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For a level 3 one shot I will be playing a Warlock who made a deal with the ghost of a wizard to help find a way to revive the wizard, and by carrying soot from the wizard's final resting place in a locket, they stay near me and give me warlock powers. Because of this, I thought it'd be cool to have a ghost familiar through Pact of the Chain and since no ghost-like undead are CR 1, I decided to nerf a Will'O'wisp from CR 2 to 1.

For reference, here's the original Will'O'Wisp and here are the Quasit and the Imp which are CR 1 creatures available through Pact of the Chain.

Is the following Will'O'Wisp homebrew comparable, or at least less powerful that other familiars at level 3? The two skills were added to flavour the creature as a wizard's ghost and to give some utility outside of combat.

Will'O'Wisp

tiny celestial (since the Find Familiar spell only creates fiends, fey, and celestials, not undead)


Armor Class 13
Hit Points 10
Speed 0 ft, fly 40 ft (hover)


STR 1 (-5) Dex 15 (+2) CON 10 (+0) INT 16 (+3) WIS 12 (+1) CHA 11 (+0)


Skills: Arcana +5, History +5
Damage Resistance: necrotic; thunder; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from non-magical attacks
Damage Immunities: lightning, poison
condition Immunities: grappled, poisoned, prone, restrained
Senses: darkvision 120 ft, passive perception 11
Languages: common
Challenge: 1 (200 XP)


Ephemeral. The will-o’-wisp can’t wear or carry anything.

Incorporeal Movement. The will-o’-wisp can move through other creatures and objects as if they were difficult terrain. It takes 5 (1d10) force damage if it ends its turn inside an object.

Variable Illumination. The will-o’-wisp sheds bright light in a 5- to 20-foot radius and dim light for an additional number of feet equal to the chosen radius. The will-o’-wisp can alter the radius as a bonus action.


Actions

Shock. Melee Spell Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 9 (2d8) lightning damage.

Invisibility. The will-o’-wisp and its light magically turn Invisible until it attacks, or until its Concentration ends (as if concentrating on a spell).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you have a homebrew patron to go with this? I understand it may be irrelevant if you wanted to balance the options separately rather than as a whole, but I definitely feel like this familiar not being undead is a missed opportunity for a power-neutral patron feature. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 2, 2020 at 23:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pleasestopbeingevil I was just going to use The Great Old One. This is my DM's first time dming, so I don't want to change too much for him. Now that you mention it tho, a home brewed pact of the undead sounds pretty badass, but I'll save it for next time I play this character. \$\endgroup\$
    – Robotex
    Aug 2, 2020 at 23:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ You might want to remove the reference to Consume Life from the description of Invisibility. \$\endgroup\$
    – user60913
    Aug 3, 2020 at 0:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical To give some utility outside combat similar to imp's shape change or sprite's heart sight. Since all other ability scores drop or stay the same, I thought this would be a good balance. (It also flavours the will'o'wisp as being a wizards ghost, though that has nothing to do with balance) \$\endgroup\$
    – Robotex
    Aug 3, 2020 at 15:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ The creature doesn't actually have to be Celestial for its base type, as Find Familiar instead converts it to your choice of Celestial, Fiend, or Fey, which (from my understanding of the spell) can be switched by recasting it. Take the Pseudodragon as an example. Its creature type is Dragon, but it becomes one of the other types because Find Familiar changes it. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 3, 2020 at 19:21

1 Answer 1

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Balanced

The big draws of this familiar option are:

  • Arcana and History proficiency (and decent INT) can be a major boon to a Warlock who is unlikely to put that much into INT.
  • Incorporeal Movement gives the Will O'Wisp improved utility as a scout and better mobility. It should be noted that, out of combat, when near its summoner, a regular familiar can get a similar effect by being summoned on the far side of a door or wall.
  • Superior darkvision is likely to expand the capabilities of the party.

Its main drawbacks are:

  • No stealth proficiency. RAW you still need to hide and can still be detected while invisible so lacking proficiency makes the Will O'Wisp a less reliable scout. A DM might be more lenient on asking for stealth checks from the Will O'Wisp for flavor reasons (unlike a sprite/imp it doesn't have wings to beat) but it would also be fair for a DM to ask for a stealth check.
  • No extra languages. This might be minor but every other Warlock familiar makes at least one more language accessible.
  • Ephemeral reduces its utility because it cannot carry items to use. For example the Will O'Wisp cannot carry a potion over to revive a fallen companion or carry the Macguffin out of the secret base.

Like other warlock familiars the Will O'Wisp has a couple of unique strengths but is worse than other familiars in other areas. I think this makes it fairly balanced.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Incorporeal movement can also interact with teleportation style spells, giving the warlock an effective passwall as soon as level 1. Fey touched + incorporeal familiar (through which you can see) gives you misty step without visibility. Hex (yes, hex your own familiar) + Relentless Hex invocation comes later, but gives you passwall for as long as your hex lasts. Compared to standard find familiar, I don't think most would let it be summoned through doors/walls; it's unclear from RAW if the caster even has control of where it appears. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 23, 2021 at 23:11

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