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What use is a standard familiar -really-?

What use is a standard familiar -really-?

Familiars are pretty similar (for the most part and to varying degrees) in the fact that they are squishy, are about as useful as a sack of caltrops in combat, and in 90% of the games I play anyone with a familiar forgets they even have them half the time, or just stick the talking raven on night watch so everyone can regain their spells in exactly 8 hours instead of having to take turns.

And if you send it into combat against anything with a decent attack bonus?

So...what am I missing? What good are they? What are they truly useful for? Are there any 'nonstandard' uses of familiars that don't get a lot of screen-time, so to speak?

I always just use mine for RP, or for something to post about when I have nothing to add and it's my turn to post (feed it, pet it, send it on trivial missions like chasing the inn's cat or doing tricks for bar patrons to cover my beer tab, etc). So I'm begging here...someone please list their redeeming mechanical qualities.

1. Scouting. The Raven is particularly good for this because he can fly, eavesdrop on conversations, and report to you without the assistance of spells.

2. Party Mascot. I once ran a wizard with a kitten who single-handedly convinced the captain of the guard that we were innocent of a crime (BBEG framed us). She was a bit of a softie for cute things.

3. Spell delivery. Have your familiar sit on the fighter's shoulder, and deliver touch spells like Bull's Strength without having to walk all the way up to him.

4. Aid Another. +2 to any out-of-combat skill check that you can reasonably allow your familiar to assist you with. This fits in particularly well with the image of the studious wizard poring over a tome while his familiar carries the next one down or hands him magical tools while crafting. ("Wrench? Wrench. Sonic screwdriver? Sonic screwdriver.")

5. The most powerful use of this: Share Spells. Heavily abusable by the Polymorph spell, but also very broken with many other "personal" spells. Decide you need a combat form? Wanna be a Hydra? You and your familiar are both Hydras. Have fun. (Expect this to work a limited number of times until the DM bans it.)

Absolutely zero if the DM allows certain sources.

You see there's this feat called "improved familiar" along with a flaw called "No familiar" and oddly enough, having a familiar is not a requirement for improved familiar....

Prerequisites: ability to acquire a new familiar...

Which you do not have if you are of a class that doesn't get a familiar, have the flaw "no familiar" or have sold off your familiar ability for an ACF.

Weird. I must be remembering that combo wrong. I recall there being some cheesy combo like that. Oh well, my apologies.

Edit: I'm remembering it wrong. Apparently there's a feat, (that I can't find) that allows you to obtain a familiar that is based on your CHARACTER LEVEL, rather than your CLASS LEVEL. Which means you can go into prestige classes without your familiar becoming useless. So you took "no familiar" and the feat that I can't find, but can only find vague references to on non-D&D sites. If someone could help out here, that would be great. Thank you.

Obtain Familiar?
"For the purpose of determining familiar abilities that depend on your arcane caster class level, your levels in all classes that allow you to cast arcane spells stack...."

Complete Arcane.

That would be it. The source that gave me the combo didn't list the feat name. But yeah if you absolutely want to use a familiar and plan to do anything except straight wizard 20 that combo is pretty much necessary.

Raven tends to be the clear winner due to speech and flight. That should let them UMD scrolls and wands, giving a substantial boost in the action economy.

So much depends on what your familiar is. Sure, a toad is basically just a slightly higher chance to survive to level 2 after which you get a real familiar, but ravens will make you wonder if it's actually worthwhile to burn a feat on Improved Familiar. It also depends on your DM, a lot of DM's will smite you for even considering Raven UMD abuse.


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