Directly pulling from this Q/A about who controls a summoned steed's familiar, I am wondering what the find familiar spell targets.

Does the find familiar spell target the caster, a point in space, the familiar, or something else I may have missed?


6 Answers 6


find familiar (probably) only targets a point in space

Under the Targets section it states:

A spell's description tells you whether the spell targets creatures, objects, or a point of origin for an area of effect...

Technically, one could argue that the quote implies only area of effect spells can target points of origin, and thus summoning spells such as spiritual weapon and find familiar perhaps do not have points of origin; however, the summoned thing fills the space in which it is summoned, and thus, I believe, is likely still an area of effect or at the very least, should be treated similarly.
For more evidence that these should count as areas of effect we can look at a spell like cloud of daggers which also fills only a 5-by-5 area but is considered to be an area of effect.
There is also this Q/A asking about whether bigby's hand can be twinned, the second answer there says that bigby's hand targets an unoccupied space and the answer currently has 18 upvotes and nobody disagreed with this idea so it seems quite well agreed upon that summoning/conjuring spells do indeed target spaces.

And under the Range section it states:

The target of a spell must be within the spell's range...

Looking at find familiar we see that it has a range of 10 feet, so the target must be within 10 feet; the spell goes on to say:

You gain the service of a familiar... Appearing in an unoccupied space within range...

While it does not explicitly say that the caster chooses which space it appears in, I have never seen it done another way. Regardless, find familiar at least targets the space they (the player or DM) choose, as this is the spell's point of origin (as argued for above)

We also see under the "Targeting Yourself" section that:

If a spell targets a creature of your choice, you can choose yourself...

find familiar does not target a creature of the caster's choice so this method will not let it target the caster.

And furthermore under the "Range" section we also see that:

Other spells, such as the shield spell, affect only you. These spells have a range of self.

find familiar does not have a range of self and so cannot target the caster using this method either.

This Q/A on what counts as a target for a spell finds that the definition is quite complicated and horribly undefined/ambiguous.
If we use the approach that anything affected by a spell is considered a target then find familiar potentially does target you because it affects you in some way; it grants you a familiar, which you control, and can even look through its senses.

The comments in This Q/A however, show that adopting this idea that "anything affected is considered a target" has some issues because what counts as being affected is still just as undefined and leads to lots of questions such as these:
"Do touch spells technically target the caster?" (You are "affected" as you have to touch something)
"Does levitate target the caster?" (you can move the creature affected by the spell so is that considered to be "affecting" you?)
"Does misty step target a point in space?" (You teleport into it and that arguably "affects" it)...

There isn't a good way to use the "if something is affected it is a target" method. This is likely a result of 5e being written in "plain English" yet we attempt to apply lawer-like rules strictness to it (I am not saying that is a bad thing, just a thing that is done by many, including myself).
If you did use this interpretation, then find familiar could technically be considered to be targeting the caster as, to some degree, it is affecting them, but I would say this is more up your GM than anybody else.


Nothing, or maybe yourself, or maybe a space within 10 feet, but probably nothing

Not all spells have targets. 'Target', for some reason, wasn't chosen as a term to be defined in the rules even though the rulebook likes to pretend it has some sort of unambiguous meaning. Because of this, we're supposed to pretend there's some 'normal' way of using the word and then do that. This is a serious problem for edge cases, but this isn't one of those so it's not really a problem. Find Familiar doesn't have any clear or obvious implicit targets besides maybe 'an unoccupied space within range', and that's a bit of a stretch, so it probably just doesn't target anything. 'Targetting' yourself is a weird and unnatural usage of the word if you couldn't target anything else-- 'targeting' invokes the idea of a choice being made among multiple possible options-- so it's probably not that.

But wait! Some abilities literally do nothing if there aren't any spells that can only target the caster! That clearly isn't intended. Those spells are clearly using 'target' the way it's used in Magic: The Gathering instead of normal English. With that meaning of targeting pretty much every spell that has a range of 'self' and several that don't-- possibly including Find Familiar count. D&D 5e isn't MTG and doesn't have the kind of parsimonious action resolution system that the latter employs, so it's really not very simple to decide what things each spell 'targets', if any, in such a system.

Now, even if we use targetting that way, Find Familiar has a range of 10', not self, and while it's not unreasonable to rule, in a vacuum, that it targets the caster, it's certainly not necessary-- it makes just as much sense to rule the Find Familiar has no targets. Given that allowing Find Familiar to count as targeting the caster results in a huge jump in power for the spell, it seems unlikely most GMs would rule that way.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You likely know this, but if we were to use the word "target" the way it's used in MtG, Find Familiar still doesn't target the caster (or anything else) because it doesn't denote them with the word "target". \$\endgroup\$
    – Mark Wells
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 13:49

Not You

The target doesn't have to be a creature:

A spell's description tells you whether the spell targets creatures, objects, or a point of origin for an area effect.

Find familiar doesn't target you at all. For instance no one would argue that fireball targets the finger of the caster despite reading:

A bright streak flashes from your pointing finger to a point you choose within range

We can all agree that it is the point in space that is the target. And [magic missile][4] isn't the caster despite beginning with the word "You". The target in this case is again, the people where the action happens:

You create three glowing darts of magical force.

Then What?

The spell find familiar reads similiar to magical missile and fireball in this regard. You do something, and something happens to or at a target. You have not changed, the world has by the addition of the new creature:

You gain the service of a familiar, a spirit that takes an animal form you choose: bat, cat, crab, frog (toad), hawk, lizard, octopus, owl, poisonous snake, fish (quipper), rat, raven, sea horse, spider, or weasel. Appearing in an unoccupied space within range...

Leaving either the summoned animal form of the familiar or the space it appears in as the target (or both). Both are where the action of the spell actually takes place.

Between the animal form is chosen, but it isn't in line of sight at the time of casting, so it likely isn't the form or spirit.

The space makes the most sense from a logical point of view. And the wording in that regard is similar to spells like fireball which has clearer targeting language.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It doesn't change your argument about the caster's finger not being a target, but in addition to targeting a point in space, the text of Fireball also describes any affected creature as a target (as was pointed out to me recently). It's kind of confusing. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 22:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer in it’s current form is wrong in that the fireball and other spells specifically mention how other creatures can be targeted. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 23:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fireball “each creature in a 20 foot radius sphere must make a dexterity saving throw. A target takes 8d6 fire damage...” \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 23:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AmethystWizard I never said that the fireball spell didn't say what it targeted, I was saying the first sentence mentions you, though you are not the target because of it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 26, 2019 at 4:05

"Target" is a sort of nebulous concept in 5e. Based on the extensive discussion about spell targeting that Jeremy Crawford (the Sage in Sage Advice and official WotC rules guy) gave in the January 19th, 2017 episode of the official DragonTalk podcast, any creature affected by a spell is its target.

Podcast time codes:

  • 5:20 - Beginning of the Sage Advice segment
  • 10:20 - What do we mean when we say "target"?

Since find familiar creates a creature (or at least creates a body for a conjured spirit) and then bonds it to you, it seems to me that the answer is either that you and the new familiar are both targets, or nothing is. Does a spell necessarily have to have a target at all?

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    \$\begingroup\$ A few examples of when it matters: find steed, War Caster, glyph of warding, and Twinned Spell all can only occur based on various restrictions on who/what some specific spell actually targets \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 20:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 To make it even more complicated, some of those abilities care about what the spell actually targets, while others care about what the spell is capable of targeting. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 20:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a decent answer, I upvoted it because of two logical points. It's reasonable to think if you are effected by a spell you could be the spells target. And the point, "does a spell have to have a target at all?" is hard to refute. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 0:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer has zero support to it. You begin by assertion about Crawford's historical comments but don't actually cite them. That and your next sentence need support. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 15:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll go copy-paste Crawford's comments from any of several of my other posts. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 20:57

Find Familiar probably targets all of the things you describe (the caster, the familiar, and the point the familiar appears).

First off, I guess we need to discuss what a target is again (see this previous question for a more extensive discussion).

According to 5e's lead rules designer (in a Sage Advice segment on this podcast, starting around 5:25 and going for quite a while), a target for a spell is not only the chosen targets (which are often well specified in the spell text), but also other creatures, objects and locations that are obviously effected by the spell's magic. For instance, the Fireball spell has you choose to target a point in space, but creatures and objects caught in the area of effect are also targets (it explicitly causes the creatures that get damaged targets in its text).

Even if the spell specifies one target explicitly, that doesn't mean that another creature affected by it is not also a target. For example, if you cast Ice Knife, you choose a creature as your primary target, but any other creature caught in the explosion of the knife is also a secondary target (both Fireball and Ice Knife are discussed in the podcast). More controversially, Jeremy Crawford has on twitter applied the same logic to Dragon's Breath which has both an immediate target you choose (one willing creature) and only later will gain secondary targets (the creatures breathed upon by the primary target). Note that his twitter posts are no longer official rulings, just guidance towards the Rules as Intended by the designers.

So now lets run down the potential targets of Find Familiar one by one.

The caster is affected by the spell in a few ways. While they're not explicitly mentioned as a target, they gain the ability to communicate telepathically with their familiar if it's within 100 feet. And they can use an action to use the familiar's senses (becoming blind and deaf through their own body for as long as they do so). Either of those should be enough to make them a secondary target of the spell. They also gain the services of the familiar, but I'm not sure that would be enough to be a target on its own (it's more a consequence of the effects on the familiar).

The spell also targets the familiar, which is a spirit that gets formed into the shape of an animal of the caster's choosing. Getting turned from an amorphous spirit into something animal-like seems like a pretty obvious magical effect to me. They're probably also a target of the sense sharing effects when the caster uses them. Finally, the familiar is bound to serve the caster of the spell until permanently dismissed (or reduced to 0 health).

The spell probably also targets a location for the familiar to appear. The wording of the spell is actually exceedingly ambiguous about whether the caster chooses the space or not. It just says "appearing in an unoccupied space within range", which suggests the location might be chosen by the familiar (i.e. the GM). But I suspect most players expect to choose the location, even when it's worded so vaguely.

A number of other spells are also incredibly vague about whether locations mentioned in their rules are targets if they're not specifically described such by the spell. For example, it's seldom clear if you need to target the destination of a teleportation spell. Surely not for Teleport and Dimension Door (which can both send you to places you can neither see nor have ever been before), but Misty Step requires you to see the destination, so it might have target-related limitations.

So I think the argument for the space being a target is perhaps the weakest one, but it probably is a target, just a confusingly described one. Actually, since you can temporarily dismiss your familiar and then "cause it to reappear in any unoccupied space within 30 feet of you", it's possible that Find Familiar can have an unlimited number of location targets, over time.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your entire answer seems to be based on the assumption that a target is anything affected by a spell. Can you support that with any rules? The problem is you can't (or at least nobody thus far has been able to come up with a convincing argument) because the rules don't specify that (hence the whole confusion behind this question). If you want to take this approach, you should support your premise somehow and consider all the problems it might cause. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 12:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll edit to add citations (primarily to the 2017 podcast where Jeremy Crawford discussed targeting rules). But I'm not sure I understand what problems you're referring to in the linked Q/A. Both answers say that you might not be able to use Twined Spell on Life Transference, which is indeed what my interpretation of what the targeting rules as intended would require, because it has multiple targets. There are other troublesome cases, like the destinations for Dimension Door and Teleport that I mention in my answer. What else is problematic? \$\endgroup\$
    – Blckknght
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 19:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ That JC quote certainly would be a good addition to this answer. I should have said "effects on other spells/mechanics". Part of the issue with using "targeted" to mean "affects" is that "affects" is also undefined and just opens the doors to more questions without really answering anything at all. This is part of the reason why I and others think that this ruling from JC is one of his poorest. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 19:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ OK, thanks for some clarification. I've updated my post with some links (both to Jeremy Crawford's statements directly, and to previous Q/As on here), and generally described what I perceive to be the RAI (that being subject to obvious magical effects make something a target of a spell). Let me know if there's anything more I can improve! \$\endgroup\$
    – Blckknght
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 19:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also important to note that JC statements outside of the officially published Sage Advice are not official rulings. THey can help provide his intent, but that's about it. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 15:35

The spell Find Familiar targets the caster.

In the targets section of the Players Handbook it states:

A spells description tells you whether the spell targets creatures, objects, or a point of origin for an area effect. (PHB, pg 204)

With the spell Find Familiar, it’s description clearly denotes that “you” are the target:

You gain the service of a familiar, a spirit that takes an animal form you choose: bat, cat, crab, frog (toad), hawk, lizard, octopus, owl, poisonous snake, fish (quipper), rat, raven, sea horse, spider, or weasel. (PHB, pg 240)

There are several key points that make for a convincing argument.

  1. The spell effect can’t apply to any other creature but the caster, unlike other spells.
  2. The spells description, specifically states: “You gain the service of a familiar.” And the only relevant part of the targeting rules is that “a spells description tells you whether the spell targets creatures, objects, or a point of origin for an area effect.”

There is no more required for this interpretation to be correct, however for those unconvinced I will go on to explain why the other explanations are not sufficient.

The questioner asks if the spell can target the familiar. No the spell cannot target the familiar because the familiar doesn’t yet exist. But for sake of argument, lets pretend there is at all times an invisible celestial, fiend or fey spirit following you around waiting for you to cast the spell, the following rules would disqualify that creature from being a target.

  1. The target of a spell has to be in the spells range. (PHB, pg 202)

  2. A clear path to the target. To target something you must have a clear path to it, so it cant be behind total cover. (PHB, pg 204)

You can’t target an invisible celestial, fiend or fey creature because the rules forbid it.

Next, a person may mistakenly believe the target for Find Familiar could be a point of origin. However, the rules clearly state that targets with a point of origin must have an area of affect.

A spells description tells you whether the spell targets creatures, objects, or a point of origin for an area effect. (PHB, pg 204)

There is nothing in the spells description to indicate that the Find Familiar spell is an area of effect spell, no radius or diameter or shape is described in the spell to instruct that type of interpretation.

There is another simple test to determine if the caster is the target, does the spell effect the caster? Yes it does, the caster gains telepathy with the familiar in addition to service of the familiar.

The text could have otherwise read, if it were intended, unambiguously:

“You summon a celectial, fiend or fey creature.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is actually a quite good argument and I ran into the area of effect / point of origin problem as well in my answer. I just don't think it's "clear" that it targets the caster (as the answers here show, defining what counts as a "target" is pretty much a mess). Though, if every spell has to have a target and find familiar can't target a point in space (point of origin) because it's not an area of effect then I would agree that the caster must be the target. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 4:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ There are a number of spells that target a point in space but do not produce an area of effect. Dimension Door is one such spell. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 15:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that if you are arguing that Find Familiar targets only the caster, the same argument could be made for almost every conjuration spell that summons creatures. This would mean that any character riding a mount summoned by Find Steed would get to double-cast any of those spells, which is almost certainly not an intended interaction. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 15:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ I am not concerned as to the consequences, just the correct reading of the rules. But subjectively I think it would be fun to play a Paladin riding an intelligent pony who has it’s own familiar, seems pretty cool. Also makes sense, since the pony may already be a fey spirit, it could have fey spirit friends. I’d have to look at the other spells independently, I recommend asking regarding those so we can formulate answers in the specific. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 16:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ I can see how this argument has some merit, but I do not see it as unambiguous. The sentence "You gain the service of a familiar..." has the same linguistic structure as the first sentence of Magic Missile "You create three glowing darts of magical force" (bold added for emphasis). If we accept that the rest of the spell's description is irrelevant in the case of Find Familiar, it seems like we'd also have to rule that Magic Missile is a spell that targets only the caster. In both cases, it feels like we're jumping to conclusions. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 14:48

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