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I am currently a level 6 Gnome Bard, and due to some odd circumstances the DM is allowing me to take a new feat. I was considering taking a familiar in order to deliver some of my touch spells during combat as well as generally giving me better access to some skills my bard is lacking in (eg. spot).

My question pertains to the actual acquisition of familiars. According to the prerequisites for Improved Familiar, my character must have the "ability to acquire a new familiar".

My question is that since I could potentially take the feat Obtain Familiar, it could be argued that I am in a position where I could take a new familiar, and thus potentially be able to take Improved Familiar immediately (I meet the other requirements).

Though I sense that this is not in the spirit of the prerequisite, I am wondering if such an argument could be made, since the prerequisite is not completely clear and the text does not expand on the meaning of "must be able to acquire a new familiar".

Since I have been building my bard as a whimsical, witty out-of-combat specialist (mainly focused on diplomacy/bluff), he is lacking in combat. As you can imagine, being able to take an improved familiar immediately could really improve my character build while allowing me to focus in the future more on skills and feats that would improve my character's out-of-combat specialty even more.

So can I take the Improved Familiar feat immediately? If not, how would I be able to take it in the future?

I have yet to discuss this with my DM, and was just curious to know if such an argument could be made.

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@Tridus I think he's only getting one feat, but the idea is: he might be said to have the "ability to acquire a new familiar" (because he is eligible to take Obtain Familiar, which gives him one), which would let him just go straight to Improved Familiar without even getting Obtain Familiar. – doppelgreener Aug 21 '14 at 14:17
@Tridus Without getting into the details of the situation, I am in a position where I can change my feats. I was only intending on changing one of them, but I could potentially change others as well. – B. S. Morganstein Aug 21 '14 at 14:18
-1 "since I could potentially take the feat Obtain Familiar, it could be argued that I am in a position where I could take a new familiar, and thus potentially be able to take Improved Familiar immediately" this makes no sense at all. – o0'. Aug 21 '14 at 14:20
@Lohoris What exactly is unclear? Since I am eligible to take Obtain Familiar, I want to know if this would meet the prerequisite for Improved Familiar. I am new to D&D and clearly stated in the question that I doubt this is in the spirit of the prerequisite. I was curious to know if these types of arguments can be made. – B. S. Morganstein Aug 21 '14 at 14:24
Please don't vote down questions because you dislike the topic that is being asked about. Only vote down questions that are either obvious, unanswerable, or poorly designed/hard to read. It is better to have this question here with 'No, and this is why' than for there to be no information on this. – user2754 Aug 21 '14 at 14:49
up vote 17 down vote accepted

You Can't Skip Obtain Familiar, But...

You can't skip Obtain Familiar. It's a prerequisite of Improved Familiar to be able to obtain a familiar, and Obtain Familiar is how you'd meet that requirement without multiclassing.

So, if you only have one feat, you have to take Obtain Familiar. You now qualify to take Improved Familiar the next time you have a feat.

If you have two feats (as you mentioned redoing your feats), then you can immediately take Improved Familiar as your second feat, after taking Obtain Familiar as your first. No matter how you do it, you need Obtain Familiar before you can take Improved Familiar.

I think part of your confusion is the requirement to be "able to obtain a familiar." Obtain Familiar doesn't give you a familiar. It gives you the ability to obtain a familiar, as outlined in the Sorceror/Wizard class feature. Actually getting one is something you have to do afterward, and costs 100g.

Once you have the feat, you have the ability to go and get one, which means you meet the requirement for Improved Familiar.

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So say that I take Obtain Familiar using the single feat, and acquire a familiar. When I get my next feat will I be able to take Improved Familiar and just choose a new familiar? If this opens up a whole new can of worms I can post it as a new question. – B. S. Morganstein Aug 21 '14 at 15:25
@B.S.Morganstein Essentially, yes. How you get the familar is spelled out in the Sorceror rules, which I linked to in my answer. You follow that when you want to get a familiar. Being able to do that is what Obtain Familiar gives you. Improved Familiar gives you more options for what that familar is, but you get it in the same way. – Tridus Aug 21 '14 at 15:47
@B.S.Morganstein If you choose to obtain a familiar with Obtain Familiar, you will have to release it and wait a year and a day before obtaining a familiar with Improved Familiar. If you are planning on taking Improved Familiar, you should probably wait till you have it to obtain a familiar. – Miniman Aug 21 '14 at 23:06


Feats you do not currently possess do not count towards prerequisites for other feats.

Consider Extra Turning, with its prerequisite of "ability to turn or rebuke undead." You can't take this feat just because you have the option of eventually multiclassing into a cleric.

How would you get a familiar? You'd take Obtain Familiar, but defer the acquisition of your familiar. Then take Improved Familiar.

Or, talk to your DM and ask them to make an exception for your character. But such an exception is definitely a house rule.

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Make a note that pre-requisites check the character as it stands, rather than some hazy possible future version of the character, and are literal? I.e. at the moment of taking the feat, the character has no explicit means to gain a familiar, so it doesn't matter that later he could multiclass into wizard or take the obtain familiar feat because right now he can't. – user2754 Aug 21 '14 at 14:51

I think this one is fairly clear-cut: you do not currently have the ability to acquire a new familiar, as you have no ability to acquire a familiar whatsoever; therefore you cannot take Improved Familiar. If you want to take it, you need to first get the ability to have a familiar, whether that be via Obtain Familiar, taking a level in Sor/Wiz or some other method, and only after that can you take Improved Familiar.

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I fully agree with the other answers that simply being able to take Obtain Familiar does not count as having the "ability to acquire a new familiar" — it merely counts as the ability to acquire the ability to acquire a new familiar. :-)

In any case, even if you could somehow sidestep the prerequisite and take Improved Familiar without actually having Obtain Familiar (or belonging to a class that lets you obtain a familiar), it still wouldn't do anything on its own.

Specifically, the text of the Improved Familiar feat simply says:

Benefit: When choosing a familiar, the creatures listed below are also available to the spellcaster. [...]

The Improved Familiar feat, on its own, does not let you obtain a familiar, so, without something else allowing you to do so, the condition "when choosing a familiar" never kicks in, and so the feat does nothing.

(I suppose, if you really wanted to twist the words of the rules to the point of ridiculousness, you could try to argue that you can still choose what familiar you want, even if you can't actually obtain it. But even if you did, it still wouldn't help you — no matter how firmly you make up your mind that you really, really want a pseudodragon for a familiar, you're still not actually getting one without Obtain Familiar, or a level in wizard / sorcerer.)

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