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D&D 3E
casting through a familiar 
16th-Jan-2009 12:59 pm
I'm playing a third level cleric. I'm planning to take the prestige class mystic theurge. In order to do so I need to be able to cast both second level divine and arcane spells. We've just leveled so my next class level will be wizard. Being a third level cleric with one level of wizard presents me with a unique opportunity. I'm sure this has come up in someone's game before but I've never encountered it so I'm curious how you'd rule on this as a DM.

The description of the familiar ability Deliver Touch Spells on page 53 of the PHB reads:
If the master is 3rd level or higher, a familiar can deliver touch spells for him. If the master and the familiar are in contact at the time the master casts a touch spell, he can designate his familiar as the "toucher". The familiar can then deliver the touch spell just as the master could. As usual, if the master casts another spell before the touch is delivered, the touch spell dissipates.

It doesn't say "if the master's is caster level 3 or higher" so I'm assuming i can do this now, even though I'll only be a first level mage. It also doesn't specify that this can only be done with arcane spells. So if my reading of this rule is correct, I can take a flying familiar, stand back at a safe distance, and send my familiar flying in above the fray to heal any combatants in my party that might need it.

I just realized I should probably go check the PHB errata. If I find anything there that changes this I'll update this post. In the meantime, how would you rule on this if the rules are correct as I quoted them?

There are no changes to familiar abilities or anything else on page 53 on the most recent version of the Errata, last updated in 2006. However, while the ability description says "If the master is 3rd level or higher", the table on the same page that shows when the familiar gets it's various abilities does say "Master Class Level". Deliver touch spells isn't available until level 3 on that table. So I guess I can't actually do this until I'm a third level wizard. But I can't find anything indicating they only intended this for arcane spells so I still think I ought to be able to do it eventually.
16th-Jan-2009 06:21 pm (UTC)
I'd assume that the '3rd level or higher' refers to '3rd level in whatever class you are getting the familiar levels from'.
16th-Jan-2009 06:24 pm (UTC)
I would tend to agree, but they make a clear distinction between class level, caster level, and character level everywhere else in the books. I'm still looking for the errata but I think they may mean it as it reads. Even if they meant class level, would you allow me to deliver healing spells through my familiar once I get to Cleric 3/Wizard 3?
16th-Jan-2009 06:32 pm (UTC)
I might. I think that a wizard/cleric hybrid tends to be weaker than either alone, so I think 'healing spells via familiar' and 'can learn many, many spells' doesn't compare to 'an extra spell level'.
16th-Jan-2009 06:37 pm (UTC) - I think that a wizard/cleric hybrid tends to be weaker than either alone
I tend to agree with you there too. But with Mystic Theurge and if I take the feat Practiced Spellcaster twice I think I'll be doing okay. Levels 4-6 are going to be a bitch though. You don't want to be limited to second level spells at level 6. Not when spells are your main thing. Guess I'll see how it goes.
17th-Jan-2009 03:22 am (UTC) - Re: I think that a wizard/cleric hybrid tends to be weaker than either alone
Yes--Practiced Spellcaster is your friend. :-)
16th-Jan-2009 06:28 pm (UTC)
I'd allow it. It's not game-breaking, it's a really good example of class synergy. Plus, it's kinda brilliant.

Be prepared to have your familiar shot out of the air once the enemy realizes what's going on, though. :\
16th-Jan-2009 06:33 pm (UTC)
Though I wouldn't allow it, I agree it's clever thinking. Hmmm...Maybe I'd try to find some way to incorporate it -- maybe allow clerical touch spells if they were a couple levels lower? Or at best, no higher level than the maximum wizard level spells castable? So if you were level 5 cleric, level 2 wizard, maybe you could transfer cure light wounds to the familiar, but not level 2 clerical spells.
16th-Jan-2009 06:40 pm (UTC) - Be prepared to have your familiar shot out of the ai
I thought of that too. I've considered some possible ways to avoid that. Not entirely, there's no way to prevent them from trying. But there are things I can do to make it harder. I'm still thinking about it. I need to be as careful as I can be in just about everything I do because until I can start taking levels of the prestige class and earn a couple more feats, this is practically a crippled character.
18th-Jan-2009 06:49 am (UTC) - Re: Be prepared to have your familiar shot out of the ai
A lot of D&D baddies are pretty dumb, though. If your familiar is something otherwise inconsequential (which most of them tend to be) many brutish or animalistic bad guys would have to see the familiar-healing trick several times before they figure out what's going on, by which point they should be dead. Even with a smart opponent, there's a tendency to attack whoever seems most dangerous - it's tough to justify casting Disintegrate on the familiar when you could be casting it on the Mystic Theurge. But if you use the familiar to deliver an offensive touch spell, it will quickly become a high-value target.

Of course, you can expect recurring villains to catch on pretty quickly, and strike for lasting impact knowing they can take advantage of it down the road. Put the familiar away until you're fighting random encounters again.
18th-Jan-2009 06:51 am (UTC) - Re: Be prepared to have your familiar shot out of the ai
Also, I don't see anything wrong with delivering Cleric touch spells through the Wizard familiar. But it seems like you don't get the ability until Wiz 3. The table is explicit where the text is not.
18th-Jan-2009 07:10 am (UTC) - The table is explicit where the text is not.
Right on. I saw that too after my original post.
16th-Jan-2009 06:46 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that is the one thing about familiars that makes this ability, though very cool at first glance, almost totally useless. I created a high-level wizard to walk in to a high-level campaign and was excited at the implications of this ability until the DM said, "Yeah, you go ahead and do that! Monsters love to play "stomp the familiar!" It was a snide way of telling me how truly useless the ability is because if your familiar gets it, you take permanent damage, and that really sucks. I'd almost like to see some house-ruling or brainstorming to make this ability as cool in application as it seems when you read it. So a wizard won't be so damned scared to use it.
16th-Jan-2009 06:57 pm (UTC)
Well, my character is insane. So he won't be afraid to do it. Plus his AC shouldn't be too much worse than my own. At level 3 his AC (if I choose Raven) will be 16. Add on any protective spells I cast on myself while he's in range. I may still end up disappointed with the results, but I think I'll give it a whirl eventually.
17th-Jan-2009 03:23 am (UTC)
One possible answer to that is "Improved Familiar:Hellhound."
16th-Jan-2009 06:30 pm (UTC)
I'd assume is means wizard level, not total level. If you had ten levels as a rogue, and only one as a wizard, it doesn't make sense that you would have the magic prowess of a third level wizard.

I'd also rule that magical and clerical energies are different, that the familiar could only transfer wizard-type spells, not clerical ones.

The best way to handle this is to ask your DM and establish house-rules for the situation. Even if WotC has a FAQ about this, you aren't bound by it -- it's ultimately up to your group to make a ruling.
16th-Jan-2009 06:37 pm (UTC)
I'd have to default the rule as being a reference to Wizard level, since it's the description of a class ability. Thus you wouldn't be able to use "touch delivery" until you had three levels of wizard. Also note that the familiar's abilities are tied to the class level, not character level.
16th-Jan-2009 06:55 pm (UTC)
Your familiar will die so fast your head would spin.
16th-Jan-2009 07:30 pm (UTC)
Ehh, the familiar gets what, half his hit points? and his first three levels will be cleric levels? His familiar might end up with more HP than a single-classed wizard would.

I don't have books on me; is this ability part of the Familiar Ability chart, along with empathy/telepathy and stuff like that? IIRC, that's all tied into whatever level of mage you are, not character level. So, you'd need to be a 3rd level mage.

Also, I hope either that you're an elf, human, or half-elf, or that your GM isn't imposing the XP penalty for level imbalance, since you're a 3/1 Cleric/Mage. It's not a huge XP penalty, but every bit hurts at low levels.
16th-Jan-2009 10:02 pm (UTC)
human. by the time i can do this if i have a raven (which is how i'm leaning) his AC would be 16 plus whatever buff spells i'm sharing with him.
16th-Jan-2009 11:07 pm (UTC)

Plus the ac reply below.


16th-Jan-2009 07:05 pm (UTC)
It's not how good your PC is overall, it's how good your PC is as a wizard.
17th-Jan-2009 03:21 am (UTC)
I'm fairly certain that the entire Familiar Table applies only to classes which have familiars--which is to say, Wizard and Sorcerer.

I'm pretty sure that not even prestige classes that add to caster level (e.g. Mystic Theurge) would count towards familiar abilities.

That's just my opinion, of course, and you can agree or disagree. :-)

~ Sor4/Clr3/MT6/bloodline3 with a familiar at equivalent 7th level.
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