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I'd be wary of taking too much effort into making sure summoning isn't too powerful (=making sure playing summoner isn't fun).

 

NWN2 and 3.5 went there with the summon useless crap for a blink of an eye, only one summon per party.

NWN1, a dire badger at 1st level was nice help, but things went downhill from there. But at least those stayed for a decent time.

 

BG2 had it best, though there was no balance. First it's semi-useless meat shields, then you can summon a pit fiend and can start hanging back. But it was fun dammit! Rarely if ever, has crpg combat been as satisfying as when sending a pit fiend into a beholder lair and listening the carnage from a safe distance.

 

But please. No summoning animals or orcs or stuff like that. At least without giving a thought to where those come from.

If I summon a goblin or a bandit, is he gone from some village and do they get the body back in 29 seconds?

Make it illusionary forms, or spirits, or magical planar creatures like imps or elementals or litl' devils.

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However summon spells tend to linger; having some kind of counterbalance allows for more powerful summons at a price. I did not say that this was a mechanic in the Baldurs Gate series, however it could be used to allow summons of higher power without compromising the difficulty of the game. 

Erm yes, I guess counterbalancing is the way to go. 

 

 

 

BG2 had it best, though there was no balance. First it's semi-useless meat shields, then you can summon a pit fiend and can start hanging back. But it was fun dammit! Rarely if ever, has crpg combat been as satisfying as when sending a pit fiend into a beholder lair and listening the carnage from a safe distance.

Even though you didn't get any XP from it. I think in IWD II you even got XP from your pit fiends killings, but it wasn't as terribly overpowered there as in BG II.

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Here is an idea  to limit summons.   What if the first time you cast summon, it will summon a creature from the outer planes and you have to bind it to your service.   Then subsequent summon, you will be summoning that same bound creature.   Once it is killed, you have to bind another one and each time the chance of binding failure will increase.  One can make things a little bit more interesting if one were to  implement a kind of leveling system for the creature.  

 

With some balancing,  the system provide the player the option to summon up a whole army.     But chances are, player would think twice to summon their entire "collection" for fear that some of those creatures could get themselves killed when the player is not paying enough attention.

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Power, duration, and number of the summons are all secondary considerations for balance. The true issue, is control.

 

It is that simple.

 

When a being is summoned, in most games, its will is automatically subverted and requires no effort to maintain. You now have an ally on the field. Other questions now become relevant. Its now needs to be powerful enough to be useful, but not powerful enough to invalidate other characters. Duration and numeration also factor into this same question.

 

Shadowrun does an excellent job handling this. Summons are powerful, they are worth summoning, but they are like fire--a dangerous servant and a fearful master. The longer they are on the field, and the more you demand of them, the more your summon will resist your control. Not merely resist your control, but seek retribution.

 

D&D has a similar mechanic, in that most spells only allow a caster to control "#d#/caster level" at any one time. This is what you need.

  • Summoning a creature is not merely the act of calling it, but subverting its will.
  • Maintaining control over a creature(s) needs to exert effort. 

Both of these require the chance to fail, with consequences attached. Maybe it returns to its home plane. Maybe it sides with you, but at its own direction. Perhaps it goes berserk, or actively seeks to slay the summoner.

 

This way, a summoner can call forth beings of power in any volume for any duration they are willing to risk. Balance is provided by the reality that summoning is a double-edge sword. Mix in dismissal spells and other countering abilities, and summoning can be more dynamic and powerful than any CRPG has ever done before.

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Summoning should be implemented very carefully. The summoner and his summons together still represent only one character in the party and their combined power should reflect that. If a summoner can conjure up five ogres to do his bidding, then what incentive is there to have a fighter in the party instead of just another summoner?

 

This is my main concern with summoning.   Tossing an additional ally onto the battlefield, even if all it's doing is soaking up attacks, is immensely valuable.

 

 

If it was a competitive multi-player game, I would agree. But otherwise it mostly depends on the AI.

 

In your generic MMOG, you have a hidden aggression stat, which is highest for tanks and the AI is conditioned to only go after the enemies with the highest aggression. Which might be understandable for animals and undead, but is completely stupid for anyone with some intelligence.

 

If I were an evil overlord and facing a group of heroes, I would first try and immobilize all enemies, then take out the healers and summoners ASAP, while sending out my mobile units to destroy the wizards and ranged attackers. I would ignore the fighters as much as possible while doing so and mop them up afterward. Which is about what I tend to do when I'm controlling those heroes as well.

 

 

If you make the AI do that, those summons won't soak up attacks and become damage dealers. Undead can be slow, animals might only retaliate. Etc. And you can have the summoner spend their action controlling one of them directly. Or have very powerful summons just attack indiscriminately, like the "gate" spell.

 

That mostly gives a summoner an edge against mindless enemies, and more options. But it won't make them super powerful.

 

This might also be an interesting way to balance your generic Druid. EDIT: by getting rid of most of the non-summon or buff spells and making it impossible to control summons while shape-shifted.

Edited by SymbolicFrank

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I think one simple way to balance summoning so that you can have multiple summoned creatures is to take the spell level (assuming spells work like in D&D) into account. So you have an upper limit of creatures you are able to have summoned at any given time. Say a level one character can have 2 spell levels of creatures active, Third level characters can have 5. Something like that. So a 3rd level Wizard wanting to summon creatures can summon creatures using one level 3 spell and one lvl 2 spell; 5 level 1 spells, 2 level 2 spells and 1 level 1 spell; and so on.

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 The great thing about Baldur's gate 2 though was that although you could summon a whole bunch of monsters (making it seem OP) there were certain spells (wail of the banshee?) that automatically killed all summoned creatures without a dice-roll. While it may seem like a RPS type game at that point, that was basically what mage battles were in bg2 and why so many people loved it: a sort of chess-battle between two mages. This would be a decent "counter" to a summoner and would make fighters important in battles. Perhaps we can have similar spells but at lower levels for mages in PE? A sort of counter for the summonner, necromancer?

 

This.  (and I think it was death fog you were referring to)

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People here are describing a lot of good considerations for summoning, but I think we need to back up a second. I don't think anyone should try to set ground rules for summoning until it's clearly defined what creatures naturally exist in the world, and what their characteristics are. That might sound obvious, but I think it's a vital starting point that shouldn't be obscured. The world (and accompanying planes of existence) should be well established before we decide how 'cameo appearances,' so to speak, are handled. This establishes the cool characters and beasties that every kind of player should expect to interact with before we get to the question of how one subset of certain classes should interact with them.

 

So, once the game is more holistically populated with cool, interesting entities, then I think we should approach who can summon them, and how. I think a guiding principle is that summoning spells should work different depending upon the likely relationship of the caster to the summon itself. I also think an important consideration needs to be: is the caster summoning a readily available entity to his/her side, or are they literally teleporting an entity in from another place/dimension? These considerations should factor into how willing and able the summon is to serve, as well as the overall power of the spell employed. These considerations will naturally inform the conditions (battle of wills) and duration of service.

 

With this in mind, I think summoning should follow these guidelines along the classes:

 

-- Druids and rangers generally can only summon naturally available creatures to aid them -- I don't think it's really in keeping with the theme of their magic to pluck alien lifeforms out from across continents or dimensions. In keeping with this, instead of a rigid "Summon Creature X" spell, I would prefer a summon spell present optional creatures from the setting to 'invite' to serve the caster. (I also think it shouldn't consume any resources to see what creatures are available before committing to casting the spell.) At higher levels (mainly for druids), this would present the option of summoning certain nature spirits or elementals residing in the environment. Bonus points if they reflect unusual/unnatural environmental conditions.

 

Example: a druid is traveling through the desolation of a recently erupted volcano. At low levels, the druid would not be able to detect/summon any thing left alive in the devastation. At high levels, he is able to sense a long-dormant earth elemental, and can summon it. It emerges as an ashen or even partially molten elemental, with blinding or burning effects added to its attacks.

 

I think higher level druids should also exercise greater control over weaker summons, being able to better direct them and access more of their abilities. I think animal summons should also have a "flight or fight" reflex that strong druids could suppress. Suppose a druid summoned a gigantic bee in some surreal forest. At high levels, he should be able to compel the bee to use its powerful stinger at the cost of its life.

 

Overall, the versatility of a druid's summons should be highly variable depending on where they are. A druid in a castle, for instance, should have almost no options, except maybe summoning a rat for scouting or (at high levels) a swarm of enraged vermin. But a druid in a forest should be like a hippie kid in an (all natural) candy store.

 

-- I think priest summons should be mid- to high-level spells, reflecting their need, generally speaking, to teleport in a manifestation of their god's will. This represents not only the level of divine favor they've achieved, but the power to reach across the planes. I think these summons should be in line with the general nature of the god, suggesting the kinds of niches they can fill. Priests of Eothas, god of redemption, would logically be able to summon supporting/buffing summons, while priest of Magran, god of fire and war, would be able to summon powerful offensive spirits. I think priests should be able to summon undead, but it should be easier to summon naturally present spirits (from temples and crypts and the like) than to summon them from the afterlife. And, while the game doesn't have alignments per se, I think more malevolent deities' followers should be better able to compel spirits into unwilling service, while good deities' followers should be better able to exorcise/banish summons.

 

Overall, I think the versatility of priest summons should be low, and centered around the deity they serve. The location of summoning spells, with the exception of holy/unholy places and places plentiful in spirits, would be of less consequence than for a druid.

 

-- I think wizards should have the most summoning options (though not necessarily the most powerful summons!), reflecting their research into the occult and more extensive understanding of the planes. I'd personally go for the idea of them not being able to fully summon extra-planar entities at low levels, but instead could bind them into 'homunculi' or other approximations of their true forms. As a wizard becomes more powerful, lower level summons could come in fully powered (a way to provide some level scaling) but at the risk of losing control of them. But 'losing control' doesn't have to mean going indiscriminately berserk. It would be nice if even summons maintained faction checks, with demons more likely to attack any heavenly/benevolent spirits present over the party, as one example. The likelihood a summon would attack the party and/or flee could also depend on its morale or hit points -- a wizard who obviously treats the summon as a meat shield would deserve more reprisal. Bonus points if highly sentient, very powerful summons plot "revenge" against the party and later summon themselves to attack the caster!

 

With wizards more subject to battles of will with summons than other casters, I think they should be the least-dependent on location for summons and have the most versatile summons. Bonus points if wizards can take "summoning contract" feats that improve their abilities to handle certain types of creatures.

 

-- Ciphers and chanters, I think, should have very few summons, especially chanters. Ciphers I think should have access to illusory/phantasmal summons -- hallucinations really -- rather than any tangible summons. I also think they should rely more on mind control for fodder than summoning, per se. Chanters, I think, should only get access to 'heroic/villainous spirits' at very high levels, reflecting their ability to truly make legends 'come alive.' This would offer a great opportunity for shout-outs to in-game lore, a little reward for people that read all the books sitting around. :)

 

I have a few other thoughts for another post, to break up the wall of text.

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Two additional topics to follow up on my post:

 

As to the number of summons allowed and duration:

 

I think every summon-capable class should have a "summoning budget" which should be a simple calculation based on their caster level and the level of the summon. Let's say spells are broken into nine levels, like D&D, and, for ease of use, let's say casters can get up to level 20. Each spell could cost a portion of the budget to maintain based on its spell level. Let's say it's 1.5 times the spell level, and the caster's spell budget goes up by one per level. That would mean a caster at level 17 (the minimum for 9th level spells, IIRC) could have one 9th level summon and five budget points left to spend on lesser summons. The numbers could be tweaked, of course, but I think this gives a good trade-off between summon quantity and quality.

 

For summons where a "battle of wills" has to occur, I think the option should be selected at casting as to control the summon loosely or completely. Loose control doesn't add to the base spell level. But complete control could add three points to the spell's 'budget level.' This would mean an 18th level caster could fully control one 9th level summon but not summon anything else -- with the benefit of being able to use all the creature's abilities and make it fight to the death if desired. Or the caster could have complete control over three summons of 3rd level, or whatever combo you prefer. Feats to increase the caster's base budget would be obvious/easy to offer.

 

For simplicity's sake, I say don't impose a strict duration on any summon. For summons naturally occurring in an environment, I'd say they should generally not stray far from their environment. Creatures from another plane, however, should follow you for a day or less, forcing you to rest and recast the spell. To free up points in the summoning budget, I'd like wizards in particular to have two options: release (which would be standard for all summons) or return to home plane. Releasing a summon means exactly what it says -- it can stay, leave the fight, turn on the caster or whatever. It could be done instantly. Returning it to its home plane would also do exactly what it says, but take a significant amount of time (in combat, that is) to do. The upside is the caster would face no reprisals. Bonus points if the caster has to release/return the summon before it dies, or take damage. Just to spice things up.

 

My last thoughts are on AI:

 

To build on all this attention put into whether a summon is naturally occurring or not, I'd like intelligent enemies to be able to recognize whether creatures suggest the party's presence. For instance, a druid sending a wolf after some bandits might not tip them off that the party is present. But a wizard sending an extraplanar fire toad at them would be a dead give away, and the bandits would defeat the toad while preparing for a larger battle -- conserving their best spells, casting buffs, repositioning, etc. It shouldn't be a given that summons will immediately soak up an enemy's deadliest attacks. Bonus points if they focus on fire resistance buffs or otherwise respond specifically to the kind of summon used against them. This would offer a cool 'fake-out' option where an ice mage could use a wimpy fire summon and then freeze the fools solid. More bonus points if enemy casters, especially ciphers, can mind control the summon and then know exactly where the party is and go after them.

 

I release all of this got convoluted -- hope the devs find something useful in it, lol.

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I on the other hand never used summons in BG really. I think Summon Planetar and Summon Dark Planetar in Throne of Bhaal, otherwise I didn't bother. Even those weren't very good vs high level casters or Dragons, who would just cast wail of the banshee straight away.

Edited by Sensuki

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What I dont like in summoning (perhaps ironically) is summoning things made out of physical material from thin air that later vanish into thin air, but who need to be killed first, physically. Its ironic.

 

So I think summons should always stem from something and be animated through magic and after they die their bodies rot fast as the magic leaves the corpse and perhaps a small physical debris remains. So ciphers could use souls to summon creatures, necromancers would need bodys of the dead, perhaps physical objects could be used.

Edited by Sheikh

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That would be an interesting approach even if Im not a huge fan of spell components. Maybe for summoning elementals you could also use components like a pinch of earth, or a canteen of water or an ember from a fire. What could be used for an air elemental though?


image,Gfted1,black,red.png

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That would be an interesting approach even if Im not a huge fan of spell components. Maybe for summoning elementals you could also use components like a pinch of earth, or a canteen of water or an ember from a fire. What could be used for an air elemental though?

You could summon them out of thin air, literally.

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In a casting system that requires components, that would be kind of cheating wouldn't it? Air is everywhere.


image,Gfted1,black,red.png

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In a casting system that requires components, that would be kind of cheating wouldn't it? Air is everywhere.

Why not? If you dont happen to have any components handy you can rely on the summon air elemental spell, though it is somewhat weaker than equivalent spells. Good variety.

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I on the other hand never used summons in BG really. I think Summon Planetar and Summon Dark Planetar in Throne of Bhaal, otherwise I didn't bother. Even those weren't very good vs high level casters or Dragons, who would just cast wail of the banshee straight away.

 

I don't know about you, but I can't count the number of times summoning a skeleton warriors help me against liches and other high level casters.  Having them waste wail of the banshee on my minions is a GOOD thing, because even if they somehow manage to break through my skeleton warrior's 90% magic resistance, I just simply summon more.

Edited by bonarbill

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In a casting system that requires components, that would be kind of cheating wouldn't it? Air is everywhere.

Maybe you can actually only summon them out of "thick" air? At higher elevations, they could be difficult or impossible to summon, due to the actual thinness of the air. *shrug*

 

That still leaves an awful lot of places in which they can readily be summoned.


Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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In a casting system that requires components, that would be kind of cheating wouldn't it? Air is everywhere.

You must first cast a Gust of Wind spell or be in a notably windy area before calling forth an air elemental. They dance and leap as a zephyr, thus you must call them like to like from a turbulent air mass. Good enough?


http://cbrrescue.org/

 

Go afield with a good attitude, with respect for the wildlife you hunt and for the forests and fields in which you walk. Immerse yourself in the outdoors experience. It will cleanse your soul and make you a better person.----Fred Bear

 

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What if you summon them from the lungs of your foes, where gaseous particles are more concentrated? (even though I don't really have any evidence to support that being the case)


Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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Summoning should be implemented very carefully. The summoner and his summons together still represent only one character in the party and their combined power should reflect that. If a summoner can conjure up five ogres to do his bidding, then what incentive is there to have a fighter in the party instead of just another summoner?

 

This is my main concern with summoning.   Tossing an additional ally onto the battlefield, even if all it's doing is soaking up attacks, is immensely valuable.

How about the summoner suffering some kind of penalty while his summoned creature(s) is/are on the battlefield (may be explained as the need to focus on controlling the summon(s))?

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How about the summoner suffering some kind of penalty while his summoned creature(s) is/are on the battlefield (may be explained as the need to focus on controlling the summon(s))?

That's exactly what I'm thinking. There are OODLES of options:

 

- Increased cast/ability times (similar to the heavy armor penalty that's already in the game)

- You can only control one or the other (summoned thing or character) at a single time, with the ability to toggle between them

- You have to "cast through" your summoned creature in order to use its abilities.

 

The list goes on and on.

 

But, if you don't mitigate the added effectiveness of what amounts to an additional party member on the board, then you're going to run into a game in which having summoned things on the field is ALWAYS better than any other option that doesn't involve having summoned things on the board.

 

And, for what it's worth, I'm REALLY not a fan of the "let's just make the summoning abilities really expensive in terms of character progression currency!" option, where you give up the vast majority of your caster's active-ability utility JUST to gain the ability to conjure additional buddies to passively contribute to your party numbers/damage/defense. Much like a Druid shouldn't have to give up all his Druidness just to turn into a ferocious, potent bear.

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Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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I'm a fan of fairly gratuitous summons-  a guilty pleasure perhaps. Maaaybe it is imbalanced- nevertheless, it was just plain fun to save up spells/scrolls in BGII and let loose an army of elementals/wyverns/djinis/toy-spiders-that-come-to-life/simulcrum'd party member clones/undead/dominated enemies. There were weaknesses though that made them somewhat less useful (I believe a limit of 6? and the right spells could get rid of them immediately). And as fun as it was to have those abilities, I definitely wanted to keep a balanced party all the same.

 

I think balance should be maintained- but I definitely would like to see the opportunity to have fun and go nuts with summons fit within that balance. If that makes sense.

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