My gaming group and I put Pathfinder’s new classes through a playtest on Friday.  I played the Summoner, and thought I would share some of my thoughts on the class here.

In short: The Summoner acts somewhat like the arcane version of the Druid.  Instead of an animal companion, however, he has a mutated Outsider called a Eidolon.  The Eidelon can appear in one of three forms: quadruped, biped, or serpentine.  Every level, the summoner can spend evolution points on the Eidelon to give them any number of abilities such as flight, tentacles, poison, or extra limbs.  The Summoner also gains the ability to cast Summon Monster as a spell-like ability, gaining the ability to cast higher incarnations of that spell as he levels.  To round things out, the Summoner has a small spell list, and 1d8 HD.

My Playtest builds: Our plan was to run some combat at level 10, and some at level 15.  Other group members took the other new classes, and we built them with a standardized stat array and set amount of equipment.  I went about creating my Summoner and his pet Eidolon.  The Summoner is a CHA-based caster, so I went with a Halfling.  I rolled really well on my HD, so I started with 96 HP.  Pretty good, for a caster.  The Eidolon is a couple levels behind me, having only 8HD at level 10.  He gets 1d10 HD, though, so he was pretty tough.  The first time around, I chose the serpentine form for the higher DEX.  I used the evolutions to give him wings, a breath weapon, and some arms.  Soon, I realized I was creating Trogdor.  So, that is what he got called the rest of the night.  His build didn’t work out too well the first time around, so I had Wolfgod rebuild him tougher for level 15.  This time, he was a huge-sized biped with massive amounts of hit points and extra reach.  At level 10, my Summoner was able to cast Summon Monster V as a spell-like ability, and he was able to cast Summon Monster VIII at level 15.  The spell-like abilities can be cast 3 + CHA modifier times per day.  Also, using Summon in this manner allows the spells to stay active minutes per level instead of rounds per level.  However, the Summoner can only have one Summon spell-like ability active at any given time.  The Summoner also has the Summon spell on his spell list, but it trails behind the spell-like abilities by a few levels.  At 10th level, the highest Summon spell on my spell list was Summon Monster IV, and at 15th my highest was Summon Monster V.

Combat Summary: For our first 10th level fight, we took on 3 fire giants.  We dispatched them rather quickly, without too much effort.  The next fight was supposed to be much harder — a fight against a CR16 Ancient Black Dragon.  We got owned.  Not just owned, pwned.  The Eidolon failed his save vs fear, and kept failing it.  The high point was when my summoner had all of his high-level Summon’s in play, and relied on a Summon Monster IV Hound Archon to flank.  The dragon then tried to teleport out, but got bitten on the butt by my Hound Archon (he only hit on 20’s), which prevented the dragon from teleporting out.  Then, he proceeded to crit again the next round.  For our last fight, we were up against 5 demons — - 3 Vrocks, a Nalfeshnee, and something else (I don’t remember).  The Eidolon soaked up damage and blocked against charges, and a Greater Earth Elemental was called to do some damage to a caster across the map.  That encounter was relatively easy.

My Impressions: I enjoyed playing him, but eventually came to the conclusion that the Summoner is too powerful.  My Summoner never actually got into combat, despite his high amount of HP.  The class could easily be split in half, giving one version the Summon Monster spell-like abilities, and the other gets the Eidolon, and both options would still be slightly overpowered.  That’s when you know you have an overpowered class — when even half of it is too powerful.  The Summoner is essentially a walking party in himself, for he can easily summon a creature to perform whatever action needs to be performed.  Who needs a cleric when you can summon an Archon?  Who needs a rogue when you can summon a dire weasel to trigger all the traps for you?

I didn’t take an in-depth look at this, but the summoner seems more powerful than the Druid.  The Druid may be similar in base progression and raw ability, but he doesn’t have the same scalability.  The druid’s animal companion is similar to the Eidolon in HD, but is usually a non-magical beast, and doesn’t have near the same versatility.  The Druid can summon beasts of a slightly higher level, but the magical side of the Eilodon and Summon spell-like abilities of the Summoner still tip the scales in their favor.  The Druids get Wild Shape, but still, that would put them in harm’s way instead of staying out of the way like the Summoner.

Also, the Eilodon is needlessly complex and somewhat silly.  I would have preferred to be able to call a specific elemental as a swift action, instead of having a lumbering, tentacled thing following me around all day (the Eidolon takes 1 minute to summon, so it’s not like you can wait until you’re in combat).  Sure, it’s good to have a large, customized beast on your side, but not necessary.  In one combat, my Eidolon failed a saving throw after he had been buffed, and spent the rest of the combat invisible, immune to acid damage, and cowering in fear.

We like the summoner overall, it just needs to be pared down some.

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This entry was posted on Monday, February 15th, 2010 at 12:54 pm and is filed under Pathfinder, RPG, RPG Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

3 comments so far

Wolfgod
 1 

Actually, of all the classes we tested, I’d be most likely to play a Summoner assuming they get fixed. I like the concept of an arcane non-Druid summoner - especially with Elementals and Azata. I would either drop the Eidolon or beg the GM to let me trade it in for another Bestiary creature.

February 15th, 2010 at 3:12 pm
shyDM
 2 

I think I read on the Paizo forums that the summoner is meant to be played in a small party or in a duet game, which is why it’s so super powerful.

February 17th, 2010 at 10:09 pm
 3 

shyDM, I remember that too. If I remember correctly, it was not an official position, but the defense from another poster. It does make up for the deficiencies of a small party, but that doesn’t mean that it’s too powerful for the standard 4-man party that Pathfinder is ostensibly balanced around.

February 18th, 2010 at 11:34 pm

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