Let's say you're strong enough to summon an Vulpinal Agathian (summon monster 5)
The vulpinal has Truespeech always active, meaning a caster will always be able to communicate with it.
Now, the party is fighting a pack of something very evil. Undead, devils, demons, whatever...and the vulpinal is more than willing to go attack the evil whatevers when commanded to.
Now, a few rounds into the fight, the caster tries to command the vulpinal to withdraw and use one of it's lay on hands uses on someone.
The vulpinal would still want to smite the evil out of whatever the party is fighting. Does the caster's command force it to withdraw and heal the target, or is the command more like the suggestion of a friend as per the Charm spell? Would the caster need to win a diplomacy or other roll in order to get their intelligent summoned ally to do as they wish?
I am pretty sure it obeys your command if you can communicate with it. Otherwise, it basically defends and attacks your enemies to the best of its abilities.
Theoretically, if it could stuff its ears with wax, silence itself or be in that effect, or somehow suppress its truespeech and didn't speak the language you were using, it could ignore you if it really just wanted to keep attacking your enemies... but that's probably a bit convoluted and slightly unlikely except in really rare circumstances.
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Summons have no will of their own. It's best to view them as figments of the real thing.
That's why with summon monster spells you can summon a demon to protect an orphanage of baby Paladins from an attack by real demon who don't wash their hands after going to the toilet.
It's only calling spells where you need to bargain with or threaten the real thing does their personal motivations become an issue.
Actually, the rules do point to summons being specific, individual entities rather than figments.
But that being said, from a game mechanics perspective, they follow your orders to the best of their ability, even if that wouldn't normally be their usual behavior. Demons would ordinarily try to rip apart any mortal creature, but the magic of the summoning spell compels them to instead obey your commands.
Many GMs often overlook the communication aspect, especially when it comes to intelligent creatures such as elementals. If you speak Terran, for example, you can hold a (likely rather dull) conversation with a small earth elemental for the duration of the spell. However, there's a lot of languages out there, so you'd be lucky to get more than basic auto-pilot tactics from most summoned creatures.
It is there to serve and shall do so as you command. Even if that means death. Just be careful on the smart ones that are evil, cause they might not exclude your buddy from the breath weapon.
Also it is good to see them as individuals and RP it at times.
True story, I played a high level summoner and would summon the female devils with bows. Every time I got 4 of them, the last one couldnt hit the broad side of a barn. We would laugh and encourage her. Well one day, she did great and so turns to my invisible character and says "look what I did, I hit it". At that point the bbeg looks into the corner, moves over and catches me in the come off cold. I died. Still funny story for our group.
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.
Although it says you can “direct” them it, it doesn’t say how well the summon listens to your direction. But i think it’s safe to assume the intention is for the creature to obey. It’s worth noting that if there are no enemies or any direction, the creature likely just does what a creature of that type would normally do.