D&D 5E Familiars, what for?


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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
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.
Look no further, friend - I'm your guy! (y)
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Epic
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.
100feet up is very much a nontrivial bump to vision. The "crows nest" on sailing ships was well under a hundred feet up, here is a great post explaining it
If you are standing on the deck your eye level (5 m) gives you a horizon 8 km away - if your eye level is 25 m (in the crow's nest) you will see the horizon 18 km away.

below O is the observer (you) and v is your height over sea level. Use Pythagora's theorem to calculate.
1648005869227.png
25m is only about 82ft so the familiar is even better & can easily do circles at that height while staying within 100ft
 

100feet up is very much a nontrivial bump to vision. The "crows nest" on sailing ships was well under a hundred feet up, here is a great post explaining it
If you are standing on the deck your eye level (5 m) gives you a horizon 8 km away - if your eye level is 25 m (in the crow's nest) you will see the horizon 18 km away.

below O is the observer (you) and v is your height over sea level. Use Pythagora's theorem to calculate.
View attachment 153986
25m is only about 82ft so the familiar is even better & can easily do circles at that height while staying within 100ft
I get it. My point is people don’t use it that way. They send their familiars off and tell them to come back with info.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Epic
I get it. My point is people don’t use it that way. They send their familiars off and tell them to come back with info.
Sure they do. Report things an owl thinks are dangerous a couple of times to pointlessly annoy players and you get the equivalent of the tomb of horrors poke every square twice reaction thanks to everyone having such overly generous carrying capacities that someone is almost certain to be able to carry all of their equipment plus an insensate Bob plus all of the treasure being collected plus all of Bob's equipment without hindrance while Bob pilots his familiar
 

Sure they do. Report things an owl thinks are dangerous a couple of times to pointlessly annoy players and you get the equivalent of the tomb of horrors poke every square twice reaction thanks to everyone having such overly generous carrying capacities that someone is almost certain to be able to carry all of their equipment plus an insensate Bob plus all of the treasure being collected plus all of Bob's equipment without hindrance while Bob pilots his familiar
If you want a more reliable source to scout miles ahead, ask the Druid to wildshape into a hawk. Or cast clairvoyance or arcane eye. Don’t ask the Wizard’s familiar. That’s out of its wheelhouse.

if you want to have it fly up 100 feet, then that works. You will still gain information. It just might be different.

it’s the difference between having your familiar flying above the trees and noticing smoke of a campfire coming up through the trees several miles away and having the Druid fly directly over top or under the canopy to report what denizens are sitting around the fire.

once you’re within 100 feet of the campfire, feel free to send your familiar to check it out. Just know that you are well within the scouting range of whatever is there.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
So at that point it becomes ok to target the familiar?

My perspective was perfectly summarized by @EzekielRaiden, it's always OK to target the familiar if it makes sense (just as it is also OK never to target the familiar if it's a table agreement, for example not to traumatise younger players), what we have trouble with is Kill on Sight Orders on Familiars, and the bad faith of some DMs on that subject (not anyone on these forums, by the way, just some I have personally encountered).
 

ad_hoc

(they/them)
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.
It says right in the rules that help cannot be used if the helper cannot do the thing on their own.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
It says right in the rules that help cannot be used if the helper cannot do the thing on their own.

The thing is that the help action is in two sections, one general part and a combat part:
  • General part: Sometimes two or more characters team up to attempt a task. The character who’s leading the effort — or the one with the highest ability modifier — can make an ability check with advantage, reflecting the help provided by the other characters. In combat, this requires the Help action (see chapter 9, “Combat”). A character can only provide help if the task is one that he or she could attempt alone. For example, trying to open a lock requires proficiency with thieves’ tools, so a character who lacks that proficiency can’t help another character in that task.
  • Combat part (referenced by the general part), the Help Action: You can lend your aid to another creature in the completion of a task. When you take the Help action, the creature you aid gains advantage on the next ability check it makes to perform the task you are helping with, provided that it makes the check before the start of your next turn. Alternatively, you can aid a friendly creature in attacking a creature within 5 feet of you. You feint, distract the target, or in some other way team up to make your ally’s attack more effective. If your ally attacks the target before your next turn, the first attack roll is made with advantage.
Since the general part is in the "Using Ability Scores section", it is meant to refer to just that, and deferring to the combat part for the more specific rules of helping in combat. The Help Action is more specific, therefore takes precedence, and is not about an ability check anyway, it's "Alternatively, you can aid a friendly creature in attacking a creature within 5 feet of you" and doesn't require being able to attack.

This has been clarified in Sage Advice and included in the Sage Advice Compendium which is part of the official rules anyway.

That does not mean that you cannot rule otherwise, but the official RAW are (now, since the SAC is part of them) clear.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
Really, I would never ask my familiar to help in combat anyways, I didn't even think that was the primary complaint about Familiars being able to take the Help action- if you make the right choices, getting advantage when you want it is pretty easy to do.

It was more having the Familiar help with ability checks that I thought was the thing people were more concerned about. Hitting enemies in combat is what players are supposed to do!

Getting advantage on ability checks constantly would be more annoying than Guidance spam.
 

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