So, you've started your career as an arcane magic user, but don't want to do it alone? I'm not talking about your other party members, I speak of something mcuh closer to your soul. Something that can grant you access to powers far beyond whatever you thought was possible. So come my apprentice, and learn of the power of the familiar...
None so far.
Red: This is bad. Period. Purple: Really? Almost anything is better, but OK... Black: The baseline for everything. Blue: This is getting good. Sky Blue: Get. This. Now.
This Handbook covers the following sources: AP - Arcane Power
D XXX - Dragon Magazine, issue XXX
HotF - Heroes of the Feywild
HotEC - Heroes of the Elemental Chaos
Everyone who posts things that help me improve the guide. Lordduskblade: For the ubiquitous format of the guide. Nox_Noctis: For the Sight of the Familiar table. Ekko's Exotic Elementals Emporium: This was the original guide to familiars, and what made me say "We need to have a better guide". For those familiars that it lists, it is a nice second opinion, but it only lists familiars, and just the ones from AP, and the first two Dragon articles.
So, what's a familiar anyway? It's a feat for any arcane class introduced in Arcane Power. Pick the feat, pick your familiar, and of you go. Mostly its that simple. But for the specifics, see below. People who already know how they work can feel free to skip this part.
A familiar has two modes, Passive and Active. On and Off, if you will. You can switch between them as a minor action. The familiar has diferent characteristics depending on what mode it is in.
Familiar cannot be targeted or damaged.
Shares your space, essentialy is in your pocket, or on you shoulder or something like that.
Provides you with its passive benefits.
Note though, that it still can talk and look around, so this isn't really passive per se.
Has 1 hit point, basically a minion. If it dies, you lose all benefits from it until the next rest you take, when it comes back.
Uses your skill modifiers and defenses but can't attack under most circumastances. It also gain +1 to defenses for each familar feat you take after Arcane Familiar.
Is Tiny, and can move using the speeds listed in specific entries.
Can't flank for you.
Can't manipulate objects for you.
Provides you with its active benefits, as well as passive benefits.
You spend actions to make your familiar do something.
Can get no more than 20 squares away from you.
In both modes, the familiar can use its senses, which may or may not have special additions (Low-light vision, darkvision, etc.). The familiar can speak to you and you to it, but no one else can understand what you are saying.
Arcane Eye (Dra 374):The Active benefit can be useful for sneaking up ahead, and using psuedo-scry-and-die tactics to get a preemptive strike going. Other than that biggie, not much coming for this. Badger (Dra 374 ):Mix of defensive and offensive capabilities. Those who spend time bloodied will apreciate the damage bonus. The sacrifice power doesn't do very much, as few arcane users care overmuch about Con, but it has its uses. Bantam Fastieth (Dra 377): Great mobility, although no shifting. Skill bonus is situational, although movement is kind of the point of this familiar. Oh well. Almost given +2 to speed though, which is nice. Bat (AP): This is one of the 'bombing' familiars. Handy for flushing out lurkers, or (if your DM hates you) invisible creatures. Has redeeming qualities as a scout as well. Bloodthorn Vine Barb (Dra 377): Forest walk is almost never useful, and the imp gives you more THP on average. Nothing to see, move along. Book Imp (AP): Extensive passive benefits. Invisiblity can be a very handy trick for scouting. Bound Demon (AP): Nice scaling source of THP. Can be a boon, but other than that, nothing here. Canine Construct (Dra 374): If the resist all was higher, it might be helpful. As it is, it is too little to do anything. This is a suboptimal choice, unless you have some strange fascination with Warding rituals. Cat(AP): One of the premier scouting familiars. No range limit, bonus to stealth. The passive bonus is just gravy on the cake. Clockwork Scorpion(Dra 377): You need to have a poison or oil to make use of this, which means this requires continuing investment. Very bad, you have better things to spend money on. Coure Attendant (Dra 390): Very, very nice. Gains something of the Disembodied Hand's stick, but it's only once per turn, so not that broken. The active beneft on the other hand....is made of win. +2 to its defenses, and an aura 2 that forces enemies to grant CA? If it dies, and is brought back in the same encounter, you lose this, but still. Made of win. Crafter Homunculus (AP): If you have alchemical bent, this can be helpful. The ritual bonus can also be helpful, but I don't think that there are many creation rituals with skill checks involved. Critic Lizard (Dra 397): The passive bonuses are certainly good ones (Perception arguably being the best skill, and more initiative is always good). The active feature, on the other hand, isn't bad, but unless you get alot of surprise rounds won't see much use, and isn't that strong unless you have the PP to get full use out of it. Disembodied Hand(Dra 374): Being able to stow and retrieve as a free action, i.e., no limit on times per round, can do crazy things for anyone. Being able to use Thievery is just the sub-optimal icing. Dragonling (AP): Suited for Dragon sorcerers in most ways. The surge bonus doesn't scale as you spend more surges, sadly. Others might get some use out of it. Dragonmark Reflection (Dra 377): One of those who you need to be an Artificer (possibly Mark of Making too) to benefit from. Extra healing? Heck yeah! Free Arcane Mark as a standard action is also just fun to work with. Falcon (AP): Farther range is always good, combined with the fact that you can shoot from it. The bonus versus oppurtunity attacks can be situational, but handy. Good for Swordmages. Fiddling Grig (Dra 390): Saves you 100 gp which is nice in the lower tiers, and gives you a bunch of rituals you probably don't have otherwise. Nice, but depending on your group might not come in handy very often. The active benefit can come in handy, but is dependant on hitting. Still, enemies losing their way to punish you for moving away is very helpful in the right situation. Fire Lizard (Dra 374): Fire is a common damage type, so resist is helpful, and the familiar won't die from it. A solid choice, especially for sorcerers. Floating Polyp (Dra 397): This gives you very nice boosts for jumping around (especially since running starts effectively double your jump distance). The death feature might be interesting to work into a minor suicide machine, but the damage doesn't scale, sadly. Blindsight is nice for Sight of the Familiar, though. Floating Weapon (Dra 377): For the melee focused user. Defenses are higher enough to keep it around longer, and it gives you a chance to position yourself more appropriately. Gadfly(Dra 374): If only the bonus was for all attacks. Nothing really saves this one from consignment. Gallant Hawk (Dra 382): Can give you a bit of defender to work with. Obviously more synergy with Swordmage, who will have more marks, but others can add defender-lite to their build. Blue for swormages, who will like the extra marking in heroic. Hurrum (Dra 397): OK, being unable to go into direct sunlight kills this metaphorically and literally. That's much too big of a drawback, for what you get. You might be able to to weird things with Pacifying Drone, but there's not much here. Jank (Dra 397): Low-light vision is nice if your DM keeps track of that sort of thing. The extra damage is nice, but not great. However, if you actually keep track of survival days, this goes to Blue, simply because you stay neutral on the number of survival days you consume, which is awesome for long-distance hauls. Kes'trekel (Dra 397): Untyped damage roll bonus. That is all. Perception is nice, you might be able to cheese the pushing some. But the damage bonus is what you want here. Kivit (Dra 397): Being able to punish people for attack you has some limited use for a defender (1/enc weak Catch-22, basically). It's nice that it scales, but poison isn't the best damage type, sadly. Improved defenses against opportunity attacks and Perception bonus are nice touches, though. Least Air Elemental (Dra 382): Doesn't mention the weight limit for the moving object. The passive benefit is situational, but if you're trained in Acrobatics you can fall small distances with little or no damage. EDIT: The issue compilation gives the weight limit at 20 lbs. So there we go. Least Earth Elemental (Dra 382): Your hard to knock down, and you know who is is the same square as your familiar. Annnnnd not much else. Lightning Lizard (Dra 374): A fire lizard, only with lightning. Storm Sorcerers find this to be their heroic tier familiar of choice. Magpie (Dra 377): Disembodied Hand is strictly better. Skill bonuses really can't replace free stow/retrieve, making this not something you'll want. Marmoset (Dra 377): It can get total +4 to Thievery. Higher than most with the ability to work locks, but still not much else to make you want to have this. Moon Wisp (Dra 382): The light can be very handy, no more torches! The concealment negtion is a minor bombing effect that doesn't come up often. Like all Gloaming Path familiars, not very good. Muse Sprite (Dra 382): The Messenger bit is confusing on how it works, and the rerolls come too unfrequently to be of much use. Light doesn't add much. EDIT: The compiled version clarifies Messenger. It can deliver messages within 5 miles. Still not useful. Octopus (Dra 377): If you're in an aquatic campaign, this is an extremely good familiar. Dragon poo everywhere else Ooze (Dra 382): Tremorsense can be situationally useful, and it can hide in very small places. Not really much going in this one. OsolaFez (Dra 375/376): The version in the Builder is horrible. If your DM lets you use the version as shown in the column, upgrade to Purple. If your DM is insane enough to allow the original version, Sky Blue. Owl (AP): The skill bonuses are slightly better then the normal. Owl's Eyes is a great boon for scouting, if you can get the range farther. Other than that, nothing going. Parrot (Dra 374): A slower raven with slightly more useful skill bonuses. Like the raven, a bad choice. Rat (AP): A bit like the Marmoset. It can debatebly manipulate Thieves Tools, but doesn't gain a bonus to Thievery. Potential +7 to Stealth is nice though. Past that, there isn't really much here. Raven (AP): The active benefit is a very medicrore RP benefit, and one with limited applications. The passive benefit is very situational. Not a good choice at all. Rootling(Dra 372): If you spend almost all of your time in the forest, this is good. If you don't, a trap Saddle Squire(Dra 377): Ok, you have a mount. Want a prize for it? This makes it better. But not by much. Very bad. Scouting Homunculus(Dra 372): A mile is more than you will ever need it to be away from you for scouting, and is much more consistent at being stealthy. An excelent familiar, especially for scouting. Serpent (AP): The shifting could be helpful, but it woun't come up that often. You can also bomb enemies to set up a rush past some enemies. Shadow Raven (HoS): Perception is always good, but the defense bonus is entirely DM dependent, and so unreliable. Partial concealment on demand is always hand, though. If your DM tends to spring surprise rounds on you often, this can upgrade to a Blue. Sitak (Dra 397): No. An additional language is crappy (There's a level 2 or 3 item that does better than that), skill bonuses are OK, and the active benefit is terrible. You can get better ways to boost Bluff and Diplomacy. Skull (Dra 372): Basic skill bonuses, and a very situational benefit. Shouldn't you at least get resist necrotic, or something like that? Soarwood Wings (Dra 377): Fly speeds are late game benefits, and +1 to them generally doesn't do much. It also doesn't affect powers that say "fly X squares." Being able to fly yourself or enemies out of places can be situationally useful. Specter (Dra 382): Undead campaigns give this plenty of use. Incorporeal is a very nice boon for positioning it. Necrotic is also a very common damage type, so that is handy. Good overall. Spider (AP): One of the familiars that can manipulate objects. Cool thing though is the object can be up to 5 squares away. Save penalty to slowing effects is minor, probably won't come up often. Sprite (HotF): Using Arcana to detect magic as a minor is nice....if you actually do that in combat. Free torch might be good, if your DM actually cares about that sort of thing? Nothing exciting herer. Summoner Homunculus (Dra 377): For you who summon you own armies, i.e. Wizards. This is very helpful for when you summon things. Your personal army just got a little better. ' Tiny Gelatinous Cube(Dra 382): Invisible, so they can't see you, and you can eat through them. Everything organic and non-living is eatable. You can even make a wooden statue if your DM lets you! Definitely very high quality. Always a good choice. Toad(Dra 374): Increases your survivability, which is always good, as well as giving a little extra healing once per encounter. A solid choice for anyone. Tome Caddy(Dra 377): You can get use tomes, and don't have to hold them to use them. The summoner gets a benefit from this, especially artificers who can't use tomes normally. Tomes also have many benefits for summoners. Warforged Faceplate (Dra 377): Ongoing damage is always bad, so this saving throw benefit is nice. No surprise is situationaly useful, but could never come up. Weasel (Dra 374):You have the standard +5 stealth, and resistance to oppurtunity attacks. It can move around and avoid the enemy, but not much else. White Eyed Crow(Dra 382): Surprise doesn't happen nearly enough to make this useful. The reroll is too situational to be very handy. All in all, not a good choice. Wrab (Dra 397): Terrible passives, but being able reroll just about any Insight check you make is incredibly useful if you need it. Being able to get scaling THP isn't bad either. Not great, but not bad either. Z'tal (Dra 397): There are better ways to move around faster available, and not many arcane characters go for the Chargecheese route. Deafened is a terrible condition to impose, but preventing opportunitiy attacks is rather nice, especially as an effect.
Ah, these elementally-charged boys are ones that are specific to the Sha'ir subclass of the Wizard. Only they can access these (and there aren't any ways to multiclass into it), so unless you're playing one, you shouldn't be looking here. Also, all of them can be the origin square for a close arcane attack once per encounter.
Daolanin (HotEC): Having a roving mobile source of difficult terrain is an awesome feature, even tied to such a frail feature. Pushing on a daily isn't always useful, but being able to use it as a mobile turret to direct the push in an appropriate direction makes up for it. Djinnling (HotEC): Very, very controllery. You can slide enemies and allies (so a touch of leader in there) as a minor action, or with a daily. Not one of the stronger Sha'ir options to say the least. You might not have the minor to make the constant benefit worth it, and the daily addition is weak to say the least, even with some interesting repositioning potential. Efreetkin (HotEC): Let us consider that fire is one of the most commonly resisted damage types. Let us also consider the pitful damage that is tacked onto your dailies. Let us also consider that Fire Resist isn't all that hard to get (and is often outshown by such races as Genasi and Tieflings). The weakest of the Sha'ir familiars by far. Maridan (HotEC): On the other hand, this is utterly amazing. The constant benefit is campaign specific, but potentially nice. On the other hand, the daily addition blows any potential downside out of the water (see what I did there? huh?). Auto slowing, and granting allies partial concealment? That can be a game-swinger (if they daily wasn't already), and is very much worth having. The only hard part is making sure that it doesn't die before it gets surrounded.
Air Mephit(Dra 374): A slightly better version of the Book Imp. This is The Familiar of choice for Storm Sorcerers, and those with Book Imps might like to second resistance. Ambush Vine Shoot (Dra 377): Climbing and swimming generally have better alternatives. The save penalty is very situational, and you have to be into restrained/immboilized conditions to make use of it. Arcane Wisp(Dra 374): The teleporting people will like this, as it applies to all ways that you could possibly teleport. Having a save-it's-energy ability can really come in handy if you need it to stay active a lot. A solid choice Beholderkin (Dra 374): Autodamage somebody once per encounter with a random damage type. Sadly, three out of the four are fairly common resist types, although this can be a good way to use up resist variable (x/encounter). Blackspawn Darkling (Dra 374): Stealthy, but that's about it that you can find here. If you want a scout, but can't or won't take the better heroic tier ones, but really, why wouldn't you? Bluespawn Nimblespark (Dra 374): It shocks them when it is hit. When its hit, it dies. Could be handy, but not a particularly useful ability, as you will in the vast majority of situations not want it to trigger. Crawling Clot (Dra 377): We get a familiar that does healing by itself. Resist necrotic that increases when bloodied, a unique trait for this one, but the healing would be the draw. Excellent for builds that need a bit more healing that aren't an artificer. Dimensional Pet (Dra 374): A slightly worse version of the Arcane Wisp. Trading a save your familiar ability for a negate teleport, which might never come up, is just a bad trade. Earth Mephit (Dra 374): You are harder to mover around, which can be situationally handy, and you can block a space for a turn. I see some uses, but none come up very often. Fire Mephit (Dra 374): Really, the active benefit has a heroic alternative that is much more controllable, and you don't have anything exceptional in the passive zone. Grayspawn Shortfang (Dra 374): Tougher to kill, but nothing else is coming to mind here. Greenspawn Banespike (Dra 374): If you have a good Bluff check, the active benefits can be an easy way to gain CA as a minor action. Slightly better than the other dragonspawn familiars. Ice Mephit (Dra 374): The best bombing familiar you can have. 3X3 dificult terrain as a minor action? A well placed set can disrupt enemies plans better than you could think possible. Pair with a fighter or other sticky defender, and that's several enemies who aren't going anywhere. Living Infusion(Dra 377): Take the already good Infusions of the Artificer, and throw in the Shaman's stick of spreading the love around. This makes an already good feature even better. Halving the casting time for restoration rituals is just gravy. Minor Fowlspawn (Dra 377): Extra damage is never bad, and this gives a decent amount. Your DM might allow this damage to trigger Psychic Lock, in which case this is very good if you have powers that don't do psychic damage. Rakshasa Claw (Dra 374): If you have a Disembodied Hand, trade it for this. It gives you exactly the same stuff, plus some extras. A great choice. Redspawn Spitfire (Dra 374): A redux of the Grayspawn with a slightly more common damage type. *yawn* Smith's Hammer (Dra 377): You get an additional use of a minor, if handy class feature and a sacrificial bonus to defenses, which is better if it is a warforged. Better choices exist for an artificer, but this is solid. Stone Fowl (Dra 374): Being able to get a bonus against slowed, which is one of the most common conditions listed, can be a life saver, albiet one that might not come up very often. Tinker Feyling (Dra 377): You can use Arcane Empowerment in-battle. Not enough to give this a good rating, as you can probably just use it before the battle. Whitespawn Snowstepper (Dra 374): You can get a damage reduction, which is better if the damage is cold, even though this gives you resist cold, which will stack on it. If you are going to be in the tundra, this will do you nicely. Otherwise, just skip it.
Blazing Skull (Dra 374): Deserves mention as the fastest familiar on the lists going by the base speed. Basically a Skull with various fire elements included. Not a particularly good choice. Chaos Shard (Dra 374): Dominated is always a bummer, but the real draw is the active benefit. You can use this to target people way out of your range normally. Great for wizards in that respect. Gibbering Pet(Dra 374): One in four chance to effectively speak all languages is great, and the others are all useful at this tier. The active benefit is great for messing with artillery and controllers. Sadly though, you will most likely only get one or two uses out of it. Lingering Nightmare (Dra 377): For those of you who focus on fear powers, this provides a nice way to further debuff your enemies. Besides that, nothing special here. Shadow Incarnate (Dra 374): Lightly obscuring the square might draw the enemies attention if it isn't in the shadows, and you can do a scry-and-die with scouting ahead. Has some stealthy bonuses for a good scouting familiar. Silver Lamp(Dra 377): Very demon specific. If you're not fighting demons, all the good effects of this go to waste, and you're left with pretty much nothing.
Active Familiar (Dra 382): You can move, your familiar can move, all at the same time. Everybodys happy. Bantam Fastieth owners might get two-three move actions for their familiar using this feat, in which case it is Sky Blue for them. Arcane Familiar (AP): This is the feat the guide is about. As such, I have rated it above my normal top rating. Thats just the way it is. Arcane Porter (HotF): Bad. Unless your DM is a stickler for the rules, he shoudl be fine with letting your familiar carry stuff anyway. And even if he isn't, this isn't anywhere near worth a feat. Argent Falcon (Dra 386): Now you can have a falcon, no matter what you picked! Joking aside, this is a fairly good power. The light is medicore at best. However, all enemies within 3 squares grant CA for one round? That is simply a simply godly effect, and every single member of your party will love you for that. Bonded Familiar (AP): This is half the maximum range of your familiar, and if your that close? Just shout. A horrific feat. Cast Afar Spirit (Dra 382): Ok, unless you are tied up, and you need your familiar to materialize out of the cell to free your skin, I can't think of a reason why you would take this feat. Familiar's Vitality (HotF): The additional HP is too low to be worth it. You can find other feats that do the same thing, only better. Don't bother. Fey Familiar (Dra 390): Eladrin Only! Your familiar can teleport when you use your fey step. Eh, it's a nice boost, but not particularly powerful. Infused Familiar (Dra 377): Artificer Only! This is not a very good feat. It basically gives you up to 5 more range, once per day, if your familiar is in active mode for a healing infusion. To specific in scope to be useful at all. Persistent Familiar (Dra 382): You keep your familiar around a round longer. That is what this feat does, and this is Awesome. Everybody with worthwhile active benefits will love this feat. Quick Familiar (Dra 374): Active Familiar renders this feat obselete, as you can move yourself and your familiar at the same time now. No reason to take this instead of that. Shardbound Familiar (Eberron) (Dra 377): Better than Shielding Familiar. Lets you reposition yourself and your familiar, and keeps your familiar from dying. Nice, expecially as an encounter power. Shared Speed (Dra 374): Not a very high priority feat, but can be useful for speeding up slow familiars. Bantam Fastieth owners will like this as it capitalizes on their familiars multiple move action madness Shielding Familiar (AP): If you keep your familiar in passive mode most of the time, this might be of some use. However, it is a power swap, so you might have another power you want more. Spellseer Familiar (AP): The requires you to keep your familiar in active mode during combat, but the benefits are fairly good, and rerolls are a always nice. It is a daily though. Spirit's Reward (DSCS): Somewhat campaign specific, but adding a small amount of THP to a daily power, and the recipient must be you, or adjacent to your familiar. It's OK, I guess, but doesn't seem that strong. Swift Familiar (Dra 382): Conservation of actions is always important. You shouldn't need to switch modes more than once per round anyway, so this makes a good feat.
Agressive Familiar (Dra 374): It destroys your familiar, which is bad, and for fairly medicore benefits. The fact that you have to give up a utility to use it, and that it is a daily doesn't help at all. Alert Familiar (Dra 374): Most enemies don't have additional effects on combat advantage, and this robs them of what they do have. You have to keep you familiar in passive mode, but for a defensive user, this nice, especially for those swordmages and artificers who go into melee. Enlarge Familiar (Dra 377): Artificer Only! Not a very good feat. It lasts until the start of your next turn, and makes your familiar an actual threat. Not particularly good of a power. Free-Ranging Familiar (Dra 377): Artificer Only! If only this wasn't limited to Artificers, it would be an excellent feat. As is, it is still good, but the class requirement bumps it down in rating. Shardbound Familiar (Khyber) (Dra 377): Everybody who has a familiar that goes into combat will love this feat. Ongoing 10, you pick the damage type, and if the enemy heals itself up above bloodied? Do it again. Excellent, although it is Sky Blue for melee people. Shardbound Familiar (Siberys) (Dra 377): Hello. This adds significant control aspects to you, especially since you only have to sustain it to work with it. Protects allies on the other side of it, as well as splitting the battle, possibly even isolating a part, like the artillery, or controllers. Only bad side? Your familiar is destroyed. I'll live with that. Sight of the Familiar (Dra 382): Another excellent feat. Scouting familiars can show you things, which can be more helpful than descibing them, as well as allowing for more stragety beforehand. You also get your familiars sight modes, which can be excellent if you have one with blindsight or tremorsense. Space-Bending Familiar (Dra 382): Teleport 2 isn't much, and Wizards have an at-will utility 2 that does much more than this. And if your serious about your familiar, that is a better option. Vigorous Familiar (Dra 377): Artificer Only! Its requirements include one of the Dragonmark feats that an artificer shouldn't take, and it just adds your familiar to the list of creatures that are affected by it. Really?
Conduit of Ice (Wizard Encounter Attack 1, Dra 382): This zone effect is fairly good, and your familiar makes it marginally better. This can lock down an area very easily, but the effect relies on actually hitting the target, so not as good. Familiar Harrier (Wizard At-Will Utility 2, Dra 382): Oh. My. Raven. Queen. This essentially gives your familiar teleport 10, with some simply amazing benefits. The teleport is great, but the benefits really sky rocket this up. Melting Pool (Wizard Encounter Attack 3, Dra 382): Low damage, and it is vs. Fort. This is for wizards though, so the low damage isn't all that bad, and if you center on your familiar, you have a minor lockdown effect in place. Meh. Familiar's Call (Wizard Encounter Utility 6, Dra 382): Well, you can move 20 squares as a move, and potentially save your familiar, at the cost of your your hide. There are better things at this level, such as Fly, or Invisibility. Repelling Sphere (Wizard Encounter Attack 7, Dra 382): Umm, I'm assuming you can push people through foot thick walls of stone with this, or at least into them for damage. Or into other enemies. Other than the hijinks offered by the wording of the push, nothing to see here. (Tip: If you take this, boost the size of the burst for maximum effect.) Familiar Shape (Wizard Daily Utility 10, Dra 382): Good for sneaking around, or confusing the brains out of your party members and DM. If you have a strange looking familiar, or an extremely common looking one, this can be good RP material. Other than that, nothing much. Arcane Chastisement (Wizard Encounter Attack 13, Dra 382): This can create a pretty good pseudo-marked effect, and your familiar spreads the love around. Can be very handy in a party where you have two secondary defenders, or some such thing. Circle of Protection (Wizard Encounter Utility 16, Dra 382): If you have nothing to do with your minor actions, this can be nice to keep up all encounter. Creates a nice safe zone to stay in, and your familiar adds a POWER (Bah) bonus to the attack. Unfortunately, targets Fort. Also, the most offensive utility I know of. Thunderous Transformation (Wizard Encounter Attack 17, Dra 382): Excellent for rearanging the battlefield, with some AoE effect to boot. This can teleport an enemy literally to the other side of the battlefield. Unfortunately, that’s about all it can do, and like most of the familiar spells, this targets Fort. Dire Familiar Incantation (Wizard Daily Utility 22, Dra 382): Essentially a summoning spell, only it aguments your familiar, instead of creating something. You also gain some bonuses for the melee familiar. Makes you familiar a very good threat on the field (Well, more of one, that is). Crushing Necrotism (Wizard Encounter Attack 23, Dra 382): Low range. It also can make the enemy a very nice target for the party rogue. The push effect is also very nice for isolating the target. Your familiar can use it as a way to get out of a tight spot. Mind-Numbing Presence (Wizard Encounter Attack 27, Dra 382): Bit of a redo of Conduit of Ice, and lets your familiar move around very hadily if you can get people to stay in the zone.
Familiar Fires (Sorcerer Encounter Attack 1, Dra 386): High damage, for single target, and can be very accurate if your familiar is adjacent to it. Wave of Light (Sorcerer Encounter Attack 1, Dra 386): Nice debuff for melee characters, and you can shoot it from your familiar. Very nice, with respectable damge. Chaotic Strike (Sorcerer Daily Attack 1, Dra 386): As a close burst power, with pushing, it scatters the enemies away from you. Possible more damage isn't very good, and of the two damage types, one can be exploited. Spirit Guidance (Sorcerer Encounter Utility 2, Dra 386): More accuracy is nice for the big daily, and as an encounter power, it comes to you fairly often. Still, not that often, and not that much. Flame Entanglement (Sorcerer Encounter Attack 3, Dra 386): CA is nice, and the Dragon Magic bit is pretty much unecessary. Other than that, there isn't anything that makes it anything other than single target damage and a bit of slowing. Pinning Darts (Sorcerer Daily Attack 5, Dra 386): So, if you miss, and rolled an even number, you keep this power. And your familiar has to be active. Yah, I don't think that it is very good, although the imobilized is nice. Protective Familiar (Sorcerer Daily Utility 6, Dra 386): If your familiar gets destroyed by this, it is total crap unless you really want to save your ally. If it doesn't, it is still only medicore. Horror Blast (Sorcerer Encounter Attack 7, Dra 386): Nice way to get enemies away from you, and knocking them prone is nice, but it has to be after the push, which could be hard. Flanking Familiar (Sorcerer Daily Attack 9, Dra 386): Probably the best way to really get your familiar involved in combat early. Flanking is nice, and party members will like the CA. Sadly, the effect is sustain minor, which really sucks. Shielding the Bound Spirit (Sorcerer Daily Utility 10, Dra 386): This a great power that makes your familiar very tough, although the resist is only helpful against minions. Still, combine with Opportunistic Familiar below to make it a real beast. Chaos Poison Blast (Sorcerer Encounter Attack 13, Dra 386): Having a conditional effect on a natural 20 only doesn't help this power. Fortunately, the Active Familiar benefit is nice, and doesn't have to ahve the familiar be adjacent to the target, which is what really helps this power. Opportunistic Familiar (Sorcerer Daily Utility 15, Dra 386): This is probably the most awesome power I have reviewed. It is like the Wizard version, but so much better in every respect. Attacks, and even better movement make this an awesome power. Rise, My Pet (Sorcerer Daily Utility 15, Dra 386): A great utility. Ressurect your familiar, and unlike most others, it can be automatically active. It is a daily, but is still great. Rolls of Thunder (Sorcerer Encounter Attack 17, Dra 386): Bland power, and has very little to make it memorable. Prone is always nice, and the pushing is good as well, but nothing really stands out. Spiritual Venom (Sorcerer Daily Attack 19, Dra 386): Well, the damage isn't that great, and the ongoing part is only normal. Damage type is also very resistable. Savior Spirit (Sorcerer Encounter Utility 22, Dra 386): You a get an ally out of danger, and your familiar can travel up to 20 squares of teleport distance. That doesn't really inspire me to take this power. Inferno Ring (Sorcerer Encounter Attack 23, Dra 386): Have your familiar be at a diferent part of the battle from the target of this power, and you can potentially auto-damage quite a few enemies with this power, dispite the low damage. Chaotic Spray (Sorcerer Daily Attack 25, Dra 386): Position your familiar next to a big target, and you have a pretty big ongoing damage compenent going on. Other than that, there isn't really anything here except two slightly odd damage types that could be exploited. Lightning Backlash (Sorcerer Encounter Attack 27, Dra 386): The secondary attack is not worth sacrificing your familiar to achieve. Damage is too low for high epic tier. Without that, it is a middling neutral bland single target power. Necrotic Storm (Sorcerer Daily Attack 29, Dra 386): Stunned is a great condition to have on an enemy, and the ability to keep it on for possibly another turn is great. Depending on your familiar though, you may not want to sacrifice it.
Familiar Keeper: This is your bland, run-of-the-mill PP. Has got a few gems overall, but not much to make it stand out. Familiar Forms (11th PP Feature): You get some great utility here. Pick to forms with diferent uses, like comabt and scouting, and your good to go. Really lets you diversify . Familiar Action (11th Ap Feature): Your familiar comes back if it is destroyed. Generally you don't want that to happen, and this is a bit weak, but it can be a lifesaver if you really need your familiar. Familiar Movement (16 PP Feature): So now your familiar can waltz right through the enemy, and they can't swing at it. Really adds to the tactical possibilities, as well as sending your familiar for help, if you are captured. Familiar Surge (11th Encounter Attack): High damage, and your familiar lets it loose. The granted CA will be nice, making this power OK. Transpose Familiar (12th Daily Utility): This is where some of the movement cheese really gets going. Teleport distances can be pretty big, and those who duke it out in melee can get behind enemy lines like no other with this, especially when you get to 16th level. Familiars Command (20th Daily Attack): Dominated? Against Will? O_o. This is really nice for that pesky controller or artillery that is wrecking up the battle, and you can keep it if you miss. A winner.
Familiar Bloodsmith: This offers more flavor and slightly better things to play with, but sadly is limited to artificers only. Multiclass has never looked so good.
Familiar Blood Bond (11th PP Feature): In between fights, this can get you the little extra boost, and keep you alive mid-combat, if you have a familiar that doesn't do combat. Bloodsmith Action (11th AP Feature): This. Is. Versatile. Any arcane attack? This can really up the tactical level a notch, as you have more options for blasting from your familiar. Second Familiar (16th PP Feature): You only get the benefits of one at a time, but your feats and PP abilites could use either. Scout two places at once, confuse the enemy, the possbilities are quite endless. Bloodbond Rebuke (11th Encounter Attack): You get some minor interrupt ability, and can punish an enemiy for attacking an ally. Minor defender capabilites here, but the power itself is weak. Rescue Familiar (12 Daily Utility): Save your familiar power. You will find use for it. And you can send your familiar out again to do more battle. Excellent. Unfortunately, a daily. Bloodbond Swarm (20th Daily Attack): Nice aura effect, and whats better is that you can get your familiar back afterwards. This can keep a bunch of enemies pulled down if you can keep people in it.
Ravenkin: A semi-decent PP. The only real benefit offered here is an extra familiar, but that comes with a weird variation of the rules.
Shadow Raven Familiar (11th PP Feature): You get the Shadow Raven familiar. It's not a bad familiar, but the wording is weird (discussion below). Sight of the Raven (11th PP Feature): It's exactly like Sight of the Familiar, only conditional. Bleh. Murderous Action (11th AP Feature): Being able to have up to 20 squares of extra room, as well as more versatility for the direction of pushes and such things? Very nice. Bonded Raven (16th PP Feature): The telepathy isn't even worth looking at, and your raven shouldn't have to take attacks in the first place. A resounding meh. Winter's Raven (11th Encounter Attack): Considering that it's limited to ranged attacks only, not as useful as it could, especially given the range. Debuffing their attacks as an effect is OK, as is the cold damage, but neither make up for the conditional trigger. Raven Harrier (12th Encounter Utility): It's certainly interesting. CA as a minor is interesting, but it puts your raven in severe danger of being knocked out of the encounter. Probably the best combo with this is in conjunction with Winter's Raven to get your raven adjacent. An Unkindness of Ravens (20th Daily Attack): The damage is terrible, but as a controller power isn't quite decent. Your raven can probably get to the best place to unleash it, and it does very well at locking down quite a bit of the field (Burst 3 is huge).
Basically, the crux of the quirkiness of this path is that you get a familiar, without getting Arcane Familiar. As a result, if you want to get feats to improve it, you have to get Arcane Familiar as a feat. By RAW, having both this path and Arcane Familiar gives you two familiars, both fully-fledged, and you get the bonuses from both. I believe you have to spend seperate actions to move them, but feats should apply to both of them. Anything that says "your familiar" could apply to either, at your discretion. Be sure to make sure your DM is level with this, as the rules are extremely ambigous for this sort of thing.
Safe Retreat (Wondrous, Dra. 377): This is your Pokeball. No really, I am not kinding, this is an honest to (diety) Pokeball. Works like one, and apparently looks a bit like one. Fairly good, especially if you really need those passive things. Also, it isn't a familiar item, so thatyou can have this, and something else. Familiar's Baldric (Familiar, Dra. 377): Lowest level item. It is fairly bland, but it does its job well, especially if you have nothing better to equip you familiar with. Familiar's Cowl (Familiar, Dra. 377): There are 19 (number is out-of-date and is no longer accuracte, but you get the idea) monsters against which this does not apply in the compendium. Against all the rest, cover, i.e., +2 to defenses and an oppurtunity to stealth is in order. The daily invisiblity power's wording means that your familiar can do anything, and it still remains invisible. This is an awesome item. Homing Collar (Familiar, Dra. 377): Not a particularly useful or even powerful item. The teleportation has not given range, so you can use it for some cheesy sneaking into buildings, but really not worth the money. Lucky Charm (Familiar, Dra. 382): Idealy all the attacks should miss your familiar, but this is still weak for a paragon tier item. Mobility is nice, bu there are better items to get. Charm of Protection (Familiar, Dra 382): An encounter power, and an immediate interrupt, so it can cause the triggering attack to miss. Very nice until you can get a Cowl.
Familiar Mount (Level 4, Arcana, Dra. 382): Fun times can be had with this, especially if you can get rid of, or reduce the compnent cost. The wording on the hit points is like the shaman's companion, in that if one hit doesn't take it down, it doesn't lose anything. If you can now put mount items on it, go get that Impenetrable Barding, and you have a fairly tough creature to ride on. Best for something that has fly speed with hover, as you can go crazy places with it. Note though, the CutSev has ruled against being able to put mount items on a familiar affected by this ritual. Take this how you will, or ignore it, just be warned.
Lets get serious here. You don't get a familiar in order to gain a powerful creature that you can use to break the game. If someone can show me a way that they can break the game, please let me know. Adding it to the Build Index would please me. The reason you get a familiar, is so you can supplement your character by improving an existing capability, or adding a new one. Mostly that is what a familiar does already, although you can line up the supplement to greater effect if you do things right. Following is a list of the arcane classes, and what familiars can offer them.
Artificer: One of the two classes who get the most out of a familiar. They have feats that are artificer only, and one of the paragon paths is artificer only. Four familiars are specifically designed to work with the features from the artificer. These all make the artificer the excellent familiar keeper. Bard: Almost nothing special here. There is nothing out there that is specifically built for the bard. They can be fine with one, but nothing calls out to be used by one. A familiar does improve their ability to be a skill monkey, and can do some of the skills at a range. Sorcerer: Well, thank (diety) that there are many familiars that improve your Soul resistance, and therefore your piercing. You can get resistance to pretty much any damage type. The powers have some real gems to, so you can do some pretty neat things with some with your familiar with the better things. Swordmage: Not much here. Some familiars offer you some tricks that can come in handy for a melee person. These tricks are helpful, but nothing special. Warlock: Pretty much like the bard. Nothing here that improves the warlocks stick, and nothing gives you handy tricks to overly improve what specific tricks you have. Wizard: The other of the two classes that get the most out of a familiar. This comes in the form of the powers you get that can be improved by your familiar. Most of them aren't great, but they do let you get cool tricks with your familiar.
Familars generally have one of several purposes. The common ones are listed below. *Scouting: Give you intel into things ahead. Range and stealth capabilites are key here. *Combat Utility: Plenty of familiars give you additional abilities that let you do things, or dare things in combat that give you tricks to add utility. *Character Concept: Well, not much I can advise here. If a familiar fits your concept, by all means, get it. This is a roleplaying game, after all.
*Scouting: Cat and Scouting Homunculus stand out here. The range for both is more than you will every need. Cat is a base standard here, but I prefer the Homunculus, as it gives more consistently high stealth checks, and brings flying into the equation. Either way, any familiar with good stealth can do this effectively. *Combat Utility: Many different things in here make it harder to define this properly. One highlight is the Floating Sword, with the tricks that result from adding Familiar Mount. *Bombing Familiars: This is a more clearly defined subset of Combat Utility, in that they all have effects that lock up either 1 square, or have an effect in burst 1 around them. Ice Mephit is the premier example of this, although there are many others that have similar effects. *Character Concept: Well, if you want your character to have something flying (or crawling, or walking) around with you, go right ahead and get one. It's called Flavor Optimization.
Love familiars, but I can never get them to quite work out for my character. Can't wait to see what advice you can give on choosing, using, and optimizing them.
Ditto. I'm been randomly musing on giving my eladrin warlord (multi-wizard for rituals and shield) a familiar -- what we *really* need are familiars for characters that aren't primarily casters. Someone should write an article.