There’s lots of cool things about playing a Magic-User. Unfortunately, one of those is not having a familiar. Let’s face it. Familiars suck. In Old-School games, the risk generally isn’t worth the reward. In newer (Pathfinder/3.x) games, you many get a little boost but once again I think it’s pretty damned lame. Think about. Master of the Arcane. Summoner of Demon Lords. Here’s my familiar. A Toad. Really? Yes, I know there’s historical precedence on familiars. But screw that. You want to be cool.
This is one of those things that’s just brewing in the back of my head and not yet a complete thought but we’ll see how it goes.
First, let’s ditch all the mundane animals as familiars. Let’s stick to some the more cool ones like the imp, quasit and pseudo-dragon. Brownie is a possibility too but personally, it just never clicked with me.
Here’s some more basic thoughts:
It is what it is. Familiars have all the special powers and abilities according to what they are.
Adviser & Spy: A Magic-User and familiar will have a telepathic bond. The Magic-User can perceived through the senses of the familiar. Familiars should grant a bonus for magical research and the like. Not only should a familiar be able to spy for the magic-user. The familiar will also keep tabs on the magic-user for a powerful demonic/supernatural entity.
Free Will: Familiars should have a bit a free will. Almost like a hireling or a henchman. That means they should also have a personality with their own unusual quirks. Plus they should have their extra spell casting abilities.
Hit Points: At higher levels, familiars tend to get squashed quickly. A quick and dirty method. Familiars have the same amount of HP as the Magic-User.
Losing a familiar: This is where things usually suck. Generally, it ends draining the Magic-User of HP, permanently. This really does nothing to encourage the acquisition of a familiar. Instead, it just gets harder and harder for a Magic-User to replace the familiar. And subsequent familiars become more and more free willed.
So that’s it. A few system-neutral quick thoughts. I’ve got a couple of other ideas rolling around in my head but those are for Part 2.