I'm playing LMoP at the moment as a player and I'm trying to see reasons why a player would choose Unseen Servant over Find Familiar. Related question - what makes Unseen Servant worth taking instead of Mage Hand?

Here's a small comparison table I've created when I was trying to figure it out.

Mage Hand Unseen Servant Find Familiar
Level cantrip 1 level 1 level
Casting time action action/10 minutes 1 hour
Casting cost 0 gp 0 gp 10 gp
Duration 1 minute 1 hour until killed/dispelled
Command time action bonus action free action
Multiple no yes no
Help action no no yes
Carrying capacity 10 lbs 60 lbs 90 lbs (depends on Str)
Movement 30 ft 15 ft 60 ft
Separate initiative no no yes
Scout no ? yes
Drop items in combat yes yes yes
Open doors yes yes no
Delivering spells no no yes
Invisible no yes no
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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Dec 29 '20 at 13:57

The spells all have different use cases:

Mage Hand is for performing a simple task at a distance:

You can use the hand to manipulate an object, open an unlocked door or container, stow or retrieve an item from an open container, or pour the contents out of a vial.

This can be useful for things such as distracting enemies out of combat or for adding flair to your character ("my wizard is too fancy to pour his own wine"). Note that you need to use an entire action to control the hand, suggesting that it takes up some of the users focus to perform the action.

Advantage over the other spells: The mage hand can't take damage allowing it to perform dangerous tasks such as picking up an item from a pool of acid or attempting to activate a trap (would damage and dispel the servant and hurt and possibly dispel the familiar).

Unseen Servant is for more advanced tasks and several tasks at once:

The servant can perform simple tasks that a human servant could do [...] Once you give the command, the servant performs the task to the best of its ability until it completes the task.

The unseen servant can be given a more advanced command which it will then execute, allowing the caster to focus on other things. You could probably fold your laundry with Mage Hand, but it would be just as boring and time consuming as folding it with your own hands (or even more so since you'd have to do it single-handedly).

Advantage over the other spells: As there are no restrictions for how many servants you can have at once, you can essentially let them perform all your partys rest activities while leaving you free to rest or meditate or whatever.
Note: The unseen servant is also created "on the ground" and can do "simple tasks that a human servant could do" suggesting it can't fly or perform actions in the air (although not specified per se).

Find Familiar can perform different tasks depending on what form it has and also has uses in combat. You could change your cat familiar into a raven to attach a rope to the top of a wall, but do you want to spend 1hr and 10gp to cast the spell again, or do you use mage hand? Do you want an owl to fold your laundry or do you cast unseen servant?
Advantage over the other spells: As showcased in your table the familiar has a lot of advantages over the other two spells (duration, speed, carry capacity etc), but some of the things that really make it stand out is the ability to communicate with it, that it can deliver touch-range spells for you and that you can share its senses.
Note: As mentioned in comments; remember that the familiar has all the mental statistics of the animal it resembles. Your DM might rule that the telepathic communication with a 1 Int crab is mostly gibberish relating to fish.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch You cant both fold laundry and cook at the same time with mage hand or find familiar. You can't send your familiar or servant to pick up a key in a pool of acid, and there are many things you can do with a familiar that mage hand and unseen servant can't. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jave
    Dec 29 '20 at 13:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Those would be much better additions to your answer! In fact, focusing on those would be a really good improvement. \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Dec 29 '20 at 13:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fair enough, I'll add those examples. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jave
    Dec 29 '20 at 13:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Perhaps worth considering....Find Familiar doesn't make your summoned animal any more intelligent. Unseen Servant comes packaged with the knowledge of how to do household servant tasks. Find Familiar does not. You have much clearer communication with your familiar, but telling your Raven to fold laundry doesn't mean that it has any idea how to do it. It's an animal. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 29 '20 at 15:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ It will cost you 10 gp and 1 hour to bring your familiar back if it should die, whereas Unseen Servant and Mage Hand have a near-zero cost. Even moreso for Mage Hand, which is a cantrip and can be used infinite times a day (especially important at low levels). Unseen Servant also has the benefit of being unseen - which can be really useful in the right situations. And it's significantly better at interacting with (IE, triggering and disarming) traps. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zibbobz
    Dec 29 '20 at 19:39

To preface, I'm going to answer solely from the perspective of a Wizard player as that is the only class which has access to all 3 of the spells you've described without invoking feats and the like.

Mage Hand versus Unseen Servant - Opportunity Costs

Any situation where the character needs to pick between two options and one of those options is a cantrip the character (especially a Wizard) has a limited number of cantrips that can be known. Conversely, 1st level spells do not have an effective limit, a Wizard can put as many in their spellbook as they can find.

In my experience playing as a variety of casters, the cantrips you select become very defining elements of your character as well (especially when they are non-damage dealing). For example, if my character knows the Mending cantrip, he's never going to be seen with torn clothes if he can help it; if my character knows Message, he's going to be using it whenever possible to covertly relay information between party members; and if my character knows Mage Hand, he's going to often be moving things around with that while reading through a book or using it to test an area for traps or whatever other creative uses I can think of for creatively applying 10 pounds of force.

Conversely, if I'm a Wizard that doesn't know Mage Hand and I wish to implement the features of it I can do so, but it will be more costly either in time because I need to ritually cast Unseen Servant or in spell slots so that I can expedite things down to an Action. In some ways, the Unseen Servant will be better and others not so much, however, what my Wizard pays in time or spell slots they will be repaid in opportunity with another cantrip selection.

Unseen Servant versus Find Familiar - Monetary Costs

The reasons you listed are more than enough to provide the pros and cons of each spell. They are what they are.

However, given you are playing LMoP, then you are in the 1st tier range of gameplay. Thus the cost of one or the other is measured less so in terms of which is better but rather in monetary casting costs. Find Familiar, as you noted, costs 10 gp to cast. From the backgrounds available in the PHB, a large number of them start with only 10 gp. Thus, if you wish to start the game with a familiar, you can do so but you'll burn all of your starting money to do so and if the familiar dies then you'll need to buy more material components to create another.

Obviously, this major limitation goes away fairly early in a character's adventuring career. However, the journey between 1st and 2nd level is often the most perilous. As a player, you have to make a choice. Do you select Unseen Servant, which is free to cast ritually, or will you risk your starting resources to have the much more potent Find Familiar?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Great answer, thanks! I'm looking from the perspective of 'if I can choose one which should I choose' at the moment, so Find Familiar looks 'better' in almost all situations in a long run, but for wizard it definitely makes sense to choose Unseen Servant at 1st level cause it doesn't eat a cantrip and also free to use. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 29 '20 at 15:13

Unseen Servant over Mage Hand

A Scout: Unseen Servant can be at 60ft from you, twice the range of Mage Hand. It's invisible, lasts longer, and can be used as a scouting tool (not sure why you tagged it with a No in the Scout category). You can ask it a simple task like

Go inside the dungeon and fetch a rock if no one is in the first room.

Or something more destructive

Take this torch and burn that house down.

Unseen Servant over Find Familiar

Much faster to cast. You can only make a Familiar during a large break (while the rest of the party is taking a rest, for example). Never in the midst of combat, if it happened to die recently.

Go try that lever over there while we stall the horde of Hobgoblins that just entered the dungeon.

Also cheaper. In gritty low level campaigns (Out of the Abyss is an example where players start with no gear at all), Unseen Servant can be cast with a bit of string (torn some from your clothes) and a bit of wood (should be easy to find). Find Familiar requires 10g in (rare) materials.

While a familiar needs to become some animal that might go unnoticed, the Servant is invisible, so it is also a semi decent scout (due to its range, you can only scout a couple of rooms ahead of you though).

Is Unseen Servant worth it?

Not always. Not most of the time actually, from my experience. Some Warlocks or Wizards benefit more from Find Familiar. Thief Rogues or people taking the Telekinetic feat benefit more from Mage Hand. But all three spells are able to do similar things.

Unseen Servant has its niche uses, and if you have a party member with an improved Familiar, the added versatility of the Unseen Servant would be great. But out of the three, Unseen Servant seems to be the most niche, not as easily used in random situations as the other two.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not yet sure that Unseen Servant can scout, probably depends heavily on DM's ruling. It seems logical that you can ask it to "fetch a rock if nobody is in the room". But if it can scout then it makes it better than familiar in almost all cases. And I've changed 'scout' to '?' for Unseen Servant, thanks for the answer \$\endgroup\$ Dec 29 '20 at 13:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ on the other hand, wording of Unseen Servant is 'command the servant to move up to 15 feet and interact with an object'. I guess you can read it as you have to see the object which it has to interact with? Or at least it has to be a particular object (not some random rock in the room)? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 29 '20 at 13:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RomanPekar I dont think it needs to be a specific object, but it might depend on DM's ruling, yes \$\endgroup\$
    – BlueMoon93
    Dec 29 '20 at 14:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Might be worth mentioning that "You can only make a Familiar during a rest" is not intended in the mechanical meaning of rest, since it takes an hour to cast (which would negate the benefits of a long rest) and you cannot cast spells if you want to take a short rest. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 29 '20 at 14:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KogarashiKaito Correct, I've edited my answer \$\endgroup\$
    – BlueMoon93
    Dec 29 '20 at 15:00

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