January CCC - Innocuous Familiars

     While in the midst of working full tilt on Arnheim, I got distracted by the January Custom Content Challenge. The CCC is a monthly challenge for “makers” in the Neverwinter Nights modding community. The theme of the challenge this January was Spells and Spellcrafting. I had promised to participate when that theme was selected for the challenge. My submission was Innocuous Familiars, a system of scripts and custom content which redefine how “familiars” are implemented in the game. For those in the dark about what I am talking about, “familiars” are essentially magical pets for wizard characters. A witch’s black cat is the classic example of this idea.
     NWN modders can download the package here.

     Binding a familiar with a spell is a novel improvement to the game as familiars are normally a static feature of wizard characters. Typically the player of a wizard character selects the kind of familiar they want from a list at character creation or level-up whereas with my framework a wizard is also able to bind a creature during the course of play. They could encounter a serpent, bind it as their familiar, lose this familiar in an accident, and then later encounter an owl and bind that creature. This also means that a module creator can create an unusual familiar (which is unavailable during character creation) and place it somewhere in the adventure for the player to find in a hidden location, or the familiar could be a reward.
     Other changes to the game include a number of features which were previously only available in the pen and paper version of the game. Some examples of these include:

  • master benefits: all familiars provide the equivalent of the alertness feat to their master when they are present. Some familiars also provide additional perks such as hardiness versus poisons or disease, or a temporary boost to another skill or stat.
  • spell sharing: when the master “buffs” up with spell protections, the familiar also benefits if they are standing next to their master.
  • cast master’s spell: a master can cast a hostile spell on their familiar. The familiar will then store the spell, and be able to discharge it later at a target of their choosing.
  • mark location: scry spells and teleport spells in PNP could target locations that the caster or the caster’s familiar had visited. I created the ability for the familiar to create a spell focus from a location, and give this item to their master. However I only supplied a teleport spell as an example for how to make this work.
  • Special Movement: Some familiars are also given the ability to fly, and/or the ability to squeeze under doors when appropriate.

         I am most proud of how easy it is for other builders to create new familiars. No longer must the builder create 40 special blueprints for a new familiar. Each familiar is configurable by 2da (a 2 dimensional data file that Bioware uses to configure NWN). Further customization with creature items, and spawn scripts is also available. And this was all very well organized so that novice as well as advanced scripters can take full advantage of it.
         My biggest disappointment however is that I created this framework so late in the life of NWN. Very few builders have even taken a look at it. While many have told me how cool they think these improvements are, no builders that I know of have made use of them. I am tempted to make a short adventure that highlights what a builder can do with these.