A Rogue character with the Arcane Trickster archetype chooses Find Familiar as her non-enchantment, non-illusion, 1st level spell. How does that creature interact with the Sneak Attack feature?

From the PHB:

A familiar can’t attack, but it can take other actions as normal.

One of those actions is Help:

you can aid a friendly creature in attacking a creature within 5 feet of you. You feint, distract the target, or in some other way team up to make your ally’s attack more effective. If your ally attacks the target before your next turn, the first attack roll is made with advantage.

So, can a Familiar give it's master an Advantage to her first attack, which would give her the chance of a Sneak Attack?

The Sneak Attack feature also says:

You don’t need advantage on the attack roll if another enemy of the target is within 5 feet of it, that enemy isn’t incapacitated, and you don’t have disadvantage on the attack roll.

Can the Familiar's presence 5ft. from the target grant Sneak Attacks every round, or is it not considered an enemy because it can't attack?

I can't find any rule that says it can't, am I missing something?


Yes, the familiar can grant advantage with the Help action, and its presence adjacent to an enemy can allow sneak attacks. Bear in mind, though, that most familiars have extremely low health and AC, and will likely die in a single hit, requiring 10g and at least 1 hour to resummon.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Nareshkendel, Emphasis on the 2nd sentence as no victim will stand for that kind of abuse more than once=dead kitty (familiar) \$\endgroup\$ – Ben-Jamin Apr 2 '15 at 15:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've chosen this answer, because it talks about the risk to the familiar, although they are all equally useful. \$\endgroup\$ – Nareshkendel Apr 2 '15 at 18:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ For future readers, though the question is old: Note that Owls have 60 ft movement and Flyby, i.e. they don't provoke opportunity attacks. If this is your strategy, an owl familiar is the way to go. Additionally, if your rogue readies an action to attack, the familiar could both enable sneak attack when it flies within 5 ft of enemy 1, and use the Help action for another PC against enemy 2 \$\endgroup\$ – automaton Jan 16 at 18:52


Yes, the rules say familiars can do everything but attack, so that would include Help. It also says nothing about their “enemy” status – that is purely about who opposes whom. Your familiar is acting, in combat, to aid you in defeating this foe. That foe can attack the familiar, and might decide to do so if there’s a good opportunity and it’s helping you too much. Thus it should also count as an “enemy,” and for that Sneak Attack condition, only your ability to attack is required.


Rules as written, a familiar grants sneak attack damage just by being within 5 feet of the target. Even though it cannot attack, the rules simply require that the familiar be the target's enemy, and that the familiar is not incapacitated. Thus, simply sitting on the rogue's shoulder or standing next to the target, a rogue receives sneak attack damage.

Additionally, a familiar can use the Help action to grant sneak attack damage for one attack.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Does being on the rogue's shoulder provide any additional protection to said familiar over being on an otherwise empty square? \$\endgroup\$ – Foon Apr 3 '15 at 11:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Foon I'm not sure it can be in the same space and act. From the PHB: "Whether a creature is a friend or an enemy, you can’t willingly end your move in its space." I don't know how this would work... \$\endgroup\$ – Nareshkendel Apr 11 '15 at 0:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ I believe the mount rules would apply here - only with you being the mount. An enemy would be free to target either you or your familiar. \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Apr 13 '15 at 3:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ I totally disagree. The book says "if there is another enemy", since the familiar cannot attack, it is hardly an enemy. So just having the familiar on your shoulder won't work, unless you have a parrot and it is very talkative (used as a distraction with the Help action) but that would probably distract the rogue too. \$\endgroup\$ – Alexis Wilke Oct 6 '15 at 18:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AlexisWilke unless you have a parrot and it is very talkative (used as a distraction with the Help action) but that would probably distract the rogue too The rogue can do as any married person can do and apply selective listening (tune the parrot out) during a fight. ;-) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 26 '16 at 12:38

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