Familiars in DnD 5E explained

“Jareen sent his conjured companion into the shadows of the hideout relying on the cat’s better eyesight to get an idea of the area. It was going great, but went better after one bandit decided to take his familiar inside, hopelessly unaware of the danger this creature posed. Because little did those criminals know, the local adventurers are here, and they’re here for justice.”

An infiltration gone horribly right.

Call it what you will: Little friend, summon, besty, fido, endless companion, pet, the random animal you found in the woods and will never leave behind, etc.; a familiar is a creature – typically of arcane origin – that acts as a little companion to you. Such creatures can be fuzzy, slippery, cute, ferocious, or timid compliments to your character. So let’s open up this petting zoo and get all the adorableness!

Helpful, Magical Companions

For the majority of this article, I will be focusing on familiars obtained through the Find Familiar spell. A 1st level Ritual Spell for Wizards, though Warlocks and Bards can pick it up through class features. It takes 1 hour to cast and conjures a familiar that lasts until permanently dismissed or killed. If lost, you can re-summon it, and if you cast a touch spell, you can spend your familiar’s reaction to have them cast it with your spell slot (if you used one). The only downside is that it can’t attack with its own action, but it can take an attack of opportunity if it has a reaction.

Familiars are incredibly helpful if used right. They can scout, move small items, use Magic Items that they would be capable of wielding and activating (e.g., Immovable Rod), and if you’re a level 3 Warlock who took Pact of the Chain, when you attack, you can have your familiar attack instead, not to mention all the invocations you can pick to improve your familiar! In combat, they’re supposed to take a turn on their own initiative, but I have them share initiative with whoever summoned them to make things faster.

Even if you aren’t using your Familiar to help your fighter flank, cast all sorts of touch spells, solve puzzles, or even scout ahead for the source of that mysterious fire, a familiar can still be a worthwhile investment. They can help you pull pranks on friends, perform a show, help you haul or craft things, keep an eye out for a sign that your friends got into trouble for the umpteenth time, serve as something to talk to even if they don’t talk back, or even reflect your mental journey throughout the campaign. Your DM might allow simple visual changes in a familiar connected to you in response to specific triggers.

Finding a Familiar

As for what the Find Familiar spell can summon, it has quite the range, though it can only summon one at a time or change what it is every time you cast it, which takes 10 gp in materials. But it can make a familiar that takes a form with the stats of a Bat, Cat, Crab, Frog, Hawk, Lizard, Octopus, Owl, Poisonous Snake, Fish (uses the Quipper stat block), Rat, Raven, Sea Horse, Spider, or Weasel. However, creatures like an Almiraj (in Tomb of Annihilation) can be included if your DM allows it. The summoned creature is a Celestial, Fey, or Fiend (your choice), but can be flavored differently if the option isn’t listed but has similar stats. However, if you’re a Warlock with Pact of the Chain, you can also use the stats of an Imp, Pseudodragon, Quasit, or Sprite. Personally -at least now that I’m thinking about it- I might allow any beast of CR ⅛ or lower to be a familiar, expanded to be any creature CR 1 or lower for Pact of the Chain to make things easier and broader.

Now for the other ways of getting a “Familiar,” you can tame an animal (Tasha’s can help if you’re clueless), befriend it, make a deal, buy them, and so much more. One warning I will give is to be careful about your sources. You never know if your familiar is sick, isn’t what it seems to be, or has some funny magic about them. Come to think of it; a cursed familiar might be an exciting adventure to run at some point.

Last of the Cuddles

Finally, we reach the end of another article, this time with plenty of cuddly and not-so-cuddly creatures. Familiars aren’t the most powerful creatures to ever exist, but they’re lovely little buddies to pick up, with just that little bit of utility to make them invaluable and enough flavor potential to be an incredible companion throughout the journey you and your companions embark upon.