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I am starting a campaign in which my character is an accomplished and award-winning chef, and in an egg-themed competition won a dragon egg with a pseudodragon. I've talked with my DM, and he's letting me replace the "Sting" ability with the ability to shoot small fire breaths! The entire point of this is to allow my chef character to be able to cook and use the dragon breath as a creme brulee torch. Back on topic now.

The fire breath I am using in this example to scale down is for the Adult Red Dragon, whose actions state:

Fire Breath (Recharge 5-6): The Dragon exhales fire in a 60-foot cone. Each creature in that area must make a DC 21 Dexterity saving throw, taking 63 (18d6) fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

I don't want to necessarily do 18d6 damage to my tasty creations, but I would like for it to be a living being that assists me in my culinary creations. The goal is to depower the dragon's breath for a much smaller (tiny) sized creature, enough so that it does not end up with a miniature fireball cannon but with enough that it can suitably replace that of it's lost ability of "sting".

The ability I've created is as such:

Flame Puff. The Dragon exhales fire in a 1-foot cone. Each creature in that area must make a DC 11 Constitution saving throw, taking 4 (1d4+2) fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. If the saving throw fails by 5 or more, the target is set aflame, and takes 1d4/2 (Minimum 1) fire damage for 3 turns, or until it makes a DC 11 Constitution saving throw. The dragon can choose to cut off the flame early or extend its duration until its concentration ends (as if concentrating on a spell) if being used in a non-combat situation.

Does my created ability replacing the pseudodragon action "Sting" break my pseudodragon to be too strong compared to a normal psuedodragon?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Jun 7 at 20:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ What is the Burning condition? \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Jun 7 at 21:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov Mistake, my bad. \$\endgroup\$ – Anoplexian Jun 7 at 22:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does a target set aflame get to make the saving throw each turn? \$\endgroup\$ – Upper_Case Jun 7 at 22:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Upper_Case Yes. \$\endgroup\$ – Anoplexian Jun 7 at 22:05
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This is weird, because it sidesteps the normal familiar rules

Normally, if you have a pseudodragon familiar (via the warlock Pact of the Chain), the way it works is that you can skip your action to allow the pseudodragon to attack with its action. This is lower damage, but if it works, then you've permanently given a target disadvantage on attacks.

Also, if you use your pseudodragon familiar in combat, there's a good chance it will get killed (for example if it provokes an attack of opportunity when flying away after using its sting), and then you'll pay 10gp to resummon it.

What you have here is different: you have a creature that is not your familiar (since it sounds like you "won" it rather than "summoned" it), so it can use its fire breath every turn in combat, in addition to your action. But, on the other hand, if it tries doing that, something is just going to hit it and kill it. Also, the damage is so small that it's almost not worth rolling dice for.

(Also, a "1-foot cone" isn't really a thing in 5e. Either it affects a creature in a 5-foot square, or else it doesn't.)

On a familiar that you could resummon, this is annoying

If this were your familiar, it would be very annoying to your DM, because the ability you've added is phrased as "not an attack" and so it would work in addition to your action. In every combat your pseudodragon would attack for four damage and then a monster would spend an action killing it, and then you'd resummon it for the next combat.

Part of the problem is that this gives you a damage boost that you wouldn't otherwise get from a familiar, but more of the problem is that you have to roll a lot of dice (including, potentially, tracking damage-over-time effects) and it slows the combat down.

For a create that can die permanently it's probably fine

About the Sting ability: it is usually not useful except in very specific combats: using Sting to poison an enemy, if the enemy is important enough to be worth spending a turn to try to give it a debuff, but not important enough to have legendary resistance or a high CON save.

About your proposed ability: it is never useful in combat but might be useful outside of combat. You won't ever want to get your pseudodragon close enough to an enemy to do its thing, because it'll get killed and the attack damage is negligible. But you might get some utility from having the pseudodragon light things on fire at a distance.

If I were your DM, I'd say this is probably fine, and I'd allow it.

If I were writing it, I'd simplify it, because right now it's rolling way too many dice. I'd say:

Flame Puff. Melee weapon attack. +4 to hit, reach 5 ft, one target. Hit: 4 (1d4 + 2) fire damage. The pseudodragon can maintain this ability continuously, like a tiny cute blowtorch.

With this writing, the attack mechanics are exactly the same as Sting, but it's clear that you're just trading the "might poison the target" ability for a "light unattended objects on fire" ability. Making it an attack also makes it clear that the familiar can't use this in parallel with your own attack, if it ever gets made into a familiar.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the re-written version. Much improved. \$\endgroup\$ – gto Jun 8 at 1:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 Although, I don't even think its too strong to just add it in addition to sting. you still have to choose which one to use any given action. \$\endgroup\$ – IT Alex Jun 8 at 13:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that you don't have to summon a creature to have it as a familiar. The rules are a little vague on the subject, but a number of creatures (including the pseudodragon) have a variant stat block where they'll willingly serve as a "familiar", but it isn't the same thing as produced by the find familiar spell. Instead they just have an ability called "Familiar" that involves a telepathic bond but does not apply the action limitations, the ability to pop into a pocket dimension, or other specifics of the find familiar spell. Among other things, it can die permanently. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Jun 8 at 14:48
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It seems fine, and slightly less powerful than the ordinary pseudodragon

The damage dice for the abilities are the same, and the effective ranges are similar. So what we're really looking at is each of to-hit change and the extra effects of each attack/ability:

Sting:

Sting requires a to-hit roll with a +4 bonus. Such an attack will land 75% of the time for a target with an AC of 10 and 5% of the time for a target with an AC of 24, with even five percentage point increments for each point of AC in between.

Sting's average main damage (rounded per 5e rules) is 4. It also imposes a saving throw on the target at DC 11, but ordinary failure imposes disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks. A severe failure (a saving throw result of six or lower) imposes the Unconscious condition, which can effectively remove the target from a fight and/or allow massive extra damage from follow-up attacks. Such a failure will be uncommon.

Flame Puff:

This ability has the same average main damage as Sting (4), but the damage is typed (fire) and will always hit. It also allows for 3-6 extra damage if the target is ignited. In practice Flame Puff will have the same range as Sting. The fire-typed damage will be helpful in some cases but very situational, and fire is the most commonly resisted damage type in the game anyhow.

The save for this ability is the same as for Sting, but is much less valuable because the target gets multiple chances to avoid it (they can repeat the saving throw several times) and the greatest total damage it allows is almost certainly less than the free hits an unconscious enemy faces. And for a non-catastrophic saving throw failure a couple points' worth of HP damage will probably be less of an obstacle for a target than Disadvantage on attacks would be.


So overall you get more reliable main damage from Flame Puff due to it always hitting, but the extra effects based on saving throws are much less significant than the penalties for failing Sting's saving throw while also being easier to avoid.

That said, the extra effects of either attack aren't going to come up too often at DC 11 unless you are dealing with low-CR enemies. The main damage is the major element, and it is slightly better for Flame Puff, but the "extra" damage dealt is going to be pretty low in terms of HP reduction and so will probably not cause any balance issues.

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