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There are many ways to create new creatures in D&D 5e, one of which is animate objects which gives the player full control of the creatures when he/she uses a bonus action:

As a bonus action, you can mentally command any creature you made with this spell... You decide what action the creature will take and where it will move during its next turn, or you can issue a general command, such as to guard a particular chamber or corridor.

There seems to be no such language for Find Familiar which instead says:

Your familiar acts independently of you, but it always obeys your commands.

Does this mean that the familiar is considered an NPC and is therefore under the control of the DM or is it under the player's control from some rule I missed?

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Yes ... and No

A familiar is not a player character, ergo it is a nonplayer character controlled by the DM.

Therefore the DM decides what it should do subject to the proviso that "it always obeys your commands." How well it understands those commands and how it chooses to obey them are decisions it (i.e. the DM) makes based on the clarity of the commands and the intelligence (in the broadest sense) of the familiar.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If a character is not a player character, then it is a nonplayer character. It is a well-formed dichotomy. \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Mar 8 '18 at 3:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ I feel that this is the correct interpretation - as in, far more interesting. \$\endgroup\$ – simon.watts Oct 12 '18 at 17:00
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If the familiar always obeys the caster's commands, then in practice the familiar is controlled by the player (if not the player character). The only distinction is when the caster is unconscious or dead; the spell doesn't specify that anything in particular happens if this occurs, but it'd be reasonable to assume that the DM takes control of its behavior in that case since it's an independent creature. Also, from the description of Find Familiar:

While your familiar is within 100 feet of you, you can communicate with it telepathically.

So if the player character is more than 100 feet away and thus unable to command their familiar directly, the DM could take control of the familiar. It'd still obey its previous commands to the best of its ability if it was out of that range, but since the character couldn't command it actively, it'd be reasonable for the DM to control it (as long as they didn't have it disobey the caster's commands).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Or when the familiar cannot hear the commands such as if you send it on a mission at great distance. Then it should act by the DM, no? It seems that the best ruling is DM control. \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Mar 8 '18 at 2:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron: Yes, I was about to edit the answer to include that as well. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 8 '18 at 2:25
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NPC PARTY MEMBERS

NPCs might join the adventuring party because they want a share of the loot and are willing to accept an equal share of the risk, or they might follow the adventurers because of a bond of loyalty, gratitude, or love. Such NPCs are controlled by you, or you can transfer control to the players. Even if a player controls an NPC, it's up to you to make sure the NPC i portrayed as a character in his or her own right, not just as a servant that the players can manipulate for their own benefit. (DMG pg. 92)

So an NPC isn’t strictly controlled by the DM. Up to 100 ft., you should be able to control it out right via telepathic communication. Beyond this range and reasonable limit, one would assume verbal commands on your turn would work and either DM or you control it. Any condition the causes you not to speak or communicate, it surely would be controlled by the DM and act accordingly to its natural instincts.

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    \$\begingroup\$ A familiar is literally "a servant that the players can manipulate for their own benefit". Find Familiar specifically states that it cannot disobey it's creator. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Oct 12 '18 at 13:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ It doesn’t state “mindless obiedient servant” .. not giving it a command to follow isn’t disobeying! It has a level of int, capable of instincts . or is even weaker than actual form.And the OP referenced NPC, I don’t know why I got - for this. RAW state NPC can be under PC control! \$\endgroup\$ – XAQT78 Oct 12 '18 at 15:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ It is likely that you are being downvoted because the quote that you provided directly contradicts the workings of Find Familiar. The quote does not support your conclusion. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Oct 12 '18 at 20:15

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