May 24, 2012

Randomized yet Customized Familiars

Wizards and witches and familiars and random charts and probabilities and how to make them all work just right. 

I've been pondering on this for a while now.  Like years actually.  I've never found the perfect solution.

The right answer is that there is no right answer, or more precisely that the right answer depends upon the exact setting and the overall tone that you are trying to achieve with your particular campaign.  There is a certain alchemy to mixing an infinite number of players to an infinite number of campaign settings, and I'd be a fool to think that I've found the perfect chart.

Yet, I have this thing.

It relies heavily on DM intervention and player imagination, but it seems to work.  I mean that it works in that myself and my players all seem to enjoy the results.  I share it in the hopes that you and your players might enjoy it too. 

This ... thing was originally designed to be used with a Beast-Master class, but that was never fully designed.  I've ended up using it for Wizard familiars and Druid/Ranger animal companions.  It's a bit gonzo and I'm sure it's not for everyone, but if you're still interested, here it is.

Spellcasters below level 4 use the "Uninspired Familiars Chart".  You know, the one with cat, rat, owl, toad, raven; and all that stuff on it.  Max of one Familiar per caster (unless you are a Beast-Master).  Any spellcaster who is 4th level or above can choose to remove (500xp/level) to use this "Super Secret Familiars Chart".  Assuming that you like spellcasters to roll a bunch of weird dice and are willing to wing it.  It goes like this.

The spell casting character casts the spell, does the rituals, or whatever.  At the end the character is in a trance-like state and imagines the particular creature they are trying to summon as a familiar.  The player describes the desired creature to the DM.  Then, the player rolls one of every die.

The DM (who is probably me unless someone else is crazy enough to try this) says "OH! That's interesting." and writes down the six results in order of lowest to highest.  Then the DM consults this system/chart/thing that they keep behind the DM screen.


Player Rolls:  d4 + d6 + d8 +d10 + d12 + d20.  

************
Lowest Number: = (special abilities + # Attacks/round)
2nd Lowest Number: = To-Hit Bonus (THAC0 20)
3rd Lowest Number: = Bonus to all Saves (0-Level Saves)
3rd Highest Number: = highest damage from a single attack
2nd Highest Number: = max HP (+1 per caster level)
Highest Number: (this number divided by 2; round down) = AC
**********

The end result should be somewhat similar to what the player described, but you know... let the dice speak their peace.  Remember that HP can represent luck, combat reflexes, size, or whatever.  Give the player their desired aesthetic and everybody wins.  I don't let the players see exactly what I'm doing because it amuses me that they think I have a chart with over ten thousand familiars on it.

I guess the hardest part is to determine what the lowest number means.  What counts as a "special ability"?  I just sort of make it up as I go, but here is a partial list.

* +1 Attack per round (default of zero)
*Flying/working wings: (damageable, but faster than running human)
*Floats/Levitates: (innate, but slower than running human)
*Breathes Air AND Water
*Big/Ridable (can carry a PC)
*Breath Weapon (or special attack you'll allow)
*Venomous/Poisonous
*Speaks Common or Whatever (human face optional)
*Casts a Spell (nothing flashy, once per day)
*Other (whatever's clever dude)

Now, I haven't mapped the probabilities for every possible roll, but I'm sure the curves are sexy.  I do know that the probabilities for the lowest roll (Special Abilities/# of Attacks) are:
1 = 57.14%
2 = 27.86%
3 = 11.51%
4 = 3.49%

The probabilities for the highest roll (AC) are:
1 (AC: 0) = 0.0002%
2 (AC: 1) = 0.01%
3 (AC: 1) = 0.14%
4 (AC: 2) = 0.73%
5 (AC: 2)= 1.82%
6 (AC: 3) = 4.03%
7 (AC: 3) = 5.75%
8 (AC: 4) = 8.82%
9 (AC: 4) = 9.04%
10 (AC: 5) = 11.29%
11 (AC: 5) = 8.75%
12 (AC: 6) = 9.58%
13 (AC: 6) = 5.0%
14 (AC: 7) = 5.0%
15 (AC: 7) = 5.0%
16 (AC: 8) = 5.0%
17 (AC: 8) = 5.0%
18 (AC: 9) = 5.0%
19 (AC: 9) = 5.0%
20 (AC:10) = 5.0%


Hmmm.  Maybe some examples would help?


EXAMPLE 1 
DM: "You cast the spell and enter a trance-like state.  What creature is your character picturing?"
PC Wizard:  "The floaty eel thing from the bad guy in Aladdin!!!"
DM:  "You mean Xerxes?  The eel thing that followed Mozenrath?"
PC Wizard:  "Yeah! That thing was awesome!"
DM: "Yeah, he was.  Go ahead and roll one of each die."
Player: *Rolls*
d4:2
d6: 3
d8: 7
d10: 7
d12: 3
d20: 11

In Order: 2, 3, 3, 7, 7, 11

Results
Lowest Number: Floats + Bite Attack
2nd Lowest Number: = +3 to Hit (or THAC0: 17)
3rd Lowest Number: = +3 to all 0-Level Saves
3rd Highest Number: = Bite Damage (d6+1)
2nd Highest Number: = 7 HP max (+1 per caster level)
Highest Number: (11/2 round down) = AC 5
End Result: 3 foot long Floaty Eel Thingie 
 

EXAMPLE 2
DM: "You perform the ritual and enter a trance-like state.  What entity is your character picturing?"
PC Wizard:  "A Mini-Me!!!"
DM: "Sure, OK.  Now roll one of each die."
Player: *Rolls*
d4:3
d6: 5
d8: 4
d10: 4
d12: 10
d20: 2

In Order: 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 10

Results
Lowest Number: Speaks Common + Casts one spell per day (out of your spellbook, just like you; I'm being generous here.  It should really be a specific spell, but since you called it a clone thingy... whatever)
2nd Lowest Number: = +3 to Hit (or THAC0: 17)
3rd Lowest Number: = +4 to all 0-Level Saves
3rd Highest Number: = No Attacks/It abhors physical violence
2nd Highest Number: = 5 HP max (+1 per caster level)
Highest Number: (10/2 round down) = AC 5
End Result: 1 foot tall Caster Clone/Homunculus 
 


EXAMPLE 3
DM: "You spend a day meditating in the grotto.  What image does your character call to mind?"
PC Druid:  "Jabberjaw!!!"
DM: "Wait, what?"
PC Druid: "You know, the talking shark guy.  Didn't you ever see that cartoon?"
DM: "The shark guy who won't shut up and walks around on his tail fin?"
PC Druid: "Yeah!!!!!"
DM: "Ummm, Ok.  Sure, whatever; just roll"
PC Druid: *Rolls*
d4: 3
d6: 4
d8: 6
d10: 6
d12: 9
d20: 6

In Order: 3, 4, 6, 6, 6, 9

Results
Lowest Number: Bite Attack + Breathes Air and Water + Speaks Common
2nd Lowest Number: = +4 to Hit (or THAC0: 16)
3rd Lowest Number: = +6 to all 0-Level Saves
3rd Highest Number: = Bite Damage (d6)
2nd Highest Number: = 6 HP max (+1 per caster level)
Highest Number: (9/2 round down) = AC4 
End Result: 3 foot tall Walking Shark Dude
 

EXAMPLE 4
DM: "You commune with the great Willow Tree and seek to find your soul-mate.  What are you picturing in your mind?"
PC Wizard: "A little butterfly"
DM: "A butterfly?  Like, just a normal Monarch Butterfly?"
PC Wizard: "No, it's white with blue spots on the wings."
DM: "Okey Dokey.  Now roll one of each die."
d4: 4
d6: 6
d8: 3
d10: 3
d12: 7
d20: 11

In Order: 3, 3, 4, 6, 7, 11

Results
Lowest Number: Flying Wings + Big enough to Ride + Dangerous Proboscis
2nd Lowest Number: = +3 to Hit (or THAC0: 17)
3rd Lowest Number: = +4 to all 0-Level Saves
3rd Highest Number: = Proboscis Damage (d6)
2nd Highest Number: = 7 HP max (+1 per caster level)
Highest Number: (11/2 round down) = AC5 
End Result: 10 foot wide White Butterfly with Blue Spots

 
EXAMPLE 5
DM: "You call out to your dark masters.  What servant is your character imagining?"
PC Cleric:  "A Demon Scorpion"
DM: "Um, what does that look like?"
PC Cleric: "It's big and black, and has fangs and shit."
DM: "Wow.  That sounds badass.  Roll it up."
PC Cleric: *Rolls*
d4: 4
d6: 6
d8: 4
d10: 6
d12: 5
d20: 9

In Order: 4, 4, 5, 6, 6, 9 (that's a nice roll) 

Results
Lowest Number: Claw/Claw/Tail Sting + Big enough to Ride
2nd Lowest Number: = +4 to Hit (or THAC0: 16)
3rd Lowest Number: = +5 to all 0-Level Saves
3rd Highest Number: = Tail (d6), Claw (d4), Claw (d4)
2nd Highest Number: = 6 HP max (+1 per caster level)
Highest Number: (9/2 round down) = AC4 
End result: 6 foot long black scorpion with a human face, red eyes, and sharp teeth

3 comments:

  1. This is very cool!

    Here's what I got - A spell book, like the one from Hocus Pocus.
    d4 - 2
    d6 - 5
    d8 - 1
    d10 - 8
    d12 - 4
    d20 - 20

    Floating Spell Book
    # Attacks - 1
    To Hit - +2
    Saves - +4
    Damage - 1d4+1 (or 1d6-1)
    HP - 8
    AC - 10

    Hmmm....

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi,

    Apologies for the off-topic comment, but I couldn't find a contact email for you.

    A while ago I put out an ebook of my writing, called The New Death and others. It's mostly short stories, with some obvious gamer-interest material. For example I have a story inspired by OD&D elves, as well as poems which retell Robert E Howard's King Kull story The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune and HP Lovecraft's Under the Pyramids.

    I was wondering if you'd be interested in doing a review on your blog (either a normal book review, or a review of its suitability as gaming inspiration).

    If so, please let me know your email, and what file format is easiest for you, and I'll send you a free copy. You can email me (news@apolitical.info) or reply to this thread.

    You can download a sample from Smashwords:

    http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/92126

    I'll also link to your review from my blog.

    Yours,
    James.

    ReplyDelete
  3. That's a nice generator. I may use it.

    ReplyDelete