A description of summoning a fire elemental.

Some spellcasters have the capability to summon allies to their aid in order to help deal with a conflict. Such last minute additions to the part lineup can be a bit difficult to deal with, so let’s look at how we approach this.

First off is the question of control. Who runs them? They’re an NPC, but nominally serve their summoner. In some games, like D&D, the rules are fairly explicit about this. Using D&D as the example, lots of things are controlled with a bonus action or through some other stipulations on the spell, and if the action in question isn’t expended the spell fades or the summoned creaturee might default to some other action, or to the DM’s control.

Another core question is the particulars of the summoned being. For example, how do we determine characteristics that are normally randomly determined? The main concern here would be things like hitpoints? Do we roll for them, or do we simply take the average? There isn’t an explicit ruling on this (that I’m aware of) so it’s up to the discretion of the table. Personally, I find taking the average to be a good way to go, since it speeds things along and keeps the player from having to make an additional roll and note. But it’s really up to you, so set a precedent for this sort of thing and stick with it.

Also, consider any limits you need to impose on this. While I’m hesitant to deny the utility of any ability, having too many summons on the table at once can get really clunky and slow the whole game down. It might be a good idea to determine how many is too many, or spot check the summoning tables for monsters that might be overpowered. Also, consider synergies. I was once in a situation where my friend at the table used his hexblade power to raise a spectre from a fallen enemy, and then I turned around and made a zombie from the corpse. Is such a thing permissible? There’s no rule saying we couldn’t raise 2 undead from one enemy, but it felt really weird.

I do have to say though, I love summoning. I’m a huge fan of having minions, and I’ve called forth my share of demons and animated my share of undead. So there’s definitely an appeal here. And summons can really fill a gap in the party in a pinch if you need a few extra meatshields or some specialized abilities that your party might not have. But knowing how to handle them ahead of time makes things a lot easier on everyone.

How do you handle summoning in your games?

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