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I play a Death Domain cleric, with 1 level in wizard so I can cast the find familiar spell.

For my familiar, I have a gelatinous ice cube (stats of a oblex spawn).

At lower levels, it was super fun but we are now level 5 and with only AC 13 and 18 HP, it is dying in literally every single fight. I find myself using two or three 1st-level spell slots to summon it each day.

The DM allowed me to buy a helmet for my cube (though the helmet is not really being worn so much as it is in the cube); this gives my familiar an AC of 14, which is an improvement but not really helping as it is most often AoE spells that kill it.

I'm looking for ways a cleric 5/wizard 1 can improve their familiar.

  • I have considered shield of faith, but this uses up my concentration and that a big deal to a cleric.
  • Mage armor seems to be the best idea for increasing the AC, as it lasts mostly all day, is only a 1st-level spell, and gives my familiar an AC of 16 (making it comparable to an average PC).

Is there anything else to improve either the survivability or damage potential of my familiar?

Additional information, my DM considers my familiar a magic item, fighter gets a +1 sword, I get a turn for my familiar. It sounds OP and was a bit at lv2 but has been quite balanced over all as it only has one attack and no bonus action or reaction.

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    \$\begingroup\$ How are you trying to use your familiar in combat exactly? In general, familiars aren't exactly "fighting machines" so what you use it for and how you use it is probably more important than "improving" it. \$\endgroup\$
    – PJRZ
    Apr 22, 2021 at 14:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: Is the gelatinous ice cube familiar from the “D&D Celebration 2020” event official? To my knowledge, Death Domain clerics aren't valid in AL... I'm guessing you're not in an AL game, but your DM house-ruled to allow you to use that familiar anyway - is that correct? \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Apr 22, 2021 at 19:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ How do you deal damage with it? It cannot attack. At least as long you're not incapacitated \$\endgroup\$ Apr 22, 2021 at 19:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ As I just red: Your DM allows your familiar to take attack actions... you should add that to your question... because that completely changes the possibilities of what you can do with your familiar... and so does it changes our possibilities to answer your question. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 23, 2021 at 13:52

4 Answers 4

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Combat familiars are a class feature of Pact of the Chain Warlocks.

The basic familiar normally available to users of the spell find familiar is not well suited to battle, as you have observed. There are things you can do, such as using shield of faith, but even then, the familiar is still so squishy, your spell slots are probably best used elsewhere.

Useful combat familiars are basically a class feature of Pact of the Chain Warlocks. The Pact of the Chain warlock feature gives new options for familiars that are significantly more useful than the vanilla familiars, and gives them the ability to attack:

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 with its reaction.

This feature can be further improved with the Eldritch Invocation Investment of the Chain Master:

  • The familiar gains either a flying speed or a swimming speed (your choice) of 40 feet.
  • As a bonus action, you can command the familiar to take the Attack action.
  • The familiar’s weapon attacks are considered magical for the purpose of overcoming immunity and resistance to nonmagical attacks.
  • If the familiar forces a creature to make a saving throw, it uses your spell save DC.
  • When the familiar takes damage, you can use your reaction to grant it resistance against that damage.

I know you didn't ask about Warlocks, but the answer to your question is basically "there isn't much you can do to improve your familiar's combat abilities without being a Pact of the Chain Warlock because combat familiars are the point of Pact of the Chain Warlocks." By using the Gelatinous Ice Cube AL Reward and your DM letting it make an attack, your familiar is already punching well above the weight class of the familiars available to non-Warlocks.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It's on the edge of home brew territory but my DM considers it a magic item, fighter gets a +1 sword, I get a turn for my familiar. It sound OP and was a bit at lv2 but has been quite balanced over all as it only has one attack and no bonus action or reaction. \$\endgroup\$
    – Skeith
    Apr 22, 2021 at 14:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Skeith I would consider your familiar getting full actions to be dramatically inferior to a +1 sword. That +1 sword is going to keep being useful all the way to the end of the game unless the fighter gets an even better weapon. As you've discovered, even a CR 1/4 pet (much stronger than a standard familiar) is not exactly useful as you level up. If I were you, I'd re-summon it as something more utility focused and less combat focused (like an Owl) and use it to deliver touch-ranged spells, or Help to give Advantage. Yeah, having a CR 1/4 minion is useful at low level. Not so much now. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 22, 2021 at 17:10
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Normally, familiars have around 1 or 2 HP... because the normal familiar options are not that good.

The best way to defend your familiar is mentioned in the description of find familiar itself:

As an action, you can temporarily dismiss your familiar. It disappears into a pocket dimension where it awaits your summons. Alternatively, you can dismiss it forever. As an action while it is temporarily dismissed, you can cause it to reappear in any unoccupied space within 30 feet of you.

The familiar is not meant to deal damage. It's designed to help you using the Help action, or to let you cast cure wounds at range. It's a utility tool and not a weapon.

That out of the way: I think mage armor is already a good deal. And I wouldn't spend more spell slots on a familiar. If you need to save it from an otherwise lethal situation, just dismiss it. TBH you already have a pretty sturdy familiar... normally they're much frailer. That's why the most familiar owners have an animal that can fly or at least climb, to do scouting or get into places you wouldn't get otherwise.

An addition from the comments (by Peter Cordes): An Oblex Spawn has blindsight and can squeeze through small holes, which presents some interesting scouting possibilities. And can maybe beat a single guard dog in combat. But yeah, out of place on a battlefield against something that's a threat to a mid-level party.

And another suggestion (because your DM lets your familiar take attack actions): Ask your DM what he or she is okay with... ie equipment like a plate armor and/or a shield... I know, I know an armored jelly cube sounds ridiculous. But if your party is using familiars like little sidekick warriors, I'd suggest you think about equipping it as such. Also, maybe ask your DM what you have to do to turn your familiar into an actual sidekick and let it gain some levels in Sidekick Warrior. You can find the rules for that in Tasha's Couldron of Everything p.142.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's not exactly homebrew, it's actually Adventurer's League official: Is the gelatinous ice cube familiar from the "D&D Celebration 2020" event official? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 22, 2021 at 14:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov: To my knowledge, Death Domain clerics aren't valid in AL, right? (So presumably OP's not in an AL game, but their DM may have allowed them to use that familiar anyway...) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Apr 22, 2021 at 19:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast It's from the DMG, is it excluded by rule in A? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 22, 2021 at 19:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov: At least before the recent AL rule changes, the 2 DMG subclasses (and the example aasimar race and eladrin subrace given as examples of creating a race/subrace) were not valid options for character creation. I'd have to double-check if that's changed since then. (EDIT: As far as I can tell, it hasn't changed - the DMG is not a valid/selectable source for character creation options in AL.) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Apr 22, 2021 at 19:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast You are correct, the DMG is absent from eligible character creation material in the most recent AL Player's Guide. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 22, 2021 at 19:54
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One minor improvement - find familiar can be cast as a ritual, so you can save those spell slots if you're willing to add an extra 10 minutes to the hour-long casting time. There's not much you can do about the 10 gp material component cost though.

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The answer is magic

The least intensive method for upping the defensive and offensive capabilities of your familiar will be in giving them fun new tools in the form of magic items, barding, and buff spells.

Familiars can attune to magic items and some are just activation and not attacks which would bypass the familiar's limitations.

You can put barding on your familiar to increase their AC. Full plate on an Oblex, why not?

And finally, you can boost their offensive capability either through those magic items or via spells like Dragon's Breath.

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