Familiars: A bit of a disappointment in 4th Edition.

454 posts / 0 new
Last post
Ok in Arcane Power there is a feat that you can take that will allow you a familiar. Well the familiars IMHO suck compared to the ones from 3rd edition. They give you a few bonuses and have one or two things they can do, but they can't do simple things like manipulate objects and it only takes one hit to end it's existence. You have to wait to take a short rest before it comes back. In our last game my sorcerer's familiar was killed in the first round and we had three battles before we could take a short rest. I asked my DM to allow me to trade out that feat for something else. IMHO it's not worth wasting a feat to get.
Ok in Arcane Power there is a feat that you can take that will allow you a familiar. Well the familiars IMHO suck compared to the ones from 3rd edition. They give you a few bonuses and have one or two things they can do, but they can't do simple things like manipulate objects and it only takes one hit to end it's existence. You have to wait to take a short rest before it comes back. In our last game my sorcerer's familiar was killed in the first round and we had three battles before we could take a short rest. I asked my DM to allow me to trade out that feat for something else. IMHO it's not worth wasting a feat to get.

I could agree in saying that they probably should've done something more like a universal swappable class feature for all arcane classes similar to the Beast Mastery alternate class feature for Rangers in Martial Power. But, as a feat, I'm sure it's actually quite balanced. Feats in 4e do NOT do what they did in 3.x. Familiars in 4e will NOT do what they did in 3.x. The reason for this is because in 3.x, they could be too easily abused (though they often weren't, truthfully).

As feats, the familiars are appropriately powered. But I do still think they should've taken the Beast Mastery approach instead. Familiars would've been more interesting that way, at least...and would've cost a class feature to get instead of a mere feat...and would've been from level 1 up, instead of just getting one at later levels.
LevelSync - Final Fantasy XI's boundless fountain of purest awesome from which all win flows eternally. Click to view my Personality Profile page

whatcolor_isblue.jpg
Take the Magic: The Gathering 'What Color Are You?' Quiz.

I am Blue/Green
I am Blue/Green
Take The Magic Dual Colour Test - Beta today!
Created with Rum and Monkey's Personality Test Generator.
I am both rational and instinctive. I value self-knowledge and understanding of the world; my ultimate goal is self-improvement and improvement of the world around me. At best, I am focused and methodical; at worst, I am obsessive and amoral.
I'll take my Semi-Ethereal Spirit of the Arcane over my Walking XP Loss Pincushion any day of the week, thank you.
I'll take my Semi-Ethereal Spirit of the Arcane over my Walking XP Loss Pincushion any day of the week, thank you.

Indeed. There was a reason I always subbed out my familiar for something else. 3E familiars sucked HARD.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
So let me get this straight. You based your experiences with familiars solely on a game where you had FOUR encounters without a short rest?

....

I think you should play some more... normal... sessions before making a call like that. Your familiar shouldn't be out in combat, and those few times it does get destroyed you usually get to bring it back after the encounter.

If your GM is gunning for your familiar then that's something too, but you also shouldn't be making your familiar a target.

As for familiars not being able to manipulate objects, try this guy from the latest Dragon.

Disembodied Hand Familiar
This hand crawls around using its digits, and it can expertly
manipulate items.
Speed 6, climb 2
Constant Benefits
You can retrieve or stow an item as a free action instead of as
a minor action.
Active Benefits
Agile Digits: A disembodied hand can open latches and
turn knobs that require only one hand to operate. It can also
manipulate objects to make Thievery checks. It gains a +2
bonus to such checks.

The language isn't very clear on what it can and can't do, but it's a start...
a heroic feat on that guy is TOTALLY worth it, especially for a dex sorc who takes thievery. Pickpocket and sleight of hand at range? Disarm trap at range? At a +2? Hellll yea. Not to mention the constant benefit being better than quickdraw...
nm
They give you a few bonuses and have one or two things they can do, but they can't do simple things like manipulate objects and it only takes one hit to end it's existence.

I havent got my hands on Arcane Power yet, but I doubt that your familiar cannot manipulate objects. It depends on what kind of familar you have ofcourse. I cant imagine a frog trying to manipulate anything. Just because it is not written that a monkey can pick up and eat a banana, does not mean that it cannot.


In our last game my sorcerer's familiar was killed in the first round and we had three battles before we could take a short rest.

You DM should ineed be happy. 3 encounters without a short rest !?!?!?!
Are we really playing the same game ? :P
Firstly, its a feat, so its not supposed to be all that powerful.

Secondly, a short rest is a 5 minute rest. So you're saying your DM threw you through THREE encounters without giving you the chance to refresh your encounter powers?

Familiars are fine.
So let me get this straight. You based your experiences with familiars solely on a game where you had FOUR encounters without a short rest?

....

I think you should play some more... normal... sessions before making a call like that. Your familiar shouldn't be out in combat, and those few times it does get destroyed you usually get to bring it back after the encounter.

If your GM is gunning for your familiar then that's something too, but you also shouldn't be making your familiar a target.

As for familiars not being able to manipulate objects, try this guy from the latest Dragon.

Disembodied Hand Familiar
This hand crawls around using its digits, and it can expertly
manipulate items.
Speed 6, climb 2
Constant Benefits
You can retrieve or stow an item as a free action instead of as
a minor action.
Active Benefits
Agile Digits: A disembodied hand can open latches and
turn knobs that require only one hand to operate. It can also
manipulate objects to make Thievery checks. It gains a +2
bonus to such checks.

The language isn't very clear on what it can and can't do, but it's a start...
a heroic feat on that guy is TOTALLY worth it, especially for a dex sorc who takes thievery. Pickpocket and sleight of hand at range? Disarm trap at range? At a +2? Hellll yea. Not to mention the constant benefit being better than quickdraw...

There are creatures out there that radius effects. If something appears next to you that has say an aura that does necrotic damage, then guess what, your familiar is history when it takes that first point of damage. In 4th addition your familiar is there for combat. Most of the familiars are there to help you in combat, you can designate them as where your spells begin since the familiar isn't hurt by your own spells. But the one hit dead thing is what gets me. 3rd edition familiars rocked when you knew what you were doing. The DM doesn't have to gun for your familiar to take it out quickly.
People used familiars in 3e???
-I got ran over my a squirrel the other day. -I'm going to steal my own idea. -My fruits of labor are not fruits... *sniff* they're vegetables. *sobs*
Firstly, its a feat, so its not supposed to be all that powerful.

Secondly, a short rest is a 5 minute rest. So you're saying your DM threw you through THREE encounters without giving you the chance to refresh your encounter powers?

Familiars are fine.

In other words, that wasn't 3 encounters, that was one REALLY BIG ONE.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
Familiars were useful in 3rd Edition? The only thing I remember about them is groaning about having to write all that information down for something that basically didn't do anything except provide a minor skillboost.

Yeah, familiars were weak in 3rd. I would say their was one good thing about them, the rules for familiars were vague, there weren't many spelled out limits. So DM's had a lot of discretionary power with them, if the player asked if his familiar could do something then maybe the DM would say yes. I haven't read the new familiar, but I imagine the rules are pretty well spelled out. Or I might be wrong

EDIT

Ok I read the familiar feats. There is a lot that is powerful about them considering that it is only a feat to get one. On the whole they are probably more powerful or at least equal to the 3e familiars. I will say that it is hard to get my head around WOTCs need to make everything in their books sound NOT COOL.
I havent got my hands on Arcane Power yet, but I doubt that your familiar cannot manipulate objects. It depends on what kind of familar you have ofcourse. I cant imagine a frog trying to manipulate anything. Just because it is not written that a monkey can pick up and eat a banana, does not mean that it cannot.



You DM should ineed be happy. 3 encounters without a short rest !?!?!?!
Are we really playing the same game ? :P

It says in the book that a familiar cannot manipulate objects. They can't walk through a wall but they can't manipulate objects. You can have an imp as a familiar so you can have something with hands. It specifically says they (CAN'T).
So when a DM creates a game the monsters are supposed to halt and allow the PC's to rest?? I don't think so, while you rest there are such things as Random Encounter tables, and other things hearing a battle so they come to help or kill everything or whatever. There is no rule for telling the DM how to run the encounters in his game. Lets say we do rest and the familiar comes back, well he can be killed in the next encounter on rd one or two. Familiars in 4th are there to grant you some combat bonuses. The only out of battle stuff if a little fluff you come up with and how your familiar acts.
You know my favorite part about this whole thing?

The "It goes away until the next rest" part.

Flipping over to the third edition SRD...

If the familiar dies or is dismissed by the sorcerer, the sorcerer must attempt a DC 15 Fortitude saving throw. Failure means he loses 200 experience points per sorcerer level; success reduces the loss to one-half that amount. However, a sorcerer’s experience point total can never go below 0 as the result of a familiar’s demise or dismissal. A slain or dismissed familiar cannot be replaced for a year and day. A slain familiar can be raised from the dead just as a character can be, and it does not lose a level or a Constitution point when this happy event occurs.

Familiar goes away for the entire combat? In third edition, if the familiar died (remember, it only had half the wizard's hit points. The wizard got 1d4 hit points per level), your class feature was gone for an entire year.
You know my favorite part about this whole thing?

The "It goes away until the next rest" part.

Flipping over to the third edition SRD...



Familiar goes away for the entire combat? In third edition, if the familiar died (remember, it only had half the wizard's hit points. The wizard got 1d4 hit points per level), your class feature was gone for an entire year.

Yeah but when you knew how to play with a familiar then there wasn't a problem.
If you "knew how to play", you stuck your familiar so far down your Bag of Holding that it could see the Astral Plane at the bottom.

Which, apart from the amusing imagery, was not very fun.
So when a DM creates a game the monsters are supposed to halt and allow the PC's to rest?? I don't think so, while you rest there are such things as Random Encounter tables, and other things hearing a battle so they come to help or kill everything or whatever. There is no rule for telling the DM how to run the encounters in his game. Lets say we do rest and the familiar comes back, well he can be killed in the next encounter on rd one or two. Familiars in 4th are there to grant you some combat bonuses. The only out of battle stuff if a little fluff you come up with and how your familiar acts.

In 4th edition, an encounter is the length of time between two short rests. If you throw "three encounters" at people between short rests (5 minute breaks), then that's really one big encounter in three waves.

And no, there are no such thing as random encounter tables in the rules.

And gee, who'd have thunk that a feat wouldn't be brokenly powerful?

Its basically a skill booster ability with some other little perks.
People used familiars in 3e???

My 3E hawk familiar was a decent scout, specially at low level play. I'm a little fuzzy on the details, but I recall it had an Enormous Spot skill!. Plus, it added some roleplay value...

I agree, however, that once you're casting multiple Cloudkills or Black Tentacles, the hawk became very, very minor.

------------------------

When we decided to switch our Eberron campaign to 4E, I sat down with my DM to discuss what to do with my hawk familiar. We decided to 'kill' the familiar in the last 3E encounter, and have my spells take a raptor-like look and feel in 4E.

My DM's already hinted at a one-shot sidequest to get back my old familiar's spirit back

I'm quite happy with what I've seen about 4E familiars, so far.
"Magic is impressive, but now Minsc leads, swords for everyone" - Minsc, BG
You're the creator of your own problems. If you don't want your familiar to die then don't get the one that gives off some burst whatever and needs to be in close combat. You had the bad luck of fighting a creature with an aura that did automatic damage and not being able to rest for THREE MORE ENCOUNTERS after it killed your familiar. You are blowing this out of proportion. Please stop whining about your ONE awful experience without playing more than one encounter with your familiar alive to figure out what they're really like.
I like the new familiars, a lot more choice, and they definetly seem more powerful. But,

Why can't they manipulate objects? What would have been the big deal? And what does it do to realism when you have an entity in his campaign that can't manipulate objects?
And what does it do to realism when you have an entity in his campaign that can't manipulate objects?

Given that they're bits of ethereal spirits from what I read, I hope not much.
I've always liked using familiars in 3e. However, the 3e rules for them did very much suck. A familiar couldn't really do much unless you went out of your way to trick it out, was a walking, snack-sized XP liability, and if it died, you either had to wait a year to get a new one or fork over the dough for a Raise Dead. They could make decent scouts straight out of the box or a decent combat partner if you were a gish with the CW.

I've only seen the previews of AP familiar rules, but I like what I see. Making it a resummonable minion cuts down a lot on paper work (3e companions basically required their own character sheet). The fact that you can restore it during a short rest means that you don't have to be paranoid whenever your familiar is out of site. And if you don't want it taking any hits in combat, you can "turn it off" instead of leaving it back at camp. Awesome.

I would have preferred it if familiars could manipulate objects, but that's nothing a few minor houserule tweaks won't fix.
Thinking about creating a race for 4e? Make things a lil' easier on yourself by reading my Race Mechanic Creation Guide first.
Familiars were useful in 3rd Edition? The only thing I remember about them is groaning about having to write all that information down for something that basically didn't do anything except provide a minor skillboost.

My little ferret was an RP thing up until I got level 6 spells and Imbue Familiar with Spell Ability. Then he was an awesome nova.

So when a DM creates a game the monsters are supposed to halt and allow the PC's to rest??

Have you read the books at all?
An encounter ends when you get a Short Rest (5 minutes).
You can't have three encounters in a row, because without a Rest (Short or Extended) it's still the same encounter. You only refresh your Encounter powers with a Rest. Just by that alone you should note that you're in the same encounter. A triple-difficulty encounter, no less.
Yeah but when you knew how to play with a familiar then there wasn't a problem.

That's funny, because here I thought 4e Familiars could be set in "passive mode" where they sat on your person giving you their skill bonus and other passive effects while being untargetable and immune to all damage. Sounds like a really easy way to be able to let your familiar survive a tough battle. But then again, you must be incredibly well-read in these mechanics in order to start up a complaint thread, so I guess I'm wrong. I must have a faulty copy of Arcane Power, it really needs the current errata of "familiars die always and forever whenever anything happens."

Don't people usually wait to actually read the content they want to whine about?
Don't people usually wait to actually read the content they want to whine about?

Depends on the type of whining.

Plenty of people want to complain because it is different and do not actually verify that their complaints are right.
Wasn't there an improved familiar feat in 3e?

I used an air elemental to deliver touch spells with flyby attack, then it would fly very very far away. It was a good time.

The 4e variation seems very promising. I can't wait to try it out the next time I play an arcane class.

Also, The OP seems not to have a very good grasp of the fundamental game rules, and is using his DM as a shield to allow him to criticize new content freely.
You can't have three encounters in a row, because without a Rest (Short or Extended) it's still the same encounter. You only refresh your Encounter powers with a Rest. Just by that alone you should note that you're in the same encounter. A triple-difficulty encounter, no less.

As I run it we frequently have 2 and (more rarely) have 3 ecnounters in a row.

This is my reasoning, 5 minutes is ALOT OF TIME in most situations where you are in enemy territory. E.g. invading a keep where sentient npc's are wandering around, you can TRY to sit around for 5 minutes, but 50% of the time you are going to get walked in on, and then guess what... same encounter. And if my PC's don't want to actually try to take enemies by suprise (by not rushing rooms, and by just resting in enemy territory) then it is much more likely then an alarm is going to be sounded and now you get to fight everyone in one encounter (same thing effectively).

So, it depends on the situation but, in a lot of the official modules, I see it as reasonable that not every room is 5 minutes away from the previous room. Do people actually roleplay waiting 5 minutes or is it just an assumption that after an encounter the DM isn't going to make enemy territory actually move?

Why have so many players assumed that you always get a short rest after a battle?
That's funny, because here I thought 4e Familiars could be set in "passive mode" where they sat on your person giving you their skill bonus and other passive effects while being untargetable and immune to all damage. Sounds like a really easy way to be able to let your familiar survive a tough battle. But then again, you must be incredibly well-read in these mechanics in order to start up a complaint thread, so I guess I'm wrong. I must have a faulty copy of Arcane Power, it really needs the current errata of "familiars die always and forever whenever anything happens."

Don't people usually wait to actually read the content they want to whine about?

Actually I have read the material and I am familiar with this, but what are you going to do just let the familiar sit there the whole battle and not benefit from it's other abilities? Why don't you stop assuming because assumption is the mother of all #^&@-ups.
Wasn't there an improved familiar feat in 3e?

I used an air elemental to deliver touch spells with flyby attack, then it would fly very very far away. It was a good time.

The 4e variation seems very promising. I can't wait to try it out the next time I play an arcane class.

Also, The OP seems not to have a very good grasp of the fundamental game rules, and is using his DM as a shield to allow him to criticize new content freely.

Actually I have a very very good grasp on the rules.
Actually I have read the material and I am familiar with this, but what are you going to do just let the familiar sit there the whole battle and not benefit from it's other abilities? Why don't you stop assuming because assumption is the mother of all #^&@-ups.

You mean half of the familiar's abilities that are only useful out of combat for stealth or scouting? Or maybe the ones that only work once per encounter, so you get them in position, use the ability, and then they die. In fact, there's only one familiar in Arcane Power with any kind of always-on combat benefit, and that is the Bat. If you want familiars to be good, you actually have to put some thought into using them. They already provide better bonuses than certain feats for the same cost, so of course there is something extra you need to do in order to keep those benefits.

I'm sorry for assuming you might know something about how 4th Edition works. I have clearly set my standards far too high for these forums.
Why have so many players assumed that you always get a short rest after a battle?

We don't assume we get a short rest after a battle. We assume you get a short rest after an encounter. Most people, my guess, would get this from DMG page 41.

Making several encounters of equal level to the party level is against the rules, but if you throw them at the party one after the other without a short rest, they are actually all the same encounter.
Actually I have a very very good grasp on the rules.

Imho i dont think you do. nor do i think your dm does, three encounters in a row is rather, dumb. I as a dm have done two in a row but that was players decision to pursue or rush foward.

You dm is either A) trying to kill you (a trait of a bad dm), B) The dming just fine his encounter were in story and provided a good experience, you were just unlucky to have your familiar die so quickly or C) You aren't using your familiar right.

take your pick A) B) or C)

I can't word this any more strongly:
You're doing it wrong.
Very, very, very wrong.
We don't assume we get a short rest after a battle. We assume you get a short rest after an encounter. Most people, my guess, would get this from DMG page 41.

What he said.

To be more explicit:
An encounter ends when the monsters are dead or have fled and the characters take a short rest to regain hit points and encounter powers. The next encounter begins when the characters engage new opponents.

If you haven't taken a Short Rest, you haven't ended the encounter.

5 minutes, by the way, is a very very short amount of time.
Imho i dont think you do. nor do i think your dm does, three encounters in a row is rather, dumb. I as a dm have done two in a row but that was players decision to pursue or rush foward.

Quite so. The DMG on pg 41 specifically says, if you plan on forcing multiple encounters together without a rest, or a party unexpectedly chooses not to take a short rest, the additional encounter should be toned down to account for the still-expended resources (encounter powers, lack of hit points from using healing surges, etc). It explicitly says this because the game is specifically designed with the built-in balancing mechanism that when an encounter is over, you regain the use of certain resources.

Additionally, a short rest is said to be APPROXIMATELY five minutes, give or take, so it could be a mere 2-3 minutes if the DM wishes it to be...however long is enough to satisfy "catching your breath" before moving on. As was pointed out by Dark Lambo, five minutes is a very, very short amount of time, even in a hectic situation such as raiding a fortress, mass combat, and so on. Dropping that to a few minutes for the sake of the story, or even a mere 1 minute, is not remotely outside the realms or possibility or reason.
Plus a short rest can really be arbitrarily long. The rules state it should be "about 5 minutes," but if you want to say that your PC's powers recharge and they spend surges to go back to full health in the 20 seconds they have before encounter #2 busts the door down, then go ahead.

EDIT: Tectuktitlay ninja'd my point.
It explicitly says this because the game is specifically designed with the built-in balancing mechanism that when an encounter is over, you regain the use of certain resources.

Indeed. Consider that a level 5 party is supposed to have 2 encounter powers each for a level 5 encounter.
If you thus have the equivalent of three level 5 encounters back to back, you're short about 10 encounter powers.
It'll get worse as levels increase.
Your familiar died in combat?
I was thinking about getting one, so I am curious....what prompted you to switch your familiar into Active mode? In passive mode, the familiar can't be targeted or damaged by any effects.
Was it out scouting about in active mode before combat? Just making sure I am not missing something, I don't want a dead familiar on my hands.
@Hanez:

Hey buddy, they're not saying you have to have a short rest after every battle. They are saying that if you have three battles in a row, it is considered the same ENCOUNTER, therefore the characters can't refresh powers and use healing surges.

I do multiple battles all the time. It's hardcore fun. (I like hard campaigns.)
Role Play Craft : Crafting Ideas, Modules, and Options for your Role Playing Game. Now with reviews!
As I run it we frequently have 2 and (more rarely) have 3 ecnounters in a row.

This is my reasoning, 5 minutes is ALOT OF TIME in most situations where you are in enemy territory. E.g. invading a keep where sentient npc's are wandering around, you can TRY to sit around for 5 minutes, but 50% of the time you are going to get walked in on, and then guess what... same encounter. And if my PC's don't want to actually try to take enemies by suprise (by not rushing rooms, and by just resting in enemy territory) then it is much more likely then an alarm is going to be sounded and now you get to fight everyone in one encounter (same thing effectively).

So, it depends on the situation but, in a lot of the official modules, I see it as reasonable that not every room is 5 minutes away from the previous room. Do people actually roleplay waiting 5 minutes or is it just an assumption that after an encounter the DM isn't going to make enemy territory actually move?

Why have so many players assumed that you always get a short rest after a battle?

As someone who has been in battle himself, I will tell you quite plainly that it is common for five minutes to go by and not do anything. Even getting together with your comrades for a quick discussion on which way to go can take up five minutes.

And honestly, if you're worrying about the monsters getting ready for you, there is not much they can do in five minutes that they couldn't do in the five rounds the last fight took that tipped them off to your presence.

Also, if you rest smart, i.e. in a defensible position and keeping an eye out on any avenues of approach, any enemy that thinks that they are going to "surprise" you by attacking you will be at a disadvantage.
...what prompted you to switch your familiar into Active mode? In passive mode, the familiar can't be targeted or damaged by any effects.

I don't intend to buy Arcane Power (didn't get Martial Power either), but I have to admit some of the mechanics mentioned here have got me quite curious.
Sign In to post comments