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The Dragon Guardian is specialist multiclass build that relies heavily on features from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. If you have always wanted a combat-ready pseudodragon familiar, this build is for you.
- Empower your familiar
- Empower your allies
Téphra is a fey sorceress in service to a powerful Celestial. Her patron has entrusted her as guardian of an infant planar dragon. She cares deeply for her ward and treats him like her own child. Her nickname for him is Skolex (Worm). She is responsible for training him, getting him used to people, and protecting him from excessive harm. To accomplish these goals, she joins a group of adventurers. She offers them support, and she anticipates countless opportunities for Skolex to develop and interact.
Most familiars are not meant for combat. Chainlock familiars have a leg up, but they are still too fragile, unlikely to hit, and unable to deal significant damage. I created this build to overcome these limitations. With the right combination of feats, features, spells and tactics, Skolex can fight on the front line while Téphra stays 30 feet back with the casters and range fighters.
Realistically, this character will come online in levels 8-12 when the combination of classes and feats begin to stack up. Skolex is in play from level 4 onward, and everything past level 12 is icing on the cake. See below for all of the nerdy details.
Start with Custom Lineage and the Inspiring Leader feat. Maximize CHA & CON. WIS must be 13 or higher to allow for a Cleric dip, and STR is a reasonable dump stat. Far Traveller is a good thematic fit for Téphra.
My inspiration for Téphra & Skolex was a flying, poisonous eldritch toad named Henry. A friend of mine was excited to GM the Candlekeep Mysteries. She hosted a weekly campaign and asked us to roll level 1 characters for our first session. My character, Ash, was a Knowledge Cleric on a mission to gain power by learning from as many forbidden texts as possible. Ash would eventually level up, and a Warlock pact made the most sense. Ash would be ambitious enough to accept a Faustian bargain, and arrogant enough to try to outsmart a powerful patron. I started looking at patron and pact options, eventually landing on a Genie patron with Pact of the Chain. From there, I had to choose a familiar. Imp and Sprite are the usual choices, but I was intrigued by the idea of using the fly speed offered by Pact of the Chain with a creature that does not usually fly. A Quasit can take the form of a toad, and that led me to Henry.
Henry could fly, he could bite, he could poison and scare his enemies, and he could deliver touch spells. Unfortunately, Henry was fragile. With only 7HP, even his resistances and immunities were not enough. I started looking for strategies to keep Henry alive in combat, and the rest is history. I built Téphra & Skolex using the strategies that I picked up for Ash & Henry.
Strategy #1 – Combine Multiple Elements
This build uses three classes and a pair of feats. Multiclassing delays our first ASI/Feat to level 8. Luckily, the Custom Lineage race option lets us bump Téphra’s primary stat (CHA) and take one of the two feats right out of the gate.
Inspiring Leader provides immediate benefit to Téphra and her team, and effectively doubles Skolex’s HP when we get access to a familiar at level 4.
Our class progression starts with Sorcerer for proficiency in CON saves, which will be important for maintaining spells like Bless and Dragon’s Breath. Clockwork Soul gives us Aid at level 3, and Bastion of Law at level 6. As a level 1 sorcerer, Téphra learns Mage Armor and Shocking Grasp which will be beneficial to her in levels 1-3, and to Skolex from level 4 onward.
A three-level dip into Warlock with a Celestial patron gives us Pact of the Chain, Investment of the Chain Master, Healing Light, Cure Wounds, and Darkness. I would choose Armor of Shadows for the second invocation, but there are other options, especially with medium armor proficiency from the Cleric class.
At level 5, we take one level of Cleric and choose the Peace Domain for Emboldening Bond, Bless, and Healing Word.
At level 8, the Shadow Touched feat raises Téphra’s CHA mod by 1, lets us cast Inflict Wounds using CHA instead of WIS, and gives us one free casting of the spell per day. Inflict Wounds is a touch spell with scaling damage, which means that Skolex can deliver it in combat. Technically, we have access to the spell from level 5 onward from the Cleric spell list, but casting the spell with CHA is a significant (+3) improvement.
Strategy #2 – Increase Survivability
To illustrate how this works, let’s imagine Téphra and Skolex at the beginning of an adventuring day at level 12. Someone is making breakfast, and everyone is gathered around the cookfire. Skolex is perched on Téphra’s arm. Téphra spends 10 minutes pumping up the party up with a rousing speech. Everyone gains 17 temporary HP thanks to Inspiring Leader. For most of the party, this is a nice bonus. For Skolex, it more than triples his effective HP.
While the team is eating, Téphra casts Aid with a level 5 spell slot and spends one sorcery point for Extended Spell. Skolex and two other allies gain 20 HP. Most importantly, this counts as “real” HP, not temporary. Skolex gains 20 HP and his maximum HP increases by 20, which means that Téphra can replenish that HP with healing spells. Extended Spell doubles the duration from 8 hours to 16 hours, which should be enough to last all day.
Before the team heads out, Téphra spends a few moments alone with Skolex. First, she casts Mage Armor and spends another sorcery point on Extended Spell. Skolex now has AC15 for 16 hours. Next, she spends another 5 sorcery points on Bastion of Law to give Skolex a 5d8 damage buffer.
Net result: Skolex has AC15 and can absorb 49-84 points of damage (7 base HP + 20 from Aid + 17 from Inspiring Leader + 5d8 from Bastion of Law).
Strategy #3 – Deflect & Replenish
Once per turn, when Skolex takes damage, Téphra can use her reaction to grant him resistance to that damage thanks to Investment of the Chain Master. Skolex can soak up the remaining damage with ward dice from Bastion of Law, or the temporary HP from Inspiring Leader. If neither of those remain, he will start to lose his “real” HP, including the HP granted by Aid.
The good news: these are renewable resources. Téphra can replace “real” HP as a bonus action with Healing Word or Healing Light, or as an action with Cure Wounds (delivered by Skolex to Skolex because it is a touch spell). She can also recreate the ward dice from Bastion of Law using sorcery points, and she can give everyone another Inspiring Leader speech after a short rest.
As she adds Cleric levels, Téphra can use Balm of Peace, Warding Bond, Protective Bond, and Death Ward to add even more layers of protection.
Strategy #4 – Combat Tactics
This build is all about Skolex participating in combat. There are three ways to accomplish this:
- Téphra can cast a touch spell on her turn, and Skolex can deliver the spell as a reaction
- Téphra can use her action to give Skolex one of his own attacks as a reaction
- Téphra can can use a bonus action to allow Skolex to take the Attack action on his turn
If Skolex is after Téphra and before the target in initiative order, one of the safest options is to cast Shocking Grasp on Téphra’s turn. It is a touch spell that deals damage and eliminates the target’s reaction when successful. Skolex can deliver the spell as a reaction on Téphra’s turn. If it works, Téphra can use her bonus action to let Skolex attack on his turn. Skolex can attack with Sting and fly out of reach without provoking an opportunity attack. The downside to this tactic is that Skolex will no longer be in range to cast Shocking Grasp next time around.
On the flipside, we set up Skolex so that he can take a few hits, and Sting has the potential to make a big difference in combat. Why not let him attack twice? Téphra can use her action to give Skolex one attack, using his reaction, on her turn. On the same turn, she can use her bonus action to allow Skolex a second attack on his turn, using his action. Thanks to Investment of the Chain Master, the target has to defeat Téphra’s spell save DC to avoid being poisoned for the entire fight. Better yet, a target who fails their save by 5 or more will fall unconscious.
Strategy #5 – Combat Buffs
Skolex has a low (+4) attack modifier on Sting. There are three ways to improve his chances of landing the attack:
- Use Emboldening Bond to add 1d4 to the attack roll
- Use Bless to add another 1d4 to the attack roll
- Use Darkness or Greater Invisibility to give Skolex advantage on the roll
Bless, Darkness and Greater Invisibility are mutually exclusive because they require concentration. Emboldening Bond does not require concentration so it stacks nicely with the rest of them, and it benefits the whole party.