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    Default [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    Why do two class features that do similar things use different mechanics? Mainly I'm asking about their advancements: Animal Companions get bonus HD, which include feats, skills, and stat boosts--and they use their own scores for everything. Meanwhile, Familiars don't get bonus HD: instead, they use half your HP but still count as their original HD. They also use your scores for mostly everything.

    I'm having a hard time figuring out why this is the case. One would think that using either one set of the mechanics or the other would make sense, not using both.

    Are there any particular advantages to the Familiar growth pattern over the Animal Companion one (or vice versa), or is it a net zero effect?

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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    Animal companions are disposable roadblocks and familiars are free spot/listen checks which should hide at the first sign of trouble. Since familiars will be so much less active it makes sense to give them simpler rules.

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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    Quote Originally Posted by PinkysBrain View Post
    Animal companions are disposable roadblocks and familiars are free spot/listen checks which should hide at the first sign of trouble. Since familiars will be so much less active it makes sense to give them simpler rules.
    Mostly I'm hung up on what makes a familiar so different that they don't actually act like a regular creature.

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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    Familiars are pretty much an extension of yourself, while Animal Companions are creatures that you just happen to have befriended (and that somehow start to grow in power superfast as you do; let's not dwell on that).

    Mechanically:
    -Familiars use your skills (if better than the base creature's). This is huge as it allows familiars to learn skills animals simply can't have, such as Use Magic Device, Use Psionic Device, Knowledges, etc. They also have the Int for this.
    -Animal Companions acquire feats. This means that they can actually be built into melee monsters. They learn skills of their own, but since they're limited by animal intelligence and get only 1 skill per level...
    -Familiars obviously have reduced HP (half your HP and you're already usually a d4 character), making them very much less durable.
    -Animal Companion is always tied to your class levels, while Familiar is mostly tied to your character level. This means that for a multiclass character or half-advancement character or whatever, Familiar is far stronger than Animal Companion. For a full advancement though, AC comes out ahead.
    -There's a mechanical penalty for losing a familiar (XP and not being able to get one for a while), while there is none for AC. This further reinforces the "Familiar is a part of you while AC is just a pal"-difference.
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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    Why do two class features that do similar things use different mechanics?
    I don't think a druid's Animal Companion and a wizard's Familiar were designed to be the same at all, actually. The druid's animal companion was changed from 3.0 because they wanted something that would scale reasonably for combat with respect to character level; it used to be that you could control up to twice your HD in animal minions, and if you did the math, this opened up a lot of cheese potential.

    The wizard's familiar, on the other hand, has never had a conceptual history of having combat function. Genre-wise, it's a very odd familiar that fights on the front lines like a druid's animal companion. This is well reflected in the mechanics. A familiar is like a talking head that travels along with the wizard, and woe betide it if it gets into combat at all.

    So my answer to your question about the relationship of the two concepts to their respective mechanical executions is that your premises about the concepts themselves are unsupported by the history of the concepts.
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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldariel View Post
    Familiars are pretty much an extension of yourself, while Animal Companions are creatures that you just happen to have befriended (and that somehow start to grow in power superfast as you do; let's not dwell on that).

    Mechanically:
    -Familiars use your skills (if better than the base creature's). This is huge as it allows familiars to learn skills animals simply can't have, such as Use Magic Device, Use Psionic Device, Knowledges, etc. They also have the Int for this.
    -Animal Companions acquire feats. This means that they can actually be built into melee monsters. They learn skills of their own, but since they're limited by animal intelligence and get only 1 skill per level...
    -Familiars obviously have reduced HP (half your HP and you're already usually a d4 character), making them very much less durable.
    -Animal Companion is always tied to your class levels, while Familiar is mostly tied to your character level. This means that for a multiclass character or half-advancement character or whatever, Familiar is far stronger than Animal Companion. For a full advancement though, AC comes out ahead.
    -There's a mechanical penalty for losing a familiar (XP and not being able to get one for a while), while there is none for AC. This further reinforces the "Familiar is a part of you while AC is just a pal"-difference.
    Okay, I know most of the mechanical differences. What I'm missing out on is why anyone thought it was a good idea to use different mechanics.

    Let me explain the basis of the question. In my d20r system I'm developing (see signature), I'm considering removing the familiar's style (that is, using the master's stats) of progression and just using the animal companion style (progressing itself) instead, but I'm not sure what kind of effect this would have on the power level of familiars v. animal companions.

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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    Yea, the decision boiled down to the same idea as psi crystals; a familiar isn't as much a creature of its own as it is an extension of the spellcaster's psyche in the form of another creature.

    The primary effect I can see changing the system having is probably that familiars would become much better combatants (while probably also being much worse UMDers/spellcasters, albeit you still have Imbue Familiar with Spell Ability) - a natural consequence of gaining its own HP progression and feats - and Wizards and Sorcerers would have much more of an incentive to either look for classes that advance the familiar, or trade the familiar away and use Obtain Familiar instead.
    Last edited by Eldariel; 2009-02-06 at 07:38 PM.
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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldariel View Post
    The primary effect I can see changing the system having is probably that familiars would become much better combatants (while probably also being much worse UMDers/spellcasters, albeit you still have Imbue Familiar with Spell Ability) - a natural consequence of gaining its own HP progression and feats - and Wizards and Sorcerers would have much more of an incentive to either look for classes that advance the familiar, or trade the familiar away and use Obtain Familiar instead.
    Now, is there anything wrong with that?

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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldariel View Post
    Yea, the decision boiled down to the same idea as psi crystals; a familiar isn't as much a creature of its own as it is an extension of the spellcaster's psyche in the form of another creature.

    The primary effect I can see changing the system having is probably that familiars would become much better combatants (while probably also being much worse UMDers/spellcasters, albeit you still have Imbue Familiar with Spell Ability) - a natural consequence of gaining its own HP progression and feats - and Wizards and Sorcerers would have much more of an incentive to either look for classes that advance the familiar, or trade the familiar away and use Obtain Familiar instead.
    Except Psi Crystals use mostly Animakl Companion rules (mostly):
    They get their own HD (construct), so they gain 3/4th bab for each HD, gain feats (as they gain HD) with the sample Psi Crystal in XPH taking Alertness, gain stat points if have 4 HD, and construct immunities.

    So they are more like Animal companions. However, they use 1/2 master for hps like a familiar (no matter how much more they might if used own HD).

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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fax Celestis View Post
    Now, is there anything wrong with that?
    Depends on what you want to accomplish. Is Familiar supposed to be a tank or a monkey? I cannot rightly tell, I never liked the idea of familiars to begin with and thus haven't used them enough to answer questions of their role. Anyways, to me, linking them to class level rather than character level feels wrong - if they're so innately connected to you, their abilities should be proportional to your total abilities, not abilities of one of your classes. If you made 'em advance like animal companions, but based off character level, I'd have no qualms.
    Last edited by Eldariel; 2009-02-06 at 07:54 PM.
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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fax Celestis View Post
    Okay, I know most of the mechanical differences. What I'm missing out on is why anyone thought it was a good idea to use different mechanics.
    Same reason they thought Rogue should be a different guys when they both just stab people. Same reason they made the Cleric and the Wizard different guys when they both just use magic. It's nuance! The diversification of mechanics is the point of the game; you haven't just been buying sourcebooks all this time because you wanted someone to give you the the idea to play a Ninja or- god forbid- a Green Star Adept, did you?

    The familiar and the animal companion are completely different dudes. They don't do the same thing at all. When they do happen to do the same thing, it's because you're actually making an effort by taking Improved Familiar or using Speak with Animal or something.

    Don't give the wizard an animal companion. If you gave me one, I'd be disappointed that I didn't have my little emissary or any spells like Magic Fang to support the new guy. And then, even without those support spells, I'd make the Fighter even more obsolete because animal companions are, on their own, more powerful than entire classes.

    EDIT: You know, it dawns on me... If you're just going for internal consistancy, I see no problem with assigning Familiars mechanics that make them behave more like other creatures- but the point I'd make, and one that you probably already received, is that the Animal Companion is not something that behaves, without modification, like a Wizard class feature should. If you base them on Animal Companions, you might consider a new hitdie that comes with less HP but more skills than the Animal hitdie does, and, of course, maintain features that augment its capacity to act as an agent all on its own, like Speak with Master and Deliver Touch Spell.
    Last edited by Eikre; 2009-02-06 at 08:01 PM.

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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eikre View Post
    Don't give the wizard an animal companion. If you gave me one, I'd be disappointed that I didn't have my little emissary or any spells like Magic Fang to support the new guy. And then, even without those support spells, I'd make the Fighter even more obsolete because animal companions are, on their own, more powerful than entire classes.
    Okay, for now, make the assumption that balance isn't an issue: I'm working on that. You like the familiar the way it is, despite the fact that it's weaker than it could be and doesn't work the way the rest of the game does?

    Also, don't think that I'm talking about replacing familiars with animal companions. I'm just talking about using a different fundament to build a familiar off of--in short, giving them HD rather than pulling stats from the master.
    Last edited by Fax Celestis; 2009-02-06 at 08:00 PM.

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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    Oh, damn- you made a new post just as I edited my post to address what I had just realized and what you were making your new post to inform me of!

    You know what that is? That's... a reverse post ninja!
    Last edited by Eikre; 2009-02-06 at 08:04 PM.

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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eikre View Post
    You know what that is? That's... a reverse post ninja!
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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    Stylisticly, I don't believe the two should be the same. What's the typical witch's familiar? The black cat or the toad...these things are not combatants, but typically just an extra set of eyes, at most a lab assistant. The familiar in many ways is far more powerful than the animal companion, because it is self-aware and sentient, imbued with those qualities by the arcanist to which they attach themselves. The familiar needs to maybe be better at hiding and harder to hit, but they should never be a battlefield force that goes around ripping apart the enemy.

    Now Animal Companions, they are meant to be nature's warriors, but still just natural, still beastial.

    I think this distinction requires different mechanics.
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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talya View Post
    Stylisticly, I don't believe the two should be the same. What's the typical witch's familiar? The black cat or the toad...these things are not combatants, but typically just an extra set of eyes, at most a lab assistant. The familiar in many ways is far more powerful than the animal companion, because it is self-aware and sentient, imbued with those qualities by the arcanist to which they attach themselves. The familiar needs to maybe be better at hiding and harder to hit, but they should never be a battlefield force that goes around ripping apart the enemy.

    Now Animal Companions, they are meant to be nature's warriors, but still just natural, still beastial.

    I think this distinction requires different mechanics.
    Couldn't this distinction be represented with d10, 1:1 BAB, 2+Int skills, 2 save (essentially Magical Beast) HD for animal companions, and d6, 1:2 BAB, 6+Int skills, 1 save (essentially Fey) HD for a familiar? Even the most noncombatant of classes get d4, 1:2 BAB, 2+Int, 1 save HD: why should a familiar be different?
    Last edited by Fax Celestis; 2009-02-06 at 08:17 PM.

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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    Kinda said already, but here's more clarification.

    Animal companion = minion/cohort, second weaker character. Makes sense for him to have completely separate stats.

    A familiar is an extension of the wizard. He's like an "empty" creature that's only there to be the target of spells or as a spell delivery boy. So defensively he needs to scale with the wizard, and offensively he has almost nothing besides that. A second character doesn't really fit here.

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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    As everybody has already addressed, their meant to be different things. If you want a fight-y familiar, get improved familiar (the ones in complete mage not DMG) or too bad.
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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fax Celestis View Post
    Couldn't this distinction be represented with d10, 1:1 BAB, 2+Int skills, 2 save (essentially Magical Beast) HD for animal companions, and d6, 1:2 BAB, 6+Int skills, 1 save (essentially Fey) HD for a familiar? Even the most noncombatant of classes get d4, 1:2 BAB, 2+Int, 1 save HD: why should a familiar be different?
    I suppose. Is that any simpler than the current mechanic?
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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pandaren View Post
    If you want a fight-y familiar, get improved familiar (the ones in complete mage not DMG) or too bad.
    You do realise that Fax is reworking 3.5 in a completley revised edition, and that this comment is therefore not only insulting but irrelevant?

    Fax, you might want to make that point clearer in your posts, as it seems every turn people don't seem to get the point and gum up otherwise progressive input.

    Personally, I'd be fine with the same kind of progression for familiars and animal companions, considering standard familiars are weak animals anyways.
    I can totally see a Druid with a vaguely familiar-esque 'Spirit Bear' now somehow. Eep.

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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    I agree that the familiar mechanics are silly, and that it would be better to use Animal Companion advancement for them.

    But ahead of that, I'd just rather go further the other way and not treat them as full creatures at all, more as effects. More like the Hexblade's Dark Companion, or the Variant Paladin's Healing Spirit. I think that preserves more of the intended flavor of the familiar -- and makes it so they'll actually get used, instead of hoarded up and protected with paranoia.
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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    Here, look at this.
    Maybe this might help, though I mostly use this to get a Wizard with Rage (see other UA changes)

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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    Fax, out of interest, do you feel that a familiar as a class feature is necessary for your envisioning of the D20r Wizard? I know that, whenever I play a Wizard/Sorcerer, I always trade away the familiar because they seem simply superfluous - look at V's raven in OOTS, really.

    Maybe this is slightly off-topic for this thread, but why not just go the Psion/Psicrystal route and make familiars an optional thing that costs a feat? You could scale up a familiar to be Animal Companion-esque, but players wouldn't be missing out on an entire class feature by skipping them.

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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    Quote Originally Posted by Salvonus View Post
    Fax, out of interest, do you feel that a familiar as a class feature is necessary for your envisioning of the D20r Wizard? I know that, whenever I play a Wizard/Sorcerer, I always trade away the familiar because they seem simply superfluous - look at V's raven in OOTS, really.
    The extra work a familiar represents in character creation and in-game dice rolling and stat retention usually outweighs the benefit they have for me in-game, so I usually just end up forgetting about mine.

    I've always felt that it would be very fitting if the familiar could somehow amplify their master's power, or their lack diminished it. Just as the mythic idea of familiars has them being an extension of their master's body, they're also lenses for their power in most cases, as I remember.

    I don't know how this would manifest in DnD, or if it could be done with balance, but I think it'd be a cool and flavorful aspect. And it could serve to differentiate a familiar from an animal companion, as well (emphasizing the magical creature vs. befriended animal idea).

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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    Quote Originally Posted by Salvonus View Post
    Fax, out of interest, do you feel that a familiar as a class feature is necessary for your envisioning of the D20r Wizard? I know that, whenever I play a Wizard/Sorcerer, I always trade away the familiar because they seem simply superfluous - look at V's raven in OOTS, really.

    Maybe this is slightly off-topic for this thread, but why not just go the Psion/Psicrystal route and make familiars an optional thing that costs a feat? You could scale up a familiar to be Animal Companion-esque, but players wouldn't be missing out on an entire class feature by skipping them.
    V has a raven?


    At any rate, Fax - I think it's the ABILITIES and the ANIMAL CHOICE that make the difference between familiars and animal companions. I don't see a problem even with giving a familiar the same HD-based advancement an animal companion gets, but I DO think that there should be some difference maintained - extra tricks and combatative abilities for the animal companion, bonus int and caster-related abilities for the familiar. It would probably also make sense to derive the familiar's abilities (or at least, hit dice/intelligence) directly from caster level, rather than class level, leaving abilities like "Speak with familiar" and "Scry on familiar" as expressly wizard-based things... but that may be a little TOO complicated for what you're going after.

    To me, the familiar is a small, smart animal, while the animal companion is (generally, not always) a big, tough creature with more combat tricks. How you increase its hit points really doesn't matter.

    ::Edit:: THe feat-based option might not be a bad one, either. Perhaps replace Scribe Scroll with another <Wizard feat>, and add "Acquire Familiar" to the list of Wizard Feats? Of course, that might leave the sorcerer behind - maybe give them a small list and a free feat to pick from, that would include things like Acquire Familiar, Eschew Materials, and ... Thematic Spell? The one that lets you put specific flavor on a spell and boost it a little.
    Last edited by Quietus; 2009-02-07 at 03:09 AM.
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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    Watch the sword in the stone and tell me that it wouldn't be werid if it was a jaguar instead of an owl.

    I never really thought that familiar were all that hard of a concept, and I actually really liked having a monkey in The Crimson Throne as my familiar. Admittably Pathfinder, but the familiars were the same I believe.

    I like wizards as is in terms of familiars. Neat but not really too functional.
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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    You could always embrace the fact that only about 20% of wizard players takes a familiar.

    Instead of having the level one ability say "Obtain Familiar", have it say "Wizard Quirk" or something similar. Which lets them choose a number of features, one of which is a familiar, while the rest is about every single wizard familiar ACF ever. So now less people will complain about how useless familiars are in the way you don't see people complain about toughness so often.
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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    Quote Originally Posted by Magnor Criol View Post
    I've always felt that it would be very fitting if the familiar could somehow amplify their master's power, or their lack diminished it. Just as the mythic idea of familiars has them being an extension of their master's body, they're also lenses for their power in most cases, as I remember.
    This would be easy enough to implement. When the Familiar isn't present, the Wizard is unable to use his bonus feats. The Wizard now has to decide whether to rely on his familiar's presence, picking feats he can hinge his entire build on (Familiar gone = feats gone = bye bye prestige classes!), or taking more generic feats he can do without. The most powerful wizard will be ones who have familiars, but any wizard that DOESN'T isn't totally crippled - he still has the power he's spent years poring over books to earn, he just doesn't have the bonus feats.

    I don't know how this would work with Sorcerers, though.
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  29. - Top - End - #29
    Titan in the Playground
     
    AssassinGuy

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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fax Celestis View Post
    Why do two class features that do similar things use different mechanics?
    They don't actually "do similar things". Animal companions are exactly that: friendly other creatures. The DM gets to play those, because they have their own independent aims. Familiars are linked to characters, and that player's character gets to play both.

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Titan in the Playground
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    Default Re: [3.5e] Why Do Familiars and Animal Companions Use Different Mechanics?

    Quote Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post
    They don't actually "do similar things". Animal companions are exactly that: friendly other creatures. The DM gets to play those, because they have their own independent aims. Familiars are linked to characters, and that player's character gets to play both.
    That's...not the case in any game I've played.

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