Familiars and Improved Familiars


Rules Questions


11 people marked this as FAQ candidate.

Following a short discussion in the general discussion forum, I decided to repost a few points here that (imo) need clarification. You can find the original topic HERE.

As the title of this topic suggests, this is all about Familiars. With 3 (soon 4) classes that have access to this class feature, I think a few things should be made clear. I'll start by giving five points that I personally always wondered about.

Feel free to add more questions.

I'll hide my points in the spoiler below to keep my post short(-ish).

Spoiler:
1. Does an improved familiar possess the class skills and save bonuses listed in the familiar ability description or does it use those of its type? And how about a non-improved non-animal-type familiar like the scorpion?

2. If I get an Imp at level 7, how much intelligence does he have? 9 or 13?

3. Getting an Improved Familiar has very vague alignment restrictions. The feat itself says the alignment of the master must be within one step of the familiar's alignment on each axis. Many of the familiars have Bestiary descriptions that list other requirements - such as exactly the same alignment (Lyrakien, Arbiter, Voidworm and others) or only within one step (like the Faerie Dragon). Some Bestiary entries don't mention any restrictions at all (such as the Imp). So, judging by the feat alone, a true neutral character could get any Improved Familiar he wants. Judging by the bestiary, it seems to vary on a case by case basis. I'm fine with exceptions to a rule, but I see more exception than rule here. Which is kinda confusing.

4. By RAW, can a Witch get an Improved Familiar without losing all her spells? Maybe have the old Familiar teach them to the new one before the switch? Taking the Scribe Scroll feat to "save" the spells before the switch would be a workaround but that seems like a steep feat tax - and is not even possible in Society play.

5. James Jacobs said in the off-topic forum, a Familiar doesn't actually improve its HD when the master gains a level (LINK). It only uses its master's HD for things aiming for them like Cirlce of Death. Is this RAW? It's pretty important for things like poison-DCs and the Silvanshee's Lay on Hands ability. Do these advance or not?

I really hope to get some official answers. But if we can't have those, I'll gladly take any insight anybody can offer. Thanks for reading.


2 people marked this as FAQ candidate.

You must be new around here. Asking for an official request does not grant it. Many of you questions have already been answered.
A golem by your name is not a sign of your rules-fu since only Sean and Jason actually make the rules.

With that said I am going to give you some answers

1.Skills: For each skill in which either the master or the familiar has ranks, use either the normal skill ranks for an animal of that type or the master's skill ranks, whichever is better. In either case, the familiar uses its own ability modifiers. Regardless of a familiar's total skill modifiers, some skills may remain beyond the familiar's ability to use. Familiars treat Acrobatics, Climb, Fly, Perception, Stealth, and Swim as class skills.

That one is simple they get both. This applies to all familiar types. In order to lose a class skill it has to be specifically stated. Belonging to a wizard does not make skills go away.

2.By the book you go directly off the chart. This one has been FAQ'd several times, but nobody has errata'd it or put an answer in the FAQ. Don't hold your breath. I will hit the FAQ so they answer it one day though.

3.Specific always trumps general. The general rule is one step, but if a specific creature has a certain requirement then that takes precedence.

4.The RAW is silent on this one, and it remains another unanswered question.

5.I did not agree with that. We will have to wait for Jason or Sean to chime in.

Copied and pasted from another similar thread.

wraithstrike wrote:
How exactly do you plan to get a dev to see your thread if nobody post in it?<---Rhetorical question. By 10am it will probably be off the main page, just saying. You must be new around here if you think asking for officials is a factor in them showing up.

The other poster understood the "new around here" comment was not made in snark, but I am saying it again just to be clear.

No traffic on the post means it drops out of sight, meaning it most likely never gets seen.
These "official request" threads have been considered annoying more than anything else. They also have a poor track record for getting an official request, and only the ones that ran several pages due to posters debating about it have ever gotten a response.

That leaves you with two choices.
1.Rescind the "don't post" idea.
2.Keep the idea and hope your post is the exception to the rule.


I'm not exactly new. Been reading the forums (mostly advice and rules) almost every day for nearly a year now. And I can't remember ever seeing any FAQ-requests (note that by "request" I mean "asking for a clarification" and by no means "demanding an answer"). Anyway, you might be right so I changed a few lines of the original post.

As for the points...

1. I'm not asking about skill ranks. Those are clear. I'm asking which skills are CLASS skills for non-animal-type (or rather non-magical beast) familiars. The familiar rules say

Quote:
Familiars treat Acrobatics, Climb, Fly, Perception, Stealth, and Swim as class skills.

This is the same class skill list that animals and magical beasts have. So is this list fixed for ALL familiars regardless of type or do only those listed in the familiar ability description happen to have exactly these class skills because they are all animals?

2. Well, at least it really seems to be a frequently asked question... ^^

3. While I'm aware of the specific trumps general rule, it does seem a bit weird. I remember one of the developers saying they aimed for having two CL 1-2 Improved Familiars for every alignment when they worked on the Bestiary 2. But some of them requiring the exact same alignment while others don't lacks any form of consistency.

4. Seems like a pretty important question. Especially in PFS.

5. Can't really discuss this one. By pure RAW I personaly read it the same way as JJ. A for RAI, I'm not sure.

Anyway, let's discuss a bit more and see where it leads us.

Oh, and thanks, wraith :)


I think I have a satisfying answer to number 1, but I have to leave for work so I don't have time to post it. I will post it later tonight.


1. In order to lose a class skill it has to be specifically stated. Belonging to a wizard does not make skills go away. It only adds skill to the class list unless of course the creature in question already has them as class skills.

In order to get class skills that belong to a race you have to be a
member of that race. This is an automatic qualification.

PS: I am blind.

PRD:Familiars

A familiar is an animal chosen by a spellcaster to aid him in his study of magic. It retains the appearance, Hit Dice, base attack bonus, base save bonuses, skills, and feats of the normal animal it once was, but is now a magical beast for the purpose of effects that depend on its type.


wraithstrike wrote:

1. In order to lose a class skill it has to be specifically stated. Belonging to a wizard does not make skills go away. It only adds skill to the class list unless of course the creature in question already has them as class skills.

In order to get class skills that belong to a race you have to be a
member of that race. This is an automatic qualification.

PS: I am blind.

PRD:Familiars

A familiar is an animal chosen by a spellcaster to aid him in his study of magic. It retains the appearance, Hit Dice, base attack bonus, base save bonuses, skills, and feats of the normal animal it once was, but is now a magical beast for the purpose of effects that depend on its type.

For number 3 it may be a fluff issue. I would have to look at the familiar in question. I will get back to this one.

Scarab Sages

Hmm... as far as #4 goes, I'll take this snippet from the witch class feature.

"Familiars store all of the spells that a witch knows, and a witch cannot prepare a spell that is not stored by her familiar."

The entry itself separates between knowing the spell and preparing the spell. So I would imagine that if the witch knows the spell either through the free spells each level, or through scrolls or even by learning it from another witches' familiar, then it would still count as a spell she knows.

And so, any replacement familiar, or improved familiar, would retain the list of spells for the witch to prepare.

As far as the alignment thing goes... a lot of the improved familiars have little quirks like that. The imp is your example for one without a restriction, but the imp has a quirk where it actively tries to corrupt and/or kill the caster who controls it.


Magicdealer wrote:

Hmm... as far as #4 goes, I'll take this snippet from the witch class feature.

"Familiars store all of the spells that a witch knows, and a witch cannot prepare a spell that is not stored by her familiar."

The entry itself separates between knowing the spell and preparing the spell. So I would imagine that if the witch knows the spell either through the free spells each level, or through scrolls or even by learning it from another witches' familiar, then it would still count as a spell she knows.

And so, any replacement familiar, or improved familiar, would retain the list of spells for the witch to prepare.

As far as the alignment thing goes... a lot of the improved familiars have little quirks like that. The imp is your example for one without a restriction, but the imp has a quirk where it actively tries to corrupt and/or kill the caster who controls it.

Actually the familiar holds the same position as a spellbook does for a wizard. It is the keeper of the spells. In that sense getting rid of the old familiar for a new one does not transfer spells by RAW. I am sure that when this is rectified they will says the spells transfer over, and that is what most GM's will do, but for things like PF Society making such rulings is hard to do. I am not a member of PFS, but I think in cases like this PFS should make a ruling until something official comes along so everyone is on the same page.

Scarab Sages

See, that's kind of the thing. The familiar isn't a spellbook, it's a familiar that "store all of the spells that a witch knows".

If it were just a spellbook, there wouldn't be any question.


wraithstrike wrote:

PRD:Familiars

A familiar is an animal chosen by a spellcaster to aid him in his study of magic. It retains the appearance, Hit Dice, base attack bonus, base save bonuses, skills, and feats of the normal animal it once was, but is now a magical beast for the purpose of effects that depend on its type.

I've read the familiar desxriptions MANY times. The question is still, does "skills" mean

- skill ranks
- class skills
- or both?

And then there's ths bit of ruling:

Familiar Basiscs wrote:
Skills: For each skill in which either the master or the familiar has ranks, use either the normal skill ranks for an animal of that type or the master's skill ranks, whichever is better. In either case, the familiar uses its own ability modifiers. Regardless of a familiar's total skill modifiers, some skills may remain beyond the familiar's ability to use. Familiars treat Acrobatics, Climb, Fly, Perception, Stealth, and Swim as class skills.

The text SPECIFICALLY says, which skills are class skills for a familiar. HOWEVER, as I already mentioned, those are the same class skills that every animal or magical beast gets.

Are they just mentioned here fo quick reference or is this a hard ruling that overwrites the different class skill list of ofer creature types like outsiders?

Basically, we have the creature type rule and the familiar rule. Which is te general and which the specific?
- Is a familiar a specific type of creature? (familiar rules win)
or
- Is a non-animal familiar like an Imp a specific type of familiar? (creature type rules win)

If the class skill list is fixed for all familiars, we'd get some pretty strange results.
A fire elemental that has a knack for swimming? Really?
An air elemental with perfect flight can climb? Why would it?


Magicdealer wrote:

See, that's kind of the thing. The familiar isn't a spellbook, it's a familiar that "store all of the spells that a witch knows".

If it were just a spellbook, there wouldn't be any question.

So basicaly you say the witch knows the spells, not the familiar. She just needs the familiar as some kind of focus to prepare her spells, yes?

However, the witch familiar description also reads:

Quote:
If a familiar is lost or dies, it can be replaced 1 day later through a special ritual that costs 500 gp per witch level. The ritual takes 8 hours to complete. A new familiar begins knowing all of the 0-level spells plus two spells of every level the witch is able to cast. These are in addition to any bonus spells known by the familiar based on the witch's level and her patron (see patron spells).

This implies that the familiar in fact does know the spells. If your interpretation was correct, getting a new familiar would increase the poewr of the witch as she retains all spells known and gets the 2 spells per level he new familiar brings with him. That doesn't seem right.

The problem is that this rule covers only losing the familiar, not voluntarily giving him up to get a new one (like an Improved Familiar).

Scarab Sages

Ahh, good point.

Revised--

The feat Improved Familiar allows you to acquire a new familiar, but only when you could normally acquire a new familiar.

So, from the witches entry: If a familiar is lost or dies, it can be replaced 1 day
later through a special ritual that costs 500 gp per witch
level.

From the arcane bond entry about familiars for the wizard, you find the same basic entry.

So the only time you can replace a familiar is if one dies, or is "lost" somehow.

There is no "upgrading" between familiars as you seem to want to do when picking up the feat. This is true of all arcane classes, not just the witch.

However, when you "do" need a new familiar, it comes into play with "all of the 0-level spells plus two spells of every level the witch is able to cast. These are in addition to any bonus spells known by the familiar based on the witch’s level and her patron (see patron spells)."

so all cantrips, all bonus spells known based on level, all patron spells, and the standard two spells every level. Accordingly, you would lose spells learned through scrolls or through interfacing with another witches' familiar.

Gaming the system:

The line if the familiar is "lost" implies that the witch can make a determination that the familiar is no longer a viable option. Match this with the rules on a familiar whos' master is dead, and you've got 24 hours to transfer your spells between familiars before your old one forgets everything that it knew... It requires a spellcraft roll, but allows for some salvaging of lost spells and is a reasonable interpretation even for PFS games.

And when you need to do something like this for a PFS game, you only need to find one dm to ok it as long as there's no official stance either way. Once you've gotten approval, the question won't come up again.


Magicdealer wrote:
The feat Improved Familiar allows you to acquire a new familiar, but only when you could normally acquire a new familiar.

Personally, I think the ability to aquire a new familiar is part of the familiar class ability regardless of whether you have a current familiar or not. It's also listed as requirement for the Improved Familiar feat. If it wasn't part of the class feature at all times, you'd actually need to lose your familiar before you could take the feat.

Quote:

However, when you "do" need a new familiar, it comes into play with "all of the 0-level spells plus two spells of every level the witch is able to cast. These are in addition to any bonus spells known by the familiar based on the witch’s level and her patron (see patron spells)."

so all cantrips, all bonus spells known based on level, all patron spells, and the standard two spells every level. Accordingly, you would lose spells learned through scrolls or through interfacing with another witches' familiar.

Actually, the bolded part is another thing that's unclear. Especially the second par "These are in addition to any bonus spells known by the familiar based on the witch's level and her patron". Does that refer to the patron spells plus the 2 bonus spells a witch gets every level or does it refer only to the patron spells and the part about the witch's level is just clarification that a low level witch doesn't get all patron spells because she might not yet have the class levels for the higher level spells.

Quote:
The line if the familiar is "lost" implies that the witch can make a determination that the familiar is no longer a viable option.

I'm not sure that "lost" implies taht you can chose to give up your familiar. It could simply mean the witch gets separated from her familiar by imprisonment (magical of mundane), planar travel or other means.

Quote:
Match this with the rules on a familiar whos' master is dead, and you've got 24 hours to transfer your spells between familiars before your old one forgets everything that it knew.

Even if this is how it works, 24 hours aren't that much time if each spell takes 1 hour per spell level to learn. An average level 7 witch would have at least 36 spell levels worth of spells known and this is without learning a single spell from scrolls for the fist 7 levels (which is unlikely). This only gets worse quickly if a witch wants to get a new familiar at an even higher level.

Quote:
And when you need to do something like this for a PFS game, you only need to find one dm to ok it as long as there's no official stance either way. Once you've gotten approval, the question won't come up again.

I don't play PFS, but I think it would be way easier if there simply was some kind of official ruling for this.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Magicdealer wrote:
There is no "upgrading" between familiars as you seem to want to do when picking up the feat.

If it's a simple template upgrade such as going from a cat to a celestial or fiendish cat, I'd allow it.

Blave wrote:
Actually, the bolded part is another thing that's unclear. Especially the second par "These are in addition to any bonus spells known by the familiar based on the witch's level and her patron". Does that refer to the patron spells plus the 2 bonus spells a witch gets every level or does it refer only to the patron spells and the part about the witch's level is just clarification that a low level witch doesn't get all patron spells because she might not yet have the class levels for the higher level spells.

I'm pretty sure it's just referring to the Patron spells. There's an "and". It would be need to be "or" to read it the other way. Plus the sentence ends with "(see patron spells)" implying that all of the relevant rules that sentence is referring to are under the "patron spells" section.

Blave wrote:
Even if this is how it works, 24 hours aren't that much time if each spell takes 1 hour per spell level to learn. An average level 7 witch would have at least 36 spell levels worth of spells known and this is without learning a single spell from scrolls for the fist 7 levels (which is unlikely). This only gets worse quickly if a witch wants to get a new familiar at an even higher level.

I'd use the rule for duplicating spellbook and halve the time for transferring spells you already know. Plus, you wouldn't need to transfer over the cantrips, patron spells, or 2 spells per level that came with the new familiar.

There was a 3rd party witch book with an "Additional Familiar" feat, specifically to allow a witch to have a backup.


Magicdealer wrote:

See, that's kind of the thing. The familiar isn't a spellbook, it's a familiar that "store all of the spells that a witch knows".

If it were just a spellbook, there wouldn't be any question.

It holds the spells just like a spellbook does though. The only difference is that it can walk around. You lose the spellbook or a familiar then the spells are lost just the same way.


Blave wrote:

[

If the class skill list is fixed for all familiars, we'd get some pretty strange results.
A fire elemental that has a knack for swimming? Really?
An air elemental with perfect flight can climb? Why would it?

The swimming fire elemental thing is where you have to decide to go with the rules or with immersion as a group.

If a creature takes a level in a class and it takes an actual class the book tells you what class skills that class has, the same way the familiar text does.

Example:The wizard's class skills are Appraise (Int), Craft (Int), Fly (Dex), Knowledge (all) (Int), Linguistics (Int), Profession (Wis), and Spellcraft (Int).

Familiars treat Acrobatics, Climb, Fly, Perception, Stealth, and Swim as class skills.

Now in both cases they only detail what you get so by your proposition if a creature with racial HD takes the wizard class it only gets the wizard skills.

Note that nothing says the base class skill is replaced. It says the familiar treats the other skills as if they were the class skills, not that they become the class skills. This is important because it also lends to the reasoning that they keep their old skills and treat the ones in the familiar section as class skills also.

As for that earlier part where I noted everything it retained. All those things are racial abilities. When people says a class gets skill X what they mean is that is is proficient in skill X. Once again in order for something to be lost it must be stated.


I have a question regarding the Improved Familiars feat for some characters with a familiar. For example to have a Clockwork Familiar for an alchemist concept without an archetype, or Coral Capuchin for a Pirate (rogue).

Is it possible to get it with the Tumor Familiar discovery?
With the Familiar Bond feat?
With the Eldritch Heritage feat (arcane)?
With the rogue talent Familiar?

When I read some supplements I feel like yes. But may be this may only apply to the Homunculus.

The Exchange

Yes to all of those except the tumor familiar.

FAQ on Improved Familiar


Ok thank you very much, that clarifies a bit for me. But it also makes it more confusing.

For example it is strange for the tumor familiar : a rogue or a Blight Druid could have a Clockwork Familiar and not an Alchemist without an archetype? While the Clockwork Familiar would correspond more to an alchemist?

Unless the alchemist goes through the Eldritch Heritage (arcane) feat or the Familiar Bond feat? Strange that the alchemist should use feats when a discovery could fulfill this function. Would an alchemist have to make more sacrifices than a rogue or a Blight Druid to get a Clockwork Familiar?

On the other hand, a priori an alchemist could have a Ioun wyrd or a Petrifern as a tumor familiar?

According to some supplements, the Alchemist might have a homunculus but not a Clockwork Familiar? It's very, very strange. With the Promethean Disciple discovery an alchemist without an archetype could build himself a Shield Guardian Clockwork golem, but would be unable to build a familiar for himself ?

I don't quite understand this sentence.

FAQ wrote:
In other cases, treat Improved Familiar as if it was an archetype to see if it stacks with other familiar options: since the two things it alters from a regular familiar are that it removes the ability to speak with animals of its kind and it prevents changing the creature type for non-animals, you couldn't make a familiar that changes the creature type of non-animals or alters or removes speak with animals of its kind an Improved Familiar.

Does this mean that it is possible to have an Improved Familiar as long as it is not a non-animal type? This means nothing since 99% of Improved Familiars have non-animal type. Similarly 90% of Improved Familiars do not speak with animals. Finally, familiars are not animals, since normally they all get the magical creature type. Some base familiars don't even have the animal type. Like vermin familiars, plant familiars. So I don't understand this sentence at all.

The Exchange

Adyton wrote:

Ok thank you very much, that clarifies a bit for me. But it also makes it more confusing.

For example it is strange for the tumor familiar : a rogue or a Blight Druid could have a Clockwork Familiar and not an Alchemist without an archetype? While the Clockwork Familiar would correspond more to an alchemist?

Unless the alchemist goes through the Eldritch Heritage (arcane) feat or the Familiar Bond feat? Strange that the alchemist should use feats when a discovery could fulfill this function. Would an alchemist have to make more sacrifices than a rogue or a Blight Druid to get a Clockwork Familiar?

On the other hand, a priori an alchemist could have a Ioun wyrd or a Petrifern as a tumor familiar?

Improved familiars are intelligent creatures that the wizard convinces to bond with him. The unique abilities of that Improved Familiar are due to its creature type. The tumor familiar is just a bit of the alchemist shaped like an animal. A wizard can find a mephit (for example) and convince it to bond with him. But an alchemist would have to mold his tumor into a mephit (complete with breath weapon) which is something of an entirely different scope.

The exceptions are, of course, the homunculus and the clockwork familiar. Both of which are built by the caster. The FAQ is a general rule saying "no, you can't turn your tumor into a Lyrakien Azata, Imp, etc." The game is full of edge cases, the vast majority of which were never addressed by the designers. As a GM I wouldn't have a problem allowing an alchemist who took the tumor familiar discovery and the Improved Familiar feat to build a clockwork familiar, though I would say it loses the special abilities of the tumor.

Quote:

I don't quite understand this sentence.

FAQ wrote:
In other cases, treat Improved Familiar as if it was an archetype to see if it stacks with other familiar options: since the two things it alters from a regular familiar are that it removes the ability to speak with animals of its kind and it prevents changing the creature type for non-animals, you couldn't make a familiar that changes the creature type of non-animals or alters or removes speak with animals of its kind an Improved Familiar.
Does this mean that it is possible to have an Improved Familiar as long as it is not a non-animal type? This means nothing since 99% of Improved Familiars have non-animal type. Similarly 90% of Improved Familiars do not speak with animals. Finally, familiars are not animals, since normally they all get the magical creature type. Some base familiars don't even have the animal type. Like vermin familiars, plant familiars. So I don't understand this sentence at all.

This sentence covers two subjects. One is the guidelines for "approximating familiars" found in Animal Archive and any similar guidelines. Basically it's saying "you can't make a familiar that is exactly like a Lyrakien Azata but is a construct." Not even on the radar for the vast majority of players, but there are some games where the GM allows players to do some familiar designing.

The second subject is the various familiar archetypes (mauler, protector, etc.). Almost all of these archetypes replace speak with animals of its kind. Which means that you can't have an Improved Familiar with those archetypes.


Haaaaa ok, I understand much better. Thanks.

I didn't realize that was a clarification on Familiar archetypes. Yes I understand that adding a Familiar archetype on an Improved Familiar might be a bit too much.

OK also for Improved Familiars like the Lyrakien Azata with the discovery tumor familiar. It seems logical to me.

Although one can imagine, for example, a Bramble Brewer (alchemist) with a Brownie. Or a Dragonblood Chymist (alchemist) with a Pseudodragon or Faerie Dragon. But I imagine that in this case the alchemist will be able to use the Eldritch Heritage feat (arcane) or the Familiar Bond feat.

thanks again.

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