The Witch class in the Advanced Players Guide allows an octopus as a familiar (p 219 in the Bestiary). My player has generated multiple questions regarding this subject.

Will the octopus function on land? Under ecology, the environment says 'temperate or cold ocean' which can be read as '(temperate ocean) or (cold ocean)' or '(temperate) or (cold ocean)'. Note that the octopus is now a magical creature and all that entry states is the creature eats, breathes, and sleeps.

Is there anything preventing the octopus from using Ink Cloud or Jet on land? Logically these are abilities an octopus uses under water, but as written I see no limitation.

The Witch entry says the octopus uses the 'young' template. I cannot seem to find it in the index of the books I possess. Where is the young template for monsters? The young template is in a Bestiary appendix. I missed it on first glance.

Edit: The octopus does possess a land speed of 20ft.


5 Answers 5


Surviving on Land

Octopi are aquaticPFSRD creatures, but not amphibiousPFSRD ones.

Aquatic. [...] An aquatic creature can breathe water. It cannot breathe air unless it has the amphibious special quality. [...]
Amphibious (Ex). Creatures with this special quality have the aquatic subtype, but they can survive indefinitely on land.

So they have to hold breath in order to survive in open air.


JetPFSRD is a general extraordinary ability (one of those listed in the Universal Monster Rules). It explicitly applies only to swim speed.

Jet (Ex). The creature can swim backward as a full-round action at the listed speed. It must move in a straight line while jetting, and does not provoke attacks of opportunity when it does so.

Ink Cloud

Ink Cloud is an octopusPFSRD-only trick:

Ink Cloud (Ex): An octopus can emit a 10-foot-radius sphere of ink once per minute as a free action. The ink provides total concealment in water, and persists for 1 minute.

So it can use the cloud out of the water, but it has no stated game effect (concealment is granted only in water).

These are the RAW. That said, any sensate home rule you and your GM agree upon may patch one or more of these aspects. I don't see any balancing issue in letting a familiar octopus survive on land. It is a quite creepy companion that helps a lot in defining your character.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is exactly what I was looking for. Thank you for answering. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 14, 2011 at 16:56

Pathfinder (like D&D 3.x before it) functions on common sense as much as legalism. So, no, the octopus will die on land and its abilities that rely on a watery environment won't work, just like a raven familiar of a sea elf wizard would be unable to "fly" at the bottom of the ocean and would very quickly drown.

Unless this is a flying octopus, it makes no sense for it to be Jetting around out of the water. Similarly, it would have to be some kind of mutant octopus to have a spurt of ink form a billowing cloud in the air and not, well, a spurt of ink.

  • 8
    \$\begingroup\$ Agreed. "No, because octopi can't live on land." "But it doesn't say that out loud in the rulebook" is not an argument worth making to most Pathfinder GMs. Here's the Young template though - d20pfsrd.com/bestiary/monster-listings/templates/… \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Apr 1, 2011 at 0:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk: If an octopus can't survive on land, why does it have a land speed? Piranhas (d20pfsrd.com/bestiary/monster-listings/animals/piranha-mature), Giant Jellyfish (d20pfsrd.com/bestiary/monster-listings/vermin/jellyfish/…) and Whales (d20pfsrd.com/bestiary/monster-listings/animals/aquatic/whale) don't have a land speed, so it can hardly be an oversight in the rules but needs to have some meaning to it. \$\endgroup\$
    – user660
    Apr 1, 2011 at 7:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Baelnorn An octopus can actually do fine on land for short periods of time. Captive ones are notorious for escaping their aquarium tanks, walking along the staff catwalks, and sneaking into nearby tanks for midnight snacks. They just can't hold their "breath" for longer than a few dozen minutes. An octopus's stats should have a land speed for exactly such circumstances. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 1, 2011 at 9:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @7SD: Fair enough. Something like this was just what I was trying to hint at. Also, if the player really wants an octopus familiar or it just fits the character well enough why not simply allow the octopus to gain "Air Breathing" or somesuch as a level based advancement benefit? \$\endgroup\$
    – user660
    Apr 1, 2011 at 20:00
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @Baelnorn No reason except that it's not the default state of affairs that the question is asking about. Though, that might make a good answer of the "No, but…" form. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 1, 2011 at 20:10

This is the sort of thing where a GM has to take ownership of the world, the game, and the rules. What sort of game are you running?

Is this a gritty, hard-edged campaign? If so, then answer, "Sure, you can have an octopus familiar. A young octopus is about as big as your hand. It needs at least 5 gallons of seawater, so you'll be hauling a 40+ lb barrel of water around. If it breaks or spills, you'll need to get the octopus back in seawater (not freshwater, which will kill it), within 30 minutes or it Just. Plain. Dies."

Is this a goofy, kids-storybook inspired campaign? Then answer, "Sure! You can have an octopus familiar! What color is it? I'll bet it's purple! What's his name, Lefty?"

Is this a standard fantasy game? If so, answer, "No, you can't have an octopus familiar that doesn't live in the ocean."

Think about the reality of the situation: On land, an octopus can't breathe. It doesn't have a skeleton to help support it. It can't move well and it's eyes are meant to work underwater, so it can't even see right. It's going to dry out and die in short order. Miserably.

I can see that working for a pirate-themed or other seafaring campaign, and even then it would be a tragedy. I think it's the Farseer books where there's an example of a man and a dolphin who are paired psychically, and it makes both of their lives miserable.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ If you're going to downvote, please consider leaving a comment explaining why you think this is a bad answer. And "this answer is not useful" is different from "I disagree". \$\endgroup\$
    – gomad
    Apr 1, 2011 at 14:34
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ actually octopi can move remarkably well on land. I've seen a video of an octopus 'running' from a predator across a rocky beach and boy did it shift its arse! They are evolved to live in places like rock pools, so are quite at home 'holding its breath' while it hops from pool to pool looking for shellfish to eat. I've heard reports of octopi surviving for an hour out of their tanks. \$\endgroup\$
    – gbjbaanb
    Apr 3, 2012 at 10:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @gbjbaanb - OK, but you've entirely missed the point. This isn't cephalopods.se. This answer is not about how long an octopus can hold it's breath. It's about how to deal with this situation in a game. \$\endgroup\$
    – gomad
    Apr 3, 2012 at 16:16

Familiars are typically living beings, so by the rules, your player can't do what he's suggesting. But over the years in various editions of the DnD rules and alternate sources such as Dragon magazine (issue 280 I believe was one but I don't have it handy), there have been various optional rules offered about magical constructs as familiars. You might consider working with your player on a house rule compromise that would allow them to create a magical construct in the form of an octopus as a familiar. You might replace the ink cloud with a stinking cloud or fog-like ability and you might replace jet with a magical flying ability.

Of course, that would be limited by the player's level and capabilities as a spellcaster. Perhaps at first level only allow them to create the base creature with no special abilities, then later add other abilities as their own abilities grow in character. It might make an acceptable compromise between what your player wants to do for their character and what the rules and typical common sense would allow them to do.

  • \$\begingroup\$ and there's no reason you can't take a normal octopus and have it mutate to fit the witch's character, so it'd become an air-breathing, shrivelled monster.... just like its mistress :) I still wouldn't let it fly, jump for short distances perhaps. \$\endgroup\$
    – gbjbaanb
    Apr 3, 2012 at 10:38

I'd just talk with the DM and see if you could finagle a water breathing or amphibious trait into the familiar bonding process. Otherwise it doesn't sound it'd much use out of water at all. I mean, technically, a large shark is a perfectly valid mount option....for an aquatic character and setting only.

*Oh...you are the DM...well...there's my suggestion all the same. Does it say anywhere in the entry that it's available to aquatic characters only? Maybe on a chart or something similar to the alternate mount choices?


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