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An Unfamiliar Familiar

May 10, 2009

This week’s Art Order challenge was to come up with an unfamiliar familiar. If you’re a D&D player you’ll know that most familiars are rats, snakes, cats, ravens, bats, weasels… with the occasional imp, or dire badger thrown in. Familiars must be, according to D&D rules, a common animal that the sorcerer or wizard bonds with (though there are allowances made in special situations for magical creatures to become familiars). Research done, I started wondering what sort of familiar I would want.

As always, inspiration is often right under our noses.

In my backyard I have a birdfeeder that, until recently, was suspended from our drake elm by a tv cable. (We’re geeks here, such things were handy). Below it was a plastic pedestal bird bath. We have several dozen birds that live in the many, many trees around our house, as well as several daredevil squirrels. Recently we discovered that there was also a couple of raccoons.

One morning I woke up to discover that the birdfeeder had somehow fallen in the middle of the night, spilling seed, nuts and dried fruit everywhere. Well, there should have been dried fruit and nuts, but most of it was gone and only the seed was left. I refilled it and rehung it. Two days later, same thing. Feeder on ground, nuts and fruits gone, still plenty of seed left. Hmmmm. Again, I refilled it and rehung it. The next morning there was some evidence that something had been hauling on the cables trying to pull up the feeder. Weird. So I fixed it again. Two days later, however, I woke up to find not only the feeder on the ground but something had snapped the bird bath pedestal, which was pretty flimsy, true, but shouldn’t have broken like that.

I brought the feeder into the house, left out some fruit and nuts, and then sat up late to wait. Around midnight our little thief showed himself.

Raccoons are surprisingly noisy. He slipped through the yard, then down to the patio. He sat up and looked for the feeder, but I’d brought it in. Disappointed, he set to work on the fruit and nuts and the bugs and earthworm under the dead leaves.

The next morning I did some research on raccoons. They climb well, high up in trees. Their eyesight is pretty poor, but their hearing and sense of smell is phenomenal. They can remember the solutions to puzzles up to three years later and have some minimal counting ability. We’ve upped our cable suspension on the bird feeder to a chain with a closed hook system. Near as we can tell, he was using the bird bath to jump up onto the feeder and swing on it till it fell.

Why aren’t raccoons an option for a familiar already? Certainly they’re at least as clever as a cat or weasel, if not more so, and they can be as big and vicious as a badger. So Slippy here is my submission for the Unfamiliar Familiar challenge. He gives his sorcerer bonuses to listen checks, intelligence, and in addition he can pick simple locks and solve simple puzzles. There is the problem, however, of him sometimes getting into packs looking for food…

Wonder if WotC might consider giving him a bonus “Rabid” attack at higher levels? 🙂


One Comment leave one →
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