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The idea of using Polymorph to get around the limitations on Awaken has been covered before. It has a bunch of issues, having to do with the fact that eventually you'll want to unpolymorph the thing back into its original state and (preferably) keep the int boost and the free language, and there's a lot of reasons that might not work the way you want. Find Familiar, though, gives you a critter that basically is a low-CR beast, other than the fact that it's not actually a beast, so there's much less incentive to change it back when you're done. You can't normally abuse True Polymorph to permanently upgrade your familiar in a meaningful way, because you can't increase CR with that spell... but changing it into its actually-a-beast version, or into some other beast of the same CR should still be doable, and that seems like it would make the creature a valid target for Awaken. At that point, it seems like you could just... leave it as it is. It would be a beast instead of a celestial/fey/fiend, but that seems like a small enough price to pay for cranking the int up to 10 and giving it the ability to speak a language. There are a number of other useful features of familiars, but those all seem to be facts about what the caster can do, rather than things that would be disrupted by True Polymorph.

Basically, this looks like cheese. It's a way to permanently upgrade your familiar with spells, and it seems pretty clear that the authors have made efforts to try to prevent exactly that. At the same time, as far as I can see, it's viable-within-the-rules cheese. Is there anything I'm missing here?

The argument "it's obviously cheesy so as DM I wouldn't allow it" is not a acceptable answer to this question unless you can also find some in-the-rules way to challenge its validity. If doing this would cause you to lose out on any of the standard features of a familiar, that would be useful additional information.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ A partial answer exists here. There is nothing stopping True Polymprph from changing a familiar. Can't call it a duplicate as it doesn't handle awaken. \$\endgroup\$ – MivaScott Jan 6 at 23:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ do bear in mind that True Polymorph is still dispellable, it's not as permanent as people think. \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster Jan 6 at 23:39
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If you're got true polymorph, it seems to me that the ship has pretty much sailed on letting you permanently upgrade things with spells. You can transform the whole party into CR17 Adult Gold Dragons; you can turn pebbles into Evokers or Young Silver Dragons or Unicorns, and just keep doing that once per day forever. Giving your familiar a 10 INT seems like not something your DM should be worried about at that point in the game.

One drawback: one of the uses of your familiar is as a disposable scout: you can send it to check for traps, and if it dies, the only cost is you need an hour and 10gp to resummon it. (And it's a ritual spell, so you don't even lose a spell slot!) But if you're using this trick, then true polymorph falls off as soon as the familiar drops to 0 hit points, and that probably means that you lose awaken, and awaken costs 1000gp to recast.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Gold dragons are fun, but a couple of players turning themselves into beholders can really mess up a DMs planned big bad climatic battle lol. Those anti magic cones can just make for a really bad day when our on the other end of them lol. \$\endgroup\$ – Richard C Jan 9 at 15:12
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Yes. True Polymorph followed by awaken can be applied to a familiar

tl;dr Ninth level spells are game changing.

True Polymorph will change your familiar into a beast

True polymorph is the creature type alteration spell that will alter the type to beast instead of fey|fiend|celestial.

The altered creature is a valid target for awaken and find familiar features

Now the newly minted beast familiar is a valid target for awaken until true polymorph is dispelled.

As the result of find familiar this is still the creature that the caster gained the service of. The effects of find familiar that are particularly relevant are:

  • When the familiar drops to 0 hit points, it disappears

    Which makes it an invalid target for both true polymorph and awaken as it's no longer extant.

  • If you cast this spell while you already have a familiar, you instead cause it to adopt a new form.

    Which would then cause it to take a new form that is not a beast and not be a valid target for awaken

In short, this process loses effect if the familiar dies or you re-cast the spell.

Wish as an alternative

Given no DM barrier to mild cheddar, a wish spell accomplishes the task of your find familiar always acquiring an intelligent speaking companion. This has the advantage of not having to spend 1k gold each time the familiar dies in order to re-cast awaken.

Alternatively ask your DM for this feature.

Given a DM that is not opposed to this outcome, it would likely be accessible prior to being able to cast 9th level spells or obtaining 9th level spell scrolls.

An intelligent speaking familiar might be an interesting way for the DM to interject story points, missed plot clues, or commentary about the party. A speaking ever-presence NPC similar to Bob of the Dresden Files has been a convenient, if not so subtle, voice of the plot for campaigns I have participated in.

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