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If the caster chooses "one beast of challenge rating 2 or lower", well, one tiny little CR 1/8 insect is that. Is that legal, or even a good idea, for the DM to choose?

There is already a question on here saying that a mix of various animals can appear.

Our table praxis has been that what appears is the specified amount creatures, usually of one single type that the DM believe is the pessimal type (i.e. not flying when they want flying) - but of the same CR, not lower. I don't think this answer would change our praxis so that you get a worthless bug.

I'm just unsure how to handle this spell in an otherwise very adversarial game.

Here is a question on how to determine who chooses what creatures appear; according to the answer, the DM chooses. What are some good practices for making these choices?

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    \$\begingroup\$ You say an "adversarial game". Are you asking this because your DM is specifically interpreting this to always make Conjure Animals summon tiny insects regardless of what CR level you choose? \$\endgroup\$ – PJRZ Apr 17 at 9:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ We love the adversarial style a la KotDT but for it to work everyone needs to play fair. If the spell does allow the DM to select tiny sub-CR insects for the this spell, then we'll probably implement a house rule to fix that, removing "or lower". We have not found the spell to be overly strong or imbalanced when creatures of the intended CR appears. This whole "pessimal type" thing started to prevent the "pixies&polymorph" issue. \$\endgroup\$ – Sandra Apr 17 at 13:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Could you clarify, @LouisWasserman? Would you have the DM give them pixies&polymorph? Or did you mean something else? Much appreciated♥ \$\endgroup\$ – Sandra Apr 17 at 15:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LouisWasserman That kind of information belongs in an answer, not a comment. Please move it to an answer and flesh it out with evidence if you want it to stick around. Answers in comments are deleted by the community. See here for our policy. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Apr 17 at 16:45
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Yes, it is legal for the DM to give you e.g. CR 0 creatures, but unless it was explicitly house-ruled or for in-universe reasons, it would go against the intent and spirit of the game to do so.

Here's a framing I think is helpful: when your character casts conjure animals, and the GM is deciding what creatures are summoned, the GM is essentially playing the role of the pseudo-character "the in-universe source of your character's magic." For Druids and Rangers, the classes with normal access to conjure animals, that source is approximately "nature." It can totally make sense that the in-universe forces of nature can't provide you with the exact wacky creature you picked out of the Monster Manual. An allosaurus is a beast with CR 2, but it may not make sense in-universe to summon one; the universe you're playing in might not have had dinosaurs, or have handy access to some to summon because they've all been dead for umpty million years.

There may be clear in universe reasons the source of your magic is unwilling or unable to be helpful. If you were a warlock, perhaps your patron is angry with you. If you're a druid, you may be in a metropolis where the forces of nature don't have much sway. But such an issue should certainly be an actual plot point.

Alternately, the DM may decide that conjure animals is, in general, unbalanced, and decide to nerf it in some way as a house-rule. It would be uncool for them not to tell you about that, but that's a valid thing a DM may need to do for some spells.

But unless there is some clear reason otherwise, the source of D&D characters' magic goes along with what they're trying to do. A character is trying to summon animal allies with a certain rough power level, and the spell as implemented should do that. Maybe not giving them exactly what they want, but certainly not actively undermining them, unless there's a clear story reason.

I'd put it this way: the choice of what animals are summoned is put in the DM's hands because the summoned creatures need to make sense in universe, and the DM is the assigned arbiter of that decision. It's not put in the DM's hands as a weapon to use against players.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ We have nerfs in for low-level, resource-giving spells and features like Light, Goodberry and Darkvision but for Conjure Animals, we were almost considering a buff instead to prevent a bunch of CR 0 normal mundane ants appearing. Your guideline for how to adjudicate the spell really helps \$\endgroup\$ – Sandra Apr 18 at 5:59
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There is some ambiguity in the phrasing here, but as per the other question how to determine what creatures appear the DM does choose the creatures but those creatures must fit the chosen option.

And that option, chosen by the player is one of:

  • One beast of challenge rating 2 or lower
  • Two beasts of challenge rating 1 or lower
  • Four beasts of challenge rating 1/2 or lower
  • Eight beasts of challenge rating 1/4 or lower

That is, it is the player chooses the number of beasts and challenge rating desired from those options. So if the player wanted a two beasts they could be CR 1, but could be lower, but it is the player that decides this.

Then, according to the CR, the DM can choose the beasts (the spell in D&D Beyond contains a handy table of possibilities).


Now, if your DM is being adversarial over this and intentionally 'nerfing' spells you may want to discuss this out-of-game and ask what is really going on.

A DM can always house-rule, so it could be that the DM think this specific spell is too powerful, in which case you may want to talk over what can be done. Can it be fixed, or is this spell just vetoed?

But if there is something more antagonistic going on here you may want to think carefully of your options. D&D is meant to be fun, but if your DM is playing a game of "DM vs players" and you're not having fun, then it may be best to move on (start your own group!).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Page 225 in PHB says that player chooses one of the four options, not that they get to specify the CR. And then the four options all say "or lower". That's what's tripping me up. \$\endgroup\$ – Sandra Apr 17 at 13:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with @Sandra. I don't think the previous answer you are citing makes their case compellingly that the player can choose the exact CR (in fact I added an opposing answer of my own) , can you make your own case here? \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Apr 17 at 17:03

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