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Dragon (Dungeons & Dragons)

Cover of the Draconomicon (2003).
This article is about Dragons in the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. For other uses see Dragon (disambiguation)

In modern fantasy fiction, dragons are often depicted as having many different races, each usually based on a particular colour of their scales or an affinity with an element; much of this originated in the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) role-playing game and similar sources.

Dragon classification

The latest edition of Dungeons & Dragons classifies dragon as a type of creature, simply defined as "a reptilelike creature, usually winged, with magical or unusual abilities." The dragon type is broken down into several classifications. True dragons are dragons which increase in power by age categories (wyrmling to great wyrm). Lesser dragons do not improve in age categories and may lack all of the abilities of true dragons. Examples of lesser dragons include dragon turtles and wyverns. Other creatures with the dragon type include drakes, felldrakes, elemental drakes, landwyrms, linnorms, and wurms.

In Dungeons & Dragons, there are many color-coded races of dragons, each of which breathes a different element; for example, red and gold dragons breathe fire, white dragons breathe frost, and blue dragons breathe bolts of lightning. Some dragons (particularly metallic dragons) have two different kinds of breath, usually one that kills (fire, ice, acid, electricity, etc.) and another that is typically non-lethal (paralyzation, repulsion, confusion, etc.).

Dungeons & Dragons divides true dragons further into three main categories : chromatic dragons, such as green and black dragons, which are evil-aligned; metallic dragons, such as gold and silver dragons, which are good; and neutral-aligned gem dragons, rare creatures that possess psionic abilities.

In addition, there are other sub-species of true dragons that don't fit into the three main categories. For example, steel dragons would seem to be metallic dragons, but in the Dungeons & Dragons world they are considered to be outside of the main family of metallic dragons because of various biological differences. The "lung dragons" or spirit-dragons of Oriental Adventures are also true dragons. There also exist the 'planar dragons', a very distinct classification. Examples of 'planar' dragons are the Tarterian Dragon or the Radiant Dragon, the Chaos Dragon, etc. Detailed information about D&D dragonkind may be found in the Draconomicon, a D&D supplement book designed especially for draconic information and aids.

The full classification is as follows:

Dragons in Dungeons & Dragons
Type Race Breath Weapon Habitat
Chromatic Black Acid Swamps and Jungles
Chromatic Blue Lightning Deserts
Chromatic Brown Acid Desert
Chromatic Green Chlorine Gas Forests
Chromatic Orange Explosive oil Forests
Chromatic Purple Searing energy, Blinding flash, Energy blade Plains
Chromatic Red Fire Mountains & Volcanoes
Chromatic White Frost Arctic
Chromatic Yellow Salt Aquatic and Coastal
Metallic Brass Fire, Sleep Gas Desert, plains
Metallic Bronze Lightning, Repulsion Gas Aquatic
Metallic Copper Acid, Slow Gas Desert, hill, mountain
Metallic Gold Fire, Strength-draining Gas Any land
Metallic Silver Frost, Paralyzation Gas Mountains
Gem Amethyst Force, explosive lozenge Isolated mountain lakes
Gem Crystal Light Arctic
Gem Emerald Wave of Sonic Vibration (shockwave) Extinct Volcanos
Gem Obsidian Fire Warm Mountains and Underground
Gem Sapphire Wave of Piercing Sound Underground
Gem Topaz Dehydration Desert
Planar Adamantine White-hot fire, Hold monster gas Twin Paradises of Bytopia
Planar Arboreal Razor-sharp thorns Olympian Glades of Arborea
Planar Astral Dismissal effect, scouring dust Astral Plane
Planar Axial Force Clockwork Nirvana of Mechanus
Planar Battle Sonic energy, Fear gas Heroic Domains of Ysgard
Planar Beast Mixed cold and electricity Wilderness of the Beastlands
Planar Chaos Random (acid, cold, electricity, fire, sound), Confusion gas Ever-Changing Chaos of Limbo
Planar Chole Poisonous insanity vapors Infinite Layers of the Abyss
Planar Condordant Antithetical energy Condordant Domain of the Outlands
Planar Ectoplasmic Whitefire Astral Plane
Planar Elysian Sonic energy, inebriation gas Blessed Fields of Elysium
Planar Ethereal Force Ethereal Plane
Planar Gloom Apathy gas Gray Waste of Hades
Planar Howling Howling sound, Maddening wails Windswept Depths of Pandemonium
Planar Oceanus Lightning, Tranquility gas Upper Planes
Planar Pyroclastic Superheated ash & waves of sonic, Disintegrating line Bleak Eternity of Gehenna
Planar Radiant Force, Light Seven Mounting Heavens of Celestia
Planar Rust Acid, Rusting liquid Infernal Battlefield of Acheron
Planar Styx Acid, Stupefying gas Lower Planes
Planar Tarterian Force, Will-sapping gas Tarterian Depths of Carceri
Faerunian Deep Flesh-corrosive gas Underground
Faerunian Fang None (has a constitution-draining bite) Mountains
Faerunian Shadow Energy-draining shadows Underground
Faerunian Song Electrically-charged gas Any land
Independent Incarnum Incarnum energy Outer Planes
Independent Sand Flaywind sand Warm Deserts
Independent Sunwyrm Sun Blast Air
Epic Force Force Any
Epic Prismatic Prismatic Spray Any
Arcane Hex Poison Forest, marshes, underground
Arcane Tome Elemental energy Mountains

Other dragon species that exist outside of the main dragon families include: Steel, Mercury, Pearl, Amber, Cloud, Mist, Fairy, Drakes, Landwyrms, and many more.

Various types of lesser dragons exist, including:

Dragon abilities

In D&D, dragons grow stronger and stronger as they grow older (they become bigger, more resistant to damages and magic, have a more dangerous breath, and so on). Old dragons can cast draconic magic which is a special form of D&D magic (dragons can cast spells with just a few words, they don't need a sometimes long and complex ritual involving words, gestures and components like other D&D wizards), and radiate a mystical fear aura around them. After a millennium or two, a dragon reaches his maximum development. In the Draconomicon, there is also an article about Advanced Dragons, dragons that have reached their oldest age category but can still advance "virtual age categories", and become larger and stronger.

All D&D dragons have some innate magical abilities, but they vary from race to race. Metallic dragons are often able to shapechange into small animals or human forms, and use this ability to secretly help or watch over humans. Dragons also have some innate powers upon the element they are linked too. For example a red dragon (fire) will have some control over fires. Like all other draconic powers, they gain more as they grow older.

Dragon biology

D&D dragons are able to eat almost everything, but each race have a preferred diet (some prefer flesh, other prefer to eat precious metals or gems, and so forth).

Dragons are inherently magical beings, and in no case should dragons be considered reptiles, despite of obvious similarities such as reproduction by laying eggs. In fact, Dragons are more akin to feline creatures than reptiles. A good example of this is the placement of the legs: Reptiles have their legs placed on the sides of their body, while most mammals have them placed underneath their body.

The number of eggs laid each time depends on the race of the dragon, but is usually low (between one and ten). Dragons can also cross-breed with virtually any other creature, creating a half-dragon. The most commonly heard of are in the humanoid races, particularly with human and elves. Any combination is possible, however, even with devils or angels.

Dragon personalities

All dragons are intelligent beings, and most of them exceedingly so. Dragon personality varies from dragon to dragon, but dragons of the same subrace tend to have similar mindsets. This is not always true; several exceptions exist in official D&D material. In the Forgotten Realms a good-aligned red dragon is involved against his will in the Fall of the elf city of Myth Drannor.

Dragon subraces encompass all D&D alignments, going from lawful good paladin-like gold dragons to the cruel and very greedy chaotic evil red dragons.

All dragons like to collect treasure, be it precious, beautiful, magical or just shiny. For evil-aligned dragons, this leads to a very greedy attitude. For good dragons this lust for treasure is tempered, but they still appreciate gifts (while being insulted if offered an obvious bribe).

Being stronger, faster, smarter, and longer-lived than humans, dragons tend to consider themselves superior creatures. For good-aligned dragons, this mean they often consider humans as children and try to take care of them and educate them; for evil-aligned dragons, they consider humans as mere animals, or as toys to play with.

The longevity of dragons is evident in their often lackadaisical attitudes. Good-aligned dragons, while concerned with defeating evil, are able to see a much broader scope of the world, and although certain crises may seem extremely important to good-aligned humans, their dragon counterparts are able to see the event as an unimportant hiccup that will pass in mere centuries. Similarly, evil-aligned dragons that are crossed by belligerent adventurers may plot for dozens of generations before exacting revenge on the trespasser’s line--beware if your great great great great great great grandfather ever stole from a dragon!

Dragons in campaign settings

In many settings, the god-king of the metallic dragons is Bahamut, the Platinum Dragon, and the goddess and queen of the chromatic dragons is Tiamat, the Five-Headed Dragon. The progenitor and supreme deity of all dragons is known as Io. Other deities often included in the draconic pantheon of gods include Aasterinian, Chronepsis, and Faluzure. Other draconic gods may be present in different campaign settings.

Dragonlance setting

The Dragonlance novels and campaign setting helped popularize the D&D-derived perspective on dragons. Here the Platinum Dragon is called Paladine, and the Dragon Queen is called Takhisis. In the "Fifth Age", chromatic dragons emerged from hiding and took over many of the humanoid-controlled nations of Krynn.

Dark Sun setting

In the world of Athas of the Dark Sun campaign setting, normal D&D dragons do not exist. Dragon-like drake races exist, one for each classical element, but for most people the word dragon refer to the Dragon of Tyr, who is a very powerful sorcerer-king (the tyrannic leaders of Athasian cities, who are both masters of magic and psi abilities) who transformed himself into a dragon-like creature using very powerful (and painful) magic. However, this dragon (Bors or Borys) was eventually killed in Troy Denning's book "The Cerulean Storm" by his former master, the sorcerer Rajaat.

Forgotten Realms setting

In the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, dragons are very close to the ones in Dragonlance. A sect of cultist called the Cult of the Dragon believe that dragons, particularly undead ones, will rule the world, and are trying to convert evil dragons to become dracoliches--undead lich-like dragons, which are partially bound to the cult by the rituals which grant them their undead status. Plus, in the DnD Supplement book "The Draconomicon" several other undead varieties of the dragon - ghost, skeleton, vampire, and zombie make an appearance.

A popular series called Wyrms of the North ran in Dragon magazine issues #230 through 259 and was later updated to third edition rules on Wizards of the Coast's website (see external links). Each article detailed an individual dragon of significance in Faerûn.

World of Greyhawk setting

Main article: Steel dragon

The Greyhawk campaign setting features the standard types of D&D dragons, except that in this setting steel dragons are referred to as "Greyhawk Dragons." Although these dragons are rarely encountered, they are somewhat more common in the World of Greyhawk than in other campaign worlds.

Council of Wyrms setting

The Council of Wyrms campaign setting is the only one that allows for dragon player characters in its base rules. (The Draconomicon introduces rules for dragon PCs in standard Dungeons & Dragons.) The setting is based around a society of dragons and their servitors and uses the standard D&D dragon races and dragon gods. It has detailed rules for creating and playing dragon PCs and NPCs, including various draconic character classes.

Eberron setting

In the Eberron campaign setting, dragons are apart from civilization, which is mostly concentrated on the continent of Khorvaire. They live on the continent of Argonnessen, a rather unknown place, since dragons are very territorial, it makes exploration often hazardous. Dragons are immersed in the Draconic Prophecy, a legend which all bits of information are scattered throughout the world and that the outcome is unknown. They see every event as an important event in the Prophecy. They can be of any alignment, like any creature in Eberron, meaning that there's 1 of 9 dragons that are the alignment written in the Monster Manual. A good red dragon (usually evil) is as common as an evil gold dragon (usually good). This rule might throw some players off-balance. Dragons also consider themselves superior, treating all other races as inferior. Furthermore, any half-dragon spotted by these dragons is vowed to be hunted, as they treat these half-breeds as a disgrace to their image.

Books about Dragons for the Dungeons & Dragons game

  • Council of Wyrms
  • The Draconomicon
  • Dragon Kings (Dark Sun)
  • Races of the Dragon
  • Wyatt, James and Rob Heinsoo. Monstrous Compendium: Monsters of Faerun (Wizards of the Coast, 2001).

External links