... now with 35% more arrogance!

Thursday, November 3, 2011


I saw a forum question about how to handle familiars in OD&D, which made me wonder "how would *I* handle it?" Familiars are a staple of the literature, but I don't quite like the Find Familar spell from AD&D.

Here's an idea: no spell, but magic-users who want a familiar can use magical research, as if they were researching a spell. The "spell level" equals the beast's hit dice. It takes a number of weeks equal to the creature's hit dice to find the familiar; 2,000 GP per hit die buys you a 20% chance.

Familiars are based on ordinary creatures, but when the magic-user concentrates, the M-U uses the familiar's eyes, ears, and other senses. If the familiar is killed while the M-U is "linked" that way, use a System Shock roll or the equivalent; failure means the M-U collapses and is unconscious.

Optionally, a character can start with a familiar in place of a spell book. The M-U communes with the familiar to refresh spells, instead of consulting a book. If you want this option after character creation, find a familiar as above, then research "use familiar as spell book" as a separate "spell".

If there are exotic familiars like imps, the M-U still can only "find" a natural creature, but the GM determines the chances that the familiar is really a polymorphed imp or other supernatural being. It might take a while for the M-U to discover the truth about a familiar's full powers.


  1. I like this and when I get some time will try to make a visual rules thingy for my players. One niggle, the traditional idea makes the MU stronger when they have a familiar, but these rules just give them a scout (well, option A), ideas?

  2. The MU getting stronger is one of the things I didn't like about the Find Familiar spell; if you like that, just say something like "having a familiar adds d6/2 to your hit points, but if the familiar is slain, you take 1d6 damage." Perhaps add scaling: more hp and more damage if your familiar is stronger than 1 HD.

    I suppose I should make clear that the option B familiar includes the scout ability of option A. Option B exists mainly to offer a trade for those who want to start with a familiar.

  3. "familiar in place of a spell book"
    A main point in so many folk tales about familiars, but so often ignored in games.. well done :)

    Telecanter- I generally have the presence of a familiar increase the following:
    chance to know spell
    max # spells per level