Wandering Monsters: Spawn of Tiamat

Well now, it is about time...for chromatics anyway, though metallics do get a line or two in there somewhere.

Immediately I notice that their range of size categories start a Huge, because in previous editions they started Small (though initially the smallest dragons 4th Edition offered were Large). A couple paragraphs in the article elaborate that the "youngest and weakest" dragons are commonly encountered are Huge (50 feet from nose to tail), and at level 8 work great for 5th-level parties.

It mentions eggs and hatchlings, but states that they are exceptionally rare because "dragons hide their eggs and rear their young in the most remote and inaccessible locations possible". Good parenting, but bad design: 4th Edition only omitted the youngest pair of dragon age categories and took a lot of flak for that. This sounds like they are going to leave out about half of them, and if history is any indication they will just end up putting them in a future release anyway, so I do not know why they are bothering to wait. Just include them all and let DMs sort it out. After all there are some good adventures that have young dragons, not to mention some of our mini-collections.

Stat-wise there is nothing new: with the exception of Dexterity they have high stats all around. They are also resistant to magic, immune to specific energy types, cannot be put to sleep/paralyzed, and have keen senses. Personally I wish 5th Edition would implement some kind of more granular damage reduction system to reflect their scales (and give characters in heavy armor a much-needed edge). Lots of games do it without slowing things down. I also think that rather than making them outright immune to sleep and paralysis, that they should instead reduce the severity and duration of the effect (kind of like how 4th Edition had it do something, but let them end it after a turn).

Power-wise is where things get really cool. Of course they have recharging breath weapons, and given that they start at Huge they also frightful presence as part of their default rollout. The first line of the third paragraph did catch my eye, though:

Every dragon is a unique individual with its own specific abilities.

That. Is. Awesome.

I never liked 2nd and 3rd Edition dragons, especially 3rd Edition ones, because when they got older they all started to get massive lists of spell-like abilities. Because of the issues pertaining to older-edition spell scaling, this meant that in addition to a dragon's attack routine, special attacks, special abilities, breath weapon, feats, and skills, that you also had a bunch of spells to juggle (a lot of them too low level to be much use). Of course some people liked this, and I even recall complaints about the xorvintaal (sp?) template from Monster Manual V, which let you strip out the spells and give a dragon other abilities to compensate.

This model, if done properly, ideally lets everyone get what they want, while at the same time keeping players on their toes. Dragons will still have some core elements that pertain to their color, so blue dragons will have a lightning-based breath weapon, but its area-of-effect and other factors might vary from blue to blue. They might also be able to do something else entirely, like employ thematic and evocative mirage-like illusions. I love it. It makes me think of 4th Edition's alternate powers, which were much more interesting than having a dragon with a lot of random spells.

For the most part I liked this article. The Huge and up bit bugs me, but I really dig the idea of highly customizable dragons, so hopefully it gets done right.

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