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I am wondering if this interpretation of the interaction between the Pact of the Chain feature and Flock of Familiars is correct.

Pact of the Chain (emphasis mine) states:

You learn the Find Familiar spell and can cast it as a ritual. The spell doesn’t count against your number of Spells known.

When you cast the spell, you can choose one of the normal forms for your familiar or one of the following Special forms: Imp, Pseudodragon, Quasit, or Sprite.

Additionally, when you take the Attack action, you can forgo one of your own attacks to allow your familiar to make one Attack of its own with its Reaction.

Flock of Familiars (again, emphasis mine) states:

You temporarily summon three familiars – spirits that take animal forms of your choice. Each familiar uses the same rules and options for a familiar conjured by the Find Familiar spell. All the familiars conjured by this spell must be the same type of creature (celestials, fey, or fiends; your choice). If you already have a familiar conjured by the Find Familiar spell or similar means, then one fewer familiars are conjured by this spell.

To put it more precisely:

Does this mean that you can summon additional (although temporary) Imps/Sprites/etc?

Note: This is not a balance question, this is RAW only please.

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5 Answers 5

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The Imp, Pseudodragon, Quasit, or Sprite are conjured by the Find Familiar spell.

The Pact of the Chain feature says:

When you cast the spell, you can choose one of the normal forms for your familiar or one of the following Special forms: Imp, Pseudodragon, Quasit, or Sprite.

Obviously, it is the casting of find familiar that conjures one of these special forms.

So a Pact of the Chain warlock casts flock of familiars, which states:

Each familiar uses the same rules and options for a familiar conjured by the find familiar spell.

Imp, Pseudodragon, Quasit, and Sprite are "options for a familiar conjured by the Find Familiar spell", since the caster has Pact of the Chain.

So we conclude:

A Pact of the Chain warlock can use one of these special options for flock of familiars.

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You cannot (alas) summon Chain familiars via Flock of Familiars

The Pact of the Chain feature says:

When you cast the spell, you can choose one of the normal forms for your familiar or one of the following Special forms: Imp, Pseudodragon, Quasit, or Sprite.

Emphasis mine. You modify the Pact of the Chain spell when cast -- the Find Familiar spell itself is unaltered.

So when a Pact of the Chain warlock casts Flock of Familiars, Imp, Pseudodragon, Quasit, and Sprite are not

"options for a familiar conjured by the Find Familiar spell"

-- because it's not looking at the results of you casting "Find Familiar", it's looking at the finite list a "generic" Find Familiar spell uses. In other words, it's using "Find Familiar" as reference shorthand.

If the spell had intended to summon additional familiars, it could have said:

Each familiar uses the same rules and options as if you had cast the Find Familiar spell.

Since 5e ascribes to "what you see is what you get", I'm inclined to think that RAW, only the lesser familiars can be summoned.

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    \$\begingroup\$ See Illusionist Wizards for another example of Subclass features modifying a spell (Minor Illusion) just for them. (Though as far as I know, no other spell references Minor Illusion) \$\endgroup\$ Aug 17, 2020 at 20:37
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Pact of the Chain only triggers when casting a specific spell

The rules for Pact of the Chain state the following, emphasis mine :

When you cast the spell, you can choose one of the normal forms for your familiar or one of the following Special forms: Imp, Pseudodragon, Quasit, or Sprite.

The ability to choose a special form is listed as an additional effect that happens when you cast Find Familiar, and not listed as a direct modification of the spell.

As it is written, it is not a modification of the spell's effect, but rather a separate effect that overrides one of the spell's effects when you cast it. This means that this effect will only trigger when you cast this specific spell.

When you cast Flock of Familiars, you are not casting Find Familiar : the two might share similar effects and rule sets, but they are different spells entirely. Because of that, you cannot use the pact's special forms when casting Flock of Familiars.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there a substantive difference between your interpretation here and that already presented by Raven Dreamer, or just a difference of emphasis? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Nov 21, 2022 at 8:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt as I understand the answer you linked, Raven Dreamer's answer is more focused on the fact that the Pact of the Chain does not alter the original spell, and thus the "rules and options for a familiar conjured by the Find Familiar spell" are not changed. In my answer I attempt to emphasise the fact that those special forms are an effect linked to the "trigger" of casting the spell, and that because of that this trigger will never happen for Flock of Familiars. I considered it was a point different enough to warrant a separate answer, but I could be wrong. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matthieu
    Nov 21, 2022 at 8:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Nah, this is what I was trying to point out as well. Though I think I like some of your wording better! \$\endgroup\$ Nov 23, 2022 at 5:22
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The Flock spell restricts the creatures summoned

The Flock of Familiars spell does say:

Each familiar uses the same rules and options for a familiar conjured by the find familiar spell.

However, immediately preceding that, it also says:

You temporarily summon three familiars – spirits that take animal forms of your choice.

Spell descriptions are rules, and spells do what they say they do. Flock of Familiars restricts the familiars summoned by it to wearing the forms of animals, even though they are spirits. This restriction exists independently of the reference to find familiar, and it still applies when you use the Flock spell even if some other feature changes what happens when you cast the find familiar spell.

All of the animal forms listed in the find familiar spell itself have the Type stat of 'Beasts', which the Monster Manual (p. 6) describes as:

nonhumanoid creatures that are a natural part of the fantasy ecology...Beasts include all varieties of ordinary animals, dinosaurs, and giant versions of animals.

Of the four forms accessible to Warlocks with Pact of the Chain, none of them are Beasts:
Imps and Quasits are Fiends, Pseudodragons are Dragons, and Sprites are Fey.

Thus the Flock of Familiars spell itself tells us that it cannot be used to summon a familiar in the additional forms that are permitted to Pact of the Chain Warlocks.

Pact of the Chain overrides Find Familiar, but not Flock

Pack of the Chain says (emphasis mine):

You learn the Find Familiar spell and can cast it as a ritual. The spell doesn’t count against your number of Spells known.

When you cast the spell, you can choose one of the normal forms for your familiar or one of the following Special forms: Imp, Pseudodragon, Quasit, or Sprite.

The features permitted by the Pact of the Chain take effect when you cast the spell - but it is clear that "the spell" is find familiar, not flock of familiars. That is, Pact overrides the features of find familiar upon casting - the limitation of the forms to the list provided. But it does not override the limitations of flock of familiars - that the spirits be in the forms of animals - when you cast that spell.

Further, Flock of Familiars says:

Each familiar uses the same rules and options for a familiar conjured by the Find Familiar spell.

Flock says it uses the same rules for a familiar conjured by the find familiar spell (that is, the general one on-book), not that it uses the same rules (and rules changes) that apply "when you cast" the find familiar spell. Flock does not say that 'each familiar uses the same rules and options for a familiar conjured by you'.

Pact of the Chain allows you to change how the find familiar spell works for you, but it does not permit you to change the spell itself, which is what flock is referencing. Nor does your Pact permit you to change how the flock of familiars spell works for you. The limitation of the flock spell to summoning familiars that have animal forms is not overridden by your Pact.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It would seem to me that the description of 'animal forms' in the flock of familiars spell description is intended to repeat the text utilized in the original Find Familiar spell which stipulate, "...a spirit that takes an animal form you choose." Given that Flock of Familiars specifically stipulates that the choices are restricted to the rules in effect for the Find Familiar spell, isn't this case of a specific beats general whereby the Warlock's feature has control? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 18, 2023 at 17:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical The flock of familiars text could just say: 'You temporarily summon three familiars. Each familiar uses the same rules and options for a familiar conjured by the find familiar spell.' In that case Flock would mean 'see the restrictions of Find (except for number)' and Pact would say 'this specific trumps the general Find' and it would work as you say. But when Flock deliberately adds 'these spirits take animal forms' this is a further level of specificity, the same as when it says the number is different, and unnecessary if all Flock is doing is saying 'see Find'. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Aug 19, 2023 at 0:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical Thus for specific over general to hold, Pact has to say 'this supersedes Find' (which it does say) as well as 'this supersedes anything else that modifies Find' (which it does not say). If Pact completely overwrites anything Flock says, it would also overwrite the fact that Flock summons three familiars at once, and you could only summon one. Either Pact overwrites both specifications in Flock (you get three, they have to be animals) or it overwrites neither of them and only modifies Find (which is what it says). \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Aug 19, 2023 at 0:18
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Actually, since Flock of Familiars is a Warlock spell, and explicitly states:

All the familiars conjured by this spell must be the same type of creature (celestials, fey, or fiends; your choice). If you already have a familiar conjured by the Find Familiar spell or similar means, then one fewer familiars are conjured by this spell.

This means not only does Pact of the Chain affect it, it means your Flock absolutely must be copies of your Pact Familiar if you have one out.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I did not downvote, but this nowhere says what you claim. It only says they must be the same type to each other, and you get one less if you have a familiar. It does not say they must match your other familiars' type. That could be the reason for these downvotes. I hope that does not discourage you - you can amend and fix your answer. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 19, 2023 at 6:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's also worth pointing out that the "type" being referenced here is specifically in relation to fiend, celestial, or fey, which exists independent of their chosen form (one could be a bat, one could be an owl, one could be a crab). \$\endgroup\$ Aug 19, 2023 at 12:36

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