Find Familiar

PHB p.240:

(...) In combat, it rolls its own initiative and acts on its own turn. A familiar can't attack, but it can take other actions as normal. (...)

(...) Finally, when you cast a spell with a range of touch, your familiar can deliver the spell as if it had cast the spell. Your familiar must be within 100 feet of you, and it must use its reaction to deliver the spell when you cast it. (...)

I highlighted (what I interpret as) the prerequisites for casting spells through a familiar.


My wizard has a familiar and the cantrip Shocking Grasp, which has a melee spell attack. In our first game, my DM ruled that on the familiar's turn my wizard could cast Shocking Grasp through the familiar, using its reaction. Allowing it to move in swiftly when needed and (possibly) deliver a "shocking bite".

After reading this answer I realise that the casting of the spell needs to happen in the wizard's turn, not the familiar's. This makes me wonder whether the familiar could hold its reaction when the wizard casts the spell, so that on the familiar's turn it can move into melee before releasing the spell.

Could "entering melee range with target X" be a trigger for a familiar's reaction?

Or does the familiar already need to be in melee range before its spellcaster commands it to cast a melee spell?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Removed the detail of the familiar being a pseudodragon. Since the DM simply added this form to the list of options, it behaves as any other familiar. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vadruk
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 6:43

3 Answers 3


A wizard can't use a pseudodragon familiar to cast spells. The pseudodragon isn't a valid option for the Find Familiar spell for a wizard, so the only way a wizard can have a pseudodragon familiar is to meet a wild one and convince it to become a familiar. If this is done, then the Find Familiar spell is not involved and does not apply, nor do any of the abilities it grants.

In the case of a familiar summoned by the Find Familiar spell, the familiar would need to take its reaction immediately, thus requiring the familiar to already be in range. To get around this, the spellcaster could ready an action to cast the spell as soon as the familiar is within range of the target, thus using the spellcaster's and familiar's reactions at the same time on the familiar's turn.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 12:25

RAW the familiar could hold it's action, but that would not help. A held action requires a reaction to complete, and a reaction is required to cast the spell as written. One reaction per turn. There is no provision in the rules for holding a reaction.

As I read it, the familiar must get into place to cast the spell before the PC's turn and then the PC can cast using the familiar's reaction during the PC's turn (this seems intentional, to put the familiar in harm's way to do so). So no owl sitting perched in a tree and swooping in at the last minute to cast shocking grasp and then leaving with no recourse.


The problem arises from a misunderstanding of the various types of actions available to you during your turn in 5e. During your turn, you get:

Movement - During your turn, you can move up to your speed (30 feet, unless your race, wearing heavy armor, or some other feature modifies it). This can be broken up into several segments if you desire, such as moving before and after attacks.

One Standard Action - the "thing" you do during the turn. PHB p.192 details the normal actions you can take, such as Dash (make an extra move), Attack (perform some sort of attack; although it's a single action, this might involve multiple strikes, depending on your abilities), Cast a Spell, and so on.

Up to One Bonus Action - IF you have an ability that grants you a bonus action opportunity, like the Rogue's 2nd level "Cunning Action" feature, you can take a bonus action on your turn to perform one action that you have access to. Even if you have multiple abilities that grant bonus actions, you can only take a single Bonus action per turn.

Up to One Reaction - the Reaction is a special action that is initiated only when triggered by the actions of another character or situation. Most commonly this is the Opportunity Attack, taken when another character drops their guard to move away from you. Like the Bonus action, you only get a single reaction, and if you use it for some reason, you don't get another until the start of your next turn.

Other Action(s) - generally, simple actions that takes almost no effort. As part of your movement and action, you can make simple interactions with objects around you. See the table on PHB p.190 for some examples.

Having cleared these up, this is the procedure for making a "Touch" Attack with your Familiar.

(I will use Wizard here because that's the class I think of first, however it is interchangeable with any other class that obtains a familiar.)

First: The Prerequisites. The Wizard must have an action ready, either by it being their turn, or having prepared an action to trigger when the familiar approaches the target.

The Familiar must have a Reaction ready, by not having used one since the start of their latest turn.

The Familiar must be within 100' of the Wizard, and within range to make a touch attack against the target (typically 5'/the adjacent square).

If all that works out...

On the wizard's turn, they cast the spell. The Wizard's active turn is put "on pause" here.

(Still) On the wizard's turn, their familiar uses their "reaction" to make the attack. This is essentially an unusual type of "opportunity attack". Note that the familiar does not get a full turn. This means no move, no bonus actions, no standard actions, etc... Only the spell-based attack.

If necessary, make an attack roll as per normal with the spell (using the wizard's stats).

Resolve the spell as normal, as per the wizard casting it, ie; failed attacks miss, roll saving throws, damage, etc.

The familiar's reaction is now done. It has used its reaction, and will not get another until the start of its next turn.

Play returns to the wizard, who can now continue with any further actions they choose to take.

Regarding the form of the familiar, it is "a spirit that takes an animal form you choose: [list]."

In previous editions of D&D, there were many options to get a more powerful familiar. The words "form you choose" seem to leave plenty of room for other familiar forms, and as long as those options are made available to any caster who obtains a familiar, I can't see it as being a significant balance issue.

"Just remember, anything that you guys can do, my npc's can try as well." - a DM's motto for balancing player power.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 12:26

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