Soulbound Puppet - the best ability ever?


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion


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Hello Folks,

I read into the Occultist Focus Powers and my Attention was drawn by the Soulbound Puppet ability of the Necromancy implement. While it seems mediocre on the first look, I dived into all the possibilities and was amazed at how with one ability, you can essentially fulfill almost every role out of combat and many roles during combat.

The ability says:

Soulbound Puppet (Su)
As a full-round action, you can expend 1 point of mental focus to create a soulbound puppet from a bone, doll, or skull. If you use a bone or a skull, your power builds a Tiny or Small flesh puppet around it that vaguely resembles the original creature from which the bones were taken. If the implement is a doll, the doll comes to life. Treat this as a familiar, using your occultist level as your wizard level to determine its powers and abilities. By using a bone or skull from the appropriate creature or a doll shaped like that creature, you can select any of the familiar choices available to a wizard. You can instead use a humanoid bone, doll, or skull, to give the puppet the base statistics of a homunculus, but without a fly speed or the poison bite or telepathic link abilities. No matter the form, this creature is a construct with an alignment matching your own. You can have no more than one soulbound puppet active at any given time.
The soulbound puppet remains animated for 10 minutes per occultist level you possess.

So we get a familiar. The text says "you can select any of the familiar choices available to a wizard". While it aims at chosing every kind of animal, it also means: every familiar archetype available.

So you spend some Mental Focus (the more, the better) into this one focus power, no more investment necessary, and you can have whatever you need at the moment for 10 minutes per level. This is huge. Compared to a class with fixed familiars, you get:

- a familiar tailored to your current needs for a full round action
- a familiar that disappears anyway, so it can die easily without negative consequences (no money to be paid to raise a new one)
- potentially many different kind of familiars on the same day, maybe even during the same combat
- a different bonus granted to the master as well as a different starting feat every time, so potential use of niche feats that shine in specific situations

Now for the first advantage to comprehend, we need to browse all familiar options. I just started, but some options seem so overpowered I already feel remorse for using them (starting with the least powerful and increasing in overpower):

- the Mauler familiar for a nice critter in melee that can flank, damage and more importantly take damage and die. It's basically a summoned monster.
- the Valet familiar during crafting hours to double your crafting speed. This is tricky though, because it needs to be present all the time (so rather at high levels and you need to spend a lot of points)
- the protector familiar, who since it can die means at later levels: double your hit points and divide damage evenly between the two of you, with the possibility to negate hits (Bodyguard) and direct hits towards the disposable minion (in harm's way), with other words: DR/half with benefits
- the Figment/Sage combination. Need to pass any Knowledge check? Raise a Sage with ranks in the category you need and give it the Skilled Evolution via Figment. That's a +3(class skill)+8(Skilled)+1,5xLvl(Sage)+Int Bonus to the check. Not bad? It gets even better. You can do this with any skill you have no ranks in (without the half level bonus though). Any skill that comes up too seldom to invest in now becomes available. That's not even all. Some skills need to be done by you for various reasons (in my case of a Psychometrist Vigilante the Occult skill unlocks). There's a 1 Point Eidolon Evolution called "Shared Evolution" with which your Figment familiar can give you another Evolution it possesses. So from level 7 it can give you Skilled (+8 bonus) to any one skill you want. Taken into account, that many skills can get another +3 by chosing the right type of animal, we are looking at a +11 untyped/racial bonus to most skills.

- further useful archetypes in specific situations: Animal Exemplar/Ambassador if your group lacks a face/druid, Pilferer or Infiltrator for spying and stealing, Decoy for intrigue like games, Prankster for some fun at parties and Mascot to improve group interaction and teamwork.

To summarize: You can do any skill in the game, you can summon a meat shield and boost your defenses. You can adapt to many different tasks and have enough versatility for almost any encounter.

This is more than any other ability I've seen in this game. Please change my mind.


Prof. Löwenzahn wrote:
Animal Exemplar/Ambassador if your group lacks a face/druid, Pilferer or Infiltrator for spying and stealing, Decoy for intrigue like games, Prankster for some fun at parties and Mascot to improve group interaction and teamwork.

Since the familiar's skills are based on your own, I'd say it's almost always better to go Figment/Sage for skill challenges, rather than archetypes that grant you class skills.

For example, if you max out Diplomacy/Intimidate your lv 7 Ambassador (Raven) would have +12 to those two skills.

The Sage/Figment (Raven) would sit on +13, and doesn't require you to spend any skill ranks at all.

***

Prof. Löwenzahn wrote:
There's a 1 Point Eidolon Evolution called "Shared Evolution" with which your Figment familiar can give you another Evolution it possesses.

Did you look this evolution up at PFSRD? I did the same recently, and it seems that PFSRD has missed the most important part of that evolution.

Shared Evolution (ArchivesofNethys) wrote:
Select a 1-point or 2-point evolution the eidolon has. As a standard action, the eidolon can touch the summoner and transfer the selected evolution to him. This functions as the summoner’s aspect ability, and the same limitations apply. The summoner can touch the eidolon as a standard action to return the evolution. The evolution returns to the eidolon automatically if the eidolon is dismissed by the summoner or sent back to its home plane. Requirements: Twinned eidolon.

Shared Evolution, together with Extra Feat, and Shared Slot are all only available to Twinned Eidolons.

***

The use of protector is real nice, though. As you say, it's basically double your HP at higher levels.


Wonderstell wrote:


Did you look this evolution up at PFSRD? I did the same recently, and it seems that PFSRD has missed the most important part of that evolution.

Shared Evolution (ArchivesofNethys) wrote:
Select a 1-point or 2-point evolution the eidolon has. As a standard action, the eidolon can touch the summoner and transfer the selected evolution to him. This functions as the summoner’s aspect ability, and the same limitations apply. The summoner can touch the eidolon as a standard action to return the evolution. The evolution returns to the eidolon automatically if the eidolon is dismissed by the summoner or sent back to its home plane. Requirements: Twinned eidolon.

Shared Evolution, together with Extra Feat, and Shared Slot are all only available to Twinned Eidolons.

***

I did indeed look it up at d20pfsrd, mainly because I did not find it in Archives of Nethys under normal Eidolon Evolutions. They are however under Unchained Eidolons. Damn.

If that is the case, the Figment loses quite a lot of its versatility. Besides, I have to bury another idea I got - a Sage Figment with "Healer's Hands" and "Signature Skill (Heal)" via Extra Feat, which on Lvl 10 would let me heal 40 HP 10x/day, each as a full round Action.

I'm not quite convinced though, that AON got it right (Shared Evolution as Unchained und thus restricted to Twinned Eidolons which in turn require the Biped Base Form) and PFSRD got it wrong (being a normal Eidolon Evolution and no Base Form Requirement, partly because Twinned Eidolons don't exist for normal Eidolons). Anyone got the original source and can give clarity?


Nevermind, I checked it and these evolutions (Shared Evolution, Extra Feat and Shared Slot) are only allowed for the Eidolons of the Twinned Summoner archetype, either as Unchained (being restricted to the Twinned Subtype) or normal (being restricted to the Biped Base Form).

So sadly no shenannigans with multiple feats or giving +8 on any skill to your characters. Makes it a little more balanced though.


Prof. Löwenzahn wrote:
Besides, I have to bury another idea I got - a Sage Figment with "Healer's Hands" and "Signature Skill (Heal)" via Extra Feat, which on Lvl 10 would let me heal 40 HP 10x/day, each as a full round Action.

Don't Vermin familiars get a feat for gaining an Intelligence score? You could still get the Healer's Hands feat that way.

Grand Lodge

Dip 2 levels in Eldritch Guardian fighter and give your summoned Mauler familiar all your combat feats as well. You have a permanent familiar that doesn't advance past level 2 but would work as a valet archetype.


Taudis wrote:


Don't Vermin familiars get a feat for gaining an Intelligence score? You could still get the Healer's Hands feat that way.

I did not find anything like that. But as far as I see, every familiar has a 1st level feat that can be replaced by any feat they qualify for at 1st level. So I can get Healer's Hands on a Sage familiar anyway, they just don't heal as much as with Signature Skill (Heal). As soon as you can meet a DC30 Heal check, they heal 2xLvl (the basic treat deadly wounds + ranks in Knowledge Planes), which is not that bad actually, considering at Lvl10 it is 10x20HP of healing for one summon.

Syries wrote:
Dip 2 levels in Eldritch Guardian fighter and give your summoned Mauler familiar all your combat feats as well. You have a permanent familiar that doesn't advance past level 2 but would work as a valet archetype.

I thought there was a rule that you can't have more than 1 familiar total. Not sure how that interacts with temporary familiars though? Nice idea anyway if you are into multiclassing.


Prof. Löwenzahn wrote:
I did not find anything like that. But as far as I see, every familiar has a 1st level feat that can be replaced by any feat they qualify for at 1st level. So I can get Healer's Hands on a Sage familiar anyway, they just don't heal as much as with Signature Skill (Heal). As soon as you can meet a DC30 Heal check, they heal 2xLvl (the basic treat deadly wounds + ranks in Knowledge Planes), which is not that bad actually, considering at Lvl10 it is 10x20HP of healing for one summon.

I'm fairly certain familiars can only swap out their basic feats for the Familiar specific feats from Animal Archive.

Mindless creatures retroactively gain any feats and skill ranks they lack when they gain an Intelligence score. There is some debate as to if familiars represent an exception to this.

Grand Lodge

It's not that there's a rule for not having more than one familiar, it's simply that most familiar abilities specifically call out that they stack with other abilities if there is multiple sources, so a Eldritch Guardian/Shaman would stack for 1 familiar. Abilities that don't say they stack do not stack.


Taudis wrote:

I'm fairly certain familiars can only swap out their basic feats for the Familiar specific feats from Animal Archive.

Mindless creatures retroactively gain any feats and skill ranks they lack when they gain an Intelligence score. There is some debate as to if familiars represent an exception to this.

The rules for approximating familiars say otherwise.

Approximating Familiars wrote:
Feats: You can easily exchange a pre-built familiar’s starting feats with different feats that better match your concept, such as the familiar feats. There are also new feats relating to familiars, allowing a great deal of customization and sometimes adding unusual mystical qualities and abilities.

Familiar feats are recommended, but not to the exclusion of other feats. Animals with an Int of 3 or lower (such as Animal Companions) are restricted to a certain list of feats, but familiars (and the Sage in specific) start with a much higher Int. Of course it is subject to GM approval to make it reasonable.

I think a Soulbound Puppet having a Conduit feat is thematically fitting, especially considering that Healer's Hands propably draws its power from the positive energy plane, which is the birthplace of all souls.


The rules for approximating familiars are on roughly the same level as any other "build your own" set of optional rules. They're a useful tool for homebrewers but you're relying on a very permissive DM to use them as a player. It's effectively like using the "Creating a New Race" rules to say Alter Self is a powerful spell because you can build a race that grants you 5 natural attacks.

I personally think that you should be able to just change it for any feat (and totally agree that a conduit feat is very thematic). But currently the only rules that allow you to switch out your familiar's feats are the ones hardcoded into the Familiar feats. I would expect pretty significant table variation if you're trying to grab a different feat.


As a question, given the occultist is a psychic character, can his familiar achieve occult skill unlocks? Also, what counts as a class skill for a familiar?


pad300 wrote:
As a question, given the occultist is a psychic character, can his familiar achieve occult skill unlocks? Also, what counts as a class skill for a familiar?

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

Various archetypes add more.

Not sure about the occult skill unlocks. If we are allowed to swap feats, you can do it with the Psychic Sensitivity feat. If not, we need at least a familiar that casts spells (such as valet or prankster or emissary). Assuming they use your (occult) caster level and type of magic (psychic spells) , it will do.


I'll necro my own thread here, because an idea came to my mind that I wannt to discuss (although it might be better in rules questions)

Wasp Familiar

gives you a familiar with the stats of a Greensting Scorpion with a fly speed (effectively a wasp). When you have an ability to gain a familiar (such as arcane bond), its stats change to those of an imp. They still gain "speak with animals of its kind", thus are valid for archetypes, which is the big deal with the Soulbound Puppet ability. Imp has way better stats than the Homunculus we got so far.

The problem is, this feat explicitely states that we cannot have more than one familiar. The wasp is permanent, so adding a soulbound puppet is not possible.

My workaround to this is: Kill your wasp familiar (or let it be killed in combat - Protector archetype comes to mind). Don't resurrect it, so it stays dead. Now when you get the Soulbound Puppet ability, using a wasp doll or skull (do these big wasps have bones? better stick to doll...) should give you a wasp familiar with imp stats for a limited amount of time, to which you can add archetypes as you need to.

Looking forward to you bashing this idea :D


Aside from possibly causing your particular goddess to become quite UNHAPPY with you for disregarding the "sign of her favor" by killing it (or "letting it die") and using its body for purely mechanical benefits... I got nothing to add.


It talks about 'any of the choices available to a wizard' rather than 'any of the choices which you personally might be able to make, Sir Calistrian occultist necromancer'. You might have a familiar and a soulbound puppet separately (I'm not sure that even wasp familiar bans a soulbound puppet); there's no indication that feats affecting the first affect the second also.


DeathlessOne wrote:
Aside from possibly causing your particular goddess to become quite UNHAPPY with you for disregarding the "sign of her favor" by killing it (or "letting it die") and using its body for purely mechanical benefits... I got nothing to add.

I have to admit, that's a tough thing to sell to Calistria. I could start with my character not deliberately "letting it die",. But a Protector is a Protector and its lifespan is quite short due to the things a protector does. Need to find a way to explain why I don't bring the wasp back to life though. I mean, it does come to life quite a lot during the day, and in different forms as well. Might argue that I add to the power of the wasp familiar by adding more versatility. All for the sake of revenge of course.

avr wrote:
It talks about 'any of the choices available to a wizard' rather than 'any of the choices which you personally might be able to make, Sir Calistrian occultist necromancer'. You might have a familiar and a soulbound puppet separately (I'm not sure that even wasp familiar bans a soulbound puppet); there's no indication that feats affecting the first affect the second also.

Interesting thought. How would that interact with the wasp stats though? If a soulbound puppet does not count as a familiar for the wasp familiar feat restrictions, it cannot count as a familiar for the stat improvement to Imp. Might need to take the feat twice then.

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