Last time on Summon-Dex Z: I analyzed the options for Summon Celestial, Elemental and Fey! This week we are going to look into character options from the Advanced Player’s Book and review the remaining summon spells: Animated Undead, Summon Fiend and Unseen Custodians!
Part 1: Summon Animal (arcane, primal)
Part 2: Abberations (occult)/Constructs & Dragons (arcane)/Giants & Plants (primal)
Part 3: Celestials (divine)/Fey (occult, primal)/Elementals (arcane, primal)
Part 4: Undead (arcane, divine, occult)/Fiend (divine)
Advanced Player’s Guide Character Options
While I love summoning, it isn’t the-all-end-all of character options. It has some limitations and backdraws that you need to be aware of if you want to play an effective summoner. Note that you can get some of the class-specific feats listed below with multiclass devotions!
• Final Sacrifice: This spell is incredible and can be used by any of the four traditions! It’s basically a 2nd level fireball (meaning it heightens better than a normal fireball too) that requires you destroy one of your summons to cast it. It’s perfect for those summons you bring out just to use a single area of effect attack, debuff or spell. It’s especially potent with an exploration mode Unseen Servant.
• Witch/Druid: Using Rites of Convocation or Elemental Summons you can spend 10 minutes to replace any prepared spell with a summon spell. This is really nice, as a summoner will want a summon spell prepared at all times but will rarely have to cast their summon more than once per encounter. You might want to spend some downtime retraining Rites of Convocation as you level depending on which summon monster spell is best at that tier.
• Aasimar/Tiefling: Summon Celestial/Fiendish Kin are ancestry feats that let you cast Summon Celestial/Fiend once per day. But they limit you based on your heritage and the spells do not heighten. Plus since these are 13th level feats, you are using this spell 3 or 4 levels after the 5th level monsters were really relevant.
• Dust of Corpse Animation/Oil of Object Animation: Basically a one use Summon. It can only summon creatures up to level 3 and costs around 3x more than a scroll, but not everyone can use those. They also require having a corpse or object around to use.
Sources Note: Going by Pathfinder Society guidelines, I’ve only included monsters from the Bestiary, not from Adventures. Bestiary 2 is not yet sanctioned, so there is a chance options marked B2 may not be legal for Society, but they are still more likely to be allowed by most GMs.
Animate Dead (Arcane, Divine, Occult)
While technically not a “summon” spell, the spell shares enough similarities that we can compare it’s minion selection alongside other conjuration spells. Note that with this review I am assuming that minions are unaffected by the Slow condition because of how they get actions, but you can effectively downgrade most minions that are permanently slowed by 1 or 2 stars.
Home Rule: I would tentatively allow casters to spend up to two actions to give a zombie minion up to two actions. Or you can allow zombies the second action if the caster summons the creature with the spell heightened above what it needs to be to summon that variety of zombie.
★★★★★ Crawling Hand (B1) — Amazing Controller. It can grab very well and has lifesense and tremorsense.
★★★☆☆ Skeleton Guard (B1) — Decent Tank. It has low hit-points but some decent resistances. It can hold someone back for a couple actions at level 1.
★★☆☆☆ Zombie Shambler (B1) — Mediocre Striker. If it get’s two actions per round, it’s the strongest undead as it’s a better grabber, tank and striker than anything else on this list. With one action? It’s worse than the skeleton.
★★☆☆☆ Ghoul (B1) — Mediocre Niche Controller. The paralysis probably isn’t going to work, since it’s incapacitation. But it is intelligent and has a burrow speed.
★☆☆☆☆ Plague Zombie (B1) — Poor Controller. If it gets two actions per round it can use that grab and becomes a four or five star monster.
★★★★★ Draugr (B1) — Amazing Debuffer. It can sicken on hit or when destroyed. It has a swim speed and can hit multiple enemies.
★★★☆☆ Ghast (B1) — Decent Niche Debuffer. It has a stench that can make people sickened and can paralyze like a ghoul (although that’s even less likely to be useful at this tier, since it’s incapacitation). You’ll be summoning this for the sickening stench.
★★★☆☆ Skeletal Horse (B1) — Decent Mount. A horse is probably cheaper, but there are some cool points to having an undead pokehorse, and those resistances are nice. Just don’t beat it.
★★☆☆☆ Zombie Brute (B1) — Mediocre Striker. Becomes five star with two actions. Even with just one action per turn it has push and it’s large size with reach.
★☆☆☆☆ Skeletal Champion (B1) — Poor Tank. It does damage. It has reach. Without reactions, this isn’t that good. AC isn’t bad, but also isn’t great. I suppose it comes with a back up Steel Shield, Longsword and Lance if your fighter needs it.
★★★☆☆ Wight (B1) — Decent Debuffer. It can inflict drained.
★★☆☆☆ Skeletal Giant (B1) — Mediocre Niche Tank. It can try to attack two creatures, or charge and try to demoralize. It does have 15-foot reach on a large body, so it can occupy space?
★★★★★ Shadow (B1) — Amazing Niche Debuffer. It has a fly speed, incorporeality and intelligence, so it makes a great scout. It can also inflict enfeebled. Creating spawn is really nice, but remember that they disappear when the summoned monster leaves. Negative energy melee attacks are useful too!
★★★★☆ Poltergeist (B1) — Good Niche Caster. Incorporeal and flies. Casts telekinetic maneuver (at will). Can effectively AoE with telekinetic swarm. Natural invisibility and incorporeality make it an amazing scout (plus it’s intelligent and can speak common).
★★★☆☆ Attic Whisperer (B1) — Decent Niche Debuffer. It’s aura causes stupefied and Steal Voice let’s it silence a target, so it can ruin the day of a caster. It’s not likely to work against the named final boss given this is a 4th level creature, but it has its niches.
★★★☆☆ Skaveling (B1) — Decent Debuffer. It has a feat AoE and it’s paralysis bite can slow even on a successful save. They have a 30-foot fly speed and echolocation.
★★★☆☆ Vampire Spawn Rogue (B1) — Decent Niche Debuffer. It can grab, fly and inflict drain. It’s also likely to know whatever regional language you’re in and is intelligent.
★☆☆☆☆ Ghost Commoner (B1) — Poor Debuffer. It can cause frightened, flies and is a decent scout since it’s incorporeal. But it’s not as good as a poltergeist.
★☆☆☆☆ Giant Crawling Hand (B1) — Poor Controller. It can grab. That’s basically it.
★★★★★ Greater Shadow (B1) — Amazing Niche Debuff. Incorporeal, flight and still able to create spawn. It also gets darkness (at will) and can inflict enfebbled 2.
★★★★★ Specter (B1) — Amazing Debuff Striker. Incorporeal flier with telepathy. It has a frightful presence and can auto-win combat with it’s incapacitation effect, or at least inflict stupefied 2 if they make the save. 6d6 negative damage on hit isn’t bad either.
★★★☆☆ Mummy Guardian (B1) — Decent Debuff. It can inflict frightened 1 without a saving throw.
★★★☆☆ Vampire Count (B1) — Decent Niche Caster. It can grab and inflict drained. It can cast dominate (at will). But it’s best use is controlling certain swarms and other animals with Children of the Night (no save, but table variation). It also has a +1 rapier, in case you are desperate for a backup weapon for a minute.
★☆☆☆☆ Revenant (B1) — Poor Niche Controller. It can grab and cause frightened. It can constrict. Sense murderer can break a campaign depending on how your GM rules you “dredging up a body” with the use of this spell (unlikely).
★☆☆☆☆ Vrykolakas Spawn (B1) — Poor Niche Controller. It can grab and inflict drain, but not as well as the Vampire Count. You might be able to get some creative solution leverage out of feral possession, but probably not.
★☆☆☆☆ Wraith (B1) — Poor Debuffer. It’s an incorporeal flier that can inflict drained. It can potentially create spawn, but probably not with the 1d4 round timer. Lifesense isn’t bad.
☆☆☆☆☆ Skeletal Hulk (B1) — Terrible Striker. It does damage.
☆☆☆☆☆ Totenmaske (B1) — Terrible Niche. The only reason to summon this is to use shape flesh, and it’s such a niche ability I just can’t think of when I’d want to use it.
☆☆☆☆☆ Zombie Hulk (B1) — Terrible Striker. It does damage.
★☆☆☆☆ Dread Wraith (B1) —Poor Niche Debuffer. Flying incorporeal creature that inflicts drained in an aura and can create spawn. Destroying it’s spawn to do damage in a line is a neat trick,especially if there are other wraiths in the room already. Lifesense.
★☆☆☆☆ Mohrg (B1) — Poor Controller. It grabs and creates spawn. The paralysis is unlikely to ever work at this tier.
★★★☆☆ Vrykolakas Master (B1) — Decent Niche Caster. Can cast vampiric touch (×3) and fear (×3). Can inflict drained and dominate animals. You are summoning this for Children of the NIght to control werewolves and similar creatures, but ask your GM before you try it.
★★☆☆☆ Ghost Mage (B1) — Poor Caster. An incorporeal flier that can cause fear, has ranks in Arcana and can cast cone of cold, hallucination, phantasmal killer, suggestion, blindness, dispel magic, nondetection, telekinetic maneuver and ray of enfeeblement. The DCs are really low by the time you can cast this, so it’s probably not worth it since these are mostly offensive spells.
★★☆☆☆ Graveknight (B1) — Decent Niche Control AoE. Devastating blast does some fair damage if you are lucky on that 1d4. You’ll mostly use this against enemies using positive energy, which is more niche than usual for your typical good aligned adventurers, but it does happen. It has ranks in Warfare Lore.
No Undead At This Level
No Undead At This Level
Summon Fiend (Divine)
Since the lowest level this spell can be cast is 5th level, many of the lowest level creatures you can summon are too weak to be helpful at the earliest tier they can be cast. They would only be useful in extremely niche situations.
★★★★★ Ostiarius (B1) — Amazing Buff Striker. It has an aura of sickened and can inspire courage like a bard (albeit for some minimal damage). It has a potent attack for this tier and can cast enthrall, wanderer’s guide, calm emotions (at will), darkness and silence. If you are caught in the Shadow Plane, sense portal can help get you home. It also has telepathy 100 feet and painsight.
★★★★☆ Barbazu (Bearded Devil) (B1) — Great Striker. Decent bonus and infernal wound is pretty good. Reposition can help get into a flank (or in range for wriggling beard). Wriggling beard means it might actually hit with two strikes per turn.
★☆☆☆☆ Barghest (B1) — Poor Caster. It has confusion and levitate (at will).
★☆☆☆☆ Dandasuka (B1) — Poor Caster. It has clairvoyance, clairaudience, and mind reading (at will).
★☆☆☆☆ Imp (B1) — Poor Niche Scout. Infernal Temptation isn’t bad, but not worth a 5th level spell. It has flight, invisibility (at will, self only) and detect alignment (at will, good only).
★☆☆☆☆ Quasit (B1) — Poor Niche Scout.It has flight, invisibility (at will, self only) and detect alignment (at will, good only).
☆☆☆☆☆ Augur (B1) — Terrible Debuffer. Saves are too low for a 5th level spell.
☆☆☆☆☆ Cacodaemon (Harvester Daemon) (B1) — Terrible Scout. It has detect alignment (at will; good only), Telepathy and Flight. It can go invisible at wil.
☆☆☆☆☆ Hell Hound (B1) — Terrible AoE. The breath weapon is too weak.
☆☆☆☆☆ Lemure (B1Hell Hound – Monsters) — Terrible. It’s poop.
☆☆☆☆☆ Yeth Hound (B1) — Terrible Striker.
☆☆☆☆☆ Zebub (Accuser Devil) (B1) — Terrible Scout. It has, summon animal (swarm creatures only), flight and telepathy 100 feet.
★★★★☆ Babau (Blood Demon) (B1) — Good Striker. 1d8+5d6 plus frightened 2 isn’t bad. Make sure to summon it into a flanking position for that sneak attack damage. It can cast darkness. It also has telepathy and see invisibility.
★★★★☆ Evangelist (B1) — Good Control Debuffer. The aura of frightened 2 is great. Animated chains that pin people into place is super useful too. Painsight is neat.
★★★★☆ Nightmare (B1) — Good Mount. A one-sided smoke effect is always a plus. You can heighten the spell to grab plane shift (self and rider only). And it has a 90 ft fly speed.
★★★★☆ Succubus (Lust Demon) (B1) — Good Control Caster. Seductive Presence actually makes the spell DC’s decent and it can inflict drained. The suggestion effect isn’t bad. It also flies and has tongues and telepathy. If you heighten the spell you can fetch dominate. It can also cast suggestion (at will), mind reading (at will), and detect alignment (at will).
★★☆☆☆ Ceustodaemon (Guardian Daemon) (B1) — Mediocre AoE Striker. It hurts itself with most of it’s attacks including its breath weapon, but at this tier even this beefy summon won’t last too long. So it’s a little better if you are in a position to spam AoE heals, but not much. It has dispel magic (x2), paralyze and detect alignment (at will; good only). It can see invisibility and has telepathy.
★★☆☆☆ Hellcat (B1) — Mediocre Debuffer. It has a cone of frightened and telepathy, but only speaks infernal.
★☆☆☆☆ Invidiak (Shadow Demon) (B1) — Poor Niche Specialist. It can cast shadow blast and darkness. You need to heighten the spell to 8th to use possession which is where most of it’s stuff comes in, and at that point the saving throw is too low.
★★★★☆ Nabasu (Gluttony Demon) (B1) — Good. Death-Stealing Gaze and Consume Death will let you inflict Drained very efficiently. It can also cast grim tendrils, paralyze and vampiric touch. It has telepathy and can fly.
★★★★☆ Nessian Warhound (B1) — Good AoE. The recharging fire breath is pretty good if you are launching your own AoE fire spells (or can figure out a way to get multiple Warhounds breathing on one another). It has scent.
★★★☆☆ Leukodaemon (Pestilence Daemon) (B1) — Decent Niche AoE. It can use the breath weapon every round and quicken pestilence has some niche synergy with disease users. Lowering DC against disease is nice. And it can cast dispel magic (x2) and detect alignment (at will; good only). Plaguesense is kind of neat, and it flies.
★★★☆☆ Osyluth (Bone Devil) (B1) — Decent Control Striker. Tail sweep can knock multiple enemies prone. Can cast phantom pain, dimensional anchor (×2), discern lies and zone of truth. Its venom can inflict enfeebled.
★★☆☆☆ Night Hag (B1) — Mediocre Niche Caster. Can cast shadow blast (x2),, magic missile (at will), invisibility (at will), ray of enfeeblement (at will), and detect alignment (all alignments simultaneously). If you want to burn a heightened slot, it can also cast ethereal jaunt (at will).
★★☆☆☆ Onidoshi (B1) — Mediocre Caster. cone of cold, charm, gaseous form, sleep, fear and darkness. Regeneration makes it tamly, but it’s only casting each of those once. It can fly.
★★☆☆☆ Vrock (Wrath Demon) (B1) — Mediocre Aoe Control. Spore cloud and screech can occupy many lower level enemies at once. Flies and has telepathy.
★☆☆☆☆ Sarglagon (Drowning Devil) (B1) — Poor Aquatic Specialist. It gets control water, freedom of movement, and hydraulic torrent. The venom isn’t bad and drowning can induce sickened on success. Swim speed, flies and has see invisibility. It’s aura can also make people encumbered, but it’s incapacitation so it’s only “useful” against a mob of weak enemies.
★☆☆☆☆ Erinys (Fury Devil) (B1) — Poor Striker. It gets true seeing, flies and can reduce speed with a rope.
★★★★★ Sacristan (B1) — Amazing Control. That aura of Stunned 1 is not incapacitation! Being able to focus your gaze is just free real estate. chilling darkness isn’t a bad spell and it can trip with it’s chain.
★★★★☆ Meladaemon (Famine Daemon) (B1) — Good Debuffer. It can grab and inflict fatigued and enfeebled. It can cast phantom pain, fear, magic missile (at will), and the uncommon detect alignment (good only; at will)
★★★★☆ Phistophilus (Contract Devil) (B1) — Good Spellcaster Striker. 3d6 bleed on a grab attack is really useful. It can cast fireball, illusory scene, lightning bolt, locate (at will), mind probe and sending (at will).
★★★★☆ Raja Rakshasa (B1) — Good Spellcaster. A caster in your pocket! It can do an aura of sickened that buffs evil allies, but that’s not relevant for most parties. It can cast dispel magic, hallucination, shadow blast (3 slots), clairvoyance, dispel magic, fly, suggestion (4 slots), clairaudience, dispel magic, nondetection, vampiric touch (4 slots), blur, hideous laughter, invisibility (4 slots), charm, illusory object, item facade (4 slots), and detect magic, ghost sound, mage hand, read aura and sigil.
★★★★☆ Greater Nightmare (B1) — Good Mount. It flies. It ethereal jaunt and plane shifts it’s rider. And it has a smoke aura that isn’t bad.
★★★☆☆ Hamatula (Barbed Devil) (B1) — Good Control Striker. It can inflict frightened, bleeding and immobilize an enemy! It can cast harm and paralyze (×2).
★★☆☆☆ Bebilith (B1) — Mediocre Niche Tank. Summon against demons. It can smell them and gets cold iron and good weapons. Being able to dimensional anchor is useful.
★☆☆☆☆ Piscodaemon (Venom Daemon) (B1) — Bad Debuffer. It can grab, poison with enfeebled and stinking cloud. Also has see invisibility and telepathy.
☆☆☆☆☆ Hezrou (Toad Demon) (B1) — Terrible Tank. It can grab and cast divine wrath, paranoia and abyssal plague. It has stench, which might hurt the party.
★★★★★ Gelugon (Ice Devil) (B1) — Great Buff Spellcaster. Where is your balanced action economy system now?! Tactician of Cocytus effectively let’s your entire party get a free stride, and can be used multiple times per round! Slowing frost isn’t bad, but he probably won’t hit with it at this tier.It can also cast cone of cold (x2), illusory scene, wall of ice (x3) and ray of frost;
★★★★★ Glabrezu (Treachery Demon) (B1) — Great Spellcaster. Twisted Desires is effectively Miracle using a 9th level spell slot. Can cast reverse gravity, dispel magic (at will), dimension door, confusion, telekinetic projectile, true seeing, tongues.
★★★★★ Interlocutor (B1) — Great Spellcaster. The aura of stun is brutal. Focus gaze is great. It can also cast breath of life, heal (×2), and restoration (×2).
★★★★☆ Frost Yai — Good Control Caster Tank. Ice missile will slow even on a successful save. cone of cold and wall of ice are both solid spells. It can also fly and has regeneration.
★★★★☆ Thanadaemon (Death Daemon) (B1) — Good Debuff Caster. Frightened and fleeing are both excellent debuffs. It can also cast finger of death, plane shift (at will; self plus skiff and passengers only; Astral, Ethereal, and evil planes only), teleport, slow, and vampiric exsanguination (×2)
★☆☆☆☆ Derghodaemon (Ravager Daemon) (B1) — Bad Striker. It can turn into a swarm and do some damage. It can cast blade barrier and feeblemind (×3).
★★★★☆ Fire Yai — Powerful Striker Caster. Impaling push can grab and push creatures. Smoke form can sicken 3. It has a plethora of useful spells including fireball, flame strike, and wall of fire
★★★☆☆ Nalfeshnee (Boar Demon) (B1) — Good Niche Spellcaster. Light of Avarice let’s you steal four items, which can come in handy. Dispel magic (at will), divine wrath (at will), illusory object (at will) and true seeing.
★☆☆☆☆ Gylou (Handmaiden Devil) (B1) — Bad Spellcaster Controller. It can grab and swallow whole, but probably not as good as a Fire Yai for melee. It also comes with dispel magic, dominate, black tentacles, dimension door, illusory object (at will) and true seeing.