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Character: support spellcaster with access to level 5 sorc/wiz spell list and level 4 cleric spell list.

I'm looking for thematic combat-ready summons for my character: I need summons that are casters themselves, preferably elemental-themed but that's not a requirement. My first thought would be to use Planar Ally / Planar Binding series of spells (Lesser versions at the time) or Summon Monster series of spells but my bestiary knowledge is limited at best. I also heard there's plenty of other summoning spells from splatbooks but I have no idea what they have to offer.

I'm interested in an answer containing:

  • Name of summoning Spell - Name of Creature - Spells this creature can cast - Source.

Only RAW, only 1st and 2nd party content.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Are there any more criteria you can offer to give us a better idea of what you consider to be "best"? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 17 at 19:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov Ultimately, this question is probably too broad to really answer in a Stack post anyway—the most realistic way to handle it is to link to, and selectively quote from, existing guides on these spells. Of which, there happens to be a really good one, so boom, easy solid answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jan 17 at 19:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually, just saw that you’re asking after the planar ally and planar binding spells in addition to summon monster: that’s no good. Far too much ground to cover with all three spells. Frankly, given how open-ended planar ally and planar binding are, I don’t know if there’s any good way to ask about them here. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jan 17 at 19:50

1 Answer 1

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TL;DR: Lantern archon

The lantern archon is probably the best answer to your question, as it’s the best spellcaster from summon monster IV and summon monster V doesn’t have a whole lot to offer in terms of spellcasting.

As for how we come to that conclusion, the best resource available for summon monster is Treantmonk’s “Mastering the Malconvoker” Handbook. It focuses on the malconvoker prestige class from Complete Scoundrel, which emphasizes summoning fiends in particular since the class gets all kinds of bonuses when summoning those, but the handbook makes sure to point out the strong non-fiends in the list, as well.

Ultimately, this is the best resource because malconvoker is all-but-required to make summon monster worth a damn in combat. Otherwise, these spells are severely limited. Summon nature’s ally gets many of the same creatures a spell level earlier, and all summon monster has to show for the extra spell level is the weak celestial or fiendish templates. Absent malconvoker, summon monster is best used for utility, that is, for the various spell-like abilities of creatures you can summon—and “Mastering the Malconvoker” definitely points out those. But they are generally not for combat: the caster levels and DCs tend to be on the low side. Also, the SLAs available from summon monster V, especially, are not exactly stellar. Powerful combat spellcasting from summons doesn’t really happen until summon monster VII; prior to this combat summons are mostly chargers or grapplers.

Also, since you are not a wizard, you cannot take the Unearthed Arcana conjurer ACF that allows summon monster to be cast as a standard action, so it instead takes 1 round. That is, you spend a full-round action on your turn, and then the monster is summoned at the start of your next turn. Doing nothing for an entire turn is just not an effective way to approach combat. You could use Rapid Spell (Complete Divine) to fix that, but that applies a +1 spell level adjustment to your spells, exacerbating the issue of summon monster spells already being weak for their level. Metamagic reducers, of course, become an attractive option at that point, but now you’re dedicating a lot of resources towards something that was supposed to just be “nice to have.”

Anyway, Treantmonk on summon monster IV and summon monster V:1

  1. Note that Treantmonk points out that summon monster IV is less of an improvement over summon monster III than III was over II, at least for combat, so you may want to look at his advice for summon monster III. (Summon monster III is probably the best-for-its-level version of the spell.)

Things to know about SM IV:

Tidbits: SLAs and Su abilities are becoming more of a factor. For straight combat SM IV does not shine above SM III as it did over the previous level.

Combat: For charging the celestial lion is terrific. Dire wolves get trip (with a decent score) and good HP. Howlers get the terrific quills (and they are stackable). Against one BBEG, the howlers are the way to go. Against multiples the dire wolf is better. If DR of the opponent is a problem Lantern Archons ignore it.

Outside Combat, or non melee combat aids: Lantern archons are stuffed with useful SLAs, and if summoned close can protect your party with aura of menace and magic circle against evil. If you are approaching large groups of enemies a yeth hound can be sent 305 ahead and bay. Thats a 300 radius spread!

[…]

SLA's available to SM IV

Spell Name* (spell level)(Creature who has it as an SLA)(CL/DC)(# times/summon)
*Works on self only

  • Aid-(2nd)(Lantern Archon)(3/x)(at will)
  • Blur*-(2nd)(Air Mephit)(6/x)(1)
  • Blur*-(2nd)(Dust Mephit)(6/x)(1)
  • Blur*-(2nd)(Steam Mephit)(3/x)(1)
  • Chill Metal-(2nd)(Ice Mephit)(6/14)(1)
  • Continual Flame-(2nd)(Lantern Archon)(3/x)(at will)
  • Detect Evil-(1st)(Lantern Archon)(3/x)(at will)
  • Glitterdust-(2nd)(Salt Mephit)(3/14)(1)
  • Gust of wind-(2nd)(Air Mephit)(6/14)(1)
  • Heat Metal-(2nd)(Fire Mephit)(6/14)(1)
  • Magic Circle Against Evil*-(3rd)(Lantern Archon)(1/x)(always on)
  • Magic Missile-(1st)(Ice Mephit)(3/x)(1)
  • Melf’s Acid Arrow-(2nd)(Ooze Mephit)(3/x)(1)
  • Melf’s Acid Arrow-(2nd)(Water Mephit)(3/x)(1)
  • Pyrotechnics-(2nd)(Magma Elemental)(6/14)(1)
  • Scorching ray-(2nd)(Fire Mephit)(3/14)(1)
  • Soften Earth and Stone-(2nd)(Earth Mephit)(6/x)(1)
  • Stinking Cloud-(3rd)(Ooze Mephit)(6/15)(1)
  • Stinking Cloud-(3rd)(Water Mephit)(6/15)(1)
  • Tongues*-(3rd)(Lantern Archon)(14/x)(always on)
  • Wind Wall (3rd)(Dust Mephit)(6/13)(1)

Things to know about SM V:

Tidbits: SLAs are less of a star here but now the star is grapple.

Secondly assuming at least level 10, it is time to buy a ring of mighty summons (14,000 gp). It gives your creatures Max HP for their HD, but ½ the duration of your spell. Since you get deceptive summons thats still 10 rounds (or more, depending on your feats). Long enough for most combats. The ring can be removed if you arent sure.

Combat: Fiendish Giant Crocodiles. They are huge, good attack, improved grab. The brown bear is just as good, but you already have malconvoker this is no choice. If youre charging the tiger is good, and bearded devils get frenzy which is nice.

Outside Combat: Not much here.

[…]

SLA's available to SM IV

Spell Name* (spell level)(Creature who has it as an SLA)(CL/DC)(# times/summon)
*Works on self only

  • Aid-(2nd)(Hound Archon)(6/x)(at will)
  • Continual Flame-(2nd)(Hound Archon)(6/x)(at will)
  • Detect Evil-(1st)(Hound Archon)(6/x)(at will)
  • Insanity-(7th)(Achaierai)(16/17)(3)(Reduced range/effect 3 hours)
  • Magic Circle Against Evil*-(3rd)(Hound Archon)(6/x)(always on)
  • Message-(0)(Hound Archon)(6/x)(at will)
  • Tounges*-(3rd)(Hound Archon)(6/x)(always on)
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