Companions come in a wide variety of styles. In Eclipse, their basic abilities mostly depend on how tight their bond with their master is, and on what modifiers their master purchases for them. Since the bonuses for them are rather tightly crammed into one of the appendixes at the back of the book, there’s been a request to break them out – and to present a few of the possible variants.
Unsurprisingly, companions of all sorts can become a lot more useful and interesting when their masters start buying Templates or special modifiers for them. A couple of those – for Warbeasts and Robots – went up in a previous article on the subject.
Now, one thing to note about Companions is that they’re all, originally, non-sapient. You simply can’t (normally) establish such a bond with another sapient being. If you want to have a mystical teacher or spirit guide – perhaps your great-grandfathers ghost – you probably want “Mentor”, not “Companion”. If you want to be accompanied by a Pseudodragon, the spirit of a deceased childhood friend, or by a member of a race of sapient telepathic cats, you’ll want Leadership.
Still, that doesn’t mean that you can’t create a fabulous variety of creatures to accompany your character on his or her adventures. If the game master will let them get away with it, a character can even stack bonuses on his or her companion or companions until – at least at lower levels – they are far more powerful than their “owners” are.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it can lead to some odd situations.
Familiars are the most tightly bound companions – creatures (or constructs) small and weak enough to be essentially subsumed by their masters. They can be pretty much any originally non-sapient creature or animated object with a challenge rating of one or less. The basic modifiers for a Familiar creature are tabulated at the end of this article, but are probably fairly familiar – so we’ll get right on into some of the possible variants.
A Spirit Fetch provides one of the oldest, and easiest, forms of magic around. It doesn’t require study, theory, or complex pacts. All it requires is a touch of occult talent and a willingness to bond your soul with a minor spirit; one of the formless entities which drift between the worlds. In exchange for an anchor in the physical world, such spirit can carry messages between the dimensions – and act as a channel for the powers of their inhabitants. Does the village need rain? Send your fetch to ask the spirits of the winds what offering they will accept in exchange. If you are fortunate, it will be little more than thanks. If not, you can either get to work or try appealing to the river spirits for more water to irrigate with instead.
Spirit Fetch Template (94 CP/+2 ECL “Racial” Template)
No Strength with the Incorporeal ability (12 CP).
Mystic Link with Master (3 CP), with the Communication (3 CP), Power (3 CP), and Summons (6 CP) Modifiers. This overlaps with several of the higher-level benefits of the Familiar bond, but that’s not enough to be worth a price break. Ah well.
Major Privilege/Spirit Messenger (6 CP). A Fetch will normally at least be given a hearing by most entities in the various spirit worlds and outer planes – and is normally treated as a neutral messenger, rather than as a target.
Major Spirit Favors with +6 Bonus Uses (15 CP).
Immunity/having to pay back magical spirit favors at full value (Very Common, Major, Minor, 10 CP): Since the Spirit Fetch provides the channel, rather than forcing the spirit called upon to project it’s powers across the dimensions, working through a Fetch means that magical favors are very little trouble for spirits to provide – and so require only occasional, or relatively small, favors to repay. Still, spirits will occasionally call on the Fetch’s master when they need something done in the material world.
Immunity/dimensional barriers (Very Common, Severe, Major, 18 CP): The spirit fetch can move between the dimensions – although this may take it some time; being able to breach the dimensional boundaries doesn’t mean that it may not be a fairly long trip.
Shapeshift, with the Incorporeal Modifier (this modifier is normally used by physical creatures to take incorporeal forms, but it will work perfectly well the other way), Specialized/only to materialize, not to take alternate forms (6 CP).
Extraordinary Returning (12 CP). “Destroying” a Spirit Fetch normally requires permanently killing off it’s master; otherwise it will be back within a week. Fortunately, this also negates the usual penalties of having a “familiar” destroyed.
Although it’s not required, a Spirit Fetch is usually built on the base statistics for an Eagle or Falcon, simply because they’re faster – and a Spirit Fetch is all about carrying messages and gathering information.
Getting yourself a Spirit Fetch requires Companion (6 CP) with one level of the Template modifier (6 CP) – for a net cost of 12 CP. If you want to take this approach to being a shaman – an intermediary with the spirit world – you can simply get Occult Sense/Spirit Sense (allowing you to see and hear spirits) and Mindspeech to allow you to communicate with them. Some Knowledge/The Planes and Knowledge/Religion is advisable, but not strictly required. If you want to have spells available immediately, saving some up with the Power Words ability is a good choice.
Of course, as a Familiar, a Spirit Fetch provides it’s master with a 6 CP bonus ability anyway. Buy something appropriate.
The Lifling Familiar:
Have you got a youngster who wants to go adventuring? Not a few mid- and high- level parents face that dilemma, and remember the friends who didn’t survive their adventures. It may well be worthwhile to invest 6 CP in the Might ability for your familiar and send it along to keep an eye on the kid. What you can’t stop, you can still hope to render survivable by attuning your companion to positive energy. We’ll call this the “Lifling” variant.
For a mere 6 CP the “Might” modifier grants your familiar +2 positive levels – including +2 on it’s BAB, Saves, and AC, as well as providing it with 12 CP to spend on abilities for itself – in this case:
Grant of Aid with +6 Bonus Uses (15 CP Base) and Blessing (6 CP Base), Specialized/for Grant of Aid only, with both abilities Corrupted/are extremely flashy in use, and attract a good deal of attention as arcs of positive energy pour out (net cost 12 CP). Throw in Transference (to buy Returning), for another +3 CP, and even if your familiar gets itself killed protecting someone, you can just call it back.
Now, 9 CP is modestly expensive if you buy it directly (although the value of your Child’s life is – hopefully – higher), but there are ways – such as making a Relic – around that.
Shadow Guardian Familiars:
Shadow Guardians are companions for a combatant: select – say – hyenas (if you want big, tough, warriors) or regular House Cats (if you want sneaky ones that will still be fairly formidable once you take the “Tiny” modifiers off them) as your base creatures and invest in Might (+6 CP), Transform (+6), and Additional (+6 CP). Spend the 12 CP from Might on Returning and – say – Spirit Weapon, and now you have some pop-up bodyguards and assistants whom you don’t have to worry about being killed, who share your skills, BAB, and basic saves, who are utterly loyal, and whom you can communicate with mentally. Getting your own private squad of pop-up ninja is probably worth a level or two worth of character points, even if you can’t find any way to bring the price down – which isn’t all that hard.
Given the ability to add Templates, Spell Storing, Great Form, Might, and Transform – or to simply give your Companion(s) more points through Transference – Familiars, and other Companions, can be customized in an endless variety of ways.
Basic Familiar Bonuses:
Familiars use one-half of their master’s hit points as a base, rather than their own base hit dice.
Animated objects use the usual base statistics, but gain +12 HP, “heal” 2d4 hit points per day, and have a +4 base in Spot, Listen, Move Silently, and Search.
Unfortunately, if a Familiar is destroyed or dismissed, the master must make a DC 15 Fortitude save or lose (200 x Current Level) XP. Success reduces the lost by 50%. In either case the companion cannot be replaced for 3D6 months.
|Master’s Level||Int||NA||Special Abilities:|
|0*||5||+0||Improved Fortune (Evasion). Use their attribute modifiers with their masters base Skills, Saves, BAB, and Effective Level wherever these exceed their natural values. Thanks to the Familiar Link, within a base range of one mile their master’s may communicate with them, opt to share the effects of spells and powers with them, and (must) count touching one as touching themselves – allowing them to both deliver touch-based effects and act as channels for them.|
|1-2||6||+1||Automatic “Aid Another” on sensory checks if the Familiar would normally get a roll in its current location. The Familiar grants it’s master six character points worth of abilities appropriate to whatever it’s base form is.|
|3-4||7||+2||The Familiar Link now allows location and emotion-sharing.|
|5-6||8||+3||The Familiar Link now allows telepathic speech.|
|7-8||9||+4||Familiars may speak with animals of similar types. Animated Objects may now speak normally.|
|9-10||10||+5||Familiars may speak normally. Animated Objects may fly at 50/poor. (If they can already fly, increase the rate).|
|11-12||11||+6||Choice of Spell or Power Resistance (at the base value).|
|13-14||12||+7||The Familiar Link allows sense sharing.|
|15-16||13||+8||The Familiar Link now allows the Master and the Familiar to channel Spells and Powers through each other.|
|17-18||14||+9||The Familiar Link now has Planetary Range. It wasn’t explicitly stated in Eclipse, but I tend to assume that this is a gradual thing; that’s why the “base range” was listed as a mile, rather than that simply being the “range”. This almost never matters of course.|
|19-20||15||+10||The Familiar Link now has Transdimensional Range.|
*Yes, it is quite possible for a level-zero character to have a Companion.
If you’re using the Wealth Level Templates from The Practical Enchanter in lieu of conventional magic items, high levels of Wealth confer bonuses on a character’s mounts, pets, and familiars. Even outside of the magical effects of the template, presumably the owner can obtain high-quality beasts to begin with, and can afford to give them the very best of care, training, and even mystical aid of their own.
- At the “Wealthy” Wealth Level:
- Mounts gain 2d4 levels of Magical Beast, +1d3 to each attribute, and +5′ to their movement rates.
- Pets and Familiars gain 1d4 levels of Magical Beast, +1d2 to each attribute, and +5′ to their movement rates.
- At the “Imperial” Wealth Level:
- Mounts gain 3d4 levels of Magical Beast, +1d4 to each attribute, and +10′ to their movement rates.
- Pets and Familiars gain 1d4+2 levels of Magical Beast, +1d3 to each attribute, and +10′ to their movement rates.
In either case, the magical beast levels confer their usual benefits. This doesn’t exactly mesh with how Eclipse usually does things; Eclipse normally breaks up the package of benefits you get with a “level” into individual abilities – but The Practical Enchanter is a different sourcebook.
It’s also a sourcebook that intends the upper levels of wealth for fairly high-level and important characters – at the point where giving their mount +6 levels of magical beast simply means that it will continue to be of some use. After all, wealthy, important, and high-level characters really OUGHT to have impressive steeds and beasts to go along with their legendary magical devices, castles, and armies. If you let a low-level character do that however, you’re likely to wind up with a situation where the creature is far more competent than the master. It worked for C.S. Lewis in “The Horse and his Boy“, it works in Pokemon, and it works in Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot – but those are the only examples that come immediately to mind, and I have to admit that they’re all targeted for children or young adults at best. Your mileage may vary.