Book Review: Advanced Feats: The Summoner’s Circle by Sigfried Trent of Open Design

Though I played Dungeons & Dragons 3.5e for quite a while, I have to admit I never really got into the use of feats. I was always more interested in playing the character, not necessarily in taking advantage of all the bells and whistles of a system. That’s been true for as long as I can remember. However, I do appreciate the hard work of not only creating new feats but balancing these additional capabilities for
play in a game.

Advanced Feats: The Summoner’s Circle seems to strike a balance between creativity and playability, which is a tough feat in and of itself (though “Improved Game Balance” doesn’t seem to be in the list). Author Sigfried Trent and the rest of the gang at Open Design have done a good job of producing a thought-provoking and potentially usable supplement for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game from Paizo as well as good old 3.5e.

That said, even though I found a resource chock full of information, I was left more than a little confused. Let me focus on the good bits first.

The summoner in the title isn’t exactly what I’ve played in the past. With spells such as “Summon Monster” and “Summon Nature’s Ally”, wizards in Pathfinder and 3.5e have had the ability to “summon” critters to fight for them on a field of battle. Though the summoner here has the ability to summon critters and cast spells, they trade some of their flexibility for the ability to summon a unique critter to fight alongside them.

This unique critter is called an “eidolon” (Greek word for an “ideal” form) – a creature that can be as simple as a champion used to protect the character or as complex as the player wants. The example builds include some rather interesting eidolons. For “The Chess Master,” the eidolon is a “hulking, multi-armed brute with sizable physical defenses and excellent grappling ability.” For the “Mythic Rider,” it’s a vicious flying mount. And “The Master of Arms” has an eidolon that works as an intelligent, multi-armed bodyguard trained in the use of magical devices, shields, and weapons. The upshot is that the player can design just about anything for their eidolon.

Honestly, this trade by the wizard to gain a bodyguard they can count on is quite cool. Imagine if you were the geekiest kid in school and could instantly summon a bodyguard to beat up the bully stealing your lunch money! Not only can the wizard summon other things and cast spells, but they can call their genie out of the bottle to help them in a pinch.

Of course, that’s not all – the book goes on to describe 30 new feats. These range from feats like “Balanced Spellcaster” giving the character the ability to cast without Concentration checks while in motion (while riding a mount for instance) to being able to move walls created by spells (“Wall of Fire”, “Wall of Stone”, etc.) with “Shifting Wall” and reducing full-round spells to a standard action with “Fast Spell.” I also found “Vampiric Summoning” very interesting, offering the ability to summon a critter and then drain HP from it.

I’d worry if some of these feats were used in a game with novice roleplayers, but it says right in the title “Advanced Feats” so I’d hope that the GM and players were more experienced.

Layout-wise and art-wise, I think the book is great. The text is broken up with italics to emphasize titles, paragraphs are indented consistently section to section, feats are described succinctly each with its own description plus a summary table, and the commentary and boxes with GM-specific text provide additional details and considerations when adopting particular rules from the book. The consistent use of silhouettes throughout breaks up the text and adds a decorative touch without being distracting.

So that’s the good. Now let me get to the confusing parts.

Maybe it was a conscious decision by Trent to avoid describing what exactly an eidolon is or how it works, but I found it distracting because I had to reread the first page multiple times before it clicked for me. Once I figured out that an eidolon is simply a specialized creature that the summoner can summon with their Summoning spell-like ability – I figured it out. But I struggled with the first couple of pages before that happened.

Everything clicked after that, but another paragraph on that first page in the “Examining the Summoner” section really would have helped set the stage for the rest of the book.

If you’re looking for a cool new class to offer your players, I think the summoner and their eidolon described in Advanced Feats: The Summoner’s Circle can definitely spice things up a bit. My nits aside, this short (19 page) PDF provides some great new abilities to consider for starting characters. I’d have seriously considered playing this summoner in my last campaign where my wimpy druid wasn’t doing much to help in combat!

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5 comments to Book Review: Advanced Feats: The Summoner’s Circle by Sigfried Trent of Open Design

  • Thanks for the thoughtful review!

    I just wanted to clarify that the Summoner class comes from the Pathfinder Advanced Players guide so Summoner’s Circle doesn’t fully detail everything
    you need to know to make and play a summoner. Its more intended as additional material to expand on the class and as a guide to help understand and explore the class mechanics.

    The Advanced Players Guide is really a great book and was the inspiration for the Advanced Feats series.

    Good Gaming,

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