Elemental Familiar Archetype - Elemental Manifestation [Fire], damage at 1st level

Rules Questions

I was looking over the Elemental Familiar Archetype for a character and am a bit confused as to how the Elemental Manifestation ability is actually supposed to function if Fire is the chosen element.

Elemental Manifestation (Ex) wrote:

An elemental familiar gains one or more special abilities based on its element. An air familiar gains a fly speed of 20 feet (good maneuverability); an air familiar that already has a fly speed instead improves its maneuverability by one category or increases its fly speed by 10 feet. An air familiar is considered three size categories larger than its actual size when calculating whether it can be moved by wind. An earth familiar increases the natural armor bonus it gains from its master’s class level by 50% (minimum +1). A fire familiar can spit a globule of fire as a ranged touch attack once every 1d4 rounds; this attack has a range of 30 feet and deals 1d4 fire damage for every 3 character levels the master has. A water familiar can breathe underwater and gains a swim speed of 20 feet; a water familiar that already has a swim speed instead increases its swim speed by 10 feet. A water familiar also gains a bonus to its CMD when resisting bull rush, drag, reposition, and trip combat maneuvers; this bonus is equal to the natural armor adjustment gained from its master’s level.

This replaces improved evasion.

How is this meant to function? The way I see it there are 4 possibilities on how this functions.

1) Unusable until Lv3, where it then deals 1d4 damage

2) Deals minimum 1 damage (possibly nonlethal even) until Lv3, where it then deals 1d4 damage

3) Deals 1d4 damage until level 6, where it then increases to 2d4, no increase at level 3

4) Deals 1d4 damage until level 3, where it then increases to 2d4

I'm looking for both a RAW and RAI on this... I'm sure RAW is probably option 1 or 2, and RAI might be 2 or 3...

RAW there's no minimum. #1 is it. There's no evidence RAI is different; familiars usually aren't much in combat.

I see two possibilities. Either there is no minimum and the ability isn't intended to do damage till level 3. Or the author was under the belief that scaling abilities always do at least their lowest damage die by default, so didn't include a minimum damage.

We'd never get an FAQ on this, but maybe we could get some developer feedback.

Based on the minimum damage rule in the combat section, #2 looks correct to me. So, from levels 1-2 it would do 1 point of non-lethal damage.

However, I could easily see a DM ruling #1.


Normally, the attack deals 0d4 damage, which results in 1 nonlethal damage regardless of the die roll. Special abilities or other effects might increase this to something that can deal lethal damage (e.g., inspire courage, if the familiar can perceive it).

Note that there is no rule that states that an attack whose damage has no dice is unusable. 0d4 is a perfectly acceptable damage amount.

I would rule that 1 point of nonlethal fire damage is sufficient to ignite dry tinder or other easily combustible fuels. RAW you'd maybe say that objects are immune to nonlethal damage, but this would be an acceptable exception to me.

The minimum damage rule in the combat section is kinda why I was personally leaning towards #2 being correct, both RAW and RAI...

though there is always the possibility that, as Melkiador stated, the author for that ability could have been under the belief that abilities like this always do their lowest damage die by default...

for now, though I think I'm satisfied with 1 non-lethal fire damage until level 3... though I would love to see some developer feedback on the ability.

Since the earth elemental has "(minimum +1)" in its description, I'm going to say that you don't get any damage at all until level 3.

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