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Per the rules of Find Familiar, familiars can deliver touch spells on behalf of their owner:

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. If the spell requires an attack roll, you use your attack modifier for the roll.

But what if the familiar's owner had previously also cast Hex on the target?

The description for Hex states:

Until the spell ends, you deal an extra 1d6 necrotic damage to the target whenever you hit it with an attack.

Would the touch spell delivered through the familiar also include Hex damage?

While Hex state it happens with "you hit it with an attack", the "hit it" is the familiar delivering the touch spell attack. But by the same token, Find Familiar says that "If the spell requires an attack roll, you use your attack modifier for the roll." So the "hit it" is based on the caster's abilities, not the familiar's.

So when a familiar does the dirty work, who exactly is "hitting it" and can it include Hex damage?

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The familiar doesn't cast the spell, hex damage is applied

The rules for Find Familiar state:

Finally, when you cast a spell with a range of touch, your familiar can deliver the spell as if it had cast the spell [emphases mine]

Who has cast the spell? 'You' have - this is stated explicitly and the spell uses your attack modifier, not your familiar's. Your familiar has delivered the spell 'as if it had cast it' but it has not actually cast it - 'you' have.

The rules for Hex state:

you deal an extra 1d6 necrotic damage to the target whenever you hit it with an attack

So in this case, you can deal hex damage as it was you that cast the spell, as your attack.

Your familiar delivering the spell 'as if it had cast' it simply means you can use your familiar's location rather than your own when determining range.

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It is your attack, so hex damage is applied

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

The familiar isn't attacking the creature, you are, the only thing that is changed is that the familiar is functioning as an intermediary, allowing you to use touch attacks from a distance. This description is there to indicate that instead of the usual range for touch spells, you can use your familiars position to deliver the spell, as if they had cast the spell, but they didn't actually cast the spell, you did, it's your attack.

The fact that you are using your own spell attack modifiers is another indicator that it is, in fact, you hitting the enemy and not your familiar, who is merely there to provide a way for your touch attacks to extend that far.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ How did you decide that "as if it had cast the spell" only refers to position? If you think this passage is supposed to only refer to the position, then why the passage "If the spell requires an attack roll, you use your attack modifier for the roll."? This passage is only makes sense if "as if it had cast the spell" is unbounded. \$\endgroup\$ – gszavae Dec 17 '19 at 3:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @jgn: The wording about using your attack roll is necessary because they chose to describe the delivery mechanism the way they did, not just in terms of range. Without that, using the familiar's attack roll modifier would become a possible interpretation of that phrasing, even if "unbounded" is not what the designers intended. I don't think that part of your argument against this interpretation holds up. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Dec 17 '19 at 3:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes "as if it had cast" means "as if it had cast". Even if you assume that it is talking only about range then there is no reason to think you would be using the familiar's attack roll. If your RAI makes the rules make less sense, then that is a good sign that the RAI is wrong. \$\endgroup\$ – gszavae Dec 17 '19 at 3:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ In normal English "as if" means "you didn't do it, but it's like you did it". It only references the part about delivering the spell. They can walk somewhere and go 'boop, you're it', even though they aren't casting the spell, but they can deliver it as if they were. It's still the attack of the caster. \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Dec 17 '19 at 7:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Theik "delivering" a spell is not a mechanic, it is describing what the familiar is doing. The familiar is delivering the spell, and mechanically this is "as if they had cast the spell". \$\endgroup\$ – gszavae Dec 18 '19 at 4:02
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It is as if the familiar casts the spell, no hex damage is applied

The rules for Find Familiar state:

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

Yes, it uses your modifier, but the familiar is the one making the attack.

Since Hex requires "you [to] hit it with an attack", then since it is "as if [your familiar] had cast the spell", you will not get the Hex damage bonus.

Wait, isn't the text of Find Familiar talking about just the range?

No. There is no statement saying that it is "as if it had cast the spell [with regards to range]". You should understand the rules as they are written.

It even goes on to say that even though it is "as if" the familiar cast the spell, you use your attack roll instead of the familiar:

If the spell requires an attack roll, you use your attack modifier for the roll.

This would be a bizarre and redundant statement to make if only the range of the spell was being discussed.

But wait wait, the familiar is only delivering the spell!

"Delivering a spell" is not a mechanic, this passage is describing what the familiar is doing. The familiar is delivering the spell, and mechanically this is "as if they had cast the spell".

Note again that there is no limitation to this clause. There is no text saying "it is as if they had cast the spell, in XYZ situation, except ABC." There is no reason to second guess the designers, they said it is as if the familiar cast the spell.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You're neglecting to account for the language outside of your bolded section. It says "your familiar can deliver the spell as if it had cast the spell". It still says "when you cast a spell", so you have cast the spell, and only the delivery of the spell is modified to allow it to originate from the familiar. I'm not 100% your end result is wrong, but it's not because the spell is counted as being cast by the familiar, it's because it's possible the familiar is the one performing the attack (even though it uses your attack modifier, for a spell you cast). \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowRanger Dec 16 '19 at 17:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowRanger The second clause modifies the predicate, 'delivering a spell' is not a game mechanic, reading the statement as 'it is as if the familiar cast the spell' is more correct than worrying about what it means to 'deliver' a spell. \$\endgroup\$ – gszavae Dec 16 '19 at 23:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the "as if it had cast the spell" wording only applies to satisfying the touch range requirements and whatever other particulars of the spell, not that the familiar "takes over" your spell. It doesn't say "instead of you" (which would make your interpretation pretty clearly right). I see the argument you're making, and I think this interpretation is compatible with RAW. But so is the other one, and I think getting Hex damage makes sense intuitively when you "channel" the spell through your familiar. So sensible RAI disagrees with this, and RAW doesn't force this. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Dec 17 '19 at 3:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ My guess is that the designers weren't thinking about the interaction with Hex when they worded the description this way for casting via familiar. Their wording covers cases like the familiar's hands being full, or some special circumstance other than range that would prevent a touch between the familiar and some creature. I think that's why they didn't just talk about range. re: picking and choosing: I think both interpretations are valid RAW. That's a necessary pre-condition for getting to pick and choose without just calling it a house rule. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Dec 17 '19 at 3:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes The other answer is pure RAI, the rules do not say anything about limiting "as if" to range. Furthermore it's not even a good attempt at RAI since it doesn't make a whole lot of sense why the rules would include redundant text. \$\endgroup\$ – gszavae Dec 17 '19 at 3:50
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Your familiar is not you.

Let’s start by framing your question as simply as possible:

What is the difference between a PC casting a spell with an attack roll and a range of touch and a PC casting the same spell through a familiar?

“Delivering a spell” does not exist outside of find familiar, and thus is defined here:

When a familiar “delivers” a spell, the game treats what happens as the familiar having casted the spell.

Therefore, in both cases outlined in the question, the PC is the creature that actually casts the spell and expends the appropriate spell slot. However, in the former case, the game interprets this event as such, whereas in the latter case, the game replaces the interpretation that the PC casted the spell with the interpretation that the familiar casted the spell.

The text of find familiar introduces an exception to this general rule which is pertinent to our question:

If the spell requires an attack roll, the modifier applied is that of the PC, not the familiar.

As far as I can tell, this is the only exception.

This argument can be extended to effects like Hexblade’s Curse, which is fortunate because I think we can all agree that Hexblade is OP enough already.

Two more illustrative examples: cure wounds and ring of spell storing.

Cure wounds heals one creature you touch for 1d8 + your spellcasting ability modifier. A familiar does not have a spellcasting ability. Therefore, the game turns to the rules for casting without a spellcasting ability (DMG p. 141):

"If you don't have a spellcasting ability--perhaps you're a rogue with the Use Magic Device feature--your spellcasting ability modifier is +0 for the item, and your proficiency bonus does apply."

Thus, the target is healed for 1d8 + 0.

Although I believe that speculating on RAI is often dangerous and seldom productive, I feel compelled at this point to say: I seriously doubt that this is merely an oversight by the designers, as there aren't very many touch spells in the game, and cure wounds is by far the most frequently implemented.

Admittedly, the rule I quoted from the DMG was clearly written with magic items in mind, but there is no fundamental difference between a spell being cast through a familiar and a familiar casting a spell with the aid of a magic item. To understand this, consider a ring of spell storing (DMG p. 192):

This ring stores spells cast into it, holding them until the attuned wearer uses them... Any creature can cast a spell of 1st through 5th level into the ring by touching the ring when the spell is cast. The spell has no effect, other than to be stored in the ring... While wearing this ring, you can cast any spell stored in it. The spell uses the slot level, spell save DC, spell attack bonus, and spellcasting ability of the original caster, but is otherwise treated as if you cast the spell. (emphasis mine)

This effect is very similar to a familiar "delivering" a spell and much less ambiguous. Here, the things that are carried over from the original caster are fully specified, and everything else defaults to the creature using the ring (although I believe that find familiar implicitly preserves the slot level; the inclusion here is due to the fact that the default for spells cast by means of a magic item is to adopt the lowest possible level for the casting, DMG p. 141).

If you are a warlock attuned to a ring of spell storing and you cast, say, a guiding bolt which your party's cleric has already stored in the ring, hitting the creature cursed by your hex spell yields your extra necrotic damage. Conversely, if the cleric is of the life domain and has stored a 1st level cure wounds in the ring, you don't add extra healing from the cleric's Disciple of Life feature when you (the warlock) cast this cure wounds. You do, however, add the cleric's Wisdom modifier (not your Charisma or anything else), as specified in the description of the ring of spell storing. Then again, if the cleric has a familiar (Magic Initiate, multiclassing, etc.) and casts cure wounds through that familiar, he does not benefit from his Disciple of Life feature or his Wisdom modifier, as specified in find familiar.

Finally, consulting the "Proficiency Bonus by Challenge Rating" table (MM p. 8), we see that an associated saving throw DC is 8 + 0 + 2 = 10 (I don't know if such a spell exists, but you could imagine a melee spell attack that forces a save on a hit).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already and see the help center or ask us here in the comments (use @ to ping someone) if you need more guidance. Good Luck and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Jun 2 at 11:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's not quite true, though. When a familiar “delivers” a spell, the game treats what happens as the familiar having casted the spell. The spell's attack roll (for example, shocking grasp) that is used is the spell caster's spell attack roll. You digression into magic items is interesting in exploring designer intent, but for me not convincing. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jun 2 at 16:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Find familiar differentiates between the attack roll and the modifier used for the attack roll. Your familiar is the one making the attack, and it does so with a modifier equal to yours. Also, Jeremy Crawford has, on numerous occasions, based a ruling on a similar yet more clear-cut game effect. \$\endgroup\$ – GarlicFest Jun 2 at 17:21

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