"Take him my slaves! Drag his soul back to your dark masters!"-Argyll Te'Shea, servant of Pelor and malconvoker
Quote from Complete Scoundrel
THE MALCONVOKER is a prestige class from Complete Scoundrel that specializes in Summon Monster spells and Planar Binding spells.
Alignment: Any non-evil.
Skills: Bluff 4 ranks, Knowledge (The planes) 4 ranks.
Languages: Celestial, Infernal
Feats: Augment Summoning, Spell Focus (Conjuration)
Special: Ability to cast Summon Monster III
The standard concept of the perpetual war between good and evil is cliched to some: a black-and-white vision of reality, suitable only for religious sermonizing. A few who understand the complexity of the battles that rage throughout the planes have taken up a dangerous path, entering into powerful pacts with the foulest abominations of the Lower Planes to turn evil against evil. These daring Summoners are Malconvokers, and they bargain with their lives.
- Complete Scoundrel
First – all Malconvokers should check out these threads:
3.5 summonable creatures thread - This thread breaks down Summon Monster spells, unlike this one, non-core summons are examined and critiqued.
The Summoner’s handbook : A general guide for Summoners of all types. Be adviced not all general summoning advice applies to Malconvokers.
I would like to aknowledge this thread:
Mastering the summoned monster – a comprehensive guide - You won't find much in this thread I haven't covered here. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
The Conjurer's Handbook- not a summoner's thread - but if you are entering Malconvoker through the Conjurer, this can give you a nice guide of spells avaible and feats to consider.
Second: Why should I play a Malconvoker?
Consider looking through your new splatbook. You see a PrC for casters that looses a caster level. Already you think "This better have some great class abilities.", you are ready to turn the page.
The first level ability has a +1 metamagic added to spells for free. You think "That's not enough to make this worthwhile" - if you weren't bored you would have already gone to the next PrC.
The fourth level ability effectively doubles one of your specialty feats. You now think "Still not enough."
The fifth level ability then adds +4 Metamagic to spells for free (thats +5 levels of metamagic for free). You read it again - yes - thats +5 metamagic levels to spells free.
You must have been reading the Malconvoker.
There are many advantages to playing a Summoner, but if you are willing to focus completely on summoning - nothing beats a Malconvoker. You may not have the best HP, BAB, AC, or be as good at the other spells - but when it comes to Summoning - you will be king.
Up to the time I looked at the Malconvoker I was of the opinion that you should never consider a PrC that reduces your spellcasting level. The Malconvoker does this at level 1.
However, level one of the Malconvoker gives an extend spell effect on all Summon Monster spells where you summon evil creatures as long as you beat their sense motive with a bluff (free action bluff)
The fourth level of the Malconvoker gives a +2 to damage on all attacks and +2 HP/HD to any evil creatures which were summoned with the first level ability.
The fifth level of Malconvoker adds an extra creature when you summon an evil creature. That's basically a free Twin Spell. If you use a Summon Monster to summon lesser level creatures, it works out closer to an empower spell (still very good).
If you are a Wizard/Cleric who pops off the occasional Summon Monster spell – this isn’t a worthy trade. If you are a Wizard/Cleric who specializes in Summon Monster spells – this is just too good to pass up.
Third: How many levels should I take?
The Malconvoker is a 9 level PrC. The first 5 levels will focus primarily on Summon Monster spells, the final 4 levels focus more on Planar Binding spells. It is a decent choice for full 9 level progression – but there are options.
The best ability the Malconvoker gets is Infernal Legion at level 5, this makes level 5 an ideal breaking point if you want to pick up some different PrC levels.
Level 6 gives you (IMO) the best Planar Binding ability with Deceitful Bargaining. This gives a decent break point with lots of Summon Monster specialization, and decent boost to Planar Binding.
Levels 7-9 are decent - nothing spectacular, but you aren't losing spellcasting levels either - so it's still solid.
Fourth: Which class should I qualify with?
Which class to choose for qualifying for the Malconvoker:
Red: Very strong choice
Blue: Good choice
Green: Fair choice
Cleric: Not a bad choice if you start with the Summoning domain. You will give up the wizard’s alternate class features in exchange for a better AC and BAB. Take this if Summoning isn’t your only focus. (Actually, one tactic that can be excellent for Cleric/Malconvokers is to use Twin Spell or Repeat Spell metamagic along with Divine Metamagic for extra conjurations. It is a feat hungry build - but by high levels this can add up to quite a few creatures - at least comparable with the Master Specialist 10 option for Conjurers - thank you Sigfried for the suggestion)
Also - there is an alternate class ability in the Planar Handbook for Clerics at level 4 that allows turning of summoned creatures (which could be handy for failed bluff rolls) at a penalty of -3 levs for turning undead. This seems to me like an easy choice.
Wizard: This is my favourite option. Especially when using the various alternate class features which can improve Summon Monster spells. Obviously, you should specialize in Conjurer. If your DM does not allow the Rapid Summoning alternate class feature from UA – go with Cleric or Archavist instead. It is that one option that makes the Wizard shine as a Malconvoker.
Wizard Class Variants to take/not to take:
Focused Specialist: I would not recommend this for most wizards going into high level campaigns, but since you will be memorizing at least 3 Summon Monster spells per level - this is actually a no-brainer. You do have to give up one more spell school (which hurts) - but alternate casting is the secondary purpose of your character.
Enhanced Summoning: You get Augment Summoning as a free feat at first level instead of Scribe Scroll. This is a no-brainer. If you continue Conjurer to level 5, your summons are harder to dispel (+2 caster level check). If you continue to level 10, your Augment Summoning bonuses improve to +6/+6. Feel free to jump ship early on. The first level ability is the best.
Rapid Summoning:This is a must have. Yes, you must sacrifice Immediate Magic (which hurts), but you have no choice. You are a summoner first and foremost. Standard action Summon Monster spells are what makes the Conjurer Summoner better than the Cleric summoner
Spontaneous Summoning:This is a bad option. No need for spontaneous summoning - just memorize it. Your spells lose a whole level by using this variant - definitely not worth it at any level.
Archivist:: This is a pretty strong entry choice. You will be able to cast both Summon Monster and Summon Nature's Ally (of course none of your Malconvoker abilities will extend to Summon Nature's ally - but your Summoning feats/items will). You will need to take one of the other methods to make your summoning rapid (Feats/magic items). This just means more options when summoning - and options are always good. Dark Knowledge has excellent Synergy with Summoned Creatures.
I think flavor-wise this is also a good option. A very nice mix with Malconvoker.
Wu Jen: Not a bad option. You are looking at less spells to cast then a specialist wizard, and there's no Rapid Spell variant, however, your DM might consider allowing Rapid Spell as an applicable spell secret since it's a 1 level metamagic enhancement. This would have to be houseruled though - because in the RAW it isn't offered.
The most attractive part of the Wu Jen would be the ability to reroll initiative rolls. That can be a big boost for a Summoner. (only if you are using Rapid Metamagic though)
Sorcerer: Can’t qualify until level 7, and since you will be casting the same spell most of the time – spontaneous casting is less of an advantage. (you will actually have less castings than a focused specialist conjurer as well). However, Bluff is a class skill, and CHA will be high – which is an advantage to Bluff and to Planar Binding spells. (Bonzai also points out that Sorcerers can get the summoning domain with a 5th level substitution level in CC. This gives all the spells of the domain and the +2 CL for Conjuration (Summoning) spells). The thing to think about with the sorcerer/wizard choice is this: Do I want the CHA, or the Rapid Summoning? My personal preference is for the standard action castings - but there is definitely a counter-argument to be had.
Other Options: Some other options exist in the Splatbooks (such as favoured soul) – none are particularly better suited than the above.
If you choose one of the non-conjurer options, or your DM does not allow Unearthed Arcana material (Rapid summoning variant in particular). Then take the Rapid spell feat, use Metamagic School Focus (Conjuration) to power it 3 times/day. At higher levels, Arcane Thesis can give you unlimited uses with SM IX and VIII for example.
What NOT to take
(Just because you "can" doesn't mean you "should")
Bard: Yep, the Bard can qualify by level 7. However, you won't get many summon spells per day, you will get lower level summon spells, and you will never get access to Summon Monster VII, VIII, or IX. Buffing abilities aside, this makes the Bard a sub-par summoner.
Beguiler/True Necromancer/Warmage etc: This applies to any arcane caster that does not have Summon Monster III on their casting list. The "trick" of course is to take Arcane Disciple feat with the Summoning Domain which will give access to SM III. Of course you won't get access to SM VI, VIII, or IX - and the rest you can only cast once per day. Always a terrible option.
Fifth: Should I go into another PrC?
What other PrC’s mesh nicely with Malconvoker?
The answer is any that boost Summon Monster/Conjuration/Planar binding.
Thaumaturgist(DMG): Extend spell metamagic on all Summon Monster spells for free is nice (but not huge at high levels)
Master Specialist(CM): The 4th level grants your caster level to HP of summoned creatures, level 10 allows you to quicken 3 standard action spells/day. If you have the Rapid Spell conjurer variant – that’s your Summon Monster spells
Paragnostic Apostle(CC): Can give all your summons Fast Healing
Fatespinner (CA): Have your summoned creature reroll its Sense Motive with "fickle finger of fate", or you could just reroll your Bluff with "resist fate"- or, if necessary, both. Works for opposed CHA rolls for Planar Binding spells too. Furthermore - you can add spin to your Bluff checks too. Break at level 4 for maximum synergy.
Archmage (DMG): Originally I didn't think so - then I thought of using every High Arcana to switch the Malconvoker's highest spell slots for Summon Monster SLA's. With 2 uses per day each - that's a whole lot more SM VIII's and IX's. Qualifying for the PrC is easy enough. A dip into MS gets you Skill Focus (Spellcraft), you already have Spell Focus (Conjuration)...
Sacred Exorcist (CD): Too easy to qualify for, irregardless of base class. A nice scaling unnamed bonus to various rolls against evil outsiders that includes BLUFF. First level gives you Turn Undead - allowing the non-clerics to take the various divine feats and such. Some other nice features too. Worthy for a 1 level dip - or a 10 level marathon swim.
Not as good as it sounds:
Nar Demonbinder (UE): Unfortunately, although the flavor of this class is perfect, the mechanics for spellcasting hurt you too badly to be worth it. You will give up 9th level spells completely, and you will get 1 casting of an 8th level spell. When you go back to your previous class - you are building on your spellcasting from before you took the PrC - making 15th level your best spellcaster progression. Ouch!
Ultimate Magus (CM): You can actually combine Ultimate Magus with Nar Demonbinder to make a half decent summoning build. I've actually charted out the spellcasting for this build - and although it holds its own - it isn't your best bet. If you are in love with the Ultimate Magus (many are) - it is do-able.
Alienist: You just removed all evil Summons from your Summon Monster list. Now you suck.
Also avoid any PrC’s that remove additional spellcasting levels (you’ve already lost one).
Sixth: What race should I be?
Rather than listing all the good races that could work – let me give you a few guidelines:
Good: Anything with bonus feats, bonuses to Int, bonuses to Cha, bonuses to Con
Bad: Anything with a level adjustment. Or minuses to the above stats without a bonus to another of the above stats.
(Reneshat points out that an illumian has up to two levels of "practiced spellcaster" type effect for free - so might save a feat later, also a +2 to CHA checks is good for Bluff checks for your deceptive summons ability..)
Seventh: What skills should I take?
Bluff: Obviously. Get enough to qualify for Malconvoker – then Max it out.
Languages: Infernal and Abyssal, plus Ignan, Terran, Auran, Aquan and Celestial. Languages are important for communicating with your summoned creatures. You will get Infernal and Celestial to qualify for Malconvoker - but I would suggest adding Abyssal and Terran as an absolute minimum. If you have a high INT build - get all the extraplanar languages.
Knowledges: The Planes and Arcana. A bit of knowledge in what you do.
Spellcraft: Good for any caster. Especially for you - it fortifies your Magic Circle for planar binding spells.
Concentration: Also good for any caster. If you don’t have the Wizard – rapid spell variant – then this is twice as important.
Eighth: What Feats should I take?
See the Summoning Handbook thread above. In addition:
Summon Elemental (CM): Any summoner should take this Reserve feat as soon as it's available (CM). This grants a standard action Elemental Summoning. The Elemental will be Small, Medium or Large depending on the level of the summoning spell you use to power it - and will last 1 round/level per level of the spell used to power. See my "Fun with Summon Elemental" rant at the beginning of the Summon Monster section.
Improved Initiative (PHB): is nice to have in conjunction with Rapid Summoning. It gives your boys a better chance to hit the enemy flat footed.
Practiced Spellcaster (CA): Get that spellcasting level you lost back
Cloudy Conjuration (CM): Nice ability - summon the creature beside the opponent and cover your opponent in sickening smoke for free. Keep in mind that you just granted them concealment (though the right summons ignore that).
Demon Mastery (FC I): Gives +1 CL for summoning demons and +2 on the CHA check on Planar Binding spells. By RAW the +2 should apply to all Planar Bindings whether they be demon or not - but best make sure your DM understands that before you take the feat. (Thanks to Sir Agenon for the suggestion and to Nanshork for pointing out the +2 bonus is good for any Planar Binding by RAW)
Fiendish Summoning Specialist (PH): Allows you to add one evil creature per level to your summon monster spells. It will require you to be of non-good alignment though (restricting you to the neutral alignments). (Planar Handbook) - (thanks to Roccu for this suggestion - very good!)
Item Familiar (UA): This feat is a variant from Unearthed Arcana. It allows you to "invest" 3 skill points into a magic item, in return the item grants a +1 unnamed bonus to any skill you choose (How about "Bluff"?). You can keep increasing the bonus up to your actual rank in the skill - so that can create a HUGE bluff score if you are willing to sacrifice your other skills. (Thanks Neomikelch for this suggestion)
Divine Metamagic (CD): If you are a Cleric - and combine this with Twin or Repeat spell - (or potentially both) you can get alot of summoned creatures onto the board. If your DM allows Nightsticks - this is easily as good as the other DMM/Nightstick abuses. Without nightsticks - it is still viable on a lesser level. An Archavist could qualify if Sacred Excorsist levels are taken.
Divine Accuracy (LM): Any Cleric or Malconvoker that has multiclassed with Sacred Excorcist can easily qualify for this very impressive feat that will allow you to exchange a turn attempt for re-rolls on missed attacks by you and your allies. Since summoned creatures sometimes have a decent miss chance - and you have multiples on the map - this becomes exceedingly good.
Chain Spell: Can't be used for summoning - but can be used for Buffs - an Archivist might consider chaining a Magic Fang spell for example.
Rapid Spell: (CD) If you don't have Rapid Summoning - this is the way to get Standard Action castings. You will need to combine it with DMM or Metamagic School or some other trick to be used without decreasing spell level though.
Metamagic School: (CM): Reduce the cost of Metamagic to conjuration spells by one three times/day. No minimum level increase - so works with Rapid Spell. However - also useful with extend at low levels.
Obtain Familiar: (CA): Pick up a snake for an easy +3 to bluff checks.
Ninth: Aren't Spirit Shamans and Druids better summoners?
The belief comes from the comparison of Summon Monster vs Summon Nature's Ally.
The two spell chains have different strengths:
Summon Natures Ally: Most offense and HP as soon as possible
Summon Monster: More defense (DR/resistances), more INT, more SLA creatures, more choices.
You will see many creatures on the Summon Nature's Ally list show up on the next level of Summon Monster (For example - the wolf appears on the Summon Natures Ally I list, but on the Summon Monster II list). The only difference is that the Fiendish/Celestial template is added.
This template adds to neither TO HIT or to DAMAGE which means that in combat - well - you do the math.
It does add to INT however (makes INT 0, 1 or 2 animals/vermin into INT 3 magical beasts). This means the creature can understand the summoner (by RAW they understand common)- allowing the summoner to issue direct commands; "Attack that guy", "Grapple", "Grab that weapon off the ground", or "Come defend me."
Animals from Summon Natures Ally can be directed with "Animal Handling", but this requires a skill check, doesn't occur until the next round, and has a limited list available. Even with Speak With Animals, it is likely the DM will restrict you to the normal actions an animal can be directed to do, though you should be able to avoid the skill check.
However, if you go to the higher level spells - this ceases to happen. In fact - you will see Summon Nature's Ally lists become smaller and smaller.
In either Eberron or FR (not greyhawk) there are also more feats available to enhance creatures summoned with Summon Natures Ally. Greenbound (FR) is especially potent at low levels - making animal summons much thougher than there Summon Monster counterparts.
At higher levels these feats become less of a factor. Greenbound only works with animals (there are less and less available at higher levels) and prevents some of the better buffs (such as Animal Growth).
Here's the basic truth behind Summoners: At low levels, Spirit Shamans and Druids are your best summoners. If you go Malconvoker though, at level 10 the Malconvoker build makes the better summoner.
My suggestion is that a Summon Monster specialist hold off on summoning until Summon Monster III is available, focusing more on their other spells. From levels 5-9, summoning will be good - but not great. At level 10, it will become great - and remain so for the rest of the campaign.
Of course with an Archivist you get the best of both worlds - as long as you can get the Summon Nature's Ally spells into your prayerbook.
So - if your campaign is going to level 9 and that's it - then you are better off focusing on Summon Nature's Ally - beyond that level - Summon Monster is where it's at.
As an added note - Fiendish creatures that previously had an INT score of 0 (vermin) recieve Feats and Skills. There is no set way to determine what these feats and skills should be. Ask your DM - they should probably choose those feats (if they let you pick - welcome to broken stinky cheese).
Tenth: What's so great about summoning anyways?
There are many reasons to play a malconvoker. First and foremost - maybe you like the flavor. I love the very idea of the Malconvoker - playing a dangerous game with dark forces of great power. But let's forget that - these are the Char Op boards. So in the context of that - this is why summoning (specifically with a Malconvoker) is great:
1. A Malconvoker can substitute for a party fighter-type: The casting should be a standard action - and then you have huge expendible blobs of HP blocking you and your precious caster allies from the baddies.
2. Malconvoker's are masters of Battefield control - Whether you want to Grapple, Bull Rush, Sunder, or Trip - there is a summoned monster that can do it. How's a grapple score of +52 sound to you? You can get this with a summoned monster - without any buffing at all. Oh yeah - and you get two of them.
3. A Malconvoker can substitute for the party scout: At mid to high levels - those low level Summon Monsters have to be good for something. You can summon creatures with excellent Hide/Move silently/Spot/Listen and search checks. Many also have tremorsense or blindsense for picking up invisible foes. Have them check stuff out for you - then report back. You've got great durations. Oh yeah - can your party scout glide through walls? You should have gotten the malconvoker to send an earth elemental through - have him come back and report.
4. A Malconvoker has spell versitility: Really you do. Check out the lists below for some of the Spell Like Abilities available to summoned monsters. Summon the one you need - and have it cast the spell for you. For example - how many Walls of Ice can a 14th level Conjurer cast? If you said 2/round for 15 rounds for a total of 30, you would be wrong (if that conjurer happens to be a Malconvoker)- because the Malconvoker does that with one SM VII (Bone Devilx2), and he has 3 memorized - so 90 would actually be the correct number.
Oh - wait - I forgot Deceptive Summons. Make that 180. That's without any magic item enhancements.
And the SLA's available are nearly endless - and since you don't have to pick which creature (S) you are summoning until you cast the spell - that's spell versitility.
5. A Malconvoker can check for traps: While the term "trapmonkey" is normally a metaphorical term - to you it's literal. Oh those poor celestial monkeys.
6. A Malconvoker saves the Cleric healing spells: There is no way to get an opponents attention off you than to grapple him with a summoned creature. The enemy attacks the creature - and at the end of the combat - if the creature is still alive - you dismiss it.
7. A Malconvoker can do great damage to opponents: Check out the Fiendish tiger. Now pretend you summon 2 with Fiendish legion at level 10. Buff them both up with Augment/Infernal fury. Summon them on either side of your opponent - and have them both charge - gaining 5 attacks each (one with flanking bonus). Work out the damage. Yeah - it's huge. Next round they'll keep attacking and the damage will keep coming.
8. Malconvokers are good against all opponents: If the opponent is a flyer - summon 2 Giant Wasps, if the opponent is Aquatic, summon 2 giant sharks, if the opponent is burrowing, summon 2 Dire Weasels, If the opponent is a spellcaster, summon high SR creatures, etc etc etc. The Summon Monster list is big at all levels. Lots to choose from for any occassion.
The Malconvoker’s abilities most strongly work to enhance these spells. Deceptive Summons at level 1, Infernal Fury at level 4, Infernal Legion at level 5, Resistance at level 7, and Safe Summoning at level 9.
Hint: When using Infernal Fury you can place both creatures anywhere in your range. Use them to flank your opponent and both full attack – with flanking bonuses. Or even better – have the critters on opposite sides of your opponent – but have one of them 10’ away. Have the one that is 10’ away charge (getting charge and flanking bonuses) and the other just attack (with flank).
Obviously you should take all 9. Always have many of these spells memorized – no spell is better for you than this one.
Because of the nature of the Malconvoker – evil creatures tend to be your best summon. After 5 levels in Malconvoker – Evil creatures will almost always be your best bet.
These are great spells I would suggest that a Malconvoker use even if they break from the class at level 5.
However, there are some major considerations you must make. Especially if you are a Conjurer/Malconvoker:
You must have access to Abjuration in order to use Planar Binding spells (For Magic Circle against evil)
Enchantment school is very helpful (multiple spells will help you in your opposed CHA check - some might help you avoid it altogether)
Necromancy school has similar bonuses to Enchantment (although less so)
So if you play a Specialist wizard or a Focused specialist wizard - never give up Abjuration or Enchantment. Necromancy is less important, but still helpful.