Conjure animals

Can I use the Conjure Animals spell to drop cows on targets in order to deal damage to the targets?

The base rules don't define a mechanism for how this would happen. An optional rule does, but the cow's weight is not a factor

The basic issue in the base rules is this: Conjure Animals describes how the caster summons animals at a given point in space. You can pick a point in the air, sure, so so far, so good. But the spell does not say anything about making an attack, which is where we run into a problem.

Attacks generally have details which simulate the attacking character trying to hit their target in a meaningful way and with a chance of failure, such as rolling a d20 and adding the appropriate attack modifiers to try to beat the target's AC. Some attacks are presumed to hit, but give the target an opportunity to avoid damage, such as making a saving throw. Some attacks always hit their targets, like Magic Missile.

The problem with the meat-eor plan is that the spell doesn't involve any of those things. There is no method for how you would determine if the cow is appropriately placed when summoned-- there is no attack roll, and so there is nothing to compare to the target's AC. There is no presumption of automatically hitting with a chance for the target to make a saving throw.

So the weight of the cow is a non-issue. Even though the plan would have some chance of working in real life (with a few modifications to what constitutes "real"), the game rules don't provide any way to figure out if this would hit a target. And this is before trying to figure out how much damage should be dealt by having a large object fall on a target without having any damage dice assigned to it.

So, the base rules as written do not permit this. The spell doesn't work that way, and none of the elements of the plan are defined in game-mechanical ways that allow us to reliably determine any of the plan's outcomes. That said, if you work with your DM to figure out mechanics for it, then you can do it. There is guidance in a supplement, detailed below, if your DM is inclined to allow it.

Optional Rules: Tasha's Cauldron of Everything

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything does, in fact, offer a way to determine if a target is hit and damaged by another creature falling onto it from above. It's up to your DM if this optional rule is used, but it does offer a way to adjudicate this in the way you're hoping. The optional rule for falling onto a creature states (TCoE, p. 170; "Chapter 4: Dungeon Master's Tools"):

If a creature falls into the space of a second creature and neither of them is Tiny, the second creature must succeed on a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or be impacted by the falling creature, and any damage resulting from the fall is divided evenly between them. The impacted creature is also knocked prone, unless it is two or more sizes larger than the falling creature.

The maximum damage you can expect is unrelated to the conjured animal's weight. The conjured animal suffers 1d6 damage per 10 feet it falls, so if the caster conjures the cow directly above itself at the spell's maximum range (60 feet) the cow can accrue 6d6 damage dice. This translates to a potential maximum of 3d6 damage dice for the creature struck by the cow.

3d6 damage is relatively underpowered for a 3rd-level spell slot, so there shouldn't be any concerns about balance.

answered Jul 16 at 4:17


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DnD 5e – Practical Guide to Summoning Spells

Last Updated: July 18, 2021


Magically conjuring a creature to do your bidding is a long-standing trope in fantasy stories, and spells to summon creatures have existed in Dungeons and Dragons throughout its storied history. And, while these options have always been both powerful and fun, they have also always been complicated. While 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons is the simplest edition to play, summoning spells in 5th edition remain a frustrating and confusing part of the game.

In this article, we’ll explore summoning spells not just from a character optimization perspective (how do I make this effective?), but also from a practical perspective (how do I make this fun?) so that you can use summoning spells at your table without constantly thumbing through the Monster Manual for just the right creature to suit your needs.

In some ways, this page may also serve as a quick reference document, offering suggestions for when and where you might summon any given type of creature both to fit your surroundings (no underwater badgers, please) and to suit your tactial needs. If you can avoid searching the Monster Manual to find the creature you want, I’ll consider this article a success.

Table of Contents


RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.

I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can’t assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won’t cover Unearthed Arcana content because it’s not finalized, and I can’t guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.

RPGBOT is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.

The Three Types of Summon Spells

The available spells to summon creatures can be divided into three categories, each of which I’ll address in detail in separate sections below.

  • Conjure Creature Spells: Published in the Player’s Handbook and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, these options always use the word “Conjure” in their names, and feature several shared mechanics, most notable of which is that the player doesn’t get to choose what they summon.
  • Summon Creature Spells: Published in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, these spells can be quickly identified because their names start with “Summon” (though Summon Lesser Demos and Summon Greater Demon are exceptions). I’m aware that “Conjure” and “Summon” are synonyms, but I didn’t name the spells. Spells in this category always summon a single creature.
  • Other Summoning Spells: These summon options are typically much more involved and complex than the sort of spell which you’ll cast in combat, and have many external considerations beyond conjuring up a creature to fight monsters for you. These spells include options like Find Steed and Gate.

Conjure Creature Spells

Published in the Player’s Handbook, the original Conjure Creature spells shared a lot of common design elements. Understanding one spell gives you a full understanding of the rules of every other spell in this category. With an hour-long duration, these spells are great ways to get a useful creature either in or out of combat.

All Conjure Creature Spells can be upcast to improve their effects, but the benefits are split into two camps: roughly half of the spells will allow you to summon higher-CR creatures, while the other half allow you to summon more creatures from the same CR range which the default level of the spell allows. These spells are usally paired, with one low-level spell to summon numerous small creatures and one higher-level spell to summon powerful single creatures.

Nearly every spell in this category has a 1-minute casting time (Conjure Animals and Conjure Woodland Beings are exceptions), which makes them impossible to cast in combat. This casting time was an intentional design choice to prevent players from breaking out the Monster Manual mid-combat, thereby causing combat to grind to a halt. This means that if you want to summon a creature for combat purposes, you need to do it ahead of time. I don’t know why Conjure Animals and Conjure Woodland Beings are exceptions since they have the same issues with creature selection as every other spell in this category.

Casting these spells at a higher spell level allows the spellcaster to summon creatures of a higher Challenge Rating, allowing spellcasters access to a huge list of potential summons. However, you don’t necessarily need to rush to cast these spells at the highest level possible. Due to 5e’s relatively flat math, even low-CR creatures can be impactful across the full level range (though their hit points might not keep them around long).

Probably the biggest problem with these spells is that the Dungeon Master is responsible for selecting the specific creature which you summon. This is often time-consuming, and the DM needs to choose a creature that’s going to be helpful (but not too helpful), and likely wants to avoid upsetting their players by giving them something which they don’t want. The DM can let the player pick, but players will pick something that will cause problems (intentionally or otherwise), or they’ll spend the next hour of play time scrutinizing monster stats to figure out which thing they want to summon and feed to the next monster they encounter, only to start fresh a few minutes later.

Providing a fixed list of creatures to choose from would go a long way to improve these spells, but tragically only Conjure Animals includes such a list, and even then the DM is left to decide which creatures appear with nearly no guidance on how to do so.

Conjure Animals (3rd level)PHB

Beasts make surprisingly effective combatants, despite remaining primarily in low single-digit CR ranges (dinosaurs being an exception). Many can serve as mounts, scouts, or trackers, but most often you’re going to summon animals to take up space on the battle field. Some options (frog) are outright useless, but even some CR 0 options like the Hyena and the Flying Snake can make decent combatants. Higher-CR creatures will have more capabilities in combat and will be more durable, but don’t make the mistake of ignoring low-CR options simply due to their CR.

Upcasting Conjure Animals allows you to summon additional creatures. Conjure Animals is one of the two spells in this category with a 1 Action casting time. This is important because it allows you to summon creatures in the middle of combat. However, since Conjure Animals faces the same creature selection challenges that other spells in the category face, your DM needs to select suitable creatures on the fly. I encourage you to use the table below for quick reference.

The table below is arranged to sort creatures roughly by habitat. I’m not a zoologist and my knowledge of animal habitats isn’t going to win me any prizes, so I won’t be offended if you disagree with me and email me with corrections. The added presence of fictional creatures with scant or no ecological information (like the giant weasel) doesn’t help, either.

The table below has several gaps where there weren’t CR-appropriate creatures to for a given biome. In those cases, consider reskinning a creature from a different biome. For example, if you’re in a coastal region and want to summon birds, you could use stats for the Raven and call them seagulls.

Conjure Celestial (7th level)PHB

Heavily hampered by the pitifully small number of published celestials which fit into the spell’s CR range, but Couatls are pretty amazing so if that’s all that you ever summon I’d still consider this a decent spell.

If your DM is willing to let you choose to summon a Couatl consistently, you’ll be fine. If they pick at random you have a 50% chance of getting a cool magical snake and an equal chance of summoning a flying horse whose only useful feature is that it’s a flying horse.

Upcasting Conjure Celestial allows you to summon higher-CR creatures.

Unfortunately, the Player’s Handbook’s only suggestion for a celestial to summon is the Pegasus, which is frustrating because a CR 2 monster as the only example for a spell which summons up to CR 4 by default isn’t a great example of the spell’s capabilities. Of course, there are only two suitable creatures in the Monster Manual, so it was generous for WotC to list alhf of them.

The table below omits setting-specific creatures. Mystical Odysseys of Theros adds several new suitable creatures, but your DM may choose not to allow them.

Spell LvlCRCreatures
  • Couatl: A flying, telepathic snake with truesight which casts cleric spells. Both large enough and strong enough to carry a small rider, and its spellcasting is roughly on par with a 3rd-level cleric with a weirdly large number of spell slots. It’s attacks are pretty good, too, allowing it to knock creatures unconscious or retrain and constrict them.
  • Pegasus: Flying horse.
  • Unicorn: It doesn’t fly and it doesn’t cast spells as well as the Couatl, but it has Legendary Actions and can heal itself for free with them so it’s both a good tank a good mount (provided that you don’t need to fly).
  • Conjure Elemental (5th level)PHB

    Conjure Elemental is primarily useful as a 5th-level spell because the classic elementals (air elemental, etc.) are CR 5 creatures. Until we see more elementals published, Conjure Elemental’s capabilities are heavily limited by this lack of options. The CR 5 options are good, but the fact that there aren’t enough options to choose from at other CRs makes it frustrating to spend resources to learn the spell when you know that it’s less versatile than many other summoning spells.

    There are no elementals at CR 7 or 8 outside of the stat blocks published in specific adventures, so check with your DM to see if they’ll allow you to summon creatures like elemental myrmidons from Princes of the Apocalypse or the Big Xorn from Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage. Adding those options put Conjure Elemental in line with other spells in the Conjure Creature Spells group.

    Like other spells in the category, Conjure Elemental can be really good if your DM lets you pick the creature summoned or if they pick something useful for you, but if they pick at random or pick something unhelpful it’s a waste of a spell slot most of the time. You may be able to convince your DM to pick an elemental based on where you target the spell (a water elemental from a source of water, and air elemental in mid-air, etc.), but talk to your DM to see if they’re willing to let that work before you assume that they will or you’re going to conjure fire elementals underwater and be sad about it.

    Upcasting Conjure Elemental allows you to summon higher-CR creatures.

    The table below omits setting-specific creatures, creatures specific to adventures, and creatures below CR 5. Since you only get one creature and can’t choose what kind of creature you get, there is very little reason to choose a CR below the CR 5.

    Spell LvlCRCreature Name
    • Air Elemental: 90-foot fly speed, several damage resistances, and a bunch of condition immunities.
    • Dust Devil: Identical to the air elemental.
    • Earth Elemental: The earth elemental has both a burrow speed and earth glide, making it a very powerful option on any solid ground. Tremorsense allows it to detect invisible enemies (so long as they’re not also flying), and since it can speak it can tell you where they are if you speak Terran. It also has resistance to nonmagical weapon damage types, which makes it great for tanking enemies that rely on teeth and claws.
    • Fire Elemental: The Fire Elemental’s biggest tactical option is Fire Form. The elemental should run through the spaces of every enemy it can find before resorting to actual attacks. There is no save against it, so unless the creature is immune to fire it’s either free damage or an easy way to force a creature to waste an action.
    • Salamander: The Salamander’s tail automatically grapples and restrains the target on a hit, making the Salamander a fantastic option for handling single targets.
    • Water Elemental: Surprisingly effectively on land, the water elemental’s Whelm ability grapples and restrains targets. The DC is fairly low, but if you can keep the elemental repeatedly hits enemies with it you may get some use out of it.
    • Xorn: Equal parts utility option and combat monster, the Xorn competes for functional space with the Earth Elemental. The Xorn has better AC, but fewer hit points, and doesn’t have resistance to bludgeoning damage like the earth elemental does. The Xorn has more attacks, but lower damage and lower attack bonus. The Xorn is also slower. The Xorn’s big appeal is Treasure Sense, which can help you find both hidden treasure and naturally-occurring gemstones and precious metals.
    • Invisible Stalker: Permanently invisible, it flies, it speaks, and it always knows the direction and distance to the quarry that you give it so you can use it to track creatures over incredible distances. Once it gets into combat, between invisibility, damage resistances, and 8 condition immunities, it’s fairly difficult to kill. Most creatures are totally incapable of handling invisible enemies, so expect your Invisible Stalker to last the spell’s full duration.
    • Galeb Duhr: Basically an earch elemental, but its rolling charge is good for knocking enemies prone, and it can animate two boulders once per day. It also notably lack’s the earth elemental’s burrow speed.
    77None at this level.
    88None at this level.
    • Frost Salamader: Freezing Breath, five attacks on mutilattack, both burrow and climb speeds, and Tremorsense. If you can find an abusive way to deal tiny amounts of fire damage (such as poking it with a torch), you can repeatedly recharge the Frost Salamander’s breath weapon, allowing it to to replicate Cone of Cold (with a slightly larger damage die) every turn. That’s a horrible way to treat an intelligent creature, of course, so maybe just let it recharge naturally.

    Conjure Fey (6th level)PHB

    Conjure Fey uniquely allows you to summon both fey and beasts, making it the only spell in this group which can summon creatures of more than one creatue type. Fey are especially tempting because many of them have powerful special abilities or can cast spells. However, they’re also intelligent and won’t obey orders which go against their alignment (which the DM is free to interpret as they see fit), so they may be difficult to command.

    A weird quirk of the spell: Despite being published in the Player’s Handbook, the Monster Manual contains no Fey at CR 6, 7, 8, or 9, so the primary use case of the spell when it was published was just to summon high-CR beasts.

    There are few options in Conjure Fey which are situational to the point that it’s a problem. Most of them are combat monsters for the most part, and aside from size problems (try squeezing a Brontosaurus into a 5-foot wide dungeon hallway), they’ll serve you just fine in nearly any circumstance. There are some uniquely appealing options like the Green Hag and the Korred which make the spell more powerful if you can pick those options, but most of the time you can expect to summon a combat monster with minimal complications.

    Upcasting Conjure Fey allows you to summon higher-CR creatures. If you lose Concentration, the creature remains but becomes hostile toward you.

    The table below omits setting-specific creatures, creatures specific to adventures, and creatures below CR 5. Since you only get one creature and can’t choose what kind of creature you get, there is very little reason to choose a CR below the CR 6, but CR 5 creatures are included because there are some interesting options.

    Spell LvlCRCreature Name
    • Brontosaurus: Better damage than the Giant Crocodile, though its crowd control isn’t as good. At Gargantuan size, this thing takes up a ton of space and can carry a ton of creatures.
    • Giant Crocodile: The bite grapples and restrins the target, and the tail can knock the target prone. An excellent combat monster.
    • Giant Shark: The only fully aquatic option.
    • Green Hag (Coven Variant): It’s not clear if you can summon this or not, so check with your DM. If you can, you may be able to use the hag’s shared spellcasting.
    • Swarm of Cranium Rats: It’s not clear if you can summon this or not since it’s a swarm. If you can, it can cast Dominate Monster once per day so you can get an 8th-level spell (albeit with a weak DC) for the cost of a 6th-level spell. Beyond that it’s weak in combat, but it can spam Command and it has telepathy so it might help as a translator.
    • Triceratops: Huge with 22 Strength so it’s easy to ride, but its attacks are unimpressive. Trampling Charge is nice, but the DC is low.
    • Annis Hag: Crushing Hug is your best option here. Send your hag to grab a suitable target and kill everything else while the hag keeps it busy.
    • Mammoth: Trampling charge at a DC of 18 is pretty good. It’s also huge, quadrupedal, and has 24 Strength, which makes it a great mount.
    • Bheur Hag: So long as your hag has its graystaff, it can fly and has some excellent innate spellcasting. If you defeat enemies, you can have your hag eat them to terrify whatever else is left.
    • Giant Ape: Huge and decent damage, but honestly the fact that the Giant Ape and the Korred are the same CR is inexplicable. The Korred does more damage and is considerably more durable, and since it’s small you can fit it into a dungeon easily.
    • Korred: Command Hair is a Bonus Action and there is very little reason not to use it every turn. The DC is very low, but if the target fails they’re grappled and restrained. The Korred can cast spells, including Stone Shape at will which is extremely abusable. They can also cast Conjure Elemental, so you can get two summons for the price of one. When the Korred resorts to attacks, it can do extremely impressive damage if it’s on the ground. On top of all of that, its senses are exceellent, it has resistance to nonmagical weapon damage types, and with a 30-foot borrow speed this things is versatile, powerful, and hard to kill.

      Korreds also have a unique thing where you can cut their hair with metal sheers and it turns into metal of that type. Ambitious adventurers might use this to generate precious metals like gold or useful metals like adamantine, but make sure that your DM is very comfortable with you doing that before you try it. That’s a great way to break the game’s economy, and the Korred might decide that they no longer want to follow orders if you try to shave them.

    • Tyrannosaurus Rex: Despite its CR, the Tyrannosaurus Rex is a glass canon. Its attacks are great, dealing a ton of damage and both grappling and restraining foes witthe T-Rex’s bite. However, it has AC of just 13 and only 136 hit points, making it less durable than much lower-CR creatures like elementals from Conjure Elemental. This is great if you need to lock down a single target or if you need a ride (huge size and 25 str so it can absolutely carry your party), but don’t expect it to last more than one or two encounters and be very certain that a pet T-Rex for one fight is worth the spell slot.
    99None at this level.

    Conjure Minor Elementals (4th level)PHB

    Not much utility due to the limited options, but you can summon a bunch of low-CR combat monsters. Mephits are great if you need a swarm of nuisances to grab items, cause trouble, spam breath weapons to force Concentration checks and saves against status conditions, or generally cause trouble but little actual damage. If you want damage, try for magmin and set everything on fire. If you want a tank, try for gargoyles.

    While none of the options on Conjure Minor Elementals are outright bad, the inability to pick what you get makes it very difficult to use the spell effectively. If you try for low-CR mephits you’re probably going to be fine with whatever you get. But if you want magmin, there are other options at the same CR and if your DM picks mephits you’re going to be disappointed. If you need a flying tank and get two azers, you’ve wasted a spell slot on two creatures with no built-in counter to flying enemies (maybe you could give them javelins?).

    Upcasting Conjure Minor Elementals allows you to summon additional creatures.

    CRCountCreature Name
    1/4 or Lower8
    • Mud Mephit: Flight, breath weapon that restrains stuff, death burst that restrains stuff (DC 11 on both, so don’t expect to be impressed).
    • Smoke Mephit: Flight, breath weapon that blinds stuff (DC 10), death burst that makes a tiny cloud of smoke.
    • Steam Mephit: Flight, breath weapon, death burst.
    • Dust Mephit: Flight, breath weapon that blinds stuff, death burst that blinds stuff (DC 10 on both, so don’t expect to be impressed).
    • Ice Mephit: Flight, breath weapon, death burst.
    • Magma Mephit: Flight, breath weapon, death burst.
    • Magmin: The Magmin’s touch deals ongoing fire damage unless they spend an Action to douse it. Try to get this on as many enemies as you can as quickly as you can. Oh, and it explodes when it dies.
    • Fire Snake: Decent attacks and Heated Body makes the Fire Snake hard to attack in return. The Fire Snake is also resistant to nonmagical weapon damage types, which makes them more durable than their CR suggests.
    • Azer: A lot of similarities with the Fire Snake. The Azer has Higher AC and more hit points, but lacks the damage resistances and gets fewer attacks (though at a higher attack bonus). For the same spell slot, summoning two Fire Snakes is better both offensively and defensively.
    • Gargoyle: It flies, it has decent attacks, and between damage resistances and decent AC it’s surprisingly durable.

    Conjure Woodland Beings (4th level)PHB

    Most spells in the Conjure Creatures Spells group come in pairs: One low-level option to summon multiple low-CR creatures (Conjure Minor Elementals) and one high-level option to summon high-CR creatures (Conjure Elemental). Conjure Animals and Conjure Woodland beings split this low-level function with the same high-level analog in Conjure Fey Creature.

    Conjure Woodland Beings works best when summoning low-CR creatures. All of the low-CR options have some ridiculous special ability that’s way too good for their CR, and when used by 8 creatures of the same type they immediately become a big problem for your enemies. Up to CR 1/4 you can get a squad of combat monsters. Beyond that things get disappointing.

    This is one spell in the group where I don’t think you need permission from the DM to pick or influence what creatures you summon. If you stick to CR 1/4, 1/2, and 1, picking at random gets you good options that will work in most situations (except for blink dogs, so CR 1/4 does have one trap option in it), and some of them are powerful enough that as a DM I probably wouldn’t allow you to pick them without making some changes (seriouosly, why can pixies cast Polymorph?).

    Upcasting Conjure Woodland Beings allows you to summon additional creatures Conjure Woodland Beings is one of the two spells in this category with a 1 Action casting time. This is important because it allows you to summon creatures in the middle of combat. However, since Conjure Woodland Beings faces the same creature selection challenges that other spells in the category face, your DM needs to select suitable creatures on the fly. I encourage you to use the table below for quick reference..

    CRCountCreature Name
    1/4 or Lower8
    • Boggle: Spam Oil Puddle and try to restrain things.
    • Blink Dog: Great if you need to send a bunch of creatures to attack a back-row enemy, but otherwise unremarkable. You’ll get 8 of them which will be great for blocking enemy movement on the ground, but otherwise they’re basically just bite attacks on legs.
    • Pixie: Flight and invisibility. They can cast Polymorph (a 4th-level spell) once per day, as well as Dispel Magic, Fly, and some more situational spells. You’re basically summoning 8 druids. I honestly don’t understand how these things are CR 1/4. Sure, their spell save DC is only 12 but you can still turn an ally (or 8) into a T-Rex.
    • Sprite: Flight and invisibility. The Sprite’s primary function is to attack with their shortbow, poisoning targets and potentially knocking them unconscious. Sure, the save DC is only 10 but between 8 sprites you’ve got a good chance that the target will fail at least one of the saves, and over the course of Conjure Woodland Beings’ 1-hour duration you can bring down a lot of enemies with very little effort.
    • Darkling: Basically a pet rogue, and you can get four of them. If you can get them Advantage on their attacks (try having an ally Shove an enemy prone), they can do a horrifyingly large amount of damage in a hurry. Of course, watch out for Light Sensitivity, which is triggered by things like torches or the Light spell.
    • Satyr: Basically a pet fighter. Easier to use than the Darkling, and between the four of them they can be reasonably helpful, though they have no exciting offensive abilities so they’re not very exciting. Still, if you just need some more muscle in combat, 4 satyrs is a fine choice.
    • Dryad: Entangle and Pass Without Trace may be helpful, but don’t expect dryads to help much in combat. They have terrible AC, few hit points, and one attack which is negligible. Fey Charm is good, but the creature type limitations make it hard to rely upon.
    • Quickling: Fast, hard to hit, and three dagger attacks with decent damage. Two quicklings will be better offensively than four satyrs, though they won’t take up as much room on the battlefueld.
    • Darkling Elder: 4 Darklings will be more effective both offensively and defensively, though the Darkling Elder can cast Darkness which might be helpful.
    • Meenlock: Fear Aura and paralysis on its claws. The DCs for both are just 11, though, so expect to be disappointed.
    • Sea Hag: The big appeal is the combination of Horrific Appearance and Death Glare. Beyond that it’s a mediocre combat combat summon.

    Summon Creature Spells

    Introduced in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, these spells were an answer to the challenges of the Conjure Creature Spells, seeking to provide both a way to summon a creature during combat and to provide a solution to the “Monster Manual as menu” problem. Each of these spells, rather than drawing upon a deep and growing pool of possible summoned creatures, provides a handful of generic stat blocks intended to represent a broad range of potential creatures. These stat blocks are diverse enough that Summon Creature Spells offer useful tactical options within the same spell, but any interaction with the Monster Manual is totally removed.

    While the spell level you use doesn’t determine the creatures available to you, it is still hugely impactful for Summon Creature Spells. Creatures add the spell level to their AC and damage, and the creature’s hit points are a multiple of the spell’s level (plus a flat number depending on the creature). Perhaps most impactful, the creatures make a number of attacks equal to half the spell’s level. This means that even-numbered spell slot levels are often the most efficient use of resources, and since creatures summoned by these spells attack with your Spell Attack Modifier, even low-level spell slots can produce a creature capable of hitting reliably. It also means that your summoned creature can often make a number of attacks matching the Fighter, possibly even exceeding their damage output.

    One problem which summoned creatures often face is that their attacks usually aren’t considered magic unless the Action specifies that they are or that the attack is specifically described as a Spell Attack (according Jeremy Crawford). This means that creatures which rely on things like claws and teeth can run into issues with resistance or immunity to damage from non-magical attacks, which is a common resistance as you gain levels. In these cases, players will normally take up magic items or use spells to make their weapons magical, but spending spells to buff your summon is typically a bad use of resources and often runs into issues with Concentration. Instead, plan to replace your summoned creature if necessary.

    Summoned creatures notably have no saving throw proficiencies. That makes them highly susceptible to spells and special abilities, even if their AC and hit points would normally make them very durable.

    Like Conjure Creature Spells, Summon Creature Spells have a 1-hour duration and require Concentration. Your summoned creature may not last the full duration, but a pet fighter for up to an hour is well worth the cost. Since the summoned creature’s attacks will be reliable, it’s often a good idea to summon a creature which attacks at range and keep them behind your party’s Defender (who is almost certianly more durable than your summoned creature) and think of them more like a portable source of damage output than a temporary member of the party.

    Spells in this category also have an expensive material component, typically costing several hundred gp. By the time you gain access to the spell you should be able to comfortably afford the component, but if you rely heavily on summoning the total cost of several of these components can be a problem.

    Summon Aberration (4th-level)PHB

    Diverse, effective, and efficient combat options. Most of the damage is psychic (though not all of it), so avoid using this against mindless creatures.

    The summoned spirit speaks Deep Speech, allowing you to communicate with it more easily than some other summons. This helps if you need to use your summoned creature as a scout or a lookout.

    There’s some contest between Summon Aberration and Summon Undead, but both are great so pick whichever you like more rather than trying to divine which is slightly more powerful. Undead have more immunities so they can be more durable, but the special abilities of aberrations can be powerful enough that they may be more appealing.

    • Beholderkin: Flight, hover, and ranged psychic damage. Basically a flying machine gun. If all you need is damage output, this is a great option. It competes for space somewhat with the Skeletal Undead since they’re both ranged attacks with little other utility. The differences boil down to flight and psychic damage or a bunch of immunities and necrotic damage. Both are good, so choose what works for you and your party.

      With 16 Strength and medium size, your beholderkin may be able to carry you through the air, especially if you’re small.

    • Slaad: Not very flashy, but if you need a melee combat monster it’s hard to go wrong. The regeneration will keep your slaad alive without feeling the need to spend spells to heal it or re-cast Summon Aberration, making it an easy choice when all you need is something to throw into melee. However, it’s the only abberration option that worries about resistance to weapon damage types, which are fairly common.
    • Starspawn: Less durable than the slaad, but much more lethal. The Starpawn’s attacks deal psychic damage which will be more reliable than the Slaad’s claws, and the damage aura will deal reasonably reliable damage even if you cast Summon Aberration using a low-level spell slot. Of course, throwing a low-level aberration into melee to capitalize on its aura is likely going to result in your aberration dying quickly, but even then it’s drawing fire away from your allies and that’s one of the best things that you can get from a summoned creature.

    Summon Beast (2nd-level)TCoE

    The lowest-level Summon spell introduced in Tasha’s Cauldron of everything, Summon Beast is an excellent spell. With a 1-hour duration you can get a ton of mileage out of a low-level spell slot, and the beasts are very effective in combat. If you have other melee allies, throwing one of the beasts with Pack Tactics alongside them can yield a lot of consistent, reliable damage. The Air beast has Flyby, which is appealing if you need a more durable version of the owl familiar’s hit-and-run Help trick, but won’t be as effective offensively as the Land and Water options since they both get Pack Tactics.

    Summon Celestial (5th-level)TCoE

    Flight, resistance to radiant damage, and a once per day heal. The healing isn’t much, but it’ll save a dying ally. Both summons are good, staple options that will work well in any combat situation.

    The summoned spirit speaks Celestial, allowing you to communicate with it more easily than some other summons. This helps if you need to use your summoned creature as a scout or a lookout.

    With 16 Strength and medium size, your summoned celestial may be able to carry you through the air, especially if you’re small.

    • Avenger: Flying and radiant damage at range. Not especially exciting, but very effective.
    • Defender: Tied with summoned constructs for the highest AC of any creature in the Summon Creature Spells category (13+), its attacks deal radiant damage, and on a hit it can give targets temporary hit points. There’s no usage limit on the temporary hp, so if your defender is making numerous attacks you may be able to distribute temporary hit points several times per turn. With the temporary hit points, the Defender can keep itself alive much longer than its hit points indicate, allowing it to serve as a front-line Defender (the party role, not the type of celestial) almost as well as real fighter.

    Summon Construct (4th-level)TCoE

    Constructs are the most durable summon, having the highest AC at 13+ (most get 11+ with a few at 12+), and an impressive 15 hp per spell level above the default. They also enjoy 7 condition immunities and resistance to poison, so they’re both difficult to attack and difficult to disable with status conditions, though they are still vulnerable to damage which requires saving throws like every other summoned creature (remember: they have no saving throw proficiencies).

    Tragically, Summon Construct’s creatures don’t share all of the capabilities of the golems for which they are named. Your summoned clay construct can’t solo the Tarrasque.

    • Clay: If you need a big angry combat monster and all that you care about is that it’s going to hit stuff and soak up damage, the Clay Construct is a great choice. Berserk Lashing punishes enemies for damaging the golem, and weirdly it doesn’t require that it be damaged by an attack so even if something breaths fire on your golem it’s still going to get its free attack. Just be sure that your allies are never adjacent to it.
    • Metal: Too much overlap with clay. Iron’s Heated Body feature will only be better in cases where the golem is being attacked by numerous enemies in melee at the same time.
    • Stone: Stone Lethargy is the primary appeal. It’s very similar to the Depair Shadowspawn’s slow effect, but Stone Lethargy is more effective for fast enemies, has a larger radius, and prevents Reactions. Unfortunately, it allows a saving throw, but that seems like a fair trade for a better effect.

    Summon Elemental (4th-level)TCoE

    With the possible exception of the earth elemental, Summon Elemental does very little to expand on the capabilities of other spells like Summon Undead. Elementals get some damage resistances which we haven’t seen on lower-level summon spells, but unless you’re consistently facing enemies which deal those damage tpyes I don’t think that’s enough to justify Summon Elemental being higher level than Summon Undead.

    The summoned spirit speaks Primordial, allowing you to communicate with it more easily than some other summons. This helps if you need to use your summoned creature as a scout or a lookout.

    • Air: Good flight, two damage resistances on top of the elementals’ damage/condition immunities, and a slam attack. Summon Undead’s Ghost is similar in many ways and uses a better damage type, though the Air Elemental may be more udrable thans to its damage resistances.
    • Earth: 40 ft. burrow speed, resistance to the two most common weapon damage types, and a mostly unremarkable slam attack. Be careful with the burrow speed: if your elemental can’t hear your verbal commands it might just sit underground and Dodge until the spell ends. Still, if you need something to stand in front of you and exchange blows in melee, this is a solid choice. For prolonged usage you might prefer Summon Aberration’s Slaad due to its Regeneration, but the Earth Elemental is still a solid choice.
    • Fire: Immune to fire and it does fire damage, so it can get around resistance to weapon damage types, but fire damage is one of the most common damage resistances/immunities, so you trade one problem for another.
    • Water: Works underwater and has acid resistance. Unless you’re underwater or facing enemies which deal acid damage, earth is better.

    Summon Fey (3rd-level)TCoE

    If all you want is a pet that’s going to deal damage, look elsewhere. Summon Fey’s options are more unique and situational, and you’ll need to look for specific situations which make your fey effective before you bring it into play. That may make it difficult to capitalize on Summon Fey’s hour-long duration.

    The summoned spirit speaks Sylvan, allowing you to communicate with it more easily than some other summons. This helps if you need to use your summoned creature as a scout or a lookout.

    To use Summon Fey to its full effects, you’ll need to master Fey Step. The fun part of the spell only works after your fey teleports, so don’t expect to leave them standing still and waving their sword about.

    Because the summoned fey relies on attacking with a short sword, you may be able to improve its attacks by providing it with a better weapon. An adamantine short sword or a magical short sword will help address damage resistances, and may also improve your fey’s attacks in other ways depending on the weapon. Your DM may allow your fey to use other weapons, but since other proficiencies aren’t listed your DM may decide that your fey is only proficient with short swords.

    • Fuming: The Advantage effect only applies to one attack. That makes it difficult to justify upcasting the spell to get more attacks.
    • Mirthful: Charm resistance/immunity are common, but against creatures without those defenses you can gradually prevent every enemy in an encounter from being able to attack you and your summoned fey. However, the creatures break the effect if they take damage which can become a problem for your allies.

      The charm effect may be especially useful outside of combat. Targets aren’t aware that they’ve been charmed (like they are with spells like Friends), so your fey may be able to dance around gradually charm numerous creatures in social situations. However, just as the target isn’t aware that they’re charmed, neither are you.

    • Tricksy: You could use the darkness effect to protect yourself, but unless you can see in magical darkness that’s often as much a problem for you as it is for your enemies. You can use it to force enemies to move or to protect allies who need a turn to cast buffs or healing spells. You may be able to block line of sight partially, but it’s pretty easy to see around a single 5-foot square.

    Summon Fiend (6th-level)TCoE

    The highest-level option in the Summon Creature Spells category. Fiends have good AC at 12+, good hit points at +15 per extra spell level, and magic resistance so they’re better at saving throws than other summoned creatures from the same category of spells. Unfortunately, their attacks and offensive abilities are unremarkable.

    • Demon: A climb speed, necrotic damage, and it explodes when it dies. Neat, but there are plenty of better options on other spells if you need a better melee monsters.
    • Devil: A very solid ranged attacked with both flight and the ability to see in magical darkness. If you can’t see in magical darkness, you can command this thing to lead you through it safely or to deal with whatever is causing it. Unfortunately, its attacks are fire damage and fire is one of the most common resistances/immunities in the game.
    • Yugoloth: Teleporting this frequently usually doesn’t help much. You may be able to chain the teleports to get your summon into melee with a distant, weak enemy like a wizard, but those situations are rare. Most of the time you’ll teleport your yugoloth into place then leave it there.

    Summon Shadowspawn (3rd-level)TCoE

    Shadowspan share resistance to necrotic damage and immunity to fear, making them effective at standing up to undead. Their attacks deal cold damage, which is great for getting around resistance to weapon damage types, but undead also commonly have resistance to cold damage so shadowspawn aren’t a perfect solution to every encounter with undead. In general, the shadowspawn is a fine combatant with some interesting tactical options.

    Unfortunately for Summon Shadowspan, it’s the same spell level as Summon Undead, it’s on the same spell lists, and Summon Undead has better creatures.

    • Fear: An ambush predator with little reason to hide on any ongoing basis. Your shadowspan could repeatedly hide and attack, but that doesn’t get them much and letting your summoned creature draw attacks instead of your allies is arguably the best part of summoning creatures.
    • Fury: This capitalizes on the Shadowspawn’s once per day Dreadful Scream ability. Used in conjunction that’s very powerful. However, that will get you through one encounter and then you have a shadowspawn for 59 minutes with no built-in way to scare your enemies. If you use this, expect to invest in other spells that also frighten creatures. If you can make fear work reliably, Fury can become a terrifyingly effective combat option.
    • Despair: There is no save on this. 30 ft. is pretty normal for speed, so for many creatures this is a huge debuff. Your shadowspawn notably has 40 ft. speed, so they’re easily capable of following an enemy around even if the enemy dashes or has high speed. A creature would need a base speed of more than 60 ft. to outrun your shadowspan, and even then if they’re wasting their time running from your summoned creature they’re not spending that time killing you.

    Summon Undead (3rd-level)TCoE

    All of the options are good in most combat encounters. With a good lists of immunities, great offensive options, and powerful crowd control options, this is an easy go-to summon option.

    Summon undead is notably the only Necromancy spell in the Summon Creature Spells category. If you’ve been waiting to play a necromancer until you could summon undead pets into battle, that day has finally come.

    • Ghostly: Flight, better speed than the other undead options, and its attacks make the target Frightened. The ghostly undead can move through walls and such, but since it works based on verbal commands issued every round, it’s difficult to send it through walls to scout or surprise your enemies.
    • Putrid: The poison effect is excellent, and since it uses your spell save DC you can summon a putrid undead with a low-level spell slot and get the same effect out of it (while the undead survives). The Putrid Undead’s claws can paralyze foes, but that requires failing a Constitution save, getting hit with an attack, then failing a second Constitution save. Constitution saves tend to be high, unfortunately, so that’s hard to count on.
    • Skeletal: When I think “skeletal undead” I think skeletons, not necrotic lasers. But at 150 ft. range, I’m not going to complain. This thing is basically a pet warlock spamming Eldritch Blast every turn. Sure, necrotic damage isn’t quite as good as force damage, but it’s pretty close. There’s very little complexity here, so if you want anything except ranged damage you’re not going to get it here.

    Other Summoning Spells

    Each of the spells in this category is unique. With some exception, no two of these spells work the same way so it’s difficult to offer broad guidance for them as a category. When you cast any of these spells, expect to put some thought into them rather than pulling them out in combat and hoping things work out.

    Find Familiar (1st level)PHB

    A staple for wizards, but honestly just a great spell all around. Your choices of familiar are extremely limited, unfortunately.

    The best option without question is the owl. It’s sneaky, has darkvision, can fly, and has flyby. This makes it an excellent scout, but it also lets you send your familiar into combat to use the Help option in order to help you and your allies with your attacks. Thanks to flyby, your owl can fly in and out of reach with minimal risk, allowing it to repeat this trick until your DM gets annoyed enough to shoot your familiar.

    Find Greater Steed (4th level)PHB

    Find Steed gave the Paladin access to the only mount option in the core rules that stayed viable once the warhorse stops being durable enough to take on adventures. However, once flight becomes common Find Steed becomes less useful, and Find Steed only solves the durability issue by making your mount easily replaceable. Find Greater Steed addresses both problems by allowing access to flight and by giving you stronger creatures with larger pools of hit points.

    Find Greater Steed also introduces options which are already Intelligent and which have an alignment. Weirdly, you still get to make your mount a celestial, fey, or fiend. This doesn’t explicitly change your mount’s alignment, so you can have a chaotic-good fiend pegasus. I think that’s an oversight in the rules text, so make sure that you discuss it with your DM before you find yourself arguing morality and philosophy between your chaotic-evil oathbreaker paladin and your chaotic-good fiendish mount or our lawful-good vengeance paladin and your chaotic-evil celestial peryton.

    Many of the Find Greater Steed options have good attacks, and at CR 2 they’re more dangerous than the options provided by Find Steed. But keep in mind that it’s a mount first, and by the time you get this a CR 2 is not going to win fights for you by attacking. However, if you’re not riding your mount for some reason they’ll still be able to attack and defend themselves, and in some situations you might even prefer to fight alongside them rather than while riding them.

    While there are adequate options available, there’s a ton of room to expand this list. Hippogriffs (even though they’re basically worse griffons), nightmares (likely with Confer Fire Resistance and Ethereal Stride removed), and a number of other interesting creatures could be added to diversify the options. Sadly, we’re not likely to see that from WotC so if you want something more unique talk to your DM about what another suitable creature of CR 2 or lower.

    If you do plan to explore mounted combat, see my Practical Guide to Mounted Combat. For information on Find Steed, see below.

    • Dire Wolf: Large size, 50 ft. speed, keen hearing and smell, pack tactics, and its attacks can knock targets prone if they fail a Strength save. The best non-flying option in terms of attacks, but Pack Tactics and the trip effect aren’t good enough to give up flight.
    • Griffon: Large size, 30 ft. speed, 80 ft. flight, Darkvision, Keen Sight. Basically the generic flying mount option. Nothing complicated, but it works everywhere (except underwater) for any player.
    • Pegasus: Large size, 60 ft. speed, 90 ft. flight, three saving throw proficinecies, and it’s already Intelligent and understands (but can’t speak) several languages so it can communicate with creatures other than you in a limited fashion. Chaotic-good alignment.

      As the only mount option with any saving throw proficiencies and the mount with the best speed both in the air and on the ground, the Pegasus is the go-to option.

    • Peryton: Medium size, 60 ft. fly speed, resistance to nonmagical weapon damage types, flyby, keen sight and smell. It’s already Intelligent and understands (but can’t speak) several languages so it can communicate with creatures other than you in a limited fashion. Flyby is the biggest selling point, allowing you to perform flying hit-and-run attacks. Chaotic-evil alignment.

      Resistance to non-magic weapon damage types is extremely useful if you don’t have the Mounted Combatant feat. Even with a larger pool of hit points than the Warhorse, your mount is still frail compared to you and your party members. The Mounted Combatant feat makes that less important since you can redirect attacks toward yourself.

      The Peryton’s biggest function is hit-and-run attacks, with or without you riding it. Use Flyby to keep your peryton out of reach as much as possible, and if you’re not riding it be sure to use Dive Attack.

    • Rhinoceros: Large size, 40 ft. speed, and its charge ability knocks targets prone if they fail a Strength save. Somehow the least durable option and also tied with the Sabre-Toothed Tiger as the slowest.
    • Sabre-Toothed Tiger: Large size, 40 ft. speed, keen smell, and its pounce ability knocks targets prone if they fail a Strength save. Not quite as good at knocking creatures prone as the Rhinoceros, but the extra durability may be worth the trade.

    Find Steed (2nd level)PHB

    A paladin exclusive, Find Steed offers a way to get an intelligent mount for any character who might enjoy riding one. You don’t necessarily need to ride your mount into combat, but having a (mildly) intelligent creature with which you can communicate telepathically from a mile away is really nice when your legs get tired and you need to call Uber, your magical pony.

    If you’re building for mounted combat, this is only slightly better than just buying a trained animal. The telepathy and intelligence are nice, but your steed is no more durable than a mundane animal so they’re still completely vulnerable to even tiny amounts of damage. The most durable steed option is the warhorse at just 19 hit points, so by the time you can cast this a typical fireball can take your warhorse from full hp to 0 on a roll well below average damage. Even with the Mounted Combatant feat, it doesn’t take much to kill your mount. Expect to recast Find Steed on a regular basis and hope that Aura of Protection is enough to let your mount succeed on a Dexterity saving throw once in a while.

    If you do plan to explore mounted combat, see my Practical Guide to Mounted Combat. For information on Find Greater Steed, see above.

    • Camel: Literally just a worse warhorse. None of the camel’s real-world abilities to survive in arid environments made it into the stat block.
    • Elk: Similar in many ways to the Warhorse, the Elk trades some of the Warhorse’s speed and hit points for a better charge option.
    • Mastiff: The go-to option for small riders, the Mastiff has the same speed as the pony but with better senses and attacks.
    • Pony: Slightly better hp and Strength than the Mastiff, but that’s not enough to make it the better choice.
    • Warhorse: The go-to option for medium riders, at 60 ft. speed the warhorse will double the speed of most humanoids. On top of that, it has excellent attacks include Trampling Charge.

    Infernal Calling (5th level)XGtE

    Infernal Calling is has a 1-minute casting time, and at a glance resembles the spells in the Conjure Creature Spells category. However, it has several key differences. You do not control the creature: you need to convince it to do what you want with a Charisma check unless you can control it by other means like the spell Planar Binding. If you lose Concentration or choose to end the spell, the devil does not disappear: it gets 3d6 minutes to do what it pleases. You can summon creatures one CR above the spell level that you use, or possibly two if you have a specific devil’s talisman and summon that devil (finding such a talisman is far beyond the scope of this article).

    Fortunately, you do get to choose the type of devil which helps a great deal. This allows you to select a devil with a low Insight bonus, increasing your chances of commanding it successfully. Your devil will still try to convine you to make a pact with it, but you can basically ignore it. Let it pitch you their warlock power pyramid scheme or whatever, order them to kill stuff or whatever else you need, and hope that you come out on top.

    Perhaps the most limiting part of this spell is who can cast it. Warlock get it on their spell list, but can’t cast it past 5th level. Wizards also get it, but won’t have the Charisma to make the Charisma checks to command the creatures reliably. The spell itself is really good, but no one is good at casting it. Your best bet is a bard who learned Infernal Caling using Magical Secrets. The Bard will have high Charisma, Jack of All Trades, and Cutting Words, all of which will ease the Charisma checks.

    Upcasting Infernal Calling allows you to summon higher-CR creatures.

    The table below omits setting-specific creatures, creatures specific to adventures, and creatures below CR 6.

    Spell LvlCRCreature Name
    • White Abishai: Insight bonus: +1. A very simple combat monster, the White Abishai is basically just a ball of attacks. Reckless and Magic Weapons make it great at bypassing resistances to non-magic weapon damage types, which makes it a reliable combat summon, and Vicious Reprisal allows it to further capitalize on Reckless to deal a lot of damage in a hurry. If you can summon this, command it to kill your enemies, and then set it loose, that will probably be enough to justify the spell slot.
    6 (5 with talisman)7
    • Black Abishai: Insight bonus: +3. Magical darkness abuse in one creature, and it can move the magical darkness effect. Good, but the Insight Bonus is a problem.
    7 (6 with talisman)8
    • Chain Devil: Insight bonus: +0. If you have four chains handy, the Chain Devil is a great crowd control option. The Chain Devil’s attacks don’t do a ton of damage, but they grapple and restrain targets, so between six attacks a single chain devil can restrain several creatures, putting your party at a huge advantage.
    8 (7 with talisman)9
    • Bone Devil: Insight bonus: +6. Only notable for the poison on its tail, and even that isn’t great. With a +6 Insight bonuus there’s no reason to consider the Bone Devil a good option.
    9 (8 with talisman)10
    • Orthon: Insight bonus: +2. Defined by its crossbow, the Orthon is primarily a ranged attacker with some really great crowd control effects. Even if it gets pulled into melee, the poison on its dagger is very powerful, though the Constitution save to resist is may be a problem for you since Constitution saves tend to be high.
    9 (only with talisman)11
    • Horned Devil: Insight bonus: +3. The Infernal Wound inflicted by the Horned Devil’s tail does an impressive amount of ongoing damage which stacks with itself.

    Planar Ally (6th level)PHB

    This spell’s description is intentionally vague and open-ended, which makes me nervous. If you cast this, expect to spend some time negotiating with an outsider over what service you need and how they’ll be compensated. The suggested prices for service are very high, so don’t use this on a regular basis.

    Planar Binding (5th level)PHB

    This is not a spell for the casual player. This is a complicated, dangerous, unpredictable mechanical roulette wheel. If it works, you can get a powerful ally for a duration long enough to complete an adventure or two. If it doesn’t work, you’ve wasted 1,000gp. Forewarned is forearmed. Learn the spell very carefully before you cast it.

    Planar Binding in appealing spelling on top of your other summoning spells which allows you to extend the duration of your summoning spells from one hour to as much as a year and a day. On top of that, it gives you more control over the summoned creature, allowing you better control over creatures like those summoned with Infernal Calling and Summon Greater Demon.

    However, Planar Binding full of mechanical traps which are easy to overlook and which make the spells extremely difficult to rely upon.

    The first challenge is picking a spell to use to summon your creature. This is more complex than you might think because you need to pick a spell where the creature remains even if you break Concentration. Once you start casting a spell with a casting time longer than 1 Action, you need to maintain Concentration on that spell, which forces you to break Concentration on anything else. This creates a huge rules problem because not one of the published summoning spells (except Gate and Planar Ally) will keep the creature around long enough to finish casting Planar Binding. At this point, RAW, Planar Binding is unusable most summoning spells. Hopefully your DM will bend the rules a little to make this workable, otherwise the only options are Conjure Elemental or Conjure Fey, and I can’t imagine that WotC intended for a spell this complex to be so incredibly limited.

    You might be able to use Planar Ally here, but it’s not clear if the creature will wait around while you cast Planar Binding so you may need to negotiate and pay it to willingly be subject to Planar Binding, and that seems so laughably unlikely that I don’t think any creature intellectually capable of negotiating would say “sure, I’ll accept payment for one hour of standing around to then be your magical slave for up to a year.”

    Once you pick a spell, you need to find a place to perform the casting. You’ll need to be somewhere safe for a long period of time (up to 2 hours most likely) without interruptions that could break concentration like inclement weather or enemies attacking you. Wherever you cast the spell also sets the location to which the summoned creature will return when they’ve completed their current orders, so make it somewhere easy for you to get to. A permanent base is an obvious choice, though not the only one.

    Next you need to keep the target in place for the full 1-hour casting time of Planar Binding. Typical combat summon spells will have 1-hour durations, so you need to start casting Planar Binding immediately after you finish summoning the creature. That leaves no time for you to issue commands to the creature, and there’s room to argue that the duration of the summon spell ends on the turn before you finish casting Planar Binding. Hopefully your DM will be lenient enough to let you issue one command (“stand still”) and let the durations like up enough because if your DM doesn’t allow that to happen Planar Binding is unusable with any summoning spell short of Gate unless you can extend the duration by some other means.

    Magic Circle is an important tool here. Creatures like demons and devils aren’t obligated to follow your orders if they’re summoned with Infernal Calling or Summon Greater Demon, and using Magic Circle with its effects reversed can keep the summoned creature inside for the duration. However, it too has a 1-hour duration and a one-minute casting time.

    Unless you have help, you’ll need to cast Magic Circle at 4th level or higher to increase the duration. You’ll also need to avoid summoning a creature which can teleport, and you’ll need a way to prevent the creature from attacking you while you cast Planar Binding. They’ll be at Disadvantage, but a full hour is 600 rounds and that’s plenty of time to shoot at you while you’re busy casting spells.

    Try to get some amount of cover without breaking line of sight, and stay at the maximum range of 60 feet to stay out of range of things like breath weapons and other short-range abilities. Invisibility’s 1-hour duration will keep you invisibile for most of the time you’ll be casting spells, though in your best-case scenario it will expire one minute before you finish Planar Binding, at which point you’ll need to rely on whatever other countermeasures are in place (cover, mage armor, Magic Circle, etc.). Your best bet is to have another ally handy who can refresh Invisibility for you, and to keep you and your ally behind a sturdy wall with an arrow slit or a small observation window through which you can maintain line of sight while benefiting from three-quarters cover.

    Once you have successfully set up countermeasures, summoned the creature, and cast Planar Binding, you need to get the creature to fail their saving throw. Your best bet is to summon a creature with poor Charisma saves (see my accompanying tables for summoning spells in this article, some of which specify the creature’s Charisma saves when it’s relevant to that spell), but if you can you should also look for ways to hamper the creature’s save, though you’ll need an ally to provide them unless you can do it yourself as a Bonus Action.

    Mind Sliver will apply a -1d4 penalty, as will the spell Bane. Bestow Curse can impose Disadvantage on the save, but since it’s permanent you may not want to go that route unless Planar Binding is going to make the summoning last long enough that you can comfortably cast Remove Curse without it being a problem. It’s hard to overstate how important it is to get this part of the spell right because if the creatures succeeds on their save you’ve spent a bunch of time and effort to set up and plan only to waste the 1,000gp material component.

    Did I mention the 1,000gp material component which the spell consumes? Yeah, that’s a thing. It’s there to keep players from abusing this. Cast at 5th level, Planar Binding extends your summon’s duration to 24 hours (from the end of casting Planar Binding, not from the end of casting Summon Whatever), so you’re spending 1,000gp to have an ornery pet for one day. That’s not worth the price. If you go to the trouble to use Planar Binding, I recommend using at least a 7th-level spell slot.

    At this point, you have your creature summoned and Planar Binding is in effect. Let’s discuss what happens and how things work at this stage.

    First, Concentration is gone. You broke Concentration when you started casting Planar Binding, so you’re free to go back to concentrating on other stuff like summoning other creatures.

    Second, the method to control your summoned creature is determined entirely by Planar Binding. Creatures will follow verbal orders, but if they’re hostile to you (and many will be when you break Concentration on the spell which summoned them), they’re going to be a pain about it. Think “malicious compliance”. The best way to handle it is to give specific but concise orders, but be concious of obvious loopholes. “Kill that creature as quickly as possible” might lead your summoned creature to collapse your house on top of the creature because it’s marginally faster than stabbing them repeatedly.

    Now that you’ve read all of that, compare the text it took me to clarify the exact workings of Planar Ally to the length of the text of the spell. That is how much complexity it buried here. Again: forewarned is forearmed.

    Summon Greater Demon (4th level)XGtE

    Summon Greater Demon is the high-level analog of Summon Lesser Demons, allowing you to summon a single high-CR demon. It is somehow both better and worse than Summon Lesser Demons. Unique among other spells, your summoned demon gets to make a Charisma save at the end of each of its turn to break free of your control. If it gets free, it remains for 1d6 rounds and is hostile to you.

    Fortunately, you do get to choose the type of demon which helps a great deal. This allows you to select a demon with low Charisma saves, increasing your chances of maintaining control. You also notably get to choose a demon of a CR one above the spell level that you use. Of course, the high-level summon options also have high Charisma saving throw bonuses so this benefit doesn’t matter as much as you might hope.

    Upcasting Summon Greater Demon allows you to summon higher-CR creatures.

    The table below omits setting-specific creatures, creatures specific to adventures, and creatures below CR 5.

    Spell LvlCRCreature Name
    • Barlgura: Charisma save bonus: -1. More lethal than the Tanarukk thanks to Reckless and an additional attack, plus it has blindsight. However, it can also turn itself invisible which can be a problem if you lose control of it. Fortunately, Reckless also makes it likely to die quickly so it typically won’t stick around very long.
    • Tanarukk: Charisma save bonus: -1. Not especially durable for a CR 5 creature, but you want the Tanarukk to get hit so that it can use Unbridled Fury. Considering the problems with Summon Greater Demon, a demon which deals damage quickly and dies quickly is a surprisingly good choice.
    • Chasme: Charisma save bonus: +0. The Chasme’s primary appeal is Drone, but a DC 12 Constitution save is unlikely to work with any sort of consistency. Try to drop the Chasme into a crowd of enemies and hope you get lucky. The Chasme may also be useful against enemies with Regeneration because reducing their hit point maximum prevents them from regaining those hit points.
    • Vrock: Charisma save bonus: -1. Flight and reasonably durability, but the Vrock’s attacks aren’t much better than lower-CR options like the Barlgura. The big appeal is Spores and Stunning Screech. Both have great effects, but the DCs aren’t great and they’re both on Constitution saves, which tend to be high.
    • Armanite: Charisma save bonus: +1. Simple but effective, the armanite is a fast ground-based combat monster that can also shoot a lightning bolt similar to the spell Lightning Bolt. Its attacks are treated as magic for overcoming damage resistance, which is a rarity among summoned creatures.
    • Draegloth: Charisma save bonus: +1. Darkness at will (which it can’t see through) and three atacks. Unless you specificaly want Darkness cast repeatedly, the Armanite is better.
    • Maurezhi: Charisma save bonus: +2. Basically a demon ghoul. The big appeal is the claws which can paralyze targets, but the save DC is low so it’s not a reliable benefit. The Maurezhi also has an unusually high Charisma saving throw bonus so it’s more likely than most other demons to break your control.
    • Hezrou: Charisma save bonus: +1. Durable with decent attacks, but Stench is the big selling point and the DC isn’t high enough to be reliable, and once creatures save successfully they’re immune for 24 hours.
    • Shoosuva: Charisma save bonus: -1. The tail stinger poisons targets and paralyzes them, and with a Charisma penalty the Shoosuva is relatively easy to keep under control.
    • Glabrezu: Charisma save bonus: +7. An excellent combatant with some great innate spellcasting options, but the +7 Charisma save bonus is a deal breaker.
    • Yochlol: Charisma save bonus: +6. The Yochlol won’t stick around long enough for any of its usualy trickiness to matter, and its Charisma save is too high to consider.

    Summon Lesser Demons (3rd level)XGtE

    Summon Lesser Demons falls somewhere between Conjure Creatures Spells and Summon Creatures Spells, but doesn’t follow the rules of either. You don’t get to choose a CR: the CR is determined at random. You don’t get to issue orders to the demons: they’re hostile toward you. Picking creatures is handled by the DM in the same way as Conjure Creatures Spells, but with a 1-Action casting time you can call this up in combat just like Summon Creature Spells.

    Since you’re going to cast this in combat (there is rarely a reason to do otherwise), and since you can’t control the demons, you’re casting the spell to add a third faction to any given encounter and hope that they’re more harmful to your enemies than to your friends.

    Upcasting Summon Lesser Demons allows you to summon additional creatures.

    CRCountCreature Name
    1/4 or Lower8
    • Abyssal Wretch: Basically a worse dretch, but it’s immune to charm and feat.
    • Dretch: Three attacks on multiattack and Fetid Cloud. Sure, their attack bonus is only +2 but if you need to break concentration or something throw 8 of these at your enemies and stand back. With 24 attacks total, you’re bound to hit at least a few times every turn. They won’t withstand much damage
    • Manes: The lowest form of demonkind, and it shows. Slow, weak attacks, and with an AC of 9 they’ll die almost immediately to weapon attacks.
    1/24xNone at this level, so if you roll this you just get fewer CR 1/4 creatures. Welcome to summoning demons.
    • Maw Demon: Basically a bite attack with legs.
    • Quasit: They can turn invisible, and that’s not a thing that you want from a summoned creature that’s hostile to you.
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    D&D 5th Edition

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    You Summon Fey spirits that take the form of Beasts and appear in unoccupied spaces that you can see within range. Choose one of the following options for what appears.

    • 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

    Each beast is also considered fey, and it disappears when it drops to 0 Hit Points or when the spell ends.

    The summoned creatures are friendly to you and your companions. Roll Initiative for the summoned creatures as a group, which has its own turns. 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. The DM has the creatures' Statistics.

    At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using certain higher-level Spell Slots, you choose one of the summoning options above, and more creatures appear - twice as many with a 5th-level slot, three times as many with a 7th-level slot, and four times as many with a 9th-level slot.

    Show Attribute List

    Higher Spell Slot Desc

    When you cast this spell using certain higher-level Spell Slots, you choose one of the summoning options above, and more creatures appear - twice as many with a 5th-level slot, three times as many with a 7th-level slot, and four times as many with a 9th-level slot.


    Unoccupied spaces that you can see within range

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    Calls upon wild beasts for the caster to control

    Original D&D

    Conjure Animals / Animal Summoning I

    The spell is introduced in Supplement I: Greyhawk as a cleric spell. Anti-clerics can also use it. Druids can use an identical spell called Animal Summoning I, at a lower level, introduced in Supplement 3: Eldritch Wizardry. Dragon Magazine #1 introduced this spell to the Illusionist spell list.

    • Spell Level 6 (cleric, anti-cleric, illusionist) or 4 (druid)
    • Duration 10 turns
    • Range 3"

    The caster conjures 1 large animal (elephant, rhino, hippo, etc.), 3 medium-sized animals (lions, tigers, bears, etc.), or six smaller animals (wolves, wild dogs, lynxes, etc.). The animals obey the caster.

    Animal Summoning II

    Introduced in Supplement 3: Eldritch Wizardry, for the druid.

    • Spell Level 5
    • Duration 20 turns
    • Range 6"

    The caster conjures 2 large animals (elephant, rhino, hippo, etc.), 6 medium-sized animals (lions, tigers, bears, etc.), or 12 smaller animals (wolves, wild dogs, lynxes, etc.). The animals obey the caster.

    Animal Summoning III

    Introduced in Supplement 3: Eldritch Wizardry, for the druid.

    • Spell Level 6
    • Duration 40 turns
    • Range 12"

    The caster conjures 4 large animals (elephant, rhino, hippo, etc.), 12 medium-sized animals (lions, tigers, bears, etc.), or 24 smaller animals (wolves, wild dogs, lynxes, etc.). The animals obey the caster.


    Conjure Animals

    Debuted in the Player's Handbook as a cleric spell.

    Level: 6 School: Conjuration/Summoning
    Components: V, S
    Range: 3" Casting Time: 9 segments
    Duration: 2 rounds/level Saving Throw: None
    Effect: 1 HD of conjured creatures per level

    The caster conjures a number of HD of animals equal to their level (every +1 on an HD counts as 1/4 of an HD). The animals obey the caster for the duration of the spell, fighting whatever target the caster designates.

    DM's Advice: When the caster describes which HD category they summon, consult the following table. The creature's actual HD cost is represented in the table as well, and counts toward the total.

    HD Category d100 Animal Type HD Cost
    1 01-15 Baboon 1.25
    16-45 Wild Dog 1.25
    46-55 Flightless Bird 0.50
    56-65 Jackal 0.50
    66-00 Giant Rat 0.50
    2 01-25 Badger 1.50
    26-35 Flightless Bird 2
    36-60 Herd Animal 2
    61-00 Wild Horse 2
    3 01-05 Axe Beak 3
    06-10 Giant Badger 3
    11-15 Warthog 3
    16-20 Camel 3
    21-30 Wild Cattle 2.50
    31-40 War Dog 2.50
    41-45 Flightless Bird 3
    46-55 Giant Goat 3.25
    56-65 Hyena 3
    66-75 Mountain Lion 3.25
    76-80 Giant Lynx 2.50
    81-85 Mule 3
    86-90 Stag 3
    91-95 Wolf 2.50
    96-00 Wolverine 3
    4 01-05 Ape 4.25
    06-15 Black Bear 3.75
    16-20 Giant Beaver 4
    21-30 Wild Boar 3.75
    31-40 Bull 4
    41-45 Giant Eagle 4
    46-50 Irish Deer 4
    51-55 Jaguar 4.25
    56-60 Leopard 3.50
    61-65 Giant Owl 4
    66-75 Giant Ram 4
    76-85 Giant Weasel 3.75
    86-00 Dire Wolf 3.75
    5 01-10 Carnivorous Ape 5
    11-25 Buffalo 5
    26-35 Giant Hyena 5
    36-50 Giant Otter 5
    51-70 Giant Skunk 5
    71-85 Giant Stag 5
    86-00 Giant Wolverine 5
    6 01-40 Brown Bear 6.25
    41-60 Lion 5.50
    61-80 Giant Porcupine 6
    81-00 Tiger 6.25
    7 01-65 Giant Bear 7
    66-00 Spotted Lion 6.50
    8 01-30 Cave Bear 7.50
    31-70 Hippopotamus 8
    71-00 Sabre-tooth Tiger 7.50
    9 ALL Rhinoceros 8.50
    10 01-60 Elephant 10
    61-00 Wooly Rhinoceros 10
     11 ALL Loxodont 11
    12 01-60 Mastodon 12
    61-00 Titanothere 12
    13 Any Land Mammoth 13
    Any Water Small Whale 13
    14 Any Land Baluchitherium 14
    Any Water Small Whale 14
    15+ Any Whale Up to 36

    Animal Summoning I

    Debuted in the Player's Handbook as a druid spell.

    Level: 4 School: Conjuration/Summoning
    Components: V, S, M (mistletoe)
    Range: 4"/level Casting Time: 6 segments
    Duration: Special Saving Throw: None
    Effect: Up to 8 animals of no more than 4 HD each

    The caster names a kind of animal they are seeking when they cast this spell. If such an animal is within the spell's range, the creatures come to the caster and follow the caster's direction for a single task (to fight alongside the caster, to help the caster complete a mission, to keep the druid safe, etc.). The caster can request up to three kinds of animals, until one responds to the summoning. The DM determines the probability of an animal type being within range. The spell can summon giant animals, but it cannot summon monsters such as gorgons, manticores, chimerae, dragons, etc.

    DM's Advice: If there is any chance for the animal to be found (ie, someone is not trying to locate a polar bear in the jungle or a mountain lion on the planes), you can use a straight percentile role to see if the animal is present. Common = 50%, Uncommon = 25%, Rare = 10%, Very Rare = 5%.

    Animals typically summonable by this spell include the below. Note that if the druid summons a creature of 4+ HD, the number summoned should be limited to 1d3.

    Apes Baboons Badgers
    Giant Badgers Black Bears Giant Beavers
    Wild Boars Warthogs Bulls
    Wild Camels Wild Cattle Crocodiles
    Wild Dogs Giant Eagles Giant Goats
    Herd Animals Wild Horses Hyenas
    Jackals Jaguars Leopards
    Giant Lizards Giant Lynx Giant Owls
    Giant Rams Giant Rats Poisonous Snakes
    Spitting Snakes Giant Weasel Wolves
    Dire Wolves Wolverines

    Animal Summoning II

    Debuted in the Player's Handbook as a druid spell.

    Level: 5 School: Conjuration/Summoning
    Components: V, S, M (mistletoe)
    Range: 6"/level Casting Time: 7 segments
    Duration: Special Saving Throw: None
    Effect: Up to 6 animals of no more than 8 HD each or up to 12 animals of no more than 4 HD each.

    The caster names a kind of animal they are seeking when they cast this spell. If such an animal is within the spell's range, the creatures come to the caster and follow the caster's direction for a single task (to fight alongside the caster, to help the caster complete a mission, to keep the druid safe, etc.). The caster can request up to three kinds of animals, until one responds to the summoning. The DM determines the probability of an animal type being within range. The spell can summon giant animals, but it cannot summon monsters such as gorgons, manticores, chimerae, dragons, etc.

    Animal Summoning III

    Debuted in the Player's Handbook as a druid spell.

    Level: 6 School: Conjuration/Summoning
    Components: V, S, M (mistletoe)
    Range: 8"/level Casting Time: 8 segments
    Duration: Special Saving Throw: None
    Effect: Up to 4 animals of no more than 16 HD each, up to 8 animals of no more than 8 HD each, or up to 16 animals of no more than 4 hit dice

    The caster names a kind of animal they are seeking when they cast this spell. If such an animal is within the spell's range, the creatures come to the caster and follow the caster's direction for a single task (to fight alongside the caster, to help the caster complete a mission, to keep the druid safe, etc.). The caster can request up to three kinds of animals, until one responds to the summoning. The DM determines the probability of an animal type being within range. The spell can summon giant animals, but it cannot summon monsters such as gorgons, manticores, chimerae, dragons, etc.


    Animals conjure



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