Daily Archives: December 7, 2014

Familiars and more for Wizards

Anyone else notice that they really nerfed Familiars in 5e?

I mean, on the one hand, they did utterly remove the whole “you’re screwed if your familiar dies” thing to compensate, but at the same time Familiars are now pretty much almost as worthless as the canon 1e version. I’d always been looking for ways to beef up Mages in 1e to make up for their generally “glass peashooter” nature at low levels that might actually work up to an actual glass cannon if they were lucky.

So Familiars were beefed up and casting the spell was essentially considered a “essential part” of an apprentice mage’s training, material components were tweaked (essentially making Arcane Focus), I ruled that spells could be cast directly from spellbooks with a longer casting time (aka 5e Rituals) and the proper equipment, and I added the idea of Grimoires (instructional spellbooks with “standard spells” that were easy to get ahold of) to the setting.

But as I look at 5e, I’m really underwhelmed with how Familiars work. Rituals, while fantastic, are simultaneously too easy to cast while at the same time being kind of useless because there are barely any spells with the Ritual tag. Learning spells is amazingly easy, but there seems to be little or no control on what spells get learned – plus the whole quest to find a “lost spellbook” is relatively “meh” because Wizards already gain lots of (unrestricted) spells as they advance.

I’ll get to Rituals, Arcane Foci, and Grimoires for 5e in a bit, at the moment I want to look at Familiars.

My game has a long history of really fun familiars – Edgar the Raven, Fafnir the Dragonet, She-Who-Chases-After-Rabbits-And-Runs-Into-Trees (aka “Rabbit”) the wolf, Asket the Frakir, the Ring of Ashkhelion, Elhiehu the Guardian Spirit, and many more besides. They can quickly become an active and engaged NPC/Ally/Henchman that builds a lot of color into the story, but mostly by being an active resource. 5e seems to have dropped this idea and instead moved to “flavor text for a couple of permanent magical effects” that are worthless the minute those big area effect spells start getting dropped.

So here is my very simple proposal to wrench Wizard (and Warlock) Familiars back into something more relevant.

  • Familiars gain 1HD for each level of the pacted Wizard or Warlock.
  • Familiars act independently of the Wizard or Warlock, including the ability to attack.
  • When the Wizard or Warlock is granted a Ability Score Improvement/Feat Gain, the Familiar may also take one (it does not have to be the same as their Wizard/Warlock’s). Alternately they can gain some other ability with the agreement of the DM.
  • A Familiar can, by proxy, maintain Concentration for one spell.
  • A Familiar uses the Proficiency Modifier of their pacted Wizard or Warlock instead of their own.
  • A Mage or Warlock may, as a Reflexive Action, choose to take on any damage that their Familiar would suffer, less one point (that the Familiar must suffer – with the effects described below).
  • When a Familiar takes damage, the Wizard or Warlock takes an equal amount of Psychic Damage. The Wizard or Warlock is Stunned for 1 round (Charisma Save for No Effect, DC15).
  • If a Familiar is “slain” the Wizard or Warlock takes Psychic Damage equal to the Hit Points of the Familiar (Charisma Save for Half Damage, DC15). The Wizard or Warlock is automatically Stunned for 1 Round.

Let me know what you think! This seems relatively balanced to me, though certainly with the potential to be abused in either direction – but my goal is not to “prevent abuse” but to instead “promote roleplaying and fun.”



Categories: Campaign Development, Game Design, House Rules, Magic Spell | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Session #4 – Tresendar Manor

So, another session yesterday, and one of my old players was finally able to join us again!

So added to the party was Devin Tresendar, a Fighter who is the younger brother of the Baron Tresendar and in town at the request of Sildar to help “figure out what is going on” not just in Phandalin, but nearby Diamond Lake as well. The Tresendar’s have had a multigenerational decline, with the family selling off mineral rights to attempt to pay for massive gambling debts along with a the capitol losses from the loss of the Forge of Spells to the most recent Goblin Wars and worse. Devin wants to restore the common people’s faith in his family as well as do whatever he can to sink some capitol back into the family’s finances.

Last session had been a pretty major blow-out with the Redbrands, a handful of them dead; two run-off, terrified of the “the Dread Worm Caterpilius;” and three captured. After a short interrogation, the party was able to uncover some of the details of the Redbrand’s operations underneath the ruins of the manor, and after a quick discussion decided that striking while the iron was hot made the most sense. The fact that head of the local mining consortium and Sildar pledged 300sp if they dealt with the Redbrands decisively didn’t hurt either. They did, however, enlist Sildar, the druidess, and the local orchard owner (a retired adventurer) to watch their backs and guard the entrance to the cellars – something they were happy to do given the prospect of the party being able to capitalize on their success.

So off the party went to see what they do about the Redbranch base of operations! As they approached, their “eye in the sky” (Lockheed the Dragonet) noticed a ruffian diving inside so they knew they were not going to have the advantage of surprise. But after a bit of false start, they entered the cellar and cistern, scanning for enemies…

Noting the two doors, roughly half the party went to each one, intent on checking them out. In both groups, 25+ Perception checks were made, and they were able to discern that there were foes behind each one, waiting for some sort of signal. Fonkin the gnome moved a barrel, but made enough noise that the nearby bandits heard and burst open their door to face Devin (fighter) and Ilda (bard) immediately on the other side.

Upon the other door bursting open, Rhys kicked the other door open, managing to surprise the three Black Goblins on the other side (despite Disadvantage) and with the resultant surprise attacks kill one of them immediately (almost maximum damage on all the dice). From there the combat roiled back and forth with things going relatively well for the party dropping a bandit every round and a half (from melee combat by Devin and cantrips from Fonkin and Ilda – her witheringly Vicious Mockery proved amazing effective again) and a Black Goblin every other round (from melee combat with Rhys and both a Magic Missile and cantrips from Gwyneth). Two remaining bandits surrendered despite having finally managing to strike Devin down when Rhys came charging at them, having finally managing to slay the last Black Goblin, and they Nat1’d a Morale Check. They begged to flee because “Glassstaff was trying to rouse the Eye Monster!”

And that is where I called it!

Again, everyone had a good time. Enough experience was gained that Fonkin, Gwyneth, and Rhys made 3rd level and Devin made 2nd level (he was also fed a Healing Potion right before we called the session). So the party is suitable “up-gunned” to deal with the immediate threat of both Glassstaff and the “Eye Monster” who are likely to be attacking quite quickly…

Observations: Again, the monsters rolled relatively poorly – though their initiative was better this time. The party accidently managed to use perhaps the best tactics possible in this combat. A melee fighter blocked each  doorway and prevented forces from entering the room to engage the spellcasters, and was also able to engage one opponent at a time due to the narrow spaces involved – while supported by the party’s spellcasters. Bounded Accuracy really cut both ways, by all rights the Black Goblins should have smashed Rhys to a pulp, then make equally short work of Gwyneth, and then moved to the rest of the party. Instead, mediocre rolls meant they were really hung up – this may require some thought to come up with a solution…

In any case, I’m making the choice to allow characters to level up immediately because it’s nicely dramatic. It also provides provides some resource management that doesn’t require the party to take some downtime. I also get to start the game in media res two weeks from now, and get everyone’s blood pumping immediately.



Categories: Campaign, Game Play | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Blog at WordPress.com.