Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I'm going to take a break from porting spidery monsters to 4e for a day. Ravyn at Exchange of Realities just posted about fleshing out familiars. It reminded me of the most memorable familiar that ever turned up in one of my campaigns. I thought I'd talk a little about how that familiar, QuickSilver the pseudodragon, developed. Where he came from was covered in the linked article.

The key question that I asked at the time is in ravyn's article: "how does the familiar view its person’s competence level? Who does it think needs whom?" For the first couple of in-game months that the wizard had QuickSilver, the pseudodragon sat quietly in his pocket and watched. Mostly this was because as DM I wasn't used to having to play a familiar at all. In the end this quiet period became critical to QuickSilver's development.

After the party had completed some travel and one major adventure where QuickSilver did nothing but occasionally pop his head out to look for invisible threats, my wife/co-DM and I had some long discussions about how he might start to assert himself. We decided that since this was an axiomatic (law-aligned) pseudodragon, he should be keenly analytical and logical. Since the player of the wizard is a huge Star trek fan, we gave QuickSilver's personality a healthy dose of Mr. Spock. For example, in his first deep discussion with the wizard he pointed out that he had been observing the wizard for "two months, eight days, twelve hours and fourteen minutes".

It had also come to my attention that the player was having trouble making the wizard as effective as he wanted. At the time I had come across Being Batman: the Logic Ninja's Guide to Wizards, and hoped that if I could get the wizard to use some of those ideas his effectiveness would increase. So we decided to make the familiar an adviser and teacher, kind of like Spock to the wizard's Kirk or Brian to Dave's fledgling wizard in Knights of the Dinner Table these past couple years. In that first discussion QuickSilver indicated he wanted to discuss "more effective spell selection and deployment".

Finally, we decided that QuickSilver needed to use some sort of honorific to refer to the wizard, to reinforce the master/adviser relationship since he was about to get bossy/nitpicky. We toyed with lifting Spock's "Captain", but eventually settled on the more medieval "My Liege". This had the additional amusing effect of making the player a bit squirmy, as admonitions of "Just call me Raerskhed" were met with "Of course, my liege."

The simple personality base (logical, analytical) coupled with the honorific made it simple for me to get into character. When I turned to the player and said "My liege, we need to talk," I was instantly in character. The spell mentor relationship I had envisioned didn't really have time to get going, since we only played two more complete adventures in that campaign.

Maybe the wizard's player will drop by and leave his impression of my efforts from his side of the screen (hint hint QuinnTheRanger...)


Donny_the_Dm said...

Ah...LogicNinja. Got hisself banned from the Paizo boards for a week I hear. Something about disparaging comments and incredibly abrasive demeanor.

His builds werent bad, but they did have some gaping holes vs. anything mindless, most undead, and all plants/oozes/constructs.

I had a huge problem with his opinion of how "useless" fighters were. Oh well.

I like the thought of a familiar that views it's mater with veiled contempt. I had a LG wizard in a long ago game that botched a find familiar spell. Ended up with a Quasit. I spent the whole career of that one trying to "convert" the little beasty to good.

I'd imagine the opposite would be even funnier!

Gregor LeBlaque said...

The main bad guy in that same campaign was the quasit familiar of the CN brother of one of the PCs. Some day when I'm out of other stuff to talk about maybe I'll tell that story. It's not really as interesting since all the "conversion" drama was going on behind the scenes.