How do familiars and sleep work?

  1. If the familiar never goes into combat does it matter if it is fatigued?
  2. Can a character who has a familiar put it on watch at night? (Can a familiar sleep all day and just help keep watch at night?)
  3. Does the empathetic connection wake up a sleeping character?
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    \$\begingroup\$ I am not sure if this is one question or many, but they are all related to familiars and sleep. If you don't like how I edited it to organize your question, please edit it again. There were some errors in the original that suggest against a simple reversion if you don't like its new shape. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 5, 2016 at 2:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ Good, hoping to see a good answer. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 5, 2016 at 2:58

1 Answer 1


To start the answer, I'm going to post the descriptions of Fatigued and Exhausted:


A fatigued character can neither run nor charge and takes a –2 penalty to Strength and Dexterity. Doing anything that would normally cause fatigue causes the fatigued character to become exhausted. After 8 hours of complete rest, fatigued characters are no longer fatigued.


An exhausted character moves at half speed, cannot run or charge, and takes a –6 penalty to Strength and Dexterity. After 1 hour of complete rest, an exhausted character becomes fatigued. A fatigued character becomes exhausted by doing something else that would normally cause fatigue.

1: If you have your familiar do any dex (if they're tiny this is the only one that matters) or str related skill checks, they are hampered (fly, climb, escape artist, swim). This also affects reflex saves, as they are based on your dexterity, so if you get hit by a fireball and your familiar is in your square (to provide the familiar bonuses) they immediately have a lower chance to succeed, because they still use their ability modifiers:

Saving Throws: For each saving throw, use either the familiar's base save bonus (Fortitude +2, Reflex +2, Will +0) or the master's (as calculated from all his classes), whichever is better. The familiar uses its own ability modifiers to saves, and it doesn't share any of the other bonuses that the master might have on saves.

2: Yes, they are sentient magical beasts with intelligence scores, and as such can be convinced to be on watch. Though if you aren't awake as well to enforce it, the familiar might just go to sleep or something else because its up to the GM to decide how familiars act as they are essentially intimately player related NPCs and there are GMs who would say that you're giving them control of the familiar since your character isn't there to direct it.

3: The only one I'm not sure of based on the rules. The only thing Empathic link says is that you communicate general emotions, not how strong those communications are. As a GM, I'd probably give you a will check or something because otherwise, why wouldn't it being bored or angry at an ant or something jolt you immediately awake?

Bonus: Familiars are not mindless constructs or vermin that you can just give a command to and they obey it no matter what, especially at higher levels. Starting at level 9, a familiar has 10 intelligence which is average human intelligence, and if you tried to tell a dedicated servant to stay up for 3 days straight, he'd probably try his best, but give up once exhaustion set in for the first or second time. And if you regularly mistreat your familiar, it may decide to just leave you even if it means you abandon it and get a new one and it just goes back to being a normal animal.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Regarding the last point, many familiars probably like their masters, so it may be willing to stay up all night on watch and sleep during the day. Of course, that may negate the familiar bonuses, depending on what you have them do and your GM. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bobson
    Jul 6, 2016 at 17:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Bobson Yeah, I was just noting the extreme circumstance. The tone of the first part of the question made me think OP wanted to make the familiar never sleep, so I wanted to put that bit out there \$\endgroup\$
    – Gnomejon
    Jul 6, 2016 at 18:52

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