Author: Chris Katrev

It's not uncommon for Dungeons & Dragons players to be pet owners themselves, leading to a shared interest in acquiring in-game pets or summoning familiars. This adds an extra layer of companionship and strategy to the game, as players navigate the challenges of both their real and virtual worlds.

While some may view pets and familiars as primarily for roleplay purposes, they offer significant mechanical benefits to adventuring parties. In this guide, we'll explore how to maximize the potential of your furry, feathered, scaled, or otherwise adorned companion.

Acquiring Pets and Familiars

In Dungeons & Dragons, any Wizard and Warlocks with Pact of the Chain can conjure a familiar using the 1st-level spell Find Familiar. This spell allows you to choose from a variety of forms for your familiar, including bat, cat, crab, frog (toad), hawk, lizard, octopus, owl, poisonous snake, fish (quipper), rat, raven, sea horse, spider, or weasel. Each form has its own stat block with unique proficiencies, speeds (such as flying or swimming), and abilities, such as advantage on hearing-based perception checks.

Acquiring a pet ypically falls under the purview of the Dungeon Master. It often involves utilizing the Animal Handling skill. Players can further bond with their pets through roleplaying actions, such as providing food, using abilities like Speak with Animals to communicate, and offering assistance to the creature whenever possible.

Since there are no strict rules regarding pets in 5th edition, it's advisable to discuss the mechanics with your Dungeon Master. Additionally, don't be surprised if a single successful Animal Handling check isn't enough to persuade a creature to become your steadfast companion for life.


Pets and familiars serve as excellent scouting agents, owing to their small size. They can effortlessly navigate tight spaces that larger creatures would struggle with, such as squeezing beneath a door, flying through an open window, crawling through rubble cracks, or climbing onto nearby rooftops via gutters.

Depending on the environment, these animals often blend seamlessly into their surroundings. For instance, a rat familiar scouting a group of soldiers in the sewers is unlikely to arouse any suspicion from its targets, making it an ideal spy.

The combination of their small size and mundane attributes makes pets and familiars exceptional scouts. Consequently, they often surpass even the stealthiest player characters in this role.

Help Action

The second most common use for pets and familiars is as distributors of the Help action. While they are forbidden from attacking, pets and familiars can perform other actions, including the Help action. This action provides advantage on the next ability check or attack roll made by a fellow creature.

This is the best feature of pets and familiars in combat, though it does present its own difficulties. To provide advantage on an attack roll against a creature, the familiar must get within 5 feet of it. This exposes your pet or familiar to a dangerous situation where they might be easily slain.

It's also worth noting that the extent to which your familiar can use the Help action is often up to the Dungeon Master's interpretation. Don't be surprised if your DM rules that your familiar can't assist in busting open a door, eavesdropping on a conversation, or providing advantage on an attack against an ancient dragon.

Touch Spells

Perhaps it's because it's the final line in the already lengthy Find Familiar spell description, but many players overlook the ability for their familiar to deliver touch spells. This ability is tied to the magical nature of familiars, so if your character has a more mundane or natural pet, this option won't be available.

Touch spells are often underused in D&D because they require typically ranged player characters to risk entering melee combat. However, a player with a familiar can bypass this danger, as the familiar can deliver the spell for them while the caster remains at a safe distance.

Amazing touch spells to use with your familiar include Cure Wounds, Inflict Wounds, Shocking Grasp, Vampiric Touch, Identify, Lesser Restoration, and Greater Restoration.

Object Interaction

Lastly, and perhaps least commonly applicable, familiars can be great for interacting with certain objects. In many adventures, the player characters may be after a certain item and if it is small enough (like a gem, letter, or book), your familiar or pet can likely carry it away.

Your enemies may be on high alert for your character's attempts to steal such an item, but they won't expect a hawk swooping in to snatch it. While familiars and pets aren't intelligent enough to take such actions on their own, a familiar always obeys your commands, ensuring they can still get the job done without understanding the full plan.

Aside from retrieving items, familiars can also prove handy for interacting with keys and trap triggers. It turns out, a simple command like "fetch" can be unexpectedly useful in such situations.

In conclusion, pets and familiars offer a plethora of strategic advantages in Dungeons & Dragons, from scouting and aiding in combat to interacting with objects. With proper utilization, these companions can greatly enhance the versatility and effectiveness of any adventuring party.


Arra Alpino