Fin, Fur, and Feathers: Can We Keep Him? Please?
In the realm of ritual casting, Find Familiar is a powerful addition to the toolkit for Wizards.
Find Familiar is a 1st-level ritual spell that takes 1 hour to cast and grants the caster the service of a fey, fiend, or celestial who takes an animal form chosen by the caster.
The forms that can be selected by the player in the Players’ Handbook are as follows:
Volo’s Guide to Monsters further expands the list of possible familiars.
|Cranium Rat||Crawling Claw||Gazer (Warlock Only)|
Storm King’s Thunder also adds the ability for players to have their familiars take the form of Tressyms, whilst Tomb of Annihilation allows players to command their familiars into the forms of the Almiraj and Flying Monkey.
Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus also allowed DMs to enable players to conjure an Abyssal Chicken with their Find Familiar spell instead of a Raven.
Outside of core books, there are plenty of different variant familiars, including using the 3.5 system for lesser and greater familiars.
Warlocks who take the Pact of the Chain get their own set of unique familiar options through the Pact of the Chain, available to them at level 3.
Warlocks who choose the Pact of the Chain learn the Find Familiar spell and the ability to direct their familiar to take the additional forms of an Imp, Pseudodragon, Quasit, or a Sprite.
Ultimately, all of these different choices lead players to a critical and highly nuanced question: What form should my familiar take?
It seems like there should be the best option with so many options, but there’s more to the answer than a simple yes or no. Players with time on their hands can, of course, dispel their familiar and recast the ritual to change the form of their familiar.
Still, the best option for your familiar will largely depend on the job for which you summoned your familiar.
The Fast and The Furriest: Familiar Quick Guide
The familiar quick guide will rate each familiar form based on its proficiency with the following tasks: Combat, Reconnaissance, Couriering.
Following Black Citadel’s rating system:
- Red means that this familiar form is not well suited for this task.
- Green means that this familiar form is situational or unideal but can still carry out the job with some competency.
- Blue means that this familiar form is well-suited to the task but carries some traits that could make it situational.
- Purple means that this familiar form is the best of the best in this category.
|Bat||Combat, Reconnaissance, Couriering|
|Cat||Combat, Reconnaissance, Couriering|
|Crab||Combat (Water), Reconnaissance (Water), Couriering (Water)|
|Frog (Toad)||Combat (Water), Reconnaissance (Water), Couriering (Water)|
|Hawk||Combat, Reconnaissance, Couriering|
|Lizard||Combat, Reconnaissance, Couriering|
|Octopus||Combat (Water), Reconnaissance (Water), Couriering (Water)|
|Owl||Combat, Reconnaissance, Couriering|
|Poisonous Snake||Combat, Reconnaissance, Couriering|
|Fish (Quipper)||Combat (Water), Reconnaissance (Water), Couriering (Water)|
|Rat||Combat, Reconnaissance, Couriering|
|Raven||Combat, Reconnaissance, Couriering|
|Seahorse||Combat (Water), Reconnaissance (Water), Couriering (Water)|
|Spider||Combat, Reconnaissance, Couriering|
|Weasel||Combat, Reconnaissance, Couriering|
|Cranium Rat||Combat, Reconnaissance, Couriering|
|Crawling Claw||Combat, Reconnaissance, Couriering|
|Tressym||Combat, Reconnaissance, Couriering|
|Almiraj||Combat, Reconnaissance, Couriering|
|Flying Monkey||Combat, Reconnaissance, Couriering|
|Abyssal Chicken||Combat, Reconnaissance, Couriering|
Flavors of Furry Fury: In-Depth Familiar Guide
We will begin with a simple table of the familiars who boast the highest numerical stat values.
Unless the values are the same, non-core familiars like the Almiraj are listed separately.
|Armour Class||Abyssal Chicken, Almiraj, Fish, Weasel, Hawk, Poisonous Snake (13)|
|HP||Abyssal Chicken (10). Regular Only: Octopus (3)|
|Walking Speed||Almiraj (50ft), Regular Only: Cat (40ft)|
|Flying Speed||Hawk, Owl (60ft)|
|Swimming Speed||Fish (40ft)|
|Climbing Speed||Cat (30ft)|
|Passive Perception||Tressym (15), Regular Only: Hawk (14)|
In terms of stats, the Hawk definitely has the best stats overall boasting the highest AC, fastest flying speed, and the highest passive perception.
However, the cat boasts the best land travel with the quickest walking and climbing speeds. Both the Hawk and the Cat also become useless when you need to travel through the water where the Fish and the Octopus reign supreme.
Looking solely at who has the highest stats also ignores traits like the Spider’s Websense and other vital factors to consider when choosing your familiar, and you may be asking yourself, “so how do I know?”.
To answer this question, let’s look to the Players’ Handbook to discern what our familiars can do and, from there, decide based on what our primary interaction with this familiar is meant to be. The Players’ Handbook states that:
Your familiar acts independently of you, but it always obeys your commands. In Combat, it rolls its own initiative and acts on its own turn. A familiar can’t Attack, but it can take other actions as normal.
While your familiar is within 100 feet of you, you can communicate with it telepathically. Additionally, as an action, you can see through your familiar’s eyes and hear what it hears until the start of your next turn, gaining the benefits of any Special Senses that the familiar has. During this time, you are deaf and blind with regard to your own Senses.
Finally, when you Cast a Spell with a range of touch, your familiar can deliver the spell as if it had cast the spell. Your familiar must be within 100 feet of you, and it must use its reaction to deliver the spell when you cast it. If the spell requires an Attack roll, you use your Attack modifier for the roll.
Our familiars cannot attack but can take any other actions as usual. We can use the familiar’s senses as our own, incurring the statuses blinded and deafened upon ourselves.
Lastly, we can use our familiars to deliver touch range spells at a range of 100 feet.
So the first question we want to ask is, “Do I want to use my familiar for combat?”.
The ability to deliver touch range spells such as Shocking Grasp at a range of 100 feet may be compelling to the Wizard, who has a d6 hit die.
Players seeking to utilise their familiars for combat need to consider a few things. If the familiar drops to 0 HP, they will dispel automatically and will have to be resummoned by ritual, which will take another hour.
So choosing a familiar with a low armor class and low HP, like the Rat (10 AC, 1HP), will not be ideal for this. Additionally, the Octopus’s need to hold their breath out of the water and low walking speed nullifies their high HP.
The Hawk’s high AC and flying speed make it an obvious choice for the job for land combat. Its flying speed means that it will be able to close the distance between the caster and the enemies quickly, and its high AC gives it a bit more protection should the enemies attack it.
However, while the Owl has a lower AC at just 11, it also has the Flyby trait, meaning that it doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks when flying out of range of an enemy unit.
This means that as long as the Owl doesn’t use its whole movement to get into combat, it can use the remainder of its movement to get back out without provoking an attack of opportunity on the way out. Thus, the owl is the best land combat familiar.
If you don’t want to use your familiar for combat, then you must ask yourself: “Do I want to use my familiar for reconnaissance?”.
The ability to utilize the familiar’s senses as your own allows players to send their familiars on scouting missions. The player can see through the eyes of their familiar to gain insight into the enemy’s formation and tactics.
Storm King’s Thunder brought with it the Tressym familiar, a beast that looks much like a winged cat.
The Tressym boasts a walking and flying speed of 40 feet, a climbing speed of 30 feet, Darkvision, Detect Invisibility, Detect Poison, and Keen Smell. In short, it is the ultimate package when it comes to reconnaissance with one issue:
There’s just no way that a tressym doesn’t attract attention to itself if seen. A winged cat is not an ordinary beast to see just hanging about, and one that looks like it’s pointedly looking at you will draw even more attention to itself.
Though the tressym boasts a +4 Stealth skill, that doesn’t detract from the fact that it’s still a winged cat.
For land reconnaissance, the Spider reigns supreme. Though it moves slower than the tressym, it boasts Spider Climb, Websense, and Web Walking, allowing it to navigate just about any land area easily. It’s also a tiny creature that never really looks out of place.
No one will think twice about a roaming spider on the ceiling or a nearby tree. Sure, the tressym can fly and see invisible creatures, but few things attract less attention while dungeoning than spiders. They’re everywhere.
Our last main task is Couriering, the process of delivering items or messages from one person to another. Due to the extensive breadth of possible uses for couriering, this is a relatively nuanced answer.
Regarding land travel, giving an item or letter to a Hawk or an Owl will generally be the fastest way to get an item from point A to B.
If the item requires a bit more care and Flying Monkeys are allowed by your DM, they can give a slower air freight with the bonus of having opposable thumbs.
If, for some reason, the item can’t travel by air, the fastest regular familiar is the Cat, boasting 40ft walking and 30ft climbing.
Though the Almiraj can cover more distance in a flat terrain race, the Cat’s climbing speed makes it a prime choice for any land freight needs.
If you need to send a message, but it has to be a secret, the Raven can use its mimicry to carry a simple message — and not just any message, but a message in your voice — to its recipient.
Thus, eliminating the need for paper letters that might be intercepted.
No matter your postage needs, there is a familiar who can carefully transport your goods and messages any distance they need to do so.
Otherworldly Pets: Pact of the Chain Familiars
Warlocks who take the Pact of the Chain gain the ability to cast Find Familiar and several unique options for familiar forms: Imp, Pseudodragon, Quasit, Sprite, and Volo’s Guide to Monsters adds the Gazer as well.
Similar to the previous set, we will break these down both in a quick guide table and also a little more in-depth as to why those rankings were set.
|Imp||Combat, Reconnaissance, Couriering|
|Pseudodragon||Combat, Reconnaissance, Couriering|
|Quasit||Combat, Reconnaissance, Couriering|
|Sprite||Combat, Reconnaissance, Couriering|
|Gazer||Combat, Reconnaissance, Couriering|
Let’s dive right into the explanations. The Sprite and the Gazer both pack incredible combat potential as the Sprite has its own weaponry, and the Gazer has a couple of additional actions it can take for combat.
The Imp and the Pseudodragon are right behind them but just don’t have the extra combat capabilities built into the Gazer and the Sprite.
For reconnaissance, the Imp and the Sprite reign supreme with the Imp’s ability to Shapechange into a Spider and the Sprite’s Invisibility.
The Sprite can also use their Heart Sight to find information about the emotional states of critical characters.
The Quasit gets a special mention, but its Shapechanged forms aren’t as good as the Imp’s, and it doesn’t have the Imp’s Devil Sight either.
For Couriering, the Pseudodragon should be your go-to. Not only does it fly as fast as the Hawk and the Owl, but it can also telepathically deliver messages and even images directly to recipients if a secret message must be delivered.
The Gazer can also deliver simple messages by mimicry, but it doesn’t have any arm-adjacent limbs to speak of with which it could carry anything at all.
You Said You Would Feed Him!
Whether you want to use your familiar for combat or just have a friendly pet to sit on your shoulder, there are many different forms for your friend to take.
There is, of course, always a place at the table for players who just want to roleplay.
However, for those who wish to utilize their familiars to the highest possible potential, there are many things to consider when choosing the form they take.
Always keep in mind that you can take an hour to change your familiar’s shape for special occasions if you need to. Still, there’s a familiar out there for everyone! Happy questing!