My character wants his hummingbird familiar to gain the feat Dedicated Nuisance (Dragon #343 93), but not only does the familiar not have a feat available to take it, but the familiar also doesn't have the prerequisite feat Combat Expertise. And, so far as I can tell, usually a familiar doesn't get more feats.

The character's used the spell planar familiar to give the familiar the template axiomatic which gives the familiar the special ability linked mind. If my character were to have the feat Combat Expertise then gain the Dedicated Nuisance feat from the spell heroics, would the special ability linked mind allow the familiar acquire the combat expertise feat while the familiar share spells ability would share the heroics spell and thus gain the benefit of another feat, so long as the familiar met the prerequisites?

If linked mind isn't any help, how can my character's familiar get these feats?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm really interested in A) what familiar your character has, and B) what feat the character wants for the familiar. Omitting these makes the question much more difficult to answer. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 3, 2016 at 9:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ A) I have a hummingbird familiar B) I want my familiar to have the feat "Daunting Nuisance" to make a touch attach and cause the target to be considered "flat-footed" this is a mind affecting thing, creatures immune to mind affecting will not be affected. It requires BAB +4 and Combat Expertise \$\endgroup\$
    – Aceon
    Sep 5, 2016 at 2:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ For clarity, the feat is really called Dedicated Nuisance, some online indices misnaming the feat. (It happens.) \$\endgroup\$ Sep 5, 2016 at 18:43

3 Answers 3


This answer saying that a familiar just doesn't gain any additional feats beyond what it started with is largely correct. The creature just doesn't advance, and there's likely no by-the-book way to find a typical hummingbird that already possesses, for example, the feats Combat Expertise and Dedicated Nuisance (Dragon #343 93) and make that snowflake hummingbird into a wizard's familiar!

Likewise, this answer saying that a familiar can benefit from the same methods any other creature can to change its feats is spot-on: a familiar can trade out its typical feats via the power psychic reformation… or any feats by using the Dark Chaos Feat Shuffle, such as those gained from the Court of Thieves (Complete Scoundrel 144-5) and the Frog God’s Fane (CS 146-7) or even those gained from the hummingbird becoming a high ranking member of a feat-granting affiliation like the Wintervein Dwarves (Player's Handbook II 181-2). (A hummingbird familiar wanting to gain ranks in that affiliation better be capable of an extremely high Disguise check result, though.)

(Also, that answer's assessment of the special ability linked mind is accurate: That special ability is of no help in getting a familiar extra feats.)

Further, while a hummingbird familiar could also gain extra feats by, for example, gaining taint (Heroes of Horror 67) or—hilariously—making a Faustian pact (Fiendish Codex II 23-5) or swearing service to an elder evil (Elder Evils 10). However, unless the hummingbird familiar's master is doing the same, the master now has a sinister hummingbird familiar with its own malevolent agenda. An amusing plot point, certainly, but not necessarily advantageous for the master! (As a familiar has the same alignment as its master, and only evil creatures can swear service to an elder evil, a hummingbird familiar that swears service to an elder evil will already have an evil master, so this isn't that big of a deal. If this is a thing, be sure master and familiar swear service to the same elder evil, okay?)

Gaining the feats temporarily

The familiar's master purchases a really little attuned gem of heroics [trans] (Spell Compendium 113) (2nd-level spell at caster level 3) (400 gp; 0 lbs.) and a really little attuned gem of mirror move [trans] (Spellbook Web column "Mirror Move") (2nd-level spell at caster level 3) (400 gp; 0 lbs.). Unlike a potion, an attuned gem allows the creature that crushes the gem to be affected by a personal spell contained in the gem.

When combat occurs, have the hummingbird watch a party member use the feat Combat Expertise then crush the attuned gem of mirror move to gain the feat Combat Expertise then crush the attuned gem of heroics to gain the fighter bonus feat Dedicated Nuisance. If using the feat Attune Gem (Magic of Faerûn 21) makes you feel icky—and it kind of should—, spellworms (Dragon #343 80-1) are a (literally ickier) alternative—less expensive, too, but the rules are even worse.

Gaining the feats permanently

According to the Arms and Equipment Guide on Magic Items that Grant Feats (128), a custom magic item that grants a creature the feat Dedicated Nuisance has a price between 25,000 gp and 40,000 gp if the DM agrees such an item exists or can be created. Because the rules are vague, the DM may rule that a different item is needed to meet the Combat Expertise prerequisite of the feat, hence also requiring a custom item of Combat Expertise, which has a price of between 10,000 and 20,000 gp; such a DM, if generous (sort of, I guess, in a way), may allow combining both items into a lone item at no extra cost. (Were this DM to make such an item available, a market price of 50,000 gp seems reasonable for both feats; however, this DM would be unlikely to allow it. I have prejudice against buying feats in such a way because, as most things do in 3.5, doing so favors casters.)

Using a different creature

A homunculus (Monster Manual 154) advanced to 6 Hit Dice with a GM that allows the creator to assign its ability scores using the noneilite array (MM 290) can have Int of 13 and gains 2 additional feats, like Combat Expertise and Dedicated Nuisance. Such a creature will likely be more fragile than the master's hummingbird familiar (which is weird), but such a creature costs only 9,100 gp (plus a one-time 500-gp lab fee), which is a small enough amount for a high-level character that such a creature might be considered disposable. Alternatively, such a homunculus could be gained as a familiar via the feat Improved Familiar (DMG 200), but only by also taking the feat Extra Familiar (Dragon #280 62) would the master not subsequently lose the hummingbird familiar.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You could also go after it through windrider class levels and polymorphing. \$\endgroup\$
    – fectin
    Aug 22, 2018 at 19:37

This is a tricky question, but most likely, no.

(However see the"yes" possibility at the end! )

Here are the relevant sections:

Only a normal, unmodified animal may become a familiar.

In this context, "normal, unmodified" means exactly as the start block entry details the creature in question. All subsequent changes are a mathematical function of the summon familiar class feature. As the class feature is not natural HD progression, no feats are gained.

Had the class feature said:

Only a normal, unmodified animal may BE a familiar.

...then our answer would be done. However, because of the ambiguous wording, we are left with the question of: "Can a familiar gain xp and eventually HD (and thus feats) outside of and in addition to, just being a familiar?"

If we peruse every stat block of every character possessing a familiar in every book, article, and product published by WotC, we will find that in virtually every instance, a familiar does NOT have any feats not listed in the standard stat block for the base creatures, even when the accompanying pc or npc is of high level.

However, while strongly indicative, that is circumstantial. Yet there is one more source we can turn to extract an rules-as-intended example.

The psicrystal, unlike other base creatures, normally starts off as an unliving chunk of crystal, animated by a fragment of the owners personality. It only exists if summoned into existence by the class feature. It also has a monster entry. This monster listing has an entry for advancement, which is:

Advancement: —

"—" has a special rules meaning in the start block. It means "non-ability". When a creature has a non-ability, it is not the same as having a zero in that ability, it means that the ability does not exist, it can't make saves (if a stat) or checks (if a characteristic). The ghost is another example of a creature with a non-ability.

As such, the ability to advance does not exist for the psicrystal. It can't gain HD as a construct, and thus it can never gain feats.

While this is, again, circumstantial evidence, this seems to show the intended interpretation of the rules for familiars and familiar-like creatures. That the familiar cannot gain feats, so long as it is a familiar.

For myself, I think it would be interesting for there to be an "emancipated familiar" prestige, similar to the "emancipated spawn" prestige, for familiars that survive the death of their master. Which would ideally have an entry for ex-familiars becoming a familiar again. (And would presumably have gained a few HD in the interim).

Obviously, for familiars whose base creature DO have feats, there are various methods to swap out existing feats, or even adding feats. The dark chaos trick, psychic reformation, magic items, a few spells and powers, and special locations can affect feats in various fashions.

Thus, to answer your question the character in question will need to select as a familiar a creature that already has feats. Enough feats for their intended result.

The yes possibility.

It is worth mentioning that there is an alternative thought process with a different result that I recently was made aware of.

The term HD is defined and feats, skills, ability increases, hit point increases and so forth are all based on HD.

Therefore, one can assume that all those features are a function of Hit Dice. Thus any feat or class feature which grants a companion that also assigns an increase in hit dice of any kind should therefore mean that the creature in question also automatically gains everything that goes along with a hit die.

With this line of thinking, then psicrystals can gain feats when they gain enough hit dice; a circumstance of which I am happy about, as I've long felt that such creatures should be able to do so.

However, in the case of a psicrystal, this line of thinking ignores the explicit non-ability regarding advancement in the psicrystal entry, though it should work for other creatures in the companion slot.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Brilliantly answered. Would the same hold true for a paladin's mount or a ranger's companion? \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael
    Dec 12, 2018 at 18:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Animal Companions do gain levels and, therefore, feats. At least how I played mine... \$\endgroup\$
    – user949300
    Mar 7, 2019 at 21:19

Linked Mind Is Much Like Telepathy

No, linked mind doesn't mean that you have the same capabilities; just the same experiences. Your familiar would effectively sense what you do, and vice versa. Even that doesn't really affect you, as you don't share a type or kind.

For reference, Linked Mind (Ex) (Manual of the Planes, p197, updated on Planar Handbook, p111):

Axiomatic creatures of a particular [kind] within 300 feet of one another are in constant communication. If one is aware of a particular danger, they all are. If one in the group is not flat-footed, none of them are. No axiomatic creature in the group is considered flanked unless they all are.

Familiars Start As Normal Creatures

Whether using basic familiars or improved familiars, they follow the same rules:

...Only a normal, unmodified animal may become a familiar...

And Improved familiar says:

When choosing [an improved] familiar, the creatures listed below are also available to the spellcaster. The spellcaster may choose a familiar with an alignment up to one step away on each of the alignment axes (lawful through chaotic, good through evil).

Improved familiars otherwise use the rules for regular familiars, with two exceptions: If the creature’s type is something other than animal, its type does not change; and improved familiars do not gain the ability to speak with other creatures of their kind (although many of them already have the ability to communicate).

Adding or Altering Feats

In order to grant the familiar a feat whose prerequisite is Combat Expertise, unless the method says that it ignores requirements, you need a way to give your familiar the Combat Expertise feat.

So, within the explicit framework of the rules, familiars use the stat-block of the base creature, modified by what the familiar rules say. Changing or adding feats is only possible via external mechanics, such as Magical Locations granting feats, the very few magic items that grant feats while in use, or using spells and psionic powers to change existing feats.

Psychic reformation could do this at the appropriate level:

...the subject can choose to spend its most recently gained skill points differently (picking new skills and abandoning old ones if it chooses) and to choose a different feat from the one it selected when advancing from its previous level to its current level...

...The subject can undo decisions of these sorts that were made at lower levels, if both the subject and the manifester agree to pay the necessary XP before this power is manifested (see below). The subject must abide by the standard rules for selecting skills and feats, and so it cannot take feats for which it doesn’t qualify...

PsyRef refers to the general rules for feat, power, or skill selection, so it appears that you can change feats from old ones to new ones that you currently qualify for. The familiar's effective HD from the Master's level may, or may not make the reformation cost more.

The Dark Chaos

The two spells embrace the dark chaos and shun the dark chaos (Fiendish Codex I), when used in succession, and in that order, permit the targeted character to swap any feat for any that it currently qualifies for. At 15th level, a regular familiar's Int is 13, so it then qualifies for Combat Expertise. Other familiars may or may not have different Int scores; it's not entirely clear whether they use their own if it's better than that on the familiars table.

DM Fiat

You might reasonably be able to convince the DM to allow you to change the feats that a familiar begins play with, perhaps using a version of the retraining mechanics from the Player's Handbook II.

That's apparently it; add feats via mechanics like Magical Locations and Items, or trade existing feats via Spells and Powers.

Good luck!


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