[RPG] Does a spell that requires an attack roll count as an “attack” for familiars


In the subsection about attacking (as opposed to the subsection about spellcasting), it says:

A few spells also involve making a melee attack.

When you make a ranged attack, you fire a bow or a
crossbow, hurl a handaxe, or otherwise send projectiles
to strike a foe at a distance. A monster might shoot
spines from its tail. Many spells also involve making a
ranged attack. -PHB 195

So, spells with attack rolls should count as "attacks", right?

Your familiar acts independently of you, but it always
obeys your commands. In combat, it rolls its own
initiative and acts on its own turn. A familiar can’t
attack, but it can take other actions as normal.

Finally, when you cast a spell with a range of touch,
your familiar can deliver the spell as if it had cast the
spell. Your familiar must be within 100 feet of you, and
it must use its reaction to deliver the spell when you cast
it. If the spell requires an attack roll, you use your attack
modifier for the roll.
-PHB 240 find familiar spell

So this indicates that a spell with an attack roll is not an "attack", otherwise a familiar couldn't perform it, right?

The spellcasting section (as opposed to the attacking section) says:

Some spells require the caster to make an attack roll
to determine whether the spell effect hits the intended
target. Your attack bonus with a spell attack equals your
spellcasting ability modifier + your proficiency bonus.
Most spells that require attack rolls involve ranged
attacks. Remember that you have disadvantage on a
ranged attack roll if you are within 5 feet of a hostile
creature that can see you and that isn’t incapacitated
(see chapter 9). -PHB 205

Under the warlock class it says:

Additionally, when you take the Attack action, you can
forgo one of your own attacks to allow your familiar to
make one attack of its own. -PHB 107 pact of chain

So basically how does this work for casting through familiars?

What kind of actions does it take for the various options?

Also, are the only spells familiars can cast touch spells, or if a spell is counted as a ranged attack, can I cast it through the familiar by forgoing one of my actions?

Best Answer

Firstly, yes, if a spell requires an attack, that attack still counts as an attack.

So, what you have to remember is the "specific beats general" rule. This is detailed on page 7 of the PHB. The core of the rule is:

If a specific rule contradicts a general rule, the specific rule wins.

So the general rule here is that familiars can't attack. There are 2 exceptions to this general rule:

  • A familiar can deliver spells with a range of touch on your behalf, even if the spell requires an attack roll.

  • A Warlock with the Pact of the Chain can forgo one of their attacks to let their familiar make one.

So when you cast a spell with a range of touch, you can have your familiar do the actual "touching" on your behalf. You cast the spell as normal using whatever actions it requires. The familiar is required to use their reaction, and if the spell requires an attack roll, it makes the attack roll. Since it uses your modifier anyway, it's exactly the same as you making the attack roll except that you don't have to stand next to what you're casting the spell on.

In the case of a Warlock with the Pact of the Chain, the Warlock takes the Attack action as usual, then has the familiar do the actual attack. The errata for the PHB says:

When you let your familiar attack, it does so with its reaction.

If the Warlock can make multiple attacks with the Attack action, the familiar can use its reaction to replace one of them with its own attack, then the Warlock makes the rest.

Finally, only spells with a range of touch can be delivered by your familiar. There is no option for having your familiar cast a spell on your behalf, and the option for allowing a familiar to attack instead of yourself specifically says "when you take the Attack action", not just "when you make an attack".