How do I make a familiar effective?


Advice


I want to play with a familiar, but I want something more than a plot hook / RP device. This is especially true if I'm using character feats to improve them.

The character I'm looking at is a Wizard/Alchemist (gestalt) and he will be using a clockwork familiar. Any help is appreciated.


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Umd + wands + improved familiar that are not dependent on saving throw or levels to be good.

I'll omen and heroism are two of my favs.

You could also pick up a copy of the familiar folio and choose one of the super cool archetypes.


Can any familiar use wands using UMD? how does that work?


You are an alchemist. You get craft potion. You are a wizard. You get craft scroll.

Your familiar should undeniably be a Valet, allowing you to craft both of those twice as fast as you would normally and with aid another.

This would also apply if you take other crafting feats down the road.

If you aren't allowed to craft or don't want to, take the Mauler Archetype and Earth Mephit improved familiar, allowing it to become large size for some rounds per day and attack things with you, possibly being a flanking buddy.

Ask your GM if he will let you use the alternate rules for exchanging his dodge and improved Initiative feats for teamwork feats you take as well.


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What do you want your familiar to be effective as?


Mauler is incompatible with Improved Familiar unless you got Improved Familiar automatically via Pact Wizard Archetype


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Well that's annoying.

Good thing I never tried it.

I hate it when an awesome combination doesn't work because you lose half of an inconcequential ability.


CaptainGemini wrote:
What do you want your familiar to be effective as?

I want it to have an impact on combat, not just be an afterthought. I want it to be a part of RP. I want it to be an integral part of the character, not something I say after 2-3 sessions of playing "Oh yeah, I have a familiar."

For this specific familiar I would like to see a way to increase his acid spit ability (which I think we may change to fire or possibly interchangeable elements).

Why doesn't improved familiar work with Mauler? Mauler seems to be the only combat related archetype.


Mauler replaces Speak With Master, which Improved Familiars don't get.

It works with Pact Wizard because Pact Wizards have normal familiars that turn into an Improved Familiar creature, aka the Mauler becomes a Cacodaemon [12 strength becomes 18+Wizard Level-2/2 rounded up when the familiar takes its Medium Sized Battle Form]

It also has a +1 Charisma modifier which helps with UMD checks if it needs to make them.


The valet familiar picks up any teammate feats its master has. There are a few teammate feats that are quite good when they're always on. Escape Route works with a scorpion on your shoulder to prevent you from ever provoking attacks of opportunity. If you get into melee often a small familiar with Outflank and Pack Flanking is helpful even if its own attacks are lame.


Maybe if the improved familiar lost the ability to speak at all it would even this out?

why would the mauler become large? It says in the ability it becomes medium.


How do I get a familiar to use a wand? I'm not seeing any rules on that. Would a clockwork familiar work for this?

I've never really understood UMD itself.


If you manage to take Earth Mephit and Mauler, it takes battle form to medium size and a racial ability only it has, Change Shape to large size for the duration.


Pathfinder Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

It appears to me that the Clockwork can be made in different forms, with the default example being a Raven. Instead of a flying familiar, get a Clockwork Monkey.

That will give it hands and a minimal strength. The hands should allow it to fetch items for you. It is up to the GM if any familiar can activate wands via UMD. If you really want a wand jockey, you should probably take a Fairie Dragon rather than a tock.

If you want to make your familiar a target in combat, that probably means using them to deliver touch attacks. Unfortunately, being Tiny most of them will provoke if they deliver a touch spell. Still can be useful to deliver buff spells, but you are likely to have a tiny mass of broken gears if you are always having it deliver touch attack spells.

In my experience, a familiar is the most help outside of combat.


I don't really want it delivering touch spells, but am not too worries about it taking a little bit of damage either. It has half my health so if it is getting one shot then I'm in trouble. Also it seems to be pretty good at retreating and healing up if need be.

Improved spell sharing looks like it will work pretty well with a Valet archetype (I don't see way to get feats for familiars). Also it will share my mutagens, if I'm reading correctly, which will give it a little more survival.

Found Familiar Spell (Metamagic) which will let me store some spells for my familiar to use when needed (I'm thinking scorching ray). This will give it some umph. After that it either retreats or throws out 2d4 ray attacks I guess. I guess a 2d4 ray attacks each round for the cost of 1-2 feats is alright...


Valet has all your teamwork feats, and some GM'S will let you swap the animal's natural feats for others that make sense if you ask.


Rylar wrote:

I want to play with a familiar, but I want something more than a plot hook / RP device. This is especially true if I'm using character feats to improve them.

The character I'm looking at is a Wizard/Alchemist (gestalt) and he will be using a clockwork familiar. Any help is appreciated.

Step 1, play an Oracle.

Step 2, get a familiar any way that you can, this might be Eldritch Heritage + Arcane Bloodline: Familiar.
Step 3, take Improved Familiar (Any familiar that gets pounce).
Step 4, take Evolved Familiar (Tentacle) as many times as you can.

Take Life Link and ensure you have as many HP as possible.
Ensure your familiar is a Mauler familiar so it can beat the crap out of things.
Max out your Con and HP.
Max out your Familiar's offensive capabilities, but ensure that you have the most HP you possibly can. Mauler familiars become medium sized, so it is entirely possible for you to RIDE the familiar if you are small.

Murder EVERYTHING.


Why an oracle? I'm already a gestalt wizard/alchemist, I don't understand the suggestion to change or why it would be better.

Improved Familiar and the Mauler archetype don't exactly work (but a house-rule making it work is likely).

Wouldn't it be better to play an animal companion like this or even an eidolon? I mean you've already taken away the class I want to play and the familiar I want to play with and seem to have made a bad version of other companions (also loaded with cheese).


Rylar wrote:

Why an oracle? I'm already a gestalt wizard/alchemist, I don't understand the suggestion to change or why it would be better.

Improved Familiar and the Mauler archetype don't exactly work (but a house-rule making it work is likely).

Wouldn't it be better to play an animal companion like this or even an eidolon? I mean you've already taken away the class I want to play and the familiar I want to play with and seem to have made a bad version of other companions (also loaded with cheese).

Any way you get life link. It basically means your familiar has 3 times the HP that it would normally have due to you constantly healing it.

This is basically my XP at making a familiar into a killing machine. Take it or leave it.


I have no experience with clockwork familiars. In a previous campaign my Witch took improved familiar to get a lyrakien azata. Those things are excellent. Constant detect magic, detect evil and freedom of movement plus darkvision 60' and fly 80' make them great point men; plus dancing lights at will frees up any PC caster from spending an action to provide light.

They're physically able to use wands* even if a normal wand is effectively staff-sized** to the lyrakien.

Once a day they can remove the effects of fatigue and exhaustion, and once a week commune as a 12th level caster -- possibly several levels before you have any 12th level casters in your party, and even after 12th level, your cleric might not have prepared commune the day you need it.

*Taking evolved familiar to buy the 1-point Skilled evolution gave the familiar a +8 racial bonus to UMD; on top of a 20 CHA it meant that at times the familiar's UMD score was higher than her master's.

**Crafting a tiny efficient quiver allows up to six normal-sized wands easily.


Damon Griffin wrote:


**Crafting a tiny efficient quiver allows up to six normal-sized wands easily.

Or just tape a strap to a pencil case. Works just as well.


♣♠Magic♦♥ wrote:
Damon Griffin wrote:


**Crafting a tiny efficient quiver allows up to six normal-sized wands easily.
Or just tape a strap to a pencil case. Works just as well.

Well, first you have to find tape and a pencil case in a fantasy setting; after that, it doesn't work as well because you're carrying the weight of the six wands (total 6 oz.) in addition to the pencil box. When your light load tops out at 16#, 6 oz. is worth considering. :)

No, you're right, a six-staff quiver needn't be magical. Wands are 6 to 12 inches long; for the lyrakien that's the equivalent of 2 to 4 feet. It could be managed without extradimensional space.


Two of the most mechanically effective ways to use a familiar I have found are, valet familiar and you take escape route, no movement provokes, ever. If you have an improved familiar, swap one of its feats for escape route and take it yourself, then take umd and give it a wand of ill omen. It readies an action to activate the wand when you target a creature with a save or suck. Free-ish persistent spell.


When using the Alter Self spell to turn your Familiar into a Humanoid... don't forget to have some clothes ready. Otherwise the poor critter might be more distracting than intended.


Use Beast Shape III on your Goat familiar and make it go into combat after you cast Animal Growth on it: Gargantuan animal ftw!

Get a Drain Spider and have it deliver a Quickened, Empowered, Maximised, Intensified Snow Ball spell with it's +15 to ranged touch attacks, so you KNOW that snow ball is gonna hit... and then do it again as a standard action!!! (Staff of the Master is a -must- here though)
Have them hit for 90 frost a piece (and 2x a fort save or be staggered)

Unless it crits! then max damage is 180 per snow ball :)

Crazy max damage in 1 round: 360 (if both crit)

just 2 cheezy ideas :)


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I'm going to do something rash and ignore mechanics for a moment. I'm going to suggest ways to make your familiar a memorable part of your roleplay.

I can tell you that making a familiar memorable does not require an overpowered familiar. It just requires that your familiar have its own personality, and that it's existence is an integral part of your backstory and on-going personality.

In my goblin game, one of the characters named Gurp has a slug familiar that he calls, "Dread Overking Squishy," which may be the best name for a familiar ever. He consults with it. Talks to it. It never answers him, but just sits there. However he acts like its given him great wise counsel, or like its very silence is an answer on a given subject. It's hilarious and wonderful, because of the way Gurp throws himself into his belief in Dread Overking Squishy.

_______________________

In a much more serious example, my tattooed sorcerer Harmose al-Nefer has a rabbit familiar, Wenet, who is his childhood innocence returned to him after a tragedy that literally destroyed him, rending his Osirion soul into many small pieces. You can click my avatar for the full backstory on this complicated character.

Harmose, not aware of this, is a charming liar who will often use his rabbit to help him meet new people.

Approaching a group of pretty girls, holding a rabbit in his arms:
"Want to pet my rabbit, Wenet?"

Getting a suspicious group to approach him:
He sends his rabbit bounding in their direction, and then calls out desperately, "Wenet! Wenet! Where have you gone to? Has anyone seen my rabbit?"

His rabbit will headbutt him and get him moving when he needs to act and hesitates.

The rabbit also comforts him, and helps him when he's scared. Upon seeing a colleague animate dead (his one true phobia), Harmose once curled into a fetal ball with his rabbit in his arms, crying, "No, no, no!'

Wenet became a thorough group favorite, beloved by the whole party.
_________________________

More recently, I'm playing a duettist bard named Cyanne with a performing mongoose. That mongoose has inspired a ton of backstory (check my aliases) including a magical school that she and another character in the Kingmaker campaign attended, and an alumni group called (self-mockingly) the Order of the Mongoose.

_________________________

So... Rylar. You said that you want to make your familiar part of your RP... What sort of personality are you envisioning here? Let's eschew the mechanics for a moment and help you make a familiar the whole party will enjoy having around.

Hmm
(aka Harmose)


Not what you wanted, but being an Alchemist gives you the option of a tumor familiar, and with the Protector archetype you now have constant shield other, and the familiar itself has fast healing 5. So unless it somehow dies in combat, you're significantly harder to kill with it.


-Familiar spell metamagic rod - double your action economy
-Wands
-Potions (especially cure L/M/S wounds to allies who are bellow 0 hit points)
-Muleback cords and your familiar can open doors, take loot, drag bodies of dying comrades, use flour to find invisible enemies
-Awaken slumbered comrades
-Goodies of improved familiar: Supernatural and Spell-like abilities are great, also truespeech, telepathy...
-Did I mention being a scout due to having very good stealth
-Some of them have scent, darkvision and other senses that are very useful
-Did I mention that one familiar archetype that turns your familiar into mini rogue? Yes, your familiar can pickpocket anyone (just imagine having tumor familair- prosthetic ear, and you can pull out gold out of there)
-Roleplay reasons
-Improved and raven can talk - messenger capabilities


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Any familiar may activate a wand if they meet the following criteria. This is up to GM interpretation.

1) the familiar has the means to hold the wand in a hand or similar appendage. The mouth or non limb like body parts don't count. Generally if it can hold a weapon it can hold a wand.

2) the familiar can speak. What level of speaking is nessesary will depend on the GM

3) sufficient ranks were put into UMD by the familiars master that it can activate the wand, or it posses caster levels (ex. Fairy Dragon) and can activate some wands and scrolls without a UMD check.

All of these rules are in the core rulebook Ryler. If you are still confused I suggest you reread the skill description or UMD, reread the rules for familiars, and reread the rules for improved familiar.


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Harmose Al-Nefer wrote:
I can tell you that making a familiar memorable does not require an overpowered familiar. It just requires that your familiar have its own personality, and that it's existence is an integral part of your backstory and on-going personality.

Having a familiar that's effective /= overpowered.

For example in a campaign I'm currently playing in I have a Spirit Binder Wizard with a Goat Familiar and the Eye For Talent alternate human trait [+2 Strength to her Goat.]

It's a Mauler Familiar [which at level 1 doesn't give anything] who's traded out its default feat [probably skill focus something] for Mauler's Fortitude [+2 HP per Familiar-Owner-Level] and spent its one feat [which Spirit Binder traded Scribe Scroll for] for Extra Traits, providing Adeopted > Tusked [Gain a Bite Attack in addition to its natural gore] and Armor Expert, allowing it to wear a Hide Shirt for +3 AC at no penalty.

To make sure he had enough HP this wizard took the hit to Int [dropping it to 16] in order to have a 16 Constitution.

For her level 1 feat she took Evolved Familiar and gave the goat [who is a quadruped] Pounce.

So at level 1 it has 17 AC [10+3 Armor+2 Natural Armor +1 Dex +1 small size] with +4 to hit [+1 BAB, +2 strength, +1 small size] and an attack pattern of 1d4+2 Gore; 1d3+2 Bite whether standing still or charging.

As for memorable? His name is Wallace, his original [backstory] familiar form was a Wallaby who then died. [It would have been an even more memorable and awesome story if the GM had accepted his original build with Heirloom Weapon, a Lucerne Hammer and a locking gauntlet to aid in its use, but my GM refuted it on claims of lack of realism.] Prior to that he was this wizard's elder brother Paladin who died protecting her on the first quest she was authorized to accompany him on.

The party basically treats him as another PC [albeit one who can't talk or manipulate things with hands], it's great.


Rule of thumb is that an improved familiar that looks like it should be able to use a wand will be able to. Lyrakean Azata and Fairy Dragon do it best.

An exceptionally generous GM might let your raven activate a wand.

On a separate note, if you can get a tumor familiar and lifelink you can be a pretty decent healer without ever casting a spell.


Quote:
I'm going to do something rash and ignore mechanics for a moment. I'm going to suggest ways to make your familiar a memorable part of your roleplay.

I've always just found this to be easier with characters that are active in all situations. My fellow players have always enjoyed my animal companions or eidolons.

Quote:
I can tell you that making a familiar memorable does not require an overpowered familiar. It just requires that your familiar have its own personality, and that it's existence is an integral part of your backstory and on-going personality.

I would counter that saying that it doesn't need to be under-powered either. Power level of a character, including a sub character like AC, Eido, or familiar has little to do with power level.

Quote:
So... Rylar. You said that you want to make your familiar part of your RP... What sort of personality are you envisioning here? Let's eschew the mechanics for a moment and help you make a familiar the whole party will enjoy having around.

Still working on it somewhat, but the main character made this familiar when someone close to him (likely his wife/fiancee) was slain. He did his best to make the familiar as close to represent her as possible. She was a dragon blooded sorceress so he made it a dragon. I also want it to have some of her personality traits, or at least traits of his idealized version of her.

The familiar is a tumor familiar reflavored to be part of some cybernetic implant. When it disconnects from him it turns into a dragonlike clockwork familiar.


You may want to consider the Spirit Binder archetype then, if it's not too late.

You quite literally preserve someone's soul in the familiar [and it gets to use BAB and Base Saves of that person's class at your Wizard Level instead of your own BAB and Base Saves.]

EDIT: Oh, she was a sorceress, scratch that then. Spirit Binder gives very little benefit if the soul was a caster.


kyrt-ryder- This is where I got the idea, but the mechanics are a little off for me. For one it's necromancy based, which I don't want this to be.

Also I dont want him to be sure that it is really her. It just often seems like her. If I decide to have her spirit be in the familiar then I want it to be her choice, like she came back to be with him and took over this form.

I like where this is going. He made this familiar to represent her and with no real reason (from his point of view) it starts acting like her.


My favorite familiar for pure flavor is the Pact Wizard. Your familiar is a celestial (or diabolical) agent, sent by some patron to help you along the path to righteousness (or whatever). Then on top of all the roleplay you get a free improved familiar at level seven as they reveal their true form.

Basically what I'm saying is that wizards get all the nice things.


Pathfinder Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Rylar wrote:

kyrt-ryder- This is where I got the idea, but the mechanics are a little off for me. For one it's necromancy based, which I don't want this to be.

Also I dont want him to be sure that it is really her. It just often seems like her. If I decide to have her spirit be in the familiar then I want it to be her choice, like she came back to be with him and took over this form.

I like where this is going. He made this familiar to represent her and with no real reason (from his point of view) it starts acting like her.

Alright, this gives us something interesting to work with. It sounds like this is very much for a home game, so there is some room for working things out with the GM.

It was probably built during the time that he was heavily grieving his wife's death. It has elements of her personality, but you aren't sure how much of that is real. Insert magical babble about symmetry and contagion.

The wife was a dragon bloodline sorceress.

You probably want the electrical damage on a bite to match the element the wife had. You didn't say what sort of dragon she was. Same with the acid spit -- check if you can change it over to some sort of breath weapon -- perhaps patterned after Burning Hands but of the element from her dragon bloodline.

The magical item used in the construction may have been one that the wife owned or even created. Perhaps a Rod of Flame Extinquishing or something like that? Making it an item that the wife owned further connects it with her.

As for making it effective in combat, that shouldn't be a problem. The normal clockwork gets a ranged attack (acid spit), an ability to create Protection from ____ that benefits whomever's shoulder it sits on, and several other goodies. If you give it the ability to activate wands, that is a huge action economy boost for the group. It could go around buffing various party members as you lay down battlefield control.

Silver Crusade

Others have mentioned fairie dragons already, but I thought I'd expand on it a bit. Besides being able to use wands, because they have hands and can talk, they're also sorcerers, so they don't need UMD for wands of wizard/sorcerer spells - they use them just like you do. Also, they have Greater Invisibility, I believe 3 times per day, as a spell like ability. So they can cast at enemies directly without revealing themselves.

This is my favorite level 7 improved familiar, though I'll admit to not having looked at all the options in extreme detail.


So I wanted to create a character that utilized the shadow drake as his main dmg. This is what I came up with....

Eldritch guardian and sharpclaw gives the familiar claw, claw, bite, tail

Ratfolk eldritch guardian 2 wizard 5 eldritch knight 10

20 point

Str 12
Dex 15
Con 14
Cha 7
Int 19
Wis 8

15 point buy

Str 12
Dex 15
Con 14
Cha 7
Int 18
Wis 7

Traits
Armor expert
Magical knack wizard
Skulk

1 eldritch guardian 1 bab 1
G spirit guide
2 eldritch guardian 2 bab 2
3 wizard 1 (transmutation ) bab 2
G sharpclaw
+1 dex
4 wizard 2 bab 3
+1 int
5 wizard 3 bab 3
G finesse
6 wizard 4 bab 4
7 wizard 5 bab 4
+1 dex
G improved familiar shadow drake
Wizard bonus feat silent spell
8 eld knight 1 bab 5
+1 int
Bf escape route
9 eld knight 2 bab 6
G improved share spells
10 eld knight 3 bab 7
11 eld knight 4 bab 8
G
12 eld knight 5 bab 9
Bf
+ 1 dex
13 eld knight 6 bab 10
G improved natural attack
14 eld knight 7 bab 11
15 eld knight 8 bab 12
G
16 eld knight 9 bab 13
Bf
+1 int

Magical items and equipment
Ring of Rat fangs
Tail blade
Amulet of mighty fists

So ... bite claw claw tail

Mauler familiar

Class skills
Perception
Use magic device
Spellcraft


Oh while mauler familiar requires gm approval it's not necessary for the build. Feats are left open but obvious choice is wp focus and wp spec claw

Sczarni

kyrt-ryder wrote:
Mauler is incompatible with Improved Familiar unless you got Improved Familiar automatically via Pact Wizard Archetype

There is also a level dip in witch with the animal patron.


kyrt-ryder wrote:
Mauler is incompatible with Improved Familiar unless you got Improved Familiar automatically via Pact Wizard Archetype

I'm not sure if this is actually the case as Improved Familiar isn't an Archetype but a Feat that replaces your prior familiar, features or not.

If we look at the Figment Familiar for instance, we see that it specifically limits Divination Spells and Divination Spell-Like Abilities. The only familiars that get those types of abilities are Improved ones.

This leads me to believe that the Intent is that they can be used with the Improved Familiar feat.

---

Lets make a Feat just for fun; we'll call it Heavy Stance.

Heavy Stance
Prerequisites: Strength 13
Benefit: You gain a +4 bonus to your CMD versus Bull Rush, Reposition, and Drag attempts and can no longer gain use of the Evasion class feature.

This wouldn't make you ineligible if you do or do not have Evasion, it just turns it off once you commit to the feat.

Improved Familiar
Prerequisites: Ability to acquire a new familiar, compatible alignment, sufficiently high level (see below).
Benefit: When choosing a familiar, the creatures listed here are also available to you. You may choose a familiar with an alignment up to one step away on each alignment axis (lawful through chaotic, good through evil).

Then it goes on to explain how they function, the type change and the fact they no longer gain Speak With Animals of Its Kind.

This is important because if you choose a Fiendish, Resolute, Celestial etc Toad at CL3, you no longer gain the following ability at:

Familiar Growth Table wrote:
7th–8th - Nat Armor +4- Intelligence 9 - Speak with animals of its kind

If the Prerequisites line had: Speak With Animals of Its Kind that would be one thing, but it does not. It doesn't even list it in a Special or Note line. Though usually by then you have Lyzatas, Imps, Pseudodragons and other fun things that can talk (usually in multiple manners).

My2c.
Sorry for the OT.


Forged In Blood wrote:
This ability replaces speak with master and speak with animals of its kind.


But the Improved Familiar line doesn't require Speak With Animals of Its Kind as a Prerequisite.

By all accounts, you can take it and lose access to something you never had, as its not a part of the Cost.

Improved Companion
Prerequisite: Animal companion class feature
Benefit: Your companion's effective level increases by 4 (this can exceed your Hit Dice). Companion's leveled this way do not gain Evasion.

If you never gained Evasion (due to an archetype or some other feature), you don't lose anything as its not a prerequisite.

EDIT: I don't want to derail, I'll just start a new thread to FAQ.

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