Sunday, January 26, 2014

Summoning Magic, Part 2: the Creeping Doom

After having looked into the nature of summoning magic (see Summoning Magic for more) it’s time that I start looking into the spells that use that form of magic and put the earlier theories into play.
Creeping Doom
Conjuration (Summoning)
Level: Drd 7
Components: V, S
Casting Time: 1 round
Range: Close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)/ 100 ft.; see text
Effect: One swarm of centipedes per two levels
Duration: 1 min./level
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: No

When you utter the spell of creeping doom, you call forth a mass of centipede swarms (one per two caster levels, to a maximum of ten swarms at 20th level), which need not appear adjacent to one another. You may summon the centipede swarms so that they share the area of other creatures. The swarms remain stationary, attacking any creatures in their area, unless you command the creeping doom to move (a standard action). As a standard action, you can command any number of the swarms to move toward any prey within 100 feet of you. You cannot command any swarm to move more than 100 feet away from you, and if you move more than 100 feet from any swarm, that swarm remains stationary, attacking any creatures in its area (but it can be commanded again if you move within 100 feet) . . . (Wizards of the Coast, 3.5 SRD, Spells C).
Initially it would appear that this spell represents the first real challenge to my understanding of summoning magic as we’re dealing not with a single entity, such as our previous example the Celestial Dog, but instead are dealing with a swarm representing hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals. Yet this problem quickly dissolves when we look at the way swarms are dealt with in the game.
“. . . Swarms are dense masses of Fine, Diminutive, or Tiny creatures that would not be particularly dangerous in small groups, but can be terrible foes when gathered in sufficient numbers. For game purposes a swarm is defined as a single creature with a space of 10 feet—gigantic hordes are actually composed of dozens of swarms in close proximity. A swarm has a single pool of Hit Dice and hit points, a single initiative modifier, a single speed, and a single Armor Class. It makes saving throws as a single creature.

Many different creatures can mass as swarms; bat swarms, centipede swarms, hellwasp swarms, locust swarms, rat swarms, and spider swarms are described here. The swarm’s type varies with the nature of the component creature (most are animals or vermin), but all swarms have the swarm subtype.

A swarm of Tiny creatures consists of 300 nonflying creatures or 1,000 flying creatures. A swarm of Diminutive creatures consists of 1,500 nonflying creatures or 5,000 flying creatures. A swarm of Fine creatures consists of 10,000 creatures, whether they are flying or not. Swarms of nonflying creatures include many more creatures than could normally fit in a 10-foot square based on their normal space, because creatures in a swarm are packed tightly together and generally crawl over each other and their prey when moving or attacking. Larger swarms are represented by multiples of single swarms. A large swarm is completely shapeable, though it usually remains contiguous . . .” (Wizards of the Coast, 3.5 SRD, Monsters S)
In terms of the game swarms count as singular individuals; however, this begs the question: if we have determined that the magic user has a connection to the summoned creature, then how does this work in relation to the swarm?

While it would be possible for the magic user to have a connection to each individual centipede in the swarm it isn’t palatable to my delicate sensibilities. Instead it is far more appealing to imagine that the magic user, in this case, has a connection with a minor nature spirit who is associated with the swarming mass of vermin. This would provide the magic-user with the singular connection denoted in the summoning magic description and would keep the ever-present deaths of the myriad of vermin associated with this spell from making it useless in short order (after all, how could you ever expect to keep using the spell when centipedes only live five or six years – if they’re lucky – and you can’t expect them to keep coming back to you when you’re calling on them ten years out from the first time you made the connection!).

The Nature Spirits

The idea of using a Nature Spirit has a certain appeal for me that tends to harken back to my affinity for Buddhism and the Ancient Greeks’ Polytheism, so it’s one that I would prefer to use. Yet I don’t want to just throw these spirits into the game like slavish servants bound to the magic user’s will – I want them to be meaningful for both the player and the spirit.

Now there are examples already published by Wizards of the Coast for creating pacts with spirits (most recently the Sorcerers from Fourth Edition and their Pact Magic) but I’d like to form this connection in a way that is more satisfying for me.

My natural inclination is to have the spirits drawn to the magic user through their exertion on reality, much as the moth is drawn to the flame. The magic user would naturally be able to draw on the spirit for the invocation of this spell but their actions would have an impact on the willingness of the spirit. Essentially your actions as a player would determine the ease with which you’re able to cast the spell. For example, if you kill someone who’s looking to murder you in your sleep, no problem; however, if you burn down a forest so that the trees don’t attempt to murder your paranoid and delusional magic user in his sleep, then you’re going to have to make an opposed check against the spirit to successfully cast the spell.

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