Revision Spotlight05/13/2003


Few investments yield greater riches than the time and gold spent to acquire a familiar. A lifelong companion, guard, spy, and servant, it is every spellcaster's best friend and most trusted confidante. The new Player's Handbook makes a few changes to familiars (most notably: bonuses are increased from +2 to +3, and a few bonuses are altered a bit; a bat now confers a +3 bonus on Listen checks and a hawk gives a +3 bonus on Spot checks in bright light; and "lizard" joins the list, with a +3 bonus on Climb checks). The really exciting change, however, comes in the Dungeon Master's Guide with the introduction of the Improved Familiar variant feat.

As always, remember that nothing is complete or final until you buy the book in the store.

Improved Familiar [General]

This feat allows spellcasters to acquire a new familiar from a nonstandard list, but only when they could normally acquire a new familiar (see Player's Handbook).

Prerequisites: Ability to acquire a new familiar, compatible alignment, sufficiently high level (see below).

Benefit: When choosing a familiar, the creatures listed below are also available to the spellcaster. The spellcaster may choose a familiar with an alignment up to one step away on each of the alignment axes (lawful through chaotic, good through evil). For example, a chaotic good spellcaster could acquire a neutral familiar. A lawful neutral spellcaster could acquire any familiar that isn't chaotic.

Familiar Alignment Arcane Spellcaster Level
Shocker lizard Neutral 5th
Stirge Neutral 5th
Formian worker Lawful neutral 7th
Imp Lawful evil 7th
Pseudodragon Neutral good 7th
Quasit Chaotic evil 7th

Improved familiars otherwise use the rules in the Player's Handbook, with two exceptions: If the creature's type is something other than animal, its type does not change; and improved familiars do not gain the ability to speak with other creatures of their kind (although many of them already have the ability to communicate).

The list in the table above presents only a few possible improved familiars. Almost any creature of the same general size and power as those on the list makes a suitable familiar. Nor is the master's alignment the only possible categorization. For instance, improved familiars could be assigned by the master's creature type or subtype, as shown below.

Familiar Type/Subtype Arcane Spellcaster Level
Celestial hawk(1) Good 3rd
Fiendish Tiny viper snake(2) Evil 3rd
Air elemental, Small Air 5th
Earth elemental, Small Earth 5th
Fire elemental, Small Fire 5th
Shocker lizard Electricity 5th
Water elemental, Small Water 5th
Homunculus(3) Undead 7th
Ice mephit Cold 7th
(1) Or other celestial animal from the standard familiar list.
(2) Or other fiendish animal from the standard familiar list.
(3) The master must first create the homunculus, substituting ichor or another part of the master's body for blood if necessary.

Granted Abilities: In addition to their own special qualities, all familiars grant their masters the Alertness feat, the benefit of an empathic link, and the ability to share spells with the familiar.

Improved Evasion (Ex): When subjected to an attack that normally allows a Reflex saving throw for half damage, a familiar takes no damage if it makes a successful saving throw and half damage even if the saving throw fails.

Each of the potential familiars on these tables also is described in greater detail under its own listing. For example:

Pseudodragon Familiar: CR --; Tiny dragon; HD 7; hp 1/2 master's; Init +0; Spd 15 ft., fly 60 ft. (good); AC 22, touch 14, flat-footed 20; Base Atk +2/-8; Atk +4 melee (1d3-2 plus poison, sting); Full Atk +4 melee (1d3-2 plus poison, sting) and +0 melee (1, bite); Space/Reach 2.5 ft./0 ft. (5 ft. with tail); SA poison; SQ blindsense 60 ft., deliver touch spells, dragon type, improved evasion, speak with master, telepathy, granted abilities; AL NG; SV Fort +4, Ref +3, Will +6; Str 11, Dex 11, Con 13, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 10.

Skills and Feats: Hide +16/+24 in forest or overgrown areas, Survival +3, Listen +5, Search +2, Spot +5; Alertness

Blindsense (Ex): Can locate creatures within 60 feet by nonvisual means.

Dragon Type: Darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, immunity to sleep and paralysis effects.

Poison (Ex): Injury, Fortitude DC 12, initial damage sleep for 1 minute, secondary damage sleep for 1d3 days.

Telepathy (Su): Communicate telepathically with creatures within 60 feet that speak Common or Sylvan.

Dragon Magazine

Dragon Magazine features monthly focus articles on the upcoming D&D 3.5 revision. For more information on changes to classes, focusing on the barbarian, ranger, and fighter, check out Dragon 308 (June), available on newsstands May 27, 2003. Or subscribeto Dragon for your monthly fix of the latest Dungeons & Dragons updates and meaty bonus features.

Hear Ed Stark Discuss D&D 3.5!

Ed Stark appeared on Radio on March 28, 2003, to discuss the D&D 3.5 revision that releases in July of this year. His show, nearly 3 hours of nitty-gritty information about the upcoming revision, is available for download or streaming on their site. Consult their site for streaming information, or download the MP3 if you have a fast connection. The file is 30 MEG, but you won't want to miss it!

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