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View Full Version : 3.x - No more familiars



Jon_Dahl
2012-06-17, 11:19 AM
Iíve come to conclusion that familiars are not everyoneís cup of tea.
The idea itself is really great and thematically they fit D&D and almost any fantasy game really well. I have no problem with that but hereís a list of problems Iíve noticed:
- Everyone almost always forgets their familiar. As a DM Iím happy to admit that I have zero interest to roleplay NPC-familiars which often have limited intelligence and players tend to have very little interest to interact with them.
- Their usefulness is limited. There isnít much you can do with them.
- They are a liability. You lose one, you lose a lot. You keep one, you might get something in return.
Iíve talked to about a half a dozen people and none of them are that excited about familiars. Granted that itís not a big sample but quite frankly I donít like them either.

So summa summarum: Familiars are a great idea but some players simply forget them.

So Iíve been thinking about a couple of house rules and Iíd very much love to hear your opinion about them.

#1: As an alternative, a sorcerer does not gain familiar. Instead the sorcerer gains +2 saving throws vs. spells. At 13th level this bonus increases to +4.

Reasoning: According to Playerís Handbook, sorcerers have raw power which they control. It seems that this power is within them, inside their bodies and in their blood. Therefore it would make sense that it gives them some resistance towards magic. Right now they are extremely vulnerable to magic that forces them to roll fortitude or reflex saves. Since they are ďmagic personifiedĒ (IMO), Iíd like them to have some extra protection against magic.
Right now: ďItís a sorcerer. They have poor fortitude saves so use a Sound Burst.Ē
After my house rule: ďItís a sorcerer. Their inner magic makes them resistant to magic. Better not use any spells!Ē
Why does the bonus increase at 13th level? Thatís because at that level you usually receive ďscry on familiar abilityĒ.
Negative side: Some familiars provide saving throw bonuses and many other features, so it maybe that +2/+4 is not a competitive trade-off. Also an actual SR would make more sense but itís too powerful.

#2: As an alternative, a wizard does not gain familiar. Instead he can perform a special arcane ritual which takes 24 hours and uses up magical materials that cost 100 gp.
Effects:
- The wizard can always sense the direction of his spellbook's location as long as itís within 1 mile of him/her.
- The wizard can cast a single targeted spell into the spellbook. Any creature touching the spellbook other than the wizard or an attuned individual is subject to the stored spell. Attuning an individual usually requires speaking a password which can be freely changed at will by the wizard. Once released, the spell must be renewed. Storing a new spell into the spellbook dispels the previous spell.
- The spellbook receives resistance to cold, fire, sonic and acid 10 and hardness 10. I will also become waterproof.

Reasoning: I hope it will not be an understatement to say that wizards are really dependant on their spellbooks. Also the spellbooks can be difficult to protect especially at lower levels. I think it makes sense that the wizard is bonded to his/her personal spellbook and not to some random rodent :)
Negative side: Usually spellbooks have heavy plot protection so no further protection is necessary. I donít remember any harm ever coming upon spellbooks.

What do you think? Iím not saying that my ideas are perfect but Iíd like to see some simple and sensible alternatives to familiars. There are some in UA but letís not go there please. Pathfinder also has great ideas but Iíd like to find some other alternatives.

madock345
2012-06-17, 11:46 PM
I saw a wizard get permission to bind a spirit as his familiar. It was treated as an unseen servant spell, except the servant had an intelligence of 3 and could communicate with the wizard on a primitive level.
I personaly always get the improved familiar feat and a psudodragon. I love psudodragons.

My solution, in short, would be to provide a more intresting list of familiars. people are going to forget about a talking bird, yes. but a magical creature that can actually do something usefull once in a while? not so much.

If you just want to get rid of familiars entirely however, your ideas seem fine. allowing the wizards spellbook to be an animated object with a bite attack (a la, the monster book of monsters) has intresting possibilities.

Jon_Dahl
2012-06-18, 01:16 AM
Thank you madock for your input. Much appreciated. And yes, getting rid of familiars would be ideal for my group. The only problem is to do it in a balanced and sensible way.

I'm hoping to hear more opinions. Usually it's a positive sign if people don't comment, it means that there is nothing to complain?:smallsmile:

Xefas
2012-06-18, 05:09 AM
There are some in UA but letís not go there please. Pathfinder also has great ideas but Iíd like to find some other alternatives.

Player's Handbook 2 also allows a Specialist Wizard to trade in their Familiar for a special power, and a Sorcerer to trade in their Familiar for a metamagic bonus. Dungeonscape and Complete Champion also have options for trading a Sorcerer's Familiar in for a spellcasting-related bonus of some kind.

Just throwing that out there for completeness' and comparative sake.

Jon_Dahl
2012-06-18, 07:51 AM
Player's Handbook 2 also allows a Specialist Wizard to trade in their Familiar for a special power, and a Sorcerer to trade in their Familiar for a metamagic bonus. Dungeonscape and Complete Champion also have options for trading a Sorcerer's Familiar in for a spellcasting-related bonus of some kind.

Just throwing that out there for completeness' and comparative sake.

Thank you. I haven't noticed those.

Wavelab
2012-06-18, 08:52 AM
As a wizard I personally like trading my familiar and spellbook in to be able to prepare spells from memory. This is a really nice way to save yourself from bad situations.

radmelon
2012-06-18, 12:22 PM
Complete Mage also has a bunch of ACF for spellcasters, including benefits for trading in familiars.

Deepbluediver
2012-06-18, 02:49 PM
I agree that Familiars seem to get forgotten because they tend to have very small, passive bonuses. I'm sure that players would find ways to use them more if there was actually something to DO with a familiar other than have it sit around in your pocket. (or be an extra snack to distract the dragon while the wizard flees to safety)

zorenathres
2012-06-19, 11:23 AM
i usually allow alternate class features (like from the planar handbook or PHB2) to replace the familiar, no one really uses them (locally). perhaps its the playing styles, i remember one player (always played casters) did use his familiar quite often for small things like scouting & distraction.

Pyromancer999
2012-06-19, 05:03 PM
There are plenty of ACFs out there to replace the Familiar. However, I've known people to exploit the "spells that affect you can also affect your familiar" clause to gain extra mileage out of spells, not the least of which the polymorph school, which turns you into a creature and gives you a bunch of temporary hit points, allowing for the caster to need not fear losing their familiar while turning it into a war machine, and transmutation spells, not the least of which is the actual Polymorph spell itself.

nonsi
2012-06-20, 06:22 AM
Familiars can add to roleplay, strategy, mischief and a lot of other fun stuff.
A familiarís role is support. It was never designed for straight combat. However, for espionage/sabotage/stealing/..., a familiar could do wonders.

And since brewing is always better than nixing - click my sig and download my codex.
The last base class in it is the Witch. It contains rules for making familiars a lot more interesting and ten times more useful.

Deepbluediver
2012-06-21, 01:44 PM
I haven't read through nonsi's codex yet, but I had a similar idea for my wizard fix and this thread prompted me to finally finish and post it. If you are interested in having a familiar, but it seems kinda "meh" check here (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=13434142&postcount=2) for a few ideas on how to liven things up.