homunculus, how useful are they

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How important are they to the artificer? Are they as important as a druid's companion?


I could imagine a heavily upgraded iron defender with strength enhancements, wearing mithril chain shirt, being effective...

How useful are they?
It depends.
If you're just playing to see how fast you can kill the monsters, the homonculi are essentially worthless. The fact that you compare them to the druid's animal companion (which is often a formidable opponent in it's own right) tends to lead me into thinking this is the answer you would be looking for.

In a more roleplaying heavy game, they become increasingly valuable.
The messanger is an incredibly useful communication tool and spy satellite, the dedicated wright a must have for heavy crafting artificers, etc.

They are useful tools that don't actually help you kill things.
How useful they will be to you depends mainly on how much of the game you are in is focused on killing things.
I'm pretty sure the iron defender can kill things... but I question how well, to an extent. The whole 1d6+3 isn't extensive... though with imp homunculus feat, you can actually make a decent fighter puppy... provided that you give it actual equipment... mithril chain shirt, enhancement bonus on the teeth, strength bonus. Special properties from the imp feat.
To make the Iron Defender a primary damage dealer is going to require the bulk of your character wealth, and it will still be very fragile for it's level reguardless of what you do to it.

Facing an Artificer with Iron Defenders is usually an easier fight than just the artificer alone. The IDs are going to have relatively few hitpoints, cause pretty good damage against the Artificer when they are destroyed, and it means the Artificer himself has substandard armor and weapons because he poured all of his wealth into the defenders.

Nah, homunculi are pretty weak combatants almost by definition. If how fast you can kill things is your primary goal, then you're much better off beefing up your weapons and armor than making these things.
What about expedious messengers, and the like? any good? Looks like they would be...
The other homonculi are better than the Iron Defender. The ID is a decent low-level combatant/distraction, but not vs an optimized opponent. They make good fluff for an Artificer bad-guy that you intend for the PCs to defeat. For a PC, they're like standard familiars are : a liability unless you pour feats and money into them.
The other ones are good for their niche. The messenger can be handy, the filcher is the same (as long as you only attempt to filch from lower-ranking enemies) and the wright is fantastic if you have limited down-time and want to get back on the road ASAP between adventures - especially if you have a home-base or portable hole.

If you don't treat them like combatants they're greate
the pack mate is a must fi you wish to play an alchemist savant, or other potion lobbing PC. It allwos you to draw potionsa nd the like as a free action, also if you happen to go down for the count it can shove a healing potion down your gullet. Quite handy if you plan on playing something similar to the following: Artificer 5/Alchemist savant 5/ canith wand adept 3/ dragonmarked heir 5

can be a lot of fun if i remember correctly.

KAMIKAZE!
I'm a little puzzled by the "relatively frail" comment. Homunculi get construct hit dice - for the Iron Defender that means 2d10+10 per HD

These things are not frail.

Add in the Improve Homunculi feat and a regular upgrade schedule (which can be discounted by feats an Artificer is already going to want to get) and your Homunculus can definitely be an aid in battle.

My Art | The Pathfinder Chronicle of Razimus Nonus
"The signposts are in English, so that we may read them more easily, but the place... is the twilight zone."

I'm a little puzzled by the "relatively frail" comment. Homunculi get construct hit dice - for the Iron Defender that means 2d10+10 per HD

For the standard iron defender, that means 2d10+10 hps. It can be advanced up to a 6 HD iron defender (for an extra 8,000 gp) in which case it gets 6d10+10 hps.

The bonus hit points based on size is a flat bonus, not a bonus per hit die. With no damage reduction, that's pretty fragile.
er, no, that would be 2d10 hp per HD, not 1d10. A 6HD Iron Defender would have 12d10+10.

My Art | The Pathfinder Chronicle of Razimus Nonus
"The signposts are in English, so that we may read them more easily, but the place... is the twilight zone."

er, no, that would be 2d10 hp per HD, not 1d10. A 6HD Iron Defender would have 12d10+10.

I think you've mis-read something some where, a "hit die" is just what it says 1 die rolled to determine hit points. A creature with 12d10+10 hp has 12 Hit Dice...
Yes, the base ID has 2d10+10 hp. You do not gain another 2d10+10 per hitdice, as those 2d10 hp are by definition hitdice.

It costs massive amounts of gold to increase this thing one lousy hitdice at a time, meaning it will only be able to match the fighter in terms of abuse taking if you sink pretty much your entire character wealth into it, at which point you would have been better off spending that money buffing the actual fighter or yourself.
I've read too much Discworld... I want a pack mate just because.
Aesop had it right 2,500 years ago, "By endeavoring to please everyone, he had pleased no one, and lost his ass in the bargain".
Yes, the base ID has 2d10+10 hp. You do not gain another 2d10+10 per hitdice, as those 2d10 hp are by definition hitdice.

It costs massive amounts of gold to increase this thing one lousy hitdice at a time, meaning it will only be able to match the fighter in terms of abuse taking if you sink pretty much your entire character wealth into it, at which point you would have been better off spending that money buffing the actual fighter or yourself.

Ok, either the ECS list the Iron Defender as a 2HD homunculus and all the others as 1HD homunculi, or you are wrong. When you increase a creature's HD, you give it another set of it's base HD (according to the MM), so for the Iron Defender, that should be another 2d10. Why would this not be the case?

*edit* on further inspection, it looks like they really did just give the Iron Defender 2HD and all the others 1HD. Frankly, this seems ridiculous and dumb to me, but so it goes.

My Art | The Pathfinder Chronicle of Razimus Nonus
"The signposts are in English, so that we may read them more easily, but the place... is the twilight zone."

Well, the ID *IS* supposed to be a front line combatant, it would be equally silly to give it only 1 HD, which would assure it's destruction.
When you increase a creature's HD, you give it another set of it's base HD (according to the MM), so for the Iron Defender, that should be another 2d10. Why would this not be the case?

A "set of its base HD" refers to the type of the die (i.e. d10 or d8), not the number. If that was not the case... well, look at the frost giant, a CR 9 monster with 14 HD. Would you really say a 28HD frost giant is a CR 10 opponent?

Oh, and the flat construct bonus is explained in the construct type in MM glossary.
. Quite handy if you plan on playing something similar to the following: Artificer 5/Alchemist savant 5/ canith wand adept 3/ dragonmarked heir 5

can be a lot of fun if i remember correctly.

KAMIKAZE!

or if ur playin a wizard5/ alchemist savant 5/ alchemist (Faerun) 10.... full wizard casting and able to brew 6 (i think) potions per day and brew up to 9th level spells into potions... he he he! So utterly house of a 1000 corpses evil!
or if ur playin a wizard5/ alchemist savant 5/ alchemist (Faerun) 10.... full wizard casting and able to brew 6 (i think) potions per day and brew up to 9th level spells into potions... he he he! So utterly house of a 1000 corpses evil!

Just a word of caution: mentioning anything from the Forgotten Realms on the Eberron forums isn't exactly guaranteed to make you friends. A lot of people have embraced Eberron as the anti-FR for not contributing heavily to the power creep.
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I suggest a different combat-related humunculus, the arbilester. It's essentially a walking mwk light crossbow that fires and reloads itself. One of the nice things about the arbilester is that the crossbow part is considered to be a seperate weapon for the sake of magical enhancements, while permanently enhancing the natural attack of another kind of humun. requires the Imp. Humun. feat. Of course, taking the Imp. Humun. feat gives you some other options, such as giving it a fly speed or improving its Dex, helping both its offensive and defensive capabilities (but IMHO, you can't give the crossbow a weapon enhancement with that feat, as it would only apply to the arbilester's natural attacks, meaning its pathetic bite attack!) Thus the arbilester essentially allows the artificer to provide fire support for the party while simultaneously being free to use infusions, use their own weapon, or use a magic item. Being a ranged weapon means that the arbilester is probably not going to be in the thick of combat, allowing the artificer to concentrate on developing its offensive capabilities. It won't be over-powering by any means, but having that extra crossbow bolt fired at the enemy every round can make a real difference (especially if its enchanted), even if it doesn't always hit.
I wonder if an arbilester may recive a PERSONAL Weapon Enhancement?

How would you rule as a DM?
If you mean the 1st level infusion personal weapon augmentation, I'd say "no," and direct the player to the 2nd level infusion lesser weapon augmentation. If you mean permanently enchanting the crossbow as a magic weapon, then that's specifically allowed. If you meant the arbilester's bite attack, it would work the same as any other natural attack by any other humunculus. But I'm guessing you meant the first way.
I wonder if an arbilester may recive a PERSONAL Weapon Enhancement?

How would you rule as a DM?

No, if it were your familiar, I might consider it since familiars are supposed to be extensions of their masters. Which, actually, if you dipped into Wizard or Sorcerer and took Improved Familiar, you *COULD* take it as your familiar, but normally no. The homunculi is a seperate creature from you, and as such could not benefit from Personal Weapon Enchantment.
One of the nice things about the arbilester is that the crossbow part is considered to be a seperate weapon for the sake of magical enhancements, while permanently enhancing the natural attack of another kind of humun. requires the Imp. Humun. feat.

You missed the part where the Imp. Homunc. feats gives the natural weapons the magical enhancements FOR FREE.
You missed the part where the Imp. Homunc. feats gives the natural weapons the magical enhancements FOR FREE.

At which point it gets an enchanted bite attack. It has a crossbow attack, not a ranged natural weapon attack.
Damn, I was going to bring up the Arbalester. That's one of the best one's I've seen.

I've read too much Discworld... I want a pack mate just because.

In the current campaign I'm in the Artificer's Homunculous is based off that character. (I don't read Discworld, the DM does)
At which point it gets an enchanted bite attack. It has a crossbow attack, not a ranged natural weapon attack.

I was saying why it's more useful to have a non-arbalester with Improved Homunculus, as their natural weapons are upgraded for free, as opposed to paying full price to enhance your highly-vulnerable HP bomb.
And now, the homunc list someone wanted earlier has been posted. You might find something cooler than a ID in there you would like.
er, no, that would be 2d10 hp per HD, not 1d10. A 6HD Iron Defender would have 12d10+10.

In addition to the responses above... the "+10" hit points comes from a bonus that all Constructs receive based on size. So this + would only increase after it increased it's size to Medium (or larger), which I'm not even sure is possible for an Iron Defender.

I feel the Dedicated Wright + Portable Hole was always a fantastic option for any adventuring Artificer... Just stick it in the hole so it can build while you're on your merry.
I was saying why it's more useful to have a non-arbalester with Improved Homunculus, as their natural weapons are upgraded for free, as opposed to paying full price to enhance your highly-vulnerable HP bomb.

Feats are not free! They are far more rare than XP or gold. And even with the feat, using standard enchantments on the crossbow allows to use the benefits of Imp. Homun. in additional ways, such as an increase in Dex..
I have not seen anybody mention the loss of hit points when your homunculus dies.
My players are very happy with the homunculus as a information gather similar to a familiar. They make great spies and comunication tools.
My players are very happy with the homunculus as a information gather similar to a familiar. They make great spies and comunication tools.

Personally, I'd see them as slightly inferior. Of course the messenger makes a wonderful spy - but when people spot a raven sitting on a tree, they probably won't think they're being spied on, which is exactly what they would suppose when seeing a messenger.
Still, they are pretty useful in that regard.
Personally, I'd see them as slightly inferior. Of course the messenger makes a wonderful spy - but when people spot a raven sitting on a tree, they probably won't think they're being spied on, which is exactly what they would suppose when seeing a messenger.
Still, they are pretty useful in that regard.

Ravens? Every raven I see I assume is a familiar. Most DMs don't mention every single small creature the party passes on its way, but if the DM says something about a raven, I immediately think "familiar." So basically I just shoot at every raven-like bird I see. Same goes with rats, cats, toads (but not frogs), bats, snakes (tiny vipers only, of course), hawks, owls, lizards, and weasels. If I'm in an aquatic environment, I go after parrots and octopi as well. And if said creature is sitting on the shoulder of some long-bearded dude wearing robes and a pointy hat, so much the better. Basically, I spend a lot of time whacking small creatures, so much so that I rarely do any real adventuring. Considering how dangerous even a raven, rat, or cat can be to the average commoner, I figure I'm protecting the vast majority of the people of Eberron.
Of course, I'm totally joking.
@Euangelion
And how do you protect yourself against the multitude of possible druid animal companions?
Metagame thinking at its best! And he probably kills those too, since his DM obviously never mentions normal animals either. Must be like traveling with the OotS party.
@Euangelion
And how do you protect yourself against the multitude of possible druid animal companions?

Like I said, I spend a lot of time killing small creatures, and sometimes larger ones, even as big as horses. But you're onto something. Any animal might even be a wildshaped druid! Kill! Kill! Kill! Mwahahahahaha!!!

(Actually, no one really likes travelling with me for some reason.)
;)
I think that an Iron Defender can be pretty awesome in combat up until around level 10.

It really matters what feats you give him. Like Power Attack works nice being he only has one attack and gets the 1+1/2 str mod going. Which kind of leads to the double value of the feat... (though this caps at a -3/+6 mod) and of course Impoved natural attack at 6th is kind of a no brainer as is the +1 to dex at 4th.

Now while the Improved Homuinculous feat may hint at a continued progression, allowing an Iron Defender further HD, feats and skills as your artificer grows, it is far from decisive.

Much like how many spells you can write onto a scroll.
Another question that is less that defined is the issue of how many homunuculi someone can have. From the description of the feats and the entries for the homunuculi in the MM, ECS, MoE, and MMIV, they seem to assume just having one. However, in 5N the Lord of Blades has two, so maybe there's no limit. Limiting a character to just one seems a little harsh to me, but perhaps a compromise might be to allow an artificer with the Craft Homunculus class feature to create any number of homunuculus, but whose total HD cannot exceed +2 the character level of the artificer (though the two homunculi of the LoBster each has the maximum HD allowed by the class feature). On the other hand, it could be ruled that anyone with the Craft Construct feat can create any number of homunuculi with any number of HD.
Then there's the issue of the just how many HD a particular homuculus can have. Again the rules are unclear, since there's a limited progression listed in the entries, but as you pointed out, the Imp. Hom. feat implies that the progression can go to any amount. If a DM doesn't feel comfortable with either extreem, a possible middle ground would be to allow the extra progression only with the Imp. Homunculus feat.

Finally, IF someone can have only one homunculus with a limited number of HD, I still recommend the arbalester, taking the fly speed improvement if one has the Imp. Hom. feat. That way it can serve in a limited role as a spy, as well as a protector.
I believe this question has been addressed before. I think the ruling was that you could have so many homuncs, but eventually the ability to control them all might simply overwhelm you. I think it was some sort of intelligence or wisdom related thing...
To my knowledge, one can have as many homunculi as one wants. While not every rule works that way, in this case I'd see it as "if you can only have one, they would have written just that". The whole thing is easily balanced: If you use a multitude of the beasties, they won't exactly be strong, thus being more dangerous than helpful to you. This usually leaves you with one powered-up combat homunculus (though I prefer to groom myself a party for that) and several smaller utility ones - a messenger, a wright, a luggage,...
There is a natural limit on how many you may have.

How many can you afford?
There is a natural limit on how many you may have.

How many can you afford?

That's what I was alluding to: How many can you afford and how many can you afford to go 2D10-boom in front of your nose?