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Familiars from the find familiar spell are spirits (celestial, fey, or fiend) and take the form of a pre-defined creature when summoned, but are they as intelligent as their "normal" creature counterpart? Or is the familiar more intelligent than a normal creature of its kind?

The spell find familiar seems to list features that imply an intelligence greater than a typical animal. Is there a reference to how intelligent these spirits are expected to be?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you mean intelligent as in its Ability Scores (in determining Saving Throws) or are you looking for someone (thing?) to talk to. \$\endgroup\$ – daze413 Jul 21 '15 at 3:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am also confused as to what you are asking. You looking for written rules or simply RP flavor? \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Jul 21 '15 at 4:41
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From Find Familiar (PHB p. 294)

the familiar has the statistics of the chosen form, though it is a celestial, fey, or fiend (your choice) instead of a beast.

They have the same Intelligence (and Wisdom, and Strength etc.) as the chosen form.

The spell is explicit about what they can and cannot do. Specifically:

  • It acts independently
  • It obeys your commands
  • It cannot attack
  • You can communicate with it telepathically up to 100 feet - it does not say that it can communicate with you in this way
  • You can use an action to "see through your familiar’s eyes and hear what it hears"
  • You can use an action to dismiss/recall it
  • You can use it to cast a "touch" spell

Of these the only one where lack of intelligence would be an impediment would be obeying commands. The forms mentioned all have an Intelligence of 1, 2 or 3, so:

  • a command "Design the Sydney Opera House" is going beyond their capability,
  • "Go there", "Come here", "Stay" are not,
  • "Go through that door and scout the next room" is a DM call. The geniuses of the group (cat, octopus) might manage this; the others would probably struggle. If you want to use a familiar as a scout you would be better served "see[ing] through your familiar’s eyes and hear[ing] what it hears" and issuing short easily followed commands on a round-by-round basis.
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Actually it does not imply that it has any more intelligence, the only implication is that you can communicate with it in a meaningful fashion - "Your familiar acts independently of you, but it always obeys your commands.". If anything that's just a free "speak with that animal telepathically" spell. The actual intelligence score is the same as the form, however, it's independent of you. Sending Bubba your weasel familiar to help rockjaw the fighter while he's fighting will result in Bubba performing a 'help' action. Sending Bubba to 'help' Rockjaw when Rockjaw needs to be stabilized should result in "Sorry boss- I'm unfamiliar with prone fighting from beyond the grave, plus, he's napping". Also remember that a familiar is not the actual animal-its a summoned spirit. A cat familiar will not immediately run towards the hidden Kuo-toa looking for tuna snack when its summoned.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Your answer seems to imply that using the word "help" in-universe (rather than from an out-of-character perspective) will be interpreted by the familiar as the Help action (the name of which is an out-of-character term that's used in the rules). I'm not sure that logically follows. It's fine to argue that the familiar wouldn't be intelligent enough to know how to stabilize someone, but I don't think mixing up in-character communication and out-of-character game terms really serves as an example of that at all. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 31 at 22:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast in combat the game term "help action" describes "You feint, distract the target, or in some other way team up to make your ally’s attack more effective." A command to help someone fight would be interpreted as performing one of those actions since every animal understands fighting. Other "help" actions depend on the creature knowing what to do - it knows you want it to help the person - but what to actually do may be beyond its comprehension. \$\endgroup\$ – Jim B Sep 12 at 20:29

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