Summoning / Familiar Spotlight: Silvanshee Agathion


Advice

Silver Crusade

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(Edited shortly after posting to remove a duplicate 'Skills' section. Whoops.)

Foreword: This article (and others like it) assumes your character is a Wizard or Sorcerer willing to research and meet the prerequisites. I assume Summoners can do most of the same tricks and likely do them better, but I'm writing this from the perspective of the older classes instead. Other classes may benefit as well.

The Silvanshee Agathion is a seemingly odd choice regardless of whether you're using it as a Summon or a Familiar, since it's not very useful in a fight. This holy cat's real value emerges in other situations, where its unassuming appearance and mix of special abilities allow it to influence events in ways many of its peers simply can't match (or if they can, they can only cover some of the same uses). Useful as a scout, emergency healer, universal translator, and more, the Silvanshee rewards creative play.

Before we begin, you may want to review the following stats. Note that Summoning them requires the Summon Good Monster feat, and using them as a Familiar requires the Improved Familiar feat.

Silvanshee Agathion Stats on Paizo.com PRD

Normally this is where I would offer a quick overview of its combat stats, but let me blunt: Silvanshee Agathions are just short of worthless in a fight. Their AC and speed are fine, but even at full power their damage output is pathetic compared to Summon Monster I's Eagle (nevermind its Summon III peers). They're Tiny, have no Reach, and even a full Pounce attack doesn't do much. If a Silvanshee Agathion is engaging in direct combat, the situation has either gone very wrong or you're trolling by having it pick fights with Level 1 Commoners. They are good at many things, but not combat.

So what do they excel at? Several things, such as these examples that should get your creative thoughts flowing.

Animal Translator: While having a Druid or Ranger handy for Wild Empathy is fantastic, not every party includes one. Silvanshees have a constant Speak With Animals effect, letting them fill roughly the same role. Has your party accidentally wandered next to a bear den and you don't want to fight? Have the Silvanshee tell them that. “We'll leave some food for you if you let us go” can resolve the encounter far less dangerously (and with far less healing resources used) than beating up wildlife will.

There's another benefit for summoning-oriented characters; you can use the Silvanshee as an 'order relay' for summoned animals. Unlike D&D 3.5, Pathfinder summoned Celestial/Fiendish animals don't have Intelligence 3 and don't have a language. They're Intelligence 2, with their normal animal behavior modified by their Good (or Evil) alignment. Most GMs will thus forbid them from following complex plans. A Silvanshee Agathion lets you get around this, giving summoned animals specific instructions. The instructions will still be limited by their Intelligence score, but now you can do things like tell an Aurochs to “Bash that door open” or a Dire Bat to “Let him ride you, go wherever he points”, or even tell a Leopard to “Attack ONLY that foe, no matter what!” In other words, they let you make summoned animals do things said critter normally doesn't understand.

Universal Translator: Their Truespeech ability lets them understand nearly all languages, which has obvious uses. The only caveat is they don't understand certain unique languages, such as Master-Familiar (which differs for every master/familiar pair). On the other hand, if you're using one as a Familiar then you can have them use that language to report things they overhear from foes; the enemy won't know exactly what information was being passed on (though they might have a decent guess).

Emergency Medic: While they can only do a single 1d6 Lay on Hands per day, Silvanshee do have unlimited uses of Stabilize and fly very quickly. If a PC or NPC is Dying, the Silvanshee can spend its own actions stabilizing them until proper treatment can arrive. It's not a Touch spell, it has a Close range so it's even easier for them to do this. Heroic Strength can also bring their Strength score up to 11 for a short time, and while this next part will have Table Variance it's worth trying anyway: You could have the Silvanshee use said increased Strength to bite down on someone's shirt collar or belt or whatever, and slowly drag them away. This is especially plausible for most Wizards and Sorcerers who probably don't weigh as much as a fully-armored Fighter would. Remember, most creatures can drag or push way more than they can carry.

Sure, having your unconscious character dragged away from the fight by a cat will probably look weird. Nonetheless, having your magical kitty stabilize and drag someone out of a bad situation can allow the rest of the party to focus on other problems. This is particularly convenient when facing villains who love to confront heroes with the cruel “Chase me, or heal the bystanders I just hurt?” choice; let the Silvanshee take care of the latter.

Courier/Thief: A Silvanshee's light load is 5 pounds, and they're limited in what they can actually carry due to having a cat-like body. However, this is still useful because they can Dimension Door (once per day) with themselves and up to five pounds of objects. They can't bring any creatures with them, but any items within the weight limit that they're touching can be teleported in this way. Imagine an important book in a place that is simply too small for even a halfling or gnome to get to, but a cat could reach. The Silvanshee could fly over to it, touch the book, then Dimension Door over to your character at its earliest opportunity. From there it's easy to just pick it up off the ground.

Their Flight speed might also let them rapidly carry other small objects, provided the item can fit in their mouth, be secured to their back, or wrapped in their tail. For example, you might have it chomp down on a potion vial (they're smaller than most fantasy art suggests!) and fly that over to someone who needs it.

Deity Hotline: One Commune a week with no material requirements seems pretty nice. While you're likely to only get supporting information with this, it's still a fantastic option to have. You may have to provide the Silvanshee a list of questions in advance, or even a flowchart for what to ask next if the deity responds in certain ways, but this isn't a problem. Just remember that the cat asks the questions, as it's the caster.

Compass: Constant Know Direction means even a party with poor Survival checks will have a decent idea where they're going.

Dancing Lights and Prestidigitation: While your character probably already has Prestidigitation, having a cat with it is not a bad thing; their spells have no components and thus the Silvanshee can do all the hilarious things a normal creature can... while being far less obvious about what's causing these effects.

Dancing Lights is likewise a flexible spell. Aside from its normal uses (including trolling, since who the hell is going to think a nearby hidden cat is causing them to appear?), you can use it as an improvised Glitterdust. Odd as it seems, let's assume your party doesn't have Glitterdust. You can simulate it by granting See Invisibility to the Silvanshee, and then have it frame Dancing Lights around the creature you want located. “Why not just use See Invisibility on yourself?”, one might ask. Well, doing it this way instead has the Silvanshee can spend its actions pointing out what square the target is in... and this lets everyone in the party take a whack at it. True, Miss/Concealment chances will still apply. However, having 4 to 6 people swing away on the target even with 50% miss rates is probably better than 1 person doing so even with no concealment chance.

Skills: While not very good at actual cat activities, Silvanshee make up for it by having ranks in things like Knowledge Arcana and Knowledge Planes. Their modifiers are low, but they can still Aid Another on some skills. If used as a Familiar, they can even aid your character in other skills. Imagine a holy kitty backing them up in Diplomacy, for example. +6 Survival and +6 Sense Motive also have some value.

Scout: An exceptional Stealth modifier plus flight movement and a cat mist form make this an incredibly mobile, survivable scout. Note that they have only +10 on Perception however, and they do not have the Scent ability. Other defensive abilities may help them get back alive, but be sure not to send them somewhere too dangerous. If they're a Familiar, this can be a good way to get them killed and you don't want that. Be smart on where you send them!

Cat Appearance: While their behavior might not convincingly pass for a cat if a nature expert (such as a Druid or Ranger) is observing them, everyone else will usually be fooled. This is normally a good thing. Guards won't usually freak out at a 'cat' wandering by to check the place out unless strays have absolutely no business being there. Random citizens are more likely to react well to a kindly cat than they are a fire elemental. Of course, this has a downside as well... Evil creatures might go out of their way to hurt Silvanshee. Also note that their cat body can do pretty much anything you'd expect a cat can. For example, they could just hurl their 20 pound selves atop a switch to operate it, or shove something off a shelf by nudging it with their head, or so on.

Cat's Luck: Giving a nearby ally a +1 to all Saves isn't much on its own... but it's a Luck bonus, so is likely to stack with most other Save boosters they have. Not only that, but all it takes is one effect's Save DC to be met exactly by that +1 for you to see the value it can have. If someone is about to go somewhere dangerous, have the holy cat toss a +1 onto them. Note that ones granted by a summoned Silvanshee are likely to end as soon as the summon itself does, depending on how your GM interprets certain rules. Thus this use is usually better for Familiars.

Camp Watch: While their Perception of +10 is only decent, Silvanshee make great camp guards for one other reason... they don't need to sleep! They are true Outsiders, and thus don't need food, water, or sleep. A Familiar can set up in a hidden spot to watch over the party's rest and make a lot of noise if it sees trouble approaching. You might want a spare watchman anyway, but this still relieves some of the party's logistical needs. Especially since they have Low-Light Vision and Darkvision 60 Feet.

Good Alignment, Intelligent: Silvanshee can be counted on to do things in the summoner's/master's interest provided it fits their Alignment. If your character tells them to do something, they can understand most plans just fine (Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 13)... and are smart enough to adapt or even ditch the plan if complications come up. They might even bring plot hooks right to your character; “I found someone who needs help!” Besides, who do you want bringing problems to the party's attention... a heroic cat, or some smelly guy in shadowy robes at the tavern speaking those two famous words: “Ahh, adventurers!”? Exactly.

Rules Note

For those Summoning these creatures, please remember that Heroic Strength (the Silvanshee's ability) and Augment Summoning (the Feat) provide the same type of bonus to Strength... so they don't stack. Normal Silvanshees are Strength 3, Augmented are Strength 7, and 'Heroic mode' ones are Strength 11 (3 + 8) ignoring the +4 this Feat normally provides.

Conclusion

It's true that Silvanshee Agathions are terrible in combat, and most of their abilities can be duplicated by other means. However, they offer all these uses in one creature. Sorcerers in particular benefit from this, allowing them to summon a holy cat whenever one would be good to have around. They are also excellent Familiars both in regard to what kind of things they can do, and that they don't take the spotlight away from PCs. Nobody is going to mind if the kitty is on 'heal innocent bystanders' duty, watching camp at night, or serving as a translator; these are all uses that leave the PCs free to do the really heroic stuff.

That, and they're really cute. Who wouldn't want a spirit cat that embodies enlightened kindness?

The Exchange

My understanding is that the Silvanshee's lay on hands ability is a scaling racial ability (the lay on hands ability is an agathion ability - NOT a silvanshee exclusive ability). I was informed today that SKR provided the silvanshee as an example of the scaling of this specific ability when used as a familiar (looking for the specific reference to verify). Hopefully someone has that info readily available

The Exchange

1 person marked this as FAQ candidate.

There does not appear to be an official errata however posters are pointing out that the silvanshee's lay on hands is quoted as being "... always as a 2nd-level paladin."

Given this interpretation, it appears to be outclassed by many other improved familiars (eg. the lyrakien is a better medic since it gets cure light wounds (1d8+5) compared to 1d6, the ability to use wands. The lyrakien can also remove fatigue, can kill swarms (starlight burst, etc). Dimension door with 5 lbs as a role is really reaching since it is a highly constrained set of circumstances)

Thus, the real value of this familiar is if you cannot take one of the more versatile familiars due to alignment restrictions.


Sargonoth wrote:
My understanding is that the Silvanshee's lay on hands ability is a scaling racial ability (the lay on hands ability is an agathion ability - NOT a silvanshee exclusive ability). I was informed today that SKR provided the silvanshee as an example of the scaling of this specific ability when used as a familiar (looking for the specific reference to verify). Hopefully someone has that info readily available

Normally It would be. However they errata it after the first printing.

Quote:
lay on hands (1d6, 1/day, always as a 2nd-level paladin)

However as a 2nd level paladin with a 13 charisma it should be 2 times a day.

The Exchange

So their errata is in need of errata - truly confidence inspiring.

Especially in light of what SKR mentioned back on Sep 23 2011 (which appears to be the last designed post I can find) where he says the power should scale but usage should be limited to 1/dy.

Basically get this familiar if you want to have the cheshire cat for rp flavor, otherwise it is --- to quote another person -- quite "lame."


Agreed, especially when other familiars have regeneration, fast healing, blindsight, telepathy, spells, shape change and the like.

While it is nice it's not really that powerful in the grander scheme of things.

The Exchange

Celestial Pegasus is to be commended for the work he/she did on discussing the Silvanshee. The comments were thoughtful and creative. It is a pleasure to read other people's thoughts that are laid out in a constructive and logical fashion (even or especially when I have a different interpretation of the abilities values).

Thank you

Silver Crusade

And thank you for your thoughts!

As far as the Silvanshee's practical applications go...

I'm a little puzzled that Lay on Paws got nerfed/errataed to begin with. If this gets re-errataed to be a scaling ability once again (or even get 2 uses per day), that would make an already fun Familiar choice just a bit more useful. Hopefully that happens. Unless there's some serious implications on play balance I'm missing?

In any case, while Silvanshee admittedly lack the raw power of other Summon or Familiar options... they are very useful in teaching players and/or their characters to consider creative solutions to a problem. I can admit this only goes so far, though. Sometimes you do indeed need an Aurochs or Leopard summon. It's also probably true that Faerie Dragons and Lyrakien Azata are better Familiars in terms of direct "I can use this for obvious, powerful effects" behavior (primarily through Use Magic Device). Nonetheless, Silvanshee are really good choices. They just do so many things at basic competence or better that you can almost always find something useful for them to contribute with.


Do you have a list of these? Because this is great.

Doug M.

Silver Crusade

Sadly I don't, but this is mostly because this is the second one I've ever done; Pseudodragons were the subject of the first.

Between the overwhelmingly positive support for the first and a fairly good reception for this one however I do plan to continue the series. Some of them will be Summoning-only though... for example, you can't get a Lantern Archon familiar. Probably because it would be overpowered compared to the other choices. It's nonetheless a creature I'm very fond of, and can point out some really nice uses for (they're not just 'Touch Attack no-DR beams' platforms, they can do far more than that).

May also do some Summon-level-in-general things, like pointing out the useful aspects of some Summons and Summon Monster spells that others have written off as not very good.

Dark Archive

But they are such wonderful Touch Attack no-DR (no SR either) beam platforms that anything else is just lost in the awesomeness of that.

The Concordance RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

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Anyone have any idea what the the prerequisites for taking a Silvanshee as a familiar are? Other than ND and the Advanced familiar feat of course...

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