Further to the question "How to determine if an animal is a familiar or a regular beast?", can the original form of a familiar be detected by Truesight?

PHB pg 185 includes the following in the description of Truesight:

"perceives the original form of a shapechanger or a creature that is transformed by magic."

PHB pg 240 includes the following in the description of the Find Familiar spell:

Appearing in an unoccupied space within range, the familiar has the statistics of the chosen form, though it is a celestial, fey, or fiend (your choice) instead of a beast."

Where it gets more complicated is that also in the description of the Find Familiar spell, it indicates:

You gain the services of a familiar, a spirit that takes an animal form you choose

I found this question "Is a soul or spirit a creature?" regarding creatures and spirits, but I don't believe the answer addresses whether a spirit is a creature.

I also found this question "What exactly is a fey fiend celestial spirit?" regarding spirits, but again I don't believe it addresses whether a spirit is a creature (although it is very long so I may have missed something).

However, MM pg 279 includes this in the description of the Specter (Wights and Wraiths also have references to being spirits):

A specter is the angry, unfettered spirit of a humanoid

Accordingly, has the celestial, fey or fiend been "transformed by magic", and is its spirit a "creature", such that its original form would be apparent to someone with Truesight?


2 Answers 2



Spells do what they say they do; 5e has no hidden rules. The Find Familiar spell doesn't say it conjures a creature and then transforms it, so it doesn't. You can't see its true, original form with Truesight, because there is no true, original form to see. The first time the spirit has a stat block is once it's become your familiar, so that is its true form, and that is the form that would be seen by Truesight.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Please cite your sources for every claim in the first three sentences of this. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mark Wells
    Feb 25, 2021 at 2:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MarkWells The first sentence is a general principle of 5e that comes up so often here that it probably doesn't need to be cited. As for the second or third sentences, just imagine that there's a link to the DnD Beyond page for the Find Familiar spell where it says "Find Familiar spell" in the second sentence. I'm on mobile at the moment, so the GUI to add links to my answers isn't displaying when I edit my answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – nick012000
    Feb 25, 2021 at 2:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nick012000 good point - I believe the spell description is unclear whether the familiar is conjured or just shows up, but it is more explcit that the familiar is "a spirit that takes an animal form". "Taking form" as a creature appears to me that the animal form would be the original form, hence the different language used compared to a spell like Polymorph where it refers to transforming. \$\endgroup\$
    – Weiramon
    Feb 25, 2021 at 6:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ So readers don't have to hunt for it themselves, it would be worth quoting truesight "perceive the original form of a shapechanger or a creature that is transformed by magic" then point out the relevant quote in find familiar "You gain the service of a familiar, a spirit that takes an animal form you choose" \$\endgroup\$
    – GcL
    Feb 25, 2021 at 14:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also worth noting some later text in the Find Familiar spell: "If you cast this spell while you already have a familiar, you instead cause it to adopt a new form. Choose one of the forms from the above list. Your familiar transforms into the chosen creature." This seems pretty clearly to transform the familiar by magic, but I still think the original text of "takes an animal form" is less clear. To me, it still wouldn't make sense to rule that transforming an existing familiar causes the original form to be visible to truesight; because then what happens if you magically transform it back? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 26, 2021 at 14:45


Whether a “spirit” is a creature or a teapot doesn’t matter - the familiar is and is explicitly changed from a spirit to a beast by magic so that engages the “creature that is transformed by magic." True sight will allow you to see its original form.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Expanding on Medix's comment, it seems your answer should substantiate the idea that there are not corporeal Fey cats running around the Feywild waiting to be summoned with no need for shapechanging. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 24, 2021 at 20:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ The natural follow up question to address here would be what the form is like, or whether it is at all defined. You say the true form is seen, so what is that? \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Feb 24, 2021 at 20:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Weiramon If the spirit was somehow not a creature, and now is, then it's a creature that is transformed by magic. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mark Wells
    Feb 24, 2021 at 21:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Someone_Evil That's a separate question, if you want to ask it. 😎 \$\endgroup\$ Feb 24, 2021 at 21:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Weiramon see also true polymorph creature into object, and object into creature ... true sight would reveal that \$\endgroup\$ Feb 24, 2021 at 21:33

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