Understanding Conjuration Magic
The School of Conjuration is home to magic that transports creatures or objects from one place to another. This school is responsible for your summon spells and teleportation spells. Rather than bending the Weave to create fire out of intrinsic magical energy, a mage casting a spell of conjuration reaches through the Weave to pull their desired effect from somewhere else.
If you want to know more about the Weave and where magic comes from in the D&D universe, be sure to see my article that details everything you need to know!
As an example, casting a spell of conjuration might look like calling fire from the Elemental Plane of Fire, or it might look like teleporting yourself from one place to another. Regardless, what ties these spells together is not the result of the spell, but the method used to achieve that result.
Interestingly, the player’s handbook also casually mentions that some spells in the School of Conjuration create something out of nothing.
There isn’t more detail given than that, and I haven’t been able to find a hard and fast rule explaining which spell summons their effects and which just creates matter where once there was none. It is sort of up to the interpretation of the spell description, but even that isn’t always clear. So, here’s my take on it:
Because the Player’s Handbook also describes Raw Magic as the magic of creation (see my article on understanding the types of magic), and because mortals can’t touch Raw Magic, conjuration spells should fall into the summoning category most often.
True, this raises some awkward questions about whose Hero Feast your mage just stole, but so long as the constable doesn’t come knocking…who cares? (Actually, if the constable does come knocking, that would be a pretty funny side quest.)
It’s completely up to you as the DM to decide where you want to draw the line on summoning and creating from nothing. The Players Handbook makes both interpretations of the School of Conjuration valid. It is up to you to decide how you want to flavor this school of magic to fit your world and your story best.
What makes Conjuration Magic Different from other Schools
The difference between the School of Conjuration and other schools of magic is the method behind the magic. Just like there is more than one way to bake a cake, there is more than one way to cast a spell. The results may look the same, but the roadmap to get there is vastly different.
Many of the spells on the conjuration list look and read like evocation spells. For example, flaming sphere and fireball both manifest themselves as large balls of fire. But where fireball creates fire from the magical energy of the Weave around the caster, flaming sphere brings that fire from another plane of existence.
Another common trait I have noticed that sets conjuration spells apart is the length of the effect. Although there are always exceptions to this rule, spells from the School of Conjuration tend to have longer-lasting effects.
To use our fiery examples again, fireball is a one-and-done massive AOE attack. It does tons of damage all at once and then fizzles out. flaming sphere, on the other hand, creates a ball of fire that exists until the caster loses concentration, dismisses it, or time runs out. The caster can continue to move and manipulate their conjured ball of fire.
The other description that is given for how these spells work is also completely unique to the School of Conjuration. No other school of magic allows the caster to create something out of nothing. Even evocations use something—the energy of the Weave itself—to create their spells.
If you choose to allow it in your game, a caster working in the School of Conjuration can literally bring their imagination to life. And if you stop and think about it, that is incredibly cool and leads to some amazing homebrew possibilities!
How to Use Conjuration Magic in your World
How you choose to use the School of Conjuration in your world largely depends on what kind of world you have created. I’ve already shared my take on it, where I lean towards the School of Conjuration essentially being the School of Transportation (not to be confused with transmutation).
This is because in my games, creation is a Big Deal. Only deities should have the power to create something from nothing–that’s why they’re deities.
But maybe your world doesn’t have that hard and fast rule. Maybe instead, you’ve created a world with more rigid borders, so the ability to step through planes and pull something from somewhere else would break those rules. Or maybe, you just don’t want to deal with the explanation of where the material comes from to build Galder’s Tower. These are all completely valid reasons.
However you choose to use the School of Conjuration, you will still have to consider how this type of magic would affect the world around it. What are the ramifications of mages who can just pull their needs to them at will? It’s one thing to call fire from the Elemental Plane of Fire. Odds are, no one is going to miss it. But that cloud of daggers has to come from somewhere.
*Breaking news! The city armory has been robbed! officials say the weapons simply “disappeared.” Who could possibly be behind this heinous crime?*
If you choose to explain these spells as creations of nothing, you’ll need to explain the limits of what can be created. If spells like heroes’ feast and create food and water can make sustenance from nothing, then what else can magic do?
Could a wizard who has studied the arts of conjuration effectively end world hunger? If so, why hasn’t someone tried?
The answer to these questions will help you decide how you want to use the School of Conjuration in your world.
Common Conjuration Spells
The list of spells for the School of Conjuration spans 92 different spells, according to the D&D 5e Spells app (want to know more about that app? Check it out in my article about Apps DMs need!). Their effects vary greatly, but in general, they fall into these three categories.
Summon spells take two forms, summoning of effects and summoning of creatures. These are the spells that reach through the Weave and pull something from somewhere else.
Conjuration spells that summon effects are spells such as flaming sphere, entangle, and acid spray. On paper, these spells could easily be from the School of Evocation. What makes them different is the origin of the effect.
Conjuration spells that summon creatures are find familiar, find steed, and summon beast. All of these spells call a creature from another plane to assist the caster in their work. The creature that is summoned is described as a spirit, usually fey, fiend, or celestial. The spirits take different forms and perform different tasks based on the conjurer’s will.
Spells that teleport are spells that move something or someone from one place to another. In other words, the caster conjures themself or items from one place to another. misty step, thunder step, and wristpocket are all great examples of teleportation spells from the School of Conjuration.
Misty step and thunder step are spells that transport individuals. Wristpocket is a nifty little trick that allows the caster to casually send a small item into an interdimensional pocket for an hour, or until the caster calls it back.
If you ever need to sneak a dagger past party security, the School of Conjuration is your ticket in.
Although I prefer to lean much more into the School of Conjuration’s magic of summoning, there are some spells that are just written to imply the effects were created from nothing. These are spells such as sword burst, mage hand, and unseen servant.
Those spells might seem like strange choices, but there is a common language in their descriptions that leads me to think they were intended to be creations of the will, rather than elements borrowed from other places.
Sword burst and mage hand are both describe “Creating a spectral image” of something. Either a hand or a ring of swords, in this context. The swords and the hand don’t operate like their normal counterparts. The damage for sword burst is force damage, not slicing damage. This is because these spells are creations of the caster’s mind, rather than summons of literal objects.
Unseen servant is different from the other summon spells because it doesn’t say that you call the servant from somewhere. The spell literally says that the servant “springs into existence” when the ritual is cast. It is not described as a spirit like other summon spells, but rather it is an invisible, mindless force that obeys your commands. Like sword burst and mage hand, the unseen servant is a creation of the caster’s will, a force that is made from nothing but is now something.
Common Conjuration Items
When it comes to magic items with School of Conjuration effects, some of them are just plain fun. From hats that produce animals to instant-travel trinkets, the School of Conjuration has just the item you need.
As I mentioned before, always keep in mind that in D&D 5e, magic items don’t have to belong to a school of magic. That being said, here are some examples of items I would assign to the School of Conjuration.
Bag of Tricks (wondrous item, uncommon):
The Bag of Tricks is quickly becoming one of my most favorite magic items. Who doesn’t love a bag that conjures tribbles and turns them into real animals? This bag comes in three varieties, and the color of the bag determines which critter you get.
A character can reach their hand into the bag three times a day and find a “fuzzy object” which can be thrown up to twenty feet. A d8 is rolled to determine the creature, and bam. Instant animal, which is friendly and controlled by you. The creature remains until it reaches 0 HP or until the next dawn, whichever comes first.
Now if you decide to use the Bag of Tricks in your game, you’ll have to ask yourself the tough questions. Where exactly does that animal come from? Does the bag allow you to reach through the realms and pull a bear out of its home for your purposes? Or does the animal simply pop into existence when their “fuzzy object” is activated?
These are questions you will have to answer which will make for interesting role-play elements. Perhaps an angry druid comes after your player because they keep ‘abducting’ the druid’s forest friends. When the animal reaches 0 HP, does it die, or just go home? Whatever you decide, make sure your players know what they’re getting themselves into every time they throw their “fuzzy object.”
Amulet of the Planes (wondrous item, very rare):
Okay, this one isn’t exactly a ‘common’ magical item, but it is such a great example of a School of Conjuration item that I couldn’t pass it up.
The Amulet of the Planes allows a character to travel to another plane of existence they are familiar with. All that is required is a DC 15 intelligence check. Upon a successful roll, they are able to cast the Plane Shift spell.
There are, of course, consequences to failing. On a failed roll, the user and every person and thing within fifteen feet of the caster are sent to a completely random location on another plane of existence.
Can you just…imagine the chaos? You try to go visit your buddies in the Feywilds but a few bad roles later you end up in Avernus? Or maybe your players are trapped in another plane and just want to go home, and after a long hard dungeon crawl they find the magic item that will get them there. Only they end up somewhere worse.
One important thing to consider when using this magic item is whether or not it has a cooldown period. The description of the item doesn’t specify a recharge or anything related to how often it can be used, so you may want to think about that before giving it to the party. If you plan to use it as a plot device, make sure your players can’t just plane shift out of the situation.
Flask of Perpetual Booze (wondrous item, uncommon):
Let’s be honest. The name really says it all, doesn’t it? The Flask of Perpetual Booze does exactly what it says it does. Open the flask, pour drink. Up to a gallon of hard whiskey, to be exact. Wait an hour, and repeat. Just don’t let it sit, or your whiskey will turn to brine.
This little gem of an item is a fun thing to reward your players with that won’t necessarily break your game. It’ll definitely create some interesting moments, however! Wherever the whiskey is actually coming from, your players will never be short on spirits as they adventure across the multiverse. And, depending on how dark your campaign is, they just might need it.
Describing Conjuration Magic in Your World
When it comes to describing the School of Conjuration in your world, you’ll have to decide first how the magic works. The sensation of pulling something from somewhere else is probably different than the sensation of creating matter out of thin air. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at how to describe conjuration at your table.
Since magic from the School of Conjuration usually manifests with a visible effect, the way you choose to describe its appearance is vitally important. There is so much opportunity for creativity and flavor with these spells, it’s really up to you and your players to decide what fits their character and world best.
Almost all of the summoned creatures are really spirits of some kind that take the form of a creature that the caster chooses. What do these spirits look like? Does your druid’s owl familiar look like an ordinary owl, or do they glow faintly with spectral light?
Whichever you choose will have ramifications for how the familiar can be used. A glowing cat won’t blend in as well as a normal cat, which would limit its ability to be used to spy. Want more on familiars? Be sure to see my article all about how to use familiars in your campaign!
Another thing I like to consider when thinking about summoning spirits is if they appear as the spirit first and then morph into their shape, or if they appear already pre-shaped. By giving the spirit a true form first, you have an opportunity to truly add flavor to the magic. What does it say about your Paladin if the spirit the summon for a steed manifests as a fiend first, and then takes the form of a warhorse? That could create some interesting conversations around the table!
As always, feel free to change the way a spell looks regardless of the description. In one game that I run, I have a player who is an Air Genasi Ranger. Rather than ensnaring strike manifesting as vines and thorns, he asked if it could manifest as something akin to a localized tornado that restrains the target.
Since it fit the theme of his character better, I allowed it, explaining that the 1d6 piercing damage would come from rocky debris instead of thorns. The spell does the exact same thing mechanically, it just looks different based on what fit the character and the story better.
The sound that always comes to mind when I think of conjuration magic is the sound of a fabric ripping. I know, it’s pretty cliché, but the spells work by opening portals and transporting effects. Specifically, it opens portals through the Weave. That just screams ripping-fabric sound effects.
The other sound effect I often think of when browsing spells from the School of Conjuration is a “popping” sound, as things just “pop” into existence. Mage hand, misty step, and unseen servant are spells I would assign such a sound effect to.
Since the School of Conjuration is the school of summons, the scents I would choose to describe would be the lingering scents of the origin of the spell. Flaming sphere might bring with it the heavy odor of sulphur and smoke, whereas fog cloud might carry with it the heavy smell of mildew.
Ascribing unusual scents to summoned steeds or animals is another great way to make these critters a little more than average creatures. Perhaps an animal created from the conjure animal spell always has the scent of herbs and spices lingering on its fur, reminiscent of its true fey-form. Or perhaps the summoned fiend-steed we mentioned earlier carries with it the scent of death as it rides.
There are two ways that I think about how casting a Conjuration spell might feel. The first is the sensation of grasping for that conjured item from another realm. When your caster flings their hand forward and shoots an ice knife, their hand has dipped into the Plane of Ice.
Do they feel the chill in their blood? Is there some frost on their fingernails?
Another thing I like to think about is what it feels like to teleport. Does misty step feel like dissolving and reappearing? Or is it more of a compressed and then decompressed sensation? Either might be terrifying which explains why some never learn teleportation magic.
Is it the same for all teleportation spells, or does the effect vary depending on which spell is used? I can just imagine Wizards arguing over preferred methods of instant-transportation based on which feels better.
The second thing that I think about when it comes to describing the physical sensation of conjuration magic is the way it would feel to make something from nothing.
The unseen servant is the most blatant example I can think of since the text of the spell is so clear. The servant is a force that ‘springs into existence’ the moment this spell is cast. It is not perceived visually at all and based on the way it reads, I don’t think it can be perceived with any other sense either. The only way to know where the servant is located is by watching it affect the world around it and by feeling it.
When your wizard creates the servant, what does it feel like for a manifestation of their imagination to spring into existence? Can they feel a physical connection to it once it appears? Are other players able to feel the force of it if it brushes past them performing their tasks? The same question can be asked about mage hand and sword burst.
While I normally don’t recommend players tasting magical manifestations of power, the School of Conjuration is a happy exception. This school actually creates food and water! There’s even a spell for it, aptly called create food and water.
Of course, the create food and water spell already tells you how it tastes–bland. But at least it is good for you. On the other hand, you have a spell like heroes’ feast which conjures a magical array of food and drink that is described as “magnificent.” Magnificent food should probably taste magnificent.
If you want to conjure your own Hero’s Feast, you should grab the official DND cookbook, aptly named “Heroes’ Feast!” I have tried many of the recipes in this book and I and my players have loved them all! You can pick up a copy from Amazon, but I would ask you get it from our local game store instead, you can check out the book here and get a discount! Whoot!
When it comes to describing how these things might taste, I think it comes down to where it comes from. In my games, magically created food has a strange, magic taste to it. Almost like the residue of the Weave has clung to the created thing. Even when the description of the taste is already in the spell description, it’s up to you as the DM to decide.
If your players or your NPCs use conjuration magic, I hope this has given you some ideas on how to truly make it your own!
Until next time, my friends,
May your game have advantage!