Review: Zargoth’s Tome of Familiars

Zargoth’s Tome of Familiars is a supplement by Arcana Games, focused entirely on expanding the concept of a familiar or companion in D&D 5e.

At over 90 pages long, this is quite a big project – but definitely a quality one. There is a lot of content in this, so let’s just get into it straight away.

There are several different ways that this supplement approaches familiars. Each “type” of familiar has a Feat associated with them, and they have different roles and characteristics – although the underlying mechanics are mostly similar. Fist of all, we have Bonded Monsters – the cutest of all. These tend more towards companions rather than magical familiars, and are various young monsters such as a Blink Dog pup, an Owlbear cub, or even a Pygmy Watcher or a Dragon hatchling. The feat, Bonded, requires you to have proficiency with Animal Handling, and has a second “tier” called Soulbond, which upgrades your familiar signifying they have grown up to the next stage of their life. In case your bonded monster dies, there is no need to fear; you can bring it back during a long rest.

After that, we have Clockwork Creatures, which as you might expect are created (and repaired, if need be) by yourself using the Tinker’s Tools. These are more like magic items rather than actual creatures, and most of them have additional uses – they can transform into things like tools, weapons, et cetera. You can find something useful regardless of your class – rogues, fighters, wizards, and more all have something to choose from that can lend a hand in a tricky situation.

Next we have Undead Servants. Rather than simple zombies or skeletons, these servants are all aimed more towards utility rather than just killing things. After all, you already have spells for that; these ones have a somewhat more interesting aspect. For example, the Floating Skull is very useful for necromancers that actively participate in combat beyond directing their minions, with its Spell Conduit feature allowing you to cast spells through it. Nyssian Scarabs massively increase an undead’s defenses, while the Tomb Cat can give you some very useful effects as well, such as darkvision, a way to detect undead, as well as protection from one of several types of creatures. In addition, these are essentially an expanded selection for the Find Familiar spell, so again you don’t have to worry about losing them permanently. If you play a spellcaster with a necromancer theme, I think one of these familiars is a must-have.

Then we have Aberrant Symbiotes. Moving to a more occult and eldritch collection of “familiars”, these… creatures bond deeply with your body, usually outright replacing a body part. All of their effects are quite powerful, but they come with several disadvantages as well; beyond the obvious mutilation of your body and the infestation from an aberration from another plane, which I doubt will endear you to the eyes of most people, you also gain an Alien Influence: a flaw that seriously affects the mentality of your character. I love the flavor and implementation of Aberrant Symbiotes, and they would be an amazing addition for your villains as well!

Moving on to Pact Devils, which come about as a result of a bargain with a Devil lord; while it is not explicitly mentioned in the supplement, gaining one of these would probably come with various strings attached. Unlike other familiars, the Devils can’t attack themselves (although they can take other actions), but they grant their master a new ability. These vary wildly, from causing fear or charm, to… eating other creatures for various benefits, flaying and wearing the skin of humanoids to mimic their appearance, and more.

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We are only halfway through the book; I’m frankly quite impressed with the amount of content. But let’s keep going, with the Sylvan Fauna. This is another group of selections for the Find Familiar spell, obviously themed around the Feywild. Some of them are particularly good at combat, while otehrs have some added utility they can be used for – for example, the Moss Faun can empower plants around it, increasing harvest, as well as conjuring magical berries similar to the Goodberry spell.

After this, we get Mephits, which are quite straightforward: you can summon an elemental mephit to support you in combat. The feat, Elementalist, also gives some additional effects, and can be taken multiple times for different elements (fire, earth, air ,water) but overall it’s quite straightforward.

Moving on to perhaps my favorite category, Arcane Familiars. You can expend a spell slot to summon a number of arcane familiars equal to its level, however you cannot have familiars of different types active at the same time. You have a lot of options for every situation; Arcane Darts for damage, Arcane Wards for defense, Arcane Wisps for illusions, and more which I will keep a secret so as not to spoil the fun. As someone who loves playing spellcasters, this is a feat I am sure to get every time – I just love both the flavor and the mechanics.

Next, we have Animated Objects. The Animist feat allows you to animate objects instead of summoning familiars with the Find Familiar spell; in addition, you can take the feat multiple times to increase the number of objects you can animate simultaneously. Beyond the classics of Animated Armor, Animated Weapon, and Flying Carpet, we have some options, like a Spellbook, a Shield, and more. The theme of spellcasters animating objects is always an interesting one, and with this plus the already-existing spells, I think you can have a lot of fun with it.

While that’s it for actual familiars, we’re not done just yet – there are Alchemical Creations, essentially malformed creatures in jars that you can -ugh- consume for various benefits like normal potions, there are lots of magic items to go with your newfound familiars, there is a new subrace of humans that come with their inherent familiar called Soulbound, a new feat called Beast master that gives you access to certain spells, and a lot of statblocks for small, simple creatures that you can summon as a familiar like an otter, a magpie, a fox, et cetera.

In terms of quality, Zargoth’s Tome of Familiars could very easily be an official release. The mechanics are all well thought out and creative, there is quite a bit of lore and flavor behind each creature, and there is plenty of amazing (sometimes exceedingly cute, sometimes a bit disturbing) art. There are familiars for every kind of character, fulfilling almost every role you could think of. I wholeheartedly suggest this supplement, and I’ll definitely be using it in the future.

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