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D&D 5E Familiars, what for?

my issue with 5e familiars is they don’t get any supernatural intelligence. They are stupid (Int 1 or 2). As a dm, I’m not sure I’d have allowed that much ‘control’ over the familiar’s actions. If it was smarter I would and they would be very useful.
Right, which is weird if they're supposed to be some sort of spirit rather than a real animal. And it is even more weird that the mental stats of this one and same spirit change depending on what animal form they take. It just seems half-baked.

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Great Old One
in 3.5, a cat was following our characters. Suspecting it was a familiar (who have an Int of 8), the wizard cast feeblmind on the familiar. Rendering it no more intelligent than a normal cat. He took it as a pet and held it for ransom. The owner finally revealed himself and we negotiated. Losing a familiar in 3e came with heavy costs and the wizard wanted his cat back.

This is a acool story, reminded me of this gem:


Magic Wordsmith
I'm sorry, but all of this, while logical and not far from the reasoning of my (and apparently other DM's) NPCs, I still don't understand how this qualifies as "kill on sight". For me, "Kill on sight" would certainly mean not only that a NPC/Monster would mandatorily target the familiar rather than the PC with the choice above, but that they would actively pursue opportunities to kill the familiar, even if it's not directly targetable. He would CREATE opportunities.
The phrase "kill on sight," in general, means that the killer drops whatever they are doing and focuses on killing the target. Literally, as soon as one can see the target, one attempts to kill them, basically no matter what. To engage in "kill on sight" means to put killing the target of that attitude at the top of one's priority list, and is used to indicate that negotiation or non-lethal options are completely off the table. "Kill on sight" is just about maximally strident, I can't think of a more actively hostile stance--it comes across as being willing to drop pretty much every other priority in order to destroy the familiar as soon as one is aware of it.
If the monsters know it's there and have the means, in my games they definitely do kill it on sight, given the opportunity. If a familiar's behind total cover or otherwise not around, there's nothing to see, right? Seeing the thing would seem to me to be a prerequisite for killing something on sight. Further, not all monsters have ranged attacks, though I have had monsters capable of doing so throw rocks as improvised weapons (or ready melee attacks as I already stated). Another monster, a modified blink dog, teleported into midair to take one out (and did), suffering a fall that damaged it. So yeah, I'm doing exactly what I said. Why that seems to be a problem for you and why you're now pursuing some kind of semantic argument to downplay what I said I do is unclear to me.
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Magic Wordsmith
If familiars cause so much of a problem for a DM that he/she has to prioritize killing them, then perhaps they need to learn how to properly balance an encounter...
It's not about encounter balance as I've already stated upthread. Putting pressure on resources like familiars, pets, hirelings, mounts, vehicles, NPCs they are supposed to protect for a quest, etc. generates in my experience more (good) tension than solely focusing on the PCs' hit points. Players will tend to - again, in my experience - really focus and strategize in these moments which increases player engagement and, when they manage to achieve victory, they really feel like they did something notable.

It has absolutely nothing to do with hating familiars or not knowing how to balance encounters, at least where I'm concerned. It's simply presenting them with an additional problem to solve. I heartily recommend trying it.

And it's also a silly example, you had to push a situation to an extreme (a party with 5 familiars) that never happens in the game just to try to make a point. So no, there is no such "context".
I based it on my example (and a real game I played)
I played an artificer and another player was making a warlock and could not decide between pact of chain and pact of tome. I told them if they took pact of tome I would get them a familiar. (We both forgot until in game they could just learn the ritual) When I made the tattoo needle of find familiar I made a whole bunch (I think about a dozen it might have been 10 or 15 but in that neighborhood). There were 4 PCs, a DM NPC that was with us (not in a bad way a very specialized noncombatant) and we all summoned familiars. I also gave other NPC allies (and at one point a ten year old girl that the DM made up that liked and wanted to pet the fox one of us had). It was NOT a power game it was a quirk.
That DM also let us reflavor for similar animals (hence how we got a fox) as long as we used stats of a familiar. The Druid ended up befriending a psudodragon and casting the find familiar on it (but that was at like level 8ish).

it wasn't redictulace we basicly had a small zoo though since I also had both a homculas and a iron defender, and the ranger bought 2 dogs and we all had horses and familiars.


Follower of the Way
So yeah, I'm doing exactly what I said. Why that seems to be a problem for you and why you're now pursuing some kind of semantic argument to downplay what I said I do is unclear to me.
Because you keep presenting it as some kind of moderate, perfectly-reasonable "I'm just doing what creatures would do" thing. As a result, I kept trying to find ways that you did not actually mean what you said, since "drop everything to kill any familiar that appears" is inherently immoderate. But it is now clear, from your examples, that you did in fact mean exactly what you said: that creatures will literally drop other priorities solely to destroy familiars simply because those familiars are seen, regardless of what they do, and regardless of the in-context logic of attacking the familiar.

And yes, I consider that openly punitive. That is straight-up saying "oh, you like this thing enough to spend resources on it, I'm going to destroy it whenever I can, and I will manufacture chances to do so, even if that causes irrational behavior or gives up other objectives that should be more important." If you don't see how that is punitive and not merely "Putting pressure on resources," I'm not sure it's possible to communicate that. Pressure does not equal KOS. Pressure means "keep in mind, combat is not safe, and familiars are fragile. I won't avoid killing your familiar, especially if it seems useful to attack it. Consider the risks you take, and don't expect to be specially warned." What you have is active seek-and-destroy tactics targeting familiars over and above other things. It frankly doesn't matter that you still have players using them in your game--you're still engaging in targeted attacks well in excess of the actual benefit to the creatures making them, potentially even forcing out of character behavior.

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