About two or three months ago one of my players decided to take on the role of the GM running the anniversary edition of Rise of the Runelords. As I came to Pathfinder fairly late I had no idea how “iconic” this series of modules are but I do realise that it was the first “Adventure Path” that was put out by Paizo in Golarian. For those of you as in the dark as I once was an “Adventure Path” is a series of six modules that take the players from 1st level through to about 18th level in some of them. The paths have a common storyline and theme building up a cohesive campaign that the players can get lost in and that the GM can run as written if they so wish or modify to suit their style of play. I had not been a true player in a role playing game (pen and paper style) for at least 10 years so it was with some trepidation that I gave up the controlling reins for one of the games a month so my mate could run the adventure path that I had just purchased.
There was a fair bit of lead in time for me to consider what type of character (hence the image from Digital Arts Online UK above on how to build a character) I was going to play and so I came at my choice from a GM perspective. I did not really understand how Barbarians and their rage worked in the game and there were plenty of Barbarians in my own Serpent Skull adventure path, so that was an option so I could learn the character. The other option I had on the table was a Summoner as when I read them I hated the idea of them. They seemed complicated and I really disliked the idea of a player having to run two characters at once and how would it work. So I spent a couple of weeks mulling over the style of character I would have.
In the end I decided that I needed to face my biggest prejudice, the Summoner. Were they that awful and unplayable? How did the Eidolon that is core to the class truly work? I decided that I would give it a go and if it was irritating at least we found out while I wasn’t the GM 🙂 So, if you are unfamiliar with Pathfinder the Summoner is a magician type class who specialises in summoning magics. At the core of the class is a bond that the magician shares with a spirit called an Eidolon from another plane of existence. The class is detailed in the Advanced Players Guide of the Pathfinder game with an additional style of Eidolon build (the Aquatic build) being found in Ultimate Magic sourcebook. Essentially the Eidolon takes on a general form (biped, quadruped, serpentine or aquatic) and then you are given a pool of “evolution” points for which you buy upgrades for the eidolon. In essence the summoner and Eidolon form almost a nice warrior/wizard pairing with each needing one another to be effective. The summoner has several other abilities (spells, ability to summon other creatures for shorter periods of time etc.) but the Eidolon to summoner relationship is the reason that anyone would use this class.
Following the same reasoning as to why I chose the summoner class I decided to choose my race based on a race that I did not truly understand why people played. I had just received the Advanced Race Guide full of goodness but I chose the humble Halfling for my summoner as they have always seemed to be a novelty and not a real choice for a character. From this point it was in short time that I had a full concept. I dreamt his appearance as a miniature Tom Baker Dr. Who down to the hat, multi-coloured scarf and long brown jacket. I did stop short at the jelly babies though! I rolled a set of stats and built the base character and gave him his name of Coltyn Burfoot. This then left me staring at the section on Eidolons.
As none of my players have played a summoner before and I live in a part of the world where the number of role-players is few it was up to me to decide what to do next. I looked over the builds and I had in my head that my Eidolon would serve as a bit of a bodyguard. I was not aware of the fact at this time that they are essentially the warrior to my wizard so I worked from the bodyguard idea. This discounted to me the quadruped and the aquatic, leaving me the biped and the serpentine forms. I also wanted the Eidolon to be accepted where I lived and in a way a loveable kind of thing that the kids of the town would enjoy playing with and the parents would look on with an air of uncertainty but acceptance. I could not see the serpentine form meeting this criteria and this left me with the biped. People trust the familiar. In short time I had built him up with his evolution pool to have claws, sharp pointy teeth and a hidden talent to intimidate people. His name came quickly, he would be Grellyk when Coltyn was mad but affectionately Grell at all other times. It was how he would look that had me a little flummoxed and it took me a while to come up with a solution.
The image to the right is actually taken from a site called the Giant in the Playground where they have a forum purporting to be the Summoner’s Handbook. I read it for the first time yesterday and have to say I wish I had read it before starting but I am not too far off the mark from what they had on their site anyway. Once Coltyn and Grell were designed I looked around for a character sheet on the web that was a bit tailored toward a summoner. I wish I could remember where I got the Eidolon sheet from but it came in from a site online and they had an individual sheet for a biped, quadruped and serpentine eidolon with a silhouette on each sheet that was symbolic of the type. The biped sheet had a sort of furry creature, shaggy like Sweetums out of the Muppets with a kind of bony spiked crown coming from it’s head. I decided to use this as a basis for his appearance as the Eidolon rules essentially say that the appearance of an Eidolon is always that of a fantastic magical creature and that they could not look exactly like something that already existed. So with this idea of a shaggy, tall bone crowned creature I expanded him out. He needed to be likeable by kids so his shaggy fur suddenly became long, rainbow coloured fur over a tough skin layer (he had improved natural armour) and the fur was long enough that it fell over his mouth and hands (thus hiding the exceptionally deadly claws and teeth). He was pretty well done!
Once made there was a short wait and we were lead into Sandpoint by the GM. Grell and Coltyn shared a glowing rune (which in reality the Japanese rune for secrets as Coltyn is a follower of Norgorber) and we flowed from one game to the next to last Tuesday night which was our fourth game of the Adventure Path. I don’t want to ruin plot points of the adventure path for others but I will say that we have had two epic battles so far. The first saving the town, the second against a cheeky little winged creature and last game perhaps not epic but fun was a crouched battle in the brambles. So after four games I think I am now a little more qualified to comment on the Coltyn and Grell summoner/Eidolon play style.
My verdict is that summoners, and their Eidolons are a very cool class! I loathed them when I read them but playing them is so much fun. Although I will say a few of things.
- Coltyn is the “main” PC. He was the one I spent a good deal of time thinking about and Grell came about as more an effort of playing with the mechanics
- Grell in play tends to be much more liked and remembered by the players. I had one of the players say to me just prior to the game last week “Ready for a game of Grell and friends?” It seems that all of the players have a real fondness for the slightly stupid, goofy looking, poorly treated Eidolon of Coltyn.
- Coltyn gets played as a little calculating and mean (he is true neutral with aspirations to tie all of his companions up with a web of secrets) while Grell is friendly though a little slow. He is the first to run to the aid of beleaguered players which is in fact a tactic that Coltyn uses with him.
- Reading point 2 and 3 above you need to develop separate personalities for them to be memorable. They make a great straight man/funny man or good cop/bad cop setup that you can play with.
- The summoner needs the Eidolon and vice versa. The summoner is a good caster with a focus on buffs to use for his Eidolon but does not have a huge number of spells to draw on or cast with so you need to keep an eye on the summoner/Eidolon balance.