It is a fact of life in the world of Exalted that man and beast can forge close bonds of friendship and loyalty, becoming more than just separate individuals, but close friends and boon companions. This bond is not unique to the Exalted, either. Even mortals, most commonly Heroic Mortals, have been known to forge a Familiar bond.
the Familiar Background
The familiar background represents the power of the bond between man and beast, and how much each party has changed by the relationship. The unique benefits of the familiar bond are purchased as merit-like traits, from a pool of points that the background provides. Example traits are provided later in this document.
x You must face the dangers of the Second Age without a familiar.
o Your familiar is little more than a common pet, with few other benefits. 2 points.
oo The bond has strengthened, your animal companion notably touched by it. 5 points.
ooo The familiar bond has greatly matured, affecting both you and your beast. 8 points.
oooo Your familiar bond has had profound effects on both yourself and your familiar companion, changing you both greatly. 14 points.
ooooo The relationship between you and your familiar companion is a thing of legends, and you have both shaped and altered the other. 20 points.
You can ever only have one Familiar bond, by default, though the Exalted can often alter this assumption in various ways. It is possible to gain a Familiar bond in play, or strengthen an existing one, with the Storyteller's mission. This costs 4xp for levels 1-3, and 6xp for levels 4-5. Many of the Familiar-obtaining charms of the Exalted allow one to strengthen the bond between Exalt and Familiar much more cheaply.
Note, the above chart was written to closely mimic the basic Familiar Progression at 1-3. If the Storyteller wants more powerful Familiars, you simply have to increase the point values available at each level.
All Familiars have the following two traits for free:
Long-Lived (0 point)
All Familiars have exceptionally long life spans, but are not fully immortal. Most Familiars will live 100 years per point of the Familiar bond.
Obedient (0 point)
The character is generally able to command his familiar as if it was a well-trained domesticated animal. The exact amount of control depends on the personality and nature of the animal in question, but this is largely a roleplaying issue.
Type of Animal
Small Animal (1 point)
These are small largely harmless domesticated animals such as cats or small dogs, or particularly common wild animals like mice, rats, a bluejay, or other such animals.
Impressive Animal (2 points)
These are more impressive and obviously useful than their small kin. Some domesticated examples might include Horses, or large Guard Dogs. Wild Animals might include Wolves, Hawks, Snakes, or other such animals.
Powerful Animal (4 points) These animals are both impressive and dangerous, being somewhat useful in combat. A domesticated example might include a Yeddim. Wild Animals include such beasts as Bears, Tigers, Sharks, or other such animals.
Majestic Animal (8 points)
A majestic animal is a step beyond even it's powerful kin, and are likely to be exclusively Wild in their nature, and often creatures with names and legends of their own. Some examples of these types of animals might include Tyrant Lizards, Stryrx, River Dragons, Mammoths, or other such mighty beasts.
God-Blooded Familiar (3 points)
Your animal compaion is the offspring of a God, blessed with strength and intelligence beyond the norm. These beasts are unusually intelligent, often as much as a human, though they frequently have no more ability to communicate than the norm. They also tend to possess some minor ability of one kind or another, more often increased ability in some endeavor as opposed to anything charm-like (and seldom worth more than 1 point).
God-Blooded Familiars also have a Godly-relative, though the exact relationship between beast and God is likely to vary in general. Other than as listed above, God-Blooded Familiars are as normal for their type, which must be purchased separately. I.e., a God-Blooded Horse costs 5 points.
Ghostly Familiar (3 points, Abyssal only)
Your animal companion is a ghost-like creature, native to the Underworld. It is naturally Immaterial in the Creation (and Shadowlands during the Day), but can materialize in the proximity of the Abyssal if the Deathknight spends 5 motes of essence. This ability does not require commited essence, and allows the beast to stay materialized as long as it remains in close contact with the Abyssal.
Ghostly Familiars are tireless, but otherwise normal animals of their type, which must be purchased separately. I.e., a Ghostly Wolf costs 5 points.
Man & Beast Traits
Sensory Sharing (1 point)
The bond between you and your animal companion is strong enough that you can share your familiar companions senses whenever it is within 100 yards. This allows you to see through your familiars eyes, smell as it smells, or otherwise benefit from it's senses in various ways. If this becomes important for game play, assume that the character gains a bonus to sense-related rolls equal to his rating in the Familiar background.
Sensory Bond (1 point, requires Sensory Sharing)
This power is identical to Sensory Sharing, except that it has an effective range of 1 mile.
Small Mote Reserve (2 points)
Whenever you are in close contact with your familiar, you have access to an additional 5 motes of Personal Essence. You can spend this essence as if it was your own, and it only regenerates only after your own essence pool is full.
Large Mote Reserve (4 points, requires Small Mote Reserve)
This power is identical to Small Mote Reserve, except that you have access to 5 motes of Personal Essence and 5 motes of Periphereal Essence.
Animalistic Empathy (1 point, requires Expressive)
Your bond with your familiar is to some extent generalized, allowing you to communicate with all animals of your familiar's type as if they had the Expressive trait.
Intelligence & Communication Traits
Very Clever (1 point)
Your familiar is quite clever for an animal, but still doesn't really approach human intelligent. It can probably pull off a number of things that normal animals of its type can't manage, however, and follow simple instructions.
Intelligent (1 points, requires Very Clever)
Your familiar is about as intelligence as a young child of eight or nine years. It can fetch items and do chores, but it has no book learning and is pretty easily distracted. Even if the Familiar doesn't have a way to communicate with you, it's pretty good at expressing itself via it's natural means of communication.
This is the limits of intelligence for non-God-Blooded Familiars. God-Blooded Familiars recieve the effects of Very Clever and Intelligent for free, and are even more intelligent than as listed above, often as intelligent as adult humans.
Expressive (1 point, requires Very Clever)
Your familiar is unusually expressive, and you are able to communicate with it almost as well as if it were speaking through it's posture and facial expression. This allows you to manage more impressive instructions and tasks, though your familiar is still limited by it's overall intelligence.
Telepathy (1 point, requires Expressive)
You can communicate with your familiar telepathically, and vice versa, provided both you and your familiar are within 100 yards. While this ability allows you to communicate fully and silently with your companion, the beasts overall ability to communicate and act upon your instructions is limited by his intelligence.
Speech (2 points, requires Expressive)
Your familiar can physically communicate, speaking in a somewhat crude but recognizable voice in the character's native language. With time and difficulty, the character can teach the beast other languages. As with telepathy, above, this trait has no overall impact on the beasts overall ability to communicate or act upon instructions.
These abilities are purposely generic, and the costs listed are just generic suggestions to give you a vague idea of the suggested pricing.
Minor Supernatural Ability (1 point)
Your familiar has been strengthened in some mundane task, being notably better at it than most animals of his type. This might be a few extra dice for stealth or athletics tasks, an extra dot in an attribute, or some other small bonus.
Useful Supernatural Ability (2 points)
Your familiar possesses some useful utilitarian ability that it's type does not usually possess, often to impressive extents. These abilities still relate to natural functions, and are exgerrations things that the animal can already do. This might be the ability to meld into shadows, climb up any surface easily, or eat literally anything.
Powerful Supernatural Ability (4 points)
Your familiar posssesses some minor but still impressive charm-like ability, usually similar to a fairly weak charm available to Gods. This might include the ability to heal minor wounds by licking at them, turn invisible, or steal essence from others.
the Player is invited to create custom traits for his Familiar.
Great work, Brandon. I'll definitely use this Familar background. How about an extension to Sensory Sharing and Telepathy that allows you to inhabit the body of your familiar for a while? Just an idea. Oh, and let's no forget Cute ability that requires a Conviction roll for anyone to attack the familiar. Resplendence
Same thing. Definitely using in my game. This is beautiful. Jaelra
After having considered, I would suggest that Spirit Tied Pet should cost double (double of all costs) to raise a familiar to level 4 or 5. Also, Spirit Tied Pet doesn't say, but I'd say it should only be usable once every day or more...
- Don't most of the familiar charms recently created say that you can only raise it once a session/story? That's the way me and my troupe have run it. - Halloween
- I had thought it was necessary to be able to use the charm multiple times in a day in order to get a big familiar like a tiger. I mean, I guess you could force the Solar to wrestle the animal over a long time to get the rating up, but that seems like it would drag out the story. Also, I plan on using these rules the first time a non-Alchemical takes Familiar in my game. Much better than the book rules, where anything over 3 either stands out too much or tends to be boring. - HeridFel
I'm going to postulate another catagory, because I think familiars (at least solar ones, and possibly others) should be able to use (some of) their master's charms. It's mainly that weird charm in 2nd ed that made me think this, but here's my interpretation of how to apply it using this familiar system, which is the one I usually use.
These abilities allow a familiar to use certain of the exalts own charms, drawing from the exalt's pool but using their own traits and willpower. It is limited to one charm per turn, even if it is bonded to a Dragon-blooded exalt. Exalts can always choose whether their familiar may use a charm or not, even if the familiar has been subverted or controlled by some external or internal power. The default maximum range a familiar can borrow charms over is approximately 100 yards.
Basic Charm Sharing (1 point)
Your familiar has learned to draw potence and mystical abilities through the link that binds you, but only the simpler ones. The familiar may use any reflexive, instant charm that has a Minimum Essence of 2 or less. It is also limited to spending a maximum of 5 motes of your essence through the link at any one time, although if it has any Essence Storage capabilities, it can use those motes at any time and without limit. It may never benefit from perfect charms, even conditional perfects.
Advanced Charm Sharing (2 points, requires Basic Charm Sharing)
Your familiar has gained increased charm sharing abilities, and can now use charms up to an essence minima of 3. In addition, it can now use perfect effect charms (still only instant and reflexive ones) if you yourself know them, although it also has any limitations or restrictions that you possess regarding their use. An example of such restrictions are the Four Flaws of Perfection in 2nd edition rules.
Increased Channelling Capacity (1 point, requires Basic Charm Sharing)
Every purchase of this quality lets your familiar channel another 5 motes per turn.
Increased Channelling Range (1 point, requires Basic Charm Sharing)
Your familiar has learned to draw on your power even when it is up to a mile away.
What do you think? I'm for this idea because it makes more of the exalt-familiar bond and less of just a pet, and mainly because it gives familiars some useful defensive abilities so they're not so fragile in exalted combat. It might be a little overpowered if you have a war-mammoth with melee defense charms, but since you'd need to pay Familiar 4 or 5 for those anyway, I think it's probably about right.
After reading this, but apparently being too lazy to comment himself, Veav thinks all of the ranges should be parametric, probably multiplied by master's essence. He actually has a lot more to say about it, regarding the amount of Familiar background as well, but since he's not going to actually come and write that himself, I'm going to leave it general.
Fine, fine. My basic issue with 100 yds/1 mile, for telepathy/charmsharing/ranges in general, is this...
- Familiar 5 Dragon: "I'm the most powerful creature around!"
- Familiar 1 Greyhound: "Yeah, but neither of us can talk to our masters if we go further than that cherry tree. Also, your mother's a whore."
The bond between master and familiar is a strong one, and I think it does characters little justice if they don't get props for having put both points and effort into it. Range in general might be 50 yds per dot of Essence+Familiar (Ess 2, Fam 3 = 250 yds). Sensory Sharing, Charm-Sharing, and Mind-Sharing (Telepathy) all unlock things you can do with this range, and a one-point general adder of Increased Range boosts it to half a mile per dot. This gives you a fairly simple system to work with.
So... not to give away what I'm doing with it, or anything, but suppose I was playing ExMod, and wanted a car as a familiar. Perhaps even a flying car. Is that a "Powerful Animal", with perhaps "Powerful Supernatural Ability"? -- GreenLantern
I don't know that a "Flying Car" is any more of a "Powerful Animal" than a Hybroc, say, so I dunno that you'd need the Supernatural Ability. Though admittedly flying is not the natural state for a car that hasn't just gone over the edge of a cliff, so maybe you would. - Kraken talks you over the subject without committing firmly either way
- I'd say that it's the supernatural ability personally, due both to the reason you listed (the natural state of a car isn't to fly), but also for other balance reasons. If you see a guy standing next to a Hybroc, you think "Hey - that thing there flies, gosh dangit", and you also think "But he certainly won't be making away with my giant boulder-sized rock of Jade, because it's too dang heavy". If, on the other hand, you had a flying Yeddim (or horse) both of those statements are untrue, and thus you're getting added benefit. If you really wanted to, you could alternately do it as a Hybroc with the added ability "People think it's a Yeddim" and get the same result. Either way, you've still got something supernatural about it going on, is my guess. -- GreenLantern, taking the Hybroc analogy one step too far.
Sensory Sharing's ability to add the Familiar's rating to sense-related rolls seems hella over-powered at high levels. One of my characters has a Lvl. 5 familiar built with this system, a tireless, god-blooded warstag spiritualized via Sid charms, with Sensory share. I'd suggest that this just allows a full sense-ride (a la Beastmaster, leaving your own senses to ride the critter's) rather than shared, simultaneous senses. There is already plenty of application for this power as it is, even for low-level familiars, without giving huge bonus dice. Imagine the pigeon or rat familiar that can get into small, secret places. --UncleChu