I found an old story that I started writing about someone that wanted to play a summoner in D&D, inspired by Rydia from Final Fantasy 6. I never finished it because the mechanics of that D&D edition didn’t really allow for a summoner. So I thought it would be fun to take 5th edition and make a summoner, thinking that the Conjuration school for Wizards would make it easier.
I was wrong. Wizards only get 3 of the spells that summon creatures: conjure minor elemental, conjure elemental, and Mordenkainen’s Faithful Hound. Those are 4th and 5th level spells, meaning your wizard has to get to level 7 before they can cast one, once a day. L The other conjuration spells are for divine classes, not arcane. So apparently Rydia was a Druid, not a sorceress. I suppose that does explain the green hair.
So today, for all of you RPG Final Fantasy fans (or people that know Final Fantasy Fans that want to play RPGs), we are going to give some examples of how to hack D&D 5th edition to come up with a summoner type character. Hopefully you find at least one option useful.
Option 1: Flavor Text
Is there any real reason why a Fireball spell can’t be you conjuring a Final Fantasy Bomb to fly into a group and self-destruct? Or an Ice Storm spell be an Shiva laying down a powerful ice attack on an area? Or the Identify spell be a conjured Ramuh that actually does the inspecting and tells you what the item does? So long as you do not change the mechanics, a good DM should allow your spells to have a reasonable custom appearance.
Instant spells are great for this, as all that really happens is you deal damage. Concentration spells may pose a little more challenge as summoning would mean there is another target on the field to attack. But do monsters usually attack the Flaming Sphere or Lightning Storms? So long as the DM is able to handle the cosmetic change, this should not pose a problem.
This also means that you should really be able to shape the elementals you summon when your wizard gets that high in level, provided that it doesn’t change their height or reach or anything. Just call your earth elemental Titan or Golem, your fire elemental Ifrit, and so on. It may also be fun to roleplay your spell research as making contracts with the beings you summon and working out a schedule with them to explain why you only have certain spells prepared each day.
Don’t forget that most Summoners also have other spells in the games. Rydia had black magic spells to attack, and Yuna had white magic spells to heal and protect. In other words, not EVERY spell in your spell book needs to be flavored as a summon. Just the ones you tend to use the most.
Option 2: Custom Spells
The DM Guide gives us some good rules for making our own spells, and the spell list in the Players HB helps us understand the levels we are looking at. So making a custom set of arcane spells for a summoner does not really take as much work as you might think.
For example, conjuring a beast of CR 2 or lower is a 3rd level spell, and conjuring a fey creature of CR 6 or lower is a 7th level spell. So if you want a summoning spell for 1st level, it should probably be a small beast of CR ¼ or lower. It won’t do as much damage as a normal 1st level spell, but the creature is an extra target to take attacks and provide flanking bonuses, so it evens out.
I would recommend limiting your custom spells to specific creatures rather than broad types like the spell examples in the actual book. You will get more of a bond between summoner and creature this way, and it helps prevent custom spells from getting too powerful too quickly. And keep in mind that some creatures are more powerful than others. For example, the 7th level spell conjure celestial only gets you a CR4 or lower celestial. This is because celestials have more passive power than a giant rabbit and are much better solo fighters, so they bring more to the table.
Also, if a player wants to be a summoner wizard and specializes in conjuration then make it possible for them to learn other conjuration spells without multiclassing as a druid or cleric. These spells do not really treat on other class turfs like giving a wizard a healing spell would. If you need to, make a custom magical item like a summoning staff that they have to have in order to cast those spells. A quest to collect such an item makes the party feel more like they all worked for this PC goal.
Option 3: Custom Class
If you really want to sit down and create a summoner class for D&D, more power to you. Use a balance of the Wizard and Druid classes to figure out where everything goes. Have summoning be a class feature with limited spell casting, similar to Bards and Rangers, so that you can have more powerful/frequent summonings and still keep things balanced.
Your class paths could determing what sort of non-summoning spells you cast as well as what contracts are easier to obtain. For example, taking a High Conjurer path would give you some divine healing spells on your list and summons that simply vanish when they are defeated. An Arcane Summoner path could instead give you arcane attack spells and more powerful creatures that go wild for a couple of rounds instead of vanish when they are reduced to zero HP.
If you are going through all the trouble to make a custom class, consider what the implications are for your world. Are there other summoners? Are they part of a school of study or a religious order? What is involved in the contracts between summoners and the creatures they summon?
Option 4: Play a Different System
You know how Fate Core’s Bronze Rule lets you treat anything like a character? Or do you know that fans have made actual roleplaying games based on the Final Fantasy genre? Honestly, if you love the Final Fantasy setting so and want to play a summoner, you might consider a different system than 5th Edition D&D.
I know it is the most popular system right now, and the mechanics are a lot of fun to game with. But if you really want to play a specific character type, it might be easier to talk your friends into learning a new system. They could probably find a character type in that system that they also enjoy playing, and they would probably work well together in a system that is designed to handle that sort of thing.
Yes, I am probably going to flesh out some of these ideas for my own campaigns. I also want to start working on other FF mechanics, such as the magecite/esper system from my favorite FF game. And at some point, I want to design a campaign for Chrono Trigger that will have to be either Fate Core or its own custom system.
Do you have any video game RPG hacks that you would like to recommend or stories about characters that were inspired from characters of your past? We’d love to hear from you!