Posted by : David Guyll January 15, 2013

And now, metallic dragons (guest-starring the shadow dragon and dragon turtle).

Last week's treatise on dragons opened up with several paragraphs on universal traits and tendencies between them all--high everything except for Dexterity, frightful presence, breath weapons, hoarding treasure, etc--before going into specifics. This week gives us a bullet list of alignments and environments, before just jumping into what differentiates the good guys from each other (and, again, the shadow dragon and dragon turtle).

And, well, basically everything I said last time still holds up: stats and powers are what you would expect, I do not think that the smallest size should start at Huge, and I like that they can gain access to a variety of powers that are not laundry lists of spells and/or spell-like abilities.

I do have some other issues, though.

For starters why do metallic dragons get two breath weapons, and why are the secondary ones so wierd? For example, the brass dragon can scorch you with "desert heat" or breathe a cone of sleeping gas. Bronze dragons can zap you with lightning, like blue dragons, but can also breathe gas that just makes you move away from them.Is there a reason for this other than that is how it was in older editions? At the least if chromatic dragons can learn to use their breath weapons in a different way, why not make the secondary effects something that they may have access to, as well (though I would personally go with things that make more sense)?

Also, why are metallic dragons stronger than their chromatic counterparts by default? Brass dragons are the weakest out of the bunch, but are comparable to black dragons, who are themselves second on the chromatic totem pole. I think it would be much more interesting to have them at best be on par, which would make it more likely that one or both dragons would seek outside assistance to help tip the scales.

What of the iron dragon? I think these were in 3rd Edition, but I distinctly remember them as 4th Edition's metallic answer to the white dragon: they were stealthy opportunists that could block your attacks with their wings, and had a neat magnetic lightning breath weapon.

I think that shadow dragons could stand to have a bit more interesting origin. They basically seem like dragon-wraiths, so why not make them the ghost or left over "soul-stuff" of a dragon? Why not dark reflections of normal dragons? Depending on how the flavor for 5th Edition's Plane of Shadow goes, they could even be dragons who exchanged part of whatever amounts to their soul for shadow magic (as with various Shadow-powered classes from 4th Edition).

As for their energy-draining breath weapon, I will be cool with it, so long as it does not inflict permanent ability/level loss. The wraith's mechanic of capping hit points for a day would work just fine, as would removing Hit Dice (similar to how you lost healing surges in 4th Edition).

I am not sure where I stand with dragon turtles. The poll options lacked a "No, but that does not mean that they cannot live for thousands of years, be powerful and intelligent, and have a breath weapon" response, which is what I would have chosen. I mean, do they need to be in the same draconic category as the rest? Does relegating them to their own monster entry somehow strip away any sense of power and majesty? What about other dragon-like creatures, such as wyverns, drakes, lung dragons, and the like?

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

  1. I pretty much agree with both of your assessments, and said as much on the WotC site.

    I also like the Iron dragon for metallics, I know it only became a core metallic dragon in 4E, but I think it adds some much needed variation other than Copper, an alloy of copper and tin (Bronze), and an alloy of copper and zinc (Brass), all of which have similar coloration (though not exact, I know). Plus, I think it'd be kind of cool to draw more from the alchemical metals for the metallic dragons; those would be Mercury, Lead, Tin, Copper, Silver, Iron, and Gold.

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  2. The "alloy dragons" confuse me, too, and frankly I have never used them. Sticking with actual elements could be an interesting direction (though mercury dragons have been in the game at least as early as 2nd Edition I think). I do not think they will, however, because nostalgia, which is unfortunate.

    One thing I should have added is that for metallics, I can understand the power structure to a point: gold is often seen as a pure/best element or something like that, copper is weaker than iron, etc. I do not really get it for the colored dragons, though.

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  3. If you want to tie it to alchemy, like the metals, then the stages of the great work can be used for the colours as well. They would be Mercury, Black (Lead), Grey (Tin), Yellow (Copper), Silver (White), Orange (Iron), Gold (Red). That's a little bit of a simplification, as Iron is probably closer to a rust and Copper should really be citrine, but it's serviceable for a game. Mercury is the odd one out, as it is the first stage and sort of all the stages; I know more about mythology than alchemy, so can't explain Mercury well.

    Other interesting bit is, as usual, each metal/colour also correlates with a heavenly body: Mercury (Mercury), Saturn (Lead), Jupiter (Tin), Venus (Copper), the Moon (Silver), Mars (Iron), and the Sun (Gold).

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  4. That all sounds like it would make for excellent dragon flavor, but I assume that they will stick with brass and bronze because tradition. -.-

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