Yet one more Improved Familiar Question


Rules Questions


A swarm monger druid is a class with a variant familiar class feature.
Specifically:

"Fecund Familiar (Ex)
A swarm monger bonds with an urban familiar, treating her druid level as her wizard level for the purposes of determining her familiar’s abilities.

The swarm monger must select her familiar from the following options: cat, house centipede, rat, raven, or scarlet spider. The fecund familiar gains the benefits of its master’s child of pollution, shadowy opportunist, and venom immunity class abilities."

To me, it seems fairly cut and dried: The swarm monger qualifies for improved familiar.

Improved familiar says: prerequsites: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.

My PFS ref disagrees, saying that the Swarm Monger druid must choose from cat, house centipede, rat, raven, or scarlet spider.

Yes, I believed that would be true, for a *familiar* but not for an improved familiar. There are no restrictions in the class for taking an improved familiar; nor in the faq.

Speaking of the FAQ, it says:

"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."

So to me it says, "In general you can take improved familiars for class-granted variant familiars."
This means people like Serpent Bloodline sorcerers - that can take only *1* familiar - can take any Improved familiar.

However, Ref is saying that the third case (above) applies - it doesn't stack.

To me, the third case says, see if you can apply improved familiar as an archetype to the regular familiar.

As the regular familiar does not modify speak with kind, nor change type of animal - it stacks; therefore the character is free to take Improved familiar.

Sorry for the wall of text. What I am looking for is

a). Do you have any arguments either pro or con on this discussion; is this pretty much settled PFS.

b). Are there instances in published PFS modules that support this position?

Thanks!


To rehash the FAQ and link it

FAQ wrote:

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?

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.

I would say it doesn't work for you. Swarm Monger limits you to a cat, house centipede, rat, raven, or scarlet spider familiar. Which means you can only select an improved familiar from those choices when you choose one, and AFAIK they aren't available as improved familiars.


You could take Improved Familiar and select a celestial, entropic, fiendish, or resolute cat, rat, or raven.


Improved familiar specifically increased the options you can take, so having limited options itself should not be an issue.

That said, Fecund Familiar, and it's swarm transformation in particular, is different enough that I could see a pretty good case for not allowing it. Those things are all fairly easy to define as a swarm, a fairy dragon swarm, not so much. Certainly I don't have any rules that are strong enough to present a good case to your Ref.

I don't know that the 'Celestial Cat' would get you around it. A celestial cat is a type of cat, but it isn't a 'Cat' the two creature's are different and even have different types.


I’d say the FAQ makes it very clear you can choose any improved familiar, regardless of the limitations of your normal familiar.

But it’s also very clear that the intention of the archetype was to use a creature of size tiny or smaller that is already used as a swarm other places in the game. The writer just didn’t think to take improved familiars into account.

In a home game I’d be a little selective to swarm appropriate improved familiars, but in PFS that combo may technically work by default. It probably needs its own PFS special ruling.


Dave Justus wrote:

Improved familiar specifically increased the options you can take, so having limited options itself should not be an issue...

Those things are all fairly easy to define as a swarm, a fairy dragon swarm, not so much.

So, I take your point. But

The rules for swarmmonger tell you how to make a swarm;
"While in swarm form, the familiar loses the improved evasion, share spells, deliver touch attack, and scry on familiar special abilities. It uses its normal AC, saving throws, and skill bonuses, and it gains the swarm subtype and the ability to make swarm attacks (dealing 1d6 points of damage at 1st level and using the swarm monger’s druid level as the swarm’s Hit Dice to determine damage increases as per the swarm subtype)."

So, statting out the swarm is actually not an issue. FTR I did not choose a faerie dragon, and did in fact choose a diminutive, urban improved familiar, in keeping with the fluff of the class.

The other argument

Quote:
A celestial cat is a type of cat, but it isn't a 'Cat' the two creature's are different and even have different types.

I think is addressed by the faq:

Quote:
In general, you can take Improved Familiars for class-granted variant familiars like a shaman’s spirit animal

In all, there are around two dozen classes or archetypes that give access to restricted variant lists. Things like

Cleric: vermin domain
Cleric Asmodean Advocate
Druid crocodile, eagle, frog, monkey, serpent, air, earth, fire, water
Druid, Leshy Warden
Sorcerer: Serpent Bloodline
Kineticist, Elemental Whispers
Medium Kami
Witch.
Shaman

All of them have restricted access. For example the Sorcerer with the Serpent bloodline gets a viper.

The rules (to me) seem pretty clear that they all get access to the improved familiar list, certainly none of them are called out for restriction in the faq.

Only one was: the tumor familiar.

Regarding

Quote:
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.

What this is saying is look at the variant familiar list.

If you could apply Improved familiar as an archetype, you can take Improved familiar as a feat.

The two things that prevent the archetype from being applied would be if the variant list changed the creature type of the familiar, or if it removed the ability to speak with others of its type.

The swarm monger druid does neither of these things and hence is eligible to take Improved familiar.

Contrast that with a Daivrat. It gets a Zhyen familiar. As a tiny outsider the familiar is no longer [animal->magical beast] and as such is not eligible for Improved familiar.


Also, the familiar size may be limited by the rules for swarms:

Quote:
A swarm is a collection of Fine, Diminutive, or Tiny creatures that acts as a single Creature.

So, if the familiar is of a size other than that, a GM could easily rule the swarm template simply doesn't work on the familiar.

And then the archetype itself has wording that size diminutive familiars shouldn't be possible:

Quote:
A fecund familiar cannot be reduced in size to Diminutive or smaller when in swarm form.


Melkiador wrote:

Also, the familiar size may be limited by the rules for swarms:

Quote:
A swarm is a collection of Fine, Diminutive, or Tiny creatures that acts as a single Creature.

So, if the familiar is of a size other than that, a GM could easily rule the swarm template simply doesn't work on the familiar.

And then the archetype itself has wording that size diminutive familiars shouldn't be possible:

Quote:
A fecund familiar cannot be reduced in size to Diminutive or smaller when in swarm form.

The swarm template isn't intended for small+ creatures. Once you're getting into groups of small creatures you're clearly intended to use the troop template instead of the swarm template.

Troop wrote:
A troop is similar to a swarm, but is normally composed of Small or Medium creatures. Large groups of Tiny or smaller creatures should use the normal swarm rules.

IMO there should be a line in the archetype stating that while it does qualify for improved familiar you can only select improved familiars that are sized tiny or smaller. I'm not sure how many options actually meet that criteria but it seems like a balanced way of handling it.


I think it is important when looking at a FAQ to pay attention to the question as well as the answer. The FAQs don't always deal with every possibility.

This FAQs main question is whether 'arcane caster level' is really needed, and the answer to that is that no, it isn't effective wizard level is good enough.

Then it goes on, not in a lot of detail, about variants. First we learn that temporary familiar won't work and (for no real apparent reason) a tumor familiar won't work.

Then we get the 'archetype stacking bit' which is what the poster is basing his argument on. It isn't super clear and it isn't directly an answer to any part of the question asked. I regard it as a good minimum (any familiar feature that doesn't meet these standard can't be improved, but that doesn't necessarily mean that any that does, can.)

Basically, we know from other places that if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it's a duck. Some 'familiar-type' features are just like the regular familiar feature in everything but the name. Some are just like it but with a more limited list.

Fecund Familiar has a lot in common with the regular familiar class feature, but it has quite a bit of unique and special as well, enough that it is quite arguable that it doesn't walk like a duck. It is somewhat similar to a tumor familiar in that regard.

I think it is a gray area, and that the FAQ doesn't directly answer this particular question, although it doesn't disallow it either.


Quote:
A fecund familiar cannot be reduced in size to Diminutive or smaller when in swarm form.

,

But that simply says it can't be reduced while in swarm form. Which, following general rules, it can't be anyway. (Nor enlarged).

But it would still be legal to cast reduce person on the familiar...

LordKailas: I am using it for an appropriately size (fine, diminutive, or tiny).


Dave Justus wrote:

I think it is important when looking at a FAQ to pay attention to the question as well as the answer. The FAQs don't always deal with every possibility.

This FAQs main question is whether 'arcane caster level'

Isn't the question better phrased as: do variant casters qualify for improved familiar?

Quote:

is really needed, and the answer to that is that no, it isn't effective wizard level is good enough.

Then it goes on, not in a lot of detail, about variants. First we learn that temporary familiar won't work and (for no real apparent reason) a tumor familiar won't work.

Then we get the 'archetype stacking bit' which is what the poster is basing his argument on. It isn't super clear and it isn't directly an answer to any part of the question asked. I regard it as a good minimum (any familiar feature that doesn't meet these standard can't be improved, but that doesn't necessarily mean that any that does, can.)

I'm not solely basing my point on the FAQ.

I supported it with the idea that there are more than 20 variant classes that restrict a familiar choice to a single type of familiar, in addition to the swarm monger, that restricts you to a list of familiars.

The FAQ gives a rule that eliminates some of the variant classes (Fire plane druid, daivrat) but not others.

If you are prepared to argue that the swarm caster druid is not allowed to take improved familiar, then you also have to be willing to support the position that the serpent bloodline sorcerer can also not take it.

And where is your justification for that position?

The whole point of Improved Familiar was that it gives you access to new familiars, removing the previous list you were restricted to. But people weren't sure how that applied to variant familiars. They tried to say for example that a Serpent bloodline sorcerer was restricted to only a viper and hence could not take improved familiar. (celestial viper <> viper logic).

So then they released an FAQ that gives a rule that gives pretty lenient verbiage. It says In general, variant classes qualify for Improved Familiar, unless X or Y.

Neither X nor Y apply in this case. In PFS we aren't allowed to insert our judgement, nor put extraneous values its a pretty clear test. Swarm monger doesn't change the familiar type, nor remove speak with kind: so it passes.


Perfect Tommy wrote:
Quote:
A fecund familiar cannot be reduced in size to Diminutive or smaller when in swarm form.

,

But that simply says it can't be reduced while in swarm form. Which, following general rules, it can't be anyway. (Nor enlarged).

But it would still be legal to cast reduce person on the familiar...

The important thing to me is the intent there. They wanted to make sure that you never had a diminutive or smaller swarm. Probably because that would make your swarm immune to weapon damage.

And all 5 of the default familiars are of size tiny. So, I'm amending my earlier recommendation to: I probably wouldn't allow any non-tiny improved familiar with this archetype.

Now, if you're talking about some "technically correct" by accident of the assumptions of the wording of the rules, then I'd agree that you aren't limited to tiny size. But looking at the text of the archetype as a whole, I'd say that you are intended to be limited to tiny only familiars. As for the other argument, by the text quoted above, the reduce person wouldn't be active on the familiar while in swarm form.


Perfect Tommy wrote:


Isn't the question better phrased as: do variant casters qualify for improved familiar?
No, because you don't have to be a caster at all in some cases.
Perfect Tommy wrote:
If you are prepared to argue that the swarm caster druid is not allowed to take improved familiar, then you also have to be willing to support the position that the serpent bloodline sorcerer can also not take it.

Nope. That is a totally different argument.

In my mind, there is nothing particularly prohibiting a Swarm Caster Druid from taking improved familiar. There is no rule or FAQ that says it cannot.

I am not sure though that there is a rule that says it CAN though.

The question is, is the Fecund Familiar still close enough to a regular familiar that it qualifies, and on that I am not sure. My guess is that if they were to release a FAQ on this in particular, they would say no, it isn't but that is not likely to happen. I think the potential can of worms with improved familiars becoming swarms would simply be something they wouldn't want to deal with. I wouldn't either as a GM.

That is just my opinion though. It is hardly binding and you certainly don't have to accept it. Unless you appeal to a higher authority, and these boards are not that, you will have to accept the ruling of your PFS ref, although his reasoning appears different then mine.


I think its speculation to say the author didn't intend you to use improved familiar; speculation to say he did or didn't intend different size swarms.

I mean improved familiar is one of the most common feats for spell casters.

And how difficult would it have been to say: The swarm mongers swarms may only be of small or tiny animals?

And yes, I'm looking merely for technically correct.


Dave Justus wrote:
Perfect Tommy wrote:
If you are prepared to argue that the swarm caster druid is not allowed to take improved familiar, then you also have to be willing to support the position that the serpent bloodline sorcerer can also not take it.
Nope. That is a totally different argument.

How is it a different argument?

Serpent bloodline gives you a restricted list of familiars you can take.
ie: viper.

The FAQ says you can take Improved Familiar in general, and in specific, if you could apply improved familiar as an archetype to your familiar.

In both cases, you can apply the archetype, it is therefore legal.

In both cases, the restrictions that you had for your *familiar* do not apply to your improved familiar.

Improved familiar changes the rules and gives you access to a new list.
It specifically says: When choosing a familiar, the creatures listed here are also available to you.


Of course, if you’re being overly technical then your familiar can’t use swarm form because its size is reduced to diminutive or less.


Not so. I'm not reducing the size of my familiar in any fashion. So not an issue.

Again, this centers solely around the question, of improved familiers for swarm monger druids.


Perfect Tommy wrote:
Not so. I'm not reducing the size of my familiar in any fashion. So not an issue.

Actually, you are. You're familiar was tiny, and then you reduced it to a smaller size with improved familiar. Technically correct.


There are so many ways to argue this point,

a). Since the question centers on can I get an improved familiar, which may or not be tiny sized... Its not germane to the question.
b) I'm not reducing the size of my familiar. I'm getting a smaller improved familiar.
c). Swarm monger says nothing about getting a smaller familiar. It says nothing about reducing the size of your familiar.
It only says the familiar cannot be reduced in size to Diminutive or smaller when in swarm form

Casting reduce person on your familiar is legit.
Getting a smaller familiar is legit.

This isn't germane to the question I or my ref have; I've asked before can we drop it as its not helpful.

Or do you really just like arguing that replacing a 2 lb cat with a 1 lb viper is illegal?


The point is that the GM can easily find a rules ambiguity to make this not work if they want. You are trying to make something work that was obviously not intended by the author. And at best, an official answer would almost certainly agree with me that non-Tiny familiars can't use the swarm form, for reasons listed earlier; and at worst, this archetype would simply get a special ruling that you can't use it with improved familiar at all, like with tumors.

Also, you can cast reduce person on your familiar. But they can't use swarm form while they are diminutive or less, so that point is moot.

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