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D&D 3E
2nd-Mar-2009 04:42 pm
In the campaign world I am creating, spirits are a big part of magic. Clerics and druids essentially ask spirits to perform tasks for them. Wizards ignore spirits and manipulate magic directly, which is why they can cast any spell they so desire regardless of alignment but also have a theme of having to work and study quite hard for just a little spark of magic. Sorcerers have a spirit patron that is bound to them from birth, giving them the powers of a wizard with the ease of a cleric.

In this campaign, familiars are the manifestations of those patrons, and so wizards do not have them. Instead, wizards may use the animal companion variant or any of the specialist wizard variants in the SRD. BUT I want to give wizards a chance to acquire a spirit patron by making a contract with an evil spirit, which increases their power, but at a price. my first instinct was to make this a feat, but it might become a prestige class a la tainted sorcerer.

You have made a pact with one of the Fallen, offering your soul for greater power.
Prerequisite: Wizard Level 5th, Corrupt Spell.
Benefit: You obtain a familiar as a sorcerer, except this familiar has the fiendish template. In addition, When you cast an evil spell with your fiendish familiar in arm's reach, your wizard caster level is considered two points higher. However, should you perish, you cannot be raised or resurrected by any means. You are also considered to have the evil subtype in all situations in which it is harmful to you.

Is it too imbalanced? If so, how might I improve it?
2nd-Mar-2009 10:28 pm (UTC)
sounds like an anime i saw once.

does the familiar follow all the the rules for normal familiars? if so, I would make it only a +1 to CL. You spend a feat to get this, which means it should be more powerful then a regular familiar, but +2 may be a little much.
2nd-Mar-2009 10:38 pm (UTC)
What anime?

Yes, the familiar is for all intents and purposes given by the class feature, gaining new abilities as the master levels. It is in addition to the animal companion or skeleton assistant they may have from the normal switch. It is effectively Obtain Familiar and Improved Familiar wrapped into one. I may drop it down to +1.
2nd-Mar-2009 10:56 pm (UTC)
Because in theory, using the rules as written, you *could* do a Necromancer with a Skeletal Minion, and then take "Obtain Familiar" to have *two* pets. Nothing prevents this, technically.
2nd-Mar-2009 11:04 pm (UTC)
I was already aware of this, but thank you for making sure. I have considered this and don't really mind, since familiars are not combatants and any character who really wants multiple pets could get more of them easier, such as through the Leadership feat and Animate Dead. The fiendish template really just makes them more durable, with damage reduction and energy resistance. Some familiars don't even have attacks to utilize smite good with.
3rd-Mar-2009 12:07 am (UTC)
shaman king
3rd-Mar-2009 02:03 am (UTC)
Hmm. Never heard of it. The only anime I've watched recently is Death Note.
3rd-Mar-2009 02:25 am (UTC)
i dunno if this ever had an english release. i watched it about 5 years ago, back when i watched anime.
2nd-Mar-2009 10:54 pm (UTC)
I would say to be careful with "harmful." Maybe say something like "you give off an evil aura just as an evil cleric of an evil deity would" (I forget the exact aura rules).

I think "familiar gets fiendish template" is worth exactly one feat. That's how they did it in the Book of Exalted Deeds for celestial, anyway (not sure if Vile Darkness did it for fiendish).

Not sure if "+X to caster level" is really worth "cannot be raised or resurrected," though.
2nd-Mar-2009 11:08 pm (UTC)
I was wanting a feat that had powerful benefits but also tangible drawbacks. I'm certain that I want to keep the "cannot be raised or resurrected" aspect, as their soul is claimed by the spirit when they die.

Interestingly, I thought about the evil aura thing. I may throw it in as flavor, as it doesn't really have much of a positive or negative effect.

What would you balance "cannot be raised or resurrected" with?
2nd-Mar-2009 11:39 pm (UTC)
The negative effect of having an evil aura is registering on Detect Evil; "situations in which it is harmful to you" does not cover that, as being detected brings no harm to the person being detected. The harm would come after.

The whole "cannot be raised or resurrected" thing totally kills it, IMO, and I would never take it as a player. The drawbacks by far outweighs the benefits, especially if you want to maintain a good alignment.

If I were aiming for something along these lines, I'd maintain the 5th caster level, but restrict the familiar to being either an Imp or a Quasit (player's choice). Also, to avoid instantly powerful or insane familiars, I would say that your effective caster level to determine familiar benefits is half of your actual caster level, then possibly create additional feats to add to that.

My 2¢.
3rd-Mar-2009 01:20 am (UTC)
Wait, please explain "especially if you want to maintain a good alignment." I thought this was explicitly for people who *don't* want that. ??

But in case I didn't make it clear, I, too, would never take a "you can't be resurrected" feat. (Although I do love the character creation process...hmm...)
3rd-Mar-2009 02:02 am (UTC)
It's not really designed for player characters, much like everything in the Book of Vile Darkness (where Corrupt Spell comes from). It's not even really supposed to be a sane choice. However, I want it to at least be viable.

It's been mentioned elsewhere that a simple fiendish familiar is quite weak for the penalty of permanent death. Would it be reasonable to upgrade it to an imp or quasit, a tougher creature that can turn itself invisible at will and cast commune once a week?

Also... being detected by Detect Evil isn't particularly harmful, as anyone of any alignment can be detected by an equivalent spell. It might reveal the soul-sold aspect of you, but that's not mechanically harmful, and role-play penalties are unpredictable. Being burned by holy water, however, is. I may simply remove that altogether, as the permanent death seems to be a lot bigger deal than I had originally expected.
3rd-Mar-2009 02:17 am (UTC)
True, it is, but I see no reason to say that only evil wizards can have familiars when the benefits of a familiar can be so great.

It more or less compels a wizard player to be morally ambiguous at the best of times.
3rd-Mar-2009 02:21 am (UTC)
That's why the permanent death thing is there: it deters all but the most obsessively power-hungry individuals.
3rd-Mar-2009 02:23 am (UTC)
I don't really see that it does.

While I won't accept such a risk, I know many people that would take it up quite easily and be no more power hungry than a typical 1st level wizard in any other game.
3rd-Mar-2009 02:32 am (UTC)
Realistically speaking, a CHARACTER would have to be power-hungry or desperate to risk such a deal in the first place, as is typical with making a deal with the devil in exchange for power.

That's what I meant.

But anyways, I didn't really want to discuss what kind of play style this feat fits. I intended it mostly for NPCs. I just want to know if the feat is MECHANICALLY sound.

Obviously, it's not, and I didn't really think it was.

Do you have any suggestions for how it might be improved while still keeping the theme?

+2 to evil spells does not appear to be very desirable. Is there some other means to enhance a wizard's casting? Perhaps some kind of metamagic-like effect, or perhaps the familiar can store spells, effectively increasing the wizard's number of slots?
3rd-Mar-2009 02:35 am (UTC)
If you don't intend for it to be used by player characters, then don't make it available to player characters.

That being said, give your NPCs whatever familiar you want them to have and use the normal familiar rules, tweaking them as necessary.

MECHANICALLY it makes no difference if your players aren't going to be using it, as a wizard having a familiar does nothing to his/her Challenge Rating. Unless you're boosting his caster level, in which case you're raising the CR.
3rd-Mar-2009 02:51 am (UTC)
I wanted it to be available, but I didn't expect any PCs to actually go for it. That's what I meant.

Simply switching out a wizard's bat for an imp is a huge trade. That's a CR 1/10 familiar for a CR 2 familiar, and without some kind of balancing factor, such as the wizard having to sink feats into it, it should be counted as two creatures in an encounter. The level X wizard plus his CR 2 familiar.

Feats from the Book of Vile Darkness are not intended for PCs, but they are mechanically balanced. That's kinda what I'm aiming for.
3rd-Mar-2009 02:56 am (UTC)
Yes, and there are PrC's that grant a wizard an imp as a familiar as its first level benefit. Look through Complete Arcane for reference.

Forgetting entirely about the imp, though, what is wrong with saying "You have to sell your soul to a dark power in order to have a familiar," without having it be a feat? Make it something to roleplay.

It thereby is not only mechanically sound (since it's already factored into the Wizard class), but it's available to anybody that wants it.

Drawbacks and benefits can be worked out on a point-by-point basis and since the very nature of speaking with a "dark power" requires methods beyond the means of lower level characters, it will remain in the realm of strong casters or those willing to take the risks by utilizing rituals/scrolls or spending gigantic amounts of cash to have others assist them.
3rd-Mar-2009 03:17 am (UTC)
Hmm. Thank you for your assistance, but I'm fairly certain that this feat is more trouble than it really is worth.
3rd-Mar-2009 03:18 am (UTC)
Thank you for your assistance, but I'm fairly certain that this feat is more trouble than it really is worth. I'm no longer going to fight with it.
3rd-Mar-2009 12:54 pm (UTC)
Nifty idea. One thing I did in my "all the gods are evil" campaign was introduce Pact Feats. These were some nifty and nice benefit like +2 to Strength and Dexterity, or +2 Stamina and +2 natural armor, or that at the beginning of each day, the player had 10g more than he had yesterday. In this world, sorcerors' powers came from a free pact feat they took at level 1.

All of these pact feats, however, had to be "activated" either before or after taking them by signing a pact with an evil outsider. In exchange for the power, the player would have to perform some undetermined task at the outsider's request, with severe penalties for failing to carry it out.

Use that idea if you want to.
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