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Last session, my DM ruled that my imp cannot help me perform checks (in this instance I was trying to have my little guy help me pick through some dead guards' pockets) because he deemed that giving me advantage on most checks all the time is OP.

Also, my imp has to make stealth checks every time he enters a room to scout, regardless if he is invisible or not, which hasn’t always ended well.

It seems to me that all the creative ideas that I’ve read about using a familiar are bound by what the DM would rule.

My play group are mostly some long term friends that I have been playing with, along with the DM. It's also his first time as the DM.

Should I see if my DM will let me change my pact? Or should I try to convince him to ease up on my familiar?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi Blackthorne, welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour to find out how things work here, and visit the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Jul 14 at 9:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ "my imp cannot help me perform checks" , do you mean as a general rule, or just for that one instance/one type of activity? Also, are there cases where your fellow PCs are allowed to help, but your imp is not? \$\endgroup\$ – WakiNadiVellir Jul 14 at 10:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi HNQ visitors! I would just like to remind you that comments are not for answering the question. If you have advice to solve the problem, please put it in an answer below along with the support to back it up. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Jul 14 at 23:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ The headline suggests a general question, the question itself is specific to a particular situation. Can someone edit the question to either be about imps or about DM-convincing? \$\endgroup\$ – Sandra Jul 15 at 16:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Sandra All questions have both specific and general answers, there's no problem. Very few questions will fit their entire context into the title. \$\endgroup\$ – user-63873687 Jul 16 at 0:28
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Disallowing the help action is Homebrew a house rule

Find familiar states:

A familiar can’t attack, but it can take other actions as normal.

Therefore, by RAW, the help action is allowed. Generally, your fellow players could help with most things as well and advantage does not stack, so it is possible that this more a problem of the help action than the familiar.

See this question: It seems like every skill check should always be made with advantage due to the 'Working Together' rules. Is this accurate?

Side note: help is an action to use in combat. However, there is an analogous option called working together to use for ability checks outside of combat to which the same considerations apply. See this question: Could you use the Help action outside of combat?

Invisible does not mean undetectable

When the imp is invisible it can still be heard,and potentially smelled. So, it can still be detected making it reasonable to ask for a stealth check. Then again, it seems reasonable to give a bonus (such as advantage) on the check even if there is no explicit rule to back this. See the following question, especially BlueMoon93's answer:

Does being invisible grant advantage on stealth checks by RAW?

Of course the GM is, by RAW allowed, to not give such a bonus and if they do, you should accept that. In that case, see my suggestions below for what you can do further.

What you can do

You should politely state that RAW the help action is allowed. Try not to sound accusatory. If the GM insist on the ruling you can say that the familar is less useful than you anticipated and ask to change pact if you don't have fun with the familar implemented like this.

Features such as the familiar that rely heavily on rulings can be problematic when there are different opinions on how they should be implemented. In such a case other features that have clear rules (such as the pacts of the tome and the blade) might be preferable and avoid discussions.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Just to add to this: While the DM is dead wrong to just blanket rule that your imp can't work together with you on checks, you might consider asking other PCs for aid instead of just declaring the imp helps you. It may seem a bit silly or unnecessary, but the optics really are better when you say in character, "Oi, Jess, can you gimme a hand wiv dis?" rather than just declaring "Oh and my imp helps me, so I have advantage." (And once the DM is used to you asking other players for help, he's more likely to roll with it when you ask if the imp can be your assistant on something.) \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Jul 14 at 14:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DarthPseudonym this was my first thought as well when the ruling was made. But in the game, my familiar is quickly becoming my best friend and I like the dynamic between him and I. So i would have probably made most of my mundane checks (like going through pockets of dead things) with my imp, instead of asking one of my 8 other party members to help. \$\endgroup\$ – Blackthorne Jul 14 at 18:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Blackthorne That's fair; just understand that from outside, that doesn't look like "having fun with my character's features", but rather "cheesing the game for a rules benefit". It technically isn't -- it just looks that way at first glance. That said, I have to question why your DM is having you roll checks for mundane chores that have no meaningful risk of failure! \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Jul 14 at 19:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Especially, when there are nine party members. \$\endgroup\$ – Anagkai Jul 14 at 19:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would change homebrew to house-rule. It's not like the DM is homebrewing a new familiar which is an Imp without the Help action, it's that they are house-ruling that familiars can't use the help action. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jul 16 at 0:21
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Description is key.

Find Familiar says that:

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.

So, RAW, you are correct that your familiar should be able to use the Help action. On the other hand, advantage on every skill check you make is a bit powerful for a first level spell that costs 10 gold worth of charcoal to cast, so how can this be balanced?

If I were the DM in this case, I would ask you how your familiar could help you in the skill. I can see a familiar being able to help with things like investigation, insight, or survival, but useless with respect to many others, like athletics, sleight of hand, history, etc. With that being said, if you can come up with a creative way for your familiar to help you, then I would allow it.

To answer your question of how to convince your DM, I would ask if something like what I described would work for their game since it enhances the roleplaying and allows you to use your familiar in ways other than just scouting and delivering touch spells.

If they aren't open to that and you had your heart set on using the familiar for advantage, then I would ask if you could change your character a bit to make it more fun for you to play.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome, Greenguh! This is a good answer and my first thought on the Help action as well. \$\endgroup\$ – raithyn Jul 14 at 11:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Do read through it and continue it. There's good stuff in there. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Jul 16 at 15:59
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It's true that your familiar is allowed to take the help action to help you, so long as you describe a reasonable way for your familiar to help your action.

On the other hand, it's also true that the DM is allowed to issue house rules in their game.

I've had experience with a player who asked me to change my ruling when I wouldn't rule the way they wanted. I can tell you that this doesn't usually go well.

In my case, I was running at a game store, and the player wanted me to house rule some sort of special ability for their cantrip attack. I refused. The player said "Pleeeeease?" I felt unhappy and uncomfortable, because the player was pressuring me to do something I'd already clearly said no to. I subsequently asked the game store to stop putting that player at my table. (This issue wasn't the only problem but it definitely was a problem.)

It's true that the circumstances I'm describing are a bit different from yours, because my player was asking for a special house rule and you'd be asking to remove a house rule. I don't think this distinction would matter much to your DM.

As to your other issue, with making stealth checks, technically this is Rules As Written: even when invisible, a character isn't "hidden" unless they take the Hide action. Otherwise they're just "unseen", meaning other characters know they're there. (Perhaps we can model it by saying that other characters can still hear them?)

Here's my advice: your DM has the authority to issue rulings, and your DM won't like it if you start pushing back on them. You've asked:

Should I see if my DM will let me change my pact? Or should I try to convince him to ease up on my familiar?

My advice is that, if you really would prefer to have a different pact, you should ask to change your pact. Otherwise I recommend that you accept the ruling graciously.

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Ask to talk specifically about what breaks due to having the familiar's help, and see what effects the help has and how severe they are

I've been in this position. It's probably not a good approach to lean on the rules as written-- the DM probably already knows the relevant rules, and likely feels that they are fixing a problem and improving the game by adjusting them in this way. A player sets their character up to do something really well, and then they can easy-mode through that thing every time it comes up, and it seems like that thing may come up often-- it's a DM's nightmare! Or so it may seem.

My personal experience as a DM is that the sort of advantage you are describing generally seems a lot more significant than it is, and that there are few cases where it's actually going to be a problem to have a helpful familiar.

The first step in my dealing with that type of situation is to assess how much of an impact the familiar actually has, and then the second step is to think of ways to adjust the game to suit.

You've already started the first step, in that the DM has expressed to you that they think you will

  1. Have Advantage on most checks most of the time, and
  2. This persistent Advantage will make your character overpowered

With regard to (1), I think that this is largely a non-issue. Familiars have some abilities, but they are inferior to PCs in the scope and scale of things they can do-- they can't help with every problem. All of the PCs can already help each other in this way, at just about any time, and with more challenges than the familiar can address. So if helping is so powerful, it's worth asking why the PCs don't already do it all the time, and if the DM would arbitrarily limit player-to-player assistance if your group were to try it. Do you currently/will you subsequently have Advantage "all the time"?

(For the record, at my table players roll a d20 when attempting to help outside of combat, and only a 10 or better results in Advantage for the helped character; this makes helping possible and not too difficult, but prevents permanent Advantage).

As for (2), there's something to be gained from thinking about what kinds of things your character(s) is (are) doing when they are helped. Looking through the pockets of a fallen enemy is usually not something that is going to break anything in the game if you were more successful at it more often. Many other tasks you might attempt will be similar-- the benefits of success aren't massive, the consequences of failure aren't very important, and there is no upside to your characters failing some arbitrary number of attempts.


In any case, I advise you not to approach your DM with a suggestion that they are wrong and should change to be right, but instead to describe what you'd hoped to get from your familiar and see if you and the DM can think of a way to preserve that while addressing the DM's specific concerns.

Knowing what your DM is concerned will break is an important part of understanding why they've decided as they have, and can guide you to a solution that actually addresses their concern. The idea isn't to get arguments you can pick apart, but to more fully appreciate what game elements your DM wants to make certain still apply in pursuit of a fun game for everyone.

But generically speaking you can suggest limits that still allow your familiar to help you while ensuring that it's not the runaway problem your DM is worried about. It's fair to ask how often a specific issue might come up and what impacts there might be when it does.

As an easy example, if the DM is mainly concerned that you'll become too wealthy too quickly from thoroughly searching defeated enemies there are plenty of small changes that can offset the risk but still let you get something from the familiar:

  • It's not difficult math to adjust how much wealth there is for you to find and account for the familiar's help in finding it
  • Difficulty of checks can be trivially increased to mitigate the Advantage a helpful familiar grants
  • The familiar can take a cut to send back to its boss in the Nine Hells
  • Maybe the help action isn't meaningful when searching the clothing of corpses, no matter who is doing the helping, and so your familiar can make their own ability check but cannot grant Advantage to anyone else
  • Perhaps the familiar is surly and won't condescend to assist you in that way more than X times per day
  • Maybe, when calculating how much "extra" wealth you'd expect to get from having Advantage in searching for loot after a fight, it turns out that you're only getting a handful of extra coins and the additional wealth just isn't enough to matter much

Most such solutions will be homebrewed, but so is forbidding your familiar from helping. Familiars are supposed to be useful, and declaring that yours can never help you in this way isn't any less extreme than saying that it always does.

tl;dr: Don't try to convince your DM that they are wrong or too harsh. Try to understand what specific concerns they have, and why, and see if you can help address them while still playing your character as you had imagined.

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Wait it out and see what happens. Your friend, a new GM, is realizing just how many things this Imp can do and is thinking "what did I just let loose?". He's naturally clamping down to avoid setting precedents that might break the game. It's going to take time to read up on Imps more (they can carry 60 pounds. Who knew?) and work things out.

First the Imp is surprisingly good in combat, letting you give another player Advantage every round. That feels like you got full use of it, and maybe more (rulings on Imp Help have that "well, I guess it's legal" quality). And now the Imp feels like a Combat-only thing.

Giving you advantage on all other rolls feels like an exploit to cheat players who worked to raise their skills. You're making it feel worse by only working with your Imp. That means you'll find more of the cool stuff and the DM will spend more time talking to just you about it. Plus the Imp as an extra character is going to make them spend more time asking what your Imp does each round. Maybe the Imp is strong enough to help loot heavy corpses. Maybe. But there will be a dozen more borderline cases the GM has to think about. Oy! None of the Fighter's abilities are 1/10th that much work!

Then there's worrying about how it might ruin every encounter. Flying, invisible, has hands, sees in the dark, relatively strong, fits through cracks, and expendable. It's "we wait for a few hours while the Imp gives me a map of the dungeon and monsters" in this Reddit Imp scouting thread. Rolling Stealth while invisible is the DM realizing "so is this game now renamed Impy the Explorer?" and clamping down for now.

Besides time to let the DM work things out (for example, what are the odds a goblin chieftain says "that's no unusually large spider -- I know an Imp when I see one!"), I'd make sure the other players are fine with it. If no one else climbs well or sneaks, the Imp's less bad. Or the fighter may only care about fights, and is glad to let you do the boring stuff. Make sure the Imp isn't ruining the other player's fun and the DM will feel more comfortable letting up.

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    \$\begingroup\$ We had talked a bit about the imp before the campaign had started, as I was reading up on what kind of warlock I wanted to be. He let me change a few things about it because I’m a celestial warlock. So prior knowledge of what an imp can and can’t do was kind of discussed. This seemed more of a at the moment kind of ruling because he had started making us make investigation checks if we looted things, and I was making good use of the help action with my familiar in the combat before hand. \$\endgroup\$ – Blackthorne Jul 15 at 2:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Blackthorne The Imp in combat is one thing I was thinking. Most skills are combat or non-combat. So first the Imp proves itself in combat, giving free Advantage. Then the GM realizes the infrequent, minor non-combat Imp stuff is all the time and not so minor, and it seems like too much. \$\endgroup\$ – Owen Reynolds Jul 15 at 4:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ an imp is oneshot in every combat round lol. i doubt he will survive a single arrow from any archer. \$\endgroup\$ – clockw0rk Jul 16 at 14:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Right, many DMs run familiars with a kind of unspoken truce: the familiar doesn't engage in combat, and the monsters don't one-shot it on the first round. It's basically annoying every other way. \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Jul 16 at 15:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @clockw0rk Sure, but their DM wasn't having the monsters whack it. If that changes, they may ease up on other Imp uses. And Imps can Help while invisible and damage resist most attacks. An Ogre would take a bit to notice, and a while to kill it. \$\endgroup\$ – Owen Reynolds Jul 16 at 17:37
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Outside of a session, you should have a talk to him.

There seems to be a larger issue of them pressuring you to make rolls and not gain any advantage from conditions, even when unnecessary. If you have no time pressure and there's no big problems, it should be easy for you to search guard bodies. If it's a matter of time, an imp helping you should make it go faster. Having people to help you do things should make them easier.

Likewise, since invisibility makes the enemy blinded you should often be getting advantage or avoiding a roll. If the invisibility has no effective impact, it's a lot less useful.

As such, you should talk to the other players. If they agree that the DM is being ungenerous with rolls and abilities, you should talk to them, and ask them to allow things to have more of an impact.

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Specifically with regards to your DM's ruling on invisibility

Your DM is correct that being invisible does not automatically equal being hidden. Some DMs allow an invisible creature to sneak automatically but RAW it is correct to ask for a check. There are a couple of things to note about the check, however, that make spotting your imp quite difficult.

Being invisible makes your imp Heavily Obscured for the purpose of Hiding. When trying to detect something that is Heavily Obscured a creature is effectively Blinded and perception checks relying on sight automatically fail. It is up to the DM to determine when a perception check relies on sight.

This means that creatures trying to detect your imp with an active perception check using sight RAW will always fail.

Blinded does not specify any effect on Passive Perception but if your DM would give disadvantage on a generic Perception check due to being Blinded then a creature passively perceiving your imp would have - 5 to their passive perception. Giving disadvantage on perception checks (that would normally use sight) when blinded is not specifically described by RAW but is a reasonable way to account for the check being more difficult.

If your DM rules Blinded creatures have disadvantage on perception checks that usually use sight then, since your imp has +5 stealth and RAW there is no such thing as a crit fail for ability checks, the imp will always succeed on any attempt to hide from a creature with a Passive Perception of 11 or lower (1+5=6 ≥ 11-5) as long as the creature is not actively searching.

Because the rules are honestly a bit mushy with regards to hiding and perception you might want to check with your DM about the following:

  • When do perception checks rely on sight?
  • For creatures that generally rely on sight what effect does the Blinded condition have on generic Perception checks (where a sense is not specified)? If the effect is disadvantage then their Passive Perception should be reduced by 5 for the purpose of hiding.

Related: https://rpg.stackexchange.com/a/143825/60913

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