As a Wizard, I have a Familiar:

Empathic Link (Su): The master has an empathic link with his familiar to a 1 mile distance. The master can communicate empathically with the familiar, but cannot see through its eyes. Because of the link’s limited nature, only general emotions can be shared. The master has the same connection to an item or place that his familiar does.

We've just finished off a session where, as our team was discussing how to communicate long-distance via my Duck familiar, my DM ruled that my familiar was apparently able to sense that "I felt like I needed a distraction". This doesn't sound at all like an emotion to me! Emotions are stuff like anger, fear, longing, sadness, arousal, or even hunger.

I let it slide in-game because I didn't want to sidetrack the combat scene; and anyway, I didn't really want to dive deeper with him on it afterwards, because I'm not inclined to speak out against favorable rulings 😉. But it made me wonder if this concept is expanded upon in the PF literature anywhere.

Is this rules text the only guidance that a DM has to adjudicate what can be communicated via Empathic Link?


1 Answer 1


Feelings, not thoughts or observations

The rules provide the following examples:

For example, a toad familiar might project feelings of hunger whenever a member of a fly-demon cult is nearby, a bat familiar might express curiosity about the words a weird hermit is muttering under his breath, and a rat familiar might feel fear when a dangerous assassin walks into the room.

These examples support your take that the "general emotions" to be shared are mostly feelings — hunger, curiosity, fear. They are not more abstract operational or descriptive concepts, or, as one dictionary definition of emotion expresses it, they are "distinguished from reasoning or knowledge".

That said, what you describe happening at your table is not that uncommon. If you are using miniatures, for example, and have the familiar on the battle map, it is often difficult for players to ignore knowledge from what the familiar can see but the characters cannot, in particular when that knowledge makes a real difference for what actions would be useful or harmful to the characters. Because of this, I've seen what the familiar can share interpreted somewhat more generously, even when the rules as written do not really support it, to lessen the difficultly for the players to "play dumb" to their own characters' detriment.


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