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Druids have a feat called Greenbound Summoning (Lost Empires of Faerun, p. 8), which has the following benefit: "All animals that you summon using summon nature's ally acquire the greenbound template (see page 173) for as long as the summoning spell lasts."

The Greenbound template can be found here:

Now, my question: This template changes a creature, and add a +8 LA to the creature to make up for the changes. So, what happens if a druid with Greenbound Summoning casts a Nature's Ally 1 and decides on a wolf. Does he get a normal wolf, becasue he cast a level 1 spell, or does he get the Greenbound wolf, even though it is a much stronger monster than normally associated with such a low level spell? I take it that the level 1 wolf comes in as a Greenbound wolf, as he is summoned as a normal wolf, then the wolf gained the template as he is summoned. However, I think this makes this feat totally broken. A Summon Nature's Ally III will allow you to summon 1D4+1 wolves. This (potentially) gives you five creatures that can cast entangle at will, as well as one Wall of Thorns (a pretty effective L5 spell) each. Up to 5 Wall of Thorns for the price of a Level 3 spell, not counting near limitless Entangles?

Am I understanding this feat wrong, or is it broken?

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up vote 11 down vote accepted

Greenbound Summoning works exactly as it says it does: you get a normal creature from the list, augmented with the Greenbound template. It “has” the LA/CR adjustment but that doesn’t really mean much of anything to a summoned creature anyway.

On the one hand, the Greenbound template is over-LA’d. Like most LA-carrying options, Wizards apparently decided it didn’t like the idea of players choosing them (but also apparently didn’t want to just flatly tell them “no”), so it chose LAs that are extremely high: they are there to discourage the option, and punish those players who do take it. Compare the LA adjustment to the CR adjustment, for example.

On the other hand, while Greenbound may not really be worth LA +8, it certainly is worth quite a bit. Way more than the costs associated with Greenbound Summoning. As a result, the feat is absolutely one of the most powerful feats in the game, probably second only to Natural Spell for a Druid. Even if one applies the +2 spell level adjustment that @mxyzplk found, it can be ridiculously good.

Now, does that mean it is broken? That’s harder to say. It’s dramatically more powerful than other options, but that doesn’t necessarily “break the game.” That’s a bit of a semantical argument, so I’m not going to say it is or isn’t broken by choosing one of those definitions. Instead, I want to discuss exactly what about it is powerful, and how that compares to the environment it’s set in.

In this case, the Druid itself is already extremely powerful – it is one of the “Big Five” most powerful classes in the game. The Druid has excellent crowd-and-battlefield-control, and he’s a master of polymorph effects (including Wild Shape), which are fantastically powerful. Summoning is but a small part of the overall package.

At low levels, Greenbound Summoning dramatically augments this. As you note, that’s a lot of entangles and walls of thorns. Even with the +2 spell level, you still get wall of thorns earlier than you usually could. At higher levels, it’s still quite good but not game-changing: the Druid was already doing those things anyway.

So it becomes a bit of a personal thing where one draws the line of “broken.” But to me, the Druid class itself is a much greater offender than the Greenbound Summoning feat is.

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also, the LA is calculated on a PC being able to benefit from the template. Applying it to monsters that last for one or two combats is way less unbalancing (as a general thought) – Zachiel May 26 '13 at 17:06
@Zachiel Applying it to monsters doesn't really make much sense. LA only affects how much XP you need to level-up, which they're never going to do. – KRyan May 26 '13 at 17:09
That's why instead of saying "not worth LA+8" I'd say "I don't care about its LA" (and "applying it" was related to "the template"). – Zachiel May 26 '13 at 18:27
When I mentioned Broken, I was thinking specifically lower level druid. I have seldom found a reason to use Summon Nature's Ally at higher levels. It seems there are many better options available. The only creature I think I would fairly regularly summon at higher levels would be a unicorn should the party be out of healing and in urgent need of some. But maybe other, more experienced, druids get more use out of their high level SNA spells. This feat may actually make higher level SNA's more attractive some. Thanks for the answer! – Sam May 27 '13 at 8:21

It is broken for the reasons you note (way, way awesome results from a first level spell for having one feat - better than any other summoning augmentation available). There's a good reason for this - the author intended it to be a +2 level metamagic feat but that was omitted when it appeared in print.

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Great find there; added a discussion of that to my answer as well. – KRyan May 26 '13 at 16:44

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