As a DM I want to be fair and not just never allow a druid the chance of summoning pixies, but it seems so broken. At one point I had four PCs and two NPCs all running about as dinosaurs. I'm hoping it's not too broad of a question asking for ideas to balance this type of encounter.

Also the players felt the pixies could fly off and not be required to stay near the fight to maintain the spell. PHB states polymorph can be cast 60ft away but does not seem to address distance to maintain the spell.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This isn't your main question, but the question in your second paragraph is answered here: rpg.stackexchange.com/a/60589/40516 \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan C. Thompson Nov 10 '19 at 18:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks Ryan, I hadn't noticed that before. \$\endgroup\$ – Gordon B West Nov 10 '19 at 18:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BenjaminOlson the pixies fly far away and the caster is now a dinosaur with War Caster. I'm asking if it's broken because the scenario is now a few bar brawlers against 6 dinosaurs. \$\endgroup\$ – Gordon B West Nov 11 '19 at 0:42

As answered in Sage Advice (see How to decide what creatures are summoned?), the spell is expected to work like this: the caster chooses the number and CR of creatures, and the DM fills the request (presumably with something thematic for the location or situation).

I know it's dangerous to speculate as to intent, but I think this is probably meant intentionally as a balancing factor so that — pixies aside, even — game designers wouldn't later need to worry about introducing some monster with a cool ability which happens to be super-broken when accessible to players through this spell.

So, while you say "I want to be fair and not just never allow a druid the chance of summoning pixies", I don't think that's actually not being fair at all. It's exactly fair and is as intended. There are some things a DM could do within the reading of the rules that don't seem fair, particularly with the "or lower" option — as written, you could ask for "one creature of CR 2 or lower" and get a single boggle — I think that'd be kind of a jerk move*. But declining to select a fey with an ability which you as the DM thinks gets out of control? That's... completely fair.

I'm playing a mid-level druid in a game right now which works this way, and it's generally been great. Because we've had some dealings with the fae in the game, in one particularly fraught battle where we were defending something the fae held dear, my DM did have pixies answer the call, and we did have a crazy t-rex battle and it was awesome. But as a player, I don't expect that to happen all the time.

As for distance: yes, they can cast and leave the area. But, I note that you say this in the comments:

the pixies fly far away and the caster is now a dinosaur with War Caster.

... and have two things to note. First, from the spell,

They obey any verbal commands that you issue to them (no action required by you). If you don't issue any commands to them, they defend themselves from hostile creatures, but otherwise take no actions.

So, if you do bring some pixies to the mix, "polymorph me, fly away and hide" would be a perfectly fine command. But once the pixies are out of earshot, they're not taking any more actions.

Second, unless you have a specific "dinosaur who has War Caster as a feature" monster in your game, the caster can't be a dinosaur with that feat, because you don't get your feats while polymorphed.

* (and the DM should at least say: no CR 2 fey is around to answer the call; would you prefer more of a lower-CR creature?)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Since the question is asking if summoning pixies is, in fact, too powerful, you should take a moment to address that before addressing what to do since the are too powerful. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Nov 10 '19 at 18:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pleasestopbeingevil I guess? I'm taking it as granted that the OP as the DM is feeling like it's disruptive to the way they want the game to be, based on the description. The core of the question is then: "I guess I have to allow this to be fair; how do I handle that?" — my answer is: actually, you don't have to, because it's totally fine to not have pixies in the mix. \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Nov 10 '19 at 18:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm I've learned a lot from your answer. Thank you. \$\endgroup\$ – Gordon B West Nov 11 '19 at 5:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Would your characters also have the limited intelligence of a T-rex since they inherit their mental stats as well? \$\endgroup\$ – Imaginary Nov 13 '19 at 14:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Imaginary Yes. \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Nov 13 '19 at 15:03

Yes, it is regarded as the most powerful effect a 4th-level spell can have. This combination essentially tags in another party of melee fighters to fight for you, with your party replacing them as they go down. This is very powerful combination, which likely to turn any Hard encounter into an Easy one.

However, you should consider a few things:

  1. The caster does not have any input on type of creatures that appear. It is solely DM's choice. So if you absolutely do not want a pixie in this encounter, you do not have to use them.

  2. You do not have to summon 8 identical creatures. You can mix types. Make one or two of them pixies, so the party would have to choose, if they want a T-Rex tank for extra tankiness, or T-Rex wizard temporary sacrificing spellcasting for survivability.

  3. Wiping the floor with Hard encounter by winning a summoning jackpot is completely fine! It is fun, your druid gets to feel like a badass, and hopefully forgets how you gave him six boggles and two sprites last time he used this spell.

Some non-RAW approaches:

I, personally, only allow to polymorph into creature you either seen, or studied. Summoned pixies might not seen the Jurassic Park and the best they could suggest is Giant Crocodile...

You could just remove polymorph from summoned pixies. Just warn your player upfront about this change.

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    \$\begingroup\$ great answer, I did not know #2. And only polymorph to seen/studied creatures could be an easy house rule. \$\endgroup\$ – Gordon B West Nov 10 '19 at 18:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GordonBWest this house rule was born when, after being told that she cannot wildshape into particular beast because she have never seen it, druid polymorphed herself into that beast and looked in the mirror. \$\endgroup\$ – Revolver_Ocelot Nov 10 '19 at 18:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ One more option, just tell the player not to go abusing the spell. They want control of what they summon? Fine just don't screw about with dinosaurs. They want dinosaurs? Fine then they live with DM random until it shows up once in a blue moon. \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Nov 11 '19 at 14:15

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