Monster Manual A-Z: Dragons, Chromatic

Monster Manual A-Z is a series of quick looks at each and every monster presented in the Monster Manual for Dungeons & Dragons 5e. New monsters go up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in alphabetical order, touching on lore, mechanics, and ways to use them in your campaign. To search for all Monster Manual A-Z articles, search MMAZ in the search bar as we’ve excluded them from our Roleplaying Games tag to keep things tidy.

Red Dragon

Red Dragon

Black! Blue! Green! Red! White! No, they aren’t Power Ranges (they’re missing Pink and Yellow), but rather the colors of evil Chromatic Dragons who lust after treasure and view themselves as superior to all others. While united by that sense of superiority, they also fear and despise one another. There is a natural hierarchy that happens here, with Red Dragons at the top and White Dragons at the bottom, and a lot of that has to do with their intelligence and therefore their ability to outwit one another. Luckily, each of these dragons have a preferred climate and lair location, so the amount of overlap between them should be negligible- that is, until dragons of the same color go at each others’ throats. Each of them also has a breath weapon- perhaps one of their most renowned features- that is shot out in a line or a conical shape. Black Dragons breath flesh-melting acid, Blue breath streaks of lightning, Green breathe poisonous gas clouds, Red breathe swaths of fire, and lastly White breath blasts of frigid ice. Their breath weapons tend to correlate to their locations- with Black Dragons dwelling near swamps and White Dragons lairing in tundras and frozen landscapes. No matter the color of dragon, the ancient and very large of their kind are sure to frighten their enemies, while the smaller and younger may not have quite the presence or reputation. The only other “unifying” part of the different colors of dragons is in their deity, Tiamat the Dragon Queen. Appearing as a five-headed dragon (with a head of each color) she can pass on powers to her followers- if she so chooses. To assume any dragon truly reveres Tiamat would be foolish, for just as she one day assumes she will control all the wealth and power in the universe, so too does every dragon even if they hide such intentions.

Dragons are presented from a mechanical standpoint in four broad categories: Wyrmling, Young, Adult, and Ancient. Those represent ages of under 5 years, 6-100 years, 101-800 years, and over 800 years old respectively, meaning that you’re covering a lot of ground with these four profiles. Luckily, there aren’t many new additions over time to keep track of, with each version being a slightly weaker or pared down version of the next oldest type. At the Wyrmling age, dragons can fly, take a bite out of adventurers, and breath a weak version of their breath weapon. Hardly the legends of yore they are made out to be, but still dangerous even to adventurers with a few tales of victory under their belt. Moving into the Young age gives the dragons a multiattack that now incorporates their claws and sees their breath weapon, armor class, and especially hit points increased. Adult sees more of the same increases, along with Legendary Resistance, Legendary Actions, and a Frightful Presence that can cause their enemies to become frightened. And finally, Ancient sees even more increases that make the dragon a truly fearsome and dangerous battle, moreso than the other ages dangerous as they may be. Both Black and Green dragons of all ages are amphibious, and White dragons that are Young or older can walk and climb on ice without hindrance.

As the eponymous creature, the ideas tied to the adventures surrounding dragons are nearly infinite. It would be foolish of me to assume I could come up with something that is both unique and applicable to a wide variety of campaigns, so I shall remind you that the Tyranny of Dragons adventure module exists, and that many other published works- be they older D&D adventures or adventures created by third parties- showcase these fearsome creatures. You need look no further than video games and movies as well to swell with ideas for adventure. Dragons should be a huge deal (unless your setting is designed otherwise, of course); they don’t always need some intricate idea adventure. The idea of tracking a dragon to its lair, or fighting it back from a city it plans to destroy are tried and tested, and played out right will be a memorable encounter despite any lack of storytelling.

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