A Summoner is a magic user who is able to summon various magical/supernatural beings to aid them in daily life and/or combat. Because of how difficult and taxing summoning can be, Summoners aren't as proficient in spellcasting like other magic users, but when you can summon a raging minotaur or fire elemental to help you out, it does balance it out quite nicely. Most fantasy settings like some form of summoner present or at least the skills to use summoning in battle. There was a cool PS2 RPG of the same title which was the shit when it came out. Summoning generally is shown to have it's own downsides though. It is cool to try to summon an elemental but if you are not strong enough to control it or you are not careful enough in the rituals the summons can break free and quickly make life unpleasant for you, from eating you or controlling you in turn. Summoning can take time and concentration, leaving you open to attack. Guess nothing is really for free. Daemon summoning is often seen as a sub-class of general summoning in of itself, due to range of daemons and the various dangers daemon summoners face when dealing with the abyss.
Magic based card games are often based around summoners - Magic: the Gathering's planeswalkers and Yu-Gi-Oh duelists are almost always pulling creatures out of the ether. Pokémon is basically a sci-fi equivalent.
In Pathfinder Summoners are a Charisma-based intuitive spellcasting class with a focus on buff spells and the same magic progression as Bards. They are the most adept magic users in their setting at the art of summoning, and in particular they will form bonds with beings known as Eidolon; by teaming up with their Eidolon, they act like one of those "pet classes" from those newfangled MMORPGs that the kids are playing these days or if you're from /a/, you call your Eidolon a "Stand". Over time the souls of the Summoner and the Eidolon overlap until they share a piece of each other's souls. Mechanically, summoners gain "evolution points" at every level and can use them to empower their Eidolons, having it grow claws, wings, legs and even weirder shit. Whether this is awesome or total bullshit better suited for said MMORPG is a matter of debate. In addition to their Eidolon, Summoners get access to the whole suite of Summon Monster spells as a class feature, granting 3+Charisma uses per day. While the Eidolon is a powerful entity to aid them, the Summoners often lack in power and abilities in more general spellcraft. However, they can be built up to near-CoDzilla levels if you focus exclusively on making them into a "super solo" and fighting alongside their Eidolon if you don't mind blowing the rest of the party off completely.
If you want to be a total dick, a Summoner can turn its Eidolon into a non-combat Skill Monkey in exchange for the ability to summon as many creatures as they want and surround the enemy with [insert dire beast here]. Their party will either die of boredom before the Summoner finishes their ten-minute-long turn or desperately attempt to be slightly productive before a herd of summoned aurochs tramples them to jelly. Synthesists can merge with their Eidolon, building a character with low physical attributes but high mental attributes and an Eidolon that's the reverse to combine into a character with high attributes across the board.
When building your Eidolon as a damage dealer you have to choose if you want it to have a single, high-damage attack or a lot of small ones. The former creates an everything-or-nothing situation where you either hit for a lot of damage or you miss, while with the latter you get to roll a LOT of times in order to land your attacks, at the risk of having Damage Reduction ruin your day. You also have to choose between natural weapons or manufactured weapons. Natural weapons deal less damage but grant more attacks (with a hard cap in place based on your Eidolon's level) at the cost of being more difficult to enhance damage and costing quite a few Evolution Points, while manufactured weapons being able to be swapped out for enchanted ones or weapons made from special materials, as well as being able to deal higher damage and use special tricks in combat. This creates four ways of dealing damage:
- High damage natural weapons often turns your Eidolon into something very large with the Swallow Whole ability, dealing damage via a combined bite/slam attack followed by the damage from Swallow Whole.
- Plentiful natural weapons rely on being able to Pounce your opponent and get plenty of bite/rake attacks in. Make sure to check for Damage Resistance first.
- High damage manufactured weapons will have your Eidolon resemble a Dark Souls boss: big, tough and with a very big weapon. Go as big as you can and give your Eidolon a nice weapon with Reach. Powerful, but is lacking in small areas.
- Plentiful manufactured weapons turns your Eidolon into a baby Hecatoncheires. This involves taking as many iterations of Extra Limbs (Arms) as you can, give each hand a shortsword and watch it go to town. The problem with this is that you're going to have trouble keeping up with the magic weapon economy, and anything with at least some decent damage resistance is going to ruin your day.
The original Summoner was kinda on the broken side as his "same magic progression as Bards" was loaded with reduced level spells and effectively gave him full casting progression. Furthermore, many rules that were required to keep summoners remotely balanced were easily missed. This was addressed in Pathfinder Unchained by remaking the class, and unlike the other Unchained Classes (Barbarian, Rogue, Monk), this rewrite was considered mandatory as any further support for the stock Summoner was cut. This came with significant changes.
- Eidolons now have a "subtype", generally a type of outsider, that locks a large number of their evolution points into fixed abilities. This forces them to have thematically linked abilities (such as an elemental gaining immunity to their element and a related movement mode) that aren't pure killing machines. This also serves as a way of restricting certain evolutions which can only be taken by certain subtypes.
- While this wasn't utilized in Unchained itself, several future books utilized this to good effect by adding some unusual base types that do things the original Summoner could never do. These include Ancestor (summoning a copy of an ancestor or cultural hero, complete with a limited amount of class abilities) and Twinned (summon a copy of yourself).
- Overall the Eidolon growth is slower.
- Their spell list was heavily nerfed. Gone are the 9th level spells in 6th level slots.
The original summoner was tier 2, as they had access to [calling] spells that easily broke the game. The Unchained Summoner is tier 3, a solid performer in combat and enough spells to contribute outside of it, up till level 19 when it gains Gate, then it shoots back up to tier 2.
With Spheres of Power, the Summoner became much less useful due to the existence of the Conjuration Sphere. As such, the Sphere Summoner's primary benefit is increased access to Conjuration talents versus other Mid-Casters and treating their Summoner level as their Caster Level for Conjuration. The Eidolon more or less just serves to be the "first" summon, and no longer has evolutions.
Mirrored Soul is a Champion Archetype, that creates a Soul Eidolon, that may as well be declared a Stand. The Soul Eidolon is unique in that it obtains the talents (magic and combat) of its user, and even the user's skill ranks. They also use the caster's CL and spell points, but they come with a unique weakness that forces them to both to take damage. However, as they level up, they gain a boost to their attack and AC by being in range of their Soul Eidolon.
Humorously, the joke archetype added from the Catgirl Handbook, the Nyancaller, actually serves as the closest thing to a true Spheres Summoner, with the proper power that entails. It gains a new +1 to their Conjuration CL, as well as gaining Catacteristics; the return to the evolutions. They also gain the improved Maker's Call feat (known as Beckon and Pspsps, because Catgirl Handbook) and the Call the Departed talent as a free talent, and the ability to use it 8 times for free. It may lose access to Shield Ally and Greater Shield Ally and the dubiously useful Merge Forms, but the biggest drawback is actually playing a class called Nyancaller (however, the handbook also contains non-cat pun names for its content: the nyancaller can just be the evolutioner).
|The Classes of Pathfinder 1st Edition|
|Core Classes:||Barbarian - Bard - Cleric - Druid - Fighter - Monk |
Paladin - Ranger - Rogue - Sorcerer - Wizard
|Alchemist - Antipaladin - Cavalier |
Inquisitor - Oracle - Summoner - Witch
|Arcanist - Bloodrager - Brawler - Hunter - Investigator |
Shaman - Skald - Slayer - Swashbuckler - Warpriest
|Kineticist - Medium - Mesmerist |
Occultist - Psychic - Spiritualist
|Ultimate X:||Gunslinger - Magus - Ninja - Samurai - Shifter - Vigilante|
|The Classes of Pathfinder 2nd Edition|
|Core Classes:||Alchemist - Barbarian - Bard - Champion - Cleric - Druid |
Fighter - Monk - Ranger - Rogue - Sorcerer - Wizard
|Advanced Player's Guide:||Investigator - Oracle - Swashbuckler - Witch|
|Secrets of Magic:||Magus - Summoner|