Skeleton Summoner (feat), Summon Monster, and Evil


Rules Questions


What does Skeleton Summoner do to the effects of the Summon Monster spells in terms of descriptor-- and hence alignment of the spell? Summon Monster says the following:

"When you use a summoning spell to summon a creature with an alignment or elemental subtype, it is a spell of that type."

Well and good. Not going to have evil wizards summoning hound archons or good conjurors summoning succubi without deliberately exposing their magical selves and possibly their very souls to the raw planar energies of good or evil aligned outer planes. This has always made sense to me, contrary to some internet arguments; if the outer planes are moral and ethical soulstuff/personality magnetism poles, using that sort of energy is going to have a consequence, even if you use, say, Protection from Law to fend off an Inevitable while still being LN and on a contract.

But the feat Skeleton Summoner says:
"Benefit: Add “human skeleton” to the list of creatures you can summon with summon monster I and “human skeletal champion” to the list of creatures you can summon with summon monster III. Once per day, when you cast summon monster, you may summon a skeletal version of one of the creatures on that spell’s summoning list (apply the skeleton template to that creature to create this monster)."

Under the skeleton template, it says that you give them the Undead type, and the Undead type says it replaces all alignment subtypes.

If I'm reading it right, that means that a character with Skeleton Summoner can use Summon Monster to summon the undead without it being an inherently evil act by spell type. Is that right?

My reasoning is: no matter what I apply that template to, or whether it's the original context of human skeletons or human skeletal champions, that summoned entity isn't going to have the alignment subtype of the original-- whether that's a celestial or fiendish creature, or potentially, even weirder, something like, well, a succubus or a hound archon. It's going to have the undead subtype, which does not make the spell (evil) or (good) or whatever.

This doesn't cover whether or not the use of Summon Monster in this way is an evil act for other reasons, of course. I'm not sure where these particular skeletons are coming from; the description of the feat just says they "answer your call." That makes it a bit harder to adjudicate. Obviously, summoning them to go stomp on the Champions of Light or a bunch of fleeing foolish fools who told you you were mad at the PTA meeting that went really bad, sure, that's an evil act.

But if a neutral or even good spellcaster obtained this feat and used it towards good ends in the sense of fighting evil, then... not so sure.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
IsawaBrian wrote:
If I'm reading it right, that means that a character with Skeleton Summoner can use Summon Monster to summon the undead without it being an inherently evil act by spell type. Is that right?

Whether casting a spell counts as an evil act is strictly up to GM discretion. If you decide it's evil, then it's evil. If you decide it's not, then it's not. Alignment subtypes on spells are a rabbit's hole filled with loopholes, and if you want them to have any effect on a spellcaster's alignment then GM discretion is necessary.

In terms of actual game mechanics, the spell would not have an alignment subtype. The skeleton template removes any alignment subtype from the creature, and since the creature lacks an alignment subtype the spell also lacks it.

IsawaBrian wrote:
But if a neutral or even good spellcaster obtained this feat and used it towards good ends in the sense of fighting evil, then... not so sure.

If such a character exists in your game, then alignment subtypes on spells are best ignored entirely. Pathfinder rules ultimately presume free will on the part of all characters (PC and NPC) which means that forced alignment shifts can get really messy if the character in question doesn't play along with them. This is weird enough in the case of a morally-good wizard having an evil alignment due to spell choice, but the ramifications are world-changing if we have a morally-evil wizard who has a good alignment due to spell choice. In many ways, it feels a lot like the medieval notion of absolution, that you can sin freely so long as you pay for it. This is actually a really cool angle in some respects, but the resulting game would be a deconstruction of the standard alignment system and almost certainly not what you're looking for.

The best way to get strong thematic divides between good and evil spells is with a gentleman's accord. It's easy to pretend a line exists if everyone agrees not to straddle it. The moment someone does, though, it becomes messy.


Casting a spell with the [evil] descriptor is considered an evil act. That doesn't mean casting a spell without the [evil] descriptor isn't an evil act.


I’m not sure if it’s evil to take advantage of undead that theoretically already exist. It doesn’t affect “the natural order” one way or the other. Maybe by summoning it you even prevent it from doing evil for 24 hours.


blahpers wrote:
Casting a spell with the [evil] descriptor is considered an evil act. That doesn't mean casting a spell without the [evil] descriptor isn't an evil act.

That’s really misleading. A spell WITHOUT the evil descriptor only becomes an evil act if you do it for evil, meaning it could be a good act. Yes, using this feat can be a good act, if you do it for good, since the spell lacks the evil descriptor.


Reksew_Trebla wrote:
blahpers wrote:
Casting a spell with the [evil] descriptor is considered an evil act. That doesn't mean casting a spell without the [evil] descriptor isn't an evil act.
That’s really misleading. A spell WITHOUT the evil descriptor only becomes an evil act if you do it for evil, meaning it could be a good act. Yes, using this feat can be a good act, if you do it for good, since the spell lacks the evil descriptor.

There is nothing misleading about my statement.

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