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A practical question:

I am currently playing with a bunch of people and we are all relatively new to the game (including the DM). In our second campaign I decided to go for a druid… and was overwhelmed with the complexity.

I have since kind of gotten my head around most of it, but the Summon Nature's Ally Spell (I to IV) is still causing some trouble. In some situations I manage to summon a lot of animals using multiple levels of the spell. I know PCs can't control what the animals do, but for the sanity of my DM I handle their stats, which is taking me a lot of time. I of course have the Monster Manual next to me but when there is many different animals I have trouble keeping all the stats in my head like I do e.g. for my animal companion.

Does anyone have advice on how to deal with a lot of animals? I am aware of How should I handle a PC's pack of animals? but most of the answers seem to suggest to somehow get around the problem by not having that many permanent animals, which in my mind does not apply to Summon Nature's Ally.

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I personally have never had this problem, but here are a few things I've seen other players at my table use:

Don't Use Every Animal

If you try to utilize every animal in the spell's description, you are asking for trouble. Try to narrow it down to a few "favorites" and only bring out the others when you need a specialist. Do you really need to commit the stats for an octopus to memory? Probably not.

Don't Use the Monster Manual

Flipping pages is a hassle. You also don't need all the info in the stat block. You can easily create note cards for each animal with just the stats you need. That way, each animal's stats are on hand without thumbing through the books.

A Summary Table

As a step up from the previous suggestion, have a summary table where you keep the stats of each animal easily accessible. You can track all their HP, AC, saves, etc. on a single page. It's extra book keeping, but if you really want to play a summoner you are going to have to deal with it.

An Even Better Answer

...is not to play a character like this. The extra book keeping tends to suck away a lot of the enjoyment. Even if you are okay with it, dealing with all those extra turns and actions is almost definitely not fun for the other players.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I second the use of note cards. 101×152 mm index cards (4"×6", for non-SI folks) are great. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 11, 2016 at 2:30
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Farm out your menagerie to the other players if they're bored

If the DM allows you to manage your summoned creatures, see if the DM will let players bored on your turn control some of your summoned creatures instead. Give the players a different creature or a different kind of creature (if you've summoned a bunch and of multiple kinds), and let them have fun. That way your turn is at least kind of their turn, too.

It's not perfect—ultimately, you'll still be in charge of the summoned creatures—, but at least the other players will have a little something to do while you and your unicorn herd take a 30-minute turn.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is everyone really this impatient? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 10, 2016 at 6:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pleasestopbeingevil: IME, it's less "impatience" and more "boredom" and a complete draining of any tension that might otherwise mount. Especially when it's the same player soaking up so much "spotlight" time turn after turn, other players learn that it's safe to wander off to get a snack or check their phones, then need to be brought back up to speed when they return. \$\endgroup\$
    – minnmass
    Dec 11, 2021 at 15:56
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Have you tried not doing that?

It's actually a serious suggestion. Druids have an enormous number of options. Summoning swarms of allies is good, but usually not the best option. Turn into a velociraptor and eat everyone's face while throwing hadokens instead; you'll be more effective and your group will hog down less.

Googling for "Druid handbook" should get you some good ideas; here's the first one I found: http://bg-archive.minmaxforum.com/index.php?topic=1354.0

If you're set on being a summoning druid though, try making up some index cards with Your favorite summons' stats, and avoid summoning anything you don't have a card for. You want duplicates so that you can build a little deck of all the things that act on your initiative. Put a card for yourself in front or back, then simply act for the critter on the top of the deck then move it to the bottom. Your turn ends when your card is back on the top/bottom.

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