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The Summon Monster spell mentions:

If you can communicate with the creature, you can direct it not to attack, to attack particular enemies, or to perform other actions.

In that situation, what exactly is "communicate"? Do you need to speak the same language? If the summons is intelligent enough, can you use gestures (e.g. pointing toward a specific enemy you want it to attack) or similar nonverbal communication? Can you use someone else as a translator?

An answer from RAW would be appreciated, or at least something as RAW as possible.

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Of interest: here and here. –  Hey I Can Chan Jun 28 '14 at 18:08
I'd like to see a good RAW answer here too, so I could point out in my own games how we hand-wave apparent abilities of fiendish centipedes etc to attack correct opponents, move to flanking positions etc under summoning player's direction. I think we do this as a convenience - to avoid having to argue about what is reasonable or have to roll dice for those manoeuvres. But I've understood for a while that it's not RAW. –  Neil Slater Jun 28 '14 at 18:32

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You are right that the key word here is "communicate," but unfortunately, because that word has no specially-chosen meaning in the RAW,

The answer varies depending on the creature summoned, and may not be covered clearly by RAW alone.

However, here are cases clearly covered by the RAW:

  • Obviously, summoned creatures obey commands given in any language they can understand (listed in the Languages section of their stat blocks).
  • Summoned creatures with Intelligence 2 or 1 can be commanded by using Handle Animal normally. The check is DC 25 (30 for non-animals), and requires a full-round action. (Because there is no evidence that summoned creatures are trained as an attack dog would be, you must use the "push" option from the skill.)
  • Numerous special abilities and spells may be helpful, such as Speak with Animals.

The GM's intepretation of the RAW may permit other options:

  • Commands may possibly be obeyed via Diplomacy, but only if the creature can "understand" you, has intelligence higher than 3, and "generally" only outside of combat. "Understand" and "generally" are also not clearly defined, so good luck.
  • As a last resort, a Charisma (scroll to the bottom) ability check may be permitted when nothing else applies; discussions of RAW often miss the basics, but the basics are there for a reason: "You apply your character's Charisma modifier to . . . Checks that represent attempts to influence others."

I don't mention the Charisma check as a joke: Simple commands like "Attack that guy" can be implied well enough with two or three words and some pointing. Anybody can memorize two or three key phrases in several different languages. But that kind of thing is subject to GM interpretation.

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The rules as written are written in a special code called "English", which is literally part of the rules as written, so all these notes that some words are undefined in RAW is kind of unnecessary bordering on silly. Just because they're not special jargon technical terms redefined by RAW doesn't mean they're unclear; if that were true, RAW would be impossible to comprehend. –  SevenSidedDie Jul 2 '14 at 14:21
@SevenSidedDie I would argue that RAW supersedes the normal English meaning :) Attack, run, feat, all mean something in English, but something different (or rather, more specific) in the context of Pathfinder. Hence the tendency/need to check whether a common English word is defined in the context of RAW or not –  Cristol.GdM Jul 3 '14 at 13:27
@Scrollmaster Of course, ignoring the technical uses of words in the rules would be equally silly. But saying a word is unclear because it's not a technical term is nonsense. –  SevenSidedDie Jul 3 '14 at 16:43
@SevenSidedDie So how does a beginner know which words or phrases are technical terms? There is no comprehensive glossary or guide that I know of, which is why pointing out which is which, I think, has merit. –  tex Jul 3 '14 at 20:53
@tex Yeah, pointing them out has merit, to avoid looking in vain for a special meaning in the text. But perpetuating the myth that, once identified as being non-technical terms, they are somehow hard to understand, is... misleading? –  SevenSidedDie Jul 3 '14 at 23:21

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