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View Full Version : [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?



Fax Celestis
2009-02-06, 07:12 PM
Why do two class features that do similar things use different mechanics? Mainly I'm asking about their advancements: Animal Companions get bonus HD, which include feats, skills, and stat boosts--and they use their own scores for everything. Meanwhile, Familiars don't get bonus HD: instead, they use half your HP but still count as their original HD. They also use your scores for mostly everything.

I'm having a hard time figuring out why this is the case. One would think that using either one set of the mechanics or the other would make sense, not using both.

Are there any particular advantages to the Familiar growth pattern over the Animal Companion one (or vice versa), or is it a net zero effect?

PinkysBrain
2009-02-06, 07:18 PM
Animal companions are disposable roadblocks and familiars are free spot/listen checks which should hide at the first sign of trouble. Since familiars will be so much less active it makes sense to give them simpler rules.

Fax Celestis
2009-02-06, 07:20 PM
Animal companions are disposable roadblocks and familiars are free spot/listen checks which should hide at the first sign of trouble. Since familiars will be so much less active it makes sense to give them simpler rules.

Mostly I'm hung up on what makes a familiar so different that they don't actually act like a regular creature.

Eldariel
2009-02-06, 07:23 PM
Familiars are pretty much an extension of yourself, while Animal Companions are creatures that you just happen to have befriended (and that somehow start to grow in power superfast as you do; let's not dwell on that).

Mechanically:
-Familiars use your skills (if better than the base creature's). This is huge as it allows familiars to learn skills animals simply can't have, such as Use Magic Device, Use Psionic Device, Knowledges, etc. They also have the Int for this.
-Animal Companions acquire feats. This means that they can actually be built into melee monsters. They learn skills of their own, but since they're limited by animal intelligence and get only 1 skill per level...
-Familiars obviously have reduced HP (half your HP and you're already usually a d4 character), making them very much less durable.
-Animal Companion is always tied to your class levels, while Familiar is mostly tied to your character level. This means that for a multiclass character or half-advancement character or whatever, Familiar is far stronger than Animal Companion. For a full advancement though, AC comes out ahead.
-There's a mechanical penalty for losing a familiar (XP and not being able to get one for a while), while there is none for AC. This further reinforces the "Familiar is a part of you while AC is just a pal"-difference.

Kalirren
2009-02-06, 07:28 PM
Why do two class features that do similar things use different mechanics?

I don't think a druid's Animal Companion and a wizard's Familiar were designed to be the same at all, actually. The druid's animal companion was changed from 3.0 because they wanted something that would scale reasonably for combat with respect to character level; it used to be that you could control up to twice your HD in animal minions, and if you did the math, this opened up a lot of cheese potential.

The wizard's familiar, on the other hand, has never had a conceptual history of having combat function. Genre-wise, it's a very odd familiar that fights on the front lines like a druid's animal companion. This is well reflected in the mechanics. A familiar is like a talking head that travels along with the wizard, and woe betide it if it gets into combat at all.

So my answer to your question about the relationship of the two concepts to their respective mechanical executions is that your premises about the concepts themselves are unsupported by the history of the concepts.

Fax Celestis
2009-02-06, 07:28 PM
Familiars are pretty much an extension of yourself, while Animal Companions are creatures that you just happen to have befriended (and that somehow start to grow in power superfast as you do; let's not dwell on that).

Mechanically:
-Familiars use your skills (if better than the base creature's). This is huge as it allows familiars to learn skills animals simply can't have, such as Use Magic Device, Use Psionic Device, Knowledges, etc. They also have the Int for this.
-Animal Companions acquire feats. This means that they can actually be built into melee monsters. They learn skills of their own, but since they're limited by animal intelligence and get only 1 skill per level...
-Familiars obviously have reduced HP (half your HP and you're already usually a d4 character), making them very much less durable.
-Animal Companion is always tied to your class levels, while Familiar is mostly tied to your character level. This means that for a multiclass character or half-advancement character or whatever, Familiar is far stronger than Animal Companion. For a full advancement though, AC comes out ahead.
-There's a mechanical penalty for losing a familiar (XP and not being able to get one for a while), while there is none for AC. This further reinforces the "Familiar is a part of you while AC is just a pal"-difference.

Okay, I know most of the mechanical differences. What I'm missing out on is why anyone thought it was a good idea to use different mechanics.

Let me explain the basis of the question. In my d20r system I'm developing (see signature), I'm considering removing the familiar's style (that is, using the master's stats) of progression and just using the animal companion style (progressing itself) instead, but I'm not sure what kind of effect this would have on the power level of familiars v. animal companions.

Eldariel
2009-02-06, 07:38 PM
Yea, the decision boiled down to the same idea as psi crystals; a familiar isn't as much a creature of its own as it is an extension of the spellcaster's psyche in the form of another creature.

The primary effect I can see changing the system having is probably that familiars would become much better combatants (while probably also being much worse UMDers/spellcasters, albeit you still have Imbue Familiar with Spell Ability) - a natural consequence of gaining its own HP progression and feats - and Wizards and Sorcerers would have much more of an incentive to either look for classes that advance the familiar, or trade the familiar away and use Obtain Familiar instead.

Fax Celestis
2009-02-06, 07:47 PM
The primary effect I can see changing the system having is probably that familiars would become much better combatants (while probably also being much worse UMDers/spellcasters, albeit you still have Imbue Familiar with Spell Ability) - a natural consequence of gaining its own HP progression and feats - and Wizards and Sorcerers would have much more of an incentive to either look for classes that advance the familiar, or trade the familiar away and use Obtain Familiar instead.

Now, is there anything wrong with that?

Starbuck_II
2009-02-06, 07:48 PM
Yea, the decision boiled down to the same idea as psi crystals; a familiar isn't as much a creature of its own as it is an extension of the spellcaster's psyche in the form of another creature.

The primary effect I can see changing the system having is probably that familiars would become much better combatants (while probably also being much worse UMDers/spellcasters, albeit you still have Imbue Familiar with Spell Ability) - a natural consequence of gaining its own HP progression and feats - and Wizards and Sorcerers would have much more of an incentive to either look for classes that advance the familiar, or trade the familiar away and use Obtain Familiar instead.

Except Psi Crystals use mostly Animakl Companion rules (mostly):
They get their own HD (construct), so they gain 3/4th bab for each HD, gain feats (as they gain HD) with the sample Psi Crystal in XPH taking Alertness, gain stat points if have 4 HD, and construct immunities.

So they are more like Animal companions. However, they use 1/2 master for hps like a familiar (no matter how much more they might if used own HD).

Eldariel
2009-02-06, 07:53 PM
Now, is there anything wrong with that?

Depends on what you want to accomplish. Is Familiar supposed to be a tank or a monkey? I cannot rightly tell, I never liked the idea of familiars to begin with and thus haven't used them enough to answer questions of their role. Anyways, to me, linking them to class level rather than character level feels wrong - if they're so innately connected to you, their abilities should be proportional to your total abilities, not abilities of one of your classes. If you made 'em advance like animal companions, but based off character level, I'd have no qualms.

Eikre
2009-02-06, 07:53 PM
Okay, I know most of the mechanical differences. What I'm missing out on is why anyone thought it was a good idea to use different mechanics.

Same reason they thought Rogue should be a different guys when they both just stab people. Same reason they made the Cleric and the Wizard different guys when they both just use magic. It's nuance! The diversification of mechanics is the point of the game; you haven't just been buying sourcebooks all this time because you wanted someone to give you the the idea to play a Ninja or- god forbid- a Green Star Adept, did you?

The familiar and the animal companion are completely different dudes. They don't do the same thing at all. When they do happen to do the same thing, it's because you're actually making an effort by taking Improved Familiar or using Speak with Animal or something.

Don't give the wizard an animal companion. If you gave me one, I'd be disappointed that I didn't have my little emissary or any spells like Magic Fang to support the new guy. And then, even without those support spells, I'd make the Fighter even more obsolete because animal companions are, on their own, more powerful than entire classes.

EDIT: You know, it dawns on me... If you're just going for internal consistancy, I see no problem with assigning Familiars mechanics that make them behave more like other creatures- but the point I'd make, and one that you probably already received, is that the Animal Companion is not something that behaves, without modification, like a Wizard class feature should. If you base them on Animal Companions, you might consider a new hitdie that comes with less HP but more skills than the Animal hitdie does, and, of course, maintain features that augment its capacity to act as an agent all on its own, like Speak with Master and Deliver Touch Spell.

Fax Celestis
2009-02-06, 07:58 PM
Don't give the wizard an animal companion. If you gave me one, I'd be disappointed that I didn't have my little emissary or any spells like Magic Fang to support the new guy. And then, even without those support spells, I'd make the Fighter even more obsolete because animal companions are, on their own, more powerful than entire classes.

Okay, for now, make the assumption that balance isn't an issue: I'm working on that. You like the familiar the way it is, despite the fact that it's weaker than it could be and doesn't work the way the rest of the game does?

Also, don't think that I'm talking about replacing familiars with animal companions. I'm just talking about using a different fundament to build a familiar off of--in short, giving them HD rather than pulling stats from the master.

Eikre
2009-02-06, 08:03 PM
Oh, damn- you made a new post just as I edited my post to address what I had just realized and what you were making your new post to inform me of!

You know what that is? That's... a reverse post ninja!

Fax Celestis
2009-02-06, 08:06 PM
You know what that is? That's... a reverse post ninja!

ph33r.

*is l33t*

Talya
2009-02-06, 08:12 PM
Stylisticly, I don't believe the two should be the same. What's the typical witch's familiar? The black cat or the toad...these things are not combatants, but typically just an extra set of eyes, at most a lab assistant. The familiar in many ways is far more powerful than the animal companion, because it is self-aware and sentient, imbued with those qualities by the arcanist to which they attach themselves. The familiar needs to maybe be better at hiding and harder to hit, but they should never be a battlefield force that goes around ripping apart the enemy.

Now Animal Companions, they are meant to be nature's warriors, but still just natural, still beastial.

I think this distinction requires different mechanics.

Fax Celestis
2009-02-06, 08:15 PM
Stylisticly, I don't believe the two should be the same. What's the typical witch's familiar? The black cat or the toad...these things are not combatants, but typically just an extra set of eyes, at most a lab assistant. The familiar in many ways is far more powerful than the animal companion, because it is self-aware and sentient, imbued with those qualities by the arcanist to which they attach themselves. The familiar needs to maybe be better at hiding and harder to hit, but they should never be a battlefield force that goes around ripping apart the enemy.

Now Animal Companions, they are meant to be nature's warriors, but still just natural, still beastial.

I think this distinction requires different mechanics.

Couldn't this distinction be represented with d10, 1:1 BAB, 2+Int skills, 2 save (essentially Magical Beast) HD for animal companions, and d6, 1:2 BAB, 6+Int skills, 1 save (essentially Fey) HD for a familiar? Even the most noncombatant of classes get d4, 1:2 BAB, 2+Int, 1 save HD: why should a familiar be different?

ericgrau
2009-02-06, 08:46 PM
Kinda said already, but here's more clarification.

Animal companion = minion/cohort, second weaker character. Makes sense for him to have completely separate stats.

A familiar is an extension of the wizard. He's like an "empty" creature that's only there to be the target of spells or as a spell delivery boy. So defensively he needs to scale with the wizard, and offensively he has almost nothing besides that. A second character doesn't really fit here.

Pandaren
2009-02-06, 08:57 PM
As everybody has already addressed, their meant to be different things. If you want a fight-y familiar, get improved familiar (the ones in complete mage not DMG) or too bad.

Talya
2009-02-06, 09:06 PM
Couldn't this distinction be represented with d10, 1:1 BAB, 2+Int skills, 2 save (essentially Magical Beast) HD for animal companions, and d6, 1:2 BAB, 6+Int skills, 1 save (essentially Fey) HD for a familiar? Even the most noncombatant of classes get d4, 1:2 BAB, 2+Int, 1 save HD: why should a familiar be different?

I suppose. Is that any simpler than the current mechanic?

Collin152
2009-02-06, 09:13 PM
If you want a fight-y familiar, get improved familiar (the ones in complete mage not DMG) or too bad.

You do realise that Fax is reworking 3.5 in a completley revised edition, and that this comment is therefore not only insulting but irrelevant?

Fax, you might want to make that point clearer in your posts, as it seems every turn people don't seem to get the point and gum up otherwise progressive input.

Personally, I'd be fine with the same kind of progression for familiars and animal companions, considering standard familiars are weak animals anyways.
I can totally see a Druid with a vaguely familiar-esque 'Spirit Bear' now somehow. Eep.

Draz74
2009-02-06, 09:16 PM
I agree that the familiar mechanics are silly, and that it would be better to use Animal Companion advancement for them.

But ahead of that, I'd just rather go further the other way and not treat them as full creatures at all, more as effects. More like the Hexblade's Dark Companion, or the Variant Paladin's Healing Spirit. I think that preserves more of the intended flavor of the familiar -- and makes it so they'll actually get used, instead of hoarded up and protected with paranoia.

Olo Demonsbane
2009-02-06, 11:11 PM
Here, look at this (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/classes/variantCharacterClasses.htm#sorcererWizard).
Maybe this might help, though I mostly use this to get a Wizard with Rage (see other UA changes)

Salvonus
2009-02-06, 11:23 PM
Fax, out of interest, do you feel that a familiar as a class feature is necessary for your envisioning of the D20r Wizard? I know that, whenever I play a Wizard/Sorcerer, I always trade away the familiar because they seem simply superfluous - look at V's raven in OOTS, really.

Maybe this is slightly off-topic for this thread, but why not just go the Psion/Psicrystal route and make familiars an optional thing that costs a feat? You could scale up a familiar to be Animal Companion-esque, but players wouldn't be missing out on an entire class feature by skipping them.

Magnor Criol
2009-02-07, 02:48 AM
Fax, out of interest, do you feel that a familiar as a class feature is necessary for your envisioning of the D20r Wizard? I know that, whenever I play a Wizard/Sorcerer, I always trade away the familiar because they seem simply superfluous - look at V's raven in OOTS, really.

The extra work a familiar represents in character creation and in-game dice rolling and stat retention usually outweighs the benefit they have for me in-game, so I usually just end up forgetting about mine.

I've always felt that it would be very fitting if the familiar could somehow amplify their master's power, or their lack diminished it. Just as the mythic idea of familiars has them being an extension of their master's body, they're also lenses for their power in most cases, as I remember.

I don't know how this would manifest in DnD, or if it could be done with balance, but I think it'd be a cool and flavorful aspect. And it could serve to differentiate a familiar from an animal companion, as well (emphasizing the magical creature vs. befriended animal idea).

Quietus
2009-02-07, 03:04 AM
Fax, out of interest, do you feel that a familiar as a class feature is necessary for your envisioning of the D20r Wizard? I know that, whenever I play a Wizard/Sorcerer, I always trade away the familiar because they seem simply superfluous - look at V's raven in OOTS, really.

Maybe this is slightly off-topic for this thread, but why not just go the Psion/Psicrystal route and make familiars an optional thing that costs a feat? You could scale up a familiar to be Animal Companion-esque, but players wouldn't be missing out on an entire class feature by skipping them.

V has a raven? :smallamused:


At any rate, Fax - I think it's the ABILITIES and the ANIMAL CHOICE that make the difference between familiars and animal companions. I don't see a problem even with giving a familiar the same HD-based advancement an animal companion gets, but I DO think that there should be some difference maintained - extra tricks and combatative abilities for the animal companion, bonus int and caster-related abilities for the familiar. It would probably also make sense to derive the familiar's abilities (or at least, hit dice/intelligence) directly from caster level, rather than class level, leaving abilities like "Speak with familiar" and "Scry on familiar" as expressly wizard-based things... but that may be a little TOO complicated for what you're going after.

To me, the familiar is a small, smart animal, while the animal companion is (generally, not always) a big, tough creature with more combat tricks. How you increase its hit points really doesn't matter.

::Edit:: THe feat-based option might not be a bad one, either. Perhaps replace Scribe Scroll with another <Wizard feat>, and add "Acquire Familiar" to the list of Wizard Feats? Of course, that might leave the sorcerer behind - maybe give them a small list and a free feat to pick from, that would include things like Acquire Familiar, Eschew Materials, and ... Thematic Spell? The one that lets you put specific flavor on a spell and boost it a little.

BobVosh
2009-02-07, 03:07 AM
Watch the sword in the stone and tell me that it wouldn't be werid if it was a jaguar instead of an owl.

I never really thought that familiar were all that hard of a concept, and I actually really liked having a monkey in The Crimson Throne as my familiar. Admittably Pathfinder, but the familiars were the same I believe.

I like wizards as is in terms of familiars. Neat but not really too functional.

jcsw
2009-02-07, 03:14 AM
You could always embrace the fact that only about 20% of wizard players takes a familiar.

Instead of having the level one ability say "Obtain Familiar", have it say "Wizard Quirk" or something similar. Which lets them choose a number of features, one of which is a familiar, while the rest is about every single wizard familiar ACF ever. So now less people will complain about how useless familiars are in the way you don't see people complain about toughness so often.

Quietus
2009-02-07, 03:21 AM
I've always felt that it would be very fitting if the familiar could somehow amplify their master's power, or their lack diminished it. Just as the mythic idea of familiars has them being an extension of their master's body, they're also lenses for their power in most cases, as I remember.

This would be easy enough to implement. When the Familiar isn't present, the Wizard is unable to use his bonus feats. The Wizard now has to decide whether to rely on his familiar's presence, picking feats he can hinge his entire build on (Familiar gone = feats gone = bye bye prestige classes!), or taking more generic feats he can do without. The most powerful wizard will be ones who have familiars, but any wizard that DOESN'T isn't totally crippled - he still has the power he's spent years poring over books to earn, he just doesn't have the bonus feats.

I don't know how this would work with Sorcerers, though.

Curmudgeon
2009-02-07, 01:04 PM
Why do two class features that do similar things use different mechanics? They don't actually "do similar things". Animal companions are exactly that: friendly other creatures. The DM gets to play those, because they have their own independent aims. Familiars are linked to characters, and that player's character gets to play both.

Fax Celestis
2009-02-07, 01:24 PM
They don't actually "do similar things". Animal companions are exactly that: friendly other creatures. The DM gets to play those, because they have their own independent aims. Familiars are linked to characters, and that player's character gets to play both.

That's...not the case in any game I've played.

Bayar
2009-02-07, 01:41 PM
Well, from what I read from a hentai alternative comic, familiars are not really animals, they are magical entities that were created from your own magical energy, and even after creation, they stay near you because they need to feed off your magical aura to survive.

Animal companions on the other hand are just run of the mill wild animals domesticated / emphatised towards their master. They feed off meat, berries and other stuff like that.

So now you know why you lose experience when your familiar dies and why you barely give a damn when your animal companion dies.

Starbuck_II
2009-02-07, 01:54 PM
Well, from what I read from a hentai alternative comic, familiars are not really animals, they are magical entities that were created from your own magical energy, and even after creation, they stay near you because they need to feed off your magical aura to survive.

Animal companions on the other hand are just run of the mill wild animals domesticated / emphatised towards their master. They feed off meat, berries and other stuff like that.

So now you know why you lose experience when your familiar dies and why you barely give a damn when your animal companion dies.

Then explain why Animal Companions get beefer just by being with you? What your awesome aura is over 9000 and that makes them just more badass?

lesser_minion
2009-02-07, 03:22 PM
As far as I can tell, the main difference comes from how the two were handled in 3.0 - familiars were a class feature, and supposed to be highly dependent on their masters in order to survive. Animal Companions existed as a tiny note in the Druid section of the PHB mentioning that 1st-level Druids didn't suffer the normal penalty to the animal companion hit dice cap for being PCs (allowing them to start with a 2HD animal companion), and as a spell - so I guess the answer is that they didn't really see the two class features as doing the same thing.

Clerics (!), Druids and Rangers could befriend animals using the spell Animal Friendship. You had the choice of settling down in some area and taking that as your protected ground (letting you retain 2HD per caster level, but the assumption was that this was NPC-only, basically), or adventuring, in which case you could only have up to 1/2 or 1/4 your limit (pretty much at DM's discretion - if you frequent places that animals aren't likely to go, you only get 1/4 animal companions)

The two things were totally different when 3rd edition was written - animal companions didn't actually advance by RAW, you had to find and befriend more powerful animals. I guess you could bring back the old way - a class feature that blatantly gives the DM carte blanche to exercise Total Control over it isn't too bad for balance outside of CharOp forums. This actually prevents the main issue mentioned in the above post about the animal mystically gaining the Power of Awesome just from being near you.

You could then just allow PCs to advance their animal minions using the normal monster advancement rules instead of them gaining extra hit dice and so on based entirely on your character level.

If you want combat-orientated magical beast familiars, I guess you could create an advancement mechanic for those, so that they exist as separate entities to their masters. That would probably be best used along with the Improved Familiar feat however - the default wizard/sorcerer familiars are all animals that 90% of RPGs list as having 'negligible statistics' or something similar. They really aren't meant to fight at all - they only have stats in D&D because sorcerers and wizards might use them as familiars.

EDIT - I was under the impression that 3.5 actually says that familiars use their master's HD for the purposes of any HD-dependent effects.

imperialspectre
2009-02-07, 03:36 PM
Couldn't this distinction be represented with d10, 1:1 BAB, 2+Int skills, 2 save (essentially Magical Beast) HD for animal companions, and d6, 1:2 BAB, 6+Int skills, 1 save (essentially Fey) HD for a familiar? Even the most noncombatant of classes get d4, 1:2 BAB, 2+Int, 1 save HD: why should a familiar be different?

This. With things like imbue with SLA and empathic link as "class features."

Draz74
2009-02-07, 11:04 PM
Watch the sword in the stone and tell me that it wouldn't be werid if it was a jaguar instead of an owl.

Win.


That's...not the case in any game I've played.

Well, technically he's right. It's just that, in practice, DMs tend to assume you're using Handle Animal a LOT to get this NPC animal to do exactly what you want. They usually don't even worry about what Tricks the animal actually knows, and assume that your Handle Animal skill is high enough to always make the checks. (With the +4 bonus, that's not so terribly wrong, even if the druid/ranger has 8 CHA and no ranks. Handle Animal DCs aren't that high.)

I just re-read the Hexblade Dark Companion rules in the PHBII, and I stand by my suggestion from earlier. They're a lot like I'd picture Familiars should be. :smallwink:

Temp.
2009-02-07, 11:55 PM
Do familiars and companions have to have rules? It seems like it's a potentially broken aspect of the game that doesn't add anything -- I don't think of a rat or lizard as cetral to the wizard archetype. I think I'd rather see Speak with Animals on the Wizard spell list than an awkward form of two characters in one. If a Wizard wants a rat, I'd rather have the Wizard catch one than write up a class ability for it.

I have yet to see an elegant and organic-feeling mechanic for companions of any sort. I know it's just a matter of my own preferance, but having rules dictate what seems to be more a matter of the campaign's setting and events just feels like bad form.

Urthdigger
2009-02-08, 08:09 AM
I have to agree with all the people who mentioned that familiars and animal companions are made for two different things. I've managed to make a familiar in my campaign that's pretty badass (Even before the DM made the mistake of allowing him to use the plot-central magical mcguffin to cast fire domain spells).

Thing is, he's not like how I'd use an animal companion or summoned monster, or my other party members. He's all about subtlety, though my familiar choice (Weasel, then later celestial weasel) may have something to do with how effective he is at that. For instance, on a recent big fight I decided to have him launch an attack on the "boss" by running to his square, leaping onto his clothing, climbing up and depositing a homemade bomb in his pocket.

The little guy is small and hard to notice, which has also come in handy when spying on people or investigating areas people don't want us to be in. He's even been able to use his intelligence to effectively play the role of prosecutor in a medieval court case, using the fact that he's an animal to play the idiot card and get away with quite a few things he shouldn't have merely by stating "I didn't know any better".

I'd have to say I agree with Eikre on liking familiars the way they are. I've made a wizard build that goes out of the way to make my familiar useful, but I like the fact that I had to be quirky to do it. I like that combat for me is more than just "Charge up to foe, hit him with my weapon until he dies". I have to use his skills, and more often than not his size, to think outside the box, and that's what makes it so interesting. I don't think I'd have half as much fun mauling things with a bear as I have had watching the little weasel turn from a horrible prankster to... well, a horrible prankster who happens to be a hero in his own right, when he feels like it.

Caeldrim
2009-02-08, 11:17 PM
Hi Fax - big fan of your D20r work so far. :)

Going back to the thread title and your original question: The reason they use different rules for advancement is so a wizard doesn't end up with a housecat/weasel/toad that can murder people with one paw tied behind its back. This is totally stating the obvious, but let's roll with it for a second.

Let's compare my wild cohort (Nails, a dire weasel) and my familiar (Needles, a weasel) for a second, not so much in terms of 'numbers' but in terms of utility.

Nails functions primarily as a mount, a (lesser) damage dealer, and a tracker.

Needles is a spell delivery mechanism, a scout, and an extra set of eyes/paws in a tight spot.

Nails can take a hit, and dish one out. Needles can't.

If I'm reading you right, you want to keep the familiar's role in the party similar/identical to what it is now, but use a similar ruleset to the druid's AC for advancement.

As a wizard, I like it, because I hate how fragile my familiar is. I hate that his HP are always going to be HALF those of the squishiest character in the party. I hate that I can't do much besides burn spells on him to boost his AC.

In a perfect (and trying to be balanced) world, I'd keep the familiar table more or less as it is, but do away with the 'familiar's hit points are half master's' just have them advance in 'Magical Beast' HD at the same rate as an animal companion. Along with this they get the usual +1 to an attribute at their 4th HD and every 4th thereafter, and one feat (chosen from a specific 'familiar feats' list) at 3rd and every 3rd thereafter, but DON'T get the skill points.

So let's make an example - A 10th level wizard's owl familiar would have...
7d8 HP (28 average), Str 4, Dex 17, Con 10, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 4, all the usual wizards' familiar benefits for his level, one extra attribute point to spend, (probably on dex in this case) and two 'familiar feats'.

It sounds like it shouldn't be balanced, but because you're invariably starting from a much weaker animal than a druid would/could, it seems to work out quite well. I'm AFB at the moment so I might have got some of my calculations wrong.

Thoughts?

Urthdigger
2009-02-09, 06:10 AM
Hmm... speaking of familiar progression, is there any definitive rule on how the Celestial and other templates affect it? The SRD says "For the purpose of effects related to number of Hit Dice, use the masterís character level or the familiarís normal HD total, whichever is higher." concerning their HD. The DM in the campaign I'm currently in ruled in favor of letting the template use the master's level to determine the template's effects. However, the unofficial Familiar's Handbook (http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=875062) post I saw mentioned that choosing the celestial/fiendish template with Improved Familiar was rather useless due to the base creature's low HD giving them few effects.

Personally, I think it makes sense to have it scale to the master's level, if for no other reason than to be closer to the other options Improved Familiar grants. Plus, while it doesn't solve the problem familiars have, it does help a little. But, I'm not as knowledgeable about D&D as some people, and for all I know there may have been some rule in some sourcebook out there that says no.

Roderick_BR
2009-02-09, 06:18 AM
If you mean just increase the familiar abilities like paladin's mount and druid/ranger's animal companion (and in 3.0, animal companion was different), so go ahead, as long as the familiar doesn't turn into a second tank in the game.

Saph
2009-02-09, 06:31 AM
Then explain why Animal Companions get beefer just by being with you? What your awesome aura is over 9000 and that makes them just more badass?

Druids go in for biomagical augmentation, and they keep experimenting on their animal companion as they advance in level. The more skilled the Druid gets, the better they become at steroid-enhancing their animal into an adrenaline-overdosed killing machine.

You have to admit, it explains the mechanics perfectly. :)

Fax: I think they're supposed to be different concepts, drawing on different fantasy archetypes. The familiar is the sense-linked extension of self, the animal companion is . . . well, an animal who's a companion. The boosts were really only added for mechanical reasons to enable the Druid to keep the same pet instead of trading in for a new one every three levels (as they did in 3.0).

- Saph

Malacode
2009-02-09, 07:37 AM
I think we've covered the "why" part of this... The only thing I think I can possibly contribute is this: Start with a base mechanic that is identical for both the Familiar and the Animal Companion, I don't know what. Have a few differences, but only in later stuff. So they both advance HD or something, but a Familiar gets a set list of feats and half BAB or something, and a few special features, while AC gets to choose feats and has a better BAB, but no features. Everything underneath that would be the same. So like the difference between Fighter and Rouge. Kinda like the Fey/Magical Beast thing someone mentioned earlier.

lesser_minion
2009-02-09, 08:32 AM
I think they're supposed to be different concepts, drawing on different fantasy archetypes. The familiar is the sense-linked extension of self, the animal companion is . . . well, an animal who's a companion. The boosts were really only added for mechanical reasons to enable the Druid to keep the same pet instead of trading in for a new one every three levels (as they did in 3.0).

- Saph

You explained it a lot better than I did. Personally I preferred the Animal Friendship spell - this gave the sense that the animal companions were friends. I think any scaling was supposed to be achieved by casting instant buffs like Awaken on your animal minions.

There is also the point that in 3.0 your animal companions were minions, in a similar way to undead - with the difference being that 3.0 animal companions would desert you if you mistreated them, didn't respect them or if they didn't like what you were up against - so the system did start out as being vaguely consistent.

I guess a viable solution (if you hadn't already implemented your new familiar mechanics) could have been to provide some more instantaneous duration buff spells for druids and then just bring back the 3.0 system. This gives you RP requirements for animal companions to remain with you, makes decent animal companions an investment (add an XP or 'essence' cost dependent on the animal's HD to Animal Friendship)

For familiars, I quite like the amorphous living spellseeds that sorcerers now get. Independent hit dice for familiars is probably a good idea, simply because familiars appear to currently exist for two purposes - as liabilities and as things to cheese.

Another solution, I guess, could be to have the character pay an XP or an essence cost to summon/bind their familiar in the first place, and not suffer any penalties for the familiar dying. This would also justify more powerful familiars.

Fhaolan
2009-02-09, 11:46 AM
Hi Fax. :)

I agree with the previous posters as to the 'why' it's set up that way in 3.5. It was a natural progression from 3.0 and prior editions. Animal 'companions', be it wizard/sorcerer familiar, paladin warhorse, or ranger/druid companion didn't get hit with the rectification bat as the writers of the rules viewed them as serving three different functions, and it wasn't worth the effort to combine the mechanics once they had already been written up as separate things. Likely they were even done by separate writers, and the editors made the decision to not bother rectifying them.

The familiar is a very small animal that acts as a scout and range extender for the character's spells.

The animal companion is a larger animal that acts as a meat shield.

The warhorse is a large animal used for transport and a combat platform, not going into combat by themselves.

One concept that I've liked a lot is rather than treating the animal as a class feature, stat up the animal as a full NPC and progress it's abilities as it gains levels in it's own class (familiar/companion/warbeast/whatever) rather than lockstep with the PC. You could make the difference between the familiar and the companion/warbeast by having the companion/warbeast multiclass as a barbarian or fighter so that the 'familiar' abilities don't progress as quickly while the combat-based ones do.

I've been pushing this book I found recently: http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=54699 There are some glitches in it that don't quite make sense, but no more than exist in WotC's 3.x books. It's not precisely what you're looking for, but it might be a good thing to look through for ideas.