The familiar contrary to animal companion has a minimalistic stat bloc, mostly because the main features of the familiar seem to be the familiar/master abilities and not the creature that comes with them.
But I feel that this super minimalistic approach doesn't really work for skills. Familiars can use skills using their level. They add the caster ability score for perception and 2 skills (acrobatics and stealth).
There are two main problems for me:
-First the proficiency doesn't appear anywhere. I imagine that mean the familiar is untrained for everything. Which is odd because being untrained in acrobatics (one of the only two skills it has a bonus) prevent it from using maneuvers in flight if it's a flying creature if really feel odd.
Plus now that the witch has a feat to give the bonus to more skills it really feel that proficiency for those should be increased to trained. Many action require to be trained and it would be nice to have a way for the familiar to use those too.
-Second, while untrained in everything, the familiar is better than anyone untrained at medium/high level because it uses their level as an untrained value instead of ability + 0 (or just 0 in their case). They basically have the bard ecclectic skill feat (a 8th level feat) which also feel odd. Ok the familiar is a study buddy for the mage but that doesn't explain why it has a bit of knowledge on every single topic in existence.
I really think that the familiar skills should be changed. They should be trained in a very limited set of skills (acrobatics + stealth + other skills via feats or even maybe an option through familiar abilities) and perception for which they can use their full proficiency bonus (level+2) + caster ability* and they have a +0 bonus for the rest.
*An other option can be to have their ability score always be 0 but to allow their proficiency to increase by one mean or an other (probably never above expert) for roughly the same final score.
This would make them consistent with the rest of the creatures and the proficiency system, more useful for the few things they are meant to be good at but less a jack of all trades that can use any skill untrained with relative efficiency.
My understanding was that the familiar was just what you said along with a dash of spy-eye rather than being on par with other creatures:
"the main features of the familiar seem to be the familiar/master abilities and not the creature that comes with them."
The skills were included to allow for exercise of these abilities and the spy-eye. The familiar was not meant to be a combat-involved npc (thus preventing the Druid/Ranger, anyone else from running 3 - 4 characters in a combat round). The familiar was not meant to be an animal companion-lite. The key is that they are not given any stats which implies that they should be viewed as an extension of the owner. In that sense they should not be considered "Study Buddies" and should NOT be able to aid in any way other than through the abilities (Otherwise the familiar is much too powerful and is too good to be true)
I agree it should have the descriptor "Trained" for the 3 skills listed and that the catch-all phrase about skills can be better defined. I think that the level modifier for unlisted skills is meant as a catch-all to cover if a person comes up an out of the box idea for the exercise of the familiar abilities rather than it being a bard who knows everything
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Familiars need to be better defined, and some of us are hoping for a dose of familiar love in the upcoming GMG.
For example, some forumites have argued that familiars are on a "2-action leash" even outside Encounter mode. Thus preventing them, say, from carrying a message a couple miles away.
Somebody else wanted to have his familiar load a crossbow for him - but they have no defined carrying capacity, and even though this task should logically require at least a small or medium physiognomy, nothing besides the absence of a carrying capacity prevents a familiar with manual dexterity from attempting such a task.
I think the intent is for familiars to have a possible narrative role in Exploration mode, but nothing specifies this possibility in the rules.
And they could certainly borrow proficiency in a couple skills from their masters, without breaking anything.
I really don't think a catch all is really needed. In PF1 the familiar had their animal stats for catch-all which were basically +0 to +4. I don't think rounding everything to 0 would be a big deal.
The strange thing with having their level in everything is that you can use you familiar for a double recall knowledge on basically any creature for one action granted you speak their language. I like the idea of familiar using recall knowledge but I don't like the fact thet they have it for free baseline on all skills (even if it's with a relatively low chance of success at level +0).
And while I agree with you that a familiar should be near useless in combat aside from the deliver spell ability (and the master abilities), I think that if a feat is spent on a familiar (like the 8th level witch feat) it should give the familiar real out-of-combat usefulness (or minor combat usefulness like doing your recall knowledge for you).
I think that making all skills UNTRAINED helps tone down the power.
The familiar can use demoralize, coerce (albeit with penalties) and recall knowledge. This is why I made the my comment about not being "study buddies". Perhaps they should be explicitly prohibited from rolling a recall knowledge check as anything other than an Aid action (no getting multiple recall knowledges from a single PC action). Perhaps, a familiar power would be ("provide a +1 to all knowledge checks that the PC uses"). This would be very powerful but still not game-breaking
The Skilled Familiar feat does not actually make the familiar trained, it just improves some untrained skills. Thus, it appears to be a very minor feat which should probably be replaced with another type of feat
Thus, as I look at the familiar it should probably remain UNTRAINED on every skill to keep getting a familiar limited to being a very powerful feat rather than an insanely OP feat which most characters would take immediately
I think that making all skills UNTRAINED helps tone down the power.
The familiar can use demoralize, coerce (albeit with penalties) and recall knowledge. This is why I made the my comment about not being "study buddies".
They can aid another. That's what I meant by study buddy (that and the whole fluff of familiars). They can give you +1 basically all the time in downtime and exploration by helping you (granted they manage to beat the DC which is not a given).That's also why I think +0 for most skills would be better: Aid another would fail for those. Level + ability +2 for the few you decide to upgrade using feats would mean better chances.
And you have to remember that class feats are meant to be powerful. I don't think giving your familiar trained in two skills (which is only for witch and at lvl 8 and only once) would be that much better than let's say the rogue multiclass feat that gives you expert in a skill and master in an other + a skill feat and can be taken 5 times.
I agree that the familiar one would mean a great action economy be it in combat or in downtime but I don't think it would be OP. First because of your familiar inherent limits (0 items bonus and low proficiency will make their check way harder than if you did it).
Like for the animal companion, I think that if you invest feats (particularly class feats) in your familiar you should gain extra options.
Right now for the witch feat, giving +ability to two skills and nothing more seem really weak compared to the other feats.
I rest my case:
For me a familiar should be almost useless at lvl 1 aside from the master/familiar abilities (and the extra pair of eyes) but if you choose to invest feats in them their use should dramatically increase (and that should not be direct combat use to separate them from animal companions).
Also I don't think familiar warrant special rules on skills. So if untrained their score should be 0 and if trained their score should be level+2. That makes them in line with other creatures without complicating the rules for them.