Published on 14.12.2016

Artwork by Kathy SchadAdepts rarely face the dangers of Barsaive alone. In addition to their adventuring group, many adepts surround themselves with loyal animal companions. Known as familiars, these creatures share a strong bond with their master—almost similar to the one between a Cavalryman and his mount. Those ties are sealed with a familiar oath and infuse the familiar with the adept's magic and other special abilities. Familiars are most common with Beastmaster and Magician characters but may serve adepts of any Discipline.

Finding a Familiar

You usually choose a familiar from the loyal creatures surrounding you already. There are only a few creatures that cannot become familiars; Named spirits, dragons, Horrors, and other sapient creatures are incapable of serving as familiars (though there are frightening rumors claiming otherwise). You must forge a respectful relationship with the creature, and it must have been your companion for a while before you can initiate the familiar ritual.

The Familiar Oath

A magical oath must be sworn to create the magical bond between you and the creature to become your familiar, and the oath must be sealed with blood. You, as the creature's patron, declare to aid and protect your familiar—to combine your strength and will forever. You can only bond with one familiar at a time. Establishing the bond costs Character Points (as shown on the table below) and requires you to take a Wound which can be healed normally.

Breaking the oath will inflict a magical—and visible—Wound on you that cannot be healed for a year and a day. During this time, you cannot swear another familiar oath.

Effects of the Bond

The familiar oath bestows a number of benefits on both you and the creature. Once completed, add the following abilities to the familiar's game statistics:

Blood Link: You can transfer Wounds and Conditions between yourself and your familiar while touching it, one for each Karma Point you spend on the transfer. This ability is intended for use in life-and-death situations; transferring minor injuries without being in imminent danger will break the familiar bond (as will killing the familiar in this manner).

Spirit Link: Both you and your familiar can sense the general feelings and location of each other, including if the other is in danger. You must spend a Karma Point to activate this ability.

Pattern Link: The familiar's magical pattern is connected to yours, allowing you to improve its abilities. However, this also enables others to exploit that link and weave threads to it (see Thread Magic). This link between the magical patterns remains even after the familiar oath uniting you and your familiar has expired.

Artwork by Kathy Schad 

Familiar Advancement

You can now invest Character Points to improve your familiar's abilities and game statistics. The Familiar CP Costs table below lists the available options.

Familiar CP Costs

  •  Entering the Familiar Oath: 1 CP
  •  Adding or altering a Tag: 1 CP
  •  Adding a new special ability: 3 CP
  •  Increasing the Threat Circle: 5 CP (Journeyman), 8 CP (Warden), 13 CP (Master)
  •  Adding a Wound Slot: 4 CP*
  •  Turning the Familiar into a Spell Matrix: 4 CP**

* Once per Threat Circle
** If you use the optional Spell Matrix rules

Adding or Altering a Tag

You can change one of the familiar's Tags or add a new one between game sessions. This change should relate in some way to the experiences and story in which the familiar has participated.

Adding new Special Abilities

Due to the magic bestowed on them, as well as the experiences they face, familiars can develop new special abilities over time. There are no hard and fast rules as to what these abilities include. Draw inspiration from the existing abilities in the Creatures & Adversaries chapter (p.193, Earthdawn: The Age of Legend), or base them on a talent or spell effect. Discuss the new ability in the group to make sure they fit into your collective vision of the game.

Increasing the Threat Circle

Training your familiar to become stronger and more dangerous will allow you to increase its Thread Rating. This option is quite expensive, and requires ample training times. Again, discuss this change in the group to make sure they fit into your collective vision of the game.

Adding a Wound Slot

Hardening your creature for battle and against abuse will allow you to add further Wound Slots to its game statistics. This can only be done once per Threat Circle.

Turning the Familiar into a Spell Matrix

Magician frequently use their familiars to serve as additional spell matrix. Of course, this only makes sense if you use the optional Spell Matrix rules in your games.

Sample Familiars

Abrac, a Wizard’s Blood Raven

Abrac can be distinguished from normal ravens by his larger size and reddish legs. Blood Ravens are highly sought after by magicians because of their intelligence and perceptive abilities. Blood elves are also known to take blood ravens as familiars.

  •  Tags: Astral Sight, Flight, Intelligent, Sharp Eyesight
  •  Special: Blood Link, Spirit Link, Pattern Link, Spell Matrix
  •  Wound Slots: 1
  •  Threat Circle: Novice

Spot, a Beastmaster’s Cheetah

Spot is a long-legged and swift running cat with black spots, yellowish-brown fur, and non-retractable claws. Untamed cheetahs are most likely to be encountered in plains regions near Barsaive’s forests.

  •  Tags: Claws, Fast, Low-light Vision, Stealthy
  •  Special: Blood Link, Spirit Link, Pattern Link, Surprise Strike (see p.129, Earthdawn: The Age of Legend)
  •  Wound Slots: 2
  •  Threat Circle: Warden

Rudolph, a Cavalryman’s Reindeer

Pulling the sled of its master along with several other reindeers, Rudolph is usually in the lead, lighting the way with his red nose in the dark nights.

  •  Tags: Shiny Nose, Flight, Enduring, Loyal
  •  Special: Blood Link, Spirit Link, Pattern Link
  •  Wound Slots:
  •  Threat Circle: Master