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D&D 5E Using "Commands" on Familiars and the Like

I was thinking about how features and spells like Find Familiar give you a creature that "obeys your commands," especially in Tasha's (has spells like "Summon Creature"). In the descriptions of Find Familiar and Steel Defender, they both have a spot that says "You can use your (bonus or main) action to command..." them to do something during combat (provided that they could).
I was wondering what you all think about letting players giving their familiars or what have you commands outside of combat like a code or program
 

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It's a separate being with its own knowledge
You can command it to TRY anything, but it's not going to be able to do anything physically impossible
A cat can't be commanded to fly
And it probably won't succeed at doing anything that requires skill. Like picking a lock

Other commands like "follow that guy" or "stand watch while we sleep" are probably fine

It's also a fey spirit that knows it can't be killed. It might be willing to do suicidal commands
Maybe
Whether or not it still feels pain is another matter
 

Stormonu

Legend
I’m not sure I follow you completely, but not being able to give commands to creatures OUTSIDE of combat sounds silly. It’s like saying your pet only obeys you when you say “heel” in combat.

Back in 3E, there used to be a trick system, based on Animal Handling, if I remember correctly. If you wanted to use that in 5E, I’d probably do something like an animal knows a number of tricks equal to your Animal Handling bonus (min 1).

Tricks would be like:
Heel
Come
Fetch
Play Dead
Speak
etc.

I’d probably only use this system for creatures with animal-level intelligence; familiars and sapient creatures I believe have a natural understanding comparable to humans.
 

@Disgruntled Hobbit
Sorry, wasn't meaning commanding the familiar and others to anything the player might want. I was more thinking of long term commands that "trigger" when certain conditions are met.
For example (though the time taken to issue this command might exceed a "bonus action"), telling the familiar or Steel Defender "If you see something attack me, then go attack the assailant (or in the familiar's case, get close to the assailant).
So essentially giving them If-Then statements
 

aco175

Legend
I saw that most basic animals like a horse has Int 2 and Wis 10-12 and some other animals like a lion or giant weasel has Int 3 and Wis 10-12. The steel defender has Int 4 which should be able to do more. Not sure if they modeled it after Bubo, but it was created by a goddess.

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Stormonu

Legend
@Disgruntled Hobbit
Sorry, wasn't meaning commanding the familiar and others to anything the player might want. I was more thinking of long term commands that "trigger" when certain conditions are met.
For example (though the time taken to issue this command might exceed a "bonus action"), telling the familiar or Steel Defender "If you see something attack me, then go attack the assailant (or in the familiar's case, get close to the assailant).
So essentially giving them If-Then statements
So like, “Defend Me!” ? Seems doable, and in some cases, the animal/cohort might just be trained to do it automatically (Though that could get dangerous - would the Defender consider a congratulatory pat on the back an attack?)
 


Dausuul

Legend
I would rule that you can give simple conditional commands ("if X, do Y"), but each new command overrides all previous ones. You can't load it up with a whole series of triggers. You can have one condition and one response active at any given time.

And the familiar is going to interpret your commands within the limits of its own understanding, so the more sophisticated you get, the more likely it is to get confused or do something wrong.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
So like, “Defend Me!” ? Seems doable, and in some cases, the animal/cohort might just be trained to do it automatically (Though that could get dangerous - would the Defender consider a congratulatory pat on the back an attack?)

The Steel Defender is slightly smarter than a mastiff. Your dog doesn't generally think you are being attacked when your friend gives you a hug, neither will the Steel Defender.
 

Sorry, wasn't meaning commanding the familiar and others to anything the player might want. I was more thinking of long term commands that "trigger" when certain conditions are met.
For example (though the time taken to issue this command might exceed a "bonus action"), telling the familiar or Steel Defender "If you see something attack me, then go attack the assailant (or in the familiar's case, get close to the assailant).
So essentially giving them If-Then statements
In this case, I wouldn't allow it a because it would be gaining the benefit of commanding it in combat without the action cost of commanding it in combat. It's trying to game the system

Something else might work
"If you see something attack me, then go to Valeros the fighter" might be more fair

They also don't gain extra Intelligence. The familiar would still be limited by animal memory. More than two steps is likely too much
 

ECMO3

Explorer
It's also a fey spirit that knows it can't be killed. It might be willing to do suicidal commands
Maybe
Whether or not it still feels pain is another matter
It will do suicidal missions because it obeys your commands. Whether it would be suicidal absent a specific command for example to protect you while you are incapacitated or not commanding a certain action is another story.

I personally would rule that the specific verbiage associated with find familiar and commanding the familiar overides even things like suggestion or dominate monster if an adversary were to cast that on a familiar.
 


Stormonu

Legend
The Steel Defender is slightly smarter than a mastiff. Your dog doesn't generally think you are being attacked when your friend gives you a hug, neither will the Steel Defender.
As @ECMO3 pointed out, I've had friends with dogs (dobermans) who will try and take your hand off just for shaking the owner's hand.

Overall though, I wouldn't worry about in game - except maybe with the ranger's/druid companion - it is a wild animal, after all. :D
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Maybe, maybe not. One of my dogs thinks we are being attacked anytime someone rings the doorbell or steps on our property.

I hope that is not correct. I hope that your animal is displaying more common territorial behaviors. Because otherwise, your animal really does need to see a behaviorist, before someone gets bitten.
 



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