Posted by : David Guyll October 25, 2012

A Dragon's-Eye View on dragons? While we saw the concept art in one of the GenCon keynote videos (or in person if you were lucky enough to go), it is nice to finally get a discussion on the look of dragons. Well the red dragon anyway, which is fine since it is both an iconic dragon--appearing on plenty of product covers--and is my favorite.

Personally I like both, though lean a bit more towards the style of Lockwood's. While I can kind of see the "brute" as representative of a young red dragon (or, at least very angry), I tend to view the white dragon as the more simple, brutish types (and not just because that was their role in 4th Edition). Personality-wise, reds have always come across as more arrogant and confident, which is better exemplified by Lockwood's rendition.

I find it interesting that he talks about making the smallest size category essentially Large, which is the approach 4th Edition took until they got around to releasing wyrmlings in the Draconomicon books. In 2nd Edition they could range from 4 feet, to just over 350 at their oldest (or 70 squares from head to tail if you wanted to try conveying this on a battle map). 3rd Edition had a similar ranges of sizes, from Small to Colossal (I think there was even a Colossal+).

In this case, size matters. If nothing else keeping the smallest size as Large certainly implies a sense of danger that you do not get from human or halfling sized dragons, which always seemed more appropriate for dragon-like creatures such as drakes. I think trying to determine the size range is a very important question, and was surprised that it was not a poll choice.

I think that one of my pet peeves is dragons having inherent spellcasting levels. Not spell-like abilities, but effectively having wizard/sorcerer levels; the idea of a dragon conjuring a Tenser's floating disc or pew-pewing adventurers with scorching rays just rubs me the wrong way. Access to thematically appropriate magic or spell-like abilities is fine.

A good idea of what I am thinking are the dragonshouts from Skyrim (ironically probably the very game he mentions disliking for its ease of dragon-slaying). I recall something to the effect that a lot of magical writing was in Draconic, which meshes well with the idea of the dragon language being inherently magical (kind of like truenames).

{ 2 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. I agree that dragons having full spellcasting options is not desirable, though not for the reasons you point out. (Okay, to be fair, "I don't like the style" is a great reason, but it's such a purely aesthetic debate that there can't really be a resolution to it.) My feeling, instead, is that giving a complex creature like a dragon a full range of spellcasting options also just increases the encounter's tactical complexity beyond what I - and I think I'm about average here - want to deal with during gameplay. It's another matter for a player to run a complex character - they have nothing to consider but different ways to apply their abilities, while the DM has a ton of other concerns. I've always found that I don't play monsters anywhere near their tactical potential, because I'm always distracted by working to keep everyone at the table entertained.

    Actually, this is a reason I envy a married couple I know who co-DM a game. He runs combat, she plays a lot of the important NPCs, and they write the story and setting together. =)

  2. Complexity is a good point, and while some people like making complex NPCs/villains, I think that it can be served by just as well served by giving a dragon spellcaster levels. That said, I would not mind having a list of alternate abilities to pick from (similar to how it is done in 4th Edition for monster themes and alternate powers), so that not all dragons (or other monsters for that matter) have access to the same stuff.



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