Thursday, February 12, 2009

Summoners' Tales

I just read this month's Ampersand article, which contains a sneak peak into the Arcane Power book. This featured something that I noticed a month or two ago, and had asked Griff about -- where's the summoning in 4e?

Well it's coming, apparently. It's interesting timing, too, coming shortly after the sneak peek at the Shaman, who has his companion, a summon of sorts. The rules for a summoned creature, however, are a little more involved, and they seem to be well thought out.

They smartly covered the terminology of 4e, including explicitly pointing out that summoned creatures are Allies. The summoned creatures are much more tied to the caster than in previous versions, where you were basically bringing on a creature from the Monster Manual; now a creature might look like a serpent or an abyssal maw, but it has the defenses of the caster, half the hit points, and shares the caster's healing surges.

And I think that that's what makes the summons interesting. A wizard, typically, isn't up front fighting, yet he can send this representative into battle to help out the other party members; you may lose a healing surge or two, keeping it alive, but when that happens, you're hopefully still in the background, out of reach of more damage.

But not only are they useful for dabbling in combat, adding that extra pseudo-partymember when needed; they can, if properly equipped with the right limbs, open doors and pick up items, which makes them good fodder for checking for traps down halls or behind innocent-looking doors -- if they get the chop, the wizard loses a single healing surge, which might very well be a better result than having the wizard go down the hall on his own.

What makes each of the summons unique, of course, are the attacks, the movement rates, and any other abilities they receive. Some are for spying, some for combat, and each of the combat summons has their own little twist -- opportunity attacks, marking, etc.

Overall, I think the summoner wizard is going to be welcome in a party, especially a smaller one, given that extra contribution, that extra presence, to the combat, on top of the at-wills that have become so familiar from them.

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