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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Barbarian in the Playground
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    The Mists of Ravenloft

    Default Improved Familiar for 5th Edition

    Find Familiar. We all remember this spell, or class feature, from previous editions. In theory, it was an awesome bit of flavor text for a wizard character, allowing you to have something iconically fantastical like a miniature dragon or a little sprite clinging to your shoulder, or tapping into real-world beliefs by having an animal that possessed supernatural powers bound to you. In practice... well, there were issues, but nonetheless, D&D keeps trying.

    Familiars have been around in every edition. But, their powers have fluctuated. This led to 3rd edition coming up with the Feat of "Improved Familiar", which allowed for more powerful creatures to be taken depending on the character's level and alignment. This list kept expanding, and so long as the creature was within CR 2 (and there was at least one CR 3 Improved Familiar), there was quite a bit of variety. Complete Martial even introduced the idea of steed-familiars; familiars large enough that you could ride them, like Worgs and Hippogriffs. As for Pathfinder... well, I believe the link speaks for itself:

    Whilst 5th edition has brought back the Find Familiar feat, it's not yet brought anything really like Improved Familiar, bar the slightly tougher familiar granted for free to Warlocks who take the Pact of the Chain. And, I think that's a shame. So, I'd like to discuss with folks ideas on how to convert Improved Familiar into a feat fit for 5th edition.

    The goal for this project is a feat which allows a caster to use Find Familiar to add tougher forms of Familiar to their options, as well as to allow them to use those familiars in combat.

    The major complication with this project is that it treads on the toes of the Pact of the Chain. What I want, optimally, is for this feat to also grant Chain-Warlocks some further beef, so they can maintain their strength, but that is a distinctly secondary objective. Far as I'm concerned, it's okay if the first draft of the feat basically lets Wizards get the Chain-Lock class feature, because they're still spending one of the rare and DM-excluded feat slots on something the Warlock gets for free.

    Tertiary objectives for this project would be to adapt/convert other Improved Familiar monsters that don't yet have 5e mechanics. Mostly, I'm thinking of Pathfinder critters like the Pipefox, Pooka, Al'miraj, etc; I may prefer 5e mechanically, but PF has many more interesting monsters.

    As an addendum, I don't know if there's a great deal of other "familiar type-modding" feats out there, like the Stitched Flesh Familiar (turn your ordinary familiar into a Flesh Golem version of itself), but if there are, I'd also like to cover and convert them as part of this project.
    "Hope is the first step on the road to disappointment."

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  2. - Top - End - #2
    Bugbear in the Playground
    Composer99's Avatar

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    Sep 2013

    Default Re: Improved Familiar for 5th Edition

    For what it's worth, the pact boons are a 3rd-level feature; if an improved familiar feat (which could be taken as late as 19th level) surpasses its effects at higher levels, there's probably nothing wrong with that per se.

    If you want chain-locks to keep pace with someone with Improved Familiar, they could always take the feat themselves, or you could 'brew some additional eldritch invocations that allow them to do so without having the feat.
    ~ Composer99

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  3. - Top - End - #3
    Titan in the Playground
    Grod_The_Giant's Avatar

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    Oct 2006
    Pittsburgh, PA

    Default Re: Improved Familiar for 5th Edition

    Suggestion: rather than a feat, allow Find Familiar to be up-cast. The Chain Pact feature can be modified to grant Find Familiar as if it were cast out of a higher level slot.
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  4. - Top - End - #4
    Barbarian in the Playground
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    The Mists of Ravenloft

    Default Re: Improved Familiar for 5th Edition

    Firstly, @Composer99, I want to thank you for saying that. When I tried talking about this on a different forum, people there would not stop whinging about "you're making the Pact-Lock obsolete!" even as I pointed out those very same facts.

    Secondly, @Grod_The_Giant, that's an interesting angle. I honestly hadn't thought about it, but now that you mention it, "upcasting Find Familiar" makes a lot of sense. Might come across as a little Pokemony in execution, but I would have no problems with making it an upcast spell rather than a feat.

    So, I guess the first thing we need to do is to figure out just what monsters are actually viable for a Improved Familiar in 5e?

    For reference, this guy's topic over here has gone through every official sourcebook and Dragon Magazine looking for the alternate rules for Improved Familiar, even if the results are a little hard to read. You'll notice that Complete Warrior gave us some really large familiar options, like Worgs, Howlers, Winter Wolves, Hell Hounds and Winter Wolves.

    Looking over the existing list of monsters, these would be my kneejerk picks for the position...
    • Quasit/Imp/Mephit: These three "implings" are traditional familiars and were even available back in 2nd edition, I think.
    • Faerie Dragon & Pseudodragon: Again, these "lesser dragons" are traditional familiars.
    • Homunculus: This is classic familiar territory in terms of lore and at CR 0, it's not going to be that potent.
    • Sprite: Hey, it's already on the familiar's list for Chainlocks...
    • Pixie: The Challenge Level on this one is exactly the same as the Sprite's, so I suppose it should be okay?
    • Twig Blight: It's small, it's low-level, it's not very powerful (Challenge 1/8), so I see no reason it couldn't work for a familiar to the right sort of Wizard/Warlock.
    • Cockatrice: It is only Challenge 1/2, but still, that petrifying bite might make it too powerful to be a familiar...
    • Crawling Claw: Hey, I grew up watching The Addams Family. Tell me that this doesn't make sense for a necromancer's familiar.
    • Dragon Wyrmlings: Really uncertain about these. You could get them as Improved Familiars in 3.5, but I'm worried they may break the rules somehow... maybe with some added ruling that since these are actually spirits taking the form of miniature dragons, they can't actually mature the way normal wyrmlings would, and thus you can't use cheats to give yourself full-grown dragon familiars?
    • Flumph: They actually like good-hearted companions as a source for psychic vibrations, so to me it makes a lot of sense that a goodly mage could forge a familiar-esque bond with one.
    • Hell Hound: This would be restricted to highest tier masters, but it makes a lot of sense for a fiendish pacted Warlock or a Conjurer who dabbles in the infernal domains.
    • Magmin: I'm uncertain about this one; it's not really that much different to a Magma Mephit, but the personality may make it a poor fit.
    • Scarecrow: Like the Homunculus, this is a construct made to serve as a loyal servitor to a mage, so I think it has the right stuff to fit in as a higher-level familiar option. Especially as it's only Challenge 1.
    • Tressym (SKT): This critter actually comes with a note about possibly being a familiar, so why not?
    • Gazer (VGtM): Again, the sourcebook actually says this is a possible candidate for a familiar creature, so why not?
    • Boggle (VGtM): It's another small, weak fey with a predilection for service to bigger, more magically powerful beings.
    • Cranium Rat (VGtM): Not actually sure it's worth taking this as a familiar, but maybe there's a midpoint between this and the big Challenge 5 Swarm that can work for a familiar version?
    • Guard Drake (VGtM): I think this just fluffwise fits the role of a potential familar, what do you think?
    • Redcap (VGTM): Really unsure of this. It's not that powerful (Challenge 1), and I'd feel confident in letting the familiar bond replace the need for murder, plus there's actually historo-mythical precedent in having redcaps serving evil wizards in the real world. Still, definitely can be talked out of this one.

    Since Complete Warrior does establish a precedent for "familiar steeds" - large, powerful beast familiars, I thought I might as well list the potential candidates for these as well. I'll leave out simple "bigger beasts" like Axe Beaks, Boars and Sabretooth Tigers, simply because they're obvious enough.
    • Griffon: This would definitely be at the highest tier of summons, but since both griffons and hippogriffs can be tamed steeds, and hippogriffs were amongst the familiar options in Complete Warrior...
    • Hippogriff: Hey, like I said, it was a familiar in 3.5...
    • Nightmare: Like the Griffon, this would amongst the most powerful familiars you can have, but tell me it's not both an awesome image and totally thematic for the right sort of character.
    • Pegasus: It's the same challenge level as a hippogriff, in some ways actually weaker, and has a history of being used as a steed.
    • Blink Dog: It's a low-level (1/4) fey beast; what doesn't say "familiar" about it?
    • Death Dog: On the one hand, it's both not very powerful (Challenge 1) and magical looking, but on the other, I don't know if even magic can tame a monster like this.
    • Winter Wolf: Though its sheer power (Challenge 3) makes it only available to the mightiest of mages, it was a familiar option in Complete Warrior.
    • Worg: At only Challenge 1/4, this intelligent wolf-creature is a fitting companion for more belligerent mages, as proven in Complete Warrior.
    • Steeders (OotA): Females probably need a higher mage to summon than males, but a giant riding tarantula sounds like a fairly wizardy sort of thing, don't you think?
    • Leucrotta (VGtM): This maybe isn't such a good idea, but I can't stop thinking it has potential. What do you guys think?
    • Shadow Mastiff (VGtM): This does have a history of being summoned and bound by magic-users to serve their bidding...
    • Auroch (VGtM): It's a big, powerful, bovine battle beast, but maybe it works, on the same logic as the ability to take Dire Beasts as familiars in the 3.5-based Neverwinter Nights...
    "Hope is the first step on the road to disappointment."

    World-Building: Malebolge Campaign Setting (5e), Star-Fantasy Campaign Setting (5e)
    Homebrew Material Index: Misty Shadow's Stupid-Huge Homebrew List

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