A wizard walks into a tavern with a raven on his wrist. A Cannith heir is close behind, followed by her gleaming steel defender. The Eldeen ranger is waiting for them, with his wolf curled up under the table.
All three of these are plausible player characters in an Eberron campaign. But how do these things—familiars, animal companions, homunculi—fit into the world? How do people react to them, and what do people know about them? Would any of them actually be allowed in a tavern, and would a typical person actually be able to tell the difference between a familiar and an animal companion?
Familiars, homunculi, and animal companions play different roles in the game and in the world, and I want to explore each one of them. But to begin with, let’s answer the quick questions. In the Five Nations…
- Familiars are most common in Aundair and (previously) Cyre, but they have been employed throughout the Five Nations for centuries. They are also found in Zilargo and the Eldeen Reaches.
- Even beyond these four areas, people are familiar with the basic idea of familiars and most people know at least some of the following facts: Familiars can communicate with their companion; their companion can see through their eyes; familiars can potentially channel touch spells; they can be easily dismissed and resummoned; they can be resummoned if killed.
- People generally assume that familiars are extensions of a spellcaster (discussed in more detail later in this article) and don’t consider them fully independent beings. Along with homunculi, they are seen as tools. In the eyes of the law, a character is responsible for the actions of their familiar/companion/homunculus, and you can’t get away with murder by casting the killing spell through your familiar.
- While most people can’t tell the difference between a familiar and an animal companion, most know that familiars are usually limited to tiny forms. The common assumption is that a tiny animal companion is a familiar, and a small or larger animal companion is a beast.
- If an establishment allows patrons to carry weapons, it will generally allow well-behaved familiars, homunculi, or animal companions, unless the creature seems especially unsanitary or aggressive. In part, this is a metagame conceit: we are still playing a game, and the Beast Master ranger or Battlesmith artificer shouldn’t be crippled every time the adventurers go indoors. But it also ties to the idea that people recognize these things as tools. So in my opinion, any place that will allow the barbarian to carry his greataxe will allow the battlesmith to bring her steel defender… And conversely, a fine restaurant like the Oaks in Sharn isn’t going to let you bring your axe or your steel defender to your table.
- Most people know that a spellcaster can spy through the eyes of a familiar, just as they know that someone with the spell beast sense (druid, ranger, Vadalis heir) can see through the eyes of a mundane animal. People don’t assume that every rat is a spy, but they know it’s a POSSIBILITY… so tiny animals showing up in highly secured areas or behaving in a clearly unnatural manner may be dealt with as if they’re spies.
- In major cities with a significant population of magewrights or arcane universities, you may find businesses that cater to characters with familiars—the bring-your-own-sassy-magical-cat cafe.
- While most people assume familiars are extensions, they also recognize traditional imps and quasits as fiends. Having a quasit as a familiar isn’t ILLEGAL, but it definitely makes a statement; even if you’re not actively associating with fiends, you’re choosing one to represent you. Some people will see that as cool and edgy, some people will see it as a sign that you’re a scumbag, and some people will see it as pretentious— “LOOK AT ME! I CONSORT WITH DEEEEEMONS!” It will definitely be noticed, and it’s up to the DM to decide how people will react. But again, people see familiars as tools, so they aren’t going to burn you just for having an imp; but it’s similar to whether your fighter has a greatsword of plain steel or whether he’s carrying a rune-carved sword that moans softly. You can’t get arrested for it, but people will make judgements because of it.
So key takeaways: People are familiar with the idea of familiars and homunculi. They largely see them as tools and will treat them accordingly. If a tiny animal behaves in an unusual manner, people may assume that it’s a familiar or otherwise being manipulated by magic. With those general things settled, let’s take a quick look at the differences between these three categories of companion…
Mechanically, familiars have a common foundation—the find familiar spell. Warlocks, wizards, and druids all acquire their familiars by using this spell, and this establishes the core rules that all familiars follow—shared senses, telepathic communication, can be dismissed and resummoned, and so on. But while this provides a concrete baseline for the mechanics of a familiar, from a story perspective the familiars of a wizard, a warlock, and a druid may be very different. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, here’s three important categories of familiar.
The most common form of familiar—the form used by most wizards and magewrights in the Five Nations—is an externally manifested aspect of the spellcaster’s personality. A few aspects of this…
- As an extension of you, your familiar doesn’t know anything that you don’t know—but it’s drawn from your subconscious, and may know things you’ve forgotten or draw conclusions you haven’t consciously made.
- All familiars must obey the spellcaster’s commands. An extension doesn’t resent this; they’re part of you. If they do have any personal goals, they’re likely things you actually want, even if you haven’t consciously realized it.
- When an extension is dismissed or slain, it returns to your subconscious. This isn’t unpleasant for the familiar, and most extensions don’t resent being dismissed.
- An extension is drawn from you. Most extensions have the fey creature type; in many ways, they are manifested stories. Extensions would only manifest as celestials or fiends if they are tied to remarkably virtuous or deeply vile people.
- If you wish, you and your DM could decide that the familiar represents a specific aspect of your personality, which could in turn flavor its personality and demeanor. This could also be reflected by its shape, which you can change by casting the spell. It could be that as a cat it reflects your curiosity, while as a hawk it’s your courage and as a weasel it’s your cunning. A secondary question is whether each of these three would present themselves as having different names—if they essentially identify as three familiars—or whether they maintain a single identity even though their shape and personality changes.
In many ways, an extension is like a character in your dreams. They have distinct personalities, you can have interesting conversations with them, they FEEL real—but ultimately they’re a manifestation of your own mind. This doesn’t stop them from being fun and interesting individuals; it could be that your rat familiar embodies your sense of humor! But they can’t be killed because they’re a part of you; and conversely, if you die, they will die with you.
Extensions are the most common form of familiar in the Five Nations. They are a product of arcane science. On some levels (especially in Aundair), a familiar is both a tool and a status symbol for an accomplished spellcaster; wizards are rare, but some magewrights and demi-wizards manifest familiars for this reason. However, the most common users of familiars in the Five Nations are falconers. This is a magewright specialty that masters a narrow form of find familiar. A falconer can only summon a single shape of familiar—so if they can summon a hawk, they can’t turn it into a cat—but they can maintain telepathic communication and a sensory link with their familiar over a far greater distance than usual. The typical range of a falconer is one mile, but an exceptional falconer can go even farther. Falconers typically served as scouts and skirmishers in the Last War, and as the name suggests, most summon birds (typically hawks or falcons, though owls and ravens are also used). There are other magewrights who use this specialized form of find familiar in different ways—ratcatchers who conjure cats, even assassins who can conjure poisonous snakes. All of this ties to the basic point that people see extensions as tools—you learn to manifest an extension because you have a use for it.
When a warlock acquires a familiar, it’s generally not an extension of the warlock—it’s an emissary of the warlock’s patron, an independent entity whose services are granted to the warlock as a gift. However, this can also be an appropriate choice for a conjurer wizard or any other character who has made bargains with a powerful supernatural being. Important details about emissary familiars…
- An emissary is an independent spirit with its own history and agenda. It’s up to the DM to decide exactly what that agenda is. It may be that the emissary is entirely benevolent and has been sent solely to assist you and protect you. But it could be that the emissary is sent to watch you—to see if you’re living up to expectations, to remind you of agreements you’ve made with your patron, or to serve as an intermediary for communication; the patron might temporarily possess the familiar when they want to communicate with you.
- Tied to this: an emissary familiar has to follow your orders when it comes to taking physical actions, but it doesn’t have to share all of its information with you. Unlike an extension, an emissary may have knowledge you don’t have—but it’s only going to share that information with you if it serves the interests of the patron.
- The creature type of the emissary will generally reflect the creature type of the patron. If you’re working for Sul Khatesh she’ll give you a fiend, while a celestial warlock channeling the power of the Silver Flame will have a celestial familiar. A DM may choose to tweak type and details to fit a particular patron. For example, an efreeti patron could give a warlock a familiar that’s mechanically an imp, but with the elemental type and knowledge of Primordial instead of Infernal; they might even say that its sting inflicts fire damage instead of poison damage, causing the victim to burn from within. An undead patron could likewise give an “imp” that’s got the undead type and inflicts necrotic damage with its sting.
- Emissary familiars CAN assume a mundane animal form, but even those that take the form of animals may have a “natural” form that reflects their origins. A raven gifted by an efreeti could choose to appear as a tiny phoenix wreathed in cold flames, or just as a mundane bird.
- It’s up to the DM to decide what happens to the emissary when it is dismissed/killed. It may be that it returns to the domain of its patron; if this is the case, it may actually WANT to be dismissed occasionally to go and take care of its own business. Or it may be that as long as it’s bound to you, it is bound to your spirit and retreats into you when dismissed. If this is the case, it may still be aware of what is going on around you, even if it can’t take any actions.
The basic question between having an extension or an emissary is whether you want your familiar to be entirely loyal and reliable, or if you LIKE the idea that your familiar may have secrets and agendas you don’t know about. An extension may have a semblance of personality, but at the end of the day it really is a puppet; an emissary is a truly independent entity who is only working with you for now, and who could have their own significant role to play at some point in the campaign.
Emissary familiars are rare. You can go to school to become a falconer, but there’s no common magewright paths that teach people to make bargains with overlords. As noted above, people generally assume that familiars are extensions, so having an imp as a familiar doesn’t automatically mean you’re making deals with demons, but to a common person what it means is that THE PROJECTION OF YOUR PERSONALITY IS A FIEND and people will judge you accordingly. And if people DO realize that no, this is an actual emissary of Sul Khatesh and you are getting advice from it, that’s not going to be great; so usually, you’re going to want your imp to be in an animal form.
Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything introduces the Wild Companion feature, allowing a druid to cast find familiar by using a charge of wild shape. Such a familiar has the fey creature type. It’s worth noting that beasts summoned with the conjure animals spell also have the fey creature type. This doesn’t mean that they are from Thelanis. If you’re a Greensinger, they might be; but typically, these are primal spirits. These can be seen as native fey, in the same way the Lords of Dust are native fiends. They are essentially stories made real—the idea of a beast given temporary form. A few details…
- Primal spirits don’t have individual identities in the same way as emissaries or extensions. They are more iconic beings. Your raven embodies the idea of “raven” and will behave as you expect a raven to act in a fable or folktale. A cat may be curious, a raven may be wise. But the cat embodies the idea of CAT, not of your personal curious Graymalkin.
- Primal spirits generally only remain for as long as they are needed; when they die or are dismissed they simply return to the transcendent essence of Eberron.
- Primal spirits generally have no desires other than to help the summoner. They don’t NEED anything and generally look forward to returning to the heart of Eberron.
- Druids and rangers typically employ primal spirits to avoid placing living animals in danger. They don’t feel any compunctions about sending summoned animals or familiars to their deaths because they aren’t really alive; you can’t kill an idea, and ultimately that’s what they are.
Primal spirits are typically only found in communities with strong primal roots—the Eldeen Reaches, the Qaltiar drow, the Lorghalen gnomes. In such places, you may find the equivalent of Falconer magewrights—gleaners who can conjure a specific familiar spirit, and who can maintain their bond with it over an unusually long distance. Primal communities often also involve animal companions, but people working with living beasts will generally be much more conscientious about placing their companions in dangerous situations—whereas primal spirits suffer no lasting harm from death.
Familiars are the most common class of companion, and extensions are the most common class of familiar. Falconers and similar magewrights use familiars as practical tools, while arcanists use often familiars as companions and assistants. Emissaries are rare and thus rarely recognized for what they are, but most people won’t be thrilled if you reveal that your companion is an actual fiend given to you because you made a bargain with a malefic power.
HOMUNCULI AND CONSTRUCT BEASTS
A homunculus is a construct, typically created by an artificer or wizard. They notably don’t follow the rules of find familiar; a homunculus can’t be simply dismissed and recalled at will. The most common form of homunculus player characters deal with is the homunculus servant, which is created using an artificer infusion. The servant is a tiny construct, and notably the shape of the homunculus is up to the artificer. The intention of this is that the appearance of the homunculus should reflect the techniques of the artificer. A Cannith Traditionalist may create a steel dragonfly with crystal wings—a creature similar to a warforged, perhaps with metal threads or gears instead of root-like tendrils. An artificer from Pylas Pyrial may use Thelanian logic to create a flying teapot. And an alchemist who’s experimenting with daelkyr fleshcrafting techniques could create a tiny platypus with one eye and three wings. A Battle Smith artificer gets to create a more powerful homunculus, a steel defender. Again, what’s specifically noted is that the shape and design of the defender is up to the artificer, including the choice as to whether it has two legs or four. This reflects the idea that all of these homunculi are extremely unique. The fact that the artificer can only have one of each type of homunculus at a time reflects the idea these creatures aren’t entirely stable—that the artificer has to continue to maintain their companion and to maintain the reserve of arcane energy that sustains it. As noted, homunculi can’t be dismissed and resummoned with the ease of a familiar, but if one is destroyed it can be rebuilt.
So a key point is that the homunculi of player characters aren’t supposed to be as familiar as a raven or even an imp. They’re supposed to stand out; they’re reflections of the unique genius of the artificer character. Unlike familiars and falconers, there isn’t a class of magewrights that creates homunculi; again, familiars ultimately come from a 1st level spell, while homunculi are derived from an artificer class feature. They’re more exotic than familiars. At the same time, people understand the CONCEPT of homunculi. Sentient magic items exist. Constructs exist. The Clockwork Menagerie of Eston was one of the wonders of Cyre centuries before House Cannith perfected the warforged. And with that said, the Last War involved a constant escalation in the development of constructs leading up to the Last War. Animated weapons have been developed, ranging from the tiny arbalester to the arcane ballista. Warforged titans stormed across the battlefield decades before their smaller cousins. And House Cannith does create construct beasts; the iron defenders of House Cannith can be produced as autonomous constructs (though they are typically considerably weaker than the steel defender of an accomplished Battle Smith). These creatures are still EXOTIC, but they aren’t unheard of and people generally won’t be frightened by them. They’ll draw attention, certainly, but attention isn’t always bad. With that said, the daelkyr-inspired fleshcrafted homunculus will generate the same sort of reaction as the imp familiar; people may not run you instantly out of town for having a creepy homunculus, but they will judge you by the company you keep.
I’ll be posting a table of random ideas for homunculus servants on my Patreon as an exclusive bonus for Inner Circle and Threshold patrons later in this week, so if you’re a supporter, keep an eye out for that!
What about the ranger and his wolf? Well, beasts are a part of everyday life in Eberron. From horses and tribex to the giant owls of Sharn or the Valenar hounds, there’s nothing strange about seeing someone with an animal companion. Magewright falconers conjure their companions, but Vadalis farriers can cast animal friendship, speak with animals, and beast sense, and gleaners (primal magewrights) in the Eldeen Reaches also develop these talents. Many gnomes cultivate the gift of speaking with small beasts. Exotic beasts are often rarer in major cities simply because of the difficulty of maintaining them, but people aren’t especially SURPRISED to see a ranger with a wolf companion; the fact that there are people who can befriend and speak with animals is a simple fact of life, and has been for centuries.
Animal companions aren’t exactly tools in the same way as familiars, because they’re independent living creatures. A Beast Master can replace an companion that dies, but an animal still died… while familiars and conjured beasts can be put in harm’s way with no lasting risk. Nonetheless, to the world at large they are still largely seen as tools and treated accordingly, so the same rule applies. If the ranger is allowed to bring his sword and his bow into a place of business, he’s probably allowed to bring his wolf; and if the wolf bites someone, the ranger will be held responsible, just as if he’d stabbed the victim with a sword.
Some might wonder if the existence of speak with animals would drive an overall greater wave of ethical behavior regarding the treatment of animals. Sadly, this is not the case in the Five Nations. Speak with animals exists, but MOST people can’t cast it. People will still take a tribex-drawn carriage down to a restaurant where they’ll eat a steak, without stopping to think “Was that tribex happy? Did the cow I’m eating live a good life?” The general attitude of House Vadalis is that they’ve been granted dominion over beasts, and it is their right to exploit that power. This is quite different in wide primal societies—such as the Eldeen Reaches and Lorghalen—but in the Five Nations beasts are still primarily treated as property and tools.
That’s all for now! Thanks to my Patreon supporters for helping to choose this topic and for making these articles possible.
Love the article! The Speak with Animals bit at the end made me curious. Have you ever had vegetarianism or veganism be part of a character or culture in Eberron?
(Also a minor note that the errata for Rising and the artificer in Tasha’s removed the 6th level requirement for the Homunculus Servant infusion)
The Speak with Animals bit at the end made me curious. Have you ever had vegetarianism or veganism be part of a character or culture in Eberron?
A significant portion of the population of the Eldeen Reaches are vegetarians; the holdovers are people to the east who are still holding onto pre-Eldeen ways. There are vegans, but there’s also subcultures that essentially work with beasts as partners—so they may use beast-derived products, but they literally talk to the beasts about how to best work together.
And thanks for the errata tip, I’ve edited it accordingly.
I’ve always found this interesting because when you really get into it the speak with plants spell causes and even bigger existential crisis. While it is 3rd level I would assume that it is common enough to have heard that people can talk directly to them. Assuming plants don’t feel pain, I would assume it would lead to a type of vegetarianism in which you take parts of plants but try to ensure that no full plant dies. So eating apples would be fine because it’s not a “plant” yet just an extension of the apple tree but eating a carrot would be a no go since the part you eat is the full entity. No idea if that’s true but mainly thinking out loud how speak with plants would effect a group that were aware of it and could cast it?
I’ve always found this interesting because when you really get into it the speak with plants spell causes and even bigger existential crisis. While it is 3rd level I would assume that it is common enough to have heard that people can talk directly to them.
I don’t think it would have a significant impact on the Five Nations. Set aside the fact that druids are uncommon, the key element is that the spell allows you to “IMBUE plants with… limited sentience.” It’s not that plants are fully sentient and the spell allows us to understand them, it’s that the spell MAKES them sentient for the duration of a the spell. There’s a spell that can make my table run around the room, but that doesn’t mean that my table is normally a living creature. I think people who are already inclined to be sympathetic to plants will consider this relevant, but I think someone who really likes eating carrots isn’t going to stop eating carrots because there’s a spell out there that lets people make carrots intelligent for ten minutes.
With that said, in the Eldeen Reaches it certainly plays into peoples’ efforts to live in harmony with nature.
There are people in The Real World who are ethical “fruititarians” – they only eat fruit or grains, or annual plants (since they die at the end of the growing season anyway), but nothing that requires uprooting a perennial – no roots or tubers. I could conceive of a sect of druids with such a philosophy, but I supect they’d be rare.
Thanks, that makes perfect sense. I completely glossed over the spell imbueing the sentience.
“The people of Rhiavhaar, Pyrine, and Ohr Kaluun eat
fish. Those of Dor Maleer are hunters by tradition.
Few other Riedrans eat meat, and many consider the
Something I’ve always stressed in my own games, especially as I’m a big fan of Sarlona, is the vegetarian or pescatarian diet of the Riedran enclaves in the major cities in Khorvaire. Especially in New Galifar, where Riedran interests are more strongly a factor in politics. A vegetarian or vegan diet is often a sign of Riedran sympathies, or being part of a new craze sweeping the Five Nations post-war. A few Karrn Warlords in my game espouse a diet similar to Riedran commoners, free of intoxicants and meat polluting the diet, a position that’s unpopular still with the sausage, cheese and beer loving “wolves of Karrnath”
Now I just want to know when we’re getting our Druid Deep Dive to complement all this Wizard propaganda.
Actual question: Do the Talentan Maskweavers tend to call upon Thelanian or Native fey more? Or does Dollurh play a role here? Both planes have been mentioned with relation to the plains.
Do the Talentan Maskweavers tend to call upon Thelanian or Native fey more?
The maskweavers deal with both native and Thelanian fey. The role of Dolurrh and spirits of the dead is complicated and will need to wait for an actual discussion of the Maskweavers.
Just wanted to say that this article was a joy; I love your insights and your written voice!
Thank you, I really appreciate that. It’s easy for me to be overly critical of my own work and it’s good to know it’s appreciated.
This is a fantastic article, thank you for this!
Does the animal companion by region from the ECS still reflect beasts you are likely to see in various nations and regions, or would there be any changes you would make to those options?
Excellent article. I have a fun story about familiar and Eberron.
I am playing in a Eberron table using a Lorghalen Gnome. He basically is a old gnome that fought Lhaazar x Galifar war and was a pirate (in this Eberron, he was the last great pirate of Lorghalen and the Prince), but was betrayed for another prince that uses white whales and ended after his ship destroyed in Thelanis.
There he made friendship with the Prince of Forgotten things (because is his theme is be a forgotten pirate) and pass 100 years there, what in the real world was 1000.
The Prince gave him a ally, a familiar. The DM allows a feat in level one, so was magic Initiate (what helped my old gnome had more elemental cantrips being a Eloquence Bard that uses Druid spell List) and he always have with him a Parrot.
So, for a huge amount of sessions, you know, the parrot was a fun add. But my character ended captured (or dead, I still don’t have sure) by Esmerald Claw, and a fun idea came: play with the familiar to save my character.
After be dismissed by my character, the familiar gain a mission of save my character. It was a long journey to him go back to material plane, but as Thelanis and Eberron have different times, for the players it was in the next day. He gain temporary powers for this mission.
It was a really fun session when a green kenku parrot equal to my familiar appears to help the party and try save my gnome. It is a story line that can be used when you know, the familiar is a entity and not just a thing. It was really fun create a story for him. Choices as the theme, of what place on Thelanis he was, etc…
There was extra fun because we don’t tell anyone until the session that this would happen, so the other players had this surprise hahahaha.
PS: the name of the gnome is Ahab and the parrot Ishmael, what makes more fun
It is a story line that can be used when you know, the familiar is a entity and not just a thing.
Certainly! Using the terms in this article, the parrot would be an emissary — an independent being given to the pirate by the Forgotten Prince. Which means that it does continue to exist even if the character dies, and you can have exactly this sort of story!
Also: The three types of familiar I mention here — Emissary, Extension, Primal Spirit — aren’t supposed to be the ONLY types of familiar, they’re just three common categories. There’s definitely room in the world for other forms of familiar!
are there any rules for playing Emissaries themselves?
I.e one player and a friend play a character and their summon?
Or would that just be overpowered?
Also, are there any classes where its possible to have multiple summons at once? i.e an artificer with multiple weak mechanical flies buzzing around, maybe 3? Something similar (but weaker) to the Bit/Funnel System from the old Gundam show?
As a DM, I wouldn’t have much of a problem with a player playing as an emissary. I’d just count it as a separate character for the most part and maybe use the sidekick rules for level advancement if I can’t find some suitable racial stats.
For multiple summons, I guess there’s the swarmkeeper ranger from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. It gets a swarm of nature spirits to attack with, though it is not treated as its own creature with hit points and such. The biggest obstacle to having multiple summons/minions/whatever at once is enforcement of an action economy, usually by having the extra creature require a bonus action to command.
Yeah, I agreed, Keith.
I could see easily a familiar being use to show how a caracter is hunted for some ghost or even make some local version as undead (Bloodsails maybe) or elementals (Lorghalen).
Or even the players discovering a old kind of familiar that giant used long time ago: it is equal to familiar, but the creature is large.
There is a lot of possibilities.
Would a dragonmarked house’s magewrights make a point to have signature familiars? A Kundarak member could use dogs or geese but would anything limit their deployment of miniature manticore constructs?
I don’t think most houses have enough heirs that can summon familiars for it to require a policy. The main ones I’d see as using them would be Vadalis, Tharashk, and Sivis (the latter just because I see familiars as being popular in Zilargo generally). I think Vadalis would largely use extensions and that having a unique extension would be a style point (unique in the sense of patterning, not necessarily ENTIRELY unique). Tharashk would more be that you’d have some falconers among the bounty hunters, again not so common as to require a policy.
But I think a Kundarak seneschal with a custom chibi manticore is an adorable idea.
You’ve previously said that the “animated farming equipment” mentioned in places like Rising from the Last War are a form of homunculi, instead of something like Animate Objects (on the comments of the Dragonmark on Arcane Industry).
I’ve always thought of homunculi as having a more creature/ish shape, like the metal dog we see in the art for the Battle Smith. Even the more object-like examples of them in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything still generally have eyes and mouths.
Is that the case with Aundair’s animated farming equipment? Is it less like ploughs or hoes levitating on their own and more like, say, a mechanical bull with plough and hoe apendages atached?
I’ve always thought of homunculi as having a more creature/ish shape, like the metal dog we see in the art for the Battle Smith. Even the more object-like examples of them in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything still generally have eyes and mouths. Is that the case with Aundair’s animated farming equipment? Is it less like ploughs or hoes levitating on their own and more like, say, a mechanical bull with plough and hoe apendages atached?
Homunculi don’t have to specifically have animal forms, but for me personally, I WANT my homunculi to feel more alive and not simply mundane machines. So yes, I’d be more inclined to give a farming homunculi legs rather than treads, make it a little more of a creature than a wagon that just rolls itself. I don’t really have time to address this further today, but I have an idea when I might be able to go into more detail on this.
Somewhat tangentially related, but are there animals associated with the various members of the Sovereigns and the Six (like Athena is to owls)?
Somewhat tangentially related, but are there animals associated with the various members of the Sovereigns and the Six (like Athena is to owls)?
Absolutely! … But they’re all dragons. Aureon is represented as a blue dragon, Dol Dorn as silver, etc. AFAIK we’ve never mentioned other animals as having strong associations with specific Sovereigns, though you could certainly come up with such associations for a specific Vassal sect.
Love the idea of using familiars to spare real animals suffering, it’s an interesting take!
Familiars/Falconers: I love this concept too, and it once again brings that little bit of “extraness” to Aundair, everything needing a grand title and role and subcategory. I’m playing a shifter wizard in a game with ties to Fairhaven’s criminal elements and I’ll certainly be making use of this idea. Is “assassin” a title or were the people who summoned snakes usually hired killers, etc? I mean, you have to have a cover story for the snake Sul Khatesh sent you, after all!
Homunculi and artificers: in Exploring Eberron you mentioned that artificers’ magic is influenced by their tool proficiency. With that in mind, is a homunculus made by an artificer with proficiency in cooking utensils or brewer’s supplies a WEIRD sight in Eberron? A gingerbread “steel defender” or “furtive filcher” made of an animated swirl of frothy beer, perhaps?
Golems: you mention that constructs were a part of history prior to the war’s innovations. Though it might be too much for an answer here (and feel free to not answer) were true golems (like stone, iron, clay, flesh golems) part of Eston/larger Galifar’s history? Are they more of a “made occasionally by wizards, not particular to one culture” sort of thing?
Efreeti familiar: just a fun thought, but I could have sworn when you mentioned an efreeti bird familiar it would be all bronze and glowing like an azer . . . too much time spent reading the Fernia chapter of Exploring Eberron on my part!
Is “assassin” a title or were the people who summoned snakes usually hired killers, etc?
More the latter in my mind; I wasn’t thinking it was a common enough tradition to have a title. But if I was going to expand on the idea I could certainly see coming up with titles for other common forms of familiar-users (I immediately start think of collective nouns…).
With that in mind, is a homunculus made by an artificer with proficiency in cooking utensils or brewer’s supplies a WEIRD sight in Eberron?
Though it might be too much for an answer here (and feel free to not answer) were true golems (like stone, iron, clay, flesh golems) part of Eston/larger Galifar’s history?
I’d want to think about true golems more carefully and likely address them in a focused article, like sphinxes. I don’t think that Cannith can just mass produce iron golems; it might be possible for the house to produce them, but if they could MASS produce them we’d have called them out as playing a greater role in the Last War.
I know NPCs aren’t required to follow PC rules but just for reference a manual of golems is a very rare item, the person making the golem must be a spellcaster with at least 2 5th level spell slots to comprehend how to create it, must spend a number of days depending on the type of golem (weakest one being 30 days) and spend at least 65,000 gold in materials. Now that was before artificers were brought into 5e and it seems odd they would need to be 19th level before they were capable of making a golem so it probably needs some eberron tweaks. I’d assume a group of cannith could work together to do it even if none of them have 5th level slots.
Do animal companions include Pseudodragons? Or, would they need to remain in Argonnessen with their larger cohort?
Pseudodragons don’t have an established place in the world, AFAIK. I wouldn’t put them in Argonnessen (and they aren’t mentioned in Dragons of Eberron). They have human level intelligence, so if they exist in large numbers I’d want to think about their culture. However, I’d personally be strongly inclined NOT to have them exist in large numbers—to follow the “small batch” approach I suggest in my Exotic Races article. Possible origins for a small batch of pseudodragons…
* Created when an undercover dragon was caught in the Mourning and split into a dozen pseudodragons, each with a fraction of the dragon’s memories.
* Created by Mordain the Fleshweaver, first in a series of tiny versions of powerful creatures (My Little Remorhaz, Baby Bulette)
* While their creature type is dragon, they could be from a barony of Thelanis—where they are the familiars of an archfey filling the role of “Powerful Spellcaster”.
* A recent creation of House Vadalis. It could be that the one the players encounter wants the adventurers to help rescue the others Vadalis has in captivity.
All of these would combine to drive the idea that a pseudodragon is something truly remarkable, not just another monster in a world filled with monsters… and play to the idea that all pseudodragons likely know one another.
Not that this doesn’t apply to pseudodragons acquired from the Find Familiar spell, who are more spirits that mortal creatures.
You can ostensibly find pseudodragons outside Argonessen, there’s a pet one you can encounter in Sharn if you’re using the encounter table from Eberron: Rising from the Last War.
“Some might wonder if the existence of speak with animals would drive an overall greater wave of ethical behavior regarding the treatment of animals.”
I’d think it would actually make animals even LESS respected. In each edition where Eberron is a thing, Speak with Animals explicitly says the animal still have animal intelligence despite the ability to communicate with them. If even with literal magic your future food can still only say “inane comments”, you aren’t going to feel bad about eating it. You can point to this and very clearly show it was never capable of rational thought. I could see it producing a taboo against eating smarter animals (dogs, horses, whales, dolphins) but not cow or sheep and certainly not boar or “normal” fish. Plus there’s the possibility Vadalis’s breeding will intentionally sacrifice intelligence in favor of other attributes.
There’s also the point that magic also lets you speak with plants and literal rocks (plus even stranger stuff with non-core spells), and these spells don’t suffer the issues with intelligence animals do. Between trees actually being able to hold a conversation when under magic, and a tree being one of the most respected “people” around, I could see something like TES’s Green Pact (the Bosmer contract of using no plant products that didn’t detach on their own, and consuming a purely carnivorous diet) take off among Reachers.
Very interesting article, as always.
I’m wondering, if a valenar wizard cast the find familiar spells, could they somehow end-up with a “Valenar varriant” like a Valenar Hawk ( A nerfed version that couldn’t attack for some reasons.) ?
Given their relationship with various animals, I wouldn’t be surprised if their version of find familiar and animal companion was at least a bit peculiar.
I’m wondering, if a valenar wizard cast the find familiar spells, could they somehow end-up with a “Valenar varriant” like a Valenar Hawk?
By default, I would say that the character’s patron ancestor had such a companion animal/familiar and that the familiar is an “echo” of that creature. By default, it would have the statistics of the standard familiar. However, I could imagine the character being able to earn a supernatural gift over the course of a campaign—by forging a stronger bond with their patron—that could give their familiar the statistics of a Valenar beast.
How would bob the nerdy imp survive as a personality in your game? If a warlock of sul khatesh summoned him for example?
If a warlock of Sul Khatesh summons him, then Bob is an Emissary of Sul Khatesh. What I would say is that part of the benefit of BEING an emissary is that he is bound to the spirit of the warlock, and that this actually anchors his own personality—allowing him to retain his personality after death and not come back as Bill the Imp.
Long live Bob! Thanks Keith 😀
For the ritual itself would Find Familiar Extensions use siberys dragonshards and Emissaries khyber dragonshards, both on a bronze disk prepared with runes? As a alternative?
Fascinating article, especially on familiars .(I still miss the 3.5 artificer rles for homunculi, but that ship has sailed over the horizaon, alas!) I like the “extensions” concept, and cold imagine a player and DM collaborating on a character with t form of multiple personality disorder in which the less dominant personalities manifest themselves as familiars.
Questions: How do the different types of familiars appear under truesight?
Artificers can create one-time spell sotring items. Can they create one with the find familiar spell?
How do the different types of familiars appear under truesight?
A standard familiar is summoned in a specific shape and doesn’t have the ability to change its shape. An extension raven isn’t “a shapechanger or a creature that is transformed by magic” — it’s a creature literally created by magic. I don’t see anything in truesight that suggests that it reveals that a conjured beast is a conjured beast, and that’s essentially what a familiar is. Imps and quasits are specifically shapeshifters, and an imp-disguised-as-a-raven will be revealed as an imp by truesight. But when you’re dealing with a standard familiar, I don’t see that a familiar raven will show up as anything other than a raven, even if it’s an extension or emissary; it is a spirit shaped into raven form, but it doesn’t HAVE another form (unlike the imp, who DOES have another form).
The basic question is “If I summon a badger with conjure animals, will truesight reveal anything about it?” If so, it should have the same effect on familiars. But reading truesight, i don’t see anything suggesting that it exposes conjured creatures as being conjured.
Artificers can create one-time spell sotring items. Can they create one with the find familiar spell?
This is a purely mechanical question, and as such my insight is no better than yours; I didn’t design the artificer class features and don’t know the designer’s intent or other precedents for this sort of thing. As I read it, yes, they could, but the familiar would be lost when the artificer uses the feature again; they can’t just hand out endless familiars.
Re: truesight. You said in the main article:
Emissary familiars CAN assume a mundane animal form, but even those that take the form of animals may have a “natural” form that reflects their origins. A raven gifted by an efreeti could choose to appear as a tiny phoenix wreathed in cold flames, or just as a mundane bird.”
So, would truesight reveal the “natural” form of an emissary familiar?
Re: artificer :find afmiliar: That makes sense. The familiar only lasts for the duration of the stored spell. Could still be useful in some situations, though.
So, would truesight reveal the “natural” form of an emissary familiar?
Ah! Good question. But in my opinion, no, it wouldn’t. The idea that an emissary might have some sort of non-mundane form is a cosmetic addition that doesn’t benefit the character. I wouldn’t saddle the character with a concrete mechanical penalty without providing a corresponding benefit. A simple answer that would address the issue is to say that the “natural” form is an option that can be chosen when the creature is SUMMONED, but that it doesn’t have the ability to switch between them at will. So again, as a familiar it isn’t a shapechanger or transformed by magic.
Quick question! With regards to the ‘Extensions’ type of familiar, what are your thoughts of wizards having familiars that deviate from options available via ‘Find Familiar’?
I ask because – in our Eberron setting – we home-ruled that a wizard character of mine (of Aundarian heritage) could conjure a dog as his familiar. I wondered if perhaps – given what you put forth about Extensions – that might fit under that? Like, having it be a manifestation of his own mind.
Been really looking forward to this article, and it certainly didn’t disappoint!
With regards to the ‘Extensions’ type of familiar, what are your thoughts of wizards having familiars that deviate from options available via ‘Find Familiar’?
As long as it doesn’t break the balance of the spell, I’m all for it—for example, reflavoring a pseudodragon as a tiny couatl for a Silver Pyromancer. So as long as the familiar is a CR 0 creature with statistics comparable to an existing familiar form, then I’d support it.