Finding the Path – Conjuration
“Do not take me for some conjurer of cheap tricks!”
Welcome once more to a look at the schools of magic in Pathfinder. This time, we’re looking at the school of Conjuration.
For clarity’s sake, I realized that last time I forgot to point out that these are looking at the ARCANE schools of magic, as in, those accessible to Wizards, Sorcerers and the like, NOT those who use divine magic. Some of the schools covered (like this weeks’) have overlaps in both, but I hope to address the divine side of things later. As before, I will stick to the spells that can be found within the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook.
What is the school of Conjuration exactly? Well, let’s take a look at the description for a Conjurer specialist:
The conjurer focuses on the study of summoning monsters and magic alike to bend to his will.
This would indicate someone who summons monsters from elsewhere or conjures magical manifestations of various sorts to where he is. Well, that doesn’t tell us much in this case, unlike with the abjurer from last week. But this time around, there are however PLENTY of sub-schools to look at, in fact, there are 5 of them. (Where Abjuration, by comparison, had none).
First up is Calling: These are defined as spells that summon a creature from elsewhere to do your bidding, but there is an important distinction from the Summoning sub-school: Creatures that are summoned from this Sub-school have their essence brought with them. This means that they can be killed without them reforming back on their home plane (as is the case for summoning spells). In effect, it is possible for you to summon a named creature (usually an enemy), kill that enemy and be relatively certain that he/she will not bother you again, barring any resurrection magics. That said, there are only 4 spells that even use this particular sub-school.
Next we have Creation: These are spells that manipulates matter, to create an object or creature. So you’re now making your own designs, rather than conjuring something that already exists. This allows you to protect yourself by surrounding yourself with a magical field, creating clouds or conjuring a Wall out of nowhere to land on your enemies
Thirdly is the sub-school of Healing. These are the spells that allow you to heal wounds, restore the dead back to life and create life. That is the domain of the gods however, and by extension divine casters, as opposed to the arcane casters that this series of articles is focusing on.
The fourth sub-school is Summoning, far and away the biggest sub-school within the Conjuration school itself. It does what it says on the tin, summons creatures from other places. However, unlike the Calling sub-school, even if these creatures are reduced to 0 or fewer hit points, they do not really die. Instead, they are returned to their home plane where they reform after 24 hours. During that period it can’t be summoned again. It is also worth noting the two restrictions that apply to summoned creatures: When they die, all spells that they have cast expire, and they cannot use their innate summoning abilities (so for example, a devil cannot keep summoning in more creatures, unlike one that has arrived after being called). It should also be noted that because Summoning spells have a duration, these spells can be dispelled, something which is often overlooked.
Finally, we have the Teleportation sub-school. The art of moving creatures or objects from one place to another, usually (but not always), far apart and in some cases, on different planes altogether. Unlike the Calling and Summoning sub-schools, the travel is instant from one place to another and does not have a duration. It, therefore, cannot be dispelled, but it is worth noting that the transportation is one-way only and that anything blocking travel through the Astral Plane (the teleportation highway if you will) will also stop teleportation from working.
And now we move on to the spells that stand out from the Conjuration school.
Mage Armor is likely to be one of the first spells that an arcane caster is likely to pick since it is one of the few ways that a wizard can increase their armor class, short of using magical items. It increases it by +4, the equivalent of wearing a Chain Shirt (and spending 100 gp), so not only is it useful, but it is a cheap alternative if your companions are out of gold. Granted, it only lasts an hour per level, but for a lot of encounters that is more than enough, especially if you have a way of scouting out the opponents first. It is also one of those spells that continue to be useful as you gain levels because even though creatures are increasingly likely to get their primary attack through on you, at least the secondary ones might miss.
Obscuring Mist is an overlooked spell for its sheer ability. It provides a 20% miss chance within 5 feet and 50% miss chance to anything further away. It is a huge advantage to have at any level, and the only real competitor for defensive purposes is invisibility. Some spells (and windy conditions) can disperse the mist, but these are all much higher level than Obscuring Mist itself. The downside, of course, is that you cannot target anyone either, when they’re more than 5 feet away, unless you have other senses than sight. Fog Cloud should be mentioned here as well, as it is very similar to Obscuring Mist, except that it cannot be dissipated by fire spells.
Summon Monster I through IX
The Summon Monster spells are the bread and butter of conjuration (and it is important to note that they are of the Summoning sub-school). They summon creatures that can perform all kinds of actions for you IF you can communicate with them. And that is the kicker for these spells, as you cannot guarantee that you can communicate with them, unless you plan it out ahead of time, and if that is the case, then they can only perform basic functions for you, like “Attack,” “Defend,” and the like, whereas if you can communicate with them, they can perform much more complicated things like “Go over there, pull that lever and when the door opens, rush through it and distract the most dangerous seeming foe there, while shouting ‘I AM YOUR DOOM!’” or anything that the creature is intelligent enough to understand. It is also worth noting that the higher level spells will allow you to summon creatures from the lower tiers, which simply increases the amount of creatures that you get, which is useful in certain situations.
For a final overview, it’s worth noting that some monsters in each Summon Monster spell are more powerful, with CR ranges as follows, giving a rough idea of what sort of challenge these summoned monsters would pose:
Summon Monster I CR 1/3 – 1/2
Summon Monster II CR 1/2 – 1
Summon Monster III CR 2
Summon Monster IV CR 3 – 4
Summon Monster V CR 5 – 6
Summon Monster VI CR 7 – 8
Summon Monster VII CR 9 – 10
Summon Monster VIII CR 11
Summon Monster IX CR 13 – 14
As you can see, at a certain point, a single Summon Monster spell is not much of a threat to a party on its own, but when you combine it with the caster who has the level to cast the spell, it can suddenly become a significant threat, especially if the caster can communicate with the summoned creature.
Web is another spell that deserves mention. It conjures a giant spiderweb, useful for filling a hall and it can trap creatures in it. But an overlooked fact is that it provides cover above 5 feet and total cover above 20 feet, which is often overlooked, but unlike Obscuring Mist and Fog Cloud, it does NOT impair vision, making it very useful for trapping creatures and then finishing them off at a distance. And of course, setting fire to it with someone in it, causes a bit more damage, but it is not enough to make a real difference.
The next standout is Black Tentacles, also known as the ranged grapple check (and other, less PG terms). It allows the caster to grapple opponents at a good distance (and without gaining the grappled condition). Crucially though, it’s CMB and CMDs are based on the caster’s own, meaning the caster’s base attack bonus, plus the strength bonus from the spell (+4) and a size bonus (+1). At the minimum level for a wizard to cast this (7th), that would mean that the CMB is +8 (+3 from base attack bonus, +4 strength and +1 size), which is a bit weak for that level, but it can affect everyone in a 20 feet radius, which has significant redeeming value, especially against weaker opponents.
This is the first of the teleportation sub-schools spells that you’ll get access to as an arcane caster. It allows you to travel 400 feet + 40 feet/level (meaning a minimum distance of 680 feet) in any direction, which is enough to take you out of any immediate danger (though you’d still be within range of certain ranged weapons, but at that point they would take a significant penalty to hit you). It is important to note that while casting the spell is a standard action, the spell does not allow you to do anything once you go through the portal, so if you have not used your move action that turn, it is lost. This spells also allows you to affect 1 other person per 3 caster levels, so when you first get it, you can move 3 creatures in total (Yourself and 2 more).
Minor Creation (and its bigger brother, Major Creation are among my own favorite spells, due to sheer versatility. It allows you to create 1 cubic foot of material per level (though this must be nonliving vegetable matter). The key here is how much you can make (at the level a wizard gets access to this spell he’d be level 7) and what you can make. You start with a minimum of 7 cubic feet, or the equivalent to 2 average grown men by density. (If it was water, it’d be roughly 435 pounds). Now you take that and make it into a vegetable matter, and here we come to the second point.
Vegetable matter is defined (in the Advanced Oxford Dictionary) as “A plant or part of a plant used as food” You could argue that it also counts as things that used to be plant, such as coal, but I’d advise any GM against allowing that interpretation. But that said, 7 cubic feet of wood could certainly be handy. If you now combine that with the feat called Reach Spell (from the Advanced Player’s Guide), you can now dump 7 cubic feet of wood or bananas or whatever vegetable matter you feel like, on an opponent. Of course, with Major Creation, you can make stone or even precious gems for bribing someone (though you’d probably best clear out quickly as they will dissipate after a while).
In effect, Dimension Door writ large, as you now travel hundreds of miles (at the minimum level you can travel 900), with the same creature limitations. Just be wary of trying to move to areas that are not well-known to you, as there are places you do not wish to end up (in the middle of the sea while trying to teleport to a ship comes to mind). Greater Teleport is similarly effective, though with no range limitations and no chance of error. While it seems like a transportation spell for you and your friends, it does have offensive purposes. Teleporting someone to a nearby airless planetoid springs to mind as a particularly nasty way to use it. Just be wary of needing that touch attack for it, but it is a remarkably good way to remove high hit point, but low Will save opponents from the battlefield (like some Giants for example).
Wall of Stone/Wall of Iron
These spells likely do not see much use in most games, but in some games they are tremendously effective, as the spells are very useful for creating buildings and the like. In games where rules for campaign building are included, they can speed up construction and save on build points tremendously. And it is always fun to trap someone in a Wall of Stone box or tip a Wall of Iron onto them.
The final spell that stands out (the remainder have obvious uses) is mostly for its visual effect. It is, in effect, a Portal Key from Harry Potter. It allows anyone knowing the command word to be instantly transported to your abode, wherever that may be. It is an excellent escape mechanism for a single creature as they only have to touch it and say the word, which removes some reliance on your spells in a situation where escape is required.
And this concludes our look into the school of Conjuration. Know of any good tricks to use, or have any stories where Conjuration saved the day? Let us know in the comments below.
Next time, we take a look at Divination.