Thursday, March 21, 2019

GFA18 - North American Familiars

My very last entry in the 2018 Gongfarmer's Almanac was a reprint and update of something I wrote earlier that's fallen out of print now. One nice thing about putting this up on my blog is that I can add in the hyperlinks to the other settings I mention in the introductory essay.

My writing on this piece was edited by Cory Gahsman. That fantastic art piece is by Carmin Vance, and I just love the detail he put into it, especially the behavior of the cat familiars, the wanted poster, and the way the possum familiar's potion looks like a little jug of moonshine.

Because I waited so long to post this, the call for submissions for the 2019 GFA has gone out! It won't be organized on Google Plus as it was in years past, but it's found a new home (actually several new homes) on MeWe, on the Goodman Games discussion boards, and on its very own website! (Click that Participate tab at the top to volunteer!) Writing submission are due by May 1st, art submission by June 1st, and they could always use volunteers to help with editing, layout, publishing and coordination. 
Image by Carmin Vance
When a wizard in a North American setting casts find familiar, they don't summon one of the entities from the DCC core rules. Instead, they summon a familiar spirit from the local territories. Lawful familiars in North America mostly take the guise of domesticated animals and animals that form civilized communities. Neutral familiars mostly appear as wild animals whose very existence symbolizes the frontier in the minds of city-dwellers. Chaotic familiars dress themselves in the guise of pests, vermin, and decay.

These familiars are usable in any DCC campaign that takes place in a North American setting, whether it's the Dark Territories and town of Brimstone from Carl Bussler and Eric Hoffman's Black Powder Black Magic, the Shudder Mountains from Michael Curtis' The Chained Coffin, the Trails of David Baity's Dark Trails, Our World from Diogo Nogueira's Lost World setting, the Crawling Revolution led by James Walls' Revolutionary Crawl Classics occupations, the Esoteric America watched over by Michael Curtis' Secret Antiquities patrons, or any similar locale.

As in the DCC core rules, if the familiar has an ability and no modifier is listed, the wizard gains a +4 bonus to use that ability. I imagine fey familiars as being child-sized or waist-height, but looking so elfin and otherworldly that they'd never be mistaken for a human child.

North American familiars are an itinerant sort. At the judge's discretion, either at the beginning of each session, or each time the wizard gains a level, their previous familiar departs and a new one comes to take its place. This could be the original spirit taking on a new physical configuration, wanderlust causing one spirit to move on and another to replace it, or a regular shift-change between punch-clock geists. The wizard enjoys a different master's benefit each time their familiar changes (besides, what fun is a table with 72 entries if you only get to see one of them?)

Familiar Physical Configuration (and Master's Benefit)

1     White cat (move very silently)

2     Hound dog (all followers, retainers, etc. receive +2 to morale checks)

3     Miniature horse ('spooked' feeling warns caster of surprises and ambushes)

4     Miniature long-horned steer (+2 hit points)

5     Miniature blue ox (+1 Stamina)

6     Prairie dog (excellent hearing)

7     Groundhog (caster knows upcoming weather each morning)

8     Beaver (swim speed 20')

9     Yellow miner's canary (supernatural ability to detect traps and hazards)

10    Pigeon (caster can 'home in' on route out of dungeon or back to town)

11    Cock rooster (loud, commanding voice)

12    Barn owl (ability to see at night as well as during day)

13    Red-tailed hawk (excellent vision)

14    Bald eagle (excellent vision)

15    Giant ant (+1 to all attempts at ESP, scrying, etc)

16    Giant honey bee (melee attack deals poison: DC 12 Fort save or temporary loss of 1 Strength)

17    Child-sized scarecrow (opponents are -2 to morale checks)

18    Miniature covered wagon (once per day, the caster can ‘find’ a single low-cost mundane item in their pack)

19    Miniature train engine (movement 40')

20    Fey school-teacher wearing glasses and elbow-patched tweed jacket, never speaks, communicates using writing slate (caster can attempt to read any unknown language as lawful thief of the same level)

21    Fey Catholic priest, dressed in black robe with white collar (one of caster's known spells is replaced by a random cleric spell)

22    Fey soldier in blue-coat US Army uniform (caster is proficient with all weapons)

23    Mysterious fey figure dressed in gunfighter's outfit, mouth covered by bandana, never speaks (+1 to initiative and to all missile attacks)

24    Tiny feather-winged angel wearing white robe, face identical to caster's, speaks up whenever caster is tempted to disobey interests of patron (+1 to saving throws versus chaotic magic and supernatural effects)

Familiar Physical Configuration (and Master's Benefit)

1     Gray cat (move very silently)

2     Possum (+1 to recovering the body checks for caster and familiar)

3     Badger (+1 melee damage)

4     Miniature stag deer (+1 Personality)

5     Miniature bison (+1 AC)

6     Gray Wolf (extraordinary sense of smell)

7     Miniature mountain lion (+1 Strength)

8     Miniature grizzly bear (+1 to melee attacks and melee damage)

9     Toad (ability to hold breath underwater for 20 minutes)

10    Gecko lizard (climb speed 10')

11    Desert tortoise (+2 AC, movement 20')

12    Armadillo (caster is proficient with shields, suffers no spellcheck penalty from carrying a shield, can shield-bash as a dwarf)

13    Mockingbird (caster is able to speak 1 additional random language)

14    Whip-poor-will (beautiful, haunting singing voice)

15    Crow (uncanny ability to detect gemstones and shiny objects)

16    Wild turkey (excellent at hiding in forest)

17    Giant grasshopper (once per day, caster can leap 10' vertically or 20' horizontally)

18    Will-o-the-wisp (familiar acts as candle-light in darkness)

19    Tumbleweed (caster can withdraw from melee combat without opening themselves to a free attack)

20    Fey wilderness scout, dressed in leather suit and racoon cap (uncanny ability to find paths and know direction)

21    Fey woodcutter wearing plaid shirt, carrying axe (+1 to attack and damage against plants and fungi)

22    Fey card-sharp, dressed in gambler's finery, carries tarot deck (+2 Luck that restores each night if used, similar to a thief's recovery of Luck)

23    Dust-devil cyclone (once per day, after hitting their first opponent in combat, the caster can continue making attacks against new opponents using the same weapon and action die, until missing an attack or running out of opponents)

24    Tiny elemental (+1 to all saves and checks related to that element. Roll 1d10 to determine element: (1) earth; (2) air; (3) fire; (4) water; (5) dust; (6) fog; (7) ice; (8) lightning; (9) mud; (10) exotic element such as gold, silver, gemstones, demon ore, etc.)

Familiar Physical Configuration (and Master's Benefit)

1     Black cat (twice per session, impose -1 penalty on opponent's roll)

2     Raccoon (ability to pick pockets as a chaotic thief of same level)

3     Weasel (supernatural ability to squeeze into tight places)

4     Porcupine (anyone grappling or dealing melee damage to caster takes 1 damage from quills)

5     Polecat skunk (immune to nausea and stench)

6     Coyote (+1 Agility)

7     Tiny python (extraordinary sense of smell)

8     Tiny rattlesnake (melee bite attack deals poison: DC 16 Fort save or temporary loss of 1d6 Stamina)

9     Miniature alligator (successful melee attack grapples opponent, automatically deals 1d6 damage per subsequent round)

10    Bat (excellent hearing)

11    Miniature buzzard vulture (caster is able to safely eat rotten or spoiled food)

12    Black swan (once per day, caster can reroll any natural 7, and once per day, caster can reroll any natural 13)

13    Giant millipede (climb speed 10')

14    Giant maggot, transforms into giant black housefly during combat (‘skin crawling’ feeling alerts caster to presence of disguises and shapeshifters)

15    Tarantula spider (melee attack deals poison: DC Fort save or temporary loss of 1 Agility)

16    Giant mosquito (bite attack deals 1d4 damage and heals wizard of 1 hit point)

17    Tiny black scorpion (+2 to Fort saves versus poison)

18    Miniature skeletal horse (+1 to all attempts at planar communication or travel)

19    Miniature black stagecoach with large glass windows revealing casket inside (+1 AC and +1 saving throws versus undead)

20    Beautiful fey saloon dancer with skin flayed from her back, dressed in can-can outfit (+2 Personality)

21    Fey tattooed lady, dressed in bathing suit, covered in ink showing Patron's motif (+1 to spellcheck of random spell)

22    Fey hanged man (grants an extra life - the first time caster dies, the familiar dies instead, and caster is restored to full hit points, less the consequence of familiar dying)

23    Child-sized human skeleton (+1 damage to undead and +1 damage from necromancy)

24    Tiny bat-winged red devil, face identical to caster's, speaks up whenever opportunity arises to tempt caster to advance Patron's interests (+1 to all saving throws versus Lawful magic and supernatural effects)

Note: Most of the entries above originally appeared in the article "Familiars of the Dark Territories" in Black Powder, Black Magic, volume 4. Lawful entries 7, 10, 17, and 20, Neutral entres 12, 13, 19, and 21, and Chaotic entries 12, 14, 16, and 19 originally appeared in the post "Pseudo-Preview of BPBM4" on the DIY & Dragons blog.