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The Find Familiar and Find Steed spells both have this sentence describing the creature type of the summoned creature:

The [familiar/steed] has the statistics of the chosen form, though it is a celestial, fey, or fiend (your choice) instead of its normal type. (PHB 240)

I'm wondering what implication choosing celestial vs fey vs fiend for the summoned creature would have. I have three things I'm specifically interested in listed below.

  1. Is a familiar visible distinguishable as the type of spirit? For example:
    • A wizard with an allergy to cats conjures a hypoallergenic fey cat sprouting soft grass instead of fur
    • A tiefling paladin conjures a fiend warhorse steed to have a coat colour resembling a Nightmare
  2. Does the type have any effect on the familiar's alignment? For example:
    • Inheriting the alignment from the creature's stat block (unaligned in most cases) seems like the most direct option but would a celestial imp still be considered lawful evil?
    • If you command your fiend cat to sit on someone it may choose to painfully knead them whereas a celestial may be more relaxed and cuddly.
  3. Does changing a familiar to a new form allow it to change the type of spirit?

    If you cast this spell while you already have a familiar, you instead cause it to adopt a new form. Choose one of the forms from the above list. Your familiar transforms into the chosen creature.

    Adopting a new form sounds like it remains the same kind of entity. Does this mean to change the familiar from fiend to fey would require summoning a new spirit and therefore be treated like a new NPC?

These are grey areas in the rules, I am looking for official guidelines or other credible sources that can help me make an informed decision on how to rules these as a DM.

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The implications are minor, but not totally zero. To address your specific questions:

  1. The type of spirit does not cause any visible differences, unless the player or the DM want it to. That would be a flavor/reskinning call, not a rules or mechanics call. Note that the spirit type and the shape taken are not linked or restricted in any way. A stark example is if you are a Pact of the Chain Warlock, you familiar can take the shape of an Imp, Quasit, Sprite, or Pseudodragon, and this is given no limitation as to the type of spirit. So you could have a Celestial Quasit.

  2. The type may have an effect on the spirit's alignment, but again, that's up to the player and the DM. Again, that would be a flavor/reskinning call, not a rules or mechanics call. It obeys your wishes and commands regardless. It would be up to him to decide if his Celestial Quasit is mannerly, polite, and never uses profanity.

  3. Yes, the default is that the character gets the same spirit back, just in a new shape. The caster does have the ability to dismiss a familiar forever, so presumably if he does so, casting it again will get him a different spirit, and could choose a different type. Again, flavor/reskinning issues, up to the player and the DM. Certainly, if the DM allows him to change the spirit, getting one of a different type would mean a new spirit, and thus a new NPC, with no memories of what the last one experienced.

The main actual effects, as far as the rules go, are that the type of the creature is celestial, fey, or fiend, (and not beast), and this may affect what spells it is affected by (e.g. immune to Animal Friendship, but may be subject to Magic Circle. Also, depending on its type, a Paladin's Divine Sense may detect it, and that could tell them something about the character (or at least who he associates with).

The point of it being a spirit, from a mechanics standpoint, is mostly to explain where it comes from, why it is obedient and maybe more intelligent than normal, and to provide a mechanism for summoning, re-summoning, and dismissal.


How much control the character has over the form of the familiar is, again, up to the player and DM. If I, Gimble the Great, decide I want an owl, is that all I can specify, and the spirit decides if it will be a 4-ounce burrowing owl, or a 5-pound snowy owl, and all the details of its appearance? Or could I specify the species of owl, but it gets to decide the coloration? Or do I get to pick all the details myself?

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