D&D 5E More Unique Familiars (House Rule, would love feedback!)

BookTenTiger

He / Him
Hi all!

Recently I wrapped up a years-long 5e Game in which I played a wizard with a familiar. I had a lot of fun with this! Anga was the spirit of a dryad my character had rescued from a dead forest long ago. She took many forms, interacted with other characters in fun ways...

As I create new characters for new campaigns, I hesitate to take Find Familiar again. It feels like it's just going to be the same experience. Since all familiars can take any form and follow the same rules, it feels like two characters with Find Familiar will be treading the same paths.

With that in mind, I created a modified version of Find Familiar that better fits what I want out of a spellcaster's familiar. I kept almost all the rules from the PHB, but the biggest change is that you pick one form for the familiar, and it cannot change. You gain a benefit from this form, and the familiar has a unique ideal that could guide roleplaying. I also added the idea of a Bond that can grow over time and give you more powers related to the familiar.

The goal of this house rule is to make each familiar unique. If two characters have the Find Familiar spell, they can both use it without it feeling too "samey." I also wanted to put in a little incentive to have non-owl familiars.

I would love your feedback! Do you think this would work well? Would it meet my goal of having more unique familiars? Are the benefits too good? I am aware that this steps of the toes of the Chain Warlock, but I'm okay with that. If I were to implement this in a game, I'd probably modify the Chain Warlock's familiar in a similar way. Also in a campaign with this house rule, I would probably not use the Flock of Familiar spell.

Note: A lot of this spell is just verbatim from the Find Familiar spell. Anything identical to Find Familiar, I have italicized.

Find Familiar

You gain the service of a unique familiar, a spirit which takes the form of a tiny beast. Appearing in an unoccupied space within range, the familiar has the statistics of the chosen form, though it is a celestial, fey, or fiend (your choice) instead of a beast. Choose one of the following forms. When your familiar is within 100 feet, you gain a boon based on its form. If you choose a beast that is not listed here, choose an appropriate category.

Canny Familiars: Octopus*, Owl, or Raven**
Canny Familiar Boon: Gain Proficiency in one new language. Your familiar speaks one language you are proficient in.
* Octopus speaks the language through signs.
** Raven speaks two languages you are proficient in.

Fleet Familiars: Cat, Hawk, Fish / Quipper, Sea Horse, Weasel
Fleet Familiar Boon: Gain Proficiency in Acrobatics or Athletics.

Sly Familiars: Bat, Poisonous Snake, Rat, or Spider
Sly Familiar Boon: Gain Proficiency in Perception or Stealth.

Tough Familiars: Crab, Frog / Toad, or Lizard
Tough Familiar Boon: Your Maximum Hit Points increase by your Proficiency Bonus.

Your familiar acts independently of you, but it always obeys your commands. In combat, it acts on your initiative just after your turn. A familiar can't attack, but it can take other actions as normal.

When your familiar drops to 0 hit points, it disappears, leaving behind no physical form. It reappears after you cast this spell again. As an action, you can temporarily dismiss the familiar to a pocket dimension. Alternatively, you can dismiss it forever. As an action while it is temporarily dismissed, you can cause it to reappear in any unoccupied space within 30 feet of you. Whenever the familiar drops to 0 hit points or disappears into the pocket dimension, it leaves behind in its space anything it was wearing or carrying.

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.


You cannot have more than one familiar at a time. If you cast this spell while you already have a familiar, it is dismissed to a pocket dimension, and you instead summon a new familiar.

When you first summon your familiar, give it a name and either choose or roll on the Ideal Table (or create your own). Your familiar is a unique individual with its own desires. If you treat your familiar well, you will be able to create a closer bond, unlocking more powers.

Ideals (1d12)
  1. Indulgence: I want to enjoy the world using all my senses- to see beautiful sights, to listen to music and stories, to taste fantastic foods...
  2. Greed: I am driven to collect shiny, valuable objects, such as coins, baubles, teeth... My obsession may be focused on objects of a single color, material, or other strange characteristic.
  3. Vanity: I am a beautiful creature, worthy of gifts and admiration. I like to have my fur brushed, or my scales scrubbed, or my shell buffed every night. When I look good, I do good.
  4. Community: My companions are the most important thing to me; I will do what's needed to make their lives comfortable, joyous, and safe.
  5. Love: I love my conjurer. I will bring them gifts, sleep on their pillow at night, and do all I can to help them achieve their goals.
  6. Glory: I am the hero of this story! I want to gain the admiration of my companions, and build my glorious reputation.
  7. Chaos: If there is an opportunity to cause trouble, I will take it. I gain great satisfaction in pranks and foiled plans, especially if the victim is someone in a position of power.
  8. Justice: I am driven to help those who have been harmed by those in power. I make friends with the powerless, and will put my life on the line to stand up for my beliefs.
  9. Loyalty: I am loyal to a powerful figure from another realm (a celestial, fiend, or fey). Though I follow my conjurer's commands, I will also attempt to achieve my true master's goals.
  10. Power: I may look like a tiny beast, but inside I am a giant. I want power: magical, material, political... I will help my conjurer gain power, especially if it benefits me!
  11. Knowledge: I am curious about this world. I am driven by curiosity; I want to know what's around that corner, down that pit, and in that book!
  12. Revenge: I did not choose to be conjured, and I am not happy to be in this realm. Though I will follow my conjurer's commands, I will seek other ways to have my vengeance.

Summoning your familiar creates a bond that can grow over time. Your Bond with your familiar starts at 1. When you gain a level, your familiar's Bond improves by one.

There are other ways to improve your familiar's Bond. Your DM may improve your familiar's Bond if you help your familiar realize their ideal, treat your familiar well, or roleplay interactions between your familiar and other characters and NPCs. Your Bond may be no greater than twice your level.

Your familiar gains new features as their Bond increases. The Material Components required to cast Find Familiar also increases. If you do not use the correct amount of Material Components, you must summon a new familiar with a Bond of 1.

BondBonus FeatureMaterial Components
1 - 4-10 gp of special inks and oils, which the spell consumes.
5 - 9The range through which you may communicate telepathically, see through your familiar's senses, and cast spells through your familiar is doubled.25 gp of special inks and oils, which the spell consumes.
10 - 14When your familiar takes damage, such as from an attack, trap, or environmental hazard, you may choose to take the damage instead. Your familiar is still impacted by any other effects of the source of harm.50 gp of special inks and oils, which the spell consumes.
15 - 19You gain advantage on Constitution Saving Throws to maintain concentration when you are in physical contact with your familiar.100 gp of special inks and oils, which the spell consumes.
20+As an action, your familiar may assume one new form. Choose a small or medium-size beast with a CR no greater than 1/4. Your familiar retains their Boon and Ideal, but gains the statistics and abilities of the new form. As an action, they may return to their original form.150 gp of special inks and oils, which the spell consumes.
 

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cbwjm

Legend
Something where I thought 4e shone, was their use of familiars. Might be worth checking out, though I like what you've done here. The bond system is cool, makes having that one familiar more of a benefit and gives a bit more life to the relationship between wizard and familiar.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
Something where I thought 4e shone, was their use of familiars. Might be worth checking out, though I like what you've done here. The bond system is cool, makes having that one familiar more of a benefit and gives a bit more life to the relationship between wizard and familiar.
Interesting! I played a wizard for a bit in 4e, but never used a familiar. I'll have to look that up.
 

cbwjm

Legend
Interesting! I played a wizard for a bit in 4e, but never used a familiar. I'll have to look that up.
I can't recall the exact details, I'd have to look back through the books, but from memory they had both a passive and an active state. The passive state gave you some sort of bonus, like a bonus to perception or saving throws (well, defences in 4e) and active state the familiar had the ability to move about and might have had an activated ability. I always meant to look at them and work to convert them to 5e but haven't quite got around to it.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
I can't recall the exact details, I'd have to look back through the books, but from memory they had both a passive and an active state. The passive state gave you some sort of bonus, like a bonus to perception or saving throws (well, defences in 4e) and active state the familiar had the ability to move about and might have had an activated ability. I always meant to look at them and work to convert them to 5e but haven't quite got around to it.
Ah, I like that.
 

I can't recall the exact details, I'd have to look back through the books, but from memory they had both a passive and an active state. The passive state gave you some sort of bonus, like a bonus to perception or saving throws (well, defences in 4e) and active state the familiar had the ability to move about and might have had an activated ability. I always meant to look at them and work to convert them to 5e but haven't quite got around to it.
This is correct. As an example, the Dragonling familiar has the following benefits.

Speed 5, fly 6 (hover)
Constant Benefits
You can read and speak Draconic
When you spend a healing surge, you regain 2 additional hit points. (3 additional HP at 11, 4 additional HP at 21)
Active Benefits
Dragon's Breath: Once per encounter, you can use your dragonling's space as the origin square for a close blast arcane attack power.

(For anyone not familiar with 4e's keywords here, "close blast" is the term for an attack which points out/away from an origin square, so stuff like Cone of Cold, Dragon Breath, etc. would be "close blast." Attacks that shoot radially in all directions from a square are "close burst." This is one of the areas where 4e really should have used more obviously distinct terms, e.g. I think "burst" should have been something like "flare" or the like so the words didn't look so similar.)

Various other familiars had similarly useful benefits, depending on its nature. Owls offered passive insights and acted as scouts. Serpents let you ignore 1 square (5 feet) of difficult terrain when shifting, which may not sound like much but it's actually pretty good (since shifting is how you avoid opportunity attacks, and outside of special powers, you can't shift more than 1 square, meaning you can't normally shift at all through difficult terrain.)
 
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Leorix

Explorer
Interesting! I played a wizard for a bit in 4e, but never used a familiar. I'll have to look that up.
4e familiars were added in the supplemental book, Arcane Power (p.137), not the PHB. Even then you had to take the special Arcane Familiar feat to acquire one. A nice extra feature was the sidebar on page 141 titled 'Familiar Quirks' which gave examples of how to customise your familiar a little.

In one of my current 5e games where one of my players chose a 'celestial' owl, I allowed it to glow like a candle too. I've always wondered why the choice of celestial, fey, or fiends didn't come with extra benefits.
 

CreamCloud0

Adventurer
Have you considered there being any boons they provide depending on the familiar’s alignment of fey/fiend/celestial in addition to the chosen species of creature? And/Or there being other potential power sources than those three, aberrant, elemental, primal(standard beast/nature-y), undead?
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
Have you considered there being any boons they provide depending on the familiar’s alignment of fey/fiend/celestial in addition to the chosen species of creature? And/Or there being other potential power sources than those three, aberrant, elemental, primal(standard beast/nature-y), undead?
I hadn't thought about it, but that's a great idea!
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
Have you considered there being any boons they provide depending on the familiar’s alignment of fey/fiend/celestial in addition to the chosen species of creature? And/Or there being other potential power sources than those three, aberrant, elemental, primal(standard beast/nature-y), undead?
Thinking about this further, and thinking about my efforts to make familiars more unique, I came up with this rough idea:

We take out this section:

When your familiar drops to 0 hit points, it disappears, leaving behind no physical form. It reappears after you cast this spell again. As an action, you can temporarily dismiss the familiar to a pocket dimension. Alternatively, you can dismiss it forever. As an action while it is temporarily dismissed, you can cause it to reappear in any unoccupied space within 30 feet of you. Whenever the familiar drops to 0 hit points or disappears into the pocket dimension, it leaves behind in its space anything it was wearing or carrying.

And put in something like this (note this is a very rough idea / first draft):

Origin
When you first conjure your familiar, choose an origin from the list below (or a unique one with your DM's permission).

Original Form
When your Familiar drops to 0 Hit Points, it reverts to its Original Form. It becomes insubstantial, and cannot speak, communicate with signs, or interact with creatures or objects. It gains the Movement Hover 30, as well as a unique ability as described in the table below. Until you cast Find Familiar again, you lose any Bonus Features associated with your Familiar Bond, and cannot cast spells through your familiar. The familiar cannot regain Hit Points, and is only restored to its animal form when you cast Find Familiar again.

OriginOriginal FormFeatures
CelestialA glowing orb of blue, gold, or white light.Familiar casts bright light for 15 feet and dim light for an additional 15 feet.
FeyA twirling swirl of leaves, fog, or flower petals.As an action, the familiar may create illusionary sounds, as with the Minor Illusion spell.
FiendA burning ember, emitting smoke, flames, or fiery bat wings.The familiar emits a nauseating odor; creatures starting their turn in its space must make a DC 8 Constitution Saving Throw or gain the Poison conditioned until the start of their next turn.
 

CreamCloud0

Adventurer
Thinking about this further, and thinking about my efforts to make familiars more unique, I came up with this rough idea:

We take out this section:



And put in something like this (note this is a very rough idea / first draft):

Origin
When you first conjure your familiar, choose an origin from the list below (or a unique one with your DM's permission).

Original Form
When your Familiar drops to 0 Hit Points, it reverts to its Original Form. It becomes insubstantial, and cannot speak, communicate with signs, or interact with creatures or objects. It gains the Movement Hover 30, as well as a unique ability as described in the table below. Until you cast Find Familiar again, you lose any Bonus Features associated with your Familiar Bond, and cannot cast spells through your familiar. The familiar cannot regain Hit Points, and is only restored to its animal form when you cast Find Familiar again.

OriginOriginal FormFeatures
CelestialA glowing orb of blue, gold, or white light.Familiar casts bright light for 15 feet and dim light for an additional 15 feet.
FeyA twirling swirl of leaves, fog, or flower petals.As an action, the familiar may create illusionary sounds, as with the Minor Illusion spell.
FiendA burning ember, emitting smoke, flames, or fiery bat wings.The familiar emits a nauseating odor; creatures starting their turn in its space must make a DC 8 Constitution Saving Throw or gain the Poison conditioned until the start of their next turn.
I think their features would be something they should be able to use both in and out of their Original Form, Like you could have each type of familiar ‘teach’ their own respective cantrip to the player and be able to use it themselves but the player looses access to it but not the familiar while in original form, if i were to pick which ones I’d choose for each:
Familiar TypeOriginal FormCantrip Taught
Celestial-Sacred Flame
FeyA tiny winged fairy with a multicoloured auraMinor Illusion/Thorn Whip
Infernal-Produce Flame
AberrantA floating eyeball covered in short tentacles (think micro-beholder)Vicious Mockery
ElementalA small amount of the elemental’s respective element animated inside a perfectly clear crystalResistance (Absorb Elements?Its a 1st level spell but it fits much better)
PrimalThe ghost of your familiar’s previous form in white smoke with shimmers of bright greenTrue Strike
UndeadThe ghost of your familiar’s previous form in black smoke with shimmers of crimson redSpare The Dying/Poison Spray
 

Stalker0

Legend
I dont' like the 15-19 bond ability. The ability itself is fine, but it requires physical touch with the familiar. That seems to remove a lot of the cool aspect of the familiar itself, like delivering spells. Gaining an ability that requires you to deny other abilities doesn't feel that fun.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
To the OP: I don't have time right now to read the thread, but FWIW here is our re-write of the Find Familiar spell, with a slight AD&D feel:

1656450425330.png
 

CreamCloud0

Adventurer
I dont' like the 15-19 bond ability. The ability itself is fine, but it requires physical touch with the familiar. That seems to remove a lot of the cool aspect of the familiar itself, like delivering spells. Gaining an ability that requires you to deny other abilities doesn't feel that fun.
What about something like this instead:
When you cast an ongoing spell you may choose to have your Familiar maintain concentration on it for you as it’s action for each turn.
EDIT: if your familiar takes damage while maintaining concentration you can use your lvl 10-14 bond ability to take the damage for it but the familiar must still make the associated concentration check on maintaining the spell.
 
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BookTenTiger

He / Him
I dont' like the 15-19 bond ability. The ability itself is fine, but it requires physical touch with the familiar. That seems to remove a lot of the cool aspect of the familiar itself, like delivering spells. Gaining an ability that requires you to deny other abilities doesn't feel that fun.
In my experience playing a wizard with a familiar, by 9th level if my familiar was out on the battlefield it would die within a round due to various area of effect attacks. I think this power gives the player a choice: their familiar can be out and about, delivering touch spells and the like... or they can be close and grant advantage on Concentration checks.

Also I'm trying to not make the boons too powerful. To be honest, I don't like how this boon apes the War Caster feat, and I'll probably change it to something else.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
Thinking about this further, and thinking about my efforts to make familiars more unique, I came up with this rough idea:

We take out this section:



And put in something like this (note this is a very rough idea / first draft):

Origin
When you first conjure your familiar, choose an origin from the list below (or a unique one with your DM's permission).

Original Form
When your Familiar drops to 0 Hit Points, it reverts to its Original Form. It becomes insubstantial, and cannot speak, communicate with signs, or interact with creatures or objects. It gains the Movement Hover 30, as well as a unique ability as described in the table below. Until you cast Find Familiar again, you lose any Bonus Features associated with your Familiar Bond, and cannot cast spells through your familiar. The familiar cannot regain Hit Points, and is only restored to its animal form when you cast Find Familiar again.

OriginOriginal FormFeatures
CelestialA glowing orb of blue, gold, or white light.Familiar casts bright light for 15 feet and dim light for an additional 15 feet.
FeyA twirling swirl of leaves, fog, or flower petals.As an action, the familiar may create illusionary sounds, as with the Minor Illusion spell.
FiendA burning ember, emitting smoke, flames, or fiery bat wings.The familiar emits a nauseating odor; creatures starting their turn in its space must make a DC 8 Constitution Saving Throw or gain the Poison conditioned until the start of their next turn.
Thinking about it more, I think this just adds way too much complexity.

A much simpler option for different Familiar Origins could be something like this:

Familiar Origin
When you first conjure your familiar, choose an origin. The origin impacts the appearance of your familiar. Choose one of the appearance choices, or come up with your own. When you cast a spell through your familiar that causes damage, you may choose to instead deal the damage type associated with your familiar's origin.

OriginAppearanceDamage Type
CelestialHead surrounded by halo of light; golden eyes; or fur, feathers, or scales patterned with celestial runes.Radiant
FeyFlower petals or leaves instead of fur, feathers, or scales; prismatic colors; or a single silver horn.Thunder
FiendTwisting horns; smell of sulfur; or a long forked tongue.Fire
AberrantToo many eyes; tentacles instead of limbs or a tail; or covered in slime.Psychic
ConstructCopper fur, feathers, or scales; made of living glass; or a stuffed creature with clicking gears.Lightning
UndeadSkeletal; spectral; or a living shadow.Necrotic
DraconicLong serpentine neck and tail; row of spines; or intelligent reptilian eyes.Acid, Cold, Fire, or Lightning
BeastIndistinguishable from a normal beast.Bludgeoning, Piercing, or Slashing
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
In my experience playing a wizard with a familiar, by 9th level if my familiar was out on the battlefield it would die within a round due to various area of effect attacks. I think this power gives the player a choice: their familiar can be out and about, delivering touch spells and the like... or they can be close and grant advantage on Concentration checks.

Also I'm trying to not make the boons too powerful. To be honest, I don't like how this boon apes the War Caster feat, and I'll probably change it to something else.
Okay, here's a new idea for the Bond 15 - 19 power:

BondBonus FeatureMaterial Components
15 - 19When casting Find Familiar to conjure this familiar, the casting time is 1 Round, even when casting it as a ritual.100 gp of special inks and oils, which the spell consumes.
 

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