Familiarity breeds context

November 15, 2019 at 7:48 pm

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”

― Anatole France

Fantasy literature and folklore are filled with tales of wizard’s with small companions, whispering secrets to them or spying on their enemies. And many games have tried to replicate the idea, some more successfully than others. A familiar — or any animal companion — should be a valued companion and aid, but not a separate character on par with PC itself.

To create a system for these creatures in the Fantasy Trip, we wanted to be flexible to the varieties presented in different stories and balance the power the offer with the cost. A familiar should be available at character creation or after, and should have the ability to grow as the wizard increases in power.

We chose to make it a Talent rather than a spell to accommodate heroes with animal sidekicks as well. Wizards gain added benefits from this bond, and that is reflected in the additional cost.

New IQ 10 Talent: Familiar (1+)

This Talent forges a bond between a person and a creature. The creature will stay by its master’s side, follow their instructions (to the extent of its intelligence), and share an empathic bond allows the master to share its senses and feelings. A familiar is usually a small animal like a cat or a bird, but more exotic creatures like scum bunnies or stinkers could serve as well. A familiar begins with ST4, DX10, IQ6, and MA12. While not normally combative, a familiar can strike with its claws or feet for 1d-3.

A familiar can be improved beyond this by spending XP. For each 200XP spent, the master can increase an attribute by one point. If a familiar’s ST ever rises above 8, it does damage based on the bare hands combat damage table +1 (ITL, p.122).

Wizards gain a few additional advantages with their familiars. First, any spell the wizard cast upon themselves (Blur, Iron Flesh, Fireproofing, etc.) also affects the familiar. An extension of that is any sensory magic (Mage Sight, Dark Vision) is also applied to the familiar, allowing the wizard to use the heightened perception through the familiar. Note that the master does not literally see through their familiar’s eyes, but gains an empathic understanding of what the familiar sees. The smarter the familiar the more complete the vision is. Finally, the wizard can use their familiar’s ST to power their own magic. The wizard may not drain a familiar to 0 or lower, and a wizard that abuses this ability might find themselves abandoned by their own familiars.

If a familiar dies, the master must wait at least one month before calling another. A full night must be spent in quiet contemplation before a new creature answer the summons. This does not cost the character XP, but any advancements the previous familiar had are lost.

Bigger Buddies

Perhaps your wizard is looking for something a little bigger than an owl, or your hero wants a companion that can pull their own weight in a fight. At the GMs discretion, larger animals can be used as familiars

Small creatures (2) such as a dog, large cat, or a sizable snake can be bound as familiars. They would have ST8/DX12/IQ6/MA12 if a typical quadruped, or by animal type. They usually do 1d damage.

1-hex creatures (4) like a wolf, jaguar, or a giant spider would have ST12/DX12/IQ6/MA12 and armor of 1 or 2. They usually do 1d+3 in combat. If a figure chooses to have an unintelligent creature like an insect (or a slime) they do exactly what they are told but have very limited ability to act independently outside of instinct.

2-hex creatures (8) like a bear, horse, or giant lizard may rarely be bound as familiars. They have a base ST24/DX12/IQ6/MA by type, and defense of 1 or 2 hits. They can do up to 2d hits in combat. These are not merely trained beasts, but boon companions and partners. While it may not be convenient to have them with you at all times, they will become restless (as will all familiars) if separated from their masters for any length of time.

Demonic Assistance

It may also be possible for a figure to be bound to a familiar from beyond our normal world. These creatures are more powerful than a mere magical pet, but have their own drives and agenda. Whether obtained by bargain or trickery, a demonic (or elemental or even angelic) familiar will only aid its master when it feels it has something to gain. A contest of IQ might be needed to decide if the familiar follows its master’s orders. A outsider familiar has base ST12/DX12/IQ10/MA12 and may be able to fly or even teleport short distances. The GM should keep a sheet on the familiar and only tell its master what it needs to know. These familiars goals are usually to corrupt the wizard and cause as much mayhem as possible before returning to their hellish homes.

For example, an imp is a common form of demonic familiar. In addition to its base statistics, an imp can teleport within its mega-mehahex at will, and cast invisibility. It also has the stealth talent. This would make an imp an incredible spy, if not for the stench of sulphur it carries with it.