10 Ways to Make More Memorable Familiars
Posted by: Jendor -- September 24, 2015


Jesse C Cohoon

In European folklore familiar spirits were supernatural entities believed to assist magic users in their arts. The idea of familiars has carried into the roleplaying games, but the magic and mystique of the original idea has been lost in translation. By looking at ways to use them in gameplay, add them to your plots, and give them personality you can bring back some of the old magic.

  1. Have the familiar connected to a place. Instead of something that travels around with them, the magician bound the spirit to the land itself so the entire area becomes a sentinel warning him of invaders.
  2. Have the familiar connected to some object. The familiar is bound to an object that holds their spirit, able to take over their master's body to apply their skills and powers.
  3. Have the familiar on call. The magical practitioners conjure their familiar spirit only when they need assistance. When dismissed they disappear, ready to be re-summoned.
  4. Have the familiar be able to change the form of the caster. The familiar's master can assume an augmented version of the familiar's own form using the familiar's power.
  5. Take a cue from real life familiar myths around the world. Choose one of the links below and base the nature of the familiar on a real-life legend.
  6. Have the familiar attempt to wrest control from the character. When badly injured or asleep the practitioner's familiar controls their body.
  7. An unseen servant accompanies the character. The familiar's abilities are limited but it cannot be seen or harmed.
  8. Familiars as supporting cast. The character's familiar is as much an NPC as the campaign's villain or the character's kindly mentor. It has its own schemes and manipulates the character accordingly.
  9. Give the familiar different powers. The familiar's abilities and specialty are at odds with those of its master.
  10. Role reversal. The players are the familiars in the campaign.

10 Familiar Plots

  1. A spell caster has been replaced by a look-alike and the original's familiar tries to warn the PCs of the switch.
  2. A caster's familiar has been replaced and is negatively influencing the caster, but the caster can't put into words what's wrong. It's up to the PCs to find out what's going on.
  3. A caster has asked the PCs to track down their mischievously missing familiar: a pigeon.
  4. All familiars in a certain area are acting strangely. It's up to the PCs to find out what's going on and why.
  5. One of the PC's familiars has gotten sick and it's up to them to find a cure before it dies.
  6. A magic user has paid the PCs handsomely to catalog the different magic user's familiars. What does he want with the information and why?
  7. A local magic user has rejected his familiar who now seeks to become a familiar to one of the magic users in the party. Do they try to reunite the familiar with its former master or do they take it on?
  8. A familiar is spying on the party. Killing it could cause more harm than good. What do they do?
  9. A spell caster's familiar is being controlled (charmed or otherwise) by an enemy magic user. Do they attack their former ally or do they acquiesce to the other caster's demands?
  10. A familiar has gotten itself into trouble and has gone to the PCs for help, but is unable to communicate with them effectively. Will they realize that it's asking for help or think it's simply a nuisance and shoo it away?

Familiar Personality Generator

1ShyDislikes bright lights
2PossessiveDislikes like water/baths
3Aggressive Afraid of heights
4SnobAfraid of enclosed spaces
5FearlessNimble fingered/light fingered
6AdventurousLoves gold and gems
7CreativeEither mute or chatterbox
8OpinionatedPhysically affectionate
9Likable Sickly
10DisobedientActs as if it's human
11PickyBrings random things to the caster
12Malicious Hates strangers
13Dependable Constantly cleaning self
14Sullen Brightly colored or camouflaged
15Meticulous Poisonous/Venomous
16ReliableTall/Short Fat/Thin
17Stingy Agile
18HelpfulKnows 1d4+1 tricks
19HappyWants to be treated as a pet
20RudeDestroys others' property

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