I just had a session last night, when I was trying to execute Dragon's Breath with my owl familiar for the extra damage of course. DM didn't allow me to fly from one side of the room to the other and start my 15' cone on the tile of my choosing.

They said the reason was that it was too intricate of a maneuver and that the owl couldn't fulfill that type of action. The issue is where and how the owl will execute. They are stating that it only obeys commands and that it executes on its own accord basically. I was trying to start the cone on a tile with an enemy and the backspray not hitting my companions and the DM wouldn't allow it.

Nothing written stated any drawback on this ability. Owl also has Flyby, which should tell you that it is capable of accurate maneuvers. Is my DM correct or can my familiar do this?

This question is not if the owl can perform the cone, that has been granted. But what remains is the intelligence needed to perform "more intricate maneuvers when executing the cone". Dragon's Breath should have something there if intelligence score was an issue, if a creature can be gifted the spell it should be able to perform the execution in any way the caster should see fit. IMO. Again all that was commanded of the Owl was to strafe from one side of the room to the other then deliver the cone on the tile of my choosing. How else should the placement of the cone work?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Possible duplicate of Can a familiar from the Find Familiar spell use Dragon's Breath? \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 20:57
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Reading some comments in this thread the issue seems to be about the Owl judging position and distance well enough to perfectly line up the cone, rather than actually being able to use the spell. This makes sense and I have seen some DM's have similar wishes with the use of a fireball to stop exactly in front of the players (As an example). Not having accuracy with spells GREATLY reduces the effectiveness of AoE. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Commented May 9, 2018 at 11:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is how your GM ruled, so probably how they want the game to be played. Maybe you should ask them why. If there is no particular reason then you can hit them with the rules as RAW, but are they the RAI? \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 9, 2018 at 12:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Tyler Sigi -- Thanks for the input, I like the DM (just to be clear) and he has opened the conversation again and is doing some research on the subject. This is all I can really ask. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 9, 2018 at 12:28
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Savage Henry, that is a good outlook. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 9, 2018 at 12:33

5 Answers 5


It should be able to

Until the spell ends, the creature can use an action to exhale energy of the chosen type in a 15 foot cone. (XGE 54)

This is using an action, not making an attack, which is relevant because:

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.

Your familiar is not allowed to attack, but it can use the action gifted to it by Dragon's Breath.

This leaves only the argument "Your owl can't make these kinds of maneuvers", which seems a bit flimsy at best, if you can command it to go somewhere to let you perform a touch spell from a distance, I can imagine it is also smart enough to use the breath part of the spell.

Of course, it is perfectly possible for your DM to decide that the owl can't do this, but it does not really seem to be supported by RAW.


Your familiar should be able to obey your command...

...you just have to be clear in how you phrase it.

While a familiar has a mind of its own, it does obey any and all commands. If your DM wants to put a limit to the complexity of what you can demand of it I'd suggest having him agree to you, quite literally, telling him the commands you give your familiar to see how it will play out one by one. Working off of that your orders for this scenario would simply be "Fly over there, turn that way and unleash the spell I put in you; then fly away if you still have some movement."

Here are two possible interpretations of what your DM may have tried to convey, although it's honestly just educated guessing since not much is known about them or the full scenario as it unfolded.

1) An owl has a flying speed of 60ft per round. Perhaps they meant that your demand to reach the other end of the room to use the spell at your desired angle (and potentially fly away) would exceed its speed limit.

2) It could be that they felt that trick to be too powerful a solution to your current encounter. If your DM is rather new there's a chance they have no experience when it comes to reacting to the unexpected.

Also a small clarification: Flyby doesn't explicitly state anything about the complexity of manouvers a creature with that trait can take; it simply makes them not hittable by attacks of opportunity when they leave the attack range of any hostile creature.


The issue seems to be what can the owl understand.

Although the familiar is a spirit it has the stats of the form it takes. Thus the owl has an intelligence of 2. This allows just simple commands.

While most would say that telepathic communication increases how much you can make understandable, it is entirely up to the GM as to what the owl can understand. The more complex you make the commands, the less likely the owl can comply or execute it correctly.

To be more specific about the complexity involved in this case:

The owl is not 'delivering' a spell you gave it. It is using an ability that you gave it. The ability (dragon's breath) is completely foreign to an owl. So these questions arise because the owls intelligence is 2:

  • does the owl know it has a new ability?
  • does the owl know how to use this new ability?
  • can the owl understand directions about how to use/aim it?

Perhaps suggest an intelligence DC check based on complexity of commands.You say what you want, the GM gives the score to beat. Discuss this out of game and see if you can come to an agreement on specifics.


Technically the DM was right

They are stating that it only obeys commands and that it executes on its own accord basically.

Is my DM correct or can my familiar do this?

Rules as written, a familiar is not a player character, ergo it is a nonplayer character controlled by the DM. A player character has no direct control upon the familiar — (s)he just conveys a command and hopes for the best. That's basically how the game works, see the PHB page 6 for the details:

  1. The DM describes the environment. — "There is a pack of armed orcs running towards you. They looks very angry".
  2. The players describe what they want to do. — "I touch my familiar and cast Dragon's Breath upon it. Then I asks it to release the spell's destructive power right behind their backs".
  3. The DM narrates the results of the adventurers' actions. — "The owl flies through the orcs and releases the flame. Unfortunately, some of your allies were also affected, so make a dexterity saving throw. Bad luck, the poor owl wasn't smart enough to aim the spell precisely enough".

All these non-obvious familiar capabilities are ultimately up to the DM. They can allow any ridiculous course of action, they can roll the dice to determine the outcome, they can just declare the action failed because it was impossible. What should they do is another question.

Nitpicking the rules is not a constructive way to deal with the issue

The rules serves the DM, not vice versa. Even if (s)he was "wrong", (s)he can always say "I know the rules say that, but I run my games differently". This will probably make things worse, since no one likes being wrong. Instead, you should collaborate with the DM, explaining to them why are you not having fun: "I feel my familiar completely useless. That isn't what I was hoping for when chose the class". Focus on your feelings from the game, not the game rules or someone being right or wrong. The DM's work is to "make decisions and adjudications during the game that enhance the fun when possible" as the official site states, so a good DM will listen.


Spell do exactly what they read

That mean that your familiar can make the breath, but can't do the "breath and fly at the same time" as the spell imply that it is, in d&d term, instantaneous. The problem is not the owl intelligence, but what the spell does here.


It is a smart move and as a DM I'd might allow you to do it, maybe by reducing damage done, as ennemies aren't exposed to the full breath.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .