Something Familiar

Something Familiar

animalistic magical helpers

This detailed magic supplement was designed by Larry Bullock for use with Risus: The Anything RPG which is freely provided at the Risus: The Anything RPG site.

  • Genre: Fantasy (can work with any)

  • Tone: humorous

  • Campaign Options: Hooks and Tales, Pumping Clichés, Double Pumps, Lucky Shots/Questing Dice

  • Points/Dice: 10 Dice

  • Description: Tied to a spellcaster by means you don't really understand, you play out the role of the spellcaster's familiar - their assistant, magical lookout, confidant, friend. If only you could get him to understand you.

The World

Welcome to the world of the magical flunky - a spellcaster's familiar. It might be helpful to look over all of the implications of the word familiar:

noun - A close friend or associate; An attendant spirit, often taking animal form; One who performs domestic service in the household of a high official; A person who frequents a place.

In this game, you will be playing the a role that takes into account all of these aspects of the term familiar. You will be playing an extraordinary creature that has formed a bond with a spellcaster. You will be acting as the spellcaster's servant, friend, and companion. You will be the spellcaster's eyes and ears in the world. You will be the spellcaster's last line of defense against foes (both magical and mundane). It is your job to keep your spellcaster out of trouble.


Clichés are a bit different for familiars. Let's face it, you are usually considered a lesser creature (compared to your spellcaster and his ilk). As a familiar has to interact with the world in many ways for the spellcaster, most spellcasters will choose a creature that will not draw undue attention to itself (animals like cats, dogs, crows, etc. are quite common). That being said, there is nothing to stop you from being something a little more rare (a magically animated creature like a puppet, etc.), just keep in mind that it will help to draw unwanted attention (and danger) to your spellcaster. Whatever creature or construct you are should be considered your primary cliché.

Sample critters

Don't consider this list to be the exhaustive resource. Consult an animal reference guide for that. Also be aware that your choice of animal greatly impacts how well you can get by in the normal world - a Zebra will stick out quite a bit in most worlds and doesn't even start with how obvious a magical creature would be). Most spellcasters like to stick with creatures that are fairly common in the area for a few reasons - including availability and inconspicuousness.

Dog, Cat, Rat, Pig, Chicken/Rooster, Monkey, Parrot, Crow, Horse, Cow, Wolf, Coyote, Lion, Tiger, Bear, etc.

However, in this game, you are more than a one-eyed black and orange striped alley cat much too tough for it's own good (4). You are extraordinary. You might be extraordinary through natural affinities, or through magical enchantment (sometimes even both). In order to simulate your extraordinary natural affinities, this game uses Lucky Shots (for general activities), and Questing Dice for activities that are specifically related to your nature as a familiar (usually tied directly to your spellcaster).

Lucky Shots and Questing Dice are advanced options detailed in the Risus Companion (not required for play). The gist of Lucky Shots is that for every cliché die you give up, you are given 3 Lucky Shots - dice that can be added to any cliché roll at any time. Questing Dice are pretty much the same thing, but you get 5 Questing Dice for every cliché die you give up. Questing Dice must be tied to some specific personal aspect of your character. Both Lucky Shots and Questing Dice are a use once/adventure type of thing (just check them off your list as you use them up, they won't be refreshed until the next adventure).

It is possible that your spellcaster has magically enchanted you - granting you special abilities. In game terms, you take Magically Enchanted (ability) as a double-pumped cliché (magic isn't cheap, but it can be powerful). This ability is usually something that you are not capable of doing as part of your regular animal nature. This can range from the useful (speaking), to the truly powerful (ability to create magical effects, even attacks) depending on the tone that the GM wishes for the game.

Another option is to take Magical Assistant as a cliché (double pump required). This really endears the familiar to his spellcaster - it allows the familiar to team up with a spellcaster. At the GM's discretion, it can also allow the casting of minor magics.


  • Description: An intimidating dog, but really a lover at heart.

  • Clichés: Huge, Friendly to Children Bull Mastiff (4), Magical Assistant [2], Magical Enchantment (Size Changer): [2]

  • Lucky Shots: [] [] []

  • Questing Dice (Alcar Fuhsaz's familiar): [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []

  • Hooks: Max can easily be distracted to go play with children. Must beat a target of 15 to avoid being distracted.

  • Tale: Max has been with Alcar since he was a puppy. Now, he is a full grown, and huge at that, bull mastiff. Max is very protective of Alcar, and does his best to protect him, but hates violence. Alcar, wanting to help Max be more intimidating gave him the ability to alter his size.

GM Notes

As the players could conceivable be any type of creature, setting target numbers can be a real challenge. You have to take into account the nature of the creature. For example, if the player has to get something down off of a shelf, this might be simple if they can climb or fly - not so easy if they are earthbound. Just try to keep things loose and fun, and you should have no problem. Also keep in mind, that while the players might be smaller or larger than each other (or the populace of your game world), they each get to use the standard d6.

While on the surface, Something Familiar seems suited for 1 player, 1 GM style of play, if your game world incorporates spellcasting communities (coven/cabal/lodge/circle of wizards/etc.) — it isn't too difficult to have a group of familiars doing things together.

Adventure Ideas

Can You Pass the Salt?

Your spellcaster is in need of a critical component and needs you to get it for him.

Meddling Kids

A local group of people are investigating the strange goings on in the area. Will they find your spellcaster?

Idiot Spellcaster

Your spellcaster is totally oblivious to what is going on around him. His latest attempt to summon Belcazor is not going well and attracting supernatural attention (that he just isn't noticing).

Intruder Alert

Your spellcaster is busy and hasn't noticed that the alarms are going off. What has invaded the compound? Will it be friendly or is it out for blood?

Lab Rat

Your spellcaster has come into a magical item (scroll, potion, etc.), and he isn't sure what it does. What happens when he tries it out on you?


Every good spellcaster has a friendly competition going on with someone (who gets on their nerves and totally frustrates them). What happens when your spellcaster's rival shows up (with a familiar that is very similar to you)?

Out on the Town

Your spellcaster heads out to the local tavern to meet up with old friends and ends up going out on an adventure. Can you keep him alive?

Home Alone

A variation of Out on the Town, instead of going with your spellcaster, you have to protect his home while he is away.

Special thanks to the members of the Risus Talk mailing list for helping to flesh this out a bit.