Conjure Woodland Beings allows the player to choose one option, ranging from a single fey creature with CR 2, up to eight fey creatures with CR ¼. But which fey creatures of the chosen CR actually appear, is up to the GM. This way the GM can avoid overly chaotic or broken outcomes (like 8 pixies). But the overall “effectiveness” of the spell should stay (roughly) the same, regardless of the creatures the GM chooses, because creatures with the same CR should be of comparable strength. In this case the GM decides details about the spells, but not the overall “power”.
Conjure Elemental on the other hand lets the player only choose the type of elemental (e.g. fire) and then “an elemental of challenge rating 5 or lower” appears. I assume that it is up to the GM to determine which elemental of the chosen type appears, similar to Conjure Woodland Beings.
In the given example, the GM could decide that a Fire Elemental appears, as it is of the chosen type and has a challenge rating of five. But the GM could also rule that an Azer (CR 2) or a Magmin (CR ½) appear. Both are “fire elemental” and both have a CR of 5 or lower. As a result, the “effectiveness” of Conjure Elemental is completely up to the GM.
Now my question: is there is any reason the GM should not always choose an elemental with the highest possible CR?
- If yes, how should the DM adjudicate the power level of the conjured elemental?
- If no, why would the spell specifically state “CR 5 or lower” and not just “CR 5”?