Friday, December 2, 2016

Give Your Cleric A Healing Familiar (In Pathfinder)

Clerics are one of the most important aspects of any game. These divine casters come in all shapes and sizes, and when the party gets knocked down, it's the cleric's job to help get them back on their feet again. The task is occasionally a thankless one, but good clerics are indispensable.

They do face a difficult problem, though. Because more often than not healing your compatriots means you're putting yourself in harm's way. And that might mean you don't just lose your unwary barbarian; you'll also lose your medic. Assuming he can even reach the downed party member in time to administer aid.

At what point is it too risky to try saving a patient?
Now, there are some ways around this. For example, the metamagic feat Reach Spell allows you to prepare spells with an extended range, turning touch spells into close range ones. However, those spells are always going to raise the level of the spell, and that can get costly. And if you're going to eat a feat slot or two anyway, you might as well get a little more bang for your buck. Or, in this case, a familiar.

How Can You Give A Familiar To A Cleric?

It's actually pretty simple. In my post How To Power Up Your Pathfinder Characters With The Eldritch Heritage Feats, I mentioned that it was a prime way to get your hands on class features or abilities no one would expect you to have. The feats require Spell Focus in the skill associated with a given bloodline, as well as a minimum Charisma score (which shouldn't be a problem for clerics who want to make use of their Channel Energy class feature).

In this case you need to take Skill Focus (any Knowledge), and then Eldritch Heritage (Arcane). This gives you access to the 1st-level power of the Arcane bloodline, which is Arcane Bond, at level 3. This grants you either a familiar, or a bonded item, as a sorcerer of your level (which, in this case, is your character level -2). That means at level 5, you have a familiar who is capable of delivering touch spells. It also means that at level 9 you could take the Improved Familiar feat, if you were so inclined.

You know, for reasons.
What's the point in having a familiar? Well, you know how your compatriots are always rushing into battle, and typically spreading themselves all over the battlefield? This can be a huge pain for a cleric to keep up with. However, if you have a familiar with a high movement speed (and something like a fly or climb speed as well), then you can cast, and send your familiar out to dispense healing, buffs, or possibly dread curses if you want to use your familiar offensively. This allows your cleric much greater reach across the battlefield, especially if he's stomping around in medium armor.

But doesn't that just put your familiar in danger? A creature who is significantly more at risk than you are, with your divine gifts and scale mail?

Clearly you've never tried to take out a normal familiar, much less an advanced one. Hitting a Cassissian Angel who doesn't want to be hit, especially if it's bound to a good-aligned cleric, isn't going to be easy. Because there's the base creature's dexterity modifier, size modifiers, and natural armor, and on top of that there's the bonus to natural armor it gets from being a familiar. A bonus which will only go up as the cleric levels. Then you can stack even more bonuses onto it. A wand of Mage Armor, and another of Shield, are great boons to familiar AC. So is an amulet of protection, or of natural armor. In fact, with a minimal amount of preparation and use of resources, it's possible to give your familiar the highest AC in the party. Especially if you have access to domain spells and abilities like those granted by the Protection domain.

The House of Pain Now Delivers

It's important to remember that having a familiar comes with certain drawbacks. You're eating a minimum of two feat slots, and possibly a third for an improved familiar, and that can be an issue. It will always have half your hit points, and your saves, so it will be just as vulnerable (or strong) against certain threats as you are. And though familiars can be quite crunchy, their touch AC can be their downfall if they're being targeted by a spellcasting sniper.

I've got you now, you little bastard.
On the other hand, familiars can be a great boon to their masters. Improved familiars have their own spell-like abilities, and they gain their own set of actions during combat. They can share spells, and they can act as a mobile delivery system. So the next time a party member runs off before you can give them bull's strength, or someone goes down just out of your delivery range, you've got a friend who can reach out and touch someone.

Lastly, don't forget, your familiar isn't just a class feature; it's a character! As I said in Animal Companions, Cohorts, and Familiars, Oh My!, there are all kinds of ways to use these creatures to add flavor to your story, as well as a trick to your mechanical bag.

That's all for this week's Crunch installment. Hopefully folks enjoyed it, and at least a few of your out there are considering bringing this to bear in your game. If you'd like to help support me, and Improved Initiative, why not drop by The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page? All it takes is a pledge of at least $1 a month to get yourself some sweet swag, and to make a big difference. Lastly, if you haven't followed me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter yet, well, why not start today?


  1. healing
    Your blog is really cool and this is a great inspiring article.

  2. For bonus points, take Improved Familiar and get your hands on a Small Aether Elemental. This thing has passive invisibility as an (Ex) ability along with a fly speed, so it's perfect for delivering touch spells without getting targeted. It can also telekinetically throw objects to attack foes up to 480 ft. away.