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    Canonfire :: View topic - A "Familiar" Question
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    A "Familiar" Question
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    GreySage

    Joined: Sep 09, 2009
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    Tue Feb 02, 2021 8:16 am  
    A "Familiar" Question

    Hello All,

    Tis been quite a time since my last query post. High time I amend that! Happy

    This is not an edition specific question (hence, the reason why I placed it here), though many of you know that I am a 2e guy, so you know the lens through which I peer.

    I am wondering the following:

    A wizard's familiar has an extended lifespan, and at least in 1e and 2e I don't recall the rules saying just HOW long. At first I thought this means that so long as the wizard is alive, the familiar is linked magically to the lifespan of the mage. But this seems almost absurd, especially for elves.

    "Whattaya mean that cat is 85 yrs old, Falendil?! It doesn't look a day over 3 yrs!" Shocked

    Furthermore, I believe there have been a few 'canon' remarks made that this wizard or that has lost his/her familiar to the ravages of time. For instance, didn't Tiddles the changecat eventually croak, leaving its wizard crushed by the loss? Therefore, the familiar's lifespan is lengthened, but apparently NOT to the same lifespan of its wizard. This seems completely reasonable, ESPECIALLY for a 1st level spell!

    Thusly, it must be more of a multiplying factor, perhaps based on the wizard's racial age, or some-such other guideline. Wondering if ANY of you have come upon a 'rule' that states how long familiars live (any edition will due at this point, or any article).

    Secondly, I imagine if the familiar dies of 'old age' then the wizard is NOT required to roll system shock to avoid death. Does he/she STILL lose a point of Constitution under this situation?

    thank you all,

    Lanthorn
    Black Hand of Oblivion

    Joined: Feb 16, 2003
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    Tue Feb 02, 2021 8:54 am  

    Familiars live as long as their master. Potions of longevity may throw that out of whack, if the DM wishes, though an intelligent wizard would apply one to the familiar too. The same would go for a ghost's special aging effect. Restoring the youthful age of one does not restore that of the other (hopefully I am preempting this question Razz). If a familiar does die of old age, or of any cause, I would say the loss is felt due to the bond - if the bond is intact, then the downside of it cannot be avoided if the familiar dies. If a player is wanting to fudge something like this, they probably shouldn't have had a familiar in the first place. Magic has laws, and they are not very forgiving.

    As to elves and familiars, elves have a much stronger life force, which is partly why they have certain immunities or are less affected by various things. The bond imparts long life to the familiar of an elf, though I think it is important to keep in mind that a familiar is not just a regular animal turbo-charged with their master's life force. They are special animals of their kind. Think of something slightly more than a regular animal, but far, far less than an Animal Lord. Familiars are animals touched by the super-natural, which is why they can be bonded with in the first place. These animals are found/summoned, rather than "souped up" with a spell, or alchemical mixture in the lab.

    If a DM did have a familiar die of old age not due to some form of unnatural aging, and the wizard did not die as well, then I would think it would be as part of a story arc. With that in mind, if there were some penalty suffered, I would think that it would purposely be part of the story arc as well, and not some sort of vindictiveness towards a player. Wink
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    Thu Feb 04, 2021 2:40 pm  

    In 5e, familiar's are described as celestials/fey/fiends in the form of a creature. So, for me, I think they are likely to be much longer lived than their 'masters'. Instead of being some cute kitty-kat, I see them as being hard-bitten, adventuring veterans.

    (I imagine this in the voice of Harlan Ellison)
    "Hey bud. I'm your new familiar. I used to be with Wizard X and before that I was with Wizard Y, but he didn't last very long so perhaps he doesn't count. Let me give you some advice & maybe we can both avoid being incinerated at the first door you come to..."
    GreySage

    Joined: Sep 09, 2009
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    Sat Feb 06, 2021 10:19 am  

    Ceb,

    I appreciate your feedback. So...if I interpret your answer correctly, you suggest that the familiar has the same lifespan TABLE as the wizard, not necessarily the same lifespan of the wizard. Therefore:

    -a familiar linked to a human has a human lifespan (randomly rolled)
    -a familiar linked to an elf has an elven lifespan (randomly rolled)
    -a familiar linked to a half elf has a half-elven lifespan (randomly rolled) ... and so on.

    If so, that could account why some mages outlive their familiars under 'natural conditions' although the mage him/herself likely won't be young any more.

    Finally, want to know what happens if the familiar OUTLIVES the wizard. Does the familiar also die? If not, does it revert to being a 'normal' animal! Or does it retain its enhanced abilities? I imagine that's totally a DM call, but curious as to your thoughts. And anyone else, for that matter!

    thank you

    Lanthorn
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    Sat Feb 06, 2021 11:06 pm  

    Yeah, I think this depends on editions. If the familiar is essentially a spirit being (celestial/fiend/fey) as in 5E, I don't think it would 'age' at all.

    AD&D familiars are magically-boosted animals, so the question becomes a lot more relevant.
    Black Hand of Oblivion

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    Mon Feb 08, 2021 9:03 pm  

    I mean specifically that the wizard and familiar have literally the same lifespan. Their life forces are tied to one another. This bond is primarily what gives each of them some strengths/abilities of the other. Think of them as conjoined twins sharing vital organs; in this case it being a life force link. If the wizard dies, the familiar dies (or its supernatural corporal form goes back to its home plane) at that moment. If the familiar dies, then the wizard may have to roll for system shock/summon a new one, depending on the rules edition. I would keep the ages the same even if longevity magic is employed - the benefit is essentially shared via the link.

    Continuing on with WingofCoot's comment regarding aging, the age of the familiar is only an appearance thing; especially in regard to the supernatural aspect given to familiars in later game editions. There would be not be related statistics bonuses/penalties for their age in any case. They might seem to age, and even have features of old age, but would function as if they were not. Because magic.

    Example: old cat familiar of a 150 year-old human wizard (yes, some longevity magic has been at work). It might look like the most decrepit bent-tailed, missing eared, rheumy-eyed, walks with a limp, beaten down cat one might have ever seen, but when the stuff hits the fan, it turns out it is more spry and nimble and aware (and tougher) than any younger and healthier [looking] cat ever will be. It is all just outward manifestation (or affectation) of its magical link, which represents its true capabilities not at all. A familiar might take advantage of peoples' outward perception of it too. Wink

    That is my take on things.
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    GreySage

    Joined: Sep 09, 2009
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    Fri Feb 12, 2021 3:45 pm  

    Cebrion

    Thank you for chiming in and clarifying your point. Not sure that I actually agree that the familiar has the same lifespan of the mage, but I can appreciate your stance.

    I looked up what it said about Tobin Potraides' familiar (changecat) in "The Adventure Begins" on page 95. It doesn't say how his familiar died, just that it died and left him depressed. I figured he outlived it, but nothing confirms (or denies) that suspicion.

    I will have to keep digging to see if I stumble on anything on this topic.

    Thank you again! Until the next question (and there WILL be more, count on it!).

    -Lanthorn
    Black Hand of Oblivion

    Joined: Feb 16, 2003
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    Tue Feb 16, 2021 4:37 am  

    Familiars can die, and leave their masters alive. Considering the link that they share, which is literally telepathic (they know everything about one another) and so is far beyond the closeness that even siblings or a couple has, depression over such a loss seems rather reasonable. This isn't a case of "We complete each others' sentences." type of closeness, but a case of "We know each others sentences without them even needing to be spoken." type of closeness. Magnitudes greater closeness. It is a nice background bit, counter to the likely more usual, "Dang! My familiar Furfriend 47 died! Oh well. I'll just summon new one. I dub thee, Furfriend 48!" Laughing
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