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D&D 5E Familiars, what for?

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 depends how you do it, especially with NPCs. If you apply a "kill on sight" policy then in my experience players don't bother to form anything like as many or as deep bonds because they know that the DM will treat them as targets even in places where the narrative barely supports it. So you get increased focus in the moment at the cost of ending up with a bunch of murderhobos who deliberately do not form deep links with anything other than fellow PCs because the biggest thing it does is to give targets to the bad guys.

If you are moderate about things and occasionally target the NPCs and supports then you can get them to not think it's pointless. But this takes moderation and not having fanatical monsters who use a "kill on sight" approach. Ones who are in general more interested in taking down the wizard than the familiar.
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.
Oh, I will take out familiars, companions, hirelings, and mounts with appropriate set-up. But this isn't at all the same as "Kill on sight" where you sacrifice believability of the setting to set up a tactical challenge.
 

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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
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.
It depends how you do it, especially with NPCs. If you apply a "kill on sight" policy then in my experience players don't bother to form anything like as many or as deep bonds because they know that the DM will treat them as targets even in places where the narrative barely supports it. So you get increased focus in the moment at the cost of ending up with a bunch of murderhobos who deliberately do not form deep links with anything other than fellow PCs because the biggest thing it does is to give targets to the bad guys.

If you are moderate about things and occasionally target the NPCs and supports then you can get them to not think it's pointless. But this takes moderation and not having fanatical monsters who use a "kill on sight" approach. Ones who are in general more interested in taking down the wizard than the familiar.

Oh, I will take out familiars, companions, hirelings, and mounts with appropriate set-up. But this isn't at all the same as "Kill on sight" where you sacrifice believability of the setting to set up a tactical challenge.
The through-line on these two posts appears to be believability. Presenting believable, tactical challenges is trivial in a game based on make-believe, even on the fly. The "narrative" supports it because the "narrative" is whatever I say it is in context.

As far as bonds, this has never been an issue either. There's a reason why the players fight so hard in many cases to defend their boat or certain NPCs or their familiars. It's certainly not because they don't care. I was running a D&D 4e game on Sunday and the players fought like hell to keep alive an NPC prisoner they had rescued in a bullywug cavern. One they literally just met. They got outflanked by enemy reinforcements and at great risk to themselves had to break from their line to try to save her from being eaten by a giant frog. They failed to do so and a subsequent scene was a heartfelt Viking-style funeral for her and a plan to travel to her village to share the bad news with her family (which will play out next week).

Honestly it seems like some posters are just speculating with no real world experience with any of this except perhaps playing under DMs where this tactical challenge wasn't believable or was definitely unfair.
 

The through-line on these two posts appears to be believability. Presenting believable, tactical challenges is trivial in a game based on make-believe, even on the fly. The "narrative" supports it because the "narrative" is whatever I say it is in context.
Once again you are saying ridiculous things that I don't think you actually mean.

If you e.g. liberally retcon things so that whenever the PCs get a crit on any BBEG it suddenly has no effect (and some DMs do this) because your BBEGs are precious then the narrative still is whatever you say it is in context. But you are saying that the narrative supports this because it is what you say. The simple fact of the matter is that the narrative does not support it.

There is more to running a consistent narrative than just "whatever I say and the narrative supports it because it is whatever I say it is".
Honestly it seems like some posters are just speculating with no real world experience with any of this except perhaps playing under DMs where this tactical challenge wasn't believable or was definitely unfair.
If you know you are lacking in real world context of a broad range of DMs then start following the first rule of holes and stop digging.

What you have said is boils down to you being a frothing at the mouth "My way or the highway" jerk DM who will target familiars at all costs, applying a "kill on sight" policy. These people exist.

What I think you mean is that you are a more nuanced DM who considers familiars to be fair targets and normally low risk and you don't give familiars an automatic free pass. But the language you use is exactly the language used by a specific breed of jerk DM that actually means what they say.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
The through-line on these two posts appears to be believability. Presenting believable, tactical challenges is trivial in a game based on make-believe, even on the fly. The "narrative" supports it because the "narrative" is whatever I say it is in context.
That's not what I'm saying.

I'm saying you have, very clearly from the outset, stated that you WILL hunt down and destroy familiars if they are ever, for any reason, visible while in a combat situation. You will do so immediately. You will do so with animals, even though animals have no special reason to do something as blatantly foolish as "teleport straight up into the air in order to get to the familiar, hurting myself in the process." You will do so with sapient beings, even though those beings might literally risk their own lives, or their prospects of victory, in order to destroy a familiar that has appeared in combat. This will occur, guaranteed, every single time a familiar is observed in combat, no matter what leaps are required, no matter how hard you must work to achieve it, you will.

And "The 'narrative' supports it because the 'narrative' is whatever I say it is in context" is exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about. You will do whatever is necessary to invent a situation where you get the chance to destroy the familiar, and then do so as soon as possible. Doesn't matter how much convoluted logic is required, you will supply it--you will actively manufacture situations that permit you to destroy familiars, and then destroy them. That, that very thing right there, is being punitive. It's not the fact that this will strain credulity (though it inevitably will, sooner or later); it's that you WILL put in the work, every time, no matter what, to ensure that it will happen. You are literally designing the world to be antagonistic to familiars. THAT is what is punitive.

Unless, as Neonchameleon has said, what you mean and what you've said remain separate things.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Once again you are saying ridiculous things that I don't think you actually mean.

If you e.g. liberally retcon things so that whenever the PCs get a crit on any BBEG it suddenly has no effect (and some DMs do this) because your BBEGs are precious then the narrative still is whatever you say it is in context. But you are saying that the narrative supports this because it is what you say. The simple fact of the matter is that the narrative does not support it.

There is more to running a consistent narrative than just "whatever I say and the narrative supports it because it is whatever I say it is".
There really isn't. Because it's literally what I say it is as DM. The skill is in establishing "narrative" in a way that is consistent with what has previously been established so that it falls within a player's reasonable expectations.

If you know you are lacking in real world context of a broad range of DMs then start following the first rule of holes and stop digging.

What you have said is boils down to you being a frothing at the mouth "My way or the highway" jerk DM who will target familiars at all costs, applying a "kill on sight" policy. These people exist.

What I think you mean is that you are a more nuanced DM who considers familiars to be fair targets and normally low risk and you don't give familiars an automatic free pass. But the language you use is exactly the language used by a specific breed of jerk DM that actually means what they say.
I'm not in a hole though and I do exactly what I said. I just appear to do it better than the "jerk DMs" whose traits you seem to be projecting onto me. It looks to me that some posters assumed a great deal based on something I said, then made a lot of erroneous assertions about me, my players, and my game. Then, instead of walking that back or even just leaving off on responding, doubled down on a semantic argument about what "kill on sight" must mean, then accusing me of not actually doing what I said I do. I'd say that's very odd, but then it is the internet.
 


Lyxen

Great Old One
There's that argument again. :sneaky:

And it's incorrect.

And the problem is that @EzekielRaiden and myself don't see how they can be reconciled. For me, honestly, it is posturing here on the internet with "I have a kill order on sight" and actually playing a different game, where your examples come from. Honestly, it's not that important, the way you run your games is not the way I run mine, which is fine, we all have our preferences. And the way we express ourselves is personal again and I think we've gone to the end of what can be said. Have nice games with your friends in whatever style you all prefer. :)
 

ad_hoc

(they/them)
Some people seem to want a lot out of a 1st level ritual.

I'm in the camp that using Help is rules abuse (I get that it has been ruled to be technically allowed). If the familiar can't attack they shouldn't be able to assist in attacking.

A rogue can hold up a toad to a giant to make them vulnerable and that is just not something I want in my game. And is also not necessary for a 1st level spell.

Chain Warlocks are another matter. If a player wants a cool combat active familiar they should be a chain warlock
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
I'm in the camp that using Help is rules abuse (I get that it has been ruled to be technically allowed). If the familiar can't attack they shouldn't be able to assist in attacking.

Calling it "abuse" is a bit strong, since the rules clearly allow it and the designers have clarified that it is indeed the intent. That being said, if you want to call it "not reasonable in your campaign", It's of course absolutely OK.

But I don't think that's the main reason for some DMs not liking familiars, I think it has more with them being considered easy mode for having great detection capability at very little cost, and possibly taking up other character space in the game. People who really abuse familiars to get advantage too often in combat are fairly easy to counter anyway.
 

Calling it "abuse" is a bit strong, since the rules clearly allow it and the designers have clarified that it is indeed the intent. That being said, if you want to call it "not reasonable in your campaign", It's of course absolutely OK.
Yes to this.

The spell literally says:
A familiar can't attack, but it can take other actions as normal.

Very odd to consider using a spell as intended as “abuse”.
 

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