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Dread familiars are the evil undead spirits of normal familiars that died in the service of their masters. These mean, vengeful creatures return to the Material Plane in search of wizards to kill or dominate via an insidious mental ability based on a familiar’s empathic link.
A dread familiar always attempts to have itself summoned by a mortal wizard or sorcerer, serving the character as a normal familiar until it finds the right opportunity to kill its master.
Dread familiars speak the languages spoken by their base creature type, plus any languages granted by their familiar special abilities.
Sample Dread Familiar
This dread familiar uses a raven, acting as a 7th level wizard’s familiar, as the base creature.
Raven Dread Familiar (7th Level Wizard’s)
Tiny Undead (Augmented Magical Beast)
Hit Dice: ¼d12 (13 hp, as 7th level wizard’s familiar)
Speed: 10 ft. (2 squares), fly 40 ft. (average)
AC: 20 (+2 size, +2 Dex, +6 natural), touch 14, flat-footed 18
Base Attack/Grapple: +0/–13
Attack: Claws +4 melee (1d2–5)
Full Attack: Claws +4 melee (1d2–5)
Space/Reach: 2 ½ ft. /0 ft.
Special Attacks: Ability drain, dominate person, empathic authority, empathic rule, feigned familiar, summon self
Special Qualities: Darkvision 60 ft., familiar traits, improved evasion, undead traits
Saves: Fort +2, Ref +4, Will +7
Abilities: Str 1, Dex 15, Con –, Int 16, Wis 14, Cha 14
Skills: Bluff +14, Concentration +10, Knowledge (arcana) +13, Knowledge (any two) +13, Listen +6, Sense Motive +6, Speak Language 3 ranks, Spellcraft +15, Spot +6
Feats: Weapon Finesse
Organisation: Solitary or familiar (one plus one 1st level wizard)
Challenge Rating: 2
Alignment: Always neutral evil
Advancement: As per master’s class level
Level Adjustment: +4
You see a dead man on the ground. Standing over the corpse’s shoulder, pecking at its flesh is an evil-looking raven that flies away as soon as you approach. From the trappings of the cadaver, you infer he was a man of the arcane trade, perhaps a wizard or a sorcerer… perhaps the raven was his familiar, but then why was it eating its master’s flesh?
This dread familiar speaks Abyssal, Common, Elven, and Dwarven, plus one language of its master’s choice (in this case Draconic). It may also speak with other ravens as an extraordinary ability.
A raven dread familiar always attempts to dominate an enemy if possible. If forced into physical combat, it fights much better than a normal raven, with its increased intelligence giving it strategic insights such as taking advantage of its airborne possibilities and supernatural attacks. If a dread familiar has managed to dominate but not kill its master, the spellcaster can be an excellent thrall, ordered to cast deadly spells the dread raven familiar can then deliver by touch.
Ability Drain (Su): A dread familiar’s master must succeed at a Will save (DC 12, Charisma based) each day or suffer 1 point of Intelligence drain. The master receives a –4 penalty on this save due to the dread familiar’s empathic authority ability.
Dominate Person (Sp): The dread familiar may cast dominate person three times per day, as the spell of the same name. Save DC is 17 (Charisma based). Caster level 7th. The dread familiar’s master receives a –4 penalty on this save.
Empathic Authority (Su): Where applicable, the dread familiar’s master receives a –4 penalty on will saves made against the dread familiar’s spell-like and supernatural abilities.
Empathic Rule (Su): The dread familiar’s master is permanently affected as per a dominate person spell cast by the dread familiar. The dread familiar uses this ability to order its master to pretend everything is all right and help the dread familiar maintain its innocent guise. The dread familiar commands its master to memorise and cast the spells that best suit its plans.
Feigned Familiar (Su): The dread familiar pretends to be a typical raven familiar at all times. Any Sense
Motive checks made to detect the dread familiar’s true nature automatically fail. The dread familiar has spell resistance 24 against any Divination spells or effects that could potentially discover its true nature. If a Divination spell or effect fails to overcome this spell resistance, it reveals what the dread familiars wants the caster to see – a normal raven familiar, with the statistics, alignment and special abilities of a typical creature of its kind.
Summon Self (Su): The dread familiar may cause itself to be summoned by any spellcaster attempting to summon a raven familiar within range. It can only use this ability on spellcasters that have previously caused the death of a familiar.
Familiar Traits: A raven familiar has all the statistics and special abilities of a normal raven familiar for a 7th level wizard. These include giving its master Alertness, as well as the deliver touch spells, empathic link and share spells special abilities. The dread familiar gains the improved evasion ability (see below) and it can speak with its master (which it usually uses to transmit veiled orders via the Bluff skill) as well as with other ravens. The dread familiar pretends to have only a natural armour bonus of +4 (when actually it is +6), an Intelligence score of 9 (when actually it is 16) and a Charisma score of 6 (when actually it is 14).
Improved Evasion (Ex): Whenever succeeding at a Reflex save made for half damage, the raven dread familiar suffers no damage instead. It suffers only half damage if the saving throw fails.
Skills: A dread familiar gains a +8 racial bonus on all Bluff checks.
Creating a Dread Familiar
‘Dread familiar’ is an acquired template that can be added to any wizard’s or sorcerer’s familiar that died in the service of its master, hereafter referred to as the ‘base creature’.
A dread familiar has all the special abilities and traits of the base creature, except as follows:
Size and Type: The creature’s type changes to undead. Readjust base attack bonus and saves accordingly. The base creature’s skill points remain unchanged.
Hit Dice: Change all current and future Hit Dice to d12s; however, a summoned dread familiar still has as many hit points as one-half its master’s maximum hit points. For the purposes of spells and effects depending on the target’s Hit Dice, the dread familiar counts as having as many Hit Dice as its master.
Armour Class: Increase the base creature’s natural armour bonus by +2. The dread familiar hides this Armour Class bonus via its feigned familiar ability.
A dread familiar has all the special attacks and qualities of the base creature, plus it gains additional special abilities according to its master’s level. The following abilities are only gained once a sorcerer or wizard has summoned the dread familiar as a familiar; the dread familiar cannot develop them on its own. The special abilities listed below are in addition to those gained by a normal familiar; the dread familiar pretends to have only those abilities corresponding to a normal familiar via its feigned familiar ability.
|1st-2nd||15 (6)||Empathic authority, feigned familiar, summon self|
|3rd-4th||15 (7)||Ability drain|
|5th-6th||16 (8)||Empathic rule|
|7th-8th||16 (9)||Dominate Person|
|11th-12th||17 (11)||Master drain|
|13th-14th||18 (12)||Dominate Monster|
1 The number to the left is the dread familiar’s true Intelligence score; the number in parentheses is the Intelligence score it pretends to have via its feigned familiar ability.
Empathic Authority (Su): The dread familiar establishes a grim, malevolent version of an empathic link with its master, which imposes a –4 penalty on all Will saves made by the master against spells or effects used by the dread familiar.
Feigned Familiar (Su): A dread familiar pretends to be a typical familiar at all times, displaying a familiar’s special abilities and behaving as a normal familiar of its type. Any Sense Motive checks made to detect the dread familiar’s true nature automatically fail. The dread familiar has spell resistance equal to 15 + its master’s class level + the dread familiar’s Hit Dice against any Divination spells or effects that could potentially discover its true nature. If a Divination spell or effect fails to overcome the creature’s spell resistance, it reveals what the dread familiars wants the caster to see – a normal familiar, with the statistics, alignment and special abilities of a typical creature of its kind. Finally, a dread familiar gives its masters all the benefits and bonuses expected from a creature of its type, so it is not probable that the master will think it is a fake.
Summon Self (Su): A dread familiar has the innate ability to detect the nearest attempt to summon a creature of its type as a familiar. When it does, it may cause itself to be summoned instead of a normal familiar. A dread familiar cannot cause itself to be summoned by spellcasters unless they have caused the death of a familiar. Spellcasters that have never lost a familiar cannot summon a dread familiar (and they are lucky too).
Ability Drain (Su): Every day a dread familiar spends in the service of a 3rd level or higher master, the master must succeed on a Will save (DC equal to 10 + ½ the dread familiar’s HD + the dread familiar’s, Cha modifier) or suffer 1 point of Intelligence drain (if he is a wizard) or Charisma drain (if he is a sorcerer). The character is not aware of this ability drain, believing he still has his full mental faculties unless clearly proven otherwise (which becomes increasingly difficult as the ability drain progresses). If the master is a Player Character, the Games Master should keep a separate, secret registry of Will saves failed and their consequences. Drained ability points may be restored by restoration and such magic, but the ability continues on working (and forcing the master to save against it) every day. If the master’s ability score is reduced to 0 or less in this fashion, he dies immediately and the dread familiar disappears.
Empathic Rule (Su): If the master of a dread familiar has at least 5th level in his class, he must succeed at a Will save (DC equal to 10 + ½ the dread familiar’s HD + the dread familiar’s, Cha modifier) every day or become dominated by the dread familiar as per a dominate monster spell, except that domination lasts until the dread familiar is killed. This is in addition to the dread familiar’s ability drain attack, which should be saved against and its consequences handled separately.
Dominate Person (Su): If its master has achieved at least 7th level in his class, a dread familiar gains dominate monster as a spell-like ability, usable three times per day. The save DC is 19 + the dread familiar’s Charisma modifier. Caster level equals the dread familiar master’s character level.
Master Drain (Su): If its master has achieved at least 11th level in his class, he must succeed at a Fortitude save each day (DC equal to 10 + ½ the dread familiar’s HD + the dread familiar’s, Cha modifier) or suffer 1d4 hit points of magical damage from the dread familiar’s presence. These hit points may be healed normally but the master is not aware of the loss unless faced with incontrovertible proof thereof.
This hit point loss does not affect the dread familiar’s hit points, which are still equal to ½ its master’s maximum hit points. This is in addition to the dread familiar’s ability drain and empathic rule abilities, which should be saved against and their consequences handled separately. If the dread familiar’s master is reduced to 0 or less hit points in this fashion, the dread familiar disappears and the link with its master is severed.
Saves: Use the saves of the base creature or the master’s base saves, whichever are greater.
Abilities: Being undead, a dread familiar has no Constitution score (although its feign familiar ability allows it to appear as if it had the normal constitution score for a creature of its type). Intelligence is always at least 15; increase Charisma score by +8.
Skills: A dread familiar’s increased Intelligence gives it access to additional skills not available to a normal creature of its kind. In addition to any skills possessed by the base creature; Bluff, Concentration, Knowledge (any), Sense Motive, Speak Language, Spellcraft and Use Magic Device are all class skills for a dread familiar. A dread familiar gains a +8 racial bonus on all Bluff checks. For every skill in which both the master and the dread familiar have skill ranks, use the familiar’s or the master’s skill ranks, whichever is higher. In any case, the dread familiar applies its own ability modifiers to all skills. A dread familiar always tries to give 1 rank to skills a master is more likely to choose, such as Concentration, Knowledge (arcana) or Spellcraft, so it is eligible to receive its master’s ranks in these skills.
Challenge Rating: As base creature +3.
Alignment: Change to neutral evil if it was not so already.
Advancement: As per master’s class level.
Level Adjustment: A dread familiar’s effective character level is increased by one-half its master’s class level. However, this level adjustment does not count towards spellcasters attempting to summon the creature via the Improved Familiar feat, which can always summon the dread familiar as if it was a normal creature of its kind.