Hey, thanks for the feedback. I’m always tweaking and balancing, so good to keep an eye on what other people are experiencing. Coincidentally, the perks I’m just finishing coding are for the Warlock class, which is a spellcaster devoted to summoning. I have a Female Centaur Warlock who worships Talltioward on the go, and my fearful eye has been kept on whether or not summoning is overpowered. But through this playthrough I think I’m realizing it’s okay, at least for now. Let me answer your question with some detailed thoughts.
Firstly, very cool that you’ve found a race/class combo you like. I hadn’t thought about it, but a Barbarian is a perfect starting class, since it pretty effectively removes spellcasting from the table, allowing a player to learn other core mechanics first. I think if someone asked for a beginner combo in the future, an Agnostic Half-Orc Barbarian might be my recommendation, since that would also remove Miracles from the list.
If you’re exclusively playing the same character type, though, it’s important to bear in mind that the experience of other characters would vary widely, making certain things more or less useful. As an example, Hornas’ Striking miracle you mentioned, which costs only 10 Faith Points and allows you to automatically hit on your next swing - I can see how this would be especially devastating for a starting Barbarian character to use. The Barbarian starts with the most powerful weapon among all starting characters - the Small Axe. This is to compensate for their total lack of spell access, but bear in mind its massive damage of 1 to 15, and contrast this with other classes who would start with weapons that do either 1 to 3, 1 to 4, 2 to 4 or 1 to 6, and it immediately becomes clear that Striking serves the starting Barbarian better than any other class. The Small Axe also comes with a massive -18 to hit penalty, so automatically hitting overcomes a big obstacle to its use. A character starting with a Pitchfork, by contrast, has +6 to hit, so Striking, while still useful in many circumstances, is maybe not as necessary to land that blow.
Now let’s look at Summoning spells as a whole. The purpose of summoning is, generally, to bring into play a monster that will go and kill other monsters for you, so let’s compare it to another common way to use magic, which is with direct damage spells. Invisible Hammer, in terms of raw numbers, is the most powerful Low Power direct damage spell, doing 8 to 15 physical damage at a cost of 35 Spell Points. In the early game, this is an insanely powerful spell that can kill most monsters with a single application. But it does have some drawbacks - firstly, it’s only useful against a single monster. Once you’ve cast it, the spell points are gone, and you may now be defenseless against other monsters. Secondly, it only works against the monster in your square, meaning to cast it, you have to first engage in a single round of combat, possibly taking damage, possibly even being killed before getting a chance to cast it. And thirdly, it always does physical damage, limiting its effectiveness against monsters with physical resistance, most notably various types of Golems who would be unaffected.
For 35 Spell Points, you could instead (provided you had access) cast the Summon Minor Fiend spell. This summons a low level Diabolic monster (a monster that would most commonly reside on Dungeon Levels 1 through 10). There are some key advantages to this vs. the Invisible Hammer spell. Firstly, depending on what you summoned, it might be able to kill multiple enemies. On a particularly early dungeon level (say Dungeon Level 1 through 5), there’d be a decent chance the summoned monster would outclass everything else on the level, and could rampage through killing literally every enemy without you ever having to face them, while you still reap all the EXP rewards. Secondly, you don’t have to (in fact, can’t) cast it in a square with an enemy, so you don’t have to put yourself at risk in order to cast it, the way you would with most direct damage spells. Thirdly, the potentially summoned monsters are varied, some having attacks other than physical attacks, so while an Invisible Hammer spell could never affect a Golem, your summoned monster might be able to.
There are drawbacks to Summon Minor Fiend, of course, and that’s that it doesn’t scale as you level up. It’s extremely useful early on, but as you progress deeper in the dungeon, it becomes obsolete. Because of its wide variation in what gets summoned, it’s even possible to use it on Dungeon Level 1 to bring into play a lowly Demonic Larvae, and have that get killed by the first thing it meets, doing no damage whatsoever, so it’s risky. Invisible Hammer isn’t going to kill anything with a single cast beyond a certain depth, either, but it will still do some damage. (Of course, even the Demonic Larvae could get lucky and get a single hit on a Dragon before it dies, but it’s not as sure a thing as Invisible Hammer).
So they both have advantages and disadvantages to balance each other out. Finally let’s compare Summon Orcish Champion to Summon Minor Fiend. With the Miracles, I always did my best to correspond Faith Point costs to the Spell Point costs of an equivalent spell, if one exists, and right away we see that Summon Orcish Champion costs 40 Faith Points instead of Summon Minor Fiend’s 35 Spell Points, so it had better be more powerful, but not too much more powerful. Summon Minor Fiend brings in a monster of random power (again, between level 1 and level 10) with a median of 5.5. Orcs are a level 6 monster, so we’re pretty in line. But the Summon Orcish Champion miracle doesn’t just summon an orc, it summons a buffed up orc, a little more powerful than the average orc, putting its 40 point cost right about on the money.
Like Summon Minor Fiend, Summon Orcish Champion only really has application in the early dungeon levels, but can be devastating there. Again, bear in mind that not every character can go toe to toe with enemies (even lowly enemies) and expect to live the way a Half-Orc Barbarian can. For some (like my Centaur Warlock), summoning monsters to do the dirty work, while fleeing or luring enemy monsters back to where the summoned monster lurks may be the only way to survive