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Who really controls the familiar / animal companion?


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion

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gnomersy wrote:

If my GM wanted to pull that I'd be pissed I'd probably ask for a reroll to a class without any GM intervention on the spot or for control of my characters class abilities back.

Also I'd be far less accepting if he said he wanted to pull it mid game whenever he felt like if you want to control them fine but you're doing it all the time because they're not my character anymore or you don't do it at all because it is my character don't switch around whenever it suits your whims.

Seems rather dramatic, I see it a bit like an intelligent sword that you found, it counts against your WBL it is treasure and you still might not be in complete control. You get one character to play, that is it.

Usually I let the player make rolls so as to speed things up and give it a measure of control over it's success, but they still have to interact with their minion if they want it to do something, otherwise I decide what it does accordingly.


Remco Sommeling wrote:


Seems rather dramatic, I see it a bit like an intelligent sword that you found, it counts against your WBL it is treasure and you still might not be in complete control. You get one character to play, that is it.

Usually I let the player make rolls so as to speed things up and give it a measure of control over it's success, but they still have to interact with their minion if they want it to do something, otherwise I decide what it does accordingly.

*shrug* If I found an intelligent sword that wasn't doing what I wanted I'd pawn it off and spend the money on something useful.

This is exactly what I'm expecting out of my character abilities either something good or the option to pawn it off in exchange for something useful to me.

If the DM wants to control key aspects of my character I'm out just like the DM telling me what my character does.


Trikk wrote:

I think it has to be all or nothing.

Either the GM always controls the player's pet or he never controls it.

I don't know if I'd go that far, but I agree that the GM should make it clear ahead of time whether the familiar is treated (mostly) like a PC or (mostly) like an NPC.


gnomersy wrote:
Remco Sommeling wrote:


Seems rather dramatic, I see it a bit like an intelligent sword that you found, it counts against your WBL it is treasure and you still might not be in complete control. You get one character to play, that is it.

Usually I let the player make rolls so as to speed things up and give it a measure of control over it's success, but they still have to interact with their minion if they want it to do something, otherwise I decide what it does accordingly.

*shrug* If I found an intelligent sword that wasn't doing what I wanted I'd pawn it off and spend the money on something useful.

This is exactly what I'm expecting out of my character abilities either something good or the option to pawn it off in exchange for something useful to me.

If the DM wants to control key aspects of my character I'm out just like the DM telling me what my character does.

So the intelligent sword must act like an extension of your own character, doing and saying exactly what you want it to at all times or you'll get rid of it, even if it is still powerful, useful and helpful?

I thought the whole point of intelligent weapons was that they had personalities of their own. That means they don't always agree with their wielders. They don't always do what you want. That's the fun of them. That doesn't mean they aren't useful or good, just that they're independent.
If the GM's using it to screw you over, or it isn't useful enough to make up for the drawbacks, then get rid of it.

The same for familiars, cohorts, animal companions, etc. They are independent creatures. They'll do their own thing. They'll work for you, help you and do what you tell them, but they still have minds of their own. You even need animal handling to get companions to do things.
Obviously, the GM shouldn't screw you over with this and you usually have control for practical reasons.


GeneticDrift wrote:
If at anytime you are unable to act so the GM can tell you a cut scene it is bad. I should be able to tell my monkey to stop and come back, if it does not I will attack that npc for stealing my familiar since Magic is obviously going on.

What if you can't tell it to stop and come back? For other reasons than magic. You're unconscious, not paying attention, can't communicate, etc.

I've never been quite clear how much control the character (as opposed to the player) has over his familiar anyway. You can't even speak to most of them until 5th level. You have an empathic link, but "only general emotions can be shared." You might be able to get "come back" through that, but detailed instructions are out.
Nor does the description of the class feature ever say the familiar will do whatever the master wants.


thejeff wrote:

So the intelligent sword must act like an extension of your own character, doing and saying exactly what you want it to at all times or you'll get rid of it, even if it is still powerful, useful and helpful?

I thought the whole point of intelligent weapons was that they had personalities of their own. That means they don't always agree with their wielders. They don't always do what you want. That's the fun of them. That doesn't mean they aren't useful or good, just that they're independent.
If the GM's using it to screw you over, or it isn't useful enough to make up for the drawbacks, then get rid of it.

The same for familiars, cohorts, animal companions, etc. They are independent creatures. They'll do their own thing. They'll work for you, help you and do what you tell them, but they still have minds of their own. You even need animal handling to get companions to do things.
Obviously, the GM shouldn't screw you over with this and you usually have control for practical reasons.

Not so it isn't an extension of my character but rather one of my characters. That does mean that they won't always agree on things but at the same time it means that the one who decides those things as a player is me.

Or if it isn't me then they aren't my characters and I see no reason to put in the extra management work because the DM is too lazy to do it for something which is an NPC.

At the end of the day I'd want a straight answer and if it's my character then I control it and if it's not my character then I'm not taking care of it to make the DM's life easy, the DM can add it to the list of crap he manages.

I feel like that's just basic courtesy make it clear who's in charge of the character from the get go and whoever is controls it all the time not just when it's convenient for him.

Shadow Lodge Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014

LazarX wrote:
I tell players. Most of the time, they get to dictate their familliar's actions, but I reserve the right to veto if they abuse that right.

This. I have enough bookkeeping to do and NPCs to handle. Unless the player tries to get the critter to do something completely against its nature or so outlandishly ridiculous that I have to step in, they can run it.

Shadow Lodge

leadership and class features that allow an npc are under the control of the gm. most gms just dont care about them because they have more then enough on there table just controlling enemy npc's and buffs/debuffs.

the gm has the right to take what ever they want from your pc when ever they want. a pick pocket can take just about anything off your character and you would never know about it until they decided to tell you. using that as an example the idea that a gm cannot have your pet do what it SHOULD do, ie a dog sniffing around the area when they smell something wierd or a cat seeing a mouse and trying to pounce on it, are all realistic things that the npc would do. so if the gm says

"your cat familiar does this... " dont get butt hurt and cry about it, think would a cat do that? yes? then it seems to be in the spirit of role play.

now on the flip side, the gm should not say " your cat does this... and dies" because you the player would have no control in how the cat dies, and that would leave a bad taste in your mouth.


This is a rather interesting discussion, to me anyway, because I can't, for the life of me, find anywhere in the RAW that the GM is to control the animal companions and familiars. There is this bit of information at the very beginning of the book that says

Core Rulebook page 8 wrote:
Think of it as a cooperative storytelling game, where the players play the protagonists and the Game Master acts as the narrator, controlling the rest of the world.
However, it also says directly after that
Core Rulebook page 8--emphasis mine wrote:
If you are a player, you make all of the decisions for your character, from what abilities your character has to the type of weapon he carries.

In my mind an animal companion and a familiar are, as blackbloodtroll pointed out in one post, features of the given class. They should absolutely be under the control of the player. This is the way I've always played it, and will continue to.

Now, that being said, if a player tells me that their animal companion or familiar would do something stupid, I'm going to say "no they wouldn't, and here's why..." That, though, is not just true of animal companions and familiars. If a player tells me that their character would do something that's completely out of character, I'll say, "no they wouldn't, and here's why..." That's because my job as a GM is to retain some semblance of realism (though I hate that word in regards to epic fantasy as imagined amongst a collective) to the game.

To me an animal companion or familiar isn't an NPC, it's a part of the PC. There is language and actual mechanics that I think corroborate this. Specifically in the Druid class under Nature Bond it says

Quote:
This animal is a loyal companion that accompanies the druid on her adventures.
Later in that same section it discusses what a Druid must do in order to replace an animal companion.
Quote:
If a druid releases her companion from service, she may gain a new one by performing a ceremony requiring 24 uninterrupted hours of prayer in the environment where the new companion typically lives. This ceremony can also replace an animal companion that has perished.

This class feature is so innately and inherently tied to the class that a twenty-four hour prayer vigil is required in order to replace it.

If there is any specific language I'm missing that says a GM should control animal companion and familiar actions, I'd love someone to point it out to me.


MendedWall12 wrote:
This is a rather interesting discussion, to me anyway, because I can't, for the life of me, find anywhere in the RAW that the GM is to control the animal companions and familiars. There is this bit of information at the very beginning of the book that says
Core Rulebook page 8 wrote:
Think of it as a cooperative storytelling game, where the players play the protagonists and the Game Master acts as the narrator, controlling the rest of the world.
However, it also says directly after that
Core Rulebook page 8--emphasis mine wrote:
If you are a player, you make all of the decisions for your character, from what abilities your character has to the type of weapon he carries.

<Snipped for space>

None of which is RAW that the player controls the animal companions & familiars either.
The fact that animal companions can be/have to be taught tricks to be able to do things suggests to me that they aren't completely controlled by the character.
Nor are they your character. You get them as class features, but that doesn't make them part of the character.

In theory, I would say they are NPCs who are extremely loyal to your character, but have their own personalities and desires. For practical reasons, the players can usually control them, but even then they should be careful not to make them mere extensions of their actual character, especially when they can't clearly communicate.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Maps Subscriber

For those people who are adamant that a GM should never take control of an Animal Companion - if you were GMing and a player had their Animal Companion do tricks without bothering to roll Handle Animal (maybe they didn't even bother putting ranks into that skill) what would you do? Nothing?

If you enforced the roll and it failed but the player says something like "But my pet wolf id so loyal he naturally comes to my aid and attacks the zombie anyway" - what would you do?


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TheSideKick wrote:
the gm has the right to take what ever they want from your pc when ever they want.

No. He has the ability -- not the right. Any GM that thinks otherwise doesn't deserve to GM.


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If you look at an animal comnpanion you will see that you get a bonus to have the animal do what you want, by having bonus tricks and a bonus on handle animal skill. That should be a dead give away that the animal isn't under your absolute control, unless you think that is actually meant to be a hindrance.

For those that demand absolute control of their companion I direct to neverwinter nights or some kind of computer game that does fit with their expectations.

Players rarely are interested in rp'ing their companion they just do not want to lose control of their class feature, I am not going to rp with a caster's familiar but I am willing to involve it into my story, if you get peeved about that feel free to find another GM, thinking people kinda have a kneejerk reaction when someone is touching their toys.. relax, the GM is not going to break it.


I would reference the description of the Imp:
"Unlike most devils, imps often find themselves free and alone on the Material Plane, particularly after they've been summoned to serve as familiars and their masters have perished (often indirectly due to the machinations of the imp itself)..."

Now, if the player has full control of his familiar, how would the actions or advice of his Imp familiar get him killed? I would be possible for the player to RP that his Imp gives bad advice, sure, but that would probably be in the realm of something the DM would do, especially as a way to create good drama or a plot hook.

I've seen that kind of behavior in a DM many times though, and frequently it is because the DM is trying to force a story on the players and doesn't have the experience/skill to let it develop organically. Not a big deal. Talk to the DM, make it know that the action made it not fun and try to work together on it next time. People tend to forget that the DM and the Player are on the same team, and you can share information with the player for the overall good of the story.


I think you read that wrong zrandrews:

"imps often find themselves free and alone on the Material Plane, particularly after they've been summoned to serve as familiars and their masters have perished"

So it's not enough to be summoned, but to be summoned and their master slain in order for them to be free.

As to indirect machinations simply suggesting to the wizard that going adventuring is a good idea can be just such a thing (instead of staying safe in his college or whatever).


Abraham spalding wrote:

I think you read that wrong zrandrews:

"imps often find themselves free and alone on the Material Plane, particularly after they've been summoned to serve as familiars and their masters have perished"

So it's not enough to be summoned, but to be summoned and their master slain in order for them to be free.

As to indirect machinations simply suggesting to the wizard that going adventuring is a good idea can be just such a thing (instead of staying safe in his college or whatever).

Not sure what you mean to say here, it seems fairly obvious that imps in general are ultimately loyal to other masters, they will likely steer their masters to goals that benefit hell, but otherwise serve their masters well trying to please all their masters at the same time.

I dont think that many players want to look on a fellow player having a dialogue with their imp if they play the imp as well, neither will the player find it much enjoyable in general, I think it is purely a question of losing power to the 'evil' GM kinda paranoia, if a player gets insenced about something like this I happily inform him he can swap it for an arcane bonded item.


Abraham,
I understand your emphasis but the phrase "...masters have perished (often indirectly due to the machinations of the imp itself)..." is the part that I find relevant.

Not RAW, or anything like that, but that the Imp as a familiar is able to make a crafty scheme or cunning design for the accomplishment of a sinister end it implies that a familiar is able to have it's own goals and desires that may run contrary to its masters, and to really accomplish that it would require some intervention by a DM, even if it is only in the form of providing bad, unsolicited, advice on a regular basis.


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With animal companions, you're interfacing with a low-Intelligence animal. That interface is done through the handle animal skill. I typically relegate control of the animal companion to the PCs once basic handle animal requirements are met.

I assume that animals have the awareness necessary to fight with basic combat strategy: flank when available, avoid attacks of opportunity when possible, attack with the most optimal way possible, etc. The only time I intervene is when the animal tries to do something that it shouldn't be able to do. For instance, having a wolf open a door using a door knob without being trained to do so is clearly beyond the ability of a wolf. There are ways around this, like the speak with animals spell and tricks -- but even those methods have limits. For instance, teaching an animal to interrupt spellcasting is probably beyond the limits of an animal companion. Maybe "attack the creature who begins to speak" would work most of the time. But teaching animal companions what spells are is probably too much.

With a familiar, you're dealing with a creature that eventually becomes more intelligent than an average human. This creature is specifically linked to a spellcaster in a magical way. I tend to let players have almost complete control of their familiar, particularly once the player hits level 5 (speak with master) or if the familiar can communicate via speech/telepathy. Before level 5, I assume the only language the familiars understand/communicate is essentially pantomiming. BTW, a great tool for getting around this is the gnome racial speak with animals ability:

PRD wrote:
A wizard may cast spells on his familiar even if the spells do not normally affect creatures of the familiar's type (magical beast).

Shadow Lodge Dedicated Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Card Game, Companion, Maps, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

One thing that makes a difference is *which* familiars we're talking about.

Here's the description of a witch's familiar:

Witch's Familiar wrote:
At 1st level, a witch forms a close bond with a familiar, a creature that teaches her magic and helps to guide her along her path. Familiars also aid a witch by granting her skill bonuses, additional spells, and help with some types of magic.

It seems very clear from that, and really from the entire witch description, that a witch is *not* in charge of her familiar. Her familiar is an intermediary for the witch's patron -- a patron that the witch probably doesn't know the identity of, except insofar as the familiar can be trusted to tell her.

In the game I'm currently in, there are a few things I can control about my familiar, but most of the time we are negotiating. (And in fact, I give him a pretty loose rein in general, because I want to stay on his good side.) It has downsides, but it also has advantages in that the familiar is a good source of information to keep the plot rolling along as needed.

I should say that this isn't a situation the GM imposed on me -- we'd each arrived at the same understanding of how witch's familiars work independently. It's one of the things that first attracted me to the witch as a character class.


Remco Sommeling wrote:
If you look at an animal comnpanion you will see that you get a bonus to have the animal do what you want, by having bonus tricks and a bonus on handle animal skill. That should be a dead give away that the animal isn't under your absolute control, unless you think that is actually meant to be a hindrance.
I believe what you are referencing is the Skill
Handle Animal wrote:
(A druid or ranger can handle her animal companion as a free action or push it as a move action.)

If that's the case, you're looking at a specific skill that allows any PC to control a trained animal. In my mind the fact that a Druid or Ranger can direct their animal companions as a Free action, or Push it as a Move action (both of which are one step removed from what other characters would have to use to do the same task) speaks highly to the fact that these companions are meant to be easily controlled by their masters. A Ranger can get their wolf animal companion to do something it hasn't even learned yet, but is physically capable of, just by spending a move action. Essentially the Move action (in my mind anyway) is the character conveying a difficult command to the animal. After that the character still gets to use a standard action. The fact is the PC is directing the animal companion. The mechanics are there, again, to mimic a portion of reality. Handling any animal requires some time. If your dog isn't trained to fetch, but is capable of it, you can convey to it what fetching is, and it will, more than likely, try to comply with its understanding of what you want. That's why the DC for a Push is 25, but the DC of a Trick is only 10. This fits very well with mimicking reality, and also with the idea that Druid or Ranger's companion will try and do whatever they want. They get a +4 to the check, and they can accomplish the Push action by only spending a Move action.

Edit: Put more clearly. No, of course the animal isn't under my absolute control. No more than my domesticated cat or dog is under my absolute control, but in the case of an animal companion they are much, much easier to and more willing to follow your commands, because we're talking about mystical fantasy settings, and heightened versions of reality. That doesn't mean though, that what they do is up to the GM, it just means the GM has the right to make the player's commands for that aspect of their character adhere to the supposed reality.


zrandrews wrote:
Not RAW, or anything like that, but that the Imp as a familiar is able to make a crafty scheme or cunning design for the accomplishment of a sinister end it implies that a familiar is able to have it's own goals and desires that may run contrary to its masters, and to really accomplish that it would require some intervention by a DM, even if it is only in the form of providing bad, unsolicited, advice on a regular basis.

I don't think the familiar would necessary provide "bad" advice as much as it would simply try to provide "evil" advice. For instance, it might be easier and cleaner to kill prisoners instead of marching them back to an authority. The imp would heavily emphasize how difficult marching them back would be versus simply killing them.


meabolex wrote:

With animal companions, you're interfacing with a low-Intelligence animal. That interface is done through the handle animal skill. I typically relegate control of the animal companion to the PCs once basic handle animal requirements are met.

I assume that animals have the awareness necessary to fight with basic combat strategy: flank when available, avoid attacks of opportunity when possible, attack with the most optimal way possible, etc. The only time I intervene is when the animal tries to do something that it shouldn't be able to do. For instance, having a wolf open a door using a door knob without being trained to do so is clearly beyond the ability of a wolf. There are ways around this, like the speak with animals spell and tricks -- but even those methods have limits. For instance, teaching an animal to interrupt spellcasting is probably beyond the limits of an animal companion. Maybe "attack the creature who begins to speak" would work most of the time. But teaching animal companions what spells are is probably too much.

With a familiar, you're dealing with a creature that eventually becomes more intelligent than an average human. This creature is specifically linked to a spellcaster in a magical way. I tend to let players have almost complete control of their familiar, particularly once the player hits level 5 (speak with master) or if the familiar can communicate via speech/telepathy. Before level 5, I assume the only language the familiars understand/communicate is essentially pantomiming. BTW, a great tool for getting around this is the gnome racial speak with animals ability:

PRD wrote:
A wizard may cast spells on his familiar even if the spells do not normally affect creatures of the familiar's type (magical beast).

you do not cast speak with animals on another target though, or if you can it will likely cause the recipient to be able to speak with animals, not 100% sure since I havent looked the spell up recently.


Remco Sommeling wrote:
you do not cast speak with animals on another target though, or if you can it will likely cause the recipient to be able to speak with animals, not 100% sure since I havent looked the spell up recently.

Yes, it would make the familiar speak with animals by a strict reading.

But I think the core idea is that even though the spell doesn't target the familiar directly, it should still allow the PC to communicate with (affect) the familiar. It's a judgement call, but come on, let's not nerf speak with animals any more (:


meabolex wrote:

I don't think the familiar would necessary provide "bad" advice as much as it would simply try to provide "evil" advice. For instance, it might be easier and cleaner to kill prisoners instead of marching them back to an authority. The imp would heavily emphasize how difficult marching them back would be versus simply killing them.

OH...I like that. Evil advice. Though I suspect that Evil advice would be very similar to bad advice, and I wouldn't put it past an imp to be plotting withing it's limited freedom to get it's master killed. But I concede that I, as a DM, directly tell any Wizard in my group that his Imp is not necessarily on his side, just obedient. As per the arrangements made when the Imp became a familiar.

Just the same...that the Imp can plot and plan implies some level of free will (and on the off chance someone wonders why I say it can plot and plan, look up the definition of machination. Apologies in advance to everyone that already knows it).

Edit: Evil advice might be to slaughter the prisoners. Some bad advice might be the imp urging his master to confront the King and whispering about how he should over throw him, knowing full well that offending the King might result in his master execution.
Imp: "c'mon man...ya know ya want to. He's a $%&^* anyway. You can take him."
Wizard: "be quiet"
Imp: "yes master"

Shadow Lodge

I have taken control of a players AC/summon in a few situations, for the most part I will let the player control them. Really it's only been two situations where i have done this.

First: summoner summons a hawk, celestial I think, anyway the summoner has no ranks in handle animal and cannot communicate with the hawk in any way. So as per the spell description I had the hawk attack what it perceived as the summoners threat.

Second: Now I'll probably get some flak for this one. But a certain player with levels of druid who is pretty damn bad at not following rules (took a while before he started rolling handle animal with out me telling him) would often have his AC 5ft into a flank, without any orders, and I'd stop him
"Why is your AC doing that?"
"For a flank"
"Do you really think an AC with 2 int understands what a flank is?"
"....."
If the AC in question was a wolf, I might have let it slide. That being said, I don't mind ACs being used as flank buddies, it's just that they aren't smart enough to step into a flank, the player is going to have to do that.

Eidolons are very different to ACs and summons though, the fact that they have a telepathic link with the summoner suggests that the player should be able to control the Eidolon how they please

In general I'm only going to start controlling summons and ACs when you start leaving a bad, cheesy taste in my mouth. Just remember that the ACs generally have 1-2 int, even if you bump their int up to 3 they still don't have sentience, keep that in mind when controlling them


DigitalMage wrote:
For those people who are adamant that a GM should never take control of an Animal Companion - if you were GMing and a player had their Animal Companion do tricks without bothering to roll Handle Animal (maybe they didn't even bother putting ranks into that skill) what would you do? Nothing?

I wouldn't let the animal act without a successful check from the player. That's part of the mechanical game.

Grand Lodge

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You can really tell the players from the GM's in this thread. ;)


Lex Starwalker wrote:
You can really tell the players from the GM's in this thread. ;)

I'm both q:

Grand Lodge

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What I meant to say is you can tell the people who GM from those who ONLY play. ;)


meabolex wrote:
Lex Starwalker wrote:
You can really tell the players from the GM's in this thread. ;)
I'm both q:

yep, both here too.. as a player I tend not to take AC's and the like because it bogs down gameplay and I like everyone to have make the most of their time playing. As a GM I notice that the companions are quite powerful compared to the alternate options, and that many people do not rp with/for their animal companion, it is there to make them look cool and be badass combat buddies. In my recent campaign I basically just banned them to speed up play and reduce character imbalance in both power and playtime.


Lex Starwalker wrote:
What I meant to say is you can tell the people who GM from those who ONLY play. ;)

In that case I say the GMs have more experience and wisdom on their side so they autowin this thread ^^


Remco Sommeling wrote:
Lex Starwalker wrote:
What I meant to say is you can tell the people who GM from those who ONLY play. ;)
In that case I say the GMs have more experience and wisdom on their side so they autowin this thread ^^

GM's win because they have unlimited resources and the ultimate ability to rewrite the world to suit their whims -- this has nothing to do with experience or wisdom.

Shadow Lodge

Skerek wrote:

Second: Now I'll probably get some flak for this one. But a certain player with levels of druid who is pretty damn bad at not following rules (took a while before he started rolling handle animal with out me telling him) would often have his AC 5ft into a flank, without any orders, and I'd stop him

"Why is your AC doing that?"
"For a flank"
"Do you really think an AC with 2 int understands what a flank is?"
"....."
If the AC in question was a wolf, I might have let it slide. That being said, I don't mind ACs being used as flank buddies, it's just that they aren't smart enough to step into a flank, the player is going to have to do that.

Any animal companion who has been trained for combat is going to know how to flank, since it is one of the essentials of melee combat. One would think that would be the first set of tricks an adventuring druid would teach his melee focused companion.


Both the player and the DM have control over the animal companion/familiar. They will nearly always try to act in favor of the pc but also have their own personalities.


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

I still say the most important thing when considering this is, did the DM give notice? If, in the start, you warn a player that you may do this, you can avoid a possible backlash. Suddenly doing this, and laying down a "you should of known" line is just unwise.
Most players expect to be in control, and a DM who plans on taking that away once in while, should give the player warning very early on.

I would have a very hard time finding a justification for a DM randomly taking control of say, a tumor familiar though.

Shadow Lodge

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In terms of the DM controlling the animal companion... he can try, but when the druid can just say "Down" or "Heel" or "Stay" as a free action, the DM isn't going to be very successful in getting the animal to do as he pleases.


Morning BlackBlood.
I'm pretty new to the forums, so it was wonderful spending 10 minutes reading through the second page. Absolutely no new information was posted and no new opinions were voiced. It was great, it felt like I was reliving the first page over again. I think I love this place!

There appear to be three stances, One: The Animal companion is an NonPC as directly implied in Handle Animal and the class skill, and therefore can only be commanded by the Character with tricks taught, not the Player.

Two: The Animal Companion is a slave-bot meant only to be used by the player. Any Infringement on this is equivalent to death itself.

Three: It's a game for friends and people should compromise about sometimes having it as GM controlled so that it can have meaningful back-and-forth communique; and sometimes having it be a combat slave who does relatively what you want.


Alydos wrote:

Morning BlackBlood.

I'm pretty new to the forums, so it was wonderful spending 10 minutes reading through the second page. Absolutely no new information was posted and no new opinions were voiced. It was great, it felt like I was reliving the first page over again. I think I love this place!

Welcome to the interwebz.

Also @Serum: Yup! You got it.


blackbloodtroll wrote:

I still say the most important thing when considering this is, did the DM give notice? If, in the start, you warn a player that you may do this, you can avoid a possible backlash. Suddenly doing this, and laying down a "you should of known" line is just unwise.

Most players expect to be in control, and a DM who plans on taking that away once in while, should give the player warning very early on.

I would have a very hard time finding a justification for a DM randomly taking control of say, a tumor familiar though.

I don't know about that, we never discussed this openly but everyone in my group takes it for granted that I sometimes control NPC's that are not the PC's themselves, including companions, cohorts and the like, even Eidolons, this does not 'usually' mean they do not do what the player wants I am just rp'ing them as obedient, unwilling, mischievous, whimsical, lazy, excited etc, I create some dialogue between the player and his familiar and sometimes others. I never once had a negative reaction, honestly very surprised that some people react to it like they do. Not just because we are a bit past getting angry over a fun game but we actually enjoy the interaction it brings and keeps the characters more involved with rp'ing their character. Combat and similar situations I mostly delegate to the player unless he wants it to do something that goes against it's nature.


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Alydos wrote:

Morning BlackBlood.

I'm pretty new to the forums, so it was wonderful spending 10 minutes reading through the second page. Absolutely no new information was posted and no new opinions were voiced. It was great, it felt like I was reliving the first page over again. I think I love this place!

There appear to be three stances, One: The Animal companion is an NonPC as directly implied in Handle Animal and the class skill, and therefore can only be commanded by the Character with tricks taught, not the Player.

Two: The Animal Companion is a slave-bot meant only to be used by the player. Any Infringement on this is equivalent to death itself.

Three: It's a game for friends and people should compromise about sometimes having it as GM controlled so that it can have meaningful back-and-forth communique; and sometimes having it be a combat slave who does relatively what you want.

pretty much.. I choose 1.. and 3 :)


Serum wrote:
In terms of the DM controlling the animal companion... he can try, but when the druid can just say "Down" or "Heel" or "Stay" as a free action, the DM isn't going to be very successful in getting the animal to do as he pleases.

Getting the animal companion to do as he pleases? You make it sound like the GM is a BBEG casting Charm Animal.

I agree that just like any trained animal you could prevent it from doing something it naturally should do by telling it to heel, too bad every player forgets they use tricks to command it in the first place.


Serum wrote:
In terms of the DM controlling the animal companion... he can try, but when the druid can just say "Down" or "Heel" or "Stay" as a free action, the DM isn't going to be very successful in getting the animal to do as he pleases.

Of course, familiars are smarter and not so easily commanded.

And even with the animals he has to make the rolls (or at least have the skills) and have taught the animal the tricks.


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Skerek wrote:

Second: Now I'll probably get some flak for this one. But a certain player with levels of druid who is pretty damn bad at not following rules (took a while before he started rolling handle animal with out me telling him) would often have his AC 5ft into a flank, without any orders, and I'd stop him

"Why is your AC doing that?"
"For a flank"
"Do you really think an AC with 2 int understands what a flank is?"
"....."
If the AC in question was a wolf, I might have let it slide. That being said, I don't mind ACs being used as flank buddies, it's just that they aren't smart enough to step into a flank, the player is going to have to do that.

This is role playing game mechanics, nothing more and nothing less. Flank is a mechanic that abstractly describes something that happens in combat. It is not something you have to understand the benefits of to use, any more than you need to understand the benefits of running to move somewhere faster than double moving.

It's on the same level of stupidity as saying that an animal is too stupid to understand what attacks of opportunity are, for example. If something can take actions and has even the most rudimentary survival instincts, it will be able to use most if not all combat actions.

Of course, you can certainly role play mechanics, play as if the grid exists across the whole game world, have characters roll Int checks when they are selecting feats at level up to see if they can make a good choice or if they have to select a feat that's bad for their character, etc. It might be fun for certain groups but it will not work if you suddenly implement it in a normal campaign.


Remco I think we're saying the same thing different ways. This might get long, but bare with me.

I think, and please do correct me if I'm wrong, what you're saying is that outside of combat you use the animal companions and familiars as ways for the characters to interact with the imagined world. You aren't "controlling" them, you are "describing" what they act like. There's an important distinction. If you say "your wolf suddenly runs off into the distance" and the player says "I yell 'heel.'" As a good GM, you make the player roll a handle check, and if they are successful the wolf heels, right? You weren't "controlling" the animal, you were using it to try and convey something.

Same example looked at a different way. As the GM I am the only window the players have into the world. I should not be actively hiding things from them. If a wolf smells the trolls that are coming, I need to convey that somehow. I roll a perception check for the wolf, taking into account its scent ability, and if it makes the check I might say, "your wolf suddenly lifts its nose into the breeze, then crouches, muscles taut, and growls a low menacing growl." Again, I haven't "controlled" the wolf. I simply let the PCs into the secret store of knowledge that I have about what is coming up around the proverbial corner.

As you say, once combat is initiated you let the PC direct the animal. Of course you do, you're a good GM, and the player needs that animal companion as part of its attack strategy. It is a class feature, and if they didn't have the full use of it, they would be at a decided disadvantage.

So again, I believe we're saying the same thing. Just looking at the semantics a bit differently. When I hear (or in this case see) the word "control" I think complete domination of every action. Perhaps that's where some of the minutiae of our arguments is being placed.


So maybe the real question in this should be, did the DM railroad the "cutscene" where the familiar did stuff, or just ignore the player telling his companion to do stuff?

If the DM railroaded a scene and never really gave any opportunity to react to the Players then he was probably in the wrong.

Also, if it is agreed that the DM takes occasional of ACs and Fs then those creatures still need to be obedient when told to do things.

Edit:
Well said MendedWall12


MendedWall12 wrote:

Remco I think we're saying the same thing different ways. This might get long, but bare with me.

I think, and please do correct me if I'm wrong, what you're saying is that outside of combat you use the animal companions and familiars as ways for the characters to interact with the imagined world. You aren't "controlling" them, you are "describing" what they act like. There's an important distinction. If you say "your wolf suddenly runs off into the distance" and the player says "I yell 'heel.'" As a good GM, you make the player roll a handle check, and if they are successful the wolf heels, right? You weren't "controlling" the animal, you were using it to try and convey something.

Same example looked at a different way. As the GM I am the only window the players have into the world. I should not be actively hiding things from them. If a wolf smells the trolls that are coming, I need to convey that somehow. I roll a perception check for the wolf, taking into account its scent ability, and if it makes the check I might say, "your wolf suddenly lifts its nose into the breeze, then crouches, muscles taut, and growls a low menacing growl." Again, I haven't "controlled" the wolf. I simply let the PCs into the secret store of knowledge that I have about what is coming up around the proverbial corner.

As you say, once combat is initiated you let the PC direct the animal. Of course you do, you're a good GM, and the player needs that animal companion as part of its attack strategy. It is a class feature, and if they didn't have the full use of it, they would be at a decided disadvantage.

So again, I believe we're saying the same thing. Just looking at the semantics a bit differently. When I hear (or in this case see) the word "control" I think complete domination of every action. Perhaps that's where some of the minutiae of our arguments is being placed.

I think the control as complete domination comes up on both sides. :)

I suspect some players take combat control of their companions a little too far. The fighting tricks are Attack, Down and Stay. There are also Guard and Defend. None of those allow much in the way of subtle strategy, so if players are having the animals carefully position themselves for best advantage, either to give someone else a flanking bonus or to block, they may be stretching it.

Familiars are another matter, since there's even less RAW guidance as to how to handle them. Not to big a deal in combat, at least once you can talk to them, but familiars are also smart enough to handle longer, more complex missions. Nor is there a rule saying they can't disobey orders if they think they know better. If you send one off scouting, would you let the player control it while it was away?

Similarly, you can use the Guard trick to leave the animal defending a particular area. Once the master is out of contact would you still have the player run the animal if something happened?

Star Voter 2013

Out or curiousity how would you play an ac who has an intelligence of 3?


While the AC and Familiar generally do as you ask- you have to be able to tell them what you are asking.

Handle Animal and the tricks, for the AC at least, is what governs this mechanically.

If you want your AC to do X but don't have it trained for it or you botch a HA roll for it- then its not the DM taking control away from you. Its the rules working as the rules.
Its not the DM stopping you anymore than rolling a 1 on a sword swing is the DM telling you that you can't attack it.
You Have tried to do what you wanted it just didn't work.

I think the thread OP was more talking about

"my companion has the attack trick and I rolled a 20 for a modified 42 handle animal check. I have it attack the goblin"

DM: "He won't attack the goblin"

PC: "Why not?"

DM: "He doesn't like goblins."

PC: "...."

Granted thats an extreme case- but generally its the overall idea of it.

Now the rules don't explicitly state who controls the familiar or the AC.
However, they are the class features of the character.
If the DM can control that aspect of your class features, they can control the others.
It was posited that its a strawman argument to ask if the DM gets to pick the wizard's spells or the sorc's spells or to elect not to allow the Paladin to smite that particular creature yet- but I really do ask: Why is that a straw man argument?

If I select some inherent feature of my class why does the fact that it says "familiar" suddenly imbue the DM with the right to steal that away from me and do with it what he or she wishes?
If I select the ring instead- can the DM elect to select which spell per day I cast with it? Can they mandate which abilities I enchant it with? (not as a matter of houserule but as a matter of "oh no, you want a ring of wizardry IV not a ring of sustenance, so thats what you get whether you like it or not!".

The issue isn't really the familiar or AC but of the character generally. The DM controls the world. The PC wants to control the PC and the aspects of that PC that involve the character class. We do want excitement and we do want challenge but I want the DM to take my familiar for a joy ride just about as much as i want to fail a will save on a Dominate Person spell. We have one thing to control in the world- our character.

I say that this isn't a strawman argument. This isn't some optional feat like leadership that advises strong caution. This isn't in some far fetched part of the book. No, its in the section on character classes and the options for them. Its no more appropriate for the DM to take control over them than it is for them to select your spells for you or dictate what weapon groups the fighter chooses or the domains of any given particular cleric (assuming they choose ones legal for their alignment and deity, of course).

Sure, the DM has the ability to exercise FIAT and ban some things.
"guys I've removed the bastard sword from the game". Fine.
But does he have the right to erase "longsword" from my Weapon Focus feat and write in "great sword" just because he thinks thats mechanically superior? Can he? Can he make a cleric memorize heal today, or to cause them to expend it to heal 1hp just because he's the DM?
Sure, those are extremes. But the fact is- absent a Dominate effect (or something like it) the DM can't take control of our characters. They don't get to pick what we do with our PC's- outside of the character creation guidelines that they impose for that particular campaign.

If my DM really wanted to start playing with my character, I'd want to know why. Generally, I trust my DM's. (if I don't, then they aren't my DM for long). If it was to do something dangerous, it'd definately spawn a long discussion. If it was something harmless then it'd spawn an e-mail after game to ask about it. If the DM wants to have my familiar do something cute or quirky occasionally I'm not 100% against it but for the most part, its part of my character. Its part of my witch thats irreplaceable and inseparable from the class. If the DM is going to seriously take it upon himself to dictate what my familiar will or won't do from moment to moment, then I'm going to take it upon myself to change classes. Not because of trust- but because I chose the witch, in part, because of the neat aspects of the familiar and the interaction thereof with the witch. If I am spontaneously denied that, because the DM gets a wet hair in his shorts and wants to start screwing with my character features, then I'll just elect to choose a class without that issue.

The RAW however is silent on it, unfortunately. My advice then is for PC's and DM's alike: Discuss it before it becomes an issue. When you get an AC or familiar or Eidolon or whatever chat it up with the DM and the rest of the group. Make it known your wishes- on both sides of the fence- so that everyone is armed with the knowledge appropriate to their style when they create any given PC.
Don't just spring it on the PC's in mid campaign "oh yeah guys I reserve the right to co-opt your familiar whenever I feel like it".

-S


MendedWall12 wrote:

Remco I think we're saying the same thing different ways. This might get long, but bare with me.

I think, and please do correct me if I'm wrong, what you're saying is that outside of combat you use the animal companions and familiars as ways for the characters to interact with the imagined world. You aren't "controlling" them, you are "describing" what they act like. There's an important distinction. If you say "your wolf suddenly runs off into the distance" and the player says "I yell 'heel.'" As a good GM, you make the player roll a handle check, and if they are successful the wolf heels, right? You weren't "controlling" the animal, you were using it to try and convey something.

Same example looked at a different way. As the GM I am the only window the players have into the world. I should not be actively hiding things from them. If a wolf smells the trolls that are coming, I need to convey that somehow. I roll a perception check for the wolf, taking into account its scent ability, and if it makes the check I might say, "your wolf suddenly lifts its nose into the breeze, then crouches, muscles taut, and growls a low menacing growl." Again, I haven't "controlled" the wolf. I simply let the PCs into the secret store of knowledge that I have about what is coming up around the proverbial corner.

As you say, once combat is initiated you let the PC direct the animal. Of course you do, you're a good GM, and the player needs that animal companion as part of its attack strategy. It is a class feature, and if they didn't have the full use of it, they would be at a decided disadvantage.

So again, I believe we're saying the same thing. Just looking at the semantics a bit differently. When I hear (or in this case see) the word "control" I think complete domination of every action. Perhaps that's where some of the minutiae of our arguments is being placed.

I would definately agree with this.

Not so much the "runs off into the hills unless you make a roll to stop it" part, but the bit about how you communicate to the PC that the wolf notices something.
(standing up, growling, or otherwise interacting with the PC).

-S


Selgard wrote:

"my companion has the attack trick and I rolled a 20 for a modified 42 handle animal check. I have it attack the goblin"

DM: "He won't attack the goblin"

PC: "Why not?"

DM: "He doesn't like goblins."

PC: "...."

Wait, if he doesn't like goblins wouldn't he all the more want to attack them?

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