This question is directly related to two other questions:

  1. Do familiars or animal companions earn or share XP with the party?

  2. How is a variant familiar imp and pseudodragon (in the Monster Manual only) different from the summoned familiar.

    The question is based on the premise that, unlike the tweet referred to from Mr Crawford in answer two, the DM permits the unusual case of the variant familiar imp or pseudodragon, an situation that has informed numerous questions and answers on this SE regarding the use of that variant familiar by PCs.

    This is not a dupe of the summoned creatures question, since these two familiars cannot be summoned by a spell, and that question is about creatures summoned by a spell. That is why I asked this question: it is an edge case, an unusual case.


The imp, quasit, and pseudodragon variant familiar as described in the Monster Manual are treated as NPCs. Because NPCs who aid a party during an encounter get a share of XP (DMG, p. 260) it would seem that those unique familiars would be expected to earn/share XP with the party whenever (1) XP is awarded and (2) they were present and participating in the event. Other familiars, being not NPC's, but instead the results of a summoning spell, would not.

On the other hand, the variant familiars are not described as having class levels, nor levels of experience, so it's unclear why they would have or earn XP.

The variant familiar information in the Monster Manual for quasit, imp, and pseudodragon are on MM pages p. 63, 76, and 254.

Question restated

Does the party have to share XP with an imp, quasit, or pseudodragon variant familiar who is serving one of the party members as a familiar? While I suspect that the answer is no, I am open to understanding why the answer would be yes.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Regarding the question this is declared not a dupe; that question is also for Pathfinder 1e and not D&D 5e, so decidedly not a dupe. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 17:53

6 Answers 6



As noted in the linked question, Crawford clarified that the Variant Familiar was to be used for NPC spellcasters and not for PCs.

If a DM at your table has allowed the use of them for PCs, then they simply expand the options of familiars for the PCs and fall under the standard rules around XP and familiars.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 17:54

Rather than give a rules-based answer, I will instead rely my experience with this.

I allowed a player of mine an Imp variant familiar, since it made narrative sense at the time that this particular Imp would follow this particular PC. The party was level 5 at the time (or thereabouts) and I did not include the Imp in the XP dividing and personally I nor the other players found that this was an issue.

However, regarding splitting XP with friendly NPCs who help out during combat, certainly if we assume they are permanent members of the party (or at least are present for a sizable chunk like a whole dungeon or something), then the relative power of the NPC compared to the PC is important in this.

For example, if a Balor was helping the party out for whatever reason, I'd say that the XP being split for a level 5 party would be significantly different to a friendly Owl helping out the party. To some degree, I think that it depends on how much the friendly NPC is contributing to the party's effectiveness in battle.

An Imp or Pseudodragon are quite weak, so unless you have a very low level party, they are probably beyond considering when diving XP. It might be that only if you find that you need to challenge the party more due to the NPC's presence is it worth considering taking a small part of that XP away for the NPC. If the imp is barely making a difference to the overall challenge of the combat (i.e. how effectively the party deal with the combat with vs. without the NPC), then I'd say it's not worth doing (and from a meta-game perspective, may disincentivise the players from wanting the help).

  • \$\begingroup\$ An imp companion gives its master magic resistance. That is not weak. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 22:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GreenstoneWalker Fair point. However, my main point is that it should depend on how much the Imp's involvement makes combat easier, so if the enemies were all mundane monsters where magical resistance wasn't relevant, or if the party were high enough level that combat would be resolved almost as easily with or without that resistance, then I'd say divide XP excluding the Imp. If, on the other hand, the Imp's involvement is making combat easier, then maybe XP does need to be divided with the Imp after all... \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 22:14

If the help came from an NPC then the NPC takes a share of XP

Any NPC that accompanies the adventurers acts as a party member and earns a full share of experience points.

DMG chapter 4, NPC Party Members.

If the party received substantial assistance from one or more NPCs, count those NPCs as party members when dividing up the XP.

DMG, chapter 8, Experience Points.

Negotiating a contract with an imp is no different from negotiating a contract with a spear carrier or a caravan guard. After all, any class or race or background can negotiate a contract with an imp or quasit or sprite.

The NPC joins the party, helps out during encounters, shares in the risk, and gains a share of the XP for doing so (and maybe also a share of the loot, depending on the contract).

Note that NPCs can be controlled by either the DM or a player.

Such NPCs are controlled by you, or you can transfer control to the players.

DMG chapter 4, NPC Party Members.

Class features are different

If the help came from a character's feature (class, race, background, other) then the helper does not share XP.

This seems obvious to me (you don't split XP with a fireball or a sword strike, so why would you do so with a conjured elemental) but I can't actually find a rule for this.

What about Warlocks?

The Monster Manual rules for variant familiars are unrelated to the find familiar spell. In particular, those rules do not apply to Pact of the Chain Warlocks. See Sage Advice Do chain pact warlocks get the familiars magic resistance?.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I've heard multiple people say that allies acquired from class features don't count toward XP. Is there a source for this rule, or is it just a common-sense ruling? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 22:49


As per my answer to Do familiars and animal companions earn XP?, only two categories of creatures share in the party's XP: adventurers, who are defined as characters with class levels, and NPCs, characters or creatures controlled by the DM. This is clearly defined in the Dungeon Master's Guide, p.260:

When adventurers defeat one or more monsters—typically by killing, routing or capturing them—they divide the total XP value of the monsters evenly among themselves. If the party received substantial assistance from one or more NPCs, count those NPCs as party members when dividing up the XP.

Since imps and pseudodragons do not have class levels, they do not gain XP unless the DM controls them. If the player controls them, they do not take XP.

Additionally, the only way in the Player's Handbook to acquire an imp or pseudodragon familiar is to be a Pact of the Chain warlock, who learns find familiar with the special ability to acquire a creature such as an imp or pseudodragon. That spell specifically states that the familiar is under the player's control (PHB 240):

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

Should the DM grant a wizard the unique ability to acquire such a familiar with find familiar, the wizard would also control their familiar, and it would not qualify to take XP.

There is one counter-example: If the DM somehow grants a character the unique ability to acquire such a familiar without using find familiar, then it's up to the DM whether or not the player controls them. In that case, the DM could control the familiar as an NPC, and in that case they would take a share of experience. However, considering that all standard rules for familiars have them under the player's control, this "NPC familiar" would be a unique case and is not covered by any rules in the core rulebooks.


Award the XP as you would for summoned creatures.

There are only two ways to gain the service of a variant familiar in the core rules.

  1. By casting the find familiar spell as part of the general "Variant: Familiar" rule (Monster Manual p. 347). Since the PHB says "[s]pells and class features allow characters to... summon creatures to serve as familiars" (Appendix D) then such a familiar must count as summoned. In this case, it should be treated as you would any other summoned creature.

  2. By contracting with one. This option is offered in the specific "Variant: [Type] Familiar" rules for the imp, pseudodragon, and quasit entries (Monster Manual p. 76, 254, and 63 respectively). In this case, there's ample reason to treat them the same as in case 1:

    a. Their stat blocks are identical to their summoned cousins.

    b. The Magic Resistance they confer on the master effectively changes an encounter's challenge about as much as equipping the master with a shield (DMG p. 281).

    c. They aren't nearly as powerful as creatures summoned with a conjure [type] spell, and the consensus is that those sorts of creatures don't affect encounter challenge.

    d. The three creatures mentioned happen to be four of the options listed for case 1, implying a sort of balanced interchangeability of the two cases.

So, just follow the rules/rulings you would use for a summoned creature, according to the related questions you linked to. In either case, the variant familiar has little affect on encounter challenge.


As a familiar gained through a spell or class ability, no! You can, in a sense, give them magic gear, maybe benefit from spells or other abilities, but they do not gain XP or level up in anyway.

If the NPC is with party members long-term, then rewards should account for his efforts. Typically, an NPC is part of the story arc, which could involve saving your butt or other important assists.

Any NPC that accompanies the adventurers acts as a party member and earns a full share of experience points. When determining the difficulty of a combat encounter (see chapter 3), make sure to include all NPC party members. (DMG, p. 92)

As far as monsters gaining levels with no class, you can certainly improve them. DMG pg. 274, has a chart that can help adjust an NPC without class levels. More hp, proficiency, skill bonus, and saving throws all can be improved.

  • \$\begingroup\$ "As a familiar gained through a spell or class ability, no!" - The question very explicitly says it's talking about "variant familiars" (i.e. actual imps/pseudodragons that choose to work for a spellcaster, generally by making some sort of contract with them) - not the "spirit that takes a form you choose" summoned by the find familiar spell. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Oct 13, 2018 at 2:02

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