Arcane Abilities: Alternatives to Summon Familiar

by Joe Wetzel (joewetzel at gmail dot com)


The Summon Familiar class ability of wizards isn’t a good fit for the character concepts of many wizards. In fact with the exception of Conjurers, specialist wizards should often not have the Summon Familiar ability because that ability is a sort of conjuration. Therefore the Summon Familiar ability often goes unused by many wizards, yet at low levels wizards are very weak and they would greatly benefit from being able to choose an alternative to Summon Familiar. Below are a number of other possible arcane abilities that may be chosen instead of Summon Familiar.

Usually a specialist wizard usually takes an arcane ability that matches his school of magic, but he may choose an ability that belongs to another school if it is open to others. If the wizard takes an ability from another school, he may need to make sure he can cast certain spells to take advantage of the ability. These are noted in the ability’s description. If a particular ability is only open to specialists of a particular school, general wizards may not choose it.


Alarm: The wizard may cast the spell Alarm once per day. Initially this ability matches the spell except the duration is 2 hours/caster level with a 10 hour minimum. However, it becomes better as the wizard advances in level according to the Alarm chart:

True Specialist Level Improvement to Alarm Ability

Any wizard may choose this ability as long as Alarm is one of his initial spells.

Improved Protection: The AC and save bonuses for Protection from Evil/Good/Chaos/Law spells is two plus the wizard’s “Max Base Spell Level”. (At first level, this is +3, at third level it is +4, etc.) The bonus for Magic Circle Against Evil/Good/Chaos/Law spells is one plus the wizard’s “Max Base Spell Level”.

To use this class ability effectively the wizard must choose Protection from Evil/Good/Chaos/or Law and should choose Magic Circle Against Evil/Good/Chaos/or Law when it is available.


Find Familiar: As the “Player’s Handbook: Core Rulebook I” description. The wizard must choose the spell “Summon Familiar” to use the ability.

An eagle is summoned in this portion of Anne Louis Girodet’s Trioson.

Improved Monster Summoning: Creatures the wizard summons have the maximum hit points for creatures of that type.

Mages of any school may choose this ability but obviously it is only effective when Summon Monster spells are chosen.


Quick Guidance: The wizard may cast guidance as a free action at any time, but only once per round.

Anyone who chooses Guidance as an initial spell may choose this arcane ability.


Enchanter’s Experience: Through the enchanter’s ever-deepening experience with enchantment spells and effects, he gains some resistance to enchantments. The Enchanter gains a bonus to saves against enchantment spells and effects equal to his “Max Base Spell Level.” At first level this is +1, at third it is +2, at fifth level it becomes +3, etc.

Only Enchanters may choose this ability because it requires concentrated study of enchantments.


Energy Transmutation: At first level and every third level after that, the Evoker may choose to change the type of energy used in a spell that is specified by a spell descriptor. (Magic Missile’s Force or Cone of Cold’s Cold, etc.) The evoker may change a spell with any of the descriptors in the following list into the energy of another descriptor from the list: Acid, cold, darkness, electricity, fire, force, light, and sonic.

No additional damage occurs as a direct result of the energy transformation, but if a particular creature is more susceptible to the chosen energy that susceptibility may result in additional damage. Also if a creature is immune to the original energy type, the new enrgy type may be more effective. Other uses for this ability are possible: It may also be used to prevent a creature from regenerating by making the energy into fire, for example.

Special: If a spell is “instantaneous” and the chosen resulting energy is acid, the damage is divided as evenly as possible across three rounds, with the leftover damage done in the earlier rounds. Following this rule, a 5d6 Fireball that is changed to acid would do 2d6 in the first round, 2d6 in the second and 1d6 in the third round.

Only Evokers may choose this arcane ability because it requires detailed study of evocation magic.


Improved Illusions: Add the illusionist’s “Max Base Spell Level” to the score needed to disbelieve illusions cast by an illusionist choosing this ability. For example, someone disbelieving a 4th level Major Iwizard spell cast by a 11th level Illusionist with an 18 intelligence would need:

10 (base) + 4 (level of spell) + 4 (high intelligence) + 6 (Max Base Spell Level) = 24

This ability is only open to illusionists as it represents their advanced study of the school of illusion.


Protection Against Undead: Due to the necromancer wizard’s frequent exposure to negative energy and his study of undead powers, the necromancer choosing this ability gains a damage reduction from attacks by undead and a bonus to saving throws involving undead creatures equal to the wizard’s “Max Base Spell Level.”

Only Necromancers may choose this ability because no other specialist is nearly as familiar with these issues.


Champion Abilities: The ability score increase for Bear’s Endurance, Bull’s Strength, Cat’s Grace, Eagle’s Splendor, Fox’s Cunning and Owl’s Wisdom is equal to two plus the caster’s “Max Base Spell Level” in Table: The Mage. Therefore a 5th level wizard who has this ability would bestow a +6 to the appropriate ability score of the target creature. For the mass versions of each just use the caster’s “Max Base Spell Level” instead of adding three. An 11th level wizard who has this ability would bestow a +6 to the appropriate ability scores of the target creatures when casting the “mass” version of these spells.

Wizards who choose this ability may also consider the singular versions of these spells as first level spells.

To choose this unique class ability, the wizard must choose any of Bear’s Endurance, Bull’s Strength, Cat’s Grace, Eagle’s Splendor, Fox’s Cunning or Owl’s Wisdom as one of his initial spells.

Designer’s Notes

I truly felt that Summon Familiar is an ability that fits for only a small number of wizard concepts. Some players may love the ability and find it fits their characters’ concepts well. But I believe some people use it just because it is part of the class and they should use it. Others may not use it at all, and they should get some other ability to balance things out.

I could have strictly limited the Unique Class Abilities to members of each school, but I felt there could be some abilities that are good fits for some characters of other schools. So where possible I required just a particular spell to be chosen as one of the wizard’s non-school spells.

I tried to make these abilities similar in power to the Summon Familiar ability. I also had to make them improve as the wizard progresses because familiars improve as their wizards advance in level.

The text above uses content published under the Open Game License.


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