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    Default How do you DMs deal with Item Familiars?

    So, the Item Familiar feat from Unearthed Arcana is incredibly powerful. It is the only feat I know of (hell, it's the only way I know of, including racial abilities, class features, spells, etc) to passively increase the numerical XP a player receives from battles and challenges. It also allows a player to increase his skill checks beyond any normal limits, while still using the skill points he spends on other skills. Not to mention he gets an Intelligent item that can cast spells or whatever as he grows higher in level.

    I saw this feat being used during a single game. In that game, the player was playing a spellcaster (generic UA class) and the item in question was his +1 Longbow, that he later upgraded to a +3 splitting composite longbow, and he used a wish spell that he received from the Deck of Many Things (we found it at level 10) to add a special homebrewed ability to his bow that let it automatically adjust its Strength modifier to match his current Strength score (DM approved)

    The character did not use the Item Familiar to add to his XP. Instead, he dumped all his extra skill points into Spellcraft, then took levels of Incantatrix and started Persisting everything. With double the normal ranks in Spellcraft, he was able to make those checks easily, so he had divine favor, righteous might, divine power, and bite of the werebear all Persisted, then he used the rest of his spell slots to do normal wizard crowd control while he rained arrows from above with his 42 Strength and his Wings of Flying magic item.

    The DM was really concerned at this point, but she knew that if she just smashed the bow, not only would she be destroying an item that her player had spent all his money, crafting time, XP and wish to make, she would also be robbing him of about 40 skill points that he had put into the bow, which would not only remove his Spellcraft bonus, but also his ability to use Knowledge checks to identify all the crazy monsters we were running into, and et cetera.

    It's an unwritten rule that nice DMs don't Sunder their players' gear. But the Item Familiar feat was written and "balanced" on the basis that if it got out of control, a DM could just take the item away.

    This game has long since ended, I was just pointing out how the Item Familiar feat can be abused.

    How would you all deal with an Item Familiar in the party? Please don't respond by "I would ban the feat", I know that's an option. I'm just wondering if there are any ways to allow its use without resorting to Sunder and still letting the rest of the party have a chance at not sucking in comparison?
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    Default Re: How do you DMs deal with Item Familiars?

    I think part of your problem was less the Item Familiar, and more the optimization level of the player in question. They seem to be playing a Tier 1 class with an "Up Two" PrC, so it's not at all surprising they dominated, and they likely would have still dominated without the Item Familiar.

    That said... I'd remove the xp bonus and skillpoint investment, but allow the PC to rebuild it if it breaks. It's still a viable feat to take like that.
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    Default Re: How do you DMs deal with Item Familiars?

    In the rules, it says something like:

    Rather than giving a player free rein to choose an item familiar’s special abilities, the GM may decide to create items with “sleeping” abilities that can only be awakened by having characters link themselves to them. In such cases, the Game Master retains more control over what new abilities and strange items get introduced into his game, but he does limit the likelihood of characters taking the Item Creation feat.
    It doesn't address the raw power of the feature but it allows the DM to at least prepare for what's coming since they get to choose the powers ahead of time.

    There's also a rule about letting a new character take control of item familiars, in which an 'ego contest' ensues. This could be the way that the DM introduces item familiars into the world -- by allowing a PC the opportunity to take an item familiar from someone else (a dead relative from the backstory or even an antagonist). This creates a roleplayinig and mechanical limitations because they have to have frequent ego contests every time they use the item's powers -- and they're probably not going to win all the time. I don't recommend this option though if the player isn't too interested in it, since it can get a little irritating.

    You could also assign the item familiar (that they just find, of course, not one that they build) a special purpose (such as to be used to fight a specific enemy or protect a specific person) -- if the PC is using it for that purpose, it works fine, but if they decide to go dungeon-crawling then they have to win an ego contest or not use the item for the duration.

    Those last two ideas are less problematic since the character doesn't necessarily have to invest as many resources into the item as someone who created on themselves. That way if the item has some weakness or drawback that pops up sporadicallly the player doesn't feel cheated.

    There's also the really obvious method, of having the item taken away on occasion, such as by being captured by the enemy (to avoid the XP loss, you can arrange to make sure they have a chance to recover it before the time limit elapses).

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    Default Re: How do you DMs deal with Item Familiars?

    We allowed our True-Namer to take one. His impossibly high True Naming checks makes him very decent. We ignored everything else. I would never allow it as written.

    Quote Originally Posted by NeoSeraphi View Post
    It's an unwritten rule that nice DMs don't Sunder their players' gear. But the Item Familiar feat was written and "balanced" on the basis that if it got out of control, a DM could just take the item away.
    Really . . . I guess I don't roll with nice GM's.

    I break people's stuff all the time. Bebilith's have ripped a few armors to pieces. I had an NPC break a PC's Vorpal Sword. Had another guy get pinned, have his continuous vigor amulet ripped off an swallowed [Although he did get it back the hard way]. My Low-Level Artificer had his crossbow busted after he surrendered a fight.

    My player's tend to break stuff too. There is a subconsious "oh no I could have used/selled that" cry but then the "I guess I couldn't use/sell it if the enemy beat us with it". Plus we don't usually play the roving band of murders who kill [bad] people and take their stuff.

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    Default Re: How do you DMs deal with Item Familiars?

    Abusing an item familiar or incantatrix (let alone both) on an unsuspecting DM is very foul play. I'd just tell the player straight up I'm not prepared to deal with what was created, and work with them to make acceptable tweaks.

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    Default Re: How do you DMs deal with Item Familiars?

    Quote Originally Posted by NeoSeraphi View Post
    How would you all deal with an Item Familiar in the party? Please don't respond by "I would ban the feat", I know that's an option. I'm just wondering if there are any ways to allow its use without resorting to Sunder and still letting the rest of the party have a chance at not sucking in comparison?
    Sorry, but short of heavy homebrew "just ban it" really is almost the only advice I can give. The feat as designed is inherently broken in both directions simultaneously - used in simple and ridiculously obvious ways it is enormously overpowered; if its drawback is invoked, the character instantly and irreversibly becomes dead weight. Neither outcome is even close to balanced, and there is little or no middle ground.

    It might conceivably be ok as an intentional boost for an otherwise underpowered character (Truenamer being the classic example), with the drawback intentionally never invoked in that case, but that's pretty much it.
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    Default Re: How do you DMs deal with Item Familiars?

    I ban the XP part of it, that's just a bit wrong

    The skills? Go for it, it's usually used for incantatrixes, but we also have a 20 buff limit to prevent things from going over the top. But everyone in the group is fairly optimized (SU time Ardent with alter reality, cheater of mystra, tainted incantatrix, shadowcraft mage). If I was playing with a group that was less optimized, I'd probably say "This leads to you overshadowing everyone else, please use you better judgement and do not use it"
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    Default Re: How do you DMs deal with Item Familiars?

    I would allow the xp boost in a couple ways.
    One, if a character took a big level adjustment and is thus a few levels behind the rest of the party. Even with the level buyoff, larger LA's don't disappear quickly enough to matter most of the time.
    Two, rather than one character getting 10% more than the rest of the party, the bonus xp would go towards the whole party. Whether this is 2.5% bonus to each member of a party of four or 10% to each is up to the DM, but it would prevent one member from getting ahead just because of a feat.
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    Default Re: How do you DMs deal with Item Familiars?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hirax View Post
    Abusing an item familiar or incantatrix (let alone both) on an unsuspecting DM is very foul play. I'd just tell the player straight up I'm not prepared to deal with what was created, and work with them to make acceptable tweaks.
    If they're abusing it, just keep tossing sunders at them. Let them rebuild it. Toss more sunders at them. They'll either get the hint (eventually) or they'll throw a tantrum.

    Players who are abusing DM leniency need to have the DM leniency removed, and replaced with the firm jackboots of +10 DM oppression.

    If they have a 'broken' custom item, remove the quotes.
    If they abuse meta-magic, t turn it around and abuse it right back at them.
    If they abuse the action economy - then have them run into a high level wizard who squints at them, then suddenly they have to roll up a new character. If they want to know why, tell them it's because their current character never existed (because the other high level wizard travelled back in time and killed their grandparents before they got an action).

    (etc)

    Alternatively, just exercise DM fiat and start banning the problem books. If players want to know why, explain that the reason they can't have nice things is because bob was using them to break the game. Eventually someone will come up with the suggestion that perhaps they could have a different session or campaign.... one in which bob wasn't invited.

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    Default Re: How do you DMs deal with Item Familiars?

    Quote Originally Posted by sonofzeal View Post
    I think part of your problem was less the Item Familiar, and more the optimization level of the player in question. They seem to be playing a Tier 1 class with an "Up Two" PrC, so it's not at all surprising they dominated, and they likely would have still dominated without the Item Familiar.

    That said... I'd remove the xp bonus and skillpoint investment, but allow the PC to rebuild it if it breaks. It's still a viable feat to take like that.
    Yeah, I've played an Incantatrix without an item familiar. Pumping Spellcraft was not a notable challenge. I mean, for one thing, you're a buff persisting class. If you can't figure out a way to boost a skill check, you're doing something terrible wrong. You're also an int based SAD class. This is an int based skill. If your int is not great, you've been doing something terribly wrong. And, as a wizard, you should be keeping Spellcraft fully trained by default. So, it mostly takes care of itself.

    If a player wanted to take an item familiar, the xp bonus would be right out. I'd allow some skill point tricks and the like, but not target the item familiar really unless the player did something ludicrous like waving it in an enemies face and proclaiming that it was the source of his power.

    I wouldn't allow it as written...but I feel like everything in UA is stuff that you should pop by your DM before using, so it's not a big deal.
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