What if all spells were summons?

What if we took all the old-school spells (such as those in OSE) and re-imagined them as summoning-type spells? Like…

Magic Missile: A huge hornet made of colorful electricity angrily stings a visible target within range.

Read Languages: A glowing lizard appears on your shoulder and translates any language, coded message, map, or other set of written instructions by whispering into your ear with a hissy voice.


I don’t know any examples in literature or movies of this being the case, but it feels so right to me. It just fits right into the fantasy films I loved when I was a kid (which now that I think about it, was distressingly impacted by that one Winnie-the-Pooh movie.)

Animate Dead: A swarm of insects rush into the body and puppet it from the inside.

Call Lightning: A cloud dragon gathers the sky into dark swirls and sends lightning down with a swipe of its tail.

Clairvoyance: A spectral owl perches on your shoulder and you see through its eyes.

Cure Serious Wounds: A glowing unicorn presses its horn to the target’s body, healing them.

Detect Evil: A dog barks at anything evil. Just a regular good boy.


Yes! These are excellent. I’ll wait to see if anyone else adds any and then I’ll continue!

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That’s sort of what World of Dungeons does. I’d love a long list of proscribed versions, though. These are great!

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The question makes me think of The Fantasy Trip: Wizard rules from 1978. One of the most important things a wizard can do in this system is to summon things like wolves and blank-faced warriors and giants to do their fighting for them (on a hex map). Then there were the illusion versions of those spells, which players could be killed by unless they disbelieved them (dispelled them from their minds, which is where the spell actually resided). These were fundamental spells with low-level versions.

Why shouldn’t D&D clones have lots of low-level summoning spells like this? Summon Goblin, for example.


Web: summons a demon spider or spider swarm that does the webbing.
Light: summons a glowing spectral entity
Shield: summons a swirling misty creature that swirls around the caster, warding off blows

I mean, any spell can be turned into this. Just add a face to the spell!

I think I did a blog post on this at some point or at least drafted the idea, can’t remember if I ever posted it…

I’ve always been a fan of summoning classes, like Necromancer in Diablo 2, but in TTRPG they’re often impractical, so I’ve been a fan of the idea of taking a very abstracted / rules-light approach to it and treating spells, skill/ability rolls, item effects, etc. as being summons.

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Please elaborate on this :slight_smile:

Oh you’re right! I forgot about WoD’s magic system being summoned spirits! These would totally work. Good call!

What inspired this thread was playing a Shadowrun-hack where one of the PCs was a street shaman, but I didn’t have a list of summonable spirits so I just used the old spell list on a whim, and it worked excellently!

Indeed! And such a simple tweak to the description and the spell becomes instantly more interesting, and easier to imagine misfires or spell catastrophes.

I think it would give a special flavor to magic if applied consistently. Magic-users are likely to feel less in control.

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I don’t remember it very clearly, but there was one animated movie where Christopher Robin ent missing and the gang went on a journey to find him. The part that stuck with me was when they entered a giant skull-shaped cave. Not any content directly, but the general tone.

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