Familiars Have Arrived

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on March 4, 2009

Yesterday, Ameron congratulated Wizards of the Coast for removing familiars from 4e D&D. While many of you may agree that familiars were an unnecessary game mechanic that added little value, others may miss the little critters. We’ve since learned that Wizards is bringing back familiars later this year in Arcane Power. But for those of you who don’t want to wait that long, we present our take on familiars.

Why would someone miss familiars you might ask? Let’s take a look why this might be the case. Familiars are cool. That’s right, having a hawk circling the battlefield or a snake wrapped around your staff is just a cool statement about your Wizard. It adds to your PC’s personality and can provide for some interesting role playing. Is that a Ferret in your pocket or…?

The other reason that familiars are required: meta gaming. Yes, as D&D players we love to number crunch and come up with the best set of numbers to define our character. The Wizard’s familiar adds to the sources we can select from. Whether it’s extra hit points or bonuses to our defenses, we’ll take whatever advantage is offered up.

Finally, familiars have been in every other edition of D&D but this one. Why did WotC decide not to include them with their initial launch of 4e? With that thought in mind, I’ve compiled some home-brew rules to incorporate familiars back into the game.

Wizard Familiars

Wizards gain a class feature called Arcane Familiar. On a basic level this allows them to have a small animal about their person. The Arcane Familiar Class Feature allows a Wizard to select one of the Summon Familiar feats. These feats allow you to create an arcane bond with your familiar and gain a power based on that relationship. Once per encounter you may call on your familiar as a standard action and gain the benefit listed.  You may only have one familiar at a time.

Your familiar has half of your hit point total, no healing surges and uses your defensive scores. Your familiar is always about your person and benefits from partial concealment; all attacks against your familiar suffer -2 to attack rolls. Blast and burst damage do not effect your familiar. Additionally, your familiar is immune to all conditions. It cannot be stunned, dazed, etc. An opponent can elect to target your familiar on their turn. At 1st level you can communicate with your familiar verbally and at 11th level you may communicate telepathically.

If your familiar is killed you suffer a -1 to all defenses until the end of the encounter. Additionally, you immediately lose 1 healing surge. After every extended rest you must make a saving throw; if you fail the saving throw you lose 1 healing surge until your next extended rest. A success on the saving throw removes this condition and allows you to summon a new familiar.

Arcane Familiar
Wizard Feature
You forge an arcane bond with a small animal, making it your familiar.
Encounter * Arcane
Standard Action
Effect: You are able to summon your familiar once per encounter, gaining the benefits of your mystic bond. You may only have one familiar at a time.

Familiar Feats

Listed below are the Summon Familiar Feats:

Cat Familiar
Wizard Feat
You tap the arcane bond with your familiar, drawing upon its power to augment yours.
Encounter * Arcane
Standard Action                     Personal
Effect: If you move more than 4 squares from your starting square you gain concealment.
Ferret Familiar
Wizard Feat
You tap the arcane bond with your familiar, drawing upon its power to augment yours.
Encounter * Arcane
Standard Action                     Personal
Effect: Upon summoning your familiar you gain +1 to your Reflex defense until the end of the encounter.
Hawk Familiar
Wizard Feat
You tap the arcane bond with your familiar, drawing upon its power to augment yours.
Encounter * Arcane
Standard Action                     Personal
Effect: Upon summoning your familiar you gain a +1 bonus to ranged attacks until the end of the encounter.
Owl Familiar
Wizard Feat
You tap the arcane bond with your familiar, drawing upon its power to augment yours.
Encounter * Arcane
Standard Action                     Personal
Effect: Upon summoning your familiar you gain a +1 bonus to your Will defense until the end of the encounter.
Rat Familiar
Wizard Feat
You tap the arcane bond with your familiar, drawing upon its power to augment yours.
Encounter * Arcane
Standard Action                     Personal
Effect: Upon summoning your familiar you gain a +1 bonus to your Fortitude defense until the end of the encounter.
Snake Familiar
Wizard Feat
You tap the arcane bond with your familiar, drawing upon its power to augment yours.
Encounter * Arcane
Standard Action                     Personal
Effect: On your next attack you are able to apply ongoing poison damage equal to your Intelligence modifier, save ends.
Toad Familiar
Wizard Feat
You tap the arcane bond with your familiar, drawing upon its power to augment yours.
Encounter * Arcane
Standard Action                     Personal
Effect: Upon summoning your familiar you gain 8 temporary hit points.
Heal Familiar
Wizard Feat
You draw upon your arcane power and channel it into your familiar, healing it of all damage.
Encounter * Arcane
Minor Action
Effect: You can burn a healing surge as a minor action to heal your familiar.
Empower Attack
Wizard Feat
You draw upon the arcane bond you have established with your familiar, channeling the energy into a devastating attack.
Daily * Arcane
Free Action
Effect: Use of this feat allows you to apply 1d8 + your Intelligence modifier extra damage against your next target. Your familiar takes half the extra damage dealt.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 skallawag March 4, 2009 at 8:23 pm

You need a familiar that adds something to your saves. I would be a bit skeptical spending a feat on a familiar unless the bonuses are were a bit more powerful. How did they playtest?

2 Wimwick March 5, 2009 at 8:50 am

@Skallawag
I assume when you say ‘saves’ you mean saving throw and not defenses. There are three options above that allow a bonus to defenses, something that isn’t available as a feat until Paragon levels. I think giving up a standard action to gain that benefit at the heroic tier is balanced. As the powers above provide an arcane bonus I think they would stack with the Paragon powers which provide a +2 bonus.

Regarding a familiar that might provide a bonus for saving throws how does this sound:

Raven Familiar
Daily * Free Action
Immediate Interrupt
Effect: When afflicted by an effect that has a save ends condition you may make an immediate saving throw with a +1 bonus.

Now, I just came up with that idea on the spot so I’m not sure how balanced it is. If you play a Wizard would you be willing to play test any of these and provide some feedback to the community? Or would you be willing to ask the Wizard in your group to try them out (with the DMs blessing of course).

What idea’s do you have about familiars? Or do you agree with Ameron that familiars are a waste of time? If you like familiars do you think they should be implemented through a feat or would you rather see familiars work similar to Ranger animal companions? If you think they should be similar to animal companions what should the Wizard give up to gain this benefit?

3 skallawag March 5, 2009 at 9:55 am

I’d be willing to try it out, DM permitting….
I would find feats for familiars would be harder to swallow at lower levels. Possibly having a familiar as an “implement” could work but then as I think more about it, it would be more difficult to manage and would add another complexity to the wizard.

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