Dragon Turtles Revisited

If you’ve got a campaign that takes place largely or entirely at sea, maybe dragon turtles figure in it more prominently than your garden-variety dragons—and maybe you’re disappointed to have only the one dragon turtle stat block to work with.[*] Worry no longer, says Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons, which expands the dragon turtle family tree to include all the same stages of development that the Monster Manual provides for chromatic and metallic dragons: wyrmlings, young and ancient as well as adult.

The dragon turtle extended family parallels the dragon turtle family in a lot of ways. Since the default (adult) dragon turtle is already Gargantuan, however, the younger variations are also both one size larger than their dragon analogues. (The ancient dragon turtle remains Gargantuan: you can’t get more gargantuan than Gargantuan.) Continue reading “Dragon Turtles Revisited”

Dragon Tactics, Part 5: Deep Dragons and Sea Serpents

Deep dragons present a subterranean variation on the chromatic dragon theme. They exist in wyrmling, young, adult and ancient variants, just like their chromatic cousins, and share a sequence of features and traits that they acquire according to the same pattern as they age. Their challenge ratings are lower, however, since they have fewer hit points, deal less damage than even white dragons, and lack the Frightful Presence trait; we might think of them as degraded versions of the chromatics.

Like their kin, deep dragons are melee-favoring brutes, with Strength as their primary offensive ability and Constitution as their primary defensive ability. Despite living underground, they can fly as fast as their skyborne relatives, and they can also burrow and swim. Sadly, lacking the Tunneler trait, deep dragons have no way of burrowing through solid rock; they have to make do with whatever passages nature carves for them. But they’ll certainly favor caves with large halls, and flooded areas are a plus—to an extent. Unlike green dragons, deep dragons aren’t amphibious and have to hold their breath underwater. That’s no big deal, though: Fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons’ suffocation rule is generous, as long as you can take a deep breath and hold it before you dive. Deep dragons also have exceptional darkvision—90 feet as wyrmlings, 150 feet later on—so they have no reason to light their lairs, and they love locations with straight passages and long sight lines, which allow them to see other creatures long before they can be seen themselves.

They have proficiency in the ambush skills of Perception and Stealth, but they also have proficiency in Persuasion. To confabulate with a deep dragon wyrmling, you’ll have to speak Draconic, but young, adult and ancient deep dragons all speak Common (and Undercommon) and also have high enough Wisdom and Charisma that they’ll stop fighting and parley if a combat encounter is going awry for them, generally when they’re moderately wounded (for a young deep dragon, reduced to 65 hp or fewer; for an adult, reduced to 102 hp or fewer; and for an ancient, reduced to 140 or fewer). Continue reading “Dragon Tactics, Part 5: Deep Dragons and Sea Serpents”

Dragon Tactics, Part 4: Greatwyrms

A dragon is considered ancient when it celebrates its 801st birthday … but then what? How long do dragons live, anyway? What if there were a dragon alive today that had been born during the early dynastic period of ancient Egypt, 5,000 years ago—or that was already ancient when that period began? What if there were a dragon that could tell you stories of its conversations with Huangdi and its narrow escape from Gilgamesh like they happened just yesterday?

And what if it just … kept … getting … bigger?

Well, then you’ve got something of another class altogether, something verging on demigodhood. Something that, as far as anyone alive knows, has always existed, like an ocean or the moon. Something beyond the capacity of history, legend and even myth to describe: a greatwyrm.

I feel like that word should be capitalized.

Three types of greatwyrms are statted out in Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons: chromatic greatwyrms, metallic greatwyrms and gem greatwyrms. Aside from some variation in the damage types they deal and are immune to, they’re not distinguished by color within each type; all greatwyrms of a type possess the same powers, ability scores and basic traits. Their stat blocks are built on the adult/ancient dragon chassis, with one or two alterations and several embellishments. Continue reading “Dragon Tactics, Part 4: Greatwyrms”

Dragon Tactics, Part 3: Gem Dragons

There are a lot of cool things in Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons. I don’t count gem dragons among them.

Gem dragons aren’t anything new. They were first mentioned in a 1980 issue of Dragon magazine, and they appeared in the pages of the second edition Monstrous Manual and the third edition Monster Manual II. Be that as it may, I can’t get over the hokeyness of the concept. I just can’t.

I mean, it’s already silly and simplistic to have five matte-colored evil dragons pairing off against five metallic-colored good dragons, each one with a monochromatic personality, but at least there’s a symmetry to that silly simplicity. Gem dragons are like, “What if neutral dragons and also there are five of them too and they look like something else valuable?” Oh, and they’re all psionic!

It’s running the conceit into the ground. It’s too much marzipan. What comes next? Air, earth, fire, water and void dragons? Hemp, linen, cotton, wool and silk? Bitter, sour, sweet, salty and umami?

Frankly, rather than incorporate gem dragons into a campaign of my own, I’d just as soon ditch the colors, metals and sparkly rocks altogether and make every dragon unique, so that you don’t know anything about a dragon just by looking at it. We’re supposed to be moving away from bioessentialism anyway, right? Aren’t lots of players condemning alignment as outdated? All right, then, let’s put our treasure hoards where our mouths are. No colors, metals, gems or anything else. Just dragons. Pick the personalities you want them to have, give them powers to match, and make them whos, not whats.

That’s not what you came here for, though. So here we go: gem dragons. Five kinds. Well, actually, sort of, six. But moonstone dragons don’t follow the same rules, so I’ll discuss the others first, then come back to them. Continue reading “Dragon Tactics, Part 3: Gem Dragons”

Dragon Tactics, Part 2.6: New Lair Actions

Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons contains stat blocks for greatwyrms, gem dragons, deep dragons, sea serpents and 20-odd new dragon-adjacent creatures. On top of that, its “Draconomicon” section (chapter 5) includes new lair actions for the Monster Manual’s chromatic and metallic dragons. I’ve discussed these dragons in a previous post and in The Monsters Know What They’re Doing: Combat Tactics for Dungeon Masters, but to recap, chromatic dragons’ lair actions fall roughly into the three categories of movement restrictors, debilitators and direct damage, while most (but not all) metallic dragons’ lair actions can be divided into nonlethal “cloud actions” and more aggressive “push actions” that usually (but not always) deal damage and inhibit movement.

Since dragons can’t use the same lair action two rounds in a row, direct damage lair actions are a good fallback, as well as a way to focus down a single troublesome enemy. All the other types of lair actions are area effects that depend in part on having one’s enemies arranged conveniently enough to make them worthwhile. The metric I use for “worthwhile” is whether the number of enemies the dragon can affect with the lair action equals or exceeds the Targets in Areas of Effect table in chapter 8 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Healthy dragons use movement restrictors to pin down enemies before using their breath weapons against them, while badly hurt dragons use them to cover their retreat. In my earlier analyses, I stated that vision-obscuring abilities (the black dragon’s darkness, the blue dragon’s cloud of sand, the white dragon’s freezing fog) were particularly useful for shutting down spellcasters, but now that I have a greater understanding of the function of darkness, I’d argue that their side effect of nullifying advantage and disadvantage on attack rolls makes them especially potent against rogues.

Here are the lair actions that Fizban’s adds to the mix: Continue reading “Dragon Tactics, Part 2.6: New Lair Actions”