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D&D 5E I Calculated CRs for the Tasha Summon Stat Blocks

MonkeezOnFire

Adventurer
So I quite like the implementation of the new Summon spells from Tasha's Cauldron of Everything. Having a generic stat block makes things run easier in terms of player expectations and game prep. But with a lot of different spells I was curious as to how they compare against each other. So I took it upon myself to calculate CR for each stat block. But because the stat blocks are variable and scale with both spell level and the caster's proficiency bonus this turned out to be not so simple. So I created a Google spreadsheet available here.

A few things of note here:
a) Defensive CR is calculated only based on HP and AC and doesn't take any abilities into account. As such this rating should be taken with an appropriately large grain of salt when considering a summon that has resistances or abilities that can help reduce damage. EDIT: This is no longer true, I have now factored in these abilities into the calculation.
b) For offensive CR I made some assumptions with how often abilities that do damage trigger as noted. For example I assume that the star spawn aberrant spirit will be able to trigger it's whispering aura ability on one target per turn.
c) When calculating offensive CR I calculated it based on both a caster who is just at the level needed to cast spells of the spell level in question and a caster with a maxed out proficiency bonus and casting stat (since to hit bonus affects offensive CR).
d) I noted where a creature has primarily ranged attacks in the defensive CR notes. This is because if a creature can stay at range it's less likely to be targeted and thus can make up for a sub par defensive CR. This also means that the creature will not soak up hits meant for your party, which is a big boon to summon spells. This is doubly true when a creature has ranged attacks and can fly.

I have not yet really dug into the data but a few general observations:
-The earlier a spell is available the worse it typically scales. We see this sort of thing with damage spells all the time where generally a level 2 spell upcast to third level deals less damage than a spell that starts at 3rd level. However, this isn't always true and isn't quite as drastic as you might think at first. The shadow spirit keeps up with the fiend in CR when upcast. What you really are paying for when you are picking up one of the higher level spells are stronger additional abilities which aren't really reflected here and generally more versatile role choices within the spell.
-The stat blocks are heavily lopsided toward offense. In every single instance the offensive CR is higher than the defensive one. I'm not too familiar with calculating CR based on existing stat blocks so I can't really comment on if this is unusual. But for the purposes of these spells the monsters pack a punch due to all of them having multiattack.
-Spells that have multiple options within the stat block do a pretty good job of keeping those options in the same ball park. There is only one instance where the average CR of two options differs by more than 1 and that is because I think my assumption on the clay golem is quite unrealistic (will go into more detail below).

So which spell is the best?
Honestly, I think that the spells are relatively well balanced (within 5e's definition of "close enough" balance that is). That gives players the freedom to choose the ones they think are the most fun for them based on aesthetics or the extra abilities.

What is up with that Clay Golem?
So I made the wild assumption that the golem will get to use its berserk lashing reaction every turn which isn't necessarily realistic. First the summon must take damage. Second the golem then makes an attack against a random creature within melee range of it. The caster can make it work by positioning the golem with only enemies around it and then targeting it with aoe's to trigger the reaction. But in most cases I think smart enemies will start to avoid targeting the golem altogether to prevent the extra attacks. And that's not even going into the fact that it has a random chance to attack your allies.

But the golems certainly win the defense medal right?
On paper the constructs have the highest defensive CRs, but as I mentioned above this is not factoring in abilities, and resistances. In the majority of cases if a monster has a resistance here it resists a not too common type like psychic, radiant or necrotic. Poison is a little more common but also comes up. However, when we get around to the elemental spirit the earth elemental resists piercing and slashing which crop up more than any other. If you factor in that resistance in the majority of cases I'd argue that the earth elemental is the biggest tank. Summon elemental even has other options to resist even more damage types to cover even more cases.

This is just what I've managed to discover just by glancing through the results. If you take a look and have other insights please share them here. If you spot a mistake somewhere let me know and I can correct it.
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
A few things of note here:
a) Defensive CR is calculated only based on HP and AC and doesn't take any abilities into account. As such this rating should be taken with an appropriately large grain of salt when considering a summon that has resistances or abilities that can help reduce damage.
Worth noting, the DMG monster building guidelines do take resistances into account when determining defensive CR. Sort of. If a creature has a lot of resistances and/or resistance to very common damage types like bludgeoning/piercing/slashing, you treat its HP as twice as high for the purpose of determining defensive CR. There’s no hard and fast rule, but if it feels like it is likely to resist the damage of most of the attacks likely to target it, you double its effective HP.
 

MonkeezOnFire

Adventurer
Worth noting, the DMG monster building guidelines do take resistances into account when determining defensive CR. Sort of. If a creature has a lot of resistances and/or resistance to very common damage types like bludgeoning/piercing/slashing, you treat its HP as twice as high for the purpose of determining defensive CR. There’s no hard and fast rule, but if it feels like it is likely to resist the damage of most of the attacks likely to target it, you double its effective HP.
Ah, I don't create custom monsters much so it seems I got a bit ahead of myself. I followed the "Creating Quick Monster Stats" instructions on page 274 rather than the much more detailed steps a bit later. Regardless, I think the only creature this would apply to is the earth spirit elemental with its piercing and slashing resistances. Nothing else resists physical damage types.
 

Asisreo

Archdevil's Advocate
Ah, I don't create custom monsters much so it seems I got a bit ahead of myself. I followed the "Creating Quick Monster Stats" instructions on page 274 rather than the much more detailed steps a bit later. Regardless, I think the only creature this would apply to is the earth spirit elemental with its piercing and slashing resistances. Nothing else resists physical damage types.
So, you may have rechecked by now, but I want to clarify a few things about CR that you may have missed.

Even discrete features in a statblock are taken into account with CR. In the detailed Custom Monster process, there's a list of features. Some of these features change the "effective" of whatever they say. For instance, a Ghost has the Possession Action and therefore its "effective" HP is doubled, even though its actual HP remains the same. Likewise, a Wolf's Pact Tactics Feature increases their effective To-Hit by +1.

There's also flying, which increases the creature's effective AC by 2 if its expected to have less than a CR 10.

Some creatures can do AoE attacks. Apparently, they're considered as hitting 2 targets as they both fail their save. Attack Riders may also increase the creature's AC, like the restrain from Web.

A combat is assumed to last for 3 rounds. Therefore, if a monster has a variable attack pattern due to spells and such, take the average damage over 3 turns (as well as any regen features).

Finally, the amount of saving throws a creature is proficient in also affects CR. If the creature has 3-4 save proficiencies, their effective AC increases by 2. If its more than that, their effective CR increases by 4.
 
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MonkeezOnFire

Adventurer
It looks like I will have to go through the more detailed steps to more accurately calculate the CR. Most of the stat blocks don't have anything that will impact things too much so the changes will not be drastic but to get more accurate results it will have to be done. Will update once I get time to go through and do that.
 

MonkeezOnFire

Adventurer
Alright so adjustments have been made based on taking into account abilities as well as resistances and fly speeds. There are no saving throw proficiencies in the stat blocks so I didn't have to worry about those. Increases to effective stats used for CR calculations are in the notes section on the damage and defenses sheets. For many abilities there was direct version of it to use in the chart on page 280 to adjust the calculation by but for others I had to use a bit of subjective judgement.

For example the defender celestial spirit grants 1d10 temp hp to itself or another creature on a hit with it's weapon. I treated this as flat 5 hp regeneration for purposes of granting bonus effective hp. Temp hp can't stack meaning that the spirit will have to target allies with this ability, so I didn't scale it up as the spell level increases when the celestial makes more attacks.

The only monster I applied the effective hp multiplier to for resistances was the earth elemental as I feel that physical weapon damage types are by far the most prevalent damage type the party is to face. This gave the earth elemental quite the boost, especially at higher spell levels when there was more hp to multiply.

I left the clay golem damage calculation to include it's reaction attack as the guidelines indicate you should include reactions.

Other big winners from this pass were the devil fiend with both flying and magic resist. as well as the demon getting a large damage boost from it's death effect.
 
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squibbles

Explorer
I've skimmed several threads, reviews, etc. that mention the new summoning spells, mostly positively, and finally got around to reading all of the spells themselves.

...I don't get it.

Why on earth are there nine of them?

As you've calculated, they're all about the same CR when cast at equal spell level. I get that bit. But they also work VERY similarly--a couple are ranged, a couple are large, a couple can fly, damage types differ, each gets one combat ability that slightly differentiates it from the others. Sure.

But did I need 3 near-identical functioning summoning spells at 3rd AND 4th level? Am I missing something?

They could have made constructs big and smashy with lots of HP, one big slam attack, and a bunch of immunities, made aberations small and squishy but with a bunch of cool condition causing abilities, and made elementals super varied with a bunch of non-combat toolbox stuff. But the constructs are medium; At 4th level a construct has 40 HP and 1d8+8 damage, while an aberration has... 40 HP and 1d8+7 or 1d10+7 damage, with their attack bonuses and numbers of attacks scaling identically.

It's not bad having options, and there's nothing fundamentally wrong with the basic mechanics, but these spells seem like a whole lot of words for not a lot of content. Wouldn't one spell each for levels 2-6 have sufficed? Or even fewer?

Sorry if my diatribe is too far off topic, but it seemed better to reply here than to start a new thread.
 


Al2O3

Explorer
To expand:
Story or narrative. There might not be much mechanical difference between a summoned fiend, celestial or elemental, but it makes a lot of difference for the story if a character often calls on fiends to help or if they make use of elementals. Even the availability on spell lists makes a difference for describing what kind of character you can expect based on which class they are.

I haven't checked the levels of the spells to see if the above examples are equivalent in that regard, since the point is that flavour is the important distinction.
 

They could have made constructs big and smashy with lots of HP, one big slam attack, and a bunch of immunities, made aberations small and squishy but with a bunch of cool condition causing abilities, and made elementals super varied with a bunch of non-combat toolbox stuff. But the constructs are medium; At 4th level a construct has 40 HP and 1d8+8 damage, while an aberration has... 40 HP and 1d8+7 or 1d10+7 damage, with their attack bonuses and numbers of attacks scaling identically.

It's not bad having options, and there's nothing fundamentally wrong with the basic mechanics, but these spells seem like a whole lot of words for not a lot of content. Wouldn't one spell each for levels 2-6 have sufficed? Or even fewer?

Sorry if my diatribe is too far off topic, but it seemed better to reply here than to start a new thread.
This is true. A little bit more variety would have been nice. Large constructs with more hp and less AC and so on would have madethe tactical choice a bit more meaningful.
On the other hand, The extra abilites and resistances can make quite a bit of a difference in many situations. If you would have crapmped that all into a singe stat block, that would be too much.
Right now, every spell already contains about 3 options to chose from, which makes them quite versatile and balanced.

Actually, I really would like a similar stat block for polymorph and wild shape and so on. Fixed hp, with option to buff a friend or debuff the enemy. Making a choice between a large animal or a diminuative one. The calculations might be a bit different, but no more going through the MM to find the best (or worst) stat block, no more discussion about what your character might have reasonably seen. Just chose a form and go from there. Maybe the druid might just wildshape into one of the ranger´s pets or into the summon beast stat block...
The defensive polymorph could do so as well. The offensive one might need some more thoughts.
 

MonkeezOnFire

Adventurer
It's not bad having options, and there's nothing fundamentally wrong with the basic mechanics, but these spells seem like a whole lot of words for not a lot of content. Wouldn't one spell each for levels 2-6 have sufficed? Or even fewer?
Creating a spell for each level could be possible but I think the designers thought that would be too abstract. I recall that during the initial 5e playtests that they received negative feedback the first time they introduced the concept of replacing summon spells with generic stat blocks. People really wanted the 3e style of using the monster manual stat blocks so thats what they went with. The current iteration might be a bit of a compromise so as to not go too generic to avoid that kind of backlash.

And I really think the flavor argument is a strong one. If we were just given generic scaling stat blocks with a list of possible abilities to choose from then you could probably create some stretched creations lorewise that are mechanically powerful. This way they can create blocks that feel appropriate for each creature type and dish those out to classes as appropriate (though I think giving wizards summon fey is a bit of a headscratcher).
 

MonkeezOnFire

Adventurer
I have noticed what is probably a typo in the Summon Construct stat block. The HP calculation says "40 + 15 for each spell level above 3rd" even though the spell is 4th level. RAW this means that a 4th level summon construct has 55 hp. The spell is listed as 4th level in the start of chapter table, and in the aberrant sorcerer's extra spells list, so we can safely conclude that the spell is meant to be 4th level. All the other spells are formatted that the extra addition only applies for upcasting the spell. So I am working with the assumption that the text for hp is meant to say "40 + 15 for each spell level above 4th." If the designers clarify and say that constructs are supposed to start at 55 hp I will make the change.
 

squibbles

Explorer
But the flavor is bland, isn't it? Consider the summon undead and animate dead spells. They're the same level, they both create relatively long lasting undead minions. Animate dead has flavor in spades--to the point that people argue about whether using it makes you evil--but clunky and niche mechanics. Summon undead has some flavor but roughly the same mechanics as 8 other spells.

I guess it the halfway-ness of these spells that bothers me.

Make a mechanically cool spell with a lot of use. Cool, I like it.

Make a thematically cool spell, with at least some mechanical utility. Cool, I like it.

Make one mechanically cool spell and reskin it 9 times with slightly different quirks. Meh, I'm not impressed. It's not hard for me to take a mechanically cool spell and reskin it myself.

I recall that during the initial 5e playtests that they received negative feedback the first time they introduced the concept of replacing summon spells with generic stat blocks.
You're absolutely right, that alternative isn't better.

If I condensed the list down to one summon spell per level, I'd pick a flavor for each level and then give that level's summon spell a distinctive mechanical flair to support its flavor, i.e.:
2nd gets generic animals​
3rd gets a choice of fey that charm & shadowspawn that fear​
4th gets big elementals that smash and each has a novel mobility feature​
5th gets glass cannon aberrations with multiple sweet spell-like abilities​
6th gets tanky fiends with resistances, immunities, and aoe effects​
They could all have comparable CR when cast at the same level, but scale differently.

Actually, I really would like a similar stat block for polymorph and wild shape and so on. Fixed hp, with option to buff a friend or debuff the enemy. Making a choice between a large animal or a diminuative one.
That is an excellent Idea, especially for polymorph.

I have noticed what is probably a typo in the Summon Construct stat block. The HP calculation says "40 + 15 for each spell level above 3rd" even though the spell is 4th level.
Ya, 100% typo.
 

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