Guide to Familiars in Pathfinder by SunderedShadow


Advice

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Ok got around to putting together a guide based around familiar's given how many discussions on them have crossed my path in the last few weeks. Comments and discussion are welcome you can either comment on the guide or here.

Guide to Familiars in Pathfinder by SunderedShadow.

It is not 100% complete yet, but I figured its reached the point where it is worth sharing with other people.


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I see you are not yet finished, for you were typing the Flying Squirrel entry as I opened the document.

Two teamwork feats in the Advanced Class Guide, Improved Spell Sharing and Share Healing have the prerequisite "Ability to acquire an animal companion, an eidolon, a familiar, or a special mount," and take effect only if that companion has the teamwork feat, too. Since companions usually don't have animal companions of their own, the companion usually gains the feat via the Hunter class's Hunter Tactics ability: "Hunter Tactics (Ex): At 3rd level, the hunter automatically grants her teamwork feats to her animal companion. The companion doesn't need to meet the prerequisites of these teamwork feats."

A Valet familiar has a similar ability, "Teammate (Ex): A valet is considered to have all the teamwork feats its master has." Thus, it can also benefit from Improved Spell Sharing and Share Healing.

I chose Improved Spell Sharing for my bloodrager NPC and her valet bloodline familiar without realizing it was a special case. I had looked through a list of teamwork feats to see if anything worked well with the Teammate ability and chose Improved Spell Sharing. My bloodrager shares her defensive spells with her familiar.

The familiar is also a Clockwork Familiar, for which the valet archetype is illegal, but I am the GM and swapped out another familiar ability besides Speak with Others of its Kind. The NPC performs crafting support for the rest of the party and has ranks in Craft(alchemy), Craft(armor), Craft(bows), Craft(clockwork), Craft(mechanical), Craft(tools), and Craft(weapons). The +2 bonus on all Craft and Use Magic Device checks from the clockwork familiar's Advice ability is a rare bonus to Craft that applies to all Craft skills. Other than that, clockwork familiars are difficult to maintain, because they do not heal naturally nor from Cure spells. Instead, they require the Make Whole spell (not on the bloodrager spell list, sigh) or consume a charge from their Item Installation ability.

I was surprised by your line on the valet familiar's Able Assistant ability, "This clause means the familiar must be aiding its master in the item creation for the benefit [of Cooperative Crafting] to take effect," because that restriction is completely obvious to me. I have roleplayed long hours of my bloodrager and her familiar working side by side to aid a player character making adamantine weapons or mithril armor without the Cooperative Crafting effect. The double Aid Another gives a +4 bonus to the Craft check, which is good enough.


Are you going to write anything about non-traditional uses for familiars?

For example, a Kineticist's Wysp or Elemental Familiar via Greater Elemental Whispers can have a lot of HP, since Kineticists tend to have more Con than anybody else. An Eldritch Guardian's Familiar can have a tremendous array of combat feats so is probably much more of an active combatant. A Swarm Monger's ability to turn their familiar into a swarm changes things (as an aside- is the Swarm Monger able to take Improved Familiar? A Silvanshee Swarm could be hilarious).


PossibleCabbage wrote:

Are you going to write anything about non-traditional uses for familiars?

Once the guide gets to that point yes, First I want to fill in all the basic "traditional" information, then jump off from there into the unusual options (most likely in or just after the "so what does this all mean" section.. Suggestions are welcome and the more information you can supply the more I can add. I of course will always share credit with anyone who contributes.


I am looking very forward to getting into the details of clockwork familiars they are one of the "modifiable" ones that get to be so much fun on a table.

As to me bringing the focus to the Able Assistant is not just for the players, but also some DMs.

I've sat so far at 4 tables that have tried using the familiar as Slap it in a bag let it craft for me while I actually adventure.

The worst offender was the Wizard taking leadership, his cohort was a dwarven wizard. Both wizards had Valet familiars and each of them took the coop crafting feat. They argued that according to their logic they should be able to make a minimum of 8,000 gp worth of enchanted items each or 24k per day of weapons due to the dwarven racial ability.
-- DM shut down the doubling the doubling and they decided they could work with just 3,000 per day of the cohort & 2 familiars while the master was a few miles away adventuring. The DM was not happy but let that ride until I pointed out that clause on Able Assistant.

I was "accidentally" in the AOE of several lethal spells cast by our wizard during our next encounter.


Colour coding using red/green/orange is really difficult for the colour-blind. I'm not but there's been the odd complaint about it.

The Courtly Hunter gets something that's a hybrid of a familiar and an animal companion. Just thought I'd mention it.

The figment being unkillable and therefore not costing you money to replace has to make it better than red. Even just Reach makes it a useful flanking buddy at least. Highly useful for Bloodragers who swap out their L1 power for a familiar.

Ioun Wyrd and the Mascot archetype is a useful combo.


Marking for interest.

Bloodline Familiars need more mention.

Also worth mentioning that Sorcerer with the Arcane Bloodline gets choice of Bonded Item or Familiar like a Wizard, but Familiar is hands-down the better choice for the Sorcerer (since the extra spell per day from a Bonded Item is a lot less benefit for the Sorcerer than for the Wizard).

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Worth noting: Magus has an archetype (Beastblade) that gets a familiar for free; and another archetype (Bladebound) that gets an intelligent sword that acts like a familiar in some aspects.

Sorcerer, Bloodrager, and Eldritch Scion (Magus archetype) get a bloodline; but they are allowed to swap their first-level bloodline power for a familiar instead. Given that a number of bloodlines have a crappy L1 power, this is a pretty good deal.

It's worth noting that the Figment archetype stacks with Sage. And one of the Figment's evolutions gives it a +8 to the skill of your choice. Combined, this means that you have a familiar with very high knowledge checks (which is great on any character that's not a wizard), or a very high perception, and that cannot die. Figment is a great choice.

Note also that the emissary's guidance ability means you effectively get +1 on almost all your skill checks ever, and on the first attack you make each round. That's pretty good.


Figment also works very well with UMD-focuses familiars, if you can get a regular familiar with hands (monkeys most obviously). A +8 to UMD is massive, and since wand-user familiars tend to draw aggro the inability to permanently die is actually pretty useful.

Some of the Emissary Domain powers aren't too shabby either. A timely Touch of Good or Bit of Luck is nothing to sneer at.


Note that a Figment Familiar cannot be a Witch's Familiar (presumably not any spell storage/conduit Familiar, but this isn't spelled out, so Rules as Written but Probably Not Intended, a Shaman's Spirit Animal or an Unlettered Arcanist's or Spirit Whisperer Wizard's Familiar may be off the hook from this restriction).


SunderedShadow wrote:
I've sat so far at 4 tables that have tried using the familiar as Slap it in a bag let it craft for me while I actually adventure.

Ah, you need a section on Abuse of Familiars. Though perhaps it should be less blatant and instead be titled, "Protection of Familiars," to discuss Armored Familiar Carriers, bags of holding, and what the familiar can do for its master while shut away.


For clerics, the Asmodean Advocate archetype gets you a viper familiar that can speak one language and automatically turns into an imp at 8th level (saving the feat for Improved Familiar). Of course you have very specific requirements on whom you worship...


Ok group reply here.

@Avr: If I had another technique that would work and not use up a lot of space I would use it. I think it is about 8% of men who are at least partially colorblind (hell I have issues with some of the colors). I tried using stars before but that just cluttered things heavily.

@KuraldGalain: Beastblade added. The bladebound acts like a familiar in some ways but is more an intelligent item so outside the scope of this guide.

@NeoTiamat You also have to make sure your figment can speak for the activation of wands which renders that trick only useful if you can put that archetype on an improved familiar. As to the bit of luck no there is a reason I even entioned the Fates Favored trait which makes the bonus a bit better, to bad luck bonuses can't stack ;)

@UnArcane Election: Bloodline Familiars: Will likely get mentioned akin to how I did the School Familiars, Can't stand bonded item myself.

@Kurald Galain: both the Magus Archetype and the notation on figment familiars have been added thank you for bringing them to my attention.

@Mathmuse: Ways to protect your familiar will likely be found with the Equipment section (including me introducing my "Masterwork Familiar Carrier" that I got bored and made one day. If you have any tricks you've used please share them I love hearing of new techniques.
Sad part is people abusing familiars (especially Valet) are why some DMs go out of their way to kill them, which encourages people to play with "unkillable pocket familiars" nasty cycle there.

@Stefan Mathur: Thank you for reminding me about that archetype, it has been added.


Kurald Galain wrote:
Note also that the emissary's guidance ability means you effectively get +1 on almost all your skill checks ever, and on the first attack you make each round. That's pretty good.

I think this particularly makes it worth it for the Greater Elemental Whispers familiar, since the Kineticist only makes one attack per round and "to-hit" bonuses are hard to come by for that class.


PossibleCabbage wrote:
Kurald Galain wrote:
Note also that the emissary's guidance ability means you effectively get +1 on almost all your skill checks ever, and on the first attack you make each round. That's pretty good.
I think this particularly makes it worth it for the Greater Elemental Whispers familiar, since the Kineticist only makes one attack per round and "to-hit" bonuses are hard to come by for that class.

That notation has been added to the Emissary.

Also as a general FYI: I put up more on the Bloodline Familiars.


Improved Familiar isn't limited to the main 4 elementals. This is explicit as of Horror Adventures (Greater Elemental Whispers). Aether in particular is amazing as a familiar.


deuxhero wrote:
Improved Familiar isn't limited to the main 4 elementals. This is explicit as of Horror Adventures (Greater Elemental Whispers). Aether in particular is amazing as a familiar.

Will be adding all of those in soon, all the Improved Familiars are from the original version of everything which used to be part of my wizards guide. I decided to go and expand on familiars and well, this beast of a guide was born.

My estimation of a oh 10 page tops guide... so wrong, so very very wrong.

Will be adding their stats and reviews next update.


I'd like to request a section on the Magical Child. It presents an interesting option: the 9th level ability to transform at will back to any of its prior four identities. Advice for variety and sequencing to make the most out of Animal Guide would be very helpful.

Dark Archive

deuxhero wrote:
Improved Familiar isn't limited to the main 4 elementals. This is explicit as of Horror Adventures (Greater Elemental Whispers). Aether in particular is amazing as a familiar.

Aether is indeed amazing. Lightning and Cold Iron are interesting, as well.


Cold Iron is TPP, though d20pfsrd doesn't mark it clearly.

Ice, Magma, Mud and Lightning are legal though. Magma is worth a look if Earth is: Same burrow speed and earth glide, but an unlimited source of fire!

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Since your guide is based primarily on wizards, I can offer the following from my Magus handbook. Several abilities are better for a Magus than for a wizard, and vice versa; in particular, Protector and Mauler are better on a frontliner, whereas Emissary and Figment are better on a pure caster. Note that the School Familiar feat is required to unlock the various school familiar archetypes, which rather devalues them as the other archetypes don't require a feat.

Archetypes:
Emissary (*****) - Since it can cast Guidance each round, you basically get +1 to all skills and your first attack each round, which is great. Additionally, you can reroll a will save and use a cleric domain once per day each (using the familiar's action, not yours); a good choice here is the bit of luck power from the Luck domain. This is probably the best and most versatile choice for a familiar; "+1 to everything" may be a bit bland, but it is very powerful, and clerics have some amazing domains.

Figment (****) or Sage (****) or Both (*****) - These two archetypes give you a familiar with excellent knowledge skills that will come back the next day if killed. This makes it a safe choice for a flanking familiar. Your figment gets to pick an evolution, as the feat below (e.g. +8 to a knowledge skill, switch each day depending on where you're going). Note that several familiars are small-sized, meaning they don't need any feat or evolution to flank with you. This is frankly amazing on any character that's not int-primary, and it's the best option for a fighting familiar.

Mauler (**) - The main benefit of the mauler is that you gain a bonus to hit and damage whenever defeating an enemy. Even with its strength bonuses, it's still not an effective combatant due to its poor AC and hit points (and its damage is frankly mediocre). Its bigger form can, however, serve as a mount; this is particularly nice for flying familiars. The big problem with the Mauler is that putting a familiar in combat may well get it killed (which puts it out of action for a week, and costs a sizeable amount of money); if you want a flanking buddy, the Figment is a much better choice.

Protector (****) - A very good defensive choice, this effectively gives you a +2 to armor class, as well as a buffer of extra hit points. The obvious combo is making it a turtle for another +1 AC. This is best on a frontliner, for obvious reasons. By the way, Protector and Sage don't stack, they both replace the alertness ability.

Feats:
Evolved Familiar (***) - In addition to any archetypes, you can take this feat to boost your familiar with an evolution. The obvious choice is adding +8 to one knowledge skill, or to perception; or reach so you can flank even with a tiny familiar.

Figment's Fluidity feat (****) The figment's feat lets it switch around its evolution a couple times per day (using the familiar's action, not yours), which adds versatility. Particularly nice at low level.

Mauler's Endurance feat (***) A decent HP boost for the familiar, but the mauler is still not a great combatant with this (because its damage and AC remain subpar). The Figment's immortality is better.

Sage's Guidance (*****) This gives your whole party a to-hit bonus whenever the familiar identifies a monster. This is a great bonus at no action cost to you, and given the sage's knowledge checks he's identifying monsters all the time. If the sage is also a Figment, he won't die.

Undersized Mount (****) - If your character is small-sized, this feat lets you use a small familiar as a mount, which is nice if it can fly. This is not the safest way of flying in combat, though.


In reading the "So what does all this Mean?" section, I am embarrassed to see that my bloodrager's valet clockwork familiar serves the role of Pocket Familiar by default: "Valets that only emerge when safe in town to help craft items." The familiar advises on both crafting and business operations, because it has Profession as a class skill and the bloodrager doesn't. The familiar flies beside the bloodrager in dungeons, but my efforts to use it in combat failed. For example, I tried an Elemental Aura on it to create a flying danger zone, but enemies moved away before damage was dealt.

I considered Beast Shape I or II via Share Spells to transform the clockwork familiar into a larger creature for flanking or Aid Another. However, polymorphing a non-humanoid tiny creature is confusing. First, apply +4 Str and -2 Dex to the tiny creature as it grows to small; second, apply the spell as if polymorphing a small creature. And I don't know whether the clockwork familiar would transform to living flesh or remain clockwork.

Anyone here have other suggestions?

The list of roles for familiars in SunderedShadow's guide is interesting and useful. I tried to see which roles my bloodrager's familiar could fulfill. A tiny creature cannot flank, so flanking buddy is out. The strix skald in the party handled all aerial scouting, bombing, and reaching awkward places, until the bloodrager's Air Elemental bloodline gave her flying, too. The clockwork familiar's darkvision can serve as extra eyes in the dark. I had never considered packmule, but the clockwork familiar has Str 10 and four legs in its form as a toy dragon. It can carry 24 pounds as a light load.

I don't see the role of wand-wielding monkey familiar that I have seen discussed in these forums.


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@Set I won't be covering Cold Iron since its 3pp material.

@Kurald Galain: I will be making notations on those archetypes and the split between front line and caster thank you for bringing that to my attention.
I tended to knock most of the school familiar archetypes down a notch due to the feat requirements compared to other familiars.
-- The Emissary got a solid review here and I have definatly increased the rating list for it.
-- The Figment & Sage Archetype is now listed as a Blue for some classes.
-- The Mauler has been re-written its still green and more details have been given, notations on turning it into a mount have been added (can't believe I forgot that as someone did that with a Mauler bat on a table I was watching a few years ago)

@RogueRogue will see what I can do, will be lower on the priority totem pole compared to getting the key stuff up, but there will be a marker for it added.

@Mathmuse I try avoiding the wand-wielding monkey if its going to use a wand its going to need to speak and monkeys don't normally do that. As for a few things to look in on try Muleback Cords and Ant Haul. The cords cost 1k and increase its strength by 8 for determining carrying load, ant haul triples how much it can carry and those effects stack very nicely.
The mauler archetype works well for the packhorse role just for the strength increases but its a side effect not a primary objective of that archetype.

if your using a Dragon base, make sure your getting the weight treated as if it was a Quadruped not a Biped that might help.

Oh and just a general FYI: got through the majority of the the 5th level familiars as well as some of the re-writing done on other parts to expand on them. Will do more Thursday most likely (going to take a day or two off the guide so I don't burn out on it).
Thing is now up to 23 pages.. I am surprised.

Lantern Lodge

Hi! Thanks for making this guide.
I really need the sections on how to get a familiar for non familiar classes.

While read through it, I notice you mentioned Improved Familiars under the Mauler archetype.

Unfortunately, the Mauler archetype don't work with improved familiar.
Below is the break down of why it don't work. Mainly cos an FAQ shuts it down.

This Core FAQ, makes improved familiar an archetype
Improved Familiars: There are various ways for characters other than arcane spellcasters to gain familiars at this point, and some of those options even grant Improved Familiar as a bonus feat, but technically each Improved Familiar option requires a certain arcane spellcaster level to take it. Does that mean that non-arcane characters with Improved Familiar have a dead feature? How does it work? If it does work, can I take an Improved Familiar as some kind of variant familiar or a temporary familiar like the occultist’s soulbound puppet?

Full Core Familiar FAQ:
The Improved Familiar description was written back when only arcane spellcasters could have familiars, and it wasn’t sufficiently future-proofed. To that end, you can always substitute your effective wizard level for the purpose of determining your familiar’s abilities for “arcane spellcaster level” to determine the available improved familiars for your character. In general, you can take Improved Familiars for class-granted variant familiars like a shaman’s spirit animal, with a few exceptions: First, temporary familiars like the occultist’s soulbound puppet can’t become Improved Familiars from the Improved Familiar feat, and those class features don’t qualify you to take the Improved Familiar feat. Second, tumor familiars, as lumps of flesh in the shape of animals, can’t become Improved Familiars. 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.

Since archetypes cannot work if they both change the same class feature, the Mauler cannot work with Improved Familiars as they both change the speak with master and speak with animals of its kind familiar's class feature.

Improved familiars wrote:
Improved familiars otherwise use the rules for regular familiars, with two exceptions: if the creature's type is something other than animal, its type does not change; and improved familiars do not gain the ability to speak with other creatures of their kind (although many of them already have the ability to communicate).
Mauler wrote:

Bond Forged in Blood (Su): A mauler isn’t impressed by fancy words—only furious battle. A mauler can’t speak, even if it’s a type of creature that normally could.

At 5th level, whenever the mauler’s master drops a foe whose Hit Dice are at least 1/2 its level to below 0 hit points, the mauler’s empathic link surges with power, granting both the mauler and its master a +2 morale bonus to attack and damage rolls for 1 round. This ability replaces speak with master and speak with animals of its kind.

Bond Forged in Blood (Su): A mauler isn’t impressed by fancy words—only furious battle. A mauler can’t speak, even if it’s a type of creature that normally could.

At 5th level, whenever the mauler’s master drops a foe whose Hit Dice are at least 1/2 its level to below 0 hit points, the mauler’s empathic link surges with power, granting both the mauler and its master a +2 morale bonus to attack and damage rolls for 1 round. This ability replaces speak with master and speak with animals of its kind.

The main reason is that both Improved Familiar and Mauler changes the same class feature. Archetypes don't care if the change to a class feature could work together or not. As long as the same class feature is modified in any way, the archetypes won't stack.

Hence Maular and Improved Familiars are sadly a no go.


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SunderedShadow wrote:

@Mathmuse ... As for a few things to look in on try Muleback Cords and Ant Haul. The cords cost 1k and increase its strength by 8 for determining carrying load, ant haul triples how much it can carry and those effects stack very nicely.

The mauler archetype works well for the packhorse role just for the strength increases but its a side effect not a primary objective of that archetype.

My bloodrager has Str 14 so her light load is 58 lbs. During bloodrage, that increased to 100 labs., and now increases to 133 lbs. The only difficulty was she wanted to keep a light load during overland travel while carrying armor, a sword, firearm and powder horn, bow and arrows, rations, full waterskin, and bedroll. Her solution at 4th level was the Mount spell to conjure a horse.

Later, she lightened her load via mithril armor and other non-magical measures. Ironically, the only time these days she carries more than 56 lbs is when she puts her familar into its familiar satchel.

SunderedShadow wrote:
if your using a Dragon base, make sure your getting the weight treated as if it was a Quadruped not a Biped that might help.

I did use the quadruped figure. Amusingly, a flying quadruped can carry more weight than a flying biped.

SunderedShadow wrote:
Thing is now up to 23 pages.. I am surprised.

I used to write technical documentation. My supervisor was disappointed (and reflected his disappointment in my performance rating) that I wrote only half as many documents as he wanted. Later, he read my user manuals and noticed they were three times as long as he expected. The customers praised me for including the information they wanted.


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SunderedShadow wrote:
The mauler archetype works well for the packhorse role just for the strength increases but its a side effect not a primary objective of that archetype.

My barbarian was a scout, my bloodrager is a smith. I regularly create characters less bloodthirsty than their fluff. Though the mauler archetype says, "While most familiars are scouts and assistants, the mauler familiar cares only for the thrill of battle. A mauler often serves a bloodthirsty or martial-minded master," until 5th level the mauler familiar's new abilities only affect size, strength, speech, and intelligence. A 4th-level mauler is just a big, strong animal like a ox.

I can easily imagine a relaxed gray-cloaked wizard with a floppy pointed gray hat riding in a cart pulled by a mauler goat familiar. He can tell the local hobbits halflings, "A wizard with a magic goat has no need for a horse."


In the list of prestige classes that grant a familiar you can add
Stargazer

It may be worth noting that the trait House of Green Mother Pupil - waives the Iron Will requirement to gain a familiar via the Familiar Bond feat.


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I dunno. I look at your ratings of familiars, and a couple of other guides that also rate familiars, and it's just hard to see the value in any of it. These things just seem to be everyone's opinion with their pet favorites (pun intended) elevated to blue or pink rather than any sort of actual analysis. You hate the thrush and raven, but one of the wizard guides marks them green. Everyone hates the toad. You like the goat but no one else does. I could go on, but why bother?

Realistically, these ratings have to take into account the class that uses them and the role that they'll be put in. A global rating of yellow/green/mauve/turquoise is pretty meaningless. Which is better? A Ford F150 or a Honda Accord? Should I eat chocolate, or shampoo my hair? Context is everything.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Enjoying my Eberron Changeling familiar, it does them all!

Seriously, you need to expand this to include the other choices for Arcane Bond.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

With some sleep, I enjoyed the feedback above. The guide is frustrating in that it is a work in progress and incomplete, yet I see interest, hope and promise in it.

BTW, thanks for the lists of familiars and stats. In the game, I have to 'learn' each familiar before mine can change into it. Without the skill K: arcana, regular folks know of maybe one type of familiar, something you might add. Our GM has a list of the various obscurity familiars and more than you have here, both homespun and 3pp. Because of my familiar's versatility, each feat is +2 on the level required. I have to 'attend' a Wizard school or such to pick up the feat.That and I am hurting for new spells. I'm due a feat and Imp Familiar is looking like it.

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John Mechalas wrote:
I dunno. I look at your ratings of familiars, and a couple of other guides that also rate familiars, and it's just hard to see the value in any of it. These things just seem to be everyone's opinion with their pet favorites (pun intended) elevated to blue or pink rather than any sort of actual analysis. You hate the thrush and raven, but one of the wizard guides marks them green. Everyone hates the toad. You like the goat but no one else does. I could go on, but why bother?

I think the difference is that this guide aims to rate familiars primarily as melee combatants, whereas other guides rate familiars on how they benefit their master. This is how this guide manages to label a number of flying familiars as "trap, do not ever take" despite their excellent utility, or how one familiar that gives +4 initiative can be "trap, do not ever take" whereas another that also gives +4 initiative can be "the best and most powerful option".

Of course, many players never even consider using their familiar in melee, in which case it doesn't matter if its AC is 18 or 27. After all, if you want an extra beatstick, either an animal companion or a summon spell is more effective than a familiar.


I recall Magical Child had an exception for the improved familiar mauler, but I can't find it.


@Secane thanks for the heads up from the FAQ, adjusting now.
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@Mathmuse yeah its the quadruped multiplier for carrying capacity hence soem familiars can have a surprisingly large carry load.. best for small ones like the goat though since its the least work for the biggest gains. (makes it sound like a bodybuilder doesnt that)

--Id rather have a massive and very well worded and thought out doccument vs a bunch of half ass ones. Bad call on reviewing your performance before reviewing your work hopefully he fixed that rating. I also hope this guide meets with your approval.
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@JohnMechalas I added in a section called Familiars: Ratings Explained that will go over my thought processes on rating the familiars, hopefully this will clear up some confusion on the ratings they recieved. For those that are exceptionally good in a specific role I will be adding that as a note on each one, the overall rating is general use and survivability. If you disagree with any rating I've given let me know I will review the familiar again, when working with this many familiars even I can miss things.

The reason the Toad sees such hate is the slow for movement, it can't hurt anything except a regular sized fly, and the bonus HP it gives really is useless beyond the first level or two. The AC is at my minimum passable for considering good, and its stealth is nice, but that high stealth won't matter if it can't get somewhere to utalize it.
The Raven: pro: fly speed & speak 1 language the master knows which makes him a decent scout/spy but for other things not so much. The Thrush compares fairly equally higher stealth less perceptive, better master bonus for a "face", less use in bombing due to strength. Both are marked as good spies/scouts, but really once you get the ability to speak to your familiar there are other much better options.
The Rhamphorhyncus gives a better masters bonus, can carry more for bombing runs, has a better maneuverability and higher AC although its less perceptive.
The Hawk or Owl both fly faster with a higher AC, better damage if needed, more perceptive and stealthy and give a better bonus for the master (perception boost beats appraise).
The bat has Blindsight which is great for detecting invisible things, flies better (maneuverability), and has a higher AC although just like the Raven the masters bonus kind of stinks.
I do have it marked in the notes about the raven being great as an early game scout/spy but in comparison with some of the other familiars out there his only edge is the speaking to the master early.

And unless your allergic to it, yes, you should eat chocolate.

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@Bwang: Other options for Arcane Bond (the item) are going to be covered in the Wizard Guide (also in progress, link is at the top of the familiar guide if you want to see where im at in that so far). Primary focus is finishing the familiar guide then going back to the wizards one.
I don't think I will be covering the Eberron Changeling familiar since thats from the Eberron setting not anything Paizo. As for the guides status I've been averaging 8-10 hours a day on the guide for about 2 weeks so far. This trend will slow down a bit during the holidays but I have hit my personal obsession button right now and thus will not be changing to another guide until after this one is done.

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@Baba Ganoush thank you for letting me know about the prestige class I missed.. although I will say unless your class has a high will save, you still might want to grab Iron Will. Both the trait & class are now in the guide.

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@Kurald Galain: I actually always consider the AC simply because I've run across way to many DMs who like to go out of their way at times to kill the familiar. melee combat is actually the lowest factor of their value.

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@deuxhero: Once you find it let me know please.


SunderedShadow wrote:
I added in a section called Familiars: Ratings Explained that will go over my thought processes on rating the familiars, hopefully this will clear up some confusion on the ratings they recieved.

It's not that I want to quibble on every item I disagree with, it's that my perspective is different because what I use a familiar for and what this guide assumes in its ratings are not the same. If I were to be so bold as to suggest an alternative approach, it would be to do what some of the monster summoning guides do: take the fundamental roles for a familiar (damage, combat support, scouting, SLA/UMD, transport, etc.), and evaluate their suitability for each.


John Mechalas wrote:
SunderedShadow wrote:
I added in a section called Familiars: Ratings Explained that will go over my thought processes on rating the familiars, hopefully this will clear up some confusion on the ratings they recieved.
It's not that I want to quibble on every item I disagree with, it's that my perspective is different because what I use a familiar for and what this guide assumes in its ratings are not the same. If I were to be so bold as to suggest an alternative approach, it would be to do what some of the monster summoning guides do: take the fundamental roles for a familiar (damage, combat support, scouting, SLA/UMD, transport, etc.), and evaluate their suitability for each.

Bold is good, I will take a step away for a bit think on how I can approach it best, likely look at a monster summoning guide or two (any you would recommend?) and then see what I can do about adding that in.

Current thought is a line beneath the entry with the colors there vs at the front where the name is.


Found the way Magical Child kept Mauler: It's from "its vigilante identity changes into a creature on the Improved Familiar list [...] (the animal guide’s social identity always remains as the original normal animal)." It only has the form of the improved familiar, it's still a normal familiar. It's weird but Magical Child is such a bad archetype otherwise.


SunderedShadow wrote:

Bold is good, I will take a step away for a bit think on how I can approach it best, likely look at a monster summoning guide or two (any you would recommend?) and then see what I can do about adding that in.

Current thought is a line beneath the entry with the colors there vs at the front where the name is.

I don't think any of them rate all monsters in all categories, but instead pick the best of "meat, muscle, ranged" and so on for each spell level. See Why work when others can do it for you - a guide to Summoning as a start. I think your idea of a line beneath the entry is about as good as it gets while still staying compact.


Possible categories for Familiar ratings (not necessarily a complete list):

  • assistant
  • buffer
  • direct combat
  • guardian
  • scout
  • skill monkey
  • sneaky combat
  • UMD monkey


UnArcaneElection wrote:
Possible categories for Familiar ratings (not necessarily a complete list):

I don't know that I'd break it down that far. e.g. scout/skill monkey/UMD monkey ratings would have a huge amount of overlap - hands help to open (unlocked) doors, or to use skills, or to use wands. I'd rate familiars by

    * skills
    * durability
    * melee ability
    * special powers

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

avr wrote:

I don't know that I'd break it down that far. e.g. scout/skill monkey/UMD monkey ratings would have a huge amount of overlap - hands help to open (unlocked) doors, or to use skills, or to use wands. I'd rate familiars by

    * skills
    * durability
    * melee ability
    * special powers

I agree. I'd rate familiars by

* skills (particularly stealth and perception; other skills come mainly from archetypes)
* special powers (particularly flight speed, and ability granted to master)
* melee ability and durability combined, because both can be made irrelevant by putting the familiar in a pouch.


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I thought back to the other familiars I have seen in play and, shockingly, the only example was a D&D 3.0 sorceress's owl familiar from 15 years ago. The wizards in the Pathfinder games at the Family Game Store preferred Arcane Bonded objects to familiars.

Treantmonk's Guide to Pathfinder Wizards strongly recommends the familiar over the arcane bond, but his argument is that losing a familiar costs only the familiar, but losing the bonded object shuts down spellcasting. SunderedShadow has remarked on GMs who target familiars, but tactically, an enemy who takes out a familiar wasted a turn ignoring the much more dangerous low-hp wizard next to the familiar.

Yet among the wizards I have seen played, the lure of one extra spell per day from the bonded object outshined the bonuses and utility of a familiar. SunderedShadow lists ways 15 other base classes (not counting witch and wizard) and six prestige classes can trade abilities for a familiar. They are not exchanging a potentially crippling arcane bond. Why would they make the trade?

My bloodrager NPC obtained her familiar for story purposes. The fighter in my current campaign took Leadership to gain a Samsuran wizard cohort specialized in magic item crafting with a valet familiar. I suspect the player found the wizard build on the Internet, since the first thing the wizard did in game was don a Belt of Giant Strength and try to fight in melee alongside the fighter.

Anyone have stories of why their characters wanted familiars?

EDIT: I forgot my bloodrager's story. Val Baine had wanted to be a wizard like her father, but during a crisis while she was an apprentice she had pushed herself to gain more spells and manifested Air Elemental bloodrager powers instead. Nevertheless, she liked all things wizardly. When she encounterd the animated clockwork toy dragon, their common electrical magic let her talk to the mute toy. She immediately declared the toy to be her new familiar Sparky. She lost the electical attacks of her bloodline, due to that electrical power reshaping into the arcane bond between them. Sparky likes helping around the workshop as Val makes adamantine weapons and mithril armor.


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Mathmuse wrote:
Anyone have stories of why their characters wanted familiars?

My wizard wanted a familiar for story purposes. She wanted someone she could talk to, and that could help watch out for her while she was living in a large city. Mechanically, I wanted a familiar to fill the scouting and messenger role. I wanted it to be useful for the whole party on day 1, so I was at either raven or thrush solely for the ability to talk. In game, I take measured risks, occasionally exposing her familiar to danger.

We had a witch in our party, but I guess that doesn't count since the familiar isn't optional there. :)


Mathmuse wrote:

{. . .}

Yet among the wizards I have seen played, the lure of one extra spell per day from the bonded object outshined the bonuses and utility of a familiar. SunderedShadow lists ways 15 other base classes (not counting witch and wizard) and six prestige classes can trade abilities for a familiar. They are not exchanging a potentially crippling arcane bond. Why would they make the trade?
{. . .}

For Wizards, Bonded Object isn't just about 1 extra spell per day, as it would be for an Arcane Sorcerer (they really ought to fix that). It's about 1 spell per day of any that you know, even if you didn't prepare it, which incompletely but noticeably alleviates one of a Wizard's big weaknesses (what if I prepared the wrong spells?).

John Mechalas wrote:

{. . .}

We had a witch in our party, but I guess that doesn't count since the familiar isn't optional there. :)

That's true for each individual archetype or lack thereof, but note that it is possible to choose Witch archetypes that have Bonded Objects (which DON'T work the same way as a Wizard's Bonded Object) or other Familiar substitutes, or in 1 case no Familiar or substitute at all (Ley Line Guardian).


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Tink has a familiar.
He has a thrush reflavoured as a bower bird.
He took a liking to the birds due to the way they stockpile items. Much like he himself does.
He is also quite old and travels alone. So having a familiar he can talk to helps there a lot. He also likes to entertain and Blue loves attention so they make a good team for cheering up kids.

I also absolutely love the mental image of Tink sticking his hand out and calling for the spanner, and having Blue hop over and drop a screwdriver in his hand.


I forgot to mention above that my personal experience with Familiars comes from 1st Edition AD&D, in which loss of the Familiar could seriously injure or even kill you, which makes me leery of Familiars, even though no such penalty has existed since at least D&D 3.0 . . . .


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Mathmuse wrote:
Anyone have stories of why their characters wanted familiars?

Torsten might have been studying the Art of Magic in his spare time, but his days were taken up with herding goats. The biggest, meanest goat paid an unusual amount of attention as he practiced magic on unsuspecting thistles. When he left home the goat, Strauch, followed - and so Torsten acquired a mauler goat familiar.


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avr wrote:
I don't know that I'd break it down that far. e.g. scout/skill monkey/UMD monkey ratings would have a huge amount of overlap - hands help to open (unlocked) doors, or to use skills, or to use wands.

I think it's better to focus on roles rather than abilities. "Scout and Messenger" can roll up under "skill monkey", but the thing is that scouting is a very specific role. Same for UMD. Some people get an improved familiar specifically for SLAs and UMD capability to save time on the "staple spells" in combat. Too much generalization would defeat the purpose.

I think UnArcaneElection is pointed in the right direction. I'd refine that list to:

  • direct combat (damage, combat maneuvers, flanking buddy)
  • battlefield control (dropped objects)
  • touch spell delivery
  • scout/messenger
  • magic (spells, SLAs, UMD)
  • transport (people, equipment)
  • bonuses (conferred abilities, skill assists)

That feels pretty complete to me based on a review of various class guides. It does seem a little long, though, which may make SunderedShadow's document too clunky. One option would be to restrict the ratings to those categories where the familiar is green or better (using SS's rating system). Then you don't have to have seven categories under everything just to state the obvious (e.g., cats and mice are not your combat choices, etc).


^That's a thought -- the guide to Sorcerer Bloodlines pretty much does this, except usually gives 2 top roles instead of 3: for example, Abyssal has Melee (green), summoning (blue), everything else (orange).

That said, I've heard that housecats can beat up Commoners.


You might want to make this doc unedittable except by yourself.


@Mathmuse, John Mechalas, Tink_, Avr & anyone else willin to take part.
If any of you are willing to give some backstories behind why your wizards have the familiar they do (including the wizards & familiars names) id like to add them to the guide.. I think that little bit of detail flavor is missing from a lot of familiars I've seen get played.
@Mathmuse I think I could work with val Bains story quite easily if you would allow it to be added.
@John Mechalas Like with Mathmuse I think I could work with your story although in your case I need a bit more detail.

@Alex Smith 908: Any edits you make should only be showing up at suggestions with me making the final call on that, if otherwise please let me know.

@UnarcaneElection
1) even in 2nd edition the penalty was insane which made me hate them as well. Until I started 3.5 (I skipped 3.0) I had no love of them, it took a while for me to change my tune but now I love em.

2) re: killing dummies.. I've known Barbarians that do that to ;)

3) Bonded object: Tis why most of my wizards have a bevy of scrolls, although in PFS play that might be more useful don't think your allowed to craft scrolls for that.

@John mechalas (yes again).
Combat: Easy group (high damage, good AC & possible combat maneuvers*) should work. Although I've had a hard time seeing any of the familiars reliably pull off the combat maneuvers except with the eldritch guardian and someone with a high BaB.

Control: easy group to add in thats mostly going to be our decent strength fliers.

Touch Spell I think would be the ones with high movement & AC.

Magic: thats going to be only really found with improved familiars I think although I should figure the monkey if given a way to actually speak could fill this role also.

Transport: Falls into mauler archetype or a few small familiars more than anything else if im reading that right.

Bonuses: situational, I personally highly value initiative bonuses some people think thats a waste (I figure theres to few ways to get that up so any edge there is good)

IF I limit any familiar to 1-3 categories, and some filling in none of them of course this might work without getting to horrible Just keep it down to 1 line if possible per familiar, and RED familiars will usally be good at nothing so yeah I can avoid any extra size there.
--I am starting to like where this option is going.

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