Last Updated on January 22, 2023
Perytons are not famous monsters like dragons or sphinxes, but they can be just as terrifying and strange.
What Is a Peryton in DnD 5e?
Perytons have the teeth of wolves, the head of a stag, and the body of an enormous eagle. When I say enormous, I mean the size of a person. A peryton can be roughly 5 feet tall and be at least 7 feet long, and when its wings are extended, it can truly loom over even large people. A peryton in flight can cast a truly imposing shadow.
These creatures have cruel intelligence and savage hearts, and their ability to fly makes them more dangerous than you might expect. They are truly monstrous and can be very creepy, which makes them excellent additions to any campaign quite aside from their combat ability.
So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at these hybrid monsters!
As always, let’s start with the peryton’s stats.
- STR 16 (+3), DEX 12 (+1), CON 13 (+1), INT 9 (-1), WIS 12 (+1), CHA 10 (+0)
- AC: 13 (natural armor)
- Hit points: 6d8+6 (33 avg)
- Damage Resistances: Bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical weapons
- Speed: 20ft., fly 60ft.
- Skills: Perception (+5)
- Proficiency Bonus: +4
- Senses: Passive Perception 15
- Languages: Understands Common and Elvish but can’t speak
- Challenge Rating: 2
The peryton has relatively balanced, but low, stats. However, their strength is decent, and notably, they are about as smart as the average person —considerably smarter than what you might expect from a monstrous deer-bird.
Peryton’s also have several useful abilities that support their favored tactics. Dive Attack means that any melee weapon attack that the peryton makes successfully after diving 30 feet straight toward the target deals an extra 2d8 damage (9 average).
Via Flyby, the peryton doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks when past an enemy.
Finally, the peryton has Keen Sight and Smell, which translates to advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight or smell.
In combat, peryton’s have access to the Multiattack, making one Gore attack and one Talon attack. The Gore attack has a 5-foot range and a +5 to hit, has a single target, and does 1d8+3 (7 avg.) piercing damage. The peryton’s Talon attack is similar but does 2d4+3 (8 avg.) piercing damage.
Origins and Behavior
The mythology of perytons is not very clear. Some legends have them originate from birds feasting on the corpse of a woman steeped in black magic, while others have them arise from humanoids cursed by the gods or transformed by their own dabbling in the dark arts.
In D&D 5e, perytons have equally unclear origins, but their behavior is pretty clear. Perytons like to eat humanoids, especially humans, elves, and half-elves. In fact, their lifestyle requires the fresh heart of a humanoid, so perytons will sometimes specifically target a single individual to take their heart.
Perytons are usually found in mountainous regions, preying on travelers and sitting on the top of the local food chain. Their resistances to nonmagical damage mean that few enemies can threaten them. This also means that perytons like to roost near settlements where they can have their choice of humanoid food.
Peryton tactics are straightforward and often relentless. Perytons will usually attack until their prey is dead… or they are. Occasionally you’ll find older perytons with more experience willing to retreat (such as the peryton in the adventure Ghosts of Saltmarsh), but perytons, whether out of rage, arrogance, or something else, will usually fight to the death.
In actual combat, perytons primarily rely on their Dive Attack ability. That sweet, sweet bonus damage on their multiattack is too good to pass up, and with 60 feet of fly speed, perytons can swoop down, make their most effective attacks, and put distance between themselves and your paladin’s sword.
While perytons aren’t exactly tactical masters, they don’t need to be. The simple flyby strategy means consistent damage, and with a high defense, a peryton’s AC or hit points matter much less when a party is restricted to ranged attacks only. Many characters specialize in melee, and if they can’t do ranged damage, the loss in the action economy will severely undermine the party’s damage output.
Of course, magical ranged attacks will become a peryton’s instant target for the threat they pose.
This results in a peryton encounter, something with a CR of 2, becoming far more deadly. Remember that D&D 5e is a game among friends, which means that even a single death among the party is a significant loss.
As if being limited to only ranged attacks wasn’t bad enough, the environment can significantly aid a peryton’s attack. The creatures only have an Intelligence of 9, but they have a predator’s instincts. They’ll wait to attack until (they believe) victory is assured. Rocky outcroppings or thick trees can provide cover, reducing the party’s potential damage output even further.
Moreover, while perytons are daylight hunters (lacking darkvision), they have excellent eyesight and perception. They may be willing to accept the penalties for attacking in dim light, such as early morning or at twilight, in exchange for hampering their prey. After all, with the ability to fly, they can pick when to attack and from what angle while the party is forced to respond.
Occasionally, the simple yet effective Dive Attack maneuver might be traded in for a riskier but far deadlier attack: the grapple attempt. With their decent strength score, perytons have a good chance of successfully grappling an opponent, and they have a carrying capacity of 240 pounds (108.8 kg).
Here the weight limit is more relevant than the limitation on grappling creatures more than one size category larger than the grappler. Should a peryton spot a creature that looks to be safely under the 240-pound limit, which includes almost every character that is Small instead of Medium, the peryton will likely try to get as close as they can one round while staying safe and in the following round, make a grapple attempt against the creature it thinks it can carry.
Should the creature be over the weight limit, the peryton’s speed immediately drops to 5 feet, making this tactic useless. However, if the peryton is able to grapple one of your party members, they can simply fly away with them. This is an immediate and deadly threat.
Separated from the party and still vulnerable to the peryton’s attacks, a party member has little chance of survival without teleportation or rescue. Even with immediate action, the party member might still take fall damage. In the same round as the grapple, the peryton might fly 30-40 feet straight up and then simply drop the party member, doing a hefty d6 of damage per 10 feet fallen and leaving the party member prone.
If the grapple lasts longer than a round, then the potential consequences include being taken to the peryton’s nest to be eaten and being dropped 200 feet to take 20d6 of falling damage.
If perytons find themselves attacking with other peryton allies (such as a mated pair of the creatures or a flock of the things), grapple attempts are highly likely since dropping an enemy can be both an easy source of damage and an easy way to isolate and weaken the party.
Remember that grapple attempts become far more dangerous when facing a multitude of enemies, even weak enemies (comparatively). Not only is it much more likely an unlucky role will result in being successfully grappled, but multiple grapples are almost impossible to escape from without magical assistance. Plus, two perytons can carry 480 pounds together, enough to carry the majority of Medium creatures, even while wearing full plate armor.
These tactics are straightforwardly effective, so how can your party defend against them?
The most obvious method is to negate the peryton’s greatest advantage: flight. A number of spells are useful for this purpose. The most obvious are restraint spells. Earthbind is specifically targeted toward flight and lasts a full minute on a failed save. Watery Sphere can restrain multiple targets, though you might have to use a readied action to catch the peryton during its flyby.
However, both these spells rely on Strength saving throws, a peryton’s greatest attribute, so I can’t recommend them unless you have no other options (and concentration is easily disrupted). Of course, other spells including Hypnotic Pattern and Hold Person can both be effective, but they can be of limited use when encountering multiple perytons.
On the defensive side, Fog Cloud or Darkness can be effective at preventing the peryton from making its direct attack, though unless you have a way of targeting the monster, it can just wait these kinds of spells out.
The best spell for countering these monsters by far is Sleet Storm. This humble control spell is rarely used, which is a shame because it can be effective in a wide variety of circumstances. In this case, the crucial effect is that any creatures that start their turn in the spell’s massive area (an 80-foot diameter circle 20 feet tall) or enter the area have to make a Dexterity save. On a failure, they fall prone.
Creatures that are flying and fall prone fall all the way to the ground, giving you some free-falling damage on the creature. From there, you can use more conventional restraints or even spells like Web to keep the peryton on the ground.
You could even cast this spell in the air, preventing perytons from simply flying over it (though they could fly under it perhaps). This is a controversial move given the nature of the spell, however. I believe it is clearly allowed as stated in the spell’s description, but you should check with your DM.
There are a few other ways to protect yourself from these creatures. Having a Feather Fall ready can help negate falling damage, having teleports/forced movement can be vital for grappled players, and readying actions for when a peryton does a flyby are all good ways to reduce the effectiveness of the peryton’s tactics.
You could also try weighing yourself down with stones and metal armor, but that seems like a bit of a long shot. I also don’t really recommend fly unless you have a melee-only player that really needs it. While it does let you get on the peryton’s level, if you don’t have enough castings, it can unnecessarily split up the party, especially if you get a peryton that’s a little smarter than the average and kites your flying paladin away from the cleric. It can be a viable option, but there are better choices for negating the peryton’s flight.
Perytons are simple monsters on the face of it — cruel with a taste for human flesh and effective if repetitive tactics. However, their lore and their effectiveness make them excellent additions to a campaign when used in other encounters and stories.
Maybe the party has the option of curing a peryton rather than simply slaying it! After all, they are said to have humanoid shadows…
Perhaps a dark wizard keeps a peryton on a chain to an immovable rod to defend her tower. A lower-level party would have a tough time with a free-roaming, diving, and ambushing peryton, but they might be able to come up with a nice enough plan to defeat the shackled monster.
Or perhaps a higher-level party encounters a small flock of the perytons just when they don’t have the resources to fight a flying enemy, forcing them to scramble and improvise.
Perytons are a classic monster for D&D 5e, even if they aren’t as well known as some of the others. They are effective and interesting, and their ability to fly (and other abilities that complement their wings) makes them excellent opponents. If you face one as a player, don’t underestimate them! And to all the DMs out there, give perytons a try!
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Growing up I spent most of my time reading, so when I first started playing RPGs in middle school and got a copy of DnD 3.5’s rules I loved their collaborative take on storytelling. These days I like to use RPGs to develop my creative problem-solving skills as well.