Familiar rules [LotFP, Archive]

Find Familiar is not a spell per se. Rather, “researching the spell” represents the Mage gathering the lore and equipment required to bind an animal or spirit to their service. Nor is it cast, crudely, as a lure to the waiting fish of the void (for there are far too many sharks, and worse, in those Plasmic waters), but taken on as a spiritual journey and investment. Though most Magi would be loath to admit it, Familiars also provide companionship upon their lonely road to power; more importantly, they provide subservient and reliable companionship, an extension of themselves. Even Clerics will sometimes accept the aid of a friendly or at least allied servant of their Gods. Remember, though –  the price of service may differ in detail, but it is equally terrifying for the servants of Angels as of Demons..

As bound spirits, Familiars cannot be Dispelled, though they can be Turned and in some cases Banished. They are hedged out by appropriate warding magics.

Natural Familiars
Natural creatures are the easiest to bind, and the most common associates of Magi of all waters. They also excite less comment among the uncultured, should the Mage still be forced to hide their powers from the jealous and frightened. A Natural Familiar is created by binding a combination of the Mage’s own Plasmic energy and other latent power to the beast, and is always a draining and deeply unpleasant process for the Mage. Treat the entire process as Researching a 1st-level spell, with the final sacrifices and costs coming only after the ritual is complete. The wizard will be completely exhausted and require a full day of rest when the ritual is completed.
Any sacrifices made to create a Natural Familiar are permanent. Even after its death, barring exceptionally powerful healing magics or extensive and deeply unsavory spell research, the wizard’s gifts are not returned.

The animal gains the following benefits
• 1 HP for each permanent HP the Mage invests in it during the soul-binding rituals. Its natural life is also extended by 1 year for each HP so invested; the DM may also allow the caster to pledge some of his own life force (years of life, HP, stat points, etc.) to the Familiar at an appropriate ration for more HP/Life.
• It may use the Mage’s saving throws whenever applicable. Further, when in the Mage’s presence, any Magic Missiles or similar spells targeted at the familiar will normally strike the Mage instead.
• It may speak freely with the Mage in its own tongue, and be understood. If given a point in Languages, it may also converse in one Human language with others, and possibly even learn other languages depending on its Intelligence. A familiar with Intelligence 14 or more is literate, though writing may be somewhat difficult. All animals may furthermore speak with any others of their kind (cats with wildcats or lions, ferrets with martens and weasels, etc), but do not convey this ability to their masters without further research.
• Most other animals will treat with the Familiar deferently, or at least with appropriate condescension. It gains a permanent 1-point bonus on Reaction rolls from natural animals.
• At the DM’s option, the Magos may make a further appropriate sacrifice of Life Force, magic items, bound Plasms (spell slots) or other resources to grant the Familiar additional skills and abilities. For example, the Wizard with Spider Climb might sacrifice a spell slot to give his familiar the ability to walk on walls and ceilings.

The Mage benefits thusly:
• Speak with, and understand, his Familiar.
• The information and additional insight provided by their presence subtracts 10% from the cost of any magical research and item creation; the Familiar also acts as a “gopher” during the process, retrieving needed tools or bearing messages to those outside the laboratories as desired.
• A bonus point in a single appropriate skill possessed by his Familiar.

Finally, both the wizard and his familiar are marked out from others by their association with each other.
• During the Familiar’s creation, the player must choose one or more features that the Magus and Familiar share. This could include anything from birthmarks and sigils, to similar physical and behavioral features. Each time the caster and Familiar level up, add an additional characteristic to this list.
• They will have an identical plasmic aura to anyone using the Second Sight (Detect Magic, True Seeing, and similar spells or magic items).
• At higher levels, the Mage may perform additional research and rituals to give or share further power with their familiar. Common abilities bestowed include limited shape-shifting, seeing through the Familiar’s eyes at-will, use as a “plasmic battery”, greater facility in speech and new skills, or even human form and spellcasting ability. The process is half as expensive and time-consuming if the Mage knows a related spell (Speak Unto Beasts, for example, would facilitate learning the Speech of All Cats from one’s Familiar.)
• If using the DCC Corruption/Taint rules, or the Maleficar and similar classes, both the Mage and the Familiar may be marked more explicitly in any case where the Familiar is present and participating in the Mage’s spellcasting.

Homunculi
Developed more fully later; I’m poking at the stuff in England Upturn’d as I have time, but so far none of my players wants a Homunculus.

Other Supernatural Familiars
Imps, Gremlins, some lesser Undead, and other Plasmic beasties may desire to form pacts with the Magos; not all will become Familiars, however.  Treat normal pacted entities as a Retainer or Henchman for loyalty purposes, though they almost always require remunerations more.. esoteric than mere gold and specie. Likewise, their housing and feeding requirements are more exotic than most employees. Payments are usually given on Samhain or All Soul’s Eve and Walpurgisnacht as part of a larger ceremony.
Becoming a Familiar requires forging a direct link between the souls of the Plasmic entity and the Wizard. In addition to the sould-binding rituals, the DM and player should negotiate a contract for the creature’s service and enumerate its powers. Its loyalty is affected as a Henchman or other “demi-PC” character accompanying the party. Most will (again) have goals other than a simple share in the treasure the party collects – esoteric materials, information, or seemingly-insignificant acts at requested times. Failing to meet these requests will enrage and potentially even free the Familiar, but the party as a whole is under no more obligation to meet them than they would be any other Henchman’s demands.
In general, a Supernatural familiar will be in a more adversarial relationship with the wizard and his party, but also much more powerful than a plasmically-enhanced natural beast. Dismissing a contract without prejudice will usually return the life force the Mage invested, but good luck getting it back if you broke it. Familiars themselves cannot break the word of a contract but will, of course, twist it depending on their personal goals and general cussedness.

Common points of contracts include:
• Bonuses to Summoning spells and control rolls (especially in the service of the Familiar’s interests)
• Use of the Familiar’s powers at a negotiated price, or amplification of its powers through the sacrifice of spell levels/Stat points by the Magos. Familiars almost never allow themselves to be “used” freely, but will rarely pass up the chance for a little more profit..
• Many supernatural familiars will have knowledge of tongues other than the Magos’. They may wish to negotiate for its skill; woe betide the wizard who blindly trusts a servant of the Father of Lies, however.
• Access to a bonus spell, usually limited shapeshifting or illusion magics.
• Listed punishments for violating the minor terms of the agreement, usually taken as oaths. These will have >very< visible effects.

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Frostgrave: The beginning – Dark Alchemy [actual play, mini-review]

Most of my posting’s been confined to Tumblr of late, but the blog deserves more attention than I’ve been giving it. Just haven’t been doing much gaming stuff since the Holidays.

I have, however, been horsing around with some Egyptian terrain and minis for a LONG-ass time, but never really got around to doing anything about it. I’ll post more images later on that score. In March the Frostgrave bug hit me and the 50-foot Lesbian at about the same time. Last Saturday we got our first practice games in; we both made quickie solo runs through all three levels of Dark Alchemy. We’re currently using soldier options from all of the books, but I haven’t had a chance to pick up Breeding Pits yet. She’s dyslexic, so part of the delay has been in converting all the text from the game books and tables into a printable, DL-friendly font and format. I personally recommend the open-source Dyslexie, which she says works “amazingly”.

My own warband is based on the excellent line of war-nuns from Reaper Minis (most from the ass-tastic desks of Werner Klocke and Bobby Jackson). I originally bought them for Mordheim but all three of the groups I put together managed to dissolve before dice ever hit table. Such is Gamer ADD..

The Band

In the main group, from L-R, back-front, we have:
Javelineer/Peltast (from Thaw of the Lich Lord) – Javelins are a nice, cheap missile option, especially important since it’s hard to find missile-equipped nun models. You can get away with using them for pretty much any spearmen you have lying around, too – which is great if you’re using leftover historical minis instead of purpose-built fantasy stuff.
Infantry-woman
Inquisitrix (based on Bob Ridolfi’s “Veronica Duskraven”) – a Sellsword Mercenary Captain. Bonuses: Movement and Shoot, Hand Weapon, Dagger, Crossbow, Coup-de-Grace and Leadership
Thief (Ral Partha Assassin with a new dagger made from plasticard) This guy used to be one of my PC models, so he’s been rotting in the bitz box since.. well, since Ral Partha was still a company that sold miniatures.
Nun-at-arms. Her shield is converted from a Pirates of the Spanish Main coin token, with paper reinforcements and wood texture scored into the surface. The hammer is all filed plasticard and paperclip, although it broke in-play and I need to pin it again.
Nun-at-arms. For this one I filed down her ridiculous little cestus and dropped a Hoplite round-shield on top.
2 Wardogs (old 3e Elven Hounds from Games Workshop)
Leader – Thaumaturge (The old Mordheim Sigmarite special character, whom I’ve used in the past as a priest in my Sisters of Battle armies). Hand-weapon, dagger, and a lot of support spells Beauty, Heal, Miraculous Cure, Dispel, Write Scroll, Brew Potion, Reveal Secret, and Planar Tear, which has wound up being one of my most useful choices to date.
In the background are some of the minis I’m making into “statues” (mostly oversized ~35mm figures), and on the right are the backups for later gameplay. I have a Templar, some angels (in case I pick up summoning spells..), another infantrywoman, a couple Pack Mules/Thugs, and my future Apprentice (Friar Stone)
The basic idea is to send the Captain in with a squad of faster minis (dogs and the Thief) to wolfpack heavier targets, while my Wizard slings Beauty and support spells onto the Nuns-at-arms for treasure-hauling purposes. The band-size limits in Dark Alchemy, not to mention the way all enemies are Constructs, Beasts, or Undead, is going to hamper the Hell out of my strategy for now, but what kind of wargamer doesn’t like a challenge? :P

My opponent has chosen an amusing evil wizard model (Orcish Witch Doctor) and a SHIT-TON of Aztec goblins, plus a few LotR Orcs I traded her out of my bitz bin. She successfully pulled an Animal Companion, so I’m loaning her a Utahraptor model I had lying around to use as a Snow Leopard. I.. kinda love how fucking gonzo Frostgrave lets you get when building warbands, and I’m really looking forward to the Sinbad/Pirates/East India thingy they’re putting out in September.

The games went quickly, and even with the half-finished terrain they looked pretty darned good. The first scenario is extremely easy as long as you just immediately dogpile the Abomination. If you try to sneak around it’ll peck you to death, but 14 HP just isn’t enough once a Wizard with +6 from her buddies starts swinging her hammers on it. As soon as it’s gone, the whole game is basically “send one person to fuck up the rats and a dog off to open the door”
The second fight was interesting, with the random skellie (or in this case, Mummy) placement making things get hairy fast. My wizard got slowed down by casting and then dogpiled by a sudden swarm of mobs that appeared right next to her, pecked to death by flames/scarabs. Generally, though things like Dimensional Rift’s small but almost-guaranteed damage are more than enough to handle packs of mummies. Grenade and Explosive Cocktails (both of which the Goblins had in abundance) also see them off quickly.
That third scenario is a beast, though; both of us escaped with only a single model, though she got her wizard off and I only managed to get my Captain out.  To fit the Egyptian-fantasy setting we made a couple fluff changes. The Fire-slingers became Mummy Queens and small animated statues of various gods summoning scarab swarms (c.f. the Brendan Fraser Mummy movies), and the flame areas were likewise swapped for Beetle Swarms.

Overall, Dark Alchemy was a hell of a lot of fun. We both walked out with a couple hundred GP, no deaths, 7-8 levels on the Wizards, and a nice assortment of Magic Items (she got a Hand Weapon+1,  Ring +1 and Staff of Power +3, plus a Grimoire and 6 potions: I got less cash and only 1 Grimoire but 14 potions.) She selected a Treasure Vault as her home base, and I went for a Temple.
Once I get some more GC together to buy a Roost, I have an excellent Falconer miniature and some cool eagle models that I’ll be using as Blood Crows instead of the dogs. The lack of missile support really hurt me in scenario 3, and my Crossbow captain made the lion’s share of my kills. I’ll be adding a bow to one of my two-weapon leftover nuns at some point to make a Ranger, or possibly converting one of my backup Sci-fi models with a crossbow or arquebus to get a Marskwoman. I’m worried about those rings and staves; in the last game I bumped up my wizard’s Dispel skill but with what she can do using Enchant Weapon I’m not pleased..

Current state of the warband:
Base: Temple (of course)
Level 8 Thaumaturge – added Circle of Protection, levelled Health (+1), improved Planar Tear (x2), Write Scroll (x1), Heal (x2), Brew Potion (x1), Dispel (x1)
Apprentice w/ Staff and a crapload of very nasty potions
Level 3 Captain, now with Sprint and boosted Shoot (x2).
2 Nuns-at-arms
2 Warhounds
Thief (will be replacing with a Ranger/Markswoman shortly)
Infantrywomen
Peltast/Javelineer