POWDER/A guide to familiars

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A GUIDE TO FAMILIARS

So, your brand-new POWDER character started with a familiar tome. I know what you're thinking. "Well, that's teleport and heal, but otherwise, a wasted book." You may be wrong. A familiar is an extension of your own life, and can be an amazing asset if properly trained. But familiar death causes system shock, and unless you like losing 10% of your hit points every time, a familiar is not a throw-away solution. Familiars must be nurtured.

So what do you get? You get an extra set of attacks, spells at your disposal, another full set of inventory slots, a buffer for when you just have to run away.... There are so many advantages in having a familiar I can't list them all. And it's a whole lot safer than that wand of create monster you're eyeing.

Now, I personally never summon a familiar right away. I'm not going to discuss the early game - collection and identification of items, avoiding starvation, the relative merits of each god, and so forth, in too much detail. I will say that your character is going to be a "battle-mage", but most of your spells will actually be utility, and not attack.

I will also say that you will probably be following Pax, at least from the mid-game on, so try not to get him too angry. It is possible to recover from -100 with Pax, so don't feel you have to starve, but try to avoid attacking neutrals. Trust me, this will come in handy when leveling your familiar later. Playing with safe walk on is really handy here.

WHAT YOU NEED

So, what do you need to properly raise a familiar? Well, the most obvious thing is a familiar tome. This has most of the essential spells: summon familiar, heal, possess, and transfer knowledge. You will definitely want a tome of force for preserve. You will probably also want a tome of healing for cure poison, major heal, and resurrect. And you may ultimately need a tome of earth for stone to flesh.

Notice that you can skimp a bit with some staves. The staff of healing will offer heal, cure poison, and major heal. A utility staff provides possess, preserve, and stone to flesh.

You will also need some skill and spellbooks for your familiar. You will definitely want a tome of guile for evade traps, dodge, and moving target. You may want a manual of armour for helmets and shields. And you may want a book of H'ruth for clean kill, butchery, and charge. Spells are your choice, but I personally like chill touch, flash, and sticky flames to start.

Finally, you will probably want some equipment for the little guy. A ring of regeneration is virtually a must. A helm of warning is handy. A ring of fire resistance is good if your familiar habitually flies over lava. Optimally, a spare amulet of poison resist and spare mirror shield (not to mention artifacts with breathless, fast, freedom, and stoning resist), would be best, but don't forget that you come first. I like to give my familiars a silver weapon, so that they can fight demons and ghosts, but bite works fine early on.

HOW TO START

Firstly, your familiar starts very weak. The little bat only has 10 hp and 10 mana when first summoned. It begins with 2 skill slots and 1 spell slot. To give it a leg up, you're going to possess it right away.

If possible, have your familiar drink a few spare healing and mana potions. The extra hp and mp will help it survive those first few fights. You will want to equip it with a ring of regeneration, and, at the very least, a torch in the off-hand. I'm not sure, but a helm of warning seems to help with pathfinding when you command it to attack something it can't see. Sometimes, however, it will still go off in the wrong direction, and you must command it to guard you again.

Learn a spell - flash and chilling touch are both 5 mana spells, so it can cast them twice. I prefer flash, since sticky flames is amazingly good. Ultimately, you'll want all 3 - light, cold, and fire damage make for a good mix. And since you personally won't be casting those spells, you can get all the benefits without the H'ruth anger that would normally accompany them.

For skills, evade traps is a must. If your bat sets off a teleporter, it's probably dead and rotted before you can get to it. Note that ESP allows you to see it anywhere on the level, but unless you can controlled teleport to it, beware! Dodge and moving target are also handy. If you're seeing dragons already, take moving target. Clean kill is nice, since you can eat your pet's kills, and butchery is handy if you watch what your bat eats.

Now, remember when I told you not to attack neutrals? Here is where that comes into effect. You are going to have to give your new bat some really easy kills. Rats and mice are very good for this. You may have to backtrack all the way to level 1. But you'll appreciate those extra items you left behind now.

LEVELING YOUR FAMILIAR

Do not allow your level 1 familiar to fight anything but a rat or mouse. Mice are actually best, since they won't fight back unless cornered, and bats are quick, so they can catch up.

Your bat will attack hostiles on its own. You will have to command it to attack neutrals. You can also command it to stay, and to guard (follow) you.

If your bat is wearing a ring of the proper resistance, it can safely fight fire snakes/beetles, grid bugs, ice snakes, and brown/purple slugs. Since you're not terribly likely to have found multiples of and/or identified resistance rings at this point.

Once your bat has leveled, possess it again so it can learn another skill and another spell. At this point, it can usually handle other small monsters - ice and fire snakes mostly. Watch out for the beetles. They seem to pack a bigger punch. You will want to hover near with a heal spell just in case. Be careful with bats. Since they are also quick, they can get a few lucky hits in and take out a low level familiar. Look at your familiar while it fights and cast heal or swap position with it if you need to.

Allowing your familiar to fight in narrow corridors is handy at this point, especially if you have enough light radius to monitor the action. As long as you command your familiar to attack, and don't initiate a fight with a neutral, you can usually swap position with either the neutral or your bat, preventing them from fighting, and allowing your bat to heal. Similarly, corners are nice. If you stand in a corner between your bat and a neutral, and command your familiar to attack, it can safely cast spells while not being attacked in melee.

Notice that you and your familiar are sharing XP gains when your familiar gets a kill. When your familiar makes a kill, you receive half of the XP that it receives. If you make the kill, your familiar gets no XP. Your familiar, being lower level than you, will get much more XP than you will if it makes a harder kill. You can milk this by fighting a powerful monster until it is near death and then allowing your familiar to make the kill, but don't get greedy. A wand of sleep can help.

Be careful. If you notice a powerful monster, command your familiar to stay, and then do the fighting yourself. Your familiar will still gain XP. If need be, leave the level with your familiar and command it to stay on another level.

At level 4, your familiar will grow up, and become a large bat. At this point, it actually loses a slot or two, so you might see it with -1 skill slot if you possess it. However, it can now wield medium weapons one-handed. At level 7, it becomes a vampire bat, and again loses a slot or two.

A special note about the spell transfer knowledge. This spell takes 250 xp from you and grants it to your familiar. Since your familiar is bonded, you get a return of 126 xp. This can keep the danger level down for you, since more powerful monsters are generated the higher your level. But ultimately, you are the one who will win or lose the game. Don't underpower yourself.

POLYMORPHING YOUR FAMILIAR

A reasonable tactic is to polymorph your familiar. After all, you have a good buddy who follows you whereever you go. Wouldn't it be better if he were stronger? There are pros and cons to this. Now don't get me wrong. Bats are great, if you spend the time leveling them. But having a powerful ally right out of the box is great, too.

Now, polymorphing a familiar is pretty easy. There's the wand, the ring, and eating chameleon corpses. You will probably want to possess the familiar and use a ring of polymorph control, unless you want something random. On the other hand, random can be good, too. After all, you could end up with a kobold assassin, ghost, or iron golem familiar. If you get something really good, you'll probably want an amulet of unchanging.

Humanoid familiars are nice. Unlike bats, they have boot and armor slots, are smart enough to use potions, and will pick up and change their own equipment. However, they pick up everything they come across, even things you might have wanted for yourself, like a corpse while you were starving. They also throw things they pick up, and they're not smart enough to make sure you're out of the way. Getting doused with poison or greek fire is not my idea of friendly. And that +3 holy silver spear that Klaskov gifted me doesn't look quite so good sticking out of my back.

Golem familiars are also nice, but they do not regenerate, so you'll be casting heal spells on them to keep them in working order.

Dragons are powerful, but suffer from the same lack of boot and armor slots as bats. And you'd better have some resistance to whatever they breathe, since once again, they aren't picky about targeting. Green dragons may be the worst. Sure, they kill everything quicky-quick, but you sure don't want to eat the corpses.

Ghosts are probably the best. They're physical immune, can paralyze, and have good spells, but they have no equipment slots, so they can't wear an amulet of unchanging.

Regardless of what you get, remember that any powerful creature is going to get very little xp for kills. So if you go this route, be prepared to use a lot of your own xp on transfer knowledge.

Overall, I'd say that the various kobolds are probably my favorite. They start with a fair number of skill and spell slots, at least. Since any skills gained while polymorphed are retained when reverting, a viable strategy is to go kobold assassin, learn some stuff, and then revert.

But honestly, don't discount the lowly bat. One of my previous familiars was a vampire bat with over 100 hp and 100 mp, had a skill/spell list over a page long, and wore a +3 feathered helm of warning, a +4 mirror shield, and an artifact silver sword, plus jewelry. It had been ressurected 4 times.

CARE AND FEEDING

Like you, your familiar needs to eat. If hungry, a familiar will pick up any corpse it is on and eat it. Since some of those corpses can grant bad intrinsics, you should watch its diet.

If you command a familiar to stay for a long time (perhaps you're making holy water?), it may end up in a starving state. Be kind. Feed your pet regularly.

The easiest way to keep a familiar fed is to let nature take its course. Vampire bats using natural attacks suck blood from anything that bleeds. But I prefer to give my bat a weapon.

The best way, in my opinion, is to use the preserve spell on useful corpses, and pick them up while you are possessing your familiar. It will eat from inventory before eating off the ground. Kobold mage corpses are probably best, but the various dragons are also good for elemental resists. Green dragon corpses give temporary poison resist, so they are especially useful. Of course, making sure your pet has the butchery skill means it will get the effects.

A near infinite means of food is the stone to flesh spell. Disgusting, perhaps, but filling.

Keeping your bat in prime shape is going to require healing as well. I can't stress how necessary it is that your bat wear a ring of regeneration, but if you only have one, having your bat learn the regenerate spell is a temporary substitute.

Your bat will get poisoned. It will not drink cure potions in inventory, so you should know the cure poison spell. Once it has enough free spells slots, it can learn cure poison, and will cure itself, provided it has the mana available. Do not count on it to use the heal spell, even if it has mana available. It will not cast heal unless it is near death, and by then, it is probably too late.

WHEN YOUR FAMILIAR DIES

Yes, it will happen. Hopefully, not often, but it will happen. Now, the part that you want to avoid is the system shock if it rots away. Losing 10% of your hp hurts, especially in the late game.

Hopefully, you have enough spell slots that you have been able to learn resurrect. Hopefully, you have 50 mp and 100 free xp so that you can cast resurrect. If not, you will have to cast preserve on your familiar's corpse or bones. Do not cast raise undead on your familiar's corpse. You do not need to carry the corpse with you, but be wary if you leave it behind. A monster might eat it. It's probably best to leave it on the down stairs, and pick it up when you return to the level.

If your familiar is petrified, it does not count as the loss of the corpse. Still sucks, though. Cast preserve on your familiar if it engages a cockatrice. Preserve grants temporary unchanging.

If you can see that your familiar is about to die, you might consider zapping a wand of polymorph at it. Even if it becomes a mouse, it's still a second chance, and the worst it can lose is 10% of its hp when it dies and reverts to its normal form.

THE GODS AND YOUR FAMILIAR

Klaskov, as always, is easy. Nothing makes him mad, and as long as you get the occasional melee battle in, you're just going to keep going up.

Belweir isn't too tough, either. You're going to have to cast spells to create and maintain your familiar. As long as you don't go overboard in melee combat, you'll probably keep him happy. You may need to take care of him in the early game, since you are going to need some spell slots and spells to the strategy off the ground.

Quizar, while being my personal favorite POWDER god, isn't really much affected by use of a familiar. Since if you can't keep Belweir happy, you will probably need to follow him part of the early game to get some spell slots, it's best not to upset him. At least for the early game, try not to wear anything too noisy.

Tlosh is going to be mad at you. I mean blisteringly angry at you. Summon familiar and transfer knowledge are both heal spells, not to mention the amount of healing you are going to need to throw at your familiar just to keep it maintained. Fortunately, there's not a whole lot Tlosh does when he's mad. Flamestrike is probably the worst, and that's solved by a ring of fire resist. Mana drain and sleep can usually be waited out, and proving your worth is just more xp. You can mitigate Tlosh a little bit, however. Tlosh is happier when a non-melee kill is made. This includes kills made by your familiar.

H'ruth is going to be angry as well. Unfortunately, H'ruth disenchants if he gets angry enough. Try to let H'ruth get above 100 points of negative attention. You will be casting spells, so he'll never be happy, but try to mitigate with at least some melee combat.

Pax. while impossible for most builds, is actually pretty easy for this one. Casting a heal spell on yourself is good for a point or two with Pax. Casting a heal spell on your familiar is good for around 4 points with Pax. Pax will not get upset if you command your familiar to attack neutrals, or even shitomi, as long as you do not engage in the fighting yourself. Of course, the not eating unless hungry is the tough part. I assume you started with a familiar tome, and it is possible to learn heal as your first spell and keep Pax happy from the beginning, but you just can't afford to take that kind of anger from Tlosh and H'ruth early on. As I said earlier, it is possible to mitigate Pax even from -100 , but I suggest not making him too angry. You may even consider trying this strategy if you find a familiar tome in the midgame. With his 1 fighter/1 spellcaster level bonus, Pax is argueably one of the best gods to follow, and you'll be able to do so for pretty much as long as you want.

Xom is Xom. What can I say? It might be worthwhile, if you end up in Xom's good graces, to take a level or two of cultist early on. You will need the spell slots, and Xom might grant you some. Or maybe not. Since you're performing two gods' forbidden actions - casting spells, and casting heal spells - you are almost certainly going to piss Xom off pretty regularly. Unfortunately, in the interim, you're probably going to make Xom pretty happy. I recently had Xom up to 350+ positive, and then he changed his mind.

AN EXAMPLE FAMILIAR

This is a dump of a familiar I had been training for quite some time in a recent game. Notice he has eaten many kobold mages, and drank several potions of healing and mana. Oddly, quick shows up as fast under possession.

POWDER 111 
Windows Version 
Name: Pietro 
------------------------------------------------------------------------ 
Physical: 93/11 (max 93) 
Mental: 99/3 (max 112) 
AC: 17 
X: 595 
Depth: 14 
24876 moves over 7h6m38s 
------------------------------------------------------------------------ 
Intrinsics: 
+ Fast 
+ Tame 
+ Possessed 
+ A familiar 
------------------------------------------------------------------------ 
Spells: 
+ Flash 
+ Sticky Flames 
+ Chilling Touch 
+ Heal 
------------------------------------------------------------------------ 
Skills: 
+ Dodge 
+ Moving Target 
+ Evade Traps 
+ Butchery 
+ Clean Kill 
+ Medium Weapons 
+ Edged Attacks 
+ Parry 
------------------------------------------------------------------------ 
Equipped Items: 
- Holy +3 helm of warning on head. 
- Amulet of unchanging around neck. 
- Holy +3 silver sword in right wing. 
- Holy +3 mirror shield in left wing. 
- Ring of regeneration on right toe-claw. 
- Ring of fire resistance on left toe-claw. 
------------------------------------------------------------------------ 
Inventory Items: 
- Holy +3 helm of warning. 
- Amulet of unchanging. 
- Holy +3 silver sword. 
- Holy +3 mirror shield. 
- Ring of regeneration. 
- Ring of fire resistance. 
- Holy +3 flaming sword. 
- Holy tome of healing (3). 
- Book of H'ruth (2). 
- Manual of guile (2). 
- Tome of fire (4). 
- Tome of cold (4). 
- Book of blades (3). 

IN CLOSING

I hope you've enjoyed reading this, and I hope it gives you some new ideas and possibilities for your play style.

Any mistakes, whether grammar or content, are mine, and mine alone. You can't have them!

I'd like to thank Jeff Lait for an enjoyable little game to which I've given far too much of my recent free time. You're great! I hope we can get another 100+ releases and 6 more years out of you!  ;-)

This content is cast out upon the ocean of the internet and released to the public domain. An it harm none, do with it what you will.

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