Behold the triumphant return of Scabby, the undead rat familiar! He must have cashed out in that card game, because the little guy is rocking one sweet-ass wand this week.

Wizard isn’t the only one feeling the pain of an overachieving familiar lately. I think I told this story in a comment a while back, but it bears repeating here. You see, I’m running a chain pact warlock in a 5e game, and ever since my imp tried to con me out of my soul we’ve shared a sort of love–hate relationship. This all culminated last session in a daring escape from an underwater dungeon. Stone golems were clawing their way after us, zombies were blocking the exit, the paladin was too weighted down with loot to be any help, and my low-Strengh ass nearly died from the swim check. Suffice it to say we earned our filthy lucre.

So bruised and battered we flop onto the boat. We catch our breaths, give the dungeon the finger, and then roll on the loot table. We roll high. It’s a freaking Helm of Brilliance, and the party is only level 4-5.

So there we are gobsmacked, reading through the abilities one by one. We’re rolling for # of gems. We’re ogling all the ridiculous abilities. Each one of us is mentally preparing his own “I deserve it because reasons” argument. And then we get to the last bit.

Roll a d20 if you are wearing the helm and take fire damage as a result of failing a saving throw against a spell. On a roll of 1, the helm emits beams of light from its remaining gems. Each creature within 60 feet of the helm other than you must succeed on a DC 17 Dexterity saving throw or be struck by a beam, taking radiant damage equal to the number of gems in the helm. KILLS YOUR ASS DEAD

Suddenly everyone is unsure. I mean, who wants to wear a potential TPK as a hat? So we’re sitting there eyeing one another. Eyeing the helm. Thinking maybe we should just sell it.

“Hey Boss. Can I have it?”

All eyes turn to the imp familiar. He’s perched on a lit torch. He’s immune to fire. Suffice it to say we titled the session “Pimp My Imp.”

Eventually we all stop giggling like school kids and begin to address the rules headache that is a magic-wielding familiar. Can the imp actually activate the item? Does activating the helm break the little guy’s invisibility? Do I need to command him to shoot, or can he fire at will? And if he does fire at will, exactly how do I keep him from “accidentally” including his hated master (yours truly) in the AOE?

I suspect there might be a “correct” rules-as-written answer in there somewhere. It probably varies heavily between editions and systems too. However, I’ve always found that deciding what animal companions, mounts, and familiars can and cannot do varies heavily by table. The important thing is to hash it out with your GM before you roll up a companion class.

Question of the day then. When it comes to mounts, familiars, and minions, who gets to control them at your table, the player or the GM? Do your companions and familiars have minds of their own, or are they just extensions of the PC? Let’s hear it in the comments!


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