Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Undead Anonymous Week Part III: Summoners

I say "a wizard that uses powerful magic to raise an army of minions", and you say...

Sorry folks, this week "necromancer" is the wrong answer.

Necromancers may have been the fad in role-playing games since 2nd edition, but nothing has the feel of a man dealing with powers beyond his comprehension like the summoner. The classic image of the robed madman holding a knife high in the air, moments from plunging it into the heart of the helpless virginal woman chained to the altar is synonymous with the idea of the steps necessary to summon a powerful being from a nefarious realm. It's a bit of a wonder why these types have fallen out of favor as villains. The necromancer may raise an army of zombies from a graveyard, but his victims are already dead.

Summoners as a class first appeared in 2nd edition AD&D as part of the change in the illusionist class. In 1st edition, the illusionist was a class to itself with it's own list of spells and abilities. 2nd edition revised the illusionist into a specialist version of the wizard (the class formerly known as magic-user) and with it came seven new subsets of the mage based on the other "schools" of magic. Necromancers got the hype due to the lich already existing in the books and the rise of the Ravenloft setting. But summoners still hold a great deal of power when played properly. The ability to instantly bring a creature before you, it's will bent to your own, and then to dismiss it when you are through with it is not something to be taken lightly.

As an opponent, summoners have soldiers, assassins, spies and bodyguards available literally at their fingertips. Since these forces don't need to be housed in any particular locale, the summoner can operate in secret more easily. A simple manor house with room for spellcasting rather than a large tower overlooking a graveyard. Summoners are also able to mix things up as far as what they send at their enemies. It could be goblins one day and elementals the next. Without a clear sign of a common origin, the PCs may never know that there is a single opponent pulling the strings behind the scenes. Just let the players think that everyone is after them, and let their paranoia do the dirty work for you.

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