Dracohydra Tactics

“Your [wizards] were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” That, right there, could be said about any number of Dungeons & Dragons monstrosities, and it’s certainly true of the dracohydra, which according to Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons is the end result of the question, “Do you think we could make our own Tiamat?”

The dracohydra walks, swims and flies; I’m surprised it doesn’t also burrow and climb as well, but those first three are plenty. Ability-wise, it’s an unambiguous brute, with extraordinary Strength and Constitution and not a whole lot else. Like the hydra, the chassis it’s built on, it’s not tactically complex, and making a combat encounter with one interesting is going to require some additional elements, like environmental hazards, time pressure, distracting vermin—or, as suggested by the flavor text, the chuckleheaded mage who brought it into being.

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Dragonnel and Liondrake Tactics

Gen Con has wrapped. I took my first vacation since 2015. Now I’m back, ready to talk about Spelljammer erm, well, I thought that everyone was going to expect me to jump right into Spelljammer, but it turns out that what folks really want is for me to keep going with Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons! Very well, then. Let’s get a couple of easy ones out of the way: dragonnels and liondrakes (a.k.a. dragonnes).

Dragonnes actually came first: They were originally published in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual (with a David A. Trampier illustration, always a mark of honor!). Dragonnels came later, debuting in the third-edition Draconomicon. According to this article, dragonnes were renamed “liondrakes” in the fourth edition, and the name change was kept in order to avoid having two nearly identical names appearing on facing pages in Fizban’s.

Which, OK, as a former editor, I understand that impulse entirely. But as a longtime D&D player, I wish the dragonne had gotten to keep its name. It was there first.

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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”