KEL: Find Familiar automatically conjures and forcibly binds a a familiar to your will. It takes care of any of the backlash when a familiar dies. Can you do it without the spell? Can you exchange something like essence and if the familiar dies have the mage (and really, why cannot anyone not do it) take damage if it dies – permanent effects. Assuming you know how to find a familiar or lure one, can one really do this?
ALFS: Summoning a familiar involves a ritual. You have to form a link. Then create a permanent bond. If the familiar dies there should be some consequence. No, not everyone can persuade the familiar to agree to a partnership.
KEL: There is no consequence for dying familiars. I am ok with that if the ritual was bound and against their will. The ritual provided all the magic, not any sort of bargain or deal, or agreement to help each other. So, why can’t someone summon a familiar for another person?
BJ: I definitely recall first and second ed mages getting pwned when a familiar dies (it never left my pack in Baldur’s Gate). I haven’t read 5th ed rituals too closely, but I have the digital version of most books on me.
KEL: 5th ed limits what they can do (still great) but theres really not much repercussions when they die. They dont give HP or anything – its not a mingling of life essence like it was in easrlier editions
BJ: Looking over Find Familiar in 5th ed, and its pretty clear. I surmise any confusion is stemming from how the spell used to work in prior editions.
First, the spell makes it clear that the familiar is only [initially] connected to the caster through the use of the pronoun “you”. So you can’t summon it for someone else.
Can you do this without the spell? No, but you could accomplish something sort of like it. In the case of Find Familiar, you’re grabbing a minor extraplanar being and making it yours. Rangers can do something like it with animal companions, but its not the same. I’m also sure there’s some ability or skill to make friends with semi-sentient otherworldly entities as well, but that’s not the same level of bond.
The closest I was able to find is Planar Binding spell; it will follow your commands, but it doesn’t give you the other powers. Plus, unless you drop an inverted Magic Circle, nothing says the original owner can’t dismiss the guy and then resummon him within 30 feet after he thinks the duration has worn off.
Non-wizards and warlocks can get a familiar via Magic Initiate and Ritual Caster feats, but those still use spells.
Another alternative I found was to use a spell scroll. I kept looking for something that says you can’t do a ritual from a spell scroll, but I didn’t see one. So, hypothetically, you could make a spell scroll with Find Familiar on it and then hand it to someone else. They cast it at its lowest level, which is just find for this spell. Poof, they have a familiar. If it dies and they want it back then they need another scroll.
That said, your individual game can be one of rulings, not just rules and you could allow such a thing so long as you are consistent about it.
Special effects for killing familiars? Nope. The spell is clear that the beastie just disappears and can be resummoned. However, as an extraplanar beastie, it is affected by abjurations like Banishment.
Now, again, you can make a ruling to the contrary. For instance you could make a new spell, like “dissipate familiar”, say 3rd level. If you capture a familiar you ritually sacrifice it, which imposes X levels of exhaustion on its owner or X attribute damage or X HP damage that cannot be healed, only naturally recovered, and the familiar couldn’t be resummoned until the owner is recovered. Or a more immediate version that’s a touch range combat-esque spell that forcibly unsummons the guy and causes 1 level of fatigue as backlash.
So if you’re looking to punk a mage for abusing a familiar, I would use Planar Binding to have someone steal the familiar and put it in a box (so the mage can’t use its senses). Maybe she’s collecting them from many wizards for a grand plot ritual or just to remove a piece from the board. A nastier version would be to make up the spell I mentioned.
Speaking of abuse, Find Familiar is horribly broken. Spying is pretty awesome sure and touch spells can cause havok, but that’s not all! It can’t “attack”, but nothing says it can’t “help”, which would give advantage on attacks, research, etc. Now imagine you’re one of them warlocks that can summon an invisible familiar…
KEL: I also was not able to surmise, other than the spirit of the rules, that a familiar’s service a) could not be gained freely through mundane (sweet meats, a promise to take care of, and a way to communicate with a crow (by example)), b) could not be gained for another on under the proper circumstances. There nothing special about find familiar that creates a life bound essence-to-essence magic – it merely binds them together in a way that one is expected to take care of and the can communicate. It is horribly broken, though the attack options of using a familiar are limiting.. So yes, i am going to build on the 5e to create a greater familiar – a symbiotic relationship where there is more explicit gain, but also greater danger. And i believe, ceremonial casting (something Incarna had that i am transferring to DnD) becomes a proficiency like ritual casting and you could summon an essence from someone else in the ceremony but you spend the essence[permanently] – so its not likely o happen often.
BJ: If I was any sort of a thief, I’d be totally keen on getting a familiar just so it could “help” me with everything. Pay a wizard for a scroll and bam. If I were a warlock with the sper auto invis familiar, zero reason not to send him into combat to “help” my fighters and give them advantage at every turn. I mean zounds. In past editions I never used Find Familiar; the backlash was just too great for my piddly HP. Baldur’s Gate let me stuff it in the backpack so I could get an advantage that way at least. So I used in then. But in 5th ed? Bring on the menagerie!
BJ: Rather than essence (unless it does something else), you may say you invest 1 point of Con in your familiar. If the familiar dies, you lose the Con permanently. This ties it to an existing mechanic. I would still prefer the investment option. The character may choose to later dismiss the familiar on their own (taking the essence/Con back). but if the beastie is killed then the investment is lost. You still have hte investment not to lose it and have the option to recoup the essence/Con loss on your own later if you’d rather use it for something else.
KEL: I dont like treating CON as a pool of essence, its what Essence is exactly for. Not only that, but if CON where the binding energy, i would assume some added or different effects. I would like the idea of giving the CON up permanently if i got something for it (bonus HP or something similar to the old FF – but with diff hit dice, i dont think the boost is needed). I can keep the current rules without impacting game balance, use essence, and have a ritual that allows you to dismiss it (that would prevent dismissal right before its about to be killed).