Raven Familiars


Playtest Reports


Our group is having a bit of an argument over whether the raven getting the supernatural ability to speak allows it to carry on conversations with PCs and NPCs on its own.

Wondering what exactly this supernatural ability does, and what it's limitations are.

Sczarni

Thomas Thiessen wrote:

Our group is having a bit of an argument over whether the raven getting the supernatural ability to speak allows it to carry on conversations with PCs and NPCs on its own.

Wondering what exactly this supernatural ability does, and what it's limitations are.

The Su ability grants it the capability of speaking (and I would assume) understanding one language of the Master's choice.

That being said, it starts at an Int of 6 (about as smart as an average Orc, slightly dumber than a Minotaur, and as smart as an Ogre) so it's conversation options, vocabulary, and memory are more than a little suspect. He CAN, by definition, carry on full conversations with PC's, NPC's or any other speaking character in your game.

How useful that conversation may be, or what kind of information garnered/passed along, can be debatable.

Once the Master has hit 9th lvl, the Raven is now at Int 10 (barring any other Int-boosting abilities/spells/etc) and is as smart as your average adult human. Now, there's no reason not to treat him like an extension of the Wizard's will, capable of remembering the usual things, recognizing moral decisions (if not really capable of describing WHY a particular choice is right/wrong), and everything else you might expect of an average adult human.

Once his Int starts getting past this, you have a bird (Magical Beast type, but still a bird for all intents and purposes) who can out-think most people, beat your sister at chess, and balance your checkbook without a calculator (we once had a Psion with a psicrystal whose rock regularly beat the rest of the party-sans wizard-at Chess and Go...). From here on out, the sky's the limit to this ultra-smart flying friend.

I hope this clarified a bit for you, as always the above is my interpretation of the RAW, so it may be a bit askew from the norm.

-t

Sovereign Court

Part of the fun of having a Raven familiar is role-playing it!

My sorcerer's raven was always looking out for him and trying to keep him out of trouble. Such good times were had!


Ravens are awesome... so many books n' stories from way back when in our childhoods, of wizard's pets n' companions who would have their own distinct personalities, sometimes helpful, or snappish, or witty, or whathaveyou. A wizard's familiar is an extension of himself, a bit of his own psyche tucked away into another being, allowing it to be a stalwart companion, a loyal protector, or even a verbal sparring partner. The raven's ability to speak makes it especially useful for the latter, albeit probably not as brilliant as your average wizard, but with that inherent 12 Wisdom (if memory serves) perhaps a bit more forthcoming in common sense.

Some classic examples that I can recollect for avian familiars include Archimedes the owl, familiar to Merlin in Disney's "Sword and the Stone"; Fantus the fire drake, familiar to Kulgan the Court Magician in Raymond Feist's "Magician" series; Afreeta the pseudo-dragon, companion to Niall Fangtooth in Andre Norton's fantasy classic "Quag Keep"; and my personal favorite, Ormiel the falcon, familiar to elf wizard Shanhaevel, from the more recent fantasy book "The Temple of Elemental Evil"... even though Ormiel didn't speak out loud, he was able to scout an area and project basic animalistic perceptions empathically/telepathically to his master. Examples included such things as "Bad things near." "No movement near man-nest ahead." "I hungry, go hunt now." Etc... I thought it was a pretty good depiction of how a relatively low Int creature could interact with his master and still provide useful information. Add that perception to the constant bickering and tongue-lashing's given to Merlin by his owl Archimedes and you might have a pretty valid idea of how a Raven familiar might interact with his master.

Sovereign Court

I'd have to agree with psionichamster ... it should be fine, just be sure that you, the GM, in the role of the familiar, keep it appropriate to the intelligence level of the raven.

Sovereign Court

I like to let my players RP the familiar, especially if it speaks.

Don't forget the extra option, mentioned in the RotRL PG, to have speaking thrushes.


Thanks everyone :)

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

While a Wizard is almost always going to be smarter than his familiar, Sorcerers can frequently fall behind. It is amusing when this happens.


When dealing with raven familiars in the past, I've always gone the route of RPing them like excitable four-year-olds with a fetish for shiny things and a somewhat morbid sense of humor. It seems to work fairly well.


I prefer roleplaying them as cryptic speaking scandinavians... with a love of all things "shiny"...

I've a list of Norse curses and proverbs that will be tailored to become relevant "raven wisdom" throughout sessions.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

I'm playing in a PbP game here on Paizo's boards in which my wizard character has a raven familiar that thinks it's smarter (and certainly craftier, shadier, and more jaded) than its master. When roleplaying these two "characters" I run them like a wizard and a rogue rolled up into one.

Just my two-cents,
--Neil

Scarab Sages

Ross Byers wrote:
While a Wizard is almost always going to be smarter than his familiar, Sorcerers can frequently fall behind. It is amusing when this happens.

Or, in my game, the paladin (Int 6) and his horse.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Snorter wrote:
Or, in my game, the paladin (Int 6) and his horse.

Sounds like a perfect Dudley Do-right to me. :-D

Liberty's Edge

Ross Byers wrote:
While a Wizard is almost always going to be smarter than his familiar, Sorcerers can frequently fall behind. It is amusing when this happens.

Amusing? Hardly. Hilarious. XD

For what it's worth, the interpretation upthread from here is pretty much how I deal with raven familiars (and they're very popular in my games).

Depending on the mood of the campaign, as an aside, I've run familiars as everything from Disney-style magical animal sidekicks to "manifestation of the id" sociopaths. The thing to remember is that while a familiar is a class feature, he's also an NPC. Since they have the "best interests" of their master at heart, but they don't start out very bright, this can lead to (in my game anyway) instances where your magical talking animal decides to stage an intervention with your friends about your behavior or other wacky hijinks. ^_^

Jeremy Puckett


Actually it never states that it is a NPC. Not once, in fact in earlier editions (something they skipped in 3.5) it's pointed out that a familiar is an extension of your own soul, given form... it is literally a part of you. Which is why you get the empathic link.

Shadow Lodge

Now I can't wait to get a psuedodragon familiar...

Liberty's Edge

Abraham spalding wrote:
Actually it never states that it is a NPC. Not once, in fact in earlier editions (something they skipped in 3.5) it's pointed out that a familiar is an extension of your own soul, given form... it is literally a part of you. Which is why you get the empathic link.

Maybe by the book, sure. But it has an Intelligence score, and it's more fun if it's an NPC, even if it's one that you can order around like your big toe. People tend to remember their familiars more if they're mouthy or personable too.

Jeremy Puckett


hida_jiremi wrote:
Abraham spalding wrote:
Actually it never states that it is a NPC. Not once, in fact in earlier editions (something they skipped in 3.5) it's pointed out that a familiar is an extension of your own soul, given form... it is literally a part of you. Which is why you get the empathic link.

Maybe by the book, sure. But it has an Intelligence score, and it's more fun if it's an NPC, even if it's one that you can order around like your big toe. People tend to remember their familiars more if they're mouthy or personable too.

Jeremy Puckett

As opposed to say the druid that remembers his nature's lore cause it yelled at him? Or the time the Ranger's favored enemy didn't apply due to the fact the gnoll was raised by dwarves? The one I really liked was when the fighter's weapon specialization didn't count because it wasn't the specific long sword he had trained with and was familiar with.

Yes it can be useful as a flavor/fluff thing, however it's still the character's class feature. He didn't get a different one because he got that one instead, and he should control it (especially in older editions when losing a familiar meant actually losing HP and Experience in the mix, in addition to the abilities the familiar provided).

However, regardless of my position if the DM and I had discussed it first and he let me know he was going to see the familiar as an NPC, I would probably accept it. On the other hand if I built my character (and familiar as part of that character) with the idea in mind we were playing standard, then the DM informed me of his house rule that the familiar was an NPC and would be controlled by him I would be pissed. It's your world and I don't screw with it, my PC is my world don't screw with him.

Part of the reason this irked me enough to comment is I have regularly dealt with DMs that neglect to inform their players of very important details like this before hand then are puzzled when they (the DM) reaches in to affect the character in such a way without the players consent. The odd examples I gave above are things I had seen in game (with the exception of the druid one). When I choose something for my character I do so because I think it will help. I've not taken something else in order to have what I did take, and to have a situation come up where what I have should be useful to me, and the DM decides it doesn't apply because "It's more flavorful that way" so "the familiar talks back"/"the gnoll isn't a normal gnoll"/"it's not your normal sword" it burns me up. I spent my stuff to have this perk I expect it to work the way the book says it does.

EDIT: I ranted sorry, it's an issue to me.

Grand Lodge

Abraham spalding wrote:

my PC is my world don't screw with him.

Something I take issue with are players that don't check with the DM to make sure their "precious builds" are okay with the setting the DM (you know, the guy that interprets the rules during the game) is using...

And lets talk about character abilities for a moment...

I see NOTHING wrong with the occasional gnoll, orc, or what have you being different because of social up-bringing. After all, would not the ranger's ability bonus's come from not only knowing their enemy's anatomy, but ALSO their standard mode of operation?

A cohort comes as part of a feat (chosen by the player), does that mean that said cohort can't also be an NPC because it's part of a character's ability as well?

I mean where does it end?

I am truly sorry, but you too hit a nerve...

*Stands resolute in his opinion, yet ready for the inevitable flames*

-That One Digitalelf Fellow-


Agreed that you should always talk with a DM before coming to a table, but again just as you spend time with your world (your build) I spend time on my character (possibly more than the DM did the world), thinking of background, history, siblings, rivals, and hooks to give the DM to help make his job easier.

Again, the key in both cases is of course communication. As a player I need to make sure I conform with the world to a large degree, and as a DM you have to make sure that you let the players know of any odd changes to the normal rules before they affect play, sometimes just a shout out of "This is partially DM Fiat for story" can stop players whining for their spot check to see the guy that just shot at them (as could giving them the spot check and not worrying about it since the sniper is both invisible and on top of a building et al).


It may be jarring if the players and the DM have very different ideas: if the player thinks the familiar is a wild and noble elven cat, and the DM thinks the familiar is a foul-mouthed miscreant who likes to get the party into trouble.

But I think it would be great if the DM or players spent time role-playing and developing a wizard's familiar as a character. Class features are more than just mechanics, and part of the point of the game is for DMs and players to work together to create a richly imagined fantasy world.

Roleplaying familiars seems like a great way out of the stereotype of a familiar that pops into and out of existence as convenient for the caster, a la OotS.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

Goblin Witchlord wrote:
Roleplaying familiars seems like a great way out of the stereotype of a familiar that pops into and out of existence as convenient for the caster, a la OotS.

Agreed. While Pseudodragons aren't 'standard' familiars I know there were times when running Keth (the familiar) overshadowed me playing Aether (the character). Yes I was playing them both.

Liberty's Edge

Dragonborn3 wrote:
Now I can't wait to get a psuedodragon familiar...

Looking forward to building a Homunculus myself. My bard can't have a familiar, but he can "make" new friends soon enough. :)

As for raven familiars, I would find amusement in the animal's love of carrion as a food source. Let's hope the empathic link does not include taste, or your wizard will soon know what orc eyes taste like! :p


Xuttah wrote:
Dragonborn3 wrote:
Now I can't wait to get a psuedodragon familiar...

Looking forward to building a Homunculus myself. My bard can't have a familiar, but he can "make" new friends soon enough. :)

As for raven familiars, I would find amusement in the animal's love of carrion as a food source. Let's hope the empathic link does not include taste, or your wizard will soon know what orc eyes taste like! :p

If your DM allows splat books, then the Obtain Familiar feat might be of interest to you.

Actually I liked the little bird construct thing in the back of the Complete Arcane. In one campaign I was I ended up spending a lot of time, money and effort in making an advance one out of adamantine, and giving it various other abilities.

Shadow Lodge

Abraham spalding wrote:
Actually I liked the little bird construct thing in the back of the Complete Arcane. In one campaign I was I ended up spending a lot of time, money and effort in making an advance one out of adamantine, and giving it various other abilities.

He is actually talking about the Spark Guardian from Complete Warrior.

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