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In a game I am about to play, there is a Bard who wants a pet owl. Can I as a warlock cast the find familiar spell on her behalf? I realize it is not a warlock spell, but if I take the Pact of the Tome I can also take the Book of Ancient Secrets eldritch invocation.

If I can cast it on behalf of someone else, can I still use it on myself to create a separate familiar? Or is that off the table as soon as I cast it?

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There is no mechanic to "cast a spell on someone else's behalf". As the spellcaster, "you gain the service of a familiar", not someone else.

However, if your Bard can get their hands on a Ring of Spell Storing, you'd be able to help them out.

While wearing this ring, you can cast any spell stored in it. The spell uses the slot level, spell save DC, spell attack bonus, and spellcasting ability of the original caster, but is otherwise treated as if you cast the spell.

So you cast Find Familiar into the ring, and the Bard gets to cast it and have a familiar of their very own. There is nothing stopping you from also casting it yourself to get your own familiar.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Clever! I like it. \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Dec 14 '17 at 1:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @keithcurtis I can't take any credit for it - this trick has been floating around the community for a long time now. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Dec 14 '17 at 1:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ As long as my players don't discover it, or I'll be hip deep in Advantage-granters. \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Dec 14 '17 at 3:13
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You gain the service of a familiar, a spirit that takes an animal form you choose:...

and

You can't have more than one familiar at a time.

The spell specifies "You", not "the player next to you" or "A person of your choosing". You get a familiar, and you cannot (outside of other magical influence) transfer that benefit to anyone else.

To answer the second question, no, even if you could cast the spell for someone else, all you could do is change the shape of the other person's familiar. You could not create one for yourself later. Otherwise there would be a huge market of creating celestial pokemon for everyone to go adventuring with.

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