Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Clockwork Familiar

Toads aren’t that cuddly.  Weasels smell.  And vipers are so déclassé.  It makes you just want to throw in the towel and build your own familiar—specifically, a clockwork familiar.

Usually designed to look like dragons or birds or spiders (that’s the way we do it in the Wild, Wild West), clockwork familiars are an Improved Familiar choice that leverages the advantages of having a construct at your beck and call rather than a flesh-and-blood creature.  (They can't, for instance, be healed normally and rust is a problem, but that just makes them all the more obedient to their masters.)  Even better, their owners can customize them by incorporating temporary magic items into their bodies, granting them both an ongoing effect as long as they possess the item and a more powerful ability if they choose to drain the item’s charge.  This flexibility endears them to wizards who plan for contingencies (which is every wizard who hopes to live long).  It’s never a bad thing to have a portable detect magic source on hand—especially one that can talk to you—and a clockwork familiar’s stored potion of invisibility, fly, or gaseous form could easily be the difference between life and death for its master.

A journeyman wizard’s master has passed away.  The adventurer is first notified of this when his master’s clockwork familiar comes looking for him.  Long neglected by the ailing wizard, the familiar has barely survived the arduous journey to reach the journeyman.  The battered, half-mad construct attacks the young mage, seeing him as the heir to not only the master’s books and wisdom, but also his failures.

Knowledge of the crafting of clockwork was snuffed out in Oyroa when barbarian hordes overran the City of Miracles.  But the clockworks themselves remain—shiny brass ravens, badgers, bees, even delicate bejeweled carp.  It is considered an auspicious feat for a caster to coax one of these creatures into her service.  And not all of the familiars are benign.  Some still act on the instructions of mages long dead, others have been perverted by the animating spirits inside them, and all are potentially dangerous.

Most clockwork familiars are bespoke creations.  But some cosmopolitan magocracies have artificers who can help a mage with the construction.  Fabriker Nicholas Sturmhandt is renowned for his clockwork constructions, particularly his ambulatory birdcages (with mechanical signing birds inside) and the clockwork familiar kits he supplies wealthy wizards.  Darker rumors suggest that he also specializes in creating clockwork gnomes…and that real, quite unwilling gnomish victims are essential to the process.  Getting into his compound to investigate will be difficult, as Herr Sturmhandt has several clockwork familiar lookouts—far more than any one mage could ordinarily bind.

Pathfinder Adventure Path #63 86–87 & Pathfinder Bestiary 5 57

Philadelphia, I am dominating your station.  #mydayjob

After two weeks off, The New Indie Canon is back!  Today I’m going to take you from the Low Anthem’s “To Ohio” to the Violent Femmes’ “I Held Her in My Arms,” with stops along the way for Beverly, Spacehog, Into It. Over It., the Sun Days, some SXSW teasers, and more.  Stream it.  Download it.  Love it.

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