DM Blog 8: Celestial Porpoise


Image from Lizardseraphim at Deviantart

In the recently published Episode 12 the players leveled up and Onas got to choose a new spell. We laboured over whether to include the process in the actual pod, as it’s not for everyone but decided that ten minutes every ten episodes should be OK, and some people may be interested. Onas is a sorcerer so he chooses spells to know and they become a permanent ability. The wizard class can choose their daily spells from any in their book. Bigger selection vs. instant casting + more per day. In the end he chose a now staple spell Summon Monster.

Summon Monster, which debuted as Monster Summoning in AD&D version 1, is one of the most well known spells now. The caster brings forth monsters to do their bidding and attack their enemies. As far as I can see, this spell, specifically from the game of D&D, is the entire basis for the game Magic The Gathering … whose creators Wizards of the Coast now own D&D. Which is kinda funny, because they famously got involved in a bitter legal battle, trying to block all the pre-existing derivative incarnations of D&D’s system, after they bought it. Doctor Freud says, projection.

The original spell started as a third level spell and summoned 2-8 Level One monsters of any kind from the Monster Manual. Fourth level spells included Monster Summoning 2, which brings forth Level Two monsters, and so on.

Before we started the pod, I was playing the older TSR versions a lot and hadn’t thought about this until Onas picked the spell. On the show we play 3.5 so we opened up the Players Handbook to confirm the details of Summon Monster 1. We got a surprise. The spell had been heavily re-imagined. Now … as the creators of MtG, you’d imagine that the Wizards owned and rewritten D&D 3.5 would have an awesome summon monster system, perhaps becoming a more prominent part of the spellcasting system. Nope.

I understand, a little. The new summon monster starts as a Level One spell and the things you summon are usually equal to or lower in power to the caster. But you don’t get spells from the next level until you are a fourth level sorcerer, so a first level spell will still be a go-to for a third level sorcerer. Keep that in mind when you see the options. Next, the creatures are now summoned from the other planes of existence, and finally they are available by alignment from a special list – with the Lawful/Good options being like spirit animals. So … when we looked at the list, the very limited options included:

Celestial Badger, Celestial Porpoise and Celestial Monkey.

Not only are they equivalent to what used to be called Level Zero, to my British sense of humor the phrase ‘Celestial Badger’ is inherently funny, especially when combined with the idea that you summon it to fight your enemies. Celestial Porpoise even more so, in fact, it sounds exactly like something Adam (who plays Onas) might put together in his stand-up act. So I guess it’s a match in that regard. Of course, the way to go is always to customize and play the game as you like. We decided to roll with it and you can find out how it worked out in an upcoming episode.

In other news, Vin Diesel played a demo game of D&D with the Critical Role team. Yes. It’s a cross promotion thing. Legendary Pictures own Geek & Sundry, who do Critical Role, and they also made Diesel’s new movie The Last Witchhunter. It’s way overbalanced to DM talking and not much gameplay, but it’s kinda cool. Also, the DM is a professional voice actor. Check it out here.


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