Eclipse d20 and the Twilight Isles – Adventures in Familiars

   When a character bonds with a familiar, he or she evidently imprints a sizeable portion of his or her mind on it, normally including his or her skill bases. According to the book, the character and the familiar are, to a large extent, a single being. Most familiars start off as simple animals.

   Of course, even in basic d20, you improve your familiar in various ways. You can add any of an assortment of templates if your skill is sufficient (I.E.; you have the right class ability). You can also take the Improved Familiar feat, and get familiars of more exotic types – including sapient familiars. Optionally, larger creatures can get larger familiars.

   The rules for exotic familiars are pretty much identical to the rules for basic familiars, although the types of monstrous familiars do not change. What sort of mental impact such a mental bond with a sapient creature has on either of the parties involved is not specified.

   In fact, the books don’t say much of ANYTHING about what kind of relationship there is between a master and his or her familiar except for one bit – stating that a familiar is “a lifelong companion, guard, spy, and servant, it is every spellcaster’s best friend and most trusted confidante”.

   My general assumptions are that a familiar:

  • Has an independent personality, with it’s own quirks and motives, and can operate on its own.
  • Is highly – but certainly not infinitely – loyal, and will normally try to assist it’s master as best it can. Yes, a familiar can try and nibble the ropes and administer a healing potion to it’s unconscious master. It’s carrying a portion of it’s master’s mind, and has a fair idea of what he or she would want it to do.
  • Takes a little while to adjust to being a familiar – especially if the abilities it’s been given include anything too exotic.
  • Is on the less-dominant side of the relationship. Familiars which can communicate may offer advice and commentary, but will normally go along with their master’s desires. The master influences the familiar a lot more than the familiar influences the master.
  • Can survive the death of their master – although it will be a tremendous shock and will cause long-term disability.
  • Familiars may or may not be able to advance in level and power independently. If they can – or if they’re somehow infused with power – they must first “pay for” any templates, skills, or other abilities they’ve been granted as familiars. After that, they can advance – and if that takes them beyond the range of creatures that can be familiars, then they’ve “graduated”, and go free – although they’ll normally stay a good friend of any but the most abusive or short-term masters. As a rule, creatures that normally advance via class levels can advance, those which normally get more racial hit dice cannot.

   If a character needs a new familiar due to one outgrowing him or her, he or she can start the bonding process a mere one-week later. If he or she has dismissed one, or it’s been killed, he or she will have to wait the usual 3d6 months before another can be bonded.

   Now, in Eclipse, things are a bit simpler; the fundamental requirement for a familiar is simply that it have a base CR of 1/3 the summoners level or less, to a maximum of CR 1. If you want a more powerful familiar, you can have one – but you’ll have to use some of the advanced options.

   So yes; you CAN have a sapient or exotic familiar. The rules discourage it somewhat – but that’s mostly because using a sapient creature for a familiar is a rather blatant form of slavery that most creatures will not want to submit to, that nicer characters would have scruples against inflicting, and that evil characters generally don’t want. Who needs to have a minion who can be readily interrogated and who knows pretty much everything that you do? And who will hurt you if it gets killed?

   Still, these things will happen once in awhile.

   Quite recently, Fredronnon Cadeyriliour Lahanar the Conjurer was caught in a massive blast of raw positive and elemental energy. While that blasted his body – and miles of the surrounding landscape – into ash and molten rock, he had taken precautions against such an eventuality long before. The destruction of his body proved less than lethal.

   Unfortunately, his links with his (relatively new) familiars transmitted a good deal of that vast surge of power into them – rather abruptly promoting them well beyond the “familiar” level. (In fact, to the “Giant Monster” level).

   That left him without any familiars at all – and he relied on them quite a bit, since they were heavily involved in his personal defenses. Ergo, he wanted to bond another familiar as quickly as possible. Being trapped in a small village in a dimensional pocket, his choice was pretty limited; he turned down one kid – he had no idea what such an attempt might do, and was pretty sure it was unethical anyway – and reluctantly settled on a puppy.

   Puppies were so BORING. His old familiars had been an eagle and a giant sea turtle!

   Sidhthil Maranchir Fanachfaid was not about to settle for being rejected without at least making a try at snagging the position. His parents were dead in the fighting, and his current guardian – the great-uncle who had taken over as the local clan head – didn’t much want or care for him. That was not a good position for a child to be in amongst the Shadow Elves; he might be sold at any time – and his minor shapeshifting talents did not improve the odds. They also made being trapped in the village a good deal more miserable – and only Fredronnon had shown the ability to come and go. Besides… Fredronnon had shown himself able to survive almost anything – a talent which might be transferred to his familiar – and Fredronnon’s familiars seemed to get a lot of free power anyway.

   He’d still be bound to a master, but that was pretty likely to happen anyway.

   Besides… it was pretty arguable that Fredronnon did need someone to watch him. He arranged to have a messenger pick up a hawk to be delivered to Fredronnon – and shapeshifted to await pickup. Fredronnon could spot him easily if he actually thought to check – but Fredronnon was NOTORIOUSLY sloppy, impulsive, and inclined to do magical things without thinking them through.

   Fredronnon was so delighted to get something other than a puppy to use that he went right ahead with the bonding ritual – and didn’t realize that the young “hawk” was anything but a hawk until the bond was forming.

    Oh dear. This was going to be more trouble.

   Sidhthil has gotten what he wanted; he may be bonded to his master – but he’s certainly acquired a tremendous amount of power. His masters’s skills, his master’s enhancement spells, his master’s saves and defenses, and a high-efficiency +4 level template have all been abruptly added to his natural abilities as a Shadow Elf – and that makes him nearly as powerful as Fredronnon is.

   Sidhthil Maranchir Fanachfaid

Level Zero Shadow Elf Familiar

   Shadow Elf Racial Summary:

  • +2 Int, +2 Dex, +2 to any one attribute,
  • Low-Light Vision (6 CP).
  • Use of Charms, Talismans, and up to four CP worth of Relics.
  • +12 (+2x Con Mod) HP
  • +1 Bonus on Saves
  • Innate Spells, each usable once per day at caster level one: Dancing Lights, Detect Magic, Faerie Fire, and Magic Weapon.
  • Fast Healing 1 up to a maximum total of 16 points of damage per day.
  • House Powers: +2 to any one of Str, Con, Wis, or Chr, +3 to a group of Skills, unlimited use of any single first-level spell selected by the game master at caster level one.
  • May add their Int Mod to their scores in wisdom-related skills (6 CP).
  • +2 bonus to Search (2 CP).
  • +2 bonus to Saves versus Spells (3 CP).
  • Inherently enchanted; they can be readily spotted, and their houses identified, by a simple Detect Magic spell unless they take special measures to prevent this.
  • Can only tolerate (Con) “points” worth of regular magic items – and the “point” cost of any given item is up to the game master (as a rule, low-level single-charge items are little trouble, spell storing items are only moderately troublesome, and permanently active personal enhancement items are very troublesome). Annoyingly enough, this limit also affects temporary external spells – although their short-term nature means that the limit is increased by the user’s (Con Mod).
  • House Fanachfaid Powers: +2 Wis, +3 on all Wisdom-Based Skills, True Strike 1/Day, True Skill 2/Day, True Save 1/Day, True Dodge 1/Day, and True Initiative 1/Day.

   Available Character Points: 24 (Level zero base) +6 Disadvantages (Irreverent, Insane/doesn’t think things through) +0 (duties and restrictions would not apply as of yet) +0 (Level zero characters have no bonus feats yet) = 30 CP.

  • Rolled Attributes: Str 16, Dex 11, Con 12, Int 17, Wis 13, Chr 14
  • Age Adjustments: Str -1, Dex +1 (Preadolescent).
  • Basic Attributes: Strength 15 (+2), Dexterity 14 (18) (+4), Constitution 12 (16) (+3), Intelligence 24 (28) (+9), Wisdom 15 (19) (+4), Charisma 14 (+2).
    • Base Power 7, Base Spell Points: 4, Personal Mana: 4 (1d6 +1d2 due to master’s level).

   *Fortunately for him, Sidhthil is sharing his master’s enhancements spells. Unfortunately for him, he’s running pretty near the level where magic would become toxic to a Shadow Elf.

  • Additional Mana (18) and Power (42) only usable for Thaumaturgy.

   Basics (3 CP)

  • Saves:
    • Fortitude +2 (+1 Purchased, 3 CP, replaced by his master’s +2) +3 (Con) +1 (Race) +8 (Resistance) = +14
    • Reflex +2 (+0 Purchased, 0 CP, replaced by his master’s +2) +4 (Dex) +1 (Race) +8 (Resistance) = +15
    • Will +3 (+0 Purchased, 0 CP, replaced by his master’s +3) +4 (Wis) +1 (Race) +8 (Resistance) = +16
  • Hit Points 44 (One-half his masters) + 18 (racial bonus) = 62

   Combat Information (3 CP)

  • Proficiencies: Proficient with Simple Weapons (3 CP).
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +4 (Dex) +3 (Natural) = 17
  • Move: 30′
  • Initiative: +4 (Dex)
  • BAB: +0 (0 CP).

   Purchased Abilities (24 CP)

  • Shapeshift (6 CP) with +2 Bonus Uses (3 CP) and Hybrid Form with Clear Speech/Specialized only to retain the Shadow Elf Bonuses and allow clear communication while shapeshifted (6 CP).
  • Lesser Foresight: Finesse/May base his Dexterity based skills on Wisdom instead (6 CP).
  • Wealth Level/Destitute (War Orphan, -6 CP): +2 Wealth Bonuses to Bluff, Sleight of Hand, Hide, and Search.
  • Effective Wealth Level: Well-Off (Supported by Master): May use three Charms and one Talisman. Currently is using the Sands of Time, a Stunstone, a Dowsing Rod, and a Talismanic Sunstone.
  • Improved Fortune/Evasion (Free as a familiar).
  • As a familiar, his effective level – and caster level – is equal to his master’s. At the moment, that’s six.
  • +9 Skill Points (9 CP) +27 (Int x 3) = 36 SP. Sidhthil originally had three skill points each in Diplomacy and Sense Motive – but those have been superceded by his master’s skills.
Skill Att Mod SP Modifiers Total
Appraise Int +9 (10)   +19
Balance Wis* +4 1 +12R +6C +23
Bluff Chr +2 3 +2W +7
Concentration Con +3 (2)   +5
Diplomacy Cha +2 (10) +2W +14
Disable Device Wis* +4 3 +12R +6C +26
Disguise Cha +2 (1) 10 +13
Escape Artist Wis* +4 1 +12R +6C +23
Gather Information Cha +2 1   +3
Hide Wis* +4 3 +12R +6C +2W +27
Knowledge (The Planes) Int +9 (10)   +19
Knowledge (Local) Int +9 3   +12
Knowledge (Nature) Int +9 1   +10
Listen Wis +4 1 +12R +6C +23
Move Silently Wis* +4 1 +12R +6C +23
Open Lock Wis* +4 1 +12R +6C +23
Profession (historian) Wis +4 (1) +12R +6C +23
Search Int +9 3 +2W +2R +16
Sense Motive Wis +4 (10) +12R +6C +32
Spellcraft Int +9 (10) (+12 for rituals) +19
Spot Wis +4 1 +12R +6C +23
Sleight of Hand Wis* +4 3 +12R +6C +2W +27
Tumble Wis* +4 3 +12R +6C +25
Use Magic Device Cha +2 1   +3
Knowledge (arcana) Int +9 (1)   +10
Preform (Ritual) Cha +2 (6)   +8
Knowledge (Religion) Int +9 (1)   +10
Dimensional Awareness Wis +4 (10) +12R +6C +32
Matter Wis +4 (10) +12R +6C +32
Energy Wis +4 (4) +12R +6C +26
Constructs Wis +4 (4) +12R +6C +26
Spirits Wis +4 (10) +12R +6C +32
Outsiders Wis +4 (1) +12R +6C +23
Binding Wis +4 (1) +12R +6C +23
Banishing Wis +4 (1) +12R +6C +23
Positive Energy Magic
The Fires Life
Wis +4 (1) +12R +6C +23
The Vital Call
Wis +4 (1) +12R +6C +23
The Light’s Master
Wis +4 (1) +12R +6C +23
Embodying The Light
Wis +4 (1) +12R +6C +23
The Revealing Light
Wis +4 (0) +12R +6C +22
The Fires of Creation
Wis +4 (0) +12R +6C +22
The Great Purifier
Wis +4 (0) +12R +6C +22
The Eternal Source
Wis +4 (0) +12R +6C +22
Rune casting: Transportation Wis +4 (1) +12R +6C +23
Rune mastery: Transportation Wis +4 (1) +12R +6C +23
Profession (Administrator) Wis +4 (1) +12R +6C +23
MA: Guard o/t Helpful Mage Wis +4 (1) +12R +6C +23
Auto-Hypnosis Wis +4 (1) +12R +6C +23
Spot Wis +4 (1) +12R +6C +23
Speak language Int +9 (1)    
Listen Wis +4 (1) +12R +6C +23

   Fredronnon was bestowing a +2 ECL Template on his familiars, but Sidhthil has opted to bestow a boost to that ability as the power he bestows on his master – neatly increasing his own abilities…

   +2 ECL Thaumaturgist’s Aide Template (95 CP):

  • Mystic Artist/Rituals and Ceremonies (6 CP), with Great Projection, Specialized/only to near the master’s location (3 CP), and Echoes, Specialized/only if the individual in question had seen the mental and mystical parts of the ritual as well as the physical performance (3 CP).
  • Occult Ritual, Corrupted/requires uses of Mystic Artist proportional to the level of effect to be produced (4 CP).
  • Power Words, with the Improved and Superior Modifiers, Specialized for Double Effect (can store 4 * Con Score/3 total levels of spells)/only to store effects cast by his or her master (15 CP).
  • Instinctive Thaumaturgy (Augmented Bonus, 6 CP): Thaumaturgy skills are based on Wisdom.
  • Mystic Link with their Master – with the Communications, Power, and Summons enhancements (15 CP).
  • Assistant and Aide, Specialized/can only assist their master (6 CP).
  • Shaping (Specialized, only as a prerequisite, 3 CP), Pulse of the Dragon (Specialized for Double Effect, Corrupted for two-thirds cost, 4 CP), and Heart of the Dragon, Specialized and Corrupted for triple effect (level two spells or “easy” thaumaturgy effects, 6 CP). In both cases, the user must learn and use thaumaturgy skills as usual to actually produce effects, must speak and gesture.
  • Shapeshift, Specialized and Corrupted/requires an hours-long ritual and the expenditure of two mana (2 CP).
  • +6 to Spellcraft, Specialized for Double Effect (effectively +12)/only for magical rituals (6 CP).
  • 4d6 Mana (as 2d6 Mana and 6d6 Power), Corrupted/only usable for Thaumaturgy (16 CP).

   The advanced – +4 ECL – version bestows another 64 CP worth of abilities. These include:

  • Dragonfire and Eye of the Dragon (12 CP).
  • Upgrading the Power Words (above) with Spellforms and Sendings (6 CP).
  • Returning: May return from death as long as his master survives (6 CP).
  • Reflex Training/3 extra actions per day variant, Specialized/only for spellcasting (3 CP).
  • Reflex Training/3 extra actions per day variant, Specialized/only for aiding master (3 CP).
  • Mastery/may “take 10” on Thaumaturgy Rolls, Corrupted/only works if the bonus is sufficient to cast the spell alone (IE; need not risk an automatic failure if the bonus is high enough, 4 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +2 Bonus Uses (9 CP).
  • Mana: +2d6 Mana and 3d6 power, Corrupted/Only usable for Thaumaturgy (12 CP).
  • Mystic Artist/The Hidden Way, Specialized/only as a prerequisite (3 CP) and Spellweaver (6 CP).