Saturday, January 17, 2015

Player's Companion Review: Familiar Folio

So, what do we see inside the Familiar Folio?  It’s weirdly organized (pro tip: the familiars are not in the beginning of the book), but has some real gems in it.  Almost the first third of the book is devoted to intro content and to archetypes.  In fact, there are a whopping nine archetypes in this book and that doesn’t include the options to just give familiars to sorcerers (who do not get a new bloodline related to familiars, in case you are wondering).  The book does go a long way to help customize familiars and includes archetypes that familiars can take and feats for familiars.  Characters also have options to beef up their familiars, including specializing familiars in a wizard school for a feat, in a sorcerous bloodline in exchange for the 1st level bloodline power, or a witch’s patron in exchange for waiting on patron spells by one level.

There are also new familiars.  Some are so banal you’ll be shocked they weren’t already included, like chickens.  There are some fun tropical and Australian-inspired familiars.  Finally, there are three new monster bestiary entries that can function as either monsters or as improved familiars.  The front and back covers give comprehensive lists of all the possible familiars in the game, both standard and improved.  Further, inside the book is advice for reskinning a familiar from one type to another or even how to retain game balance while modifying a familiar to better reflect the animal’s real abilities.

The normal expected items and spells are in this book.  The spells are pretty much what you’d expect, though there are some surprisingly inventive drugs and other pieces of equipment.

Archetypes
This book just dives straight into archetypes.  First we have two pages of “Character Archetypes,” followed by two pages of “Caster Archetypes.”  I’m not sure what differentiates the two except that the character archetypes section includes both casters and non-casters.  What do all 8 archetypes presented have in common?  Surprise, surprise!  Everyone gets a familiar.  Personally, I think the ones in the character archetypes are better thought out.  The familiars for the Chosen One (paladin), Eldtritch Guardian (fighter) and Leshy Warden (druid) are all exceeding well thought out on a flavor level and do a good job balancing their new abilities for those that get traded out. 

For instance, the chosen one’s text mentions that she often doesn’t know that she’s a paladin at first level, merely that she is guided by her religious mentor (familiar).  By the time the chosen one reaches seventh level, her familiar unveils its true celestial form.  A paladin following an eagle sacred to Iomedae could be a lot of fun to play.  Perhaps a young Kellid girl develops a strong bond with an eagle that seems less afraid of her than of other animals.  One day, she feels the eagle is trying to lead her east.  Eventually she makes it to Mendev, where she plans to join the 5th Crusade.  And bam, you have a character seed for a Wrath of the Righteous campaign right there.  In one of my homebrew settings, the Kyrii Virtu are a group of forest dwelling humans.  Because the main human god there is a lawful good deity of home and community, my young eagle following chosen one could just as easily worship him.

The eldritch guardian and the leshy warden are both interesting takes on their particular base classes.  The eldritch guardian gains a familiar and, when the two can see each other, can share feats with his familiar.  He’s also much better attuned to detecting magical energy than the base class.  I really like the idea of trading out bravery for a +1 to mind-affecting will saves in general as well—it’s thematically within the archetype’s range and it also does a good job beefing up what’s generally considered one of the weaker classes.  The leshy warden does a good job incorporating the leshy (see Bestiary 3 pp. 176-180) wholistically into the class.  While I don’t love this archetype in particular, it gives me some ideas about trying to create a fey druid archetype that builds off of this base while using the fey creature template from Bestiary 3.

I don’t much care for the duettist, who trades several bardic abilities for the ability to share the use of his remaining performances with his familiar.  The beastblade magus was interesting—he must take a familiar as his first magus arcana.  Over time, he gets better and better at sharing touch spells with his familiar, first having the familiar deliver them and later even able to have a touch spell charged on the familiar and casting another spell.  The homunculus alchemist gives up far more than he gets—especially already being able to get a familiar through a discovery.  The synthesist witch looked interesting, but complicated.

I didn’t much care for the wizard archetypes—the familiar adept, the spirit binder and the pact magic adept.  Both get more specialized familiars, but must trade away all the wizard bonus feats and select an additional opposition school (even universalists). This seems like a lot to ask.    On the flavor front, however, archetypes do excel. The familiar adept gains spells through his familiar like a witch, while the pact magic adept’s familiar is heavily tied to a particular outer plane (of any alignment).  How to explain an evil familiar of an opposite alignment?  It’s trying to tempt it’s master into folly, of course! 

Finally, the spirit binder is REALLY interesting.  The spirit binder’s familiar used to be a close friend of relative whose spirit the wizard has caught and tied into an animal’s body.  The familiar even has some class levels as if it was a member of the former relative’s class.  The spirit binder gives up his bonus feats in favor of granting them to the familiar, who will adopt the skills of its inhabiting spirit as it progresses in power.  In my homebrew, there are a race of hyper-illusionist giant elephant men called the kaluski.  They are trapped into worshipping the wendigo.  As I read through this, I started thinking about how cool it would be if each tribe’s main wizard was a spirit binder and each of them had bound their predecessor in accordance with the wendigo’s wishes.  AND…that just became canon. 

Familiar Archetypes & School Familiars
That’s right!  The crazy kids at Paizo are giving you archetypes for your familiars as well.  Familiars gain levels according to the total of character class levels from classes that grant the familiar.  At first, I was a little dubious, the first archetype, the decoy, did not blow me away. But, there are some really interesting ideas here that modify your basic familiar.  In particular, I really enjoyed:
·      the figment archetype (the familiar is a manifestation of the master’s imagination),
·      the mascot (the familiar shares its bond with more and more party members as it gains levels), and
·      the sage (the familiar has INT of 5+its level and can make lots of untrained knowledge checks.

Skipping a section, we also get feats (School Familiar and Greater School Familiar) that allow wizards with a specialist school to get some awesome options for their familiars.  I have never been a big fan of specialist wizards (or of familiars, for that matter), but these feats could make things worthwhile.  The effects vary based on what school a wizard is specialized in.  While evocation did make out pretty well, it was nice to see some effects where I didn’t immediately think that the evocation and transmutation skills were the best.  It’s nice when enchanters and abjurers can have nice things too.

The book has also taken time to grant completely optional familiars to sorcerers (and anyone with sorcerer-like powers, such as a bloodrager) and witches (same).  Sorcerers trade their first level bloodline power for the familiar and a power associated to the bloodline for the familiar.  Witches gain a power for their familiar based on their patron, but must take their patron spells one level later.

In a list from most to least awesome (sort of, the top ones are all basically interchangeably awesome), here are the wizard school familiars:
·      Necromancy
o   Lesser: Whenever familiar successfully uses aid another for an ally’s attack, that attack deals full damage to incorporeal creatures.
o   Greater: Familiar is healed by negative energy as if undead.  Familiar is immune to energy drain.  Familiar is constantly under effects of a hide from undead spell.  Whenever familiar hits with a natural attack, the creature hit takes 1 negative level.
·      Evocation
o   Lesser: Energy Boost: Familiar gains resistance 10 to a selected energy type.  Whenever a spell with selected energy type is cast while caster is within 5 feet of familiar, it does bonus damage equal to it’s spell level.
o   Greater: Eldtrich Battery: Familiar becomes to immune to type of energy selected for lesser power.  If familiar is the target of an evocation spell of this energy type and cast by its master, the familiar can store the spell (including attached metamagic feats) and use the spell later as a spell-like ability.
·      Enchantment
o   Lesser: Manipulative Abettor: If familiar shares square with target of master’s enchantment spell, its DC increased by 2.
o   Greater: Puppet Master: Once per day familiar makes a melee touch attack.  If it hits, victim must make a will save (DC 10 + ½ familiar’s hit dice + familiar’s CHA modifier) of be affected as if by charm monster.  Effects last so long as the familiar remains conscious and within 5 feet of victim.  After an individual is affected once, immune to further uses of this power.
·      Abjuration
o   Lesser: Energy Block: Familiar gains energy resistance equal to half caster’s level to one type of energy and can share resistance with one ally within 5 feet of it
o   Greater: Disruptive Spirit: Whenever familiar hits an enemy with its natural attack, victim of attack is subject to dispel magic.
·      Illusion
o   Lesser: Illusory Maestro: Master can transfer control of illusion to his familiar for maintaining it.  This also increases DC of resisting the illusion by 1.
o   Greater: Phantom Swarm: As a standard action, familiar can appear to be a swarm.  Those who fail to disbelieve in it are subject to swarm attack of 1d6 + familiar’s CON modifier.
·      Divination
o   Lesser: Ever Ready: Familiar and master both roll initiative.  Master can assign which individual takes which initiative.  Familiar benefits from master’s forewarned school power and always acts in surprise round.
o   Greater: Greater Scry on Familiar: Master gains scry on familiar ability and can use it as if using greater scrying.
·      Conjuration
o   Lesser: Master’s Side: Familiar can return to master’s side 3+INT bonus as if using dimension door
o   Greater: Summoned Shell: Whenever master casts a Summon Monster N spell, the familiar can inhabit one of the summoned monsters for the duration of the spell
·      Transmutation
o   Lesser: Dispel bait: Caster imbues familiar with a spell from level of his choice, losing the spell.  If one of caster’s transmutations is going to be dispelled, the familiar is within 10 feet of it, and the spell stored is equal to or higher than the transmutation being dispelled, the familiar can use the stored spell to bring that transmutation back immediately.
o   Greater: Infinite forms: Once per day, familiar can polymorph into any familiar (but not improved familiars) of its choice, granting its master bonuses as if it were a different type of animal.

Approximating Familiars
We also get some advice on “approximating” familiars, which is the same thing as reskinning them.  This is actually super helpful—likely especially so for Pathfinder Society players who may or may not run into GMs that allow this sort of thing.  Now, it is clear that it can be done.  First off, they straight up endorse making changes from one animal to another when the changes are pretty obvious.  When not, they make some suggestions for how to do so without destroying the balance underlying the game.  Most of the advice is obvious, but it’s also probably good for those that don’t sit down and meditate on game design.

Feats
The book then gives feats for both masters and for familiars themselves.  Feats of interest include Familiar Bond, which lets any character gain a familiar; teamwork feats to let multiple casters deliver spells through each other’s familiars; and telepathic communication with your familiar.    There are also feats for the familiars themselves.  These include upgrades to all the familiar archetypes through a feat. 

New Items – Mundane, Alchemical, and Magical
First of all, we have some new drugs, which are always interesting.  Felines can now be affected by catnip.  There are hazemind concentrate (ingested) and hazemind mist (inhaled) which move their victims’ attitudes to others one step closer to indifferent.  Mundanity grease can temporarily sever the bond between master and familiar. 

The aquarium ball and the replenishing aquarium ball make it easier to transport aquatic familiars overland.  Featherleaf barding will help protect your familiar, and also grant some great bonuses to flying ones.  Finally, spell-sharing collars allow familiars and animal companions holding spells and spell like abilities from their masters to transfer the spells and abilities to other animals wearing attuned collars.

New Familiars
We get a whole slew of new familiars.  Some of them are  so common I’m surprised they aren’t already incorporated into the game, like the chicken.  The koala and the peacock are awesome, though not suprises that they haven’t been added quite yet.  The new improved familiars, the cat sith, the caypup, and the pseduosphinx are all awesome.  They also come with full bestiary entries and a GM could make so much trouble with a pack of cat sith in a small town or even a city.  The cat siths may or may not be loosely based on the cats from T.S. Elliott’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats and the derivative musical Cats.  We’re also treated to some examples of truly exotic familiars like the ioun wyrd, the leopard slug, and the petrifern—the last of which is hilarious.  It’s a mobile plant that defends itself by petrifying—itself!  I can just imagine some great RP opportunities.  Paladin, “The orgre ambush has been defeated.  Time to head onwards.”  Wizard, “One second.  We have to wait for Petey the Petrifern to return to a mobile state.”  Paladin, “Not again.”

New Archetypes

Level
Chosen One (Paladin archetype)
Notes
1
Aura of good, detect evil, divine emissary, religious mentor

2
Lay on hands, smite evil 1/day
Lay on paws; smite evil 1 level late
3
Aura of courage, divine health, mercy

4
Channel positive energy, divine grace, smite evil 2/day
Divine grace 1 level late; lay on paws
5
Divine bond

6
Mercy

7
Smite evil 3/day, True Form

8
Aura of resolve

9
Mercy

10
Emissary’s smite, smite evil 4/day

11
Aura of justice

12
Mercy

13
Smite evil 5/day

14
Aura of faith

15
Mercy

16
Smite evil 6/day

17
Aura of righteousness

18
Mercy

19
Smite evil 7/day

20
Holy champion

Strikethrough = Ability replaced
Yellow = New Ability
Blue = Same ability, new level
Green = Ability modified

Level
Duettist (Bard archetype)
1
Bardic knowledge, bardic performance, cantrips, countersong, distraction, familiar, fascinate, inspire courage +1
2
Versatile familiar, versatile performance, well-versed
3
Inspire competence +2
4
Performing familiar
5
Inspire Courage +2, lore master 1/day
6
Suggestion, versatile performance
7
Inspire competence +3
8
Dirge of doom, harmonizing familiar
9
Inspire greatness
10
Jack of all trades, versatile performance
11
Inspire competence +4, inspire courage +3, lore master 2/day
12
Soothing Performance
13

14
Frightening tune, versatile performance, symphonic familiar
15
Inspire competence +5, inspire heroics
16

17
Inspire courage +4, lore master 3/day
18
Mass suggestion, versatile performance
19
Inspire competence +6
20
Deadly performance
Strikethrough = Ability replaced
Yellow = New Ability
Blue = Same ability, new level
Green = Ability modified

Level
Eldritch Guardian (Fighter archetype)
Class
Skills
Climb, Craft, Handle Animal, Intimidate, Knowledge (duneoneering), Knowledge (engineering), Perception, Profession, Ride, Spellcraft, Survival, Swim, Use Magical Device
1
Bonus feat, familiar
2
Bonus feat, bravery +1, share training, steel will +1
3
Armor Training 1
4
Bonus feat
5
Weapon training 1
6
Bonus feat, bravery +2, steel will +2
7
Armor training 2
8
Bonus feat
9
Weapon training 2
10
Bonus feat, bravery +3, steel will +3
11
Armor training 3
12
Bonus feat
13
Weapon training 3
14
Bonus feat, bravery +4, steel will +4
15
Armor training 4
16
Bonus feat
17
Weapon training 4
18
Bonus feat, bravery +5, steel will +5
19
Armor mastery
20
Bonus feat, weapon mastery
Strikethrough = Ability replaced
Yellow = New Ability
Blue = Same ability, new level
Green = Ability modified

Level
Leshy Warden (Druid archetype)
Notes
1
Green empathy, leshy caller, leshy familiar, nature bond, nature sense, orisons, wild empathy

2
Woodland stride

3
Trackless step

4
Leshy tender, resist nature’s lure, wild shape 1/day

5


6
Wild shape 1/day
Small and medium plant creatures only
7


8
Leshy tender, wild shape 2/day
Large plant creatures added
9
Venom immunity

10
Wild shape 3/day
Huge plant creatures added
11


12
Leshy tender, wild shape 4/day

13
A Thousand Faces, Spirit Whisperer

14
Wild shape 5/day

15
Timeless body

16
Wild shape 6/day

17


18
Wild shape 7/day

19


20
Wild shape (at will)

Strikethrough = Ability replaced
Yellow = New Ability
Blue = Same ability, new level
Green = Ability modified

Level
Beastblade (Magus archetype)
Notes
1
Arcane pool, cantrips, spell combat

2
Spellstrike

3
Magus arcana (familiar only)

4
Spell recall, Tandem touch

5
Bonus feat

6
Magus arcana

7
Familiar pool, knowledge pool, medium armor

8
Improved spell combat

9
Magus arcana

10
Fighter training

11
Bonus feat, familiar spellstrike, improved spell recall

12
Magus arcana

13
Heavy armor

14
Greater spell combat

15
Magus arcana

16
Counterstrike

17
Bonus feat

18
Magus arcana

19
Greater spell access

20
True magus

Strikethrough = Ability replaced
Yellow = New Ability
Blue = Same ability, new level
Green = Ability modified

Level
Familiar Adept (Wizard archetype)
Notes
1
Arcane bond (familiar only), arcane school, cantrips, extra opposition school, Familiar spells, focused school 1/day, scribe scroll
Uses familiar instead of spellbooks
2


3


4
Familiar lesser school power

5
Bonus feat, focused school 2/day

6


7


8
Familiar greater school power

9


10
Bonus feat, focused school 3/day

11


12


13


14


15
Bonus feat, focused school 4/day

16


17


18


19


20
Bonus feat, focused school 5/day

Strikethrough = Ability replaced
Yellow = New Ability
Blue = Same ability, new level
Green = Ability modified

Level
Homunculist (Alchemist archetype)
1
Alchemy, bomb 1d6, brew potion, homunculus familiar, mutagen, throw anything
2
Discovery, poison resistance +2, poison use
3
Bomb 2d6, swift alchemy
4
Discovery, experimentation
5
Bomb 3d6, poison resistance +4
6
Discover, swift poisoning
7
Bomb 4d6
8
Discovery, experimentation (2 points), poison resistance +6
9
Bomb 5d6
10
Discovery, poison immunity
11
Bomb 6d6
12
Discovery, experimentation (3 points)
13
Bomb 7d6
14
Discovery, persistent mutagen
15
Bomb 8d6
16
Discovery, experimentation (4 points)
17
Bomb 9d6
18
Discovery, instant alchemy
19
Bomb 10d6
20
Grand discovery, experimentation (5 points)
Strikethrough = Ability replaced
Yellow = New Ability
Blue = Same ability, new level
Green = Ability modified

Level
Pact Wizard Adept (Wizard archetype)
1
Arcane bond (familiar only), arcane school (extra opposition school), aura, cantrips, pact, pact summons, scribe scroll
2

3

4

5
Bonus feat
6

7
True form
8

9

10
Bonus feat
11

12

13

14

15
Bonus feat
16

17

18

19

20
Bonus feat
Strikethrough = Ability replaced
Yellow = New Ability
Blue = Same ability, new level
Green = Ability modified

Level
Spirit Binder (Wizard archetype)
1
Arcane bond (soulbound familiar), arcane school (can’t oppose necromancy), cantrips, lost talents, scribe scroll
2

3

4

5
Bonus feat, Lost talents
6

7

8

9

10
Bonus feat, Lost talents
11

12

13

14

15
Bonus feat, Lost talents
16

17

18

19

20
Bonus feat, Lost talents
Strikethrough = Ability replaced
Yellow = New Ability
Blue = Same ability, new level
Green = Ability modified

Level
Synergist (Witch archetype)
1
Cantrips, hex, symbosis, witch’s familiar
2
Hex
3

4
Hex
5

6
Hex
7

8
Hex
9

10
Hex, major hex
11

12
Hex
13

14
Hex
15

16
Hex
17

18
Hex, grand hex
19

20
Hex


Strikethrough = Ability replaced
Yellow = New Ability
Blue = Same ability, new level
Green = Ability modified