The d20 market has seen book specializing on classes, races, weapons, spells, prestige classes, feats and many other broader categories. This book takes a class feature, the acquisition of the familiar and the familiar itself, and greatly expands upon it. I am not sure how many other class features can be broadened and looked this in-depthly. It would be interesting to see animal companions and the paladins mount dealt with like this book. I feel those are the two obvious choices that lend themselves to this type of product that can take a subject and expand upon it greatly. I would very much like to see Steve Creech, the author of this book, take those class abilities and do with them what he has done with familiars.
Dweomercraft Familiars is the latest pdf by Dark Quest Games. They have been a solid company when it comes to pdfs having produced some of very good books like In the Saddle: Horses and Other Mounts and Death: Guardian of the Gate. I imagine those are some titles that people do not know of but they should. However, this review is about one specific book by them. As I said it is written by Steve Creech and a few other people like Michael Hammes, Neal Levin, David Woodrum, Rowan Flowers, James Justice, Shawn Muder, Darren Pearce, and Amanda Woodrum. That is nine people given writing credit on this book and the writing is pretty seamless. I imagine that is not so easy to do to get nine voices to sound as one. That is just the first of the many impressive things about this book.
Familiars is a one hundred and twenty four page pdf. The cost is a cheap six dollars and ninety five cents. It is cheap for the size and cheap for the quality. The book also comes in a print version for people who prefer that. The pdf one though comes in a zip file that is under two and half megs in size. That file unzips to a pdf that is a bit under three and half megs in size. That is a good size for the pdf of this length. The pdf however does not have any bookmarks in it. It does have a very complete three page table of contents though. I would have liked to see them have those as bookmarks though.
The book is presented in an easy to read two column format. The layout is very well done making it easy to read on the computer screen as well as once it is printed out. There are no borders to eat up ink when it is printed and there is not a lot of art that would do that. The art is a mixture of pieces that I like and do not like. It is all down by the same person, Ceredywn. The art is very appropriate to the topics of the chapters it is in and of a good consistent style. Some of the pieces are a little too cute looking and I was rather disappointed that neither of the new oozes presented in the book was pictured.
One of the things that Familiars does very well is show what familiars can do. At the beginning of almost every chapter there are stories about familiars. These are well written little tales that give good examples of a familiar in action. They offer the familiars personality and intelligence so that they become more then a scouting tool. Personally, I am rarely a fan of the use of fiction like this. But this shows us that when it is done well in both writing style and content that it just adds so much to the book giving examples and details in practice. The stories do a good job of breaking up the book and helping it flow together making it easier to read all in one sitting.
Okay, on the meat of this book. The first chapter deals with the master and the familiar. What sorts of races choose what sort of familiar? What kind of personality does my familiar have? Why should I curse a player who kills off his familiar? And what sort of curses can I use? These are just a few of the fun questions this first chapter answers. It does start out with what races prefer which familiars it includes many of the common races and even minotaurs and medusa plus many more obscure races. However, it does not include dwarves. I guess this is just an oversight as I cannot imagine how one could purposely include what familiars and Ettin likes but not the ones a dwarf does. The personality of the familiars is done through a table of traits. A player can roll randomly for a few of these traits to help define the familiar. There are thirty two options here but a few of the options are just broad categories like phobias. However the text directs us to appendix five for a list of phobias and there is no appendix five, list of phobias, or even a single appendix. The curses are an optional rule to pester the player who looses his familiar. I really like the idea of having the death of a familiar be just a penalty in experience. It can really add something to a character to try to overcome the death of a familiar and the curse he his left with.
The Players Handbook has a very limited list of familiars available to the Sorcerer and the Wizard. There have been a few books that have feats and options to expand upon this list, but they all pale in comparison to the new familiar types this book offers. In the new origins chapter there are feats for the summoning of vermin familiars to undead familiars to inner planar familiars. Each costs a feat and requires a certain caster level to have such a familiar. Some though seem a little difficult for what one can get with it. From there the chapter goes into detail on what a familiar is. It covers a lot of area even the poltergeist of a former familiar. A lot of thought and intelligence was placed into this section. It defines a familiar and answers many of the questions that the Players Handbook does not. I will consider this a must read for any character that decides to get a familiar.
What type of familiar should a character take? Why some types of familiars are better then others and what can one expect from familiars of a particular type? The next few chapters cover?s these questions and many more. Each familiar type gets its own chapter devoted to it and in that chapter things are fully detailed. There might be new spells, new feats, and new creatures for each familiar type. There are chapters on each of the following: Outer Planar Creatures, Undead, Constructs, Avian and flying creatures, Reptiles, Rodents, Vermin, Exceptional Beasts, Monstrous Humanoids, and Oozes. And yes, my eyes do sparkle when I see a chapter on Ooze familiars.
Each chapter begins with reasons why to choose a familiar of this type and why not to choose a familiar of this type. These sections go into the reasons for and against with a thorough understanding of familiars. It also discusses a bit the types of people that most commonly will have familiars of these types. These are an NPC and a PC concept goldmine. Obviously, that is not the intention of this section but I am always on the look out for good starting ideas for characters. I consider it a good bonus in a book.
There are many, many new types of familiars presented here. Each is also listed with a bonus the wizard or sorcerer gets from having this type of familiar. The division of familiars per chapter though is uneven. As one might expect there are more familiars presented for the Rodent and Exceptional Beasts chapters then the Undead and Ooze chapters. In each chapter there are also ways to upgrade ones familiar. This involves spending experience from the caster and seems like a good way to balance the new powers and abilities of the familiar. Spending experience for things other then item creation seems to be a touchy subject for some gamers. I am of the opinion it is a good thing and enjoy seeing new options one can use their experience for. These chapters cover a lot of information and make choosing the right familiar a pleasant chore.
Magical items are the backbone of many campaigns and characters and a familiar has his needs as well. There are not that many items presented here for the familiar but the ones that are here are solid examples of the possibilities for a familiar. There are even a few cursed items here as well. Then the book goes into class levels for familiars, the possibilities of any class acquire a familiar, and some familiar based prestige classes for a character.
One of my favorite things to do first when I read a d20 book is look at the Open Game License. It might seem like an odd thing to do, but one of the great things the OGL allows is the building and using of other people?s materials. In the OGL it will list any sources that were used in this book. Familiars includes over thirty such sources. As I read through the book I did recognize some of the material from the other books, but the inclusion of them was pretty seamless and not obvious. It would be nice to see a page included that said what specifically was used from each source so that people can then see what they liked and possible seek out the original source for more similar ideas.
Overall this is a great resource for Familiars. I do like it much better then the Mongoose book Familiars: Crouch Monkey, Hidden Toad. Though that book does offer some options that will work well with what is presented here. Troll Lords also has a book on Familiars coming out and I can only hope that that one is a as good as this one. If so, there will be no excuse for a flatly played familiar ever again.
VALUE: Very Satisfied