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Dracolich Phylacteries (MM P.84): (Emphasis my own)

(...)If a dracolich's physical form is ever destroyed, its spirit returns to the gem as long as the two are on the same plane. If the gem comes into contact with another dragon's corpse, the dracolich's spirit can take possession of that corpse to become a new dracolich.

Recently as I was reminded of this line, I realized that 1. the dracolich is a lich, and thus is able to become a warlock patron, 2. While the monster manual states only a true adult/ancient dragon might become a dracolich, this entry does not put such limitation to the corpse used, and 3. a dracolich's phylactery sounds like an arcane focus... This, in turn, lead me down the path to creating a Kobold Undead Warlock with a pseudodracolich patron... With the dracolich having been dormant so long, it jumped into the tiny corpse before realizing it.

Initially, I thought this would be perfect as the Pact of the Chain would represent the master, but as I used Xanathar's Guide and Fizban's Treasury to develop the characters, it painted a clear picture of an ancient dragon who turned to lichdom in hopes to "find the one who can inherit my library," making the Pact of the Tome a clear winner.

I've read many posts here speaking about the difference between a Find Familiar and a Variant: Familiar, as well as those confirming that only the Pact of the Chain can summon a pseudodragon to fight by your side, but I am finding it hard not to picture the kobold seeking wisdom and the "Help" action from the tiny skeleton on his shoulder, and the Find Familiar spell seems to be a great way to balance the reviving of a lich in-game.

So while I can see that it is ultimately up to a DM to decide if this is possible or not, I was wondering if there would be some unforeseen unbalancing to have a pseudodragon familiar variant (stat block) as my patron and use the Book of Shadows' Find Familiar spell to revive it?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ According to this, it wouldn't work, because it wouldn't become a dracolich pseudodragon. \$\endgroup\$ May 25 at 12:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ArtickokeAndAnchovyPizzaMonica I did not see that, but it will be something I consider. That said, even as an avatar of the sleeping dragon, would such a thing be gamebreaking? \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    May 25 at 13:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related, and possible dupe Why can't the "Variant: Imp Familiar" be found with the Find Familiar spell?. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    May 25 at 16:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guss my problem with the question is that the idea of a patron isn't in raw - as far as I know - so any "rules" about this are DM fiat (although I may be wrong) \$\endgroup\$ May 25 at 20:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ArtickokeAndAnchovyPizzaMonica While originally I knew that a "powerful lich" is a valuable patron, you got me to double-check and found that the VRGR's Undead Patron's 4th suggestion is "the dracolich Dragotha" and in the PHB's Creating a Warlock it states "If you have a familiar, it might occasionally speak with your patron's voice" Which would make this build RAW, and redirect on how to do it without using the Pact of the Chain. \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    May 26 at 5:00

1 Answer 1

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If you want to try to get the DM to allow you to use the NPC companion-familiar (that is, the "variant" pseudodragon that doesn't use the find familiar spell), you need to keep in mind that this is a very fragile cohort, and it can't use the "familiar pocket" to just get out of there if things get too intense. A variant-pseudodragon can die very easily, especially once you get to third or fourth level, and normally can't be replaced. You really don't want to have a patron that can be permanently squished by an ogre. Find familiar lets you regenerate a lost familiar, but a variant-pseudodragon that just decides it likes you? Not so much.

And if you attach it to the find familiar spell, well, the pseudodragon is much stronger than most familiars even if you make it unable to attack, particularly in being able to go invisible at will, so it's not a good idea to just decide you get an upgraded familiar for free.

But hey -- I'm a big fan of the "reskin", so pick stat block that fits the concept and is appropriate for use with find familiar, and describe it as a tiny skeletal dragon instead. I think the cat works fine, at a first glance, or owl if you want it to fly. There shouldn't be any balance issues for substituting Undead for the three types find familiar offers; the creature type is mostly for flavor and whether you can affect the familiar with certain spells & abilities, and generally stuff that specifically works on celestials, fiends, and fey also works on undead (such as magic circle or detect evil and good). There may be some small number of undead-targeting abilities that your patron/familiar now becomes vulnerable to, but I'm not particularly concerned about adding weaknesses to a familiar.

As far as the dracolich getting stuck that way and then summoned by a spell -- this probably technically wouldn't work, but who cares? If you and the DM want it to work, then it works.

The discussion about a dracolich inhabiting a new body doesn't make it clear whether it means "dragon" in the sense of a creature having the dragon type, or a true dragon, or a true dragon of suitable age category to become a dracolich in the first place. Since the template can only be applied to "an ancient or adult true dragon", I think it's implied that the dracolich needs such a body to reinhabit.

Personally, I love the idea of a dracolich trapped in a tiny, barely capable body, acting as a patron while trying to manipulate this idiot kobold into getting it close to a dragon corpse it can use to regain its true glory. If the player wanted to go with pact of the chain, they found the phylactery and accidentally created a pseudodragon familiar that has the Undead type and is secretly their patron (but pretends to be a representative thereof). If the player wanted to go with the pact of the tome, sure, the book comes with find familiar and casting the spell creates a familiar form that looks like a tiny dragon (possibly skeletal) but has the stats of a cat or owl and the Undead type, and similarly contains the dracolich's mind and soul (or some portion thereof).

Again: Don't get hung up on whether this would technically work by the dracolich's strict rules-as-written. It's a good character hook, and magic is weird. Work with your table to detail what happens, and if necessary hand-wave some explanation as to why this is something that should not have worked and could only happen this one time in this one specific circumstance. A patron is intended to be distant, vague, and mysterious; the fact that your patron is secretly right there with you doesn't matter that much, as long as the mechanics stay the same.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I love it. The reason I posted this (though it would have been too opinionated) was that while the concept of an avatar or patron familiar isn't new, I could not wrap my head around the mechanics, given that it's a dragon... However, using the tressym stats would work and does not break the "no pseudodragon" rule, as it can be summoned with the base spell. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    May 25 at 14:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh right, I forgot that pseudodragons can go invisible. Thought it was only the imp. My main thought was your third paragraph: This fearsome ancient dragon who's not only stuck in this tiny body and has to rely on the lowliest of dragons (the kobold) to get around, but the precarious situation of knowing that although you are the immortal master, they have you by the balls cause they are holding your phylactery \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    May 25 at 14:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ Oh, sure, a tressym would work fine. Summoning one with find familiar requires DM permission, but this whole idea requires DM permission, so that's not actually an additional barrier. \$\endgroup\$ May 25 at 14:34

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