DnD 4e Artificer: How to effectivly use summons (artifices)

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Hey everyone, my friends and I just started playing DnD a few weeks ago. Our DM has played before, but this is his first time DMing. I decided to go with an Eladrin Artificer for my character, because I really like the whole idea behind being the one who actually knows how all these magic items in the game works. I build little robots all the time in real life, so this class was an obvious choice.

I've really run into one problem though, the rules for summoning in 4e make using my artifices effectively quite difficult. In my mind, I imagine myself fighting along side my faithful robotic companions, stopping evil hand in hand. Unfortunately, the rules make it so 1.) I can attack like normal, or 2.) I can twiddle my thumbs while my Obedient Servant attacks. This is because I have to spend my one standard action for one or the other. What ends up happening, is my friendly servant, Jarvis, just sits on the battlefield soaking up damage. The only time he ever attacks is when an opponent provokes and opportunity attack.

I've been able to think of a few uses for my friends.. ahem... summons though. I can use my move action to move them, and my minor action to tell them to pick stuff up while I am locked in combat. That's pretty cool, and fits with the whole idea of friendly robotic constructs I was going for. The problem is, as a daily power, I'd like them to serve more than as just garbage collectors.

Right now I use a standard action to attack through my servant. What if, I could spend a minor action to tell the servant to attack in a square adjacent to it the following round. And if the enemy moves, I'm out of luck. If my ally then occupies the square, well sorry Scott. My bad. :P

My DM is very new to this and so is hesitant to make any special house rules. So I'd like to know what you guys think about this proposed revision, or just suggestions in using summoned creatures in general.

We haven't gotten to the point were I can afford to enchant magic items yet, so I'm still looking forward to that discussion.
Artificer summons are, to put it gently, not very good. 

The two major summoning classes, the Wizard and the Druid, solve the action problem with Instinctive (Druid) or Intrinsic (Wizard) Effects on some of their summons. This means that, if you haven't commanded your summon during your turn, it will take an action of its own. This is often attacking the nearest enemy or moving next to one if there is no enemy within reach. 

If you're open to houserules, my advice would be to ask your DM to give your summons Intrinsic Effects. These should probably be as simple as: 

"If you haven’t given the summon any commands by the end of your turn, it attacks an enemy within range if it can. If it can't, it charges the nearest enemy. Otherwise, it moves its speed to a square closer to the nearest enemy."

This effectively gives you two attacks per round, which is quite powerful. On the other hand, summons are daily powers, so giving you an extra attack per round once a day is reasonable. 

If you don't want to houserule, you have to wait until level 10 so you can multiclass Wizard and take the Adept Power feat for a Wizard summon. Alternatively, you can play a hybrid Artificer|Wizard for earlier access to Wizard summons, or just refluff a Summoner Wizard as an Artificer.

Good gaming!
Check out the Fey Beast Tamer theme. They can be refluffed into something cool, like making the Blink Dog a teleportation cube. Grab Phantasmal Henchman E3.

Cry Havoc!  And let slip the hogs of war!

The problem with the Fey Beast Tamer, is that it still runs into the action problem. In order to act in unison, you must remain at least 20 squares away from your companion. Otherwies, it just sits around licking its paws while it watches you fight for you life. That doesn't sound like a vary faithfull companion if you ask me.

I might multiclass in that, though if my DM and I can agree on a good fix for that problem. I'm really not interested in all the wizard powers for this charecter, and being forced to take a feat just to swap one of my many artifices over seems a bit too expensive for me.

I like sevendj's idea for a house rule. Where the artifice will attack the nearest creature or move to a square closer to one. This also means, that if I don't watch what he's doing he might run off after that one lonesome archer who was slightly closer than the next cluster of enemies. So, i need to ocasionally give him more direct comands to point him in the right direction.

I'll suggest this to him during our next game session on Sunday.
The main reason summons in 4e work like this is balance. If you can summon something that effectively acts like a whole extra player character, then an encounter your DM has designed for a party of 5 (for example) can end up being too easy because you cast one spell and you're now a party of 6. Trying to design appropriately challenging encounters for a party that sometimes (but not always) had an extra member would be a pain, especially for a new DM, because the DM can't know when during the day you'll decide to use your summons.

One possible solution is to actually add an extra player character permanently. Build either a warforged slayer or a warforged knight (slayers and knights are very simple, so even a new player should be able to manage one alongside their regular character) and use that as your robot buddy. Your DM can now simply build all his encounters around the higher, but fixed, party size. (As a DM, I find larger parties are actually easier to build encounters for, as you are less constrained in what you can include.)

The other reason summons work as they do is to stop one player hogging twice as much 'screen time' as their fellows. This problem can be overcome (if your fellow players actually do see it as a problem) by sharing control of the warforged character between yourself and your fellow players. This also reduces the extra 'workload' on you, as you only have to manage the extra character for one or two turns per encounter, or one encounter per day.

"My flying carpet is full of elves."

If your DM dose house rule the ARTIFICER summons I think it would be fair that some of them be very specific and sometimes disadvantageous. The DRUID summoned wolf for instance has a first priority of attacking a prone creature, even if it is the DRUID himself or one of his allies. I think it would be fair and in character for your pet robots to have programing that might become a problem.
The sea looks at the stabillity of the mountian and sighs. The mountian watches the freedom of the sea and cries.

While this will fly in the face of basic 4e gospel - I would recommend that you talk with your DM and fellow players to see if they would agree to have your summons act w/o you're having to command them with your actions.

This flies in the face of action economy since it will make your character "stronger" - since you produce them, they are considered part of you.

HOWEVER there are rules for companion characters (DMG2)... What I suggest is that you have the Dm treat your summons like companion characters under your control. The fix is quite simple : simply figure out how powerful your summon is when compared to regular monsters. Assign it that amount of XP and the DM adds that amount of XP to the encounter.

The game will not "break" by your having an independant summon. For your DM, here is a method to easily conterbalance the impact of your summon : in essence, the DM picks one of the weaker monsters of an encounter, and adds one more of it. That's it. It's what I've been doing for years and it works fine.

MAKE SURE that you are ready for (both) your turns - having special considerations requires that you be especially active in facilitating a smooth game; and a big part of that is to not "holding up the line" as it were.

How I would handle it is in the following way : you don't select summons as dailies. Select other dailies as normal, which you can use as normal. You can chose a few constructs and have one of them behave as a companion character - I would probably allow for a number of different constructs equal to the number of different constructs you could summon if we were using the official rules (probably the number of daily attacks you have). If you wish to substitute a construct, you expend an encounter power. If you wish to have additional constructs, you can expend a daily to "spawn" one for the duration of the encounter. But that's just me.

I did magange to stumble upon a reference to Punishing Eye in Zathis' excelent Artificer Guide. My DM had a Dragon Insider account, and so was able to show me the White Lotus Academy issue (D374). It's quite a nice conjuration that doesn't suffer the same downside to being called a summon. I had a second look at the higher level summons, and Dancing Weapon and that flying crossbow have minor actions as attacks. Also Healing Figuine sounds incredably nice for boss battles, but I never want to be in a situation were we'll need that much healing.

I can re-work the description of those artifices into something fun, so I'll probly go for just a few decent summons and spend the rest towards leader abilities. Right now my charecter is 15 WIS, 15 CON, 20 INT, so I could go either way.