In this campaign, I’m playing Valgrim the dwarven summoner. My goal with him is to eventually become a Malconvoker, a prestige class from Complete Scoundrel that allows a good character to summon evil creatures in order to fight evil. I’ve wanted to play a summoner for a while and see if I can make one effective.
To that end, I worked up a thread on the Wizards Character Optimization board summarizing all of the legal 3.5e summonable monsters. Check it out!
To augment that now that I’m higher level, I’ve submitted evaluations of all the legal 3.5e Planar Bindable monsters too in Treantmonk20’s excellent “Mastering the Malconvoker” thread on the CharOp board. See it here!
UPDATE: They’re not completely finished, but due to popular demand, here’s my Malconvoker cheat sheets.
- The Field Guide To Summoned Monsters
- The Malconvoker Report on Planar Binding
- Summonable Monster Stats Cheat Sheet – hosted on my Mindspring site as WordPress won’t let people upload Excel spreadsheets (my theory – because they hate you)
Endarire has updated and prettified these sheets – you can download his versions here!
Also a shout out to Gnorman, a guy who is building on my work and including even more demons and devils for summoning/binding purposes – his thread is currently on Brilliant Gameologists; he was doing it both on Giant in the Playground and the Wizards forums before getting fed up with the suck. Follow along!
The campaign rules are mostly 3.5e standard. Anything from a published Wizards product is legit, with of course the additions from the Adventure Path. We also have some simplified skill rules in use. Oh, and we’re using the Action Point rules from the Eberron campaign setting – does anyone not?
Here’s Valgrim at each level. In each session summary it mentions his level at any given time.
Valgrim – Level 1 – I used a lot of alternate class abilities in this build – Conjuration specialization, Focused Specialist, Rapid Summoning, Varisian Tattoo (a bonus feat from Pathfinder) and Enhanced Summoning combine to give Valgrim 3 bonus conjuration spells per level, conjurations are at +1 caster level and +1 save DC, and his summons are a standard action, with the creatures Augmented (+4 STR, +4 CON). Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
Valgrim – Level 2 – A good hit point roll and high CON gives me some survivability.
Valgrim – Level 3 – Took the Acidic Splatter reserve feat. Reserve feats are nice because you have a use-at-will ability – the main drawback to this one, though, is the really short range; 5′ per level of the spell you’re reserving.
Valgrim – Level 4 – Qualifies for Master Specialist already.
Valgrim – Level 5 – Go, celestial bison, go!!!
Valgrim – Level 6 – Took a level of Paragnostic Apostle. With our variant skill rules it’s the only way to get Bluff up enough to become a Malconvoker without waiting 4 more levels. The Fast Healing for my summoned creatures is a nice bonus (though sadly, no one ever attacks the summons so it’s largely unused). Also took Craft Wondrous Item, but we’re too poor to use it :-(
Valgrim – Level 7 – finally, a Malconvoker! I was careful to craft the build not to lose any other spellcasting levels, because you lose one here.
- Valgrim – Level 8 – Malconvoker 2 and fourth level spells. Voor yugoloths, gadacro demons, and arcadian avengers start putting the whup on opponents.
- Valgrim – Level 9 – Malconvoker 3. People are attacking my summons plenty now and the hp boost is good – I add in a Varisian Idol from the Adventure Path, a disposable item that gives summons +2 hp/HD. Took Craft Magic Arms and Armor to help out my buds – Giantbane for all!!!
- Valgrim – Level 10 – Malconvoker 4. Summon Monster 5 is now mine, as is Lesser Planar Binding!
- Valgrim – Level 11 – Malconvoker 5. LEGION!!! At this level when a Malconvoker summons evil creatures, he gets one extra! And I get teleport. I am junior hell on wheels, and at next level with the feat/stat/skill bumps I’m going to be full impact hell on wheels.
- Valgrim – Level 12 – Malconvoker 6. I am now a god among men (well, dwarves, but as I pointed out last session when my +2 on saves vs. spells saved my life from a finger of death, just being a dwarf is like a superpower to a human).
- Valgrim – Level 13 – Malconvoker 7. Not much more in terms of abilities, but I got some phat lewt (robe of the archmagi!).
- Valgrim – Level 14 – Malconvoker 8. Seventh level spells and Improved Calling – the nalfeshnee, ice devil, and planetar now qualify!
Advantages – I’m happy with Valgrim. Though the summons aren’t always competitive combatants at a given level, his ability to summon them as a standard action and have them immediately act has been invaluable for battlefield control. And keeping the full extended list of summonables on hand has been very useful. There’s more or less objectively useful summons, but sometimes one of the weird little ones is perfect for a given situation. Once I got Fiendish Legion the summoning was hell on wheels. And some of the new spells from the Spell Compendium are useful – I get a lot of mileage out of Benign Transposition, which allows you to teleport-swap two willing subjects. And Confusion and related enchantments have also been great, with our foes mainly being giants and giant derivatives.
Drawbacks – our group is somewhat large, so the summons don’t always get much room or time in the combat. Many of the opponents are smart enough that they never bother wasting attacks on the summons, and especially against foes higher than our average party level the summons can’t hit the enemies reliably. And when they do, DCs of special abilities often have a very slim chance of success. Also, many of Valgrim’s other spells are area effect crowd control – clouds, bursts like Glitterdust, etc. – and he seldom gets them off because *someone* charges to the attack before he can cast. His buffs like Haste have been more successful.
I’ve had mixed success with Planar Binding. It takes a while to get a successful bind due to high outsider Will saves, and you need a spell list tailored to it, so you generally need to bind “back at base,” but then the duration isn’t too long, so overland travel means bye bye to the bind. Notable successes – with our party cleric’s help (debuffs) I bound a bar-lgura, a kinda of orangutang demon which can teleport itself and someone else with it, and it was invaluable for getting in and out of dungeons, extracting prisoners, etc in Stone Giants. I bound a nalfeshnee in the Runeforge but it wasn’t all that useful. I bound a glabrezu demon to go to Xin-Shalast but its time ran out. I bound another glabrezu while in Xin-Shalast, that one did OK. I wouldn’t replace any of our PCs with it, but it helped put a whupping on a big dragon.