Ahh, Dragons… A staple of the genre, and of course, of a game with the word in its title. Once upon a time, dragons in D&D were classified as good (metallics) & bad (chromatics), but today those lines have gotten a little blurry, and that’s where this edition of the Draconomicon comes in. The book makes it very clear early on that metallic dragons aren’t there to be nice NPC’s to your players, but rather are there to serve as potential adversaries that can inflict some serious butt-kicking to the PC’s if they aren’t careful or if they stumble into the wrong lair.
So what does this book provide us DM’s that are looking for some extra punch in our games? Let’s take a look at the book, and if you’re at all familiar with the first Draconomicon, it’s worth noting that this book is laid out in pretty much the same way.
Chapter 1: Dragon Lore
Starting off with a quote from Nietzsche, this is the fluffiest part of the book, detailing the origins, psychology, society and other aspects of of Metallic dragons. Here we get the story of Io, Bahamut and Tiamat, the War of Dragons, and other nice story stuff. We also get a bit of dragon anatomy and the dragon’s life cycle.
This is a good chapter if you plan on roleplaying dragons and you want to have them be something other than a large stat block that’s there to sit on a pile of treasure and hurt your players. There’s good fluff on what happens when a metallic dragon encounters a chromatic (he loses all reason and attacks on sight, like a rabid dog), and you learn how dragons see humanoids and their place in the world. This chapter also gives us details on every metallic dragon’s diet, favorite treasure, and motivations, amongst other things. Did you know that a bronze dragon’s horde consists of sunken treasure from ships and underwater cities? Now you do.
If you are at all interested in role playing wyrms, then this chapter is essential reading. Curious side note, there is a small sidebar with a wink-wink to the 2nd Ed. boxed set, Council of Wyrms, in this chapter. It’s always nice to see history being acknowledged.
Chapter 2: DM’s Guide to Dragons
This chapter is the one that DM’s will be flipping towards the most, as it’s the one with the most crunchy bit of rules in the book. The chapter starts off detailing how DM’s can use dragons as patrons for the PC’s, sending them on missions, providing valuable information, and handing out rewards. From there it moves on describing different types of encounters one can have with a dragon, including tons of examples of social skill challenges for all tiers of play.
More importantly, there is a type of encounter introduced here called a subdual encounter, an encounter in which the dragon will fight until it’s bloodied, but the outcome of the encounter is determined by how many PC’s were bloodied as well during the battle. I couldn’t help but wonder if this mechanic was introduced to alleviate some of the issues people are having with combat length in 4th ed., and whether subdual encounter outcomes or alternatives in a fight are something we are going to be seeing more of in published adventures. I may be wrong, but it came to my mind as I read it.
There are a handful of draconic traps as well, used by dragons to protect their lairs and hordes. There are some really neat traps in the section, and of course nothing really says that you can’t just take these traps and convert them into something else entirely non-draconic in nature. I can already see myself using some of these in my game, even if dragons barely play a role in my campaign.
And speaking of campaigns, the next part of the book provides Dm’s with tons of hooks, quests, and campaign arcs to take characters all through to the epic tier of play. This section of the book is laid out a bit like the DMG2, with the campaign ideas starting at heroic and ending at epic. The chapter rounds out with some draconic themed organizations and two draconic artifacts.
I like this chapter a lot, and it did indeed remind me a lot of the DMG2, a book I love. Maybe that’s why I like it. It’s laid out with tons of useful material that DM’s could start to drop into their games to give them a more dragonesque feel to the campaign.
Chapter 3: Dragon Lairs
In this chapter the DM is given the logic behind the design of a dragon’s lair, with suggestions and ideas to use when designing them. Of course, there are also example lairs presented here, laid out as adventure locales, starting from level 3, all the way to 26th level of play. There’s not much more to this chapter, except of course, the encounters and the monsters that populate them. My personal favorite? “Methenaera the Mead-Keeper”, a silver dragon lair for 18th level adventurers. The lair once served as a storage for mead given to the dragon’s ancestor by Moradin himself. Now the silver dragon is looking for a worthy adventurer to take the remaining mead, as they serve as components in special rituals. Yeah, pretty bad ass.
Chapter 4: New Monsters
More good stuff for us DM’s that are always looking for new things to throw at our players. Here we get the stats for all the new dragons that didn’t make the cut in the Monster Manual 2: Brass, Bronze, Cobalt, Mercury, Mithral, Orium, and Steel. As it has become the standard in 4th Ed., we are given stats encompassing all varied levels of play.
Also, wyrmlings get their own section, and I find it interesting that they do. A bronze dragon wyrmling starts off as a Level 5 Elite Brute! That sucker’s more powerful than the dragon at the end of Kobold Hall! A gold dragon wyrmling starts off as a 7th level Elite Controller! Very cool stuff, although truth be told, the drawing of the wyrmlings makes me think of what a Saturday morning cartoon titled “Dungeons & Dragon Babies” would look like.
In this chapter we also get stuff like more powerful Kobolds and Drakes, while the Draconians from Dragonlance make their first 4th Ed. appearance. We also get the Dragon Hall of Fame, which we saw in the first Draconomicon, (and there’s an undead version of it in the Open Grave book as well). We’re given a few named dragons to use in our game, along with their lore and stats. Silvara from the Dragonlance saga makes an appearance here, although she’s not tied directly to Krynn, but rather the generic “Points of Light” setting. There is a sidebar however, detailing her origins in the Dragonlance saga.
My favorite part of the book is in this chapter, and it details The Old Man with the Canaries. It is such a cool concept, that I’m already trying to think of a way to use it in my campaign. I’m not going to spoil it here, for those players out there lucky enough to have a DM that may use it, although if you look elsewhere you’ll find it. Say what you will about 4th Ed., but the creative team is coming up with some really great fluff to fill these books with. Kudos to you guys. (Edit: So I was corrected by my brother who has a far greater memory of AD&D lore than me… this bit of Bahamut lore has been around since first edition. I failed my history check.)
For the record, my favorite metallic dragon in the book is the Orium dragon, a wyrm that makes its home in ancient ruins that once belonged to fallen empires. He seeks to restore the ruins as an homage to his ancestors of old. There’s plenty there that can be done with the points of light philosophy…
If you are at all familiar with the Draconomicon, and to an extent Open Grave, then you know what to expect from this book. In my personal case, I am currently running a campaign using published adventures, and it would throw the adventures off if I try to shoehorn some of this stuff into my game. For DM’s running entirely homebrew stuff however, this is another great book filled with ideas and adversaries to use at the table. If your players are new to D&D, then they shouldn’t even ask why a metallic dragon is trying to eat them, while veteran players are given yet another example of how anything with a stat block is meant to be used. I like the book, it’s on par with the previous Draconomicon, and gives DM’s yet another bunch of stuff to use in the game, and that’s never a bad thing.
If you’d like to win a copy of the book… come back to the site on Monday November 30th and enter a contest for a chance to win it.