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Path of the Totem Familiar (3pp)

At third level, when the barbarian chooses his Path, he may choose to bond with his totem spirit, gaining a familiar in the process to aid and guide him on his journeys. A totem is a spirit creature –be it animal or monster –that is revered by primitive societies as the source of their strength. The totem can be an animal such as a deer or lizard, or a beast such as the magical griffon or the owl bear, or even something more powerful, such as a dragon. The totem is an ideal to be achieved and strived for by the people as a whole. To barbarians, the totem of their tribe represents their cultural identity and their ties with the land and its peoples.

Barbarian tribes may have several totems, representing various unions with different tribes via conquest and/or marriage that have sculpted the ideologies and philosophy of the people. On the other hand, the tribe may be very small and have only one totem that truly identifies its spirit and personality. Whether a great tribe or small, it is the domain of the GM crafting the game world in which the player characters live and die, though certainly many such referees appreciate input in this regard from the players.

A barbarian’s connection to a totem creature is dependent on certain taboos which the barbarian must follow in order to maintain his connection with the totem spirit. Such taboos can be of nearly any nature, such as shaving all of one’s body hair, not eating after dark, washing only with one hand, or choosing to not travel or work on certain days of the week or month.

Totem Summoning Ritual

The connection between a barbarian and his chosen companions is a matter of ritual and spiritual belief. Barbarians see no more difference in the bond between themselves and their bestial or exotic companions than they do in the bond between a tree and the soil in which it grows, or in the bond between an eagle and its prey. It is a connection given at birth by the tribe, fulfilling tribal oaths taken by the barbarian when he achieves adulthood and status in the tribe. It is a connection forged by blood –the barbarian must slay his totem creature, taking a part of its spirit into himself, thus sealing the bond between them.

For a barbarian seeking to capture a totem spirit, the first step is to find and slay a powerful totem creature within his tribal holdings.

This is done in the form of ritual sacrifice. The barbarian must track down and kill the totem creature in single combat.

They may accept no aid in their quest –even from other members of their tribe –save for the spiritual guidance which may be provided them by a shaman or priest.

Once the totem creature is slain, the barbarian must spend at least 24 hours ritually skinning and preparing the totem animal.

No part of the totem may be wasted. The creature’s flesh is consumed, its bones fashioned into tools and equipment, the skin prepared for crafting into a cloak or armor, and its claws and teeth fashioned into jewelry. The barbarian’s own body is painted using a mixture of the creature’s blood, combined with rare pigments and oils. This ritual must be performed immediately and requires a Deerstalker check (Challenge Level 5) in order to properly skin, dress, and clean the totem creature. Otherwise, the ritual fails and the totem spirit becomes enraged (see the ‘Enraged Totem Spirit’ sidebar for details).

If the ritual is a success, the barbarian adorns himself with the tokens he has made and eats of the totem creature’s flesh. Then the last remnants of the totem creature are mixed with potent incenses and cast into a blazing inferno. The barbarian sits before the fire in meditation upon his totem spirit. There he slips into a deep trance, sending a portion of his own spirit into the Weird.

The Weird is a misty spirit world found between the bonds of the mortal world and the realms of the dead. It is here that the barbarian calls the totem spirit to his side and binds it to him as a familiar, supernatural ally, and eternal partner in strife. Within the Weird the barbarian is again confronted by his totem spirit.

He may then demand the spirit’s aid as his personal totem and spirit companion.

As the last act of this ritual, the barbarian must make a Charisma (Intimidation) check (DC=10 + Hit Dice of the totem creature). If the check is failed, the barbarian has only angered the creature through his actions. In this case, the totem becomes an enraged spirit (see the ‘Enraged Totem Spirit’ sidebar for details). If the check is successful, however, the barbarian has earned the spirit’s respect –the totem spirit is forever bonded to the spirit of the barbarian, and the barbarian to it.

Enraged Totem Spirit

If the barbarian fails to earn the totem spirit’s respect or complete the ritual, the totem spirit becomes enraged. From that point on, the barbarian is cursed. The enraged spirit of the totem has clung to his soul and now exists only to lead him to disaster.

The enraged totem spirit inhabits no body. It is nothing more than a shadow that only the barbarian and those capable of seeing into the ethereal plane can see. It is always somewhere on the ground near the barbarian’s footsteps, as if the creature were stalking only a few feet away.

The enraged spirit manifests itself as per the bestow curse spell as cast by a 9th-level caster, except that the effects are less severe and must be chosen from those listed here. The Game Master selects one of the following curses:

  • Disadvantage on ability checks and saving throws with a single chosen ability score (GM’s choice).
  • Victim must make a Wisdom Save (DC 17) every turn or be unable to act that turn.

Barbarians who enrage a totem spirit are usually cast out of their tribes and clans. Despite the lesser effects of this curse, due to its cause, the remove curse spell cannot aid the doomed barbarian. Only a successful dismissal can banish the totem spirit back to the Weird.

This curse lasts until the barbarian seeks out one who can remove the curse, or until he undertakes a vision quest to assuage the spirit. Only a cleric of at least 7th level can attempt to remove the curse, via the remove curse spell, and even then the caster attempting to remove the curse must succeed at a DC 21 Wisdom check to accomplish the task.

Alternatively, a cursed barbarian may choose to go on a vision quest and perform a powerful ritual that results in a serious personal sacrifice. This sacrifice can be one of experience points, ability score loss, or something more personal. The exact nature of the Vision Quest, and the consequences imposed, are up to the GM, but it should not be a simple task to appease the enraged totem. By undergoing a harrowing trial and/or sacrificing this portion of his personal power and skill, the barbarian can assuage the enraged spirit.

Typical Totems

Barbarians can belong to any race, existing upon the edges of the civilized world. They can be found in a wide range of climates, and have evolved a variety of complex and disparate cultures.

The animals and beasts that thrive in these areas are as different as the barbarians themselves. As a result, for our purposes, barbarians and their companions have been divided into three categories: Northmen, Jungle Savages, and Plainsmen. Each category represents a different type of barbarian which might exist in a campaign world.

More so than with other classes, however, the GM should feel free to show a large degree of flexibility. The lists presented below are only a sampling of typical totem animals. In truth, almost any animal can serve as a totem spirit.

Northmen

Northmen are the archetypal barbarians of fantasy –harsh men and women of strong drink and a berserker’s temperament.

These are hearty folk who laugh loudly, fight fiercely, and have no fear of death. Reavers and raiders who are as equally comfortable on land as they are at the oars of a longship, these barbarians are actually more civilized and sophisticated than most folk who wear the name barbarian. Living in cold northern climates, their societies are dependent on hunting, farming, raiding, exploration, and most importantly, trade. Northmen lust for battle and choose creature companions and familiars who reflect the harshness of the icy wind, the salt spray of the sea and the effects of midnight sun and winter darkness.

Like other barbarians, northmen revere creatures that share their hardiness and strength. Creatures such as the wolf, stag, or bear are frequent choices amongst northmen. Other northmen may find that creatures such as the sea hawks and kingfishers more closely identify with their seafaring ways. Such northmen spend much of their time navigating the frozen waterways of the north and see such creatures as spirit guides who guarantee safe passage for their longships along the harsh sea currents that separate their lands from ‘civilization.’

Table 2-1: Typical Northmen Totems
Standard Totem Familiars
Bird of prey (eagle, owl, hawk, etc. choose one)1
Boar1
Deer1
Giant badger1
Goat (ram)1
Mastiff (or other big dog)1
Musk ox
Owl1
Wolf1
Greater Totem Familiars
Bear, black1
Bear, brown1
Bear, polar1
Elemental, small (any)1
Giant boar1
Giant spider1
Saber-toothed tiger1
Snow leopard**
Worg1
Supreme Totem Familiars
Dire bear
Dire wolf1
Displacer beast1
Elemental, medium (any)1
Giant eagle1
Giant goat (ram)1
Giant owl1
Griffon1
Mammoth1
Winter wolf1
Wyrmling (dragon) (silver or white)1

1 Elementals refer to any creatures with the elemental subtype.

** See ‘Non-standard Familiars’ sidebar for details.

Note: All Greater and Supreme familiars have specific character level and alignment prerequisites that must be met in order to be chosen –see Tables 1-5 and 1-6 for more details.

Jungle Savages

The jungle savage is a barbarian born and bred in equatorial rainforests of thick vegetation and harsh climate. As a feral youth, raised by the beasts of the jungle, or as a primitive tribesman born of thousands of years of culture and shamanistic tradition, the jungle savage shares a common ferocity with the arboreal jungles they call their home. Often naked as the land they are born in, barbarians of the jungle disdain the use of any armor beyond a simple hide shield. They live a life of superstition and ritualistic magic.

As with other barbarians, the jungle savage has a close affinity with the beasts and monsters of the jungle. Creatures such as great cats, primates, serpents, and wondrous birds are as often totem animals to the tribes that live in the jungle, as these animals are often predators that prey upon them. Jungle savages tend to choose animal companions that reflect the untamed beauty of the jungle, creatures that have a natural grace and agility bred of survival in a world where everything from the tiniest insect to the largest jungle cat has the potential to deal death.

Table 2-2: Typical Jungle Savage Totems
Standard Totem Familiars
Chameleon
Frog1
Giraffe
Lizard1
Mongoose
Monkey
Snake (tiny viper)1
Greater Totem Familiars
Ape1
Baboon
Chameleon, giant
Crocodile1
Elemental, small (any)1
Leopard1
Lizard, giant
Lizard, venomous (As Lizard, but add poison DC 10 Constitution save Fail=1d12 poison damage and poisoned for 24 hours.)
Snake, constrictor1
Snake, large viper1
Tiger1
Supreme Totem Familiars
Crocodile, giant1
Dire Ape1
Dragon (Wyrmling) (copper, green, or gold)1
Elemental, medium (any)1
Elephant1
Girallon1
Lizard, giant variant1
Lizard, giant venomous (As above but save DC 15)1

1 Elementals refer to any creatures with the elemental subtype.

** See ‘Non-standard Familiars’ sidebar for details.

Note: All Greater and Supreme familiars have specific character level and alignment prerequisites that must be met in order to be chosen –see Tables 1-5 and 1-6 for more details.

Plainsmen

Barbarian plainsmen are best described in a non-fantasy setting as the horse culture of the American Great Plains, or the Mongol hordes of Genghis Khan, or the Khurgan and Scythian peoples of the Russian steppes, or the elephant-riding mercenaries in the service of Hannibal. Plainsmen live by horse, lance and bow. They are lightly armored barbarians who favor speed and bloodthirsty ferocity to steely muscles and bulging brawn. Such nomads travel in tightly organized family groups, bearing their possessions and temporary lodgings with them. They stalk game and seek river valleys to winter in to avoid the roaring wind of the great prairies.

Animal companions and totems chosen by such people are, more often than not, migratory hunters who stalk with stealth and speed, striking quickly and with deadly accuracy.

Table 2-3: Typical Plainsmen Totems
Standard Totem Familiars
Antelope badger/Wolverine1
Bird of prey (choose one – owl, eagle, hawk, etc.)1
Crane deer1
Mastiff (or other big dog)1
Musk ox
Ostrich
Vulture1
Wolf1
Greater Totem Familiars
Blink dog1
Cheetah
Elemental, small (any)1
Leopard
Lion1
Saber-tooth tiger1
Tiger1
Worg1
Supreme Totem Familiars
Bison
Bulette1
Dire wolf1
Displacer beast1
Dragon, wyrmling (blue, gold or red)1
Elemental, medium (any)1
Elephant1
Giant badger/wolverine1
Giant eagle1
Giant lion1
Giant tiger
Giant owl1
Griffon1
Mammoth**
Shadow mastiff1
Winter wolf1
Yeth hound

1 Elementals refer to any creatures with the Elemental subtype.

** See ‘Non-standard Familiars’ sidebar for details.

Note: All Greater and Supreme familiars have specific character level and alignment prerequisites that must be met in order to be chosen –see Tables 1-5 and 1-6 for more details.

Nonstandard Familiars

Barbarians often have non-standard familiars, including:

Mammoth: Use the standard mammoth stats.

Sea Hawk: Use the stats for a hawk.

Snow Leopard: See the New Animals Appendix.

Totem Familiar Abilities

A totem familiar is not easily slain or dismissed. They are creatures of a primal nature; the pure embodiment of the totem creature. They are tireless. They have no need of food or rest. They are part of this world and yet apart from it. and they are fearsome. For, like the barbarian spirit to which they have bound themselves, their blood pounds to the drums of battle and their hearts beat with nature’s fury.

Table 2-4: Standard Barbarian Familiar
Master Class Level Natural Armor Adj. Int Special
3rd +1 6 Combat Sense, empathic link, blood bond
4th-5th +2 7 Whirlwind Attack (2 Opponents.)
6th +3 8 Speak With Master, Primeval Will, Whirlwind Attack 3 opponents.
7th-8th +4 9 Speak with animals of its kind
9th-10th +5 10 Whirlwind Attack (4 opponents)
11th-12th +6 11
13th-14th +7 12
15th-16th +8 13
17th-18th +9 14
19th-20th +10 15

Natural Armor Adj.: The number noted here is an improvement to the familiar’s AC due to an improved natural armor bonus. It represents the preternatural toughness of the barbarian’s familiar.

Int: The familiar’s Intelligence score (if higher than the familiar’s natural Intelligence). Familiars are as smart as people, though not necessarily as smart as smart people.

Table 2-5: Greater Barbarian Familiar
Master Class Level Natural Armor Adj. Int Special
3rd +1 6 Combat Sense, empathic Link, Blood Bond
4th-5th +2 7 Whirlwind Attack (2 Opponents)
6th +3 8 Speak with master, animal trance, Primeval Will, Whirlwind Attack (3 opponents)
7th-9th +4 9 Speak with animals of its kind
10th +5 10 Whirlwind Attack (4 opponents)
11th-12th +6 11 Greater Familiar Ability
13th-14th +7 12
15th-16th +8 13
17th-18th +9 14 Greater Familiar Ability
19th-20th +10 15

Natural Armor Adj.: The number noted here is an improvement to the familiar’s AC due to an improved natural armor bonus. It represents the preternatural toughness of the barbarian’s familiar.

Int: The familiar’s Intelligence score (if higher than the familiar’s natural Intelligence). Familiars are as smart as people, though not necessarily as smart as smart people.

Greater Familiar Ability: Select one greater familiar ability from Table 2-7 below.

Table 2-6: Supreme Barbarian Familiar
Master Class Level Natural Armor Adj. Int Special
3rd +1 6 Combat Sense, Empathic Link, Blood Bond
4th-5th +2 7 Whirlwind Attack (2 Opponents)
6th +3 8 Speak with master, animal trance, Primeval Will, Whirlwind Attack (3 Opponents)
7th-9th +4 9 Speak with animals of its kind
10th +5 10 Whirlwind Attack (4 Opponents)
11th-12th +6 11 Greater Familiar Ability
13th-14th +7 12
15th-16th +8 13 Supreme Familiar Ability
17th-18th +9 14 Greater Familiar Ability
19th-20th +10 15 Supreme Familiar Ability

Natural Armor Adj.: The number noted here is an improvement to the familiar’s AC due to an improved natural armor bonus. It represents the preternatural toughness of the barbarian’s familiar.

Int: The familiar’s Intelligence score (if higher than the familiar’s natural Intelligence). Familiars are as smart as people, though not necessarily as smart as smart people.

Greater Familiar Ability: Select one greater familiar ability from Table 2-7 below.

Supreme Familiar Ability: Select one supreme or greater familiar ability from Tables 2-7 or 2-8 below.

Table 2-7: Barbarian Greater Familiar Abilities
Augury
Blessed Companion
Enhance Attribute
Commune with nature
Contagion
Countercall
Courageous Roar
Darkness
Daylight
Deafening Call
Defensive Roll
Discern Lies
Disease Immunity
Encompassing Vision
Endure Elements
Fearful
Great Leap
Haste
Natural Armor, Improved
Resist Energy
Speech
Spell Resistance, Greater
Venom Immunity
Water Walk
Wholeness of Body
Woodland Stride
Table 2-8: Barbarian Supreme Familiar Abilities
Astral Projection
Banishing Call
Companion’s Veil
Damage Reduction
Dimension Slip
Divine Health
Ethereal State
Familiar Growth
Find the Path
Fly
Natural Armor, Supreme
Spell Resistance, Supreme
Supreme Leap
Tongues
Section 15: Copyright Notice

Familiars & Companions, Copyright 2017, Troll Lord Games; Author Casey Christofferson, Justin Bacon, Tommy Ruteledge, Josh Hubbel, Lance Hawvermile, Luke Johnson, Stephen Vogel and Dave Zenz.