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The Morality of Dismissing a Familiar


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion

Cheliax

I'm currently playing a NG Oracle of Life in a Kingmaker campaign who's Eldritch Heritage'd herself a Hawk familiar named Afonya. Over the course of several weeks, Afonya (despite being unable to talk) has developed quite a personality and has become a valuable asset to the party. Unfortunately, due to our party makeup, I'm devoting entirely too much of my resources towards party healing. The easiest solution that I'm aware of would be to pick up Improved Familiar and grab a Silvanshee Agathion. They're excellent creatures to have around, mesh well with my character in a roleplaying sense, and laying on hands as a Paladin of their hit dice is gravy.

But dismissing a familiar is heavy stuff. According to this FAQ post, dismissing a familiar removes all of its familiar abilities and makes it another mundane creature of its type. That means removing all of its sentience, sapience, personality... Essentially, you are lobotomizing a dear friend because you want to hang out with a new friend now. How on earth can any good character justify that decision?

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Well, you could always get a sufficiently powered druid to cast Awaken...


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Because you're freeing it from obligation. With power comes responsibility. You've magically bestowed power (and hence responsibility) on what was a simple, mundane, instinctual animal to begin with. Dismissing it allows it to retire from that life and go back to a simple existence without duty, obligation, or responsibility. Another way to look at it is that it still has its sentience, sapience, and personality and did so even before you magically enhanced it and what you did merely magnified what was already there and brought it to the surface. Now it's being allowed to recede back and while those attributes will be of a lower order, they'll still be there. I can see a good character seeing off their loyal companion to live the rest of its life as nature intended it to; an emotional event, to be sure, but not out of bounds for the alignment. I could see an evil character seeing it as just a means to an end and wouldn't give sending it off a second thought... if he doesn't just cook and eat the thing because he ran out of field rations. I think the alignment that would have the most trouble letting it go would actually be neutral because they're worried more about their own well being than anything else; parting with a familiar is parting with a tool that you're used to and there's a period of time between releasing the old one and acquiring the new one where you're without that tool.


It is up to the GM on how this can go(pretty sure he/she should be involved if you do get improved familiar so you can fluff it up.)

Ask your GM about it. Ask your hawk about it. If everything's mutual, then it doesn't become so bad.

Who knows, maybe you can get the hawk to transform (odd, yes...) into a silvanshee.
---
As for justifying it, it really depends on the character. (I can't really say since both my familiar-having characters have been True Neutral... Then again, I never took Improved Familiar...)


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Kazaan wrote:
Because you're freeing it from obligation. With power comes responsibility. You've magically bestowed power (and hence responsibility) on what was a simple, mundane, instinctual animal to begin with. Dismissing it allows it to retire from that life and go back to a simple existence without duty, obligation, or responsibility. Another way to look at it is that it still has its sentience, sapience, and personality and did so even before you magically enhanced it and what you did merely magnified what was already there and brought it to the surface. Now it's being allowed to recede back and while those attributes will be of a lower order, they'll still be there. I can see a good character seeing off their loyal companion to live the rest of its life as nature intended it to; an emotional event, to be sure, but not out of bounds for the alignment. I could see an evil character seeing it as just a means to an end and wouldn't give sending it off a second thought... if he doesn't just cook and eat the thing because he ran out of field rations. I think the alignment that would have the most trouble letting it go would actually be neutral because they're worried more about their own well being than anything else; parting with a familiar is parting with a tool that you're used to and there's a period of time between releasing the old one and acquiring the new one where you're without that tool.

I agree with your reasoning, it's well put. But even evil chracters can have attachments. Hitler *internet alarm bell rings* was very attached to his dog, Blondi. Of course, then he poisoned it before killing himself and his new wife... well neutrals can have strong attachments. Really :)

Shadow Lodge

I suppose you could find another wizard to take up your former familiar. They'll loose a little brainpower but not sentience or personality.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Assuming your last paragraph is how your character feels about the act, you can't justify it.

Could you justify doing it to one of the party members?

Cheliax

Guardianknight wrote:
Well, you could always get a sufficiently powered druid to cast Awaken...

That's an excellent idea. We have a pretty strong UMD character in the party, and he should be able to cast it from a scroll, if only after a few tries. Thanks!

BigNorseWolf wrote:
I suppose you could find another wizard to take up your former familiar. They'll loose a little brainpower but not sentience or personality.

That's another good thought. I'll be picking up leadership fairly soon, and I'm sure that at least one of the many followers (or even the cohort) kio would be willing and able to pick up a Wizard level and care for Afonya.


You do loss its bond tho...
I would talk with the DM about having it transform..>
IE after you take the feat,
You wake up one morning and Akonya has a new body.
You are playing a NG Holy man, maybe your God or the powers your worshiped gave your friend a more powerful body so he can better serve you.
He is smart, so maybe the Owl has been praying to, and its a answer to prayer.


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I've had this happen in one of my games, where there was a sincere gaming interest in taking an improved familiar, but the player could find no reason to dismiss someone that had been the closest thing to a piece of themselves that exists to welcome a slightly more powerful stranger. He began to worry about it, because they were in a foreign land where there were no other Dwarf Caimans. Plus, since they were about to rise through the icy frostbitten crown of the world (Jade Regent), abandoning his familiar would be a death sentence. I told him to take the feat and I'd work it out.

What happened was the familiar evolved like a pokemon. Making a familiar is just pumping your own magic into an animal until it becomes magical right? Over the next couple of sessions each time he went to bed and I knew he wouldn't have any combats, he'd wake up and discover that any unspent spell slots were gone when he woke up. His familiar was eating them in his sleep, absorbing the magic. Eventually, his little caiman sprouted fairy wings and became a fairy dragon caiman when he hit 7th level.

I prefer this to just dismissing it, since Improved Familiar automatically provides the familiar without the 200gp per caster level cost. I makes sense that it's the same animal.


The flavor concept behind a familiar could be important here. What is the source of the enhanced intelligence of a familiar? Did you awaken the animal, or did a spirit possess it?

Since the familiar reverts to being a normal animal when you dismiss it, my personal theory would be that an animal that becomes a familiar is possessed by a spirit that grows in intelligence from the time it spends with it master and that leaves the animal when that animal dies or is dismissed as a familiar. That would leave an animal that is returned to its normal state after undergoing some bizarre events while possessed by a familiar spirit as well as a now disembodied spirit that is seeking a new animal to possess as somebody else's familiar -- or your next familiar, if it got along well with you and wants to stay with you.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Thanks for posting this. It is an interesting thing to consider.

Regarding awaken, using it would allow Afonya to retain human level intelligence, but would it really be the same? You effectively created him, or her, when you made them your familiar. By unbonding and awakening, you leave him all of his memories and ability to self-reflect, but take away the, literally, magically link that bound his soul to yours.

As for passing a familiar on, it's got the benefit of tradition, usually upon mentors death, retirement, or student's graduation. However, you are still severing that intimate connection and then having Afonya try to reestablish it with someone else. It's like telling your spouse, 'I love you and want you to be happy, so let's get a divorce and I'll hook up with x because they fit better with my lifestyle. Here's one of my students, you should be happy together.' Or it might not be that douchy at all.

My vote is for apprentice, but it should still be a hard choice. Good role-playing opportunity.

Cheliax

Kazaan wrote:
Because you're freeing it from obligation. With power comes responsibility. You've magically bestowed power (and hence responsibility) on what was a simple, mundane, instinctual animal to begin with. Dismissing it allows it to retire from that life and go back to a simple existence without duty, obligation, or responsibility. Another way to look at it is that it still has its sentience, sapience, and personality and did so even before you magically enhanced it and what you did merely magnified what was already there and brought it to the surface. Now it's being allowed to recede back and while those attributes will be of a lower order, they'll still be there. I can see a good character seeing off their loyal companion to live the rest of its life as nature intended it to; an emotional event, to be sure, but not out of bounds for the alignment. I could see an evil character seeing it as just a means to an end and wouldn't give sending it off a second thought... if he doesn't just cook and eat the thing because he ran out of field rations. I think the alignment that would have the most trouble letting it go would actually be neutral because they're worried more about their own well being than anything else; parting with a familiar is parting with a tool that you're used to and there's a period of time between releasing the old one and acquiring the new one where you're without that tool.

I like this. Nicely put.


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Feed it to the agathion.

Just kidding!


I certainly like the idea of a familiar evolving into an improved familiar if that is reasonably possible. Turning a hawk into a celestial hawk, for example, should work quite easily.

Certainly dismissing one familiar so that you can acquire a different one (different in spirit as well as body) would feel like a divorce at best. If I were planning to do that from the beginning, I would pick an animal form that resembles the improved familiar that I eventually intend to acquire and try to persuade my DM to let me play it as the animal form growing into the improved form as i advance to the level where I get the Improved Familiar feat.

Silver Crusade

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules Subscriber

"But master, I don't want to go! I don't want to forget! Did I do something wrong? I'll do better, I promise! Please don't make me go! I don't want to lose these thoughts! I don't want to lose myself! ;_;"

:(

Osirion

David knott 242 wrote:

The flavor concept behind a familiar could be important here. What is the source of the enhanced intelligence of a familiar? Did you awaken the animal, or did a spirit possess it?

Since the familiar reverts to being a normal animal when you dismiss it, my personal theory would be that an animal that becomes a familiar is possessed by a spirit that grows in intelligence from the time it spends with it master and that leaves the animal when that animal dies or is dismissed as a familiar. That would leave an animal that is returned to its normal state after undergoing some bizarre events while possessed by a familiar spirit as well as a now disembodied spirit that is seeking a new animal to possess as somebody else's familiar -- or your next familiar, if it got along well with you and wants to stay with you.

This would be my solution as well. Instead of the Int 6+ Hawk having the 'mind' of an actual Hawk that's been bumped up to Int 6+ and more or less ripped out of anything like a normal Hawk life with Hawk lovers and Hawk babies and Hawk shenanigans, it's a spiritual entity that has taken the form of a hawk and has a suprisingly similar set of attributes (HD, skills, saves, etc. based on their master's, evasion, share spells, the same sort of level based stuff like natural armor bonus, whether a turtle or a thrush) to a familiar spirit that has taken the form of a toad or a centipede, despite them being very different creatures.

In this case, the familiar spirit would remain the same individual, with the same personality and memories and attachments, even as its form changes from that of a hawk to that of a silvanshee. The silvanshee might even be delighted that the 'master' picked a form that can still fly, which it might regard as it's favorite thing about first manifesting as a hawk.

On the other hand, as something that isn't really nailed down by the rules, I'd leave it up to the player.

If the player wants to RP the angst of making and hard choice like this, and letting their beloved hawk revert to being a wild animal (and getting a chance to live a normal hawk life, having only had a brief interruption, in its time as a familiar, which, since familiars don't seem to age like normal animals, probably hasn't taken any years of it's prime away from it), while calling down a replacement from the planes. That could be all poignant and stuff, if one wants to go that route.

If the character is made of money, it might be amusing to bequeath the dismissed familiar a permanant enlarge person (via share spell) and magic fang, just to give it a leg up re-establishing itself in a new territory. :) Then again, a ring (legband) of sustenance might end up being a more practical gift.

Qadira RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32

You could have the familiar evolve by simply giving it some of the stats of the agathion (abilities, DR, resistances, HD) and leave it in the hawk body. (No cat luck, pounce etc). The stats are suited to the feat so should be no problem with your dm :-)


But by this logic, how is dismissing a familiar any worse than creating a familiar? You certainly didn't get that animal's permission to take it from its previous life and imbue it with the capacity for ennui and existential dread so that you'd have someone to accompany you on your extremely dangerous adventures. You forced your soul-bond on some poor, unsuspecting animal!

Years ago, back when the Reincarnate spell wasn't restricted by type, one of the PCs reincarnated her beloved dog and wound up turning it into a centaur. So we had a centaur with the mind of a dog. Mostly, he was frustrated to discover that he could no longer lick his own junk, and was much happier when we had him magically transformed back into a dog.


RAW no consequences what so ever...

but from a RP view...lots of mileage

had a player do the same with an animal companion because "its only got 4 hps". despite me wanting me to slap his PC around for that attitude there is nothing RAW to do so.

Wonderful role playing by the CG elven ranger....

Shadow Lodge

I think the Improved Familiar feat should have been redone to become a one-time ritual that enhances your existing familiar, instead of basically saying "Screw you, cat! I'm getting an pseudodragon!"


I can't believe nobody has mentioned Flowers For Algernon.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules Subscriber
Umbral Reaver wrote:
I can't believe nobody has mentioned Flowers For Algernon.

Oh DAMMIT it's all coming back and now I'm sad all over again. >:(


I'm going to be in the "transformation" side. Agathions are spirits generated from enlightened mortals, so it's easy to say that you're elevating your good and dear Familiar to "something more" (and also offering it the opportunity of someday shifting to an even higher form). Cats have nothing to do with Hawks? Well not even with Humans, for that matter, but still Silvanshees are born from a generic mortal soul.


You could also look at it as freeing it instead of dismissing it. When it becomes a familiar it becomes a magical beast instead of an animal. Now instead of living like a normal animal it has all sorts of responsibilities that interfere with normal animal life. Instead of spending its time hunting, flying and finding a mate it is a servant to you. It goes where you want including following you into danger that it would not normally face. You have taken a normal animal and with magic mutated it to something else.

up till now it has enjoyed working with you but still sometimes misses the simple life it once had. In the course of your travels it encounters a female hawk that it would like to take as a mate. It knows that as a familiar this can never happen. It tries to hide it from you but you sense its feeling through your link with it. It now really wants to return to the normal life of a hawk but feels an obligation to you. You decide that you can't stand in the way of your friends happiness so agree to free it. With a heavy heart you say goodbye to a dear friend knowing in your heart he is better off by your decision.

At this point it would actually be immoral to keep it as a familiar.


Dr. Guns-For-Hands wrote:
Over the next couple of sessions each time he went to bed and I knew he wouldn't have any combats, he'd wake up and discover that any unspent spell slots were gone when he woke up. His familiar was eating them in his sleep, absorbing the magic. Eventually, his little caiman sprouted fairy wings and became a fairy dragon caiman when he hit 7th level

What an awesome way to work it in. Did the player suspect what was happening to his spells at all?


Umbral Reaver wrote:
I can't believe nobody has mentioned Flowers For Algernon.

Really hate you for reminding me of that...


Solwynn bint Khalsim ibn Abdul wrote:
Umbral Reaver wrote:
I can't believe nobody has mentioned Flowers For Algernon.
Really hate you for reminding me of that...

Can someone tell me about Flowers For Algernon?


Maybe the hawk wants to go have a hatch of eggs with some nice lady-hawk he met. It's still a hawk. Hawk's have needs.


Rogar Stonebow wrote:
Solwynn bint Khalsim ibn Abdul wrote:
Umbral Reaver wrote:
I can't believe nobody has mentioned Flowers For Algernon.
Really hate you for reminding me of that...
Can someone tell me about Flowers For Algernon?

You'll be sorry...


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Mikaze wrote:

"But master, I don't want to go! I don't want to forget! Did I do something wrong? I'll do better, I promise! Please don't make me go! I don't want to lose these thoughts! I don't want to lose myself! ;_;"

:(

Says the hawk with a tear in its eye and a tiny pink slip clutched in it's claw.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber
Solwynn bint Khalsim ibn Abdul wrote:
Rogar Stonebow wrote:
Solwynn bint Khalsim ibn Abdul wrote:
Umbral Reaver wrote:
I can't believe nobody has mentioned Flowers For Algernon.
Really hate you for reminding me of that...
Can someone tell me about Flowers For Algernon?
You'll be sorry...

Ok now I am depressed


Solwynn bint Khalsim ibn Abdul wrote:
Rogar Stonebow wrote:
Solwynn bint Khalsim ibn Abdul wrote:
Umbral Reaver wrote:
I can't believe nobody has mentioned Flowers For Algernon.
Really hate you for reminding me of that...
Can someone tell me about Flowers For Algernon?
You'll be sorry...

For a more light hearted approach to lab rats gaining intelligence I recomend "Pinky and the Brain" from the cartoon "Animaniacs".

It also got me to consider, does the alignment of a familiar match that of it's master? If so I could see the following for an evil one.

Master: So Brain what are you going to do today? (Already knowing what the answer will be.)
Brain (raven familiar): The same thing I do every day: TRY TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD!!!


The coolest fantasy creatures are mash ups.

Lions cool
Eagles cool

Griffin Even Better

I know back in the day 3.0 Forgotten Realms had a creature called a Terresim that was part bird part house cat. Kinda like a mini griffon.

In your case you have a hawk cool. You want a Silvanshee I would go for the evolution method mentioned earlier and get yourself a Hawkvanshee. Or a Silvahawk and rejoice.


Oh I had a Half-Elf in Faerun that had a Tressym, he'd rather chop his own arm off then let his buddy get hurt.


Mikaze wrote:

"But master, I don't want to go! I don't want to forget! Did I do something wrong? I'll do better, I promise! Please don't make me go! I don't want to lose these thoughts! I don't want to lose myself! ;_;"

:(

There's a reason I always flavor "Improved Familiar" as the already-existing familiar transforming into something stronger (unless the improved familiar specifically kills the previous one, but I never play an evil character, so I never worry about that).

Lantern Lodge

To the OP, if you feel so strongly about keeping your current familiar as it is.
Why not ask the GM to allow you to keep BOTH familiars, with the ruling that you can only make use of one at a time in any situation?

So if the Silvanshee Agathion is helping you with something, Afonya would have to be "inactive".

Of course the passive benefits that the Hawk familiar gives would have to be removed to balance out this arrangement.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

I looked at pfsrd and the Silvanshee Agathion looks like It has been nerfed somewhere and can only lay on hands 1x/day as a 2nd level Paladin, so If that Is official you won't be gaining much healing anyway.

It looks like It Is a some kind of cat creature so I don't see It using a wand probably, maybe another type of familiar that has hands would be a better option If you need the extra healing.

This Is just a cursory glance by me, so I could be wrong though.

Let us know what you decide, good luck.


How does the rest of the party feel about Afonya? The roleplaying potential here is awesome. If the rest of the party is as attached to Afonya, the "loss" of your familiar should affect everyone. Perhaps they understand the need for healing and decide to pool assets to purchase healing (wand/potions) in order to spare Afonya's and your character's suffering. A bit of mutual sacrifice to solidify party cohesion. By the way, if I was your GM and you all capitalized on this amazing RP potential, I'd have a wand of healing appear in a treasure horde soon as a reward. Of course that might just delay the inevitable...


I'm going back and forth on taking Improved Familiar in my campaign. I have a thrush familiar. Has offered some good counsel, been in some good roleplay bits, and the Diplomacy bonus is certainly not unwelcome, as I am actually the party face. My wizard is N, so the familiar I was thinking of picking up was the Psychopomp Nosoi.

I'm also a Conjuration specialist, encompassing binding and construct crafting. My DM offered a scenario where Alcyon dies in combat, and my character is like... "No. I can rebuild him." And then I get the weird metallic bird with the traits of a Nosoi. And that would be pretty cool.

(Only problem with that is, Alcyon is never in combat. I don't see how he'd die there.)


fireball... he still take dmg


Illeist wrote:
The easiest solution that I'm aware of would be to pick up Improved Familiar and grab a Silvanshee Agathion. They're excellent creatures to have around, mesh well with my character in a roleplaying sense, and laying on hands as a Paladin of their hit dice is gravy.

Lay on Hands got nerfed, it's always as a second level paladin for the silvanshee now.

Q-Q this whole thread just makes me so sad!


Black Lotus wrote:
fireball... he still take dmg

That's theoretically supposed to be the case. All familiars do get to start with Improved Evasion to make that less of an issue, and they do also generally have a competent Reflex Save. More to the point, though, he's generally been glossed over in combat, as I would guess most noncombat familiars are, because the GM doesn't want to just pick on a fragile, roleplaying class feature. (Like V's disappearing familiar in Order of the Stick.)

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

There is a simple solution - There is no moral problem here, because hat gives sapience, personality and inteligence to your familiar its your own soul extention. Therefore - when you dismiss the hawk and call the Agathion, Aphonia would leave the Hawk body (because you took your magical essence back) and rebirth (posses) the Agathion body (because you took your magical energy that is Aphonia and imbued it on the Agathion). So, Aphonia is back in the form of an Agathion, with all her/his previou intelligence, personality and spaience.

Problem solved - oops, no problem at all...


Mikaze wrote:

"But master, I don't want to go! I don't want to forget! Did I do something wrong? I'll do better, I promise! Please don't make me go! I don't want to lose these thoughts! I don't want to lose myself! ;_;"

:(

Who is cutting onions in the office?!

And I find your comment rather jarring next to your forum avatar.


Rogar Stonebow wrote:
Solwynn bint Khalsim ibn Abdul wrote:
Umbral Reaver wrote:
I can't believe nobody has mentioned Flowers For Algernon.
Really hate you for reminding me of that...
Can someone tell me about Flowers For Algernon?

I remember seeing a movie called Charlie, which I hear was loosely based on that book. The basic plot is that a mentally retarded man is given a treatment that turns him into a genius. Later on, he finds out that the benefits of that treatment are temporary -- some time soon his intelligence will drop back to its original level, and nothing can be done to prevent that from happening.

Without the workaround that I proposed, a dismissed familiar is basically in the same situation. Of course, somebody else mentioned that my solution raises different moral questions in regard to the original animal.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules Subscriber
Lynn Pye wrote:
And I find your comment rather jarring next to your forum avatar.

Yeah, picking the "weaponized happiness" avatar is not so helpful for setting the tone in some posts. :D

Personally, I'm really liking the "familiar spirit gets a new form" approach as an option.


I can see roleplaying wise if you were that into things, how you could worry about what might happen to your hawk. It's quite touching actually.

But I would have to seriously think about it, to get an awaken cast on it. That gives the DM a way to screw with you. You are taking your familiar, making it more intelligent, then punting it to the curb for an improved familiar. Wouldn't the hawk feel somewhat bitter and resentful over that?

A new BBEG is born!! From the shadows, you hear a piercing hawk shriek, as the tengu ninja's attack!!

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