the "and" between "spell" and "when" to "or". That way it would be clearer that both after summoning it gets two actions and in further rounds it gets 2 actions when you concentrate. As written now it leads to the misunderstanding that you have to you have to concentrate on the round in which it is summoned.

Thaliak wrote:
The summoned creature gets to act immediately. From page 195:

I'm glad to be wrong! Sadly the spell description is misleading.

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