Find Familiar 5e Guide

Posted by Andrew E. on

Table of Contents:

A Spellcaster's Best Friend

Partway between a servant and a magical pet, in dnd 5e, a familiar shares a magical bond with their summoner and is often an integral part of their lives as they master the arcane arts. In 5e D&D a little animal companion seems simple but can have deceptively deep applications. Pick your favorite critter from the pet shop as we go through the find familiar spell and everything you need to know.

How Do I Get a Familiar?

Technically every character has access to a familiar, it's just a heck of a lot easier for some classes.

Fundamentally it's all about the spell Find Familiar . If you want a little magic raven to call your own, you'll need to add this spell to your repertoire.

Since Find Familiar is exclusively found on the wizard spell list , which means that by far the easiest way to gain a familiar is to simply be a wizard and pick Find Familiar as one of your 1st level spells. For everybody else it'll take just a bit of work.

The new book Tasha's Cauldron of Everything added optional features for all the classes, including the Wild Companion feature for druids. Wild Companion straight up grants you the find familiar 5e spell and lets you ignore the material components to boot. Simply being a druid is now one of the easiest and most efficient ways of gaining a friendly beast.

Next, warlocks choose a pact at 3rd level, one of which is the Pact of the Chain . More than simply giving you the spell , Pact of the Chain essentially gives you a SUPER FAMILIAR that works a bit differently.

Finally, that leaves us with everybody else, who are stuck with the least efficient but still viable option of taking the Magic Initiate feat. This feat gives you access to 2 cantrips and a 1st level spell from a spell list of your choice. And Find Familiar is conveniently a 1st level wizard spell . The other good news is that it's a ritual spell, so if you are a ritual caster you can also get one without having an available spell slot. This works evem of you are cleric, rogue, etc., etc. Yes, even the barbarian can get a familiar if they want. It really works with those totem folks.

 

5e Find Familiar Guide

How Does Find Familiar Work?

The spell Find Familiar takes an hour of magical work, 10 gp worth of magic incense, and a brass brazier, to summon a spirit into a nearby unoccupied space that takes the physical form of an animal. The creature you summon is bonded to you in a few important ways, but is otherwise a fully-fledged creature at your service for an infinite duration. It obeys your commands, but it acts independently and has its own spot in initiative.

We'll go into a familiar 's uses in a bit. But for now, let's start with the utilities written into the spell :

  • If the familiar drops to 0 hit points , it disappears, drops any object they're holding, and waits to be summoned again. Mechanically this is practically the same as summoning a new familiar , but emotionally you don't have to feel like you killed your fuzzy buddy whenever they get poofed.
  • It's important to note that most don't have more than 1 hit dice, so they're not really intended to be active combatants.
  • While the familiar is within 100 feet of you, you have a telepathic link with it. As an action you can also use your familiar 's senses and see and hear what they do, though you go blind and deaf while you're doing so.
  • As an action you can make your familiar poof out of existence into their own little pocket dimension or back out of it into a space within 30 feet.
  • You can't have more than one familiar .
  • Your familiar will last forever or until they get killed and temporarily poof away.
  • You can deliver touch spells through your familiar as if you were the one doing the touching. This uses the familiar 's reaction.
  • Your familiar can't attack . (Notably, the familiars summoned using the warlock 's Pact of the Chain feature CAN attack . More on that in a bit.)

FAQ

Can I Store Stuff in My Familiar 's Pocket Dimension?

No. When your familiar poofs back to their pocket dimension they drop any object they're holding. So, you can't use your familiar like a fuzzy bag of holding.

What is a Familiar Pocket Dimension Like?

This is about like asking what the inside of a pokeball is like, it just isn't touched much in the rules. However, we know that their pocket dimension is tailored to them, so it's likely comfortable for their spirit form to occupy.

Can't I Just Pick any Tiny Monster out of the Monster Manual?

Technically you could if your DM allowed it, but that rule is specifically meant for NPCs. Any tiny monster could serve as a familiar , but rules as written you are limited to the creatures specified in the spell itself.

I need to make a saving throw, what does it use?

Most lenient DMs will let you use YOUR saving throw, but otherwise your little buddy might go poof.

How to Best Use Your Familiar

I've seen a lot of players dismiss or ignore Find Familiar , but it's one of the most useful features a character can have if you know how to use it right, the benefits just aren't immediately apparent.

Scouting

Don't like the look of the next room? Send the magical cat in first and see if any traps go off or if there's an ogre around the corner. It may seem a bit cruel but having the familiar check for danger risks 10 gp and an hour to recast it, rather than a player character. Then you factor in your familiar 's movement and senses and you can fly your familiar up to get a bird's eye view, use them for quasi-darkvision by "seeing" through their eyes, or get a sense of a space only a tiny-sized creature could fit through.

Touch Spell Delivery

Some very powerful spells use the range of touch, especially some great early spells like shocking grasp, inflict wounds, or cure light wounds. Getting those touch spells in usually requires getting into the thick of combat, a place where many squishy spellcasters wouldn't be caught dead. If you use your familiar in combat like this, they'll likely get poofed by the first thing that attacks them, but that means they wasted an attack on something other than you and your allies at the cost of 10 gp. It's also usually not wise to use them against enemies using damaging areas of effect, your little familiar won't last long if fireballs are getting thrown around.

Help

Familiars may not be able to attack , but they can perform the often forgotten "help" action. When a creature uses the help action, they have two options:

The first mode grants advantage on another creature 's next ability check, you literally help the other creature with whatever they're doing.

The 2nd mode grants advantage on an ally's attack roll against a creature within 5 feet of you, you basically distract and mess with a target to give your friend a better shot. This is especially useful if you're an eldritch knight or other mixed martial and magical class.

A side note for using your familiar this way, specifically for rogues. A familiar counts as an ally for the purposes of sneak attack !

Item Holders

Did the all-important magical mcguffin slide across the floor in the middle of the fight? Send your familiar to go snatch it. They can also administer items like healing potions, so your familiar can act as the emergency items dispenser while you fight the bad guys.

Which Creature Should I Pick?

The short answer is you should pick whichever creature you like the most. Beyond that, it's really a matter of picking between a few key attributes, statistics, special senses, and what animal form your party would benefit from the most. It's best to ignore the claws and other attacks as that's not what they're best at anyway. Here are the basic options (from the 5e srd) and what they have going for them:

Bat

Bats are one of the frontrunner options for their senses, especially if you plan on using your familiar for scouting. They have a flying speed, blindsight (echolocation), and keen hearing (advantage on Perception checks that are hearing-based).

Cat

Cats miss out on a flying speed but have good bonuses to Stealth and Perception along with a climbing speed. Of the non-flying/non-swimming familiars they're one of the best options, but I'd only take it if that bonus to Stealth is what you're after.

Crab

Crabs get a swimming speed (though a slow one) and are amphibious which means they don't suffer the same pitfalls of the other aquatic familiars. They also strangely get blindsight, which makes them a decent scouting option if your campaign is going to have a big water adventuring element, but otherwise give crabs a pass. They are potentially great if you temporarily will want to look through your familiar's eyes for anything that might otherwise go unnoticed.

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Frog

The stats are almost identical to crabs, but you lose out on blindsight and get darkvision instead. You also get a largely useless jumping ability, but if you're considering a frog, I'd take a crab instead.

Hawk

With a fast-flying speed and advantage on sight-based perception checks, hawks are an all-round strong scout option. They still lose out to owls statistically though, and if you're considering hawks, I'd take a strong look at owls instead.

Lizard

You get darkvision and a climb speed, but they lose out entirely to much better options.

Octopus

By far the best purely aquatic option, octopi are the perfect stealthy underwater scouts. They are strictly aquatic though, so you're limited to underwater campaigns or to temporarily transforming your familiar into an octopus when the need arises.

Owl

They gain advantage on both sight and sound-based perception checks, they have excellent darkvision, and a fast fly speed. What locks them up as the top spot though is their flyby ability that lets them move out of enemy threatened areas without provoking an attack of opportunity. This flyby ability cinches them as the single correct option if you plan on using your familiar to deliver touch spells or distract enemies using the help action.

Poisonous Snake

You get a swim speed (but no water breathing) and a short range blindsight. The big draw though is the venomous bite, which is actually a decent damage source at literal level 1 or 2 but will be largely irrelevant later.

Fish (Quipper)

Technically this has some applications for getting touch spells through in an aquatic campaign, but it should be a hard pass in every other scenario.

Rat

I personally love rats, but they're sadly outclassed by basically every other option.

Raven

You get a fly speed, a decent bonus to Perception, and a cool if weak mimicry ability that you may be able to trick some guards with. Worth considering if you're going for an illusionist or arcane trickster.

Sea Horse

Very cute but awful stats and almost laughably bad in every respect.

Spider

With a climb speed that works on ceilings, darkvision, and a big Stealth bonus, I consider spiders to be the absolute best non-flying scout option. If you're more worried about scouting out the next dungeon room than the next leg of the woods, go with the spider.

Weasel

The best Stealth bonus of the bunch and faster than the rat, weasels aren't the best option by a long shot but they're decent.

What About X/Y/Z Animal?

I've yet to see any gamemasters who wouldn't allow you to flavor your raven familiar as a parakeet, or a weasel familiar as a squirrel. If you're dead set on a particular magic pet, just pick the stat block that seems the closest and ask your DM for permission.

Pact of the Chain Warlocks

Warlocks who select the pact of the chain gain the Find Familiar spell but with several options for their familiar that are far stronger than normal critters and their familiars can make attacks. All in all, we think warlock familiars are pretty cool:

Imp

Imps have a fly speed, super darkvision, magic resistance , the ability to turn invisible at will, and the ability to polymorph into other less "fiendish" forms when the situation calls for it. They also get a whole slew of devilish resistances, bonuses to a ton of skills, and a stinger attack that can deal a surprising amount of damage. I tend to regard imps as the absolute strongest pact option, so long as your party mates aren't concerned with having a little devil tag along.

Pseudodragon

A literal tiny dragon , they're statistically similar to imps but lose out on a ton of resistances and skill bonuses and gain limited telepathy. I think of pseudodragons as a solid runner up to be taken when the party has too many paladins for a devil friend.

Quasit

Almost strictly worse than the imp as it loses out on a flying speed, and it shares the "fiend in the party" problem. If you have the option, pick the imp over the quasit.

Sprite

The invisibility combined with the poisoned shortbow shots make for a strangely combat relevant familiar for ambushes. You get the invisibility but miss out on the magic resistances and type resistances. Sprites are decent, but I'd still take the imp or pseudodragon over them.

Variant Familiars

Hidden away in bestiaries and adventure paths several creatures have been marked as " variant familiar " (some folks look for the term familiar variant ) available at your DM's discretion. A lot of these are unique to the setting, or are downright stronger options that the DM may choose to provide you as a reward:

Abyssal Chicken

You read that correctly, the abyssal chicken familiar can be found in Baldur's Gate : Decent into Avernus and these "chickens" are tiny shrieking demons. Statistically they have decent hit points and a bunch of demonic resistances and immunities. They also have blindsight and a bad chicken-y "flight" ability. A funny option, but a viable one.

Almiraj

Basically, a rabbit with a unicorn horn, these little buns can be found in the Tomb of Annihilation adventure path. Almiraj get a 50-foot land speed, which is the fastest non-flying familiar I've seen, and they have advantage on both sight and sound-based Perception checks.

Anvilwrought Raptor

These are magical living metal birds unique to the Theros setting. They have a surprisingly tough AC, the ability to record sounds like a magical tape recorder, and you can use them to scout vast distances as the familiar telepathic bond to these robot-birds extends to 1-mile instead of 100 feet! We think this is a great familiar spirit for a artificer!

Flying Monkey

These are also out of the Tomb of Annihilation adventure, they get a fly and climb speed, and pack tactics of all things which makes them a very strong touch spell delivery system.

Gazer

Found in Volo's Guide to Monsters, gazers are basically tiny beholders, and they're an INSANE step up in power level from most familiar options. You do have to be at least 3rd level to bond with one, but that's a small price to pay for eye rays. If you can gain a gazer familiar , TAKE it. We think this is a great familiar for a necromancer , or a sorcerer who has taken a feat or dip into wizard ! It's one of the best familiars in Dungeons and Dragons 5e!

Tressym

Found in Storm King's Thunder, tressym are literally cats with wings. Besides the fly speed, they also get permanent detect invisibility and poison sense . Making tressym work less as scouts and more as early warning alarms.

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Last updated: January 27, 2019

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