Last Updated on January 22, 2023
Remember that old movie where Merlin cuts the kid open with a dinosaur claw while Sam Jackson quotes bible verses at a T-Rex before shooting with his pistol? (Sorry, I get old movies mixed up sometimes.)
The Deinonychus is one of those types of dinosaurs. It’s like a bigger, angrier, and smarter Velociraptor. It’s a velociraptor after taking the super soldier serum. The best thing about it, though, is that a druid can wild shape into one!
This post is all about the Deinonychus: how to fight it, how to build an encounter with it, and how to turn into one!
What Is a Deinonychus in DnD 5e?
A Deinonychus is a medium-sized beast with an impressive melee-attack ability. Straight up, this is a dinosaur, which makes it a Beast. Beasts are normal animals in Dungeons and Dragons.
For more on the differentiation between Dinosaurs and Beasts, check out these two articles: Dinosaurs in 5e and Beasts in 5e.
Medium Beast, Unaligned
- Armor Class: 13 (natural armor)
- Hit Points: 26 (4d8 + 8)
- Speed: 40 ft.
- STR: 15 (+2), DEX 15 (+2), CON 14 (+2), INT 4 (-3), WIS 12 (+1), CHA 6 (-2)
- Skills: Perception +3
- Senses: Passive Perception 13
- Languages: —
- Challenge: 1 (200 XP)
- Proficiency Bonus: +2
Pounce. If the deinonychus moves at least 20 feet straight toward a creature and then hits it with a claw attack on the same turn, that target must succeed on a DC 12 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone. If the target is prone, the deinonychus can make one bite attack against it as a bonus action.
Multiattack. The deinonychus makes three attacks: one with its bite and two with its claws.
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d8 + 2) piercing damage.
Claw. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d8 + 2) slashing damage.
This larger cousin of the velociraptor kills by gripping its target with its claws and feeding while the creature is still alive.
Monster Tags: DINOSAUR
Environment: FOREST GRASSLAND HILL
Volo’s Guide to Monsters, pg. 139
As you can see, it has a modest AC of 13 and 26 Hit Points, which puts it squarely in the CR 1 category.
While its defense is not super impressive, it has a generous offense, dealing 1d8+2 and getting two attacks per round. If it charges, it gains a third attack for another 1d8+2. A series of good rolls means that this monster could kill some characters in Tier I on the first round. This is exactly why this monster makes a superb choice for a druid to wildshape!
Wildshape Into a Deinonychus
At 2nd level, Druids get the ability to wildshape, and among those, the Cirlce of the Moon Druid gets an improved wildshape. Most druids can’t wildshape into a Deinonychus until 8th level, and by that point, this monster is less impressive because you will be facing off against Tier II monsters.
For Circle of the Moon Druids, however, you can turn into this bad boy at Level 3! That’s a big deal. It’s like getting 26 extra hit points for free and a new set of powerful melee attacks. Of course, you should look at all of your wildshape options, but when it comes to it, dinosaurs are fairly awesome, and the Deinonychus is one of the best.
For more on the distinctions between druids and their wildshape, check out our Druid Full Class Guide and our Circle of the Moon Druid guide.
Encounter Guide for DMs
There isn’t much to go on in the published material about when and where to use dinosaurs in general and the Deinonychus in particular.
In Eberron, the halflings of the Talenta Plains have domesticated dinosaurs and use them for all sorts of purposes, including as adventurous mounts.
The Stat block tags them as grassland, hill country, and forest creatures, which means they can be anywhere that is relatively warm and temperate.
Many predators in those environments tend to be pack-oriented, using “gauntlet” or “blaze” styles of hunting tactics.
In these strategies, the predators will attempt to chase smaller groups of animals into a predetermined game trail so that fresh chasers can take them down.
So, dear DM, make sure the group of Deinonychus outnumber the party by at least 2 to 1 or more, depending on how dangerous your players look. Predators generally will not attack if they could sustain an injury that will leave them unable to hunt or maintain their place in their social standing.
Another way to use Deinonychus in an encounter is as a domesticated animal. In this scenario, the “pack” contains humanoids or intelligent monstrosities that have trained the Deinonychus to attack or hunt even if they are outnumbered or the prey looks too dangerous.
In this scenario, the Deinonychus’ will either be a mount, part of a forward ambush party, or a rear guard designed to take any “prey” that escapes the main battle.
A short list of potential creatures that could have domesticated Deinonychus is: lizardfolk, halflings, yuan-ti, thri-kreen, tabaxi, orcs, humans, elves, and dragonborn.
These humanoids would also have other dinosaurs in their employ, so make sure to check out our post on Dinosaurs in 5e before you run this encounter!
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I played the game a lot as a kid, back in first edition. Over the past few years since 5e was released, I’ve really started getting back into it. Currently, I run a campaign online for some friends and my brothers, and we also play a side-sesh just to mix things up.