There's no stipulation in the Find Familiar spell that states your familiar disappears when your character dies, or is knocked out. There's also this small statement within the spell about what a familiar does of its own volition:

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

What dictates what these actions are? Based off the other thread, it seems that because the familiar is of the spirit, it therefore can understand your intentions perfectly.

If that's the case, I have 3 questions based off this particular set of circumstances:

  1. Does Familiar telepathy work when unconscious? If so;

  2. Can I direct my familiar to take certain actions while being unconscious? If so;

  3. Can I have my familiar cast a touch spell like Spare the Dying cantrip while unconscious?


The unconscious condition says:

An unconscious creature is incapacitated, can't move or speak, and is unaware of its surroundings.

and incapacitated says:

An incapacitated creature can't take actions or reactions.


  1. No, the unconscious wizard can't speak or communicate because they are unconscious. They are literally passed out, unaware of anything and unable to do things. The telepathic bond is still there but one end of the line is dead.
  2. No, the wizard is unable to communicate. You cannot instruct a familiar to take certain actions without communicating with it.
  3. No, the wizard casts the spell, the familiar only delivers it.

    When you cast a spell with a range of touch, your familiar can deliver the spell as if it had cast the spell.

    (emphasis mine)

    Since the wizard is incapacitated, they cannot cast spells. Since they cannot cast spells, the familiar cannot deliver them.

The wizard being unconscious does not affect anything the familiar could already do on its own as it is perfectly capable of independent action. That means that a wizard could have arranged for the familiar to follow actions in the case of the wizard getting knocked out.

What actions they are capable of taking is going to depend on the situation, the statistics (especially Intelligence score which is usually between 2 and 4), and the physical characteristics of the familiar. Your DM will have to work with you to decide what a familiar can do and what it actually does. For more discussion on this see What can a familiar actually do?.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This was touched on in Pacattack's answer, but as the familiar can act independently, you could also arrange in advance for what the familiar should do if you fall in combat. This could be indicating to it which potion is the health potion or providing it with a ring of spell storing with the "spare the Dying" spell stored in it to use (though attuning might present a problem for some familiars). In any case, it is up to the GM if the creature is smart enough to be trained to, or is physically able to, perform the specified actions. \$\endgroup\$ – cpcodes May 15 '18 at 20:40

See @rubiksmoose's answer (I would just comment but I don't have the privilege yet)

2: You can not direct the familiar to cast take actions, but find familiar also states the familiar acts independently of you, although it will always follow your orders. This being said...

If you have something that can be used to bring your wizard back up (like say a healing potion) then there should be almost no argument in 'can my familiar grab and feed me my healing potion' assuming your familiar is smart enough to know what a healing potion is. Otherwise 'trying to get help' because it doesn't know what to do in the situation is probably also something your familiar could almost certainly do while the wizard is unconscious (or just trying a 'healing' check to just stabilize you).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your last paragraph is off. Check What creatures can cast spells from spell scrolls? - The familiar being able to read is not enough for it to cast a spell from a scroll. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint May 15 '18 at 20:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd like to add that most familiars summoned by the spell have a negative Intelligence modifier, with a score between 2-4. (The exceptions to this are the additional options given to Pact of the Chain Warlocks: imp, pseudodragon, or sprite.) It seems highly unlikely that an owl, for instance, would be able to understand you trying to teach it what a healing potion is or how to feed it to you - not to mention the complexity of such a familiar holding and opening the potion before feeding it to you. It could certainly help in more straightforward ways that a typical animal might. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 15 '18 at 22:51

Rubiksmoose tells you what the familiar cannot do and Pacattack tells you what the familiar can do (except for using scrolls).

However, the big question is what the familiar will do.

The familiar is an independent entity. So, it should be able to take most actions that it is physically and mentally capable of and that it wants to do.

If it doesn't have hands, good luck getting a potion bottle out of your pack and feeding it to you. If you can convince you GM how the familiar accomplishes it, great.

As far has a Healing check, figure out if the familiar can actually do something. A familiar with a large enough beak or mouth may be able to remove an arrow. A dog may "lick the wounds" to some dubious benefit. If you can sell it to the GM, great.

It can use any magic device that it can manipulate and that doesn't require something that the familiar doesn't posses (like spell casting capability).

The fallback could just be: go get help.

Now as far as wanting to help, that is another question. The rules state that the familiar must obey commands. However, the spell caster is now unconscious and cannot give commands. So, how does the spell caster treat the familiar? What is the familiar's personality? In general, a dog would be loyal in most circumstances. An avian might take a wait and see attitude: "if he's strong, he'll get back up and be worth continuing to follow." A cat would be a bit random: "he didn't give me snacks this morning so no help from me. That's teach him!"

So, as long as the familiar can physically help and and wants to help, the familiar will aid the spell caster.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "The familiar is an independent entity and is generally smarter than the base animal it comes from." - Citation needed. Per the spell, "the familiar has the statistics of the chosen form", and that includes its Intelligence and Wisdom scores. The creature does always obey your commands when possible, but it's limited by the abilities - and intelligence/wisdom - of its form. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 15 '18 at 22:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast, Oops. Got versions mixed up. Edited. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadoCat May 16 '18 at 19:33

I would have to agree that the familiar is a free agent, but as it is bound to 'always follow your command' why not give your familiar an 'enduring command'?

Example: You summon a purple dragon wyrmling as your familiar and in your downtime, you train that familiar to cut the tongue of leather holding healing potion you have hanging from your belt and to 'grasp' it with its tail, remove the stopper and pour it into your throat...after painstaking training (duration of training to be determined) it is proficient at performing the action 90% of the time with a 40% efficiency (it can do it almost every time, but how much of the potion makes it in is questionable). Now that it is trained you give the command: 'If I am knocked out pour this potion into my mouth.' Now you have given a command which must be obeyed and you have ensured (at least to some degree) it will be successful.

These types of 'flavor' are definitely up to the rule of the DM, but they are definitely rewarding for those players that are ingenuitive and persistent.

Experience: In one of my games a player decided to try this with a monkey, but unfortunately for him the monkey didn't have a very high intelligence score (this is why I suggested the Wyrmling) and in the end without the direct presence of the master the monkey ended up drinking the potion itself - despite the training...it probably didn't help that when the monkey rolled it's intelligence check it was a critical fail...gotta love the unpredictable nature of the dice!

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.se. Note that we are not a discussion forum, hence if you are going to propose a house-ruling (which seems to be the case in your second paragraph, mainly on the efficiency and how often the familiar can do it) you should back it up with your own experience using that house rule. Also thanks for taking the tour :) \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint May 15 '18 at 22:02

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