Grundy the Grumpy Ghost a (formerly) chaotic evil 1st level wizard makes use of the nearby ritual spell Find Familiar carved in a stone wall. As a ghost he cannot cast such spells, so he takes control of three (3) different lawful and good hosts at different times. Through them he summons three 'celestial' familiars for: Anna the Adamant ('A'), Barnie the Brave ('B'), and, Cynthia the Cleric ('C'). There are plenty of material components nearby and somehow they all suck at saving throws.

He casts this spell from each host. After the first three casts, 'A' dies and is brought back via miraculous magicks (revivification, raised, resurrected &/or reincarnated probably cast by C, who is a cleric) - so G re-possesses and recasts Find Familiar on 'A' again. B's familiar is slain, so G re-possesses and re-casts with that host, 'B', as well. C, not trusting G in the least, has her familiar magically Banished - so G re-possesses and re-casts Find Familiar with 'C' as well.

Question: Who Gets A Familiar Through A Host-Ghost?

  1. The caster gets it, and the caster is obviously the spirit or ghost. As such ALL of the summoned familiars are just the same poor celestial familiar returning-respawning each and every time. Each casting simply re-summons the same tired spirit over and over again.

  2. A ghost leaving the body no longer has claim to any familiar. As each 'host' comes complete with a body and soul - the celestial familiar must bond with the original body-soul combo, the one that did the physical ritual (with the physical material components). The physical aspects and components of the spell determine which physically living body the familiar binds to.

  3. When any ghost or spirit leaves a body, it is similar to a 'death' of sorts. The fact that there is still a spirit in there (the spirit of the original host-body) doesn't matter - any claim or bond is LOST in the process of the ghost's leaving the host-home. The familiar WAS bound to the ghost (with a living body) upon casting, sure - but when the ghost leaves the celestial-familiar is as FREE to do whatever it wants.

  4. Assume the familiar bonds with Target A. When 'A' dies, the familiar is just fine and a FREE agent. Resurrecting 'A' does NOT restore the familiar bond ('not in spell description')! On recasting the spell must find a brand-new familiar for A. A and the original A-familiar will recognize one another but never be bound ever again (short of a 'Wish' spell). Contrast this with 'B' when the B-familiar dies (or is slain) - the returning ghost-spirit is effectively an entirely new casting. A 'new', original and entirely different celestial familiar may show up, pending where the old one is now bound.

  5. Banishing a familiar logically breaks bonds! C may get an entirely new celestial familiar - or perhaps the original (now bitter & upset) C-familiar.

  6. Familiars are sentient spirits and independent creatures and therefore have choice and freewill. When effectively summoned by a combo ghost-host team, the familiar gets to CHOOSE who they want to serve. A celestial would therefore pick the hosts ('lawful good') and not the ghost ('who is bad'). Or they may simply choose to be free. Or perhaps choose to 'die' and return to their plane of existence.

  7. The caster gets to choose the alignment of the familiar. As such, these familiars are all 'celestial' yet chaotic evil. Thus they would try to bond with or choose the ghost-caster. But since the caster has cast this through three different hosts, there are three different familiars all bound to the same ghost.

The above 'rulings' painfully contradict one another and do not qualify as 'answers'. I must be wrong on many levels and would like to know what is really going on with the Find Familiar spell and G's ritual casting six times on three hosts (A, B & C respectively).

Repeat of Question: A ghost possesses a number of persons and casts the ritual spell Find Familiar through them. To whom do the newly minted familiar(s?) 'bond' to &/or stay with - or not?

Thank you in advance.

  • \$\begingroup\$ It sounds like you didn't quite ask the question you intended to. You might consider a slightly different question: if a wizard uses Magic Jar to possess a body, casts Find Familiar, and then exits that body, does the familiar obey the body or the soul? Quick search suggests no similar questions, and I have a feeling it's akin to what you're wondering about. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 23, 2021 at 19:32

3 Answers 3


Other answers have touched on the the ... logistical difficulty ... of a ghost casting Obtain Familiar - that ghosts can't cast spells and don't gain class features (etc.) of their hosts.

However, let's look at the question from the other angle: what happens if creature A is inhabiting the body of creature B and casts Obtain Familiar while doing so? Maybe A is a home-brewed "powerful ghost" that retained some of the spellcasting ability it had in life; maybe it gets its hands on a wand of Obtain Familiar; whatever. Taking it as read that the ghost casts Obtain Familiar, what happens?

The ghost obtains a familiar

Obtain Familiar is pretty clear:

You gain the service of a familiar ... that takes an animal form you choose: bat, cat, ..., though it is a Celestial, fey, or fiend (your choice) instead of a beast.

Your familiar acts independently of you, but it always obeys your commands.

(emphasis mine)

It's clear from a plain reading of the text of the spell that the creature that casts Obtain Familiar is the one that gets a familiar. The ghost (or other possessing creature) is the one actually casting the spell, ergo they are the one to whom the familiar is called.

The ghost continues to benefit from the familiar

When the ghost leaves a body, they're still the same creature that cast the spell (otherwise, it would be impossible for the same ghost to possess B, leave B, then re-possess B: if the ghost were a different creature after leaving B, B's re-possession would be the first time some new ghost had possessed B; ontological inertia FTW).

Since it's the ghost who cast Obtain Familiar, the ghost continues to gain the benefits of having a familiar.

So, Scenario 1

The caster gets it, and the caster is obviously the spirit or ghost. As such ALL of the summoned familiars are just the same poor celestial familiar returning-respawning each and every time. Each casting simply re-summons the same tired spirit over and over again.

The ghost (somehow) cast the spell, thus the ghost is the "you" who gains the service of a familiar.

  • \$\begingroup\$ this is indeed the answer i was searching for, thank you. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 5:48

The ghost does not have access to spellcasting

The ghost's Possession trait states:

It otherwise uses the possessed target's statistics, but doesn't gain access to the target's knowledge, class features, or proficiencies.

Without access to the class features, there is no spellcasting, which means no ritual spells can be cast.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I would also point out that nothing in the description text for Ghost says that it retains abilities it had from when alive. So "G" being a 1st level CE wizard has no relevance. So it cannot use host features NOR features it had in life. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Commented Nov 12, 2020 at 19:58
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @MivaScott I'm honestly not even sure how to include that. I mean, a monster is a monster with a monster stat block. And most importantly, OP already confirmed they weren't thinking of this in 5e terms, but older editions. The simple clarification answer I have seems to have solved that issue. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Nov 12, 2020 at 20:02
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @MivaScott This is why my entire question sucks. My bad, and thanks for pointing out that ghosts take, quite literally (i.e. 'not written down'), nothing with them. This is the simpler, RAW, and more functional interpretation of a 5e 'ghost'. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 13, 2020 at 19:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ okay. What if they have access via a ring of spell storing? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Commented Jul 23, 2021 at 13:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BenBarden Then they are using a magic item and this is a different question :) \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jul 23, 2021 at 13:36

Homebrew problems require homebrew solutions

Ghosts do not possess the ability to cast spells, nor are they allowed to access their host's class abilities, which would include spellcasting:

It otherwise uses the possessed target's statistics, but doesn't gain access to the target's knowledge, class features, or proficiencies.

If the Ghost is able to cast Find Familiar by some means, this would mean that homebrew rules are being used, so the only way to resolve your scenario would be for the DM to make a ruling.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Is this homebrew or a misreading of the ghost stat block? There's no homebrew tag, so I don't think this is homebrew. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Nov 12, 2020 at 19:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Naut It could be that the OP is a player, not the DM, and therefore does not have access to the stat block to realize that it's a homebrew situation. (This is why I had voted to close originally). But, regardless, the only way for this situation to arise is through homebrew rules. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rykara
    Commented Nov 12, 2020 at 19:14

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