The 5e PHB is pretty unambiguous about familiar "death". Per the find familiar spell description:

When the familiar drops to 0 hit points, it disappears, leaving behind no physical form. It reappears after you cast this spell again.

You can also use the spell to change your familiar's form.

Is this familiar, for all intents and purposes, exactly the same being you summoned before?
In other words, is familiar death in 5e just a temporary inconvenience, or does it have repercussions of some sort?


4 Answers 4


It's just a temporary inconvenience, except in a singular case.

Basically, all that a familiar's death means is that you'll have to recast Find Familiar at your earliest convenience (so it means the loss of a spell slot for a day if you have a time pressure and can't take the extra 10 minutes to cast it as a ritual). The spell/ritual does cost 10gp, but that's a pretty trivial amount for an adventurer. It also has a casting time of 1 hr so your party probably needs a short rest while you do it rather than simply doing it between encounters.

The only case where having a familiar come to harm is a permanent issue is in the rare event that you decided to retrain the spell (or as a wizard, have lost the spell book that contains it). These are the only times when losing a familiar has long term ramifications.

As to whether or not the newfound familiar obtained when you recast the spell is the same being reincarnated/resurrected, or a different being entirely, this is up to you and the flavor you choose for your familiar.

  • 14
    \$\begingroup\$ Since it's a ritual, it doesn't even have to cost a spell slot for the day. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 2:36
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ I think it will actually take 1 hour and 10 minutes to cast. The casting time for Find Familiar is 1 hour. Casting a ritual spell takes 10 minutes longer (see the Rituals section in the PHB pg 201) \$\endgroup\$
    – Jason
    Commented Apr 12, 2015 at 17:55

I've been thinking a lot about this lately.

General Case

If the familiar drop to zero hit points, it is sent back to the pocket dimension, and the spell must be recast. When recast you get the same spirit back again.

Edge Cases

That isn't the only death a familiar can face. Power Word Kill for instance says:

If the creature you chose has 100 hit points or fewer, it dies.

So, if a character spent a 9th level spell slot, they could kill the familiar dead. Certain Celestial and Fiends when killed reform on the celestial plane, abyss, or the 9 Hells (like Devils, Demons, etc.). So, death might not be the end of them. The Fey, however, is likely toast.

Recasting the spell after that death will still work, but you're likely just going to get a new spirit.

And Disintegrate says:

On a failed save, the target takes 10d6 + 40 force damage. If this damage reduces the target to 0 hit points, it is disintegrated.

It is unclear which is more specific, and which happens: the Familiar rule or the Disintegrate rule.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ It may be worth explicitly mentioning that the familiar being a fiend/celestial/fey is because they're a spirit of that kind/from that corresponding realm, if that's how you're interpreting that aspect of the spell; I'm guessing that's what you basing the line about planes on, anyway. Also, regarding your last line, I fail to see how "it is unclear which is more specific"; they don't really contradict each other, as no matter how the familiar's reduced to 0 HP, only its body is being destroyed, not its spirit/soul/etc. When it hits 0 HP, its physical form disappears regardless of how it died. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Aug 31, 2020 at 22:16

The only long term effect under normal circumstances (you can recast the spell) is the material cost of 10 gp worth charcoal, incense and herbs.


There is a case where it might matter. Although your question specifies the Find Familiar spell, there is another way to get a familiar. The Monster Manual has familiar variants for the unusual familiar types: Quasit, imp, etc.

According to the powers that be, these are intended primarily as familiars for NPCs, but it is unclear if they are summoned with magic, or if they are simply beings who have agreed to work in concert with a character for mutual benefit. The implication (verified by Crawford and others) is that the Find Familiar spell is not invoked, since:

At any time and for any reason, the quasit can end its service as a familiar

In this singular case, a familiar's death would be a real death, subject to the rules regarding death for a creature of its type. In the case of a Quasit, its form should reappear in the Abyss, but since it was never summoned with Find Familiar, some other means must be found of returning it to the Prime Material. Similar rules apply to the imp. The pseudodragon would simply die. There is no variant for the sprite.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ It isn't unclear -- the book says they make agreements, and Jeremy Crawford has stated a number of times they have nothing to do with the Find Familiar spell. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 15, 2017 at 16:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Unless you're a pact of the chain warlock. In which case you can call them using Find Familiar. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob Rose
    Commented Jul 15, 2017 at 19:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @J.A.Streich, Sorry, I was going for more of the flavor of the thing, specifically for an NPC. You are of course, correct that RW and RAI, the spell is not required for a variant familiar. I got there in the answer, but you are spot on that there is no unclarity. I'll adjust the phrasing. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 7:35
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @RobRose A variant familiar is not summoned by the Find Familiar spell for anyone. I have adjusted my phrasing above to make that more clear. This answer is speaking of a familiar for a Variant. Not even a Pact of the Chain warlock gets these. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 7:41

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