All words presented in this blog are purely opinion, not fact - unless specifically stated otherwise in the post.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

DM Lessons: But what if they do though

 As I mentioned in the first and previous DM Lessons post, this 'series' isn't about me teaching you to be a DM. From what I can tell the only way to really learn how to be a DM is to do it. It's more a place for me to talk about the things I've learned.

This week we're going to talk about my favourite phrase, 'But what if they do though?' Its a phase I stole from Puffin Forrest, a youtuber who does the D&Ds. Whenever I'm designing something (anything, not just D&D, at work even) if I find myself deciding that a player wouldn't do something I always ask myself;
"But what if they do though?"

I do this for a number of reasons. the first and foremost is that I've been surprised by my players more ways than I can count. from them finding a secret room I wasn't expecting them to find for another 3 levels to buying a bunch of Taverns and turning the bandit that attacked them for the second time into their bartender.

For the most part their surprises have been fun and inconsequential but there's always that occasional time that it messes me up. So now whenever I design something that has to work one way and I don't want the players to do it another way I have to ask myself;
"But what if they do though?"
And I come up with alternates, and make sure I know the reactions most things would give to other simple situations.

I guess I've written all of the above just to say, over my however many years DMing I have now learned to be prepared, and I know how to improvise, because the players will invariably do something you dont expect.

Cheers
 - James

Puffin-Tube

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Favourite Spells: Find Familiar

 So Find Familiar has become a problem for me. As a DM I like to make PC characters to put in and interact with the players, like if I want them to meet a Wizard, I could just grab the mage from page 347 of the monster manual, but I want to make them unique to my setting, make them have personality in a way that is much more effective if their spells and abilities match up to who they are.

And this works really well, except that recently I realised just how useful the spell find familiar is, and now I don't know why any NPC would ever not have it, and so everyone they meet has a little buddy which makes it less special. Not just wizards either. I have a couple of rogue Tricksters and it is SO useful for them.

Okay, let me explain. Today's issue of my Favourite spells we're going to talk about

Find Familiar is a first level spell that is ostensibly for Wizards, but literally any character can get it if they want it.

Other than becoming a Wizard here are the other 5 ways that you can get the spell Find Familiar;

  • Rogue Trickster/Warrior Eldritch Knight
When a rogue or a fighter turns level 3 they can take an Archetype. One of these archetypes for each of the two classes allows the player to take wizard spells. They are limited in which spells they can take (Rogue has to take enchantment and illusion spells and Fighter takes Abjuration and Evocation spells) but they are allowed to take a few spells outside their normal boundaries. 1 at level 3, 8, 14 and 20.
As such, at level 3 a player can take the 1st level spell find familiar.
  • Warlock Pact of the Chain
At 3rd level as a Warlock, the player is offered a pact boon, an extra summin' summin' they can get for signing up with their new best friend. The choices are the Pact of the Blade,the Pact of the Tome and the one we're here for; the pact of the Chain.
Pact of the chain lets the player take the find familiar spell as a ritual. It also allows the player to choose from a wider list of familiars (including Pseudodragons, fey and fiends) as well as offering the familiar the ability to attack on your turn. As far as I'm aware this is the only way the familiar is allowed to attack.
Taking the Pact of the Chain also lets you augment the familiar a little with two invocations, one that makes your hit dice amazing and the other that lets you speak through your familiar and use it's senses wherever it is on your plane.
  • Warlock Pact of the Tome
A little less obvious, if the player takes a pact of the tome wizard and then takes the Book of ancient secrets invocation they can also get the find familiar spell as a ritual, however they don't get any of the other features that Pact of the Chain offers, it's the basic Familiar spell.
  • Magical Secrets
As a bard you can gain 6 spells from other classes spell lists, 2 more if you're a College of Lore bard. you gain them at level 6 if you are college of Lore, then at 10, 14 and 18. You could technically use one of these to take find familiar, but I don't recommend it. by level 6 bards have access to 3rd level spells and putting one on find familiar is a waste. Just forgo 2 ability points at level 4 and do the next option.
  • Feats
Finally any player can take the Magic Initiate feat and gain 2 cantrips from the wizard spell list as well as a first level spell, which in this case will be find familiar. Alternatively they could take the Ritual Caster feat and gain two first level rituals of the wizard school, as well as the ability to find more rituals later that they can add to their book, if the DM lets them.
To get this right out of the gate a player who chooses variant human can choose a feat and 2 ability scores to gain +1 in instead of getting +1 in all stats.

So those are the 4 ways of getting this feat, other than becoming a Wizard. Now why would you?
The familiar spell gives you the service of a spirit creature that takes the form of an animal you choose. It also allows you to cast the spell again and change it's shape into another animal of your choice, for those days when you have a cat that now needs to be a fish.
The rules give you a list of 15 CR 0 beasts to choose from, but as a DM I am fine with choosing any CR 0 beast, and if the familiar you want is not amongst them then taking the closest approximation and using those stats while saying that the familiar is something else for flavour is perfectly fine (for example, I wanted my rogue to have a little dog, so I used the Jackal stats which worked).
So what can your new little buddy do?
Well while the familiar is within 100ft of you you can communicate with it telepathically and see through it's eyes and hear what it's hearing, giving you the benefit of any special senses it has, making it a great way to surreptitiously scout out an area.
You can make it vanish into a pocket dimension, where it will await your summons and as an action you can summon it back to any unoccupied space within 30ft of you.
You can't have multiple familiars, however whenever you cast the spell you can change it's physical shape to any other one of the allowed forms.
It acts independently from you in combat and does whatever you say. In combat it has it's own initiative and acts on it's turn.
The down side is that the familiar can't attack, so you wont be getting an extra 1d4 piercing damage from the little guy, but it can do literally anything else that a small beast could do in combat.
It can move. It can dash, it can dodge, it can hide, it can search a body, it can use an object such as a switch or button if your DM thinks that it's strong enough, but most importantly, it can use the Help action.
As a reminder the help action lets you offer aid to another creature in completing a task. When you do this it offers the creature advantage. This can be used on any ability check or if the creature is trying to attack a creature within 5ft of you. If in the case of an attack a friendly ally attacks the creature before your next turn their first attack is made with advantage.
This includes spell attacks. So if you're a wizard trying to get off a Melfs Acid Arrow you get twice the likelihood of succeeding in your task. If your a warrior who's been missing a lot, advantage on that strike. And where my arcane trickster gets involved; if you're a rogue trying to take out some dick... well now that little cat just turned on your Sneak Attack.
Finally if your familiar is within 100ft of you, you can use it to deliver a touch spell, instead of casting it from your hand.

Mechanically this spell is great, incredibly versatile and powerful, and only a level 1 spell that for many characters don't have to use up a spell slot for. It lets you get advantage almost whenever you want. It can let you perform non combat actions in combat without using up your own actions. It lets you scout out areas ahead of you. It lets you cast touch spells at range.
Mechanically alone this spell is great, but it's also a great role playing device. A great characterisation. The witch with her cat familiar. The fighter with their little dog. The pirate bard with their parrot. The rogue with their rat or spider.

Seriously, I love this spell. I don't think I'd ever make a wizard or a rogue without it.

Cheers
 - James


P.S. I finished Sinking city. It was... fine I guess? Next up is finishing off Middle Earth: Shadow of War.