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In the description of the Find Familiar spell it says that they can't attack.

I asked my DM during a fight if my familiar (owl) could pick up a stone and drop it on an enemy's head because I knew the enemy had very little health. My DM allowed it but I wanted to know if that is an actual option.

Is dropping a rock considered an attack or no? And does that mean my familiar should not be allowed to do it?

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It was an attack.
Taking an action to directly inflict damage, resolved by rolling a d20 compared to AC, is an attack and it should be considered an attack for DM adjudication. Whether that action is firing a bow, swinging a sword, launching a spell, or dropping a rock on a specific person, it is an action to directly inflict damage on a target and is resolved by rolling a d20, applying bonuses, and comparing to AC.

Attack
The most common action to take in combat is the Attack action, whether you are swinging a sword, firing an arrow from a bow, or brawling with your fists.
With this action, you make one melee or ranged attack. See the “Making an Attack” section for the rules that govern attacks.

Certain features, such as the Extra Attack feature of the Fighter, allow you to make more than one attack with this action.

Under "Making an Attack" (emphasis added):

If there’s ever any question whether something you’re doing counts as an attack, the rule is simple: if you’re making an attack roll, you’re making an attack.

Familiars can't make attacks, therefore they can't make attack rolls.

The DM is the final authority of the game session, and if the DM allowed the action then it was fine in that instance. But don't count on such favorable cheats in the future.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Dropping a rock would be an attack roll, to hit with the rock. Releasing an avalanche might instead be a saving throw, but that's something a familiar could conceivably do (assuming an avalanche as handy, waiting to be released). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 17:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose agreed. It is an improvised thrown weapon \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 19:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose It's clear from the context of the question (owl, trying to finish off an injured foe) that this would be an attack roll situation. While falling rocks can certainly cause a saving throw, a single owl-lifted rock shouldn't be doing that - that's like using a DEX save to avoid a flung dart. \$\endgroup\$
    – ValhallaGH
    Commented Mar 7, 2018 at 12:53
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RAW a familiar cannot attack. So one cannot drop a rock on a target to inflict damage. Just as they could not release an arrow from a bow that would inflict damage.

It would make sense to consider this a perfect example of the "help" action, which a familiar CAN do. Dropping a rock from above a creature seems a reasonable way to distract it a little giving the next attack roll against it advantage.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Except the "Help" action in combat says it works against a creature within 5 feet. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 25, 2020 at 17:19
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The rocks are dropped, but no attacks are made.

Familiars can't make attacks, but that doesn't mean the rocks are stuck in the familiars talons until they pass over the enemies squares.

When PCs trying to interact with their environment the DM is free to interpret what happens, so it seems to be sensible to take the same approach here.

The DM can provide a more realistic amount of damage for falling rocks, and treat the event as requiring a dexterity save to avoid being hit.

Save DCs determined on this table. And I would imagine be quite low, as the owl familiar isn't aiming (if it were aiming, I'd argue it's tantamount to attacking, and not permitted).

The DMG also lists suggestions for improvised damage, which would be a good place to start. Although given the size and strength of owls, a carrying limit of (0.5 × 15 × 3) of 22.5lbs seems a bit much, so again the lowest damage (or even lower) is probably the best in this situation.

So, the answer to 'Is a familiar allowed to drop rocks onto enemies?' my answer is, yes, but it's not an attack.

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