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According to the spell "Conjure Animals" on P. 225 of the PHB, the description states:

Choose one of the following options for what appears [...]

Besides selecting one or more beasts based on the challenge rating, how do you determine exactly which beast appears?

Is this a random roll by the DM or can the player select the specific beast?

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3 Answers 3

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From the Sage Advice compendium:

Some spells of this sort specify that the spellcaster chooses the creature conjured. For example, Find Familiar gives the caster a list of animals to choose from. Other spells of this sort let the spellcaster choose from among several broad options. For example, Conjure Minor Elementals offers four options. The design intent for options like these is that the spellcaster chooses one of them, and then the DM decides what creatures appear that fit the chosen option.

Given that Conjure Animals only lets the player choose the beast's challenge rating, this would be one of the spells where the DM decides exactly what creature is conjured.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for using this Sage Advice. Many people thought the caster got to select both the parameters and the creatures that appear, now we know they choose an option and the DM chooses what happens then. \$\endgroup\$
    – Airatome
    Nov 22, 2015 at 23:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Does this make your answer supported by RAI or RAW? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 23, 2015 at 13:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ So, does that mean that if you choose the option "one beast CR2 or lower", the DM can choose to summon a bat? \$\endgroup\$
    – Jesse
    Dec 6, 2018 at 7:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ How do you come to the conclusion that the player chooses the exact CR and not just the general option? I mean, it makes sense, but I don't see anything in the rules or in the SA that indicates that. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 17, 2019 at 14:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ We allow the player to pick the creature, as long as the DM doesn't find it unreasonable. As a player, if I had to let the DM pick the creature, I'd probably never cast the spell. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob Kraft
    Nov 15, 2021 at 22:04
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Rules as Intended: the DM chooses the monster

The rules as written does not define who gets to pick what or how. However, the Sage Advice Compendium clarifies how the spell was intended to work by the designers:

Some spells of this sort specify that the spellcaster chooses the creature conjured. For example, Find Familiar gives the caster a list of animals to choose from. Other spells of this sort let the spellcaster choose from among several broad options. For example, Conjure Minor Elementals offers four options. The design intent for options like these is that the spellcaster chooses one of them, and then the DM decides what creatures appear that fit the chosen option.

So it is clearly intended that the DM is able to pick the monster after the player picks which option they want.

There is no indication of how the DM would choose the beast, so that is left entirely up to the DM at your particular table to decide by the designers.

The player can only choose the broad option, not the CR or creature

For conjure animals, the spellcaster has 4 options:

  • 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

Again, according to RAW, there is no indication who picks what. But, the SAC as quoted above does give a hint as to the intent:

[...] Other spells of this sort let the spellcaster choose from among several broad options. For example, Conjure Minor Elementals offers four options. The design intent for options like these is that the spellcaster chooses one of them [...]

The options the spellcaster chooses from are broad. In other words, the implication is that they don't have any control over the fine details of the option they pick. Thus, the spellcaster, under this RAI interpretation, would only be able to pick one of the 4 options and everything else (CR and specific beast) would be up to the DM.

Of course, there is no reason a DM would have to run the spell this way, this just seems to be the way the designers intended. In fact, as a DM I often have the player pick the creature with an option to veto the choice.

If you are planning on taking and/or using the spell ask your DM ahead of time what method they will take and how you can help make it easy on them.

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Rules as Written (RAW) it seems that the player chooses the CR option, and then the DM picks the animals.

I thought I'd add to this conversation by saying that I think it would be useful for the DM (and the player) to consider what animals are appropriate for the environment that the players are in. RPGbot has a good list of animals by CR level and environments here -- https://rpgbot.net/dnd5/characters/spells/summoning/ -- so that can help with choosing and can save a lot of time over flipping through the Monster Manual.

Also, keep in mind that the best D&D generally isn't DM vs Player. So if the DM is choosing the animals, they shouldn't automatically choose the worst/weakest animals for the situation, but the player shouldn't necessarily expect the best animals either (though they could certain express a preference or say, "my character is casting the spell and hoping for 8 wolves to help with the combat". And then the DM might give me 2 wolves (if we're, say, in the forest and wolves are appropriate at all), but they might also give me a boar, a giant rat, and 4 deer.

I think that would make for some fun combinations, and I'm looking forward to how this plays out at my (virtual) table.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the stack Pianoman! Take the tour when you have a moment, and feel free to peruse the help center for more in-depth info about the site. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Mar 18 at 19:58

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