D&D 5E Familiars, what for?

Is it? Compared to a huge goliath barbarian hitting you with several times with a great axe? Because that doesn't make you sufficiently distracted to warrant an advantage for your foes, so it is hard to imagine some fluttering bird or skittering frog would be more distracting.
Maybe if it's a Canada goose...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMdhAFPWzFw

Don’t you think someone at the table could possibly come up with a narrative that makes a particular use of the Help action… make sense?

EDIT TO ADD: never mind - I see you’re going for the realism angle. Not going to find common ground on that.
I think ANY help action should come with a narrative description besides, "I use the help action".

Part of the problem is that the owl has stealth perception darkvision & 60ft flight.

except it's fully autonomous & can still be manually controlled & has longer flight time
Well, If your familiar only has an Int of 1 or 2, I don't see how it can be controlled with that much precision. This is kind of where I 'nerf' familiars. They get distracted or confused or forget what they were doing sometimes unless you are constantly directing them. It makes them slightly less useful for scouting.

"Go scout for danger".
"Yes, lots of danger! There was an eagle and a cat and wolf!"

They certainly won't tell you enemy troop deployment.
 

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Is it? Compared to a huge goliath barbarian hitting you with several times with a great axe? Because that doesn't make you sufficiently distracted to warrant an advantage for your foes, so it is hard to imagine some fluttering bird or skittering frog would be more distracting.
If the huge goliath barbarian chooses to be distracting then they absolutely can inflict disadvantage. They generally just have better things to do - like smash.
 


How? What will they do that is more distracting to a person than hitting them with a big axe?
Given the way D&D treats hit points? Wrestle them. Or try to cover their eyes so they can't see to protect themselves from everyone else. At least unless the axe finishes off their hit points in which case the goliath is more distracting than anything the owl can do.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
How? What will they do that is more distracting to a person than hitting them with a big axe?
Sure - a goliath hacking at someone with an axe is going to draw some attention. But that's distinct from helping someone else get in a more sure hit (thus giving them advantage). It's Obi-Wan's head fake against Darth Maul that enables Qui-Gon to make a stronger attack.

This, of course, isn't to say that the goliath isn't somewhat distracting on his own. He's distracting enough to let a character who is particularly good at getting in a cheap shot (rogues) to do so. But he's not distracting enough for just anyone to get a benefit.
 

Sure - a goliath hacking at someone with an axe is going to draw some attention. But that's distinct from helping someone else get in a more sure hit (thus giving them advantage). It's Obi-Wan's head fake against Darth Maul that enables Qui-Gon to make a stronger attack.

This, of course, isn't to say that the goliath isn't somewhat distracting on his own. He's distracting enough to let a character who is particularly good at getting in a cheap shot (rogues) to do so. But he's not distracting enough for just anyone to get a benefit.
And this is why help action doesn't make sense. It is ludicrous that anyone, any time, without a fail, could do something that is more distracting than being stabbed with a sword.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
So at that point it becomes ok to target the familiar?
I mean, if we presume good faith on the part of the DM, it is always "okay to target the familiar."

That is, a DM acting in good faith, doing what really does make sense, and not actively manufacturing conditions that would permit such a thing, while still taking advantage of such conditions should they just end up being what happens? Totally fine. But it's pretty much by definition impossible to give any kind of precise description of "doing what really makes sense, not actively manufacturing conditions, while still taking advantage if they happen to occur." Were I to give clear, bright lines, I guarantee someone here would start dancing on them.

It is always in principle permissible for the DM to target a familiar actively participating in combat--but individual circumstances will vary, such that it's essentially guaranteed (for any campaign of meaningful length) that you'll find circumstances where no combatants would prioritize the familiar even if they got a golden opportunity to kill it. I find it hilariously implausible that any DM is skilled enough to guarantee that every time a familiar happens to appear, it will be 100% logical and justified for every combatant to drop their current priorities and focus on making sure the familiar dies ASAP. As a result, a DM actually giving fair rulings, who does not have an inherent bias toward destroying all familiars immediately, takes seriously that they are a potential target that may be worth taking out. However, they might instead be too low-value, and thus their presence endured for a round or two or even a whole combat, if seriously pressing priorities win out.

It is neither "do I have your permission to attack your familiar" nor "I will invent whatever narrative is necessary so that the familiar dies ASAP." It is, instead, the actually moderate position of, "I won't ignore your familiar if you risk it, but I won't do stupid things just to make sure it dies, either." If attacking the familiar actually seems like the most worthwhile thing to do, then it will get attacked. If it doesn't seem like the most worthwhile thing to do, though, the DM won't conspire to ensure that it will, definitely always, become the most worthwhile thing to do.

A wild animal, for example, could easily try to eat a familiar or see it as a convenient meal that it can nab and run away with, e.g. how a wolf might view an owl familiar....or it could see the familiar as a nuisance to be ignored or swatted away, e.g. how a bear might view that same owl. An archer might try to hit the owl if it is sitting on someone's shoulder for example, but might also prioritize the obvious healer or fireball-thrower at the back of the party, thinking that disrupting their magic or even taking them out would be a better use of their attacks. The actual situations encountered by the party should be significantly variable over time. Familiars being always and consistently THE #1 target in every fight, where they're used, guaranteed, no matter what, is evidence of blatantly unfair refereeing. It's "rocks fall, everyone dies," but targeted only at familiars. That doesn't make it any less unfair, it just makes the unfairness localized.

Well, If your familiar only has an Int of 1 or 2, I don't see how it can be controlled with that much precision. This is kind of where I 'nerf' familiars. They get distracted or confused or forget what they were doing sometimes unless you are constantly directing them. It makes them slightly less useful for scouting.

"Go scout for danger".
"Yes, lots of danger! There was an eagle and a cat and wolf!"

They certainly won't tell you enemy troop deployment.
Why should they need to? So long as they stay within 100' you have continuous telepathic communication with them, and (by spending actions) can share the familiar's senses. That allows for the familiar to be (more than) 70' in the air and 70' away and still maintain contact.

Plus, there are several familiars with 3 or higher intelligence, and most of them can fly. Pseudodragons are the major standout there (being NG, 10 Int, flying, and having the ability to share its Magic Resistance trait with a spellcaster it has chosen to bond with), but there are others. The flying monkey doesn't have the special bonus stuff and works with the regular spell (as opposed to things like imp, pseudodragon, quasit, gazer, etc. which don't do the spell thing in the first place) while still having flying and 5 Intelligence, but if you're willing to pass up flight, then the cat, fox, and octopus all provide 3 Int familiars.
 


EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Okay. What happens when you have evidence that there is a lack of good-faith action?

Because the problem with "if we presume good faith" is that that is literally identical to "if we presume the DM never makes problematic choices, then there are no problems." It's circular.
 

And this is why help action doesn't make sense. It is ludicrous that anyone, any time, without a fail, could do something that is more distracting than being stabbed with a sword.
Hence why I require a description of a help action. Are you throwing dirt in their eye? Are you flanking? Are you kicking out their knee? An owl’s tricks are limited. But, for most fights, you only need a round or two.


I mean, if we presume good faith on the part of the DM, it is always "okay to target the familiar."

That is, a DM acting in good faith, doing what really does make sense, and not actively manufacturing conditions that would permit such a thing, while still taking advantage of such conditions should they just end up being what happens? Totally fine. But it's pretty much by definition impossible to give any kind of precise description of "doing what really makes sense, not actively manufacturing conditions, while still taking advantage if they happen to occur." Were I to give clear, bright lines, I guarantee someone here would start dancing on them.

It is always in principle permissible for the DM to target a familiar actively participating in combat--but individual circumstances will vary, such that it's essentially guaranteed (for any campaign of meaningful length) that you'll find circumstances where no combatants would prioritize the familiar even if they got a golden opportunity to kill it. I find it hilariously implausible that any DM is skilled enough to guarantee that every time a familiar happens to appear, it will be 100% logical and justified for every combatant to drop their current priorities and focus on making sure the familiar dies ASAP. As a result, a DM actually giving fair rulings, who does not have an inherent bias toward destroying all familiars immediately, takes seriously that they are a potential target that may be worth taking out. However, they might instead be too low-value, and thus their presence endured for a round or two or even a whole combat, if seriously pressing priorities win out.

It is neither "do I have your permission to attack your familiar" nor "I will invent whatever narrative is necessary so that the familiar dies ASAP." It is, instead, the actually moderate position of, "I won't ignore your familiar if you risk it, but I won't do stupid things just to make sure it dies, either." If attacking the familiar actually seems like the most worthwhile thing to do, then it will get attacked. If it doesn't seem like the most worthwhile thing to do, though, the DM won't conspire to ensure that it will, definitely always, become the most worthwhile thing to do.

A wild animal, for example, could easily try to eat a familiar or see it as a convenient meal that it can nab and run away with, e.g. how a wolf might view an owl familiar....or it could see the familiar as a nuisance to be ignored or swatted away, e.g. how a bear might view that same owl. An archer might try to hit the owl if it is sitting on someone's shoulder for example, but might also prioritize the obvious healer or fireball-thrower at the back of the party, thinking that disrupting their magic or even taking them out would be a better use of their attacks. The actual situations encountered by the party should be significantly variable over time. Familiars being always and consistently THE #1 target in every fight, where they're used, guaranteed, no matter what, is evidence of blatantly unfair refereeing. It's "rocks fall, everyone dies," but targeted only at familiars. That doesn't make it any less unfair, it just makes the unfairness localized.


Why should they need to? So long as they stay within 100' you have continuous telepathic communication with them, and (by spending actions) can share the familiar's senses. That allows for the familiar to be (more than) 70' in the air and 70' away and still maintain contact.

Plus, there are several familiars with 3 or higher intelligence, and most of them can fly. Pseudodragons are the major standout there (being NG, 10 Int, flying, and having the ability to share its Magic Resistance trait with a spellcaster it has chosen to bond with), but there are others. The flying monkey doesn't have the special bonus stuff and works with the regular spell (as opposed to things like imp, pseudodragon, quasit, gazer, etc. which don't do the spell thing in the first place) while still having flying and 5 Intelligence, but if you're willing to pass up flight, then the cat, fox, and octopus all provide 3 Int familiars.
to speak to your point about Int: lots of people use familiars outside the 100 feet. Especially if you are scouting outdoors, 100 feet is trivial. Within 100 feet where you can see through its eyes and direct it allows it to be much more useful. Beyond that, not so much. Also, while pseudo dragons are smarter, Most characters are limited to the usual familiars from Find Familiar. I expect a pact of the Chain warlock familiar to be much superior. A sprite, for example.
 

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