Last Updated on January 22, 2023
Playful, shy, and dangerous when backed into a corner, pseudodragons are one of the most sought-after familiars for wizards, warlocks, and other spellcasters.
Often characterized as catlike, these discerning yet diminutive dragons can make for outstanding companions — thanks in no small part to their innate magic resistance and telepathic powers.
However, they shouldn’t be angered, for even though a pseudodragon can’t breathe fire like its larger, more murderous relatives, it still has a nasty sting in its tail.
Welcome to our guide to the pseudodragon in Dungeons & Dragons 5e. Today, we’re going to take a closer look at these creatures, what they can do, how they behave, and how to persuade one to become your character’s next familiar.
What Is a Pseudodragon in DnD 5e?
A Pseudodragon is a cat-sized creature with sharp teeth, horns, wings, and reddish-brown scales that resembles a tiny dragon. However, they tend to be of neutral-good alignment, with playful, reclusive, and wary personalities.
Their natural magic resistance (which, in earlier editions, a pseudodragon could transmit to its companions by touching them), telepathic abilities, and the powerful poisonous sting in their tails (which, in 1e, had the power to put a character in a coma for 1d6 days with a 25% chance of death) make them one of the best options for a magic user’s familiar.
Tiny Dragon, Neutral Good
- Armor Class: 13 (natural armor)
- Hit Points: 7 (2d4 + 2)
- Speed: 15 ft., fly 60 ft.
STR 6 (-2), DEX 15 (+2), CON 13 (+1), INT 10 (+0), WIS 12 (+1), CHA 10 (+0)
- Skills: Perception +3, Stealth +4
- Senses: Blindsight 10 ft., Darkvision 60 ft., Passive Perception 13
- Languages: Understands Common and Draconic but can’t speak them
- Challenge: 1/4 (50 XP)
- Proficiency Bonus: +2
Keen Senses. The pseudodragon has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight, hearing, or smell.
Magic Resistance. The pseudodragon has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.
Limited Telepathy. The pseudodragon can magically communicate simple ideas, emotions, and images telepathically with any creature within 100 feet of it that can understand a language.
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d4 + 2) piercing damage.
Sting. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 4 (1d4 + 2) piercing damage, and the target must succeed on a DC 11 Constitution saving throw or become poisoned for 1 hour.
If the saving throw fails by 5 or more, the target falls unconscious for the same duration or until it takes damage or another creature uses an action to shake it awake.
Let’s break down this stat block.
First of all, for a tiny creature, the pseudodragon has a pretty solid array of stats that wouldn’t go amiss on a 1st-level player character.
With the exception of its Strength score, everything either has a bonus or is a wash, and the pseudodragon’s innate boffs to its Perception and Stealth rolls make it thoroughly respectable when it comes to scouting — whether it’s doing it to help its PC companion or just trying to get the drop on people sneaking into its territory.
A little dash of blindsight also doesn’t go amiss.
However, it’s the pseudodragon’s Keen Senses — which give it advantage on pretty much all perception checks — that make it the perfect sentry to watch a warlock or wizard’s back while they take a short rest to get back some much-needed spell slots.
In combat, most familiars are pretty simple to direct: you park them next to your party’s melee damage dealer and have them take the Help action for maximum effect.
However, a pseudodragon can actually hold its own and, against the right kind of enemy, might be worth deploying as a combatant in its own right.
While the creature’s bite is fine, there’s very little reason you won’t pretty much always be going with the sting attack. It does the same amount of damage and has a pretty solid chance to poison low-Constitution enemies.
You may even knock the odd one out for an hour, allowing you to take a prisoner or just set up an easy kill.
Where Do Pseudodragons Live?
In the wild, pseudodragons live in quiet, out-of-the-way places.
They like to make their homes anywhere without extreme temperatures and weather — a hole in an ancient tree deep within the forest, a sunny ledge halfway up a cliff above a sparkling sea, or in a small cave in an arid mountainous region.
Wherever they choose to make their nests, they’re likely to select somewhere secluded and high up above the ground, away from predators and prying eyes alike.
Pseudodragons are not naturally social animals, and it’s unlikely that you’ll find more than one in any one place.
The Monster Manual notes that they’re “quiet and defensive” creatures, who have “little interest in other creatures, and … avoid them whenever possible.”
In terms of diet, they’re obligate carnivores and relish hunting small rodents and birds for their food.
If threatened by anything bigger, however, they’re much more likely to find a quiet place to hide (usually their lair) and wait for the danger to pass.
Therefore, a pseudodragon lair is likely to always be located close to its hunting grounds, and a clumsy adventurer blundering through the area is unlikely to see more than a reddish blur heading in the direction of a well-concealed lair should they disturb the pseudodragon who lives nearby.
Now, this is purely headcanon stuff, but I think that it’s a missed opportunity to not imbue pseudodragons with some of the love for gold that dragons are famous for.
The idea of pseudodragons building little nests of scavenged trinkets and shiny oddments, somewhat like a magpie, is too good to pass up.
Alternatively, in my own game (inspired by a piece called “The Ecology of Gold” by Ava Islam) dragons are actually fey spirits that manifest in the presence of large amounts of gold — living manifestations of yellow, glittering greed — that’s left undisturbed for hundreds of years.
They’re a living cautionary tale against hoarding wealth and a reason why money launderers are a protected subclass of dragon preventionists in my campaign.
If a few hundred thousand pieces of gold bullion left under a mountain for a thousand years spawns a great red dragon, maybe a pseudodragon is what you get when you drop a gold watch down a mineshaft or forget to clean out the village wishing well. Just a thought.
How Do I Get a Pseudodragon Familiar?
There are two ways to get a pseudodragon familiar in D&D 5e.
The first option is probably the most straightforward. To be able to summon a pseudodragon familiar, play a warlock and take the Pact of the Chain at 3rd level.
This powerful class feature, among other things, lets you learn the Find Familiar spell and cast it as a ritual.
When you summon your familiar, in addition to the usual forms, you can choose that it takes on the form of an imp, quasit, sprite, or pseudodragon.
The second, more complex option, is to go out into the multiverse and convince a pseudodragon to become your familiar.
There’s no set way to do this, of course, and much like setting out to get your hands on a particular magic item, spell scroll, or exotic mount, whether or not you can track down a pseudodragon is largely up to your dungeon master.
Of course, most dungeon masters will happily turn a character goal like this into an option for a side quest, a reward, or the weight behind a complex decision for your character.
A few ways you could come across a pseudodragon on your travels could include…
- Rescuing one from a cage in an exotic pet shop.
- Buying one from an exotic pet shop.
- Being gifted one by a powerful wizard patron as a reward for completing a quest.
- Meeting one in a forest, cave, or another forgotten corner of nature.
- Meeting one in another plane, like Limbo or the Feywild.
However you come into contact with a pseudodragon, it’s important that you remember that they’re independent, somewhat willful creatures.
They must be befriended and convinced to become your familiar — perhaps through food, medical attention if they’re sick, or some other means.
Other pseudodragons (especially if we’re taking inspiration from older editions here) will choose a creature as their companion, sometimes apropos of nothing.
Once they become someone’s familiar, they tolerate no cruelty, mistreatment, or manipulation, and they will abandon a companion who they no longer care for at a moment’s notice.
Basically, treat a pseudodragon the way you’d treat a poisonous, telepathic flying cat (with great respect and mild terror), and you should be fine.
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I played my first tabletop RPG (Pathfinder 1e, specifically) in college. I rocked up late to the first session with an unread rulebook and a human bard called Nick Jugger. It was a rocky start but I had a blast and now, the better part of a decade later, I play, write, and write about tabletop RPGs (mostly 5e, but also PBtA, Forged in the Dark and OSR) games for a living, which is wild.