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Gate, PHB p. 244

When you cast this spell, you can speak the name of a specific creature (a pseudonym, title, or nickname doesn’t work). If that creature is on a plane other than the one you are on, the portal opens in the named creature’s immediate vicinity and draws the creature through it to the nearest unoccupied space on your side of the portal.

(Gate has no errata as of the latest PHB errata)

Can a spellcaster name a type of creature (such as "Nalfeshnee", "Fire Elemental", or "Ancient Blue Shadow Dragon") and have a creature of that type appear? Or does the caster need to name a specific individual creature, such as "Tarphon the Devourer"?

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up vote 17 down vote accepted

Gate requires the name of an individual creature

The wording specific creature in the spell description seems clear. "Fire elemental" isn't a specific creature; it's a kind of creature. It might be a specific kind of creature, but it isn't a creature.

We know this is the intended meaning by comparing the wording to that used in other spells (emphases mine):

Locate Animals or Plants PHB p. 256:

Describe or name a specific kind of beast or plant.

Locate Creature PHB p. 256:

the spell can locate a specific creature known to you, or the nearest creature of a specific kind (such as a human or a unicorn) ...

When the rules ask a spellcaster to choose something like "unicorn" or "cow", they use the phrase specific kind, and the wording of locate creature explicitly contrasts that usage with specific creature, as used in gate.

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2  
+1 this is drawn from both "real world" magical traditions and the legacy of such spells in prior editions where you need the "true name" of a specific individual to summon them. – mxyzplk Feb 14 at 13:34

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