Dragon, General Information

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd EditionCampaign Setting Logo

Dragon, General Information

Dragons are an ancient, winged reptilian race. They are known and feared for their size, physical prowess, and magical abilities. The oldest dragons are among the most powerful creatures in the world.

Most dragons are identified by the color of their scales. There are many know subspecies of dragons, several of which fall into three broad categories: chromatic, gem, and metallic dragons. Chromatic dragons include black, blue, green, red, and white dragons; all are extremely evil and are feared by most. The metallic dragons are the brass, bronze, copper, gold, and silver dragons; these are noble and good, highly respected by wise people.

The gem dragons are the amethyst, crystal, emerald, sapphire, and topaz dragons; they are neutral with respect to good and evil, and are very charismatic and suave, masters of persuasion who delight in riddles. Though generally smaller and slower than other dragons, gem dragons are often wiser and more intelligent, and have other powers to compensate, like psionics.

In addition to the dragons in these three classifications, there are other dragons that may at first seem to be members of those categories. For instance, the steel dragon seems to be a metallic dragon, but has only one breath weapon; while each “true” metallic dragon has two. Likewise, the brown dragon seems to be a typical, evil chromatic dragon; but has no wings, so is not a “true” chromatic dragon.

Although all subspecies of dragons are believed to have come from the same roots tens of thousands of years ago, the present subspecies keep to themselves, working together only under extreme circumstances, such as a powerful mutual threat. Good dragons never work with evil dragons, however, though a few neutral dragon specimens have been known to associate with evil or good dragons. Gold dragons occasionally associate freely with silver dragons, and emerald dragons are sometimes found with sapphire dragons.

When evil dragons of different species encounter each other, they usually fight to protect their territories. While good dragons of different subspecies are more tolerant of each other, they are also very territorial. They usually try to work out differences in a peaceful manner. Gem dragons often settle inter-species disputes with riddling contests.

All subspecies of dragons have 12 age categories, and gain more abilities and greater power as they age. Dragons range in size from several feet upon hatching to more than 100 feet, after they have attained the status of great wyrm. The exact size varies according to age and subspecies. A dragon's wingspan is about equal to its body length; 15-20% of a dragon's body length is neck.

Generally, when multiple dragons are encountered they are a mated pair and young. Mated dragons are always young adults, adults, or mature adults; young dragons found with their parents are of the young adult stage or younger. To determine the age of young dragons roll 1d6: 1 = egg; 2 = hatchling; 3 = very young; 4 = young; 5 = juvenile; 6 = young adult.

During the early part of a dragon's young adult stage it leaves its parents, greed driving it on to start a lair of its own. Sometimes, although rarely, juvenile dragons leave their parents to start their own lives. As a pair of mated dragons age beyond the mature adult stage, they split up, independence and the lust for treasure driving them apart. Older dragons of either sex sometimes raise young, but only on their own - the other parent leaves when the eggs are laid.

Dragons, especially older ones, are generally solitary due to necessity and preference. They distance themselves from civilization, which they consider to be a petty and foolish mortal invention.

Dragons are fearsome predators, but scavenge when necessary and can eat almost anything if they are hungry enough. A dragon's metabolism operates like a highly efficient furnace, making use of 95% of all the food the dragon eats. A dragon can also metabolize inorganic material, and some dragons have developed a taste for such fare.

Although dragons' goals and ideals vary among subspecies, all dragons are covetous. They like to hoard wealth, collecting mounds of coins and gathering as many gems, jewels, and magical items as possible. They find treasure pleasing to look at, and they bask in the radiance of the magical items. For a dragon, there is never enough treasure. Those with large hoards are loath to leave them for long, venturing out of their lairs only to patrol the immediate areas or to get food. Dragons like to make beds of their treasure, shaping nooks and mounds to fit their bodies. By the time they mature to the great wyrm stage, hundreds of gems and coins are imbedded in their hides.

Dragon Defenses: A dragon's Armor Class improves as it gets older and the creature becomes tougher. Old dragons or older dragons are immune to normal missiles; their gem-encrusted hides deflect arrows and other small projectiles. Large missiles (from catapults, giants, etc.) and magical missiles affect them normally. Young adult and older dragons radiate a personal aura that makes them partially resistant to harmful magic. A dragon's resistance to magic increases as it ages.

Dragon Hide: Dragon skin is prized by armorers with the skill to turn it into shields and armor, valuable because of its appearance and the protection it affords. Dragon armor grants its wearer an Armor Class of 4 less than the Armor Class of the dragon it was taken from, for a minimum Armor Class of 8. For example, armor from a juvenile brass dragon (AC O) grants its wearer AC 4. Dragon armor is supple and non-bulky, weighing only 25 pounds.

The scales of gem dragons take on properties of actual gems; they are faceted and reflect light. They are slightly more brittle than those of other dragons, so armor made from them requires repair more often.

Dragon armor affords no extra protection, such as resistance to fire or cold, although the armor can be enchanted to provide such protection. A dragon's resistance to certain elements is based on its total makeup, not just its skin. Plain dragon armor is expensive to make, costing 1,000-10,000 gp, based on the workmanship and protection the armor affords. Dragon skin armor can be enchanted, just as other forms of armor can, to a maximum of +5.

Dragon shields also offer no additional protection. They are made of stretched hide over a wooden frame. Such shields weigh 3 pounds (if small) or 8 pounds (if large) and cost 20-120 or 30-180 gold pieces.

Dragon Senses: All dragons have excellent senses of sight, smell, and hearing. Their enhanced senses enable them to detect all invisible objects and creatures (including creatures or items hidden in darkness or fog) within a radius equal to 10 feet times their age category. All dragons possess a natural clairaudience ability with respect to their lairs; the range is 20 feet per age category. The dragon must concentrate on a specific section within its lair or surrounding area to hear what is going on.

Some dragons are able to communicate telepathically with any intelligent creature. The percentage chance for a dragon to speak is based on its Intelligence and age category. Refer to individual descriptions for percentages.

Dragon Lairs: All dragon lairs are far from mortal civilization, and they are difficult to find because the dragons take careful measures to cloak their coming and going. There is usually little, if any, wildlife around the lairs because neighboring creatures fear the dragons, and most dragons eat the few creatures that are foolish enough to remain.

When a young adult dragon leaves its parents in search of its own lair, it spends a few years moving from place to place to find a cave or cavern which best suits its personality. In most cases, the dragons search for increasingly larger caves which can easily accommodate them as they grow. Usually by the time a dragon has reached the mature adult stage, it has selected a large lair it plans to keep for the remainder of its life. A dragon at this stage has gathered a considerable amount of treasure and is loath to move it to a different location.

The location and character of dragon lairs vary based on each subspecies; consult individual dragons for specific information. However, one thing remains constant: any dragon considers its lair and neighboring areas its domains. A creature which violates or threatens the lair is threatening the dragon and will be dealt with harshly. Some good dragons may be more lenient than other subspecies in this matter. All dragons keep their treasure hidden deep within their lairs, and some dragons create hazardous conditions within their lain to keep unwary creatures from reaching the treasure.

Dragon Flight: Despite their large size, dragons are graceful and competent fliers; most are maneuverability class C. This is due partially to their powerful wings, and partially to the dragon's innate magic. Dragons can climb at half speed and dive at double speed.

A dragon can change direction quickly by executing a wingover maneuver. A dragon cannot gain altitude during the round it executes a wingover, but it may dive. The maneuver enables the dragon to make a turn of 120 to 240 degrees regardless of its speed or size.

Diving dragons can strike with their claws with a +2 bonus to attack rolls. Dragons diving on land-bound opponents can also strike with both wings, but then must land immediately after attacking. When engaging other flying opponents, dragons can either claw or bite, but not both. An airborne dragon must glide to cast spells (but innate abilities can be used at any time). A gliding dragon loses 1,000 feet of altitude per round, and its forward speed is equal to one half its flight speed on the round before it began gliding.

Dragon Table
Age CategoryAge (in years)Hit Die ModifierCombat ModifierFear RadiusFear Save Modifier
1 Hatchling0-5-6+1NilNil
2 Very young6-15-4+2NilNil
3 Young16-25-2+3NilNil
4 Juvenile26-50Nil+4NilNil
5 Young adult51-100+1+515 yards+3 (+7)
6 Adult101-200+2+620 yards+2 (+6)
7 Mature adult201-400+3+725 yards+1 (+5)
8 Old401-600+4+830 yards0 (+4)
9 Very old601-800+5+935 yards-1 (+3)
10 Venerable801-1,000+6+1040 yards-2 (+2)
11 Wyrm1,001-1,200+7+1145 yards-3 (+1)
12 Great Wyrm1,200++8+1250 yards-4 (0)

Dragon Fear: Dragons can inspire panic or fear. The mere sight of a young adult or older dragon causes creatures with fewer than 1 Hit Die (as well as all noncarnivorous, nonaggressive creatures with fewer Hit Dice than the dragon) to automatically flee in panic for 4d6 rounds.

Trained war mounts, organized military units, and single creatures with 1 Hit Die or more, but with fewer Hit Dice than the dragon are not panicked, but they may be stricken with fear if they are within the dragon's fear aura. The aura surrounds attacking or charging dragons in the specified radius and in a path along the ground directly beneath a flying dragon whose altitude is 250 feet or less. Creatures not automatically panicked are entitled to saving throws vs. petrification. Creatures failing their saving throws are stricken with fear and fight with a -2 penalty to their attack and damage rolls. The aura increases in size and power based on the age category of the dragon; creatures subjected to the aura receive a saving throw bonus or a penalty as specified on the Dragon Table. All creatures with Hit Dice equal to or greater than those of the dragon are immune to the fear effect.

Gem dragons are not as inherently fearsome as other dragons, so saving throws against their fear auras receive bonuses; the bonuses appear in parenthesis in the Dragon Table.

Dragon Hit Die Modifier: Dragon Hit Dice vary between subspecies and are modified based on age category. Refer to individual dragon entries for the base Hit Dice for each species, and to the Dragon Table for the modifier based on age. The older a dragon gets, the more Hit Dice it has. For example, a black dragon has a base of 10 Hit Dice. A hatchling black dragon subtracts 6 dice, giving it a total of 4. A great wyrm black dragon adds 8 dice for a total of 18.

Dragons' saving throws are tied to their Hit Dice. Each dragon saves as a fighter equal in level to the dragon's Hit Dice. For example, a hatchling black dragon saves as a 4th-level fighter, while a great wyrm black dragon saves as an 18th-level fighter.

Dragon Combat Modifier: A dragon's combat modifier varies with age category. The bonus or penalty applies to damage rolls for each physical attack. It does not apply to a dragon's breath weapon. The combat modifier is also applied to the dragon's base spellcasting level (age category), to determine the actual level at which the dragon casts spells (thus, a great wyrm casts spells at 24th level of ability).

Dragon Attacks: All dragons have a claw/claw/bite attack form and a breath weapon. The latter can be used once every three rounds. Dragons also employ several other attack forms which are detailed in the following text. Dragons frequently divide their attacks between opponents, using the more dangerous attacks, such as the bite, against the foes they perceive to be the toughest.

A dragon's preferred attacks are usually, in order, breath weapon, magical abilities (or spells), and physical attacks. A dragon that breathes during a round of combat cannot also attack physically. Magical abilities (but not spells) can be used in addition to any attacks, except the breath weapon.

Claws: A dragon can use its claws to attack creatures to its front and sides. If the dragon kicks with one rear leg, it can attack with only one claw (the other must be used to maintain balance).

Bite: Because of a dragon's long neck, it can bite creatures to its back and sides.

Snatch: Only young adult and older dragons can snatch. This occurs when a flying dragon dives and attempts to grab a creature in one of its claws. A creature struck by this method is taken into the air.

There is a 50% chance that a snatched creature has its arms pinned, and therefore cannot physically attack the dragon. Snatched creatures are sometimes taken to great heights and dropped. The snatched creature can be squeezed in the claw for automatic claw damage each round, or transferred to the dragon's mouth (the transfer requires a successful attack roll). If the transfer succeeds, the victim automatically suffers bite damage each round; if it fails, the victim is dropped. Dragons of age old and older can carry a victim in each claw, and they can try to snatch two victims at once. Wyrms and great wyrms can carry three victims, but one of the first two snatched must be transferred from claw to mouth before the third can be snatched.

A dragon can snatch creatures two or more size categories smaller than itself. For example, a dragon that is 45' long is a Gargantuan creature, so the biggest creature it can snatch is a Large one (12' long).

Plummet: If the DM chooses to allow plummets, an airborne dragon, or a dragon jumping and descending from at least 30 feet above a target, can land on a victim. The dragon crushes and pins opponents using its claws and tail, inflicting damage equal to its bite. The dragon can crush as many creatures as its combat modifier. The dragon rolls a separate attack against each creature affected.

Creatures that are missed are assumed to have escaped. Creatures that are crushed must roll successful saving throws vs. petrification or be pinned under the dragon, automatically suffering crushing damage during the next round unless the dragon moves off them. If the dragon chooses to maintain the pin, the victims must roll successful saving throws vs. petrification to get free. The dragon's combat modifier applies as a penalty to all saving throw vs. the crush. A dragon cannot take any other actions when plummeting or pinning.

Kick: Any dragon can kick creatures attacking it from behind. A kick delivers claw damage, and creatures struck must roll their Dexterity or less on 1d20 or be kicked back 1d6 feet,+1 foot per age category of the dragon. Those knocked back must make successful saving throws vs. petrification (adjusted by the dragon's combat modifier) or fall. If the dragon attacks with one claw, it can kick with only one hind leg (the other must be used for balance). It cannot slap its tail while kicking.

Wing Buffet: Young adult and older dragons can employ their wings in combat; targets must be at the dragon's sides. The damage inflicted is the same as a claw attack, and creatures struck must roll their Dexterity or less on 1d20 or be knocked prone.

Tail Slap: Adult and older dragons can use their tails to attack creatures to their rear and sides. A tail attack inflicts the same damage as two claw attacks and affects as many targets as the dragon's age category. The dragon rolls a separate attack against each creature. Creatures struck must roll successful saving throws vs. petrification (adjusted by the dragon's combat modifier) or be stunned for 1d4+1 minutes. A tail slap can smash a light wooden structure and even damage a cube of force (one charge per two points of combat modifier, round down).

Stall: Any dragon flying near the ground can halt its forward motion and hover for one round; it must land immediately thereafter. Once stopped, the dragon can attack with its bite and all four legs. It can use its breath weapon instead, but this rarely happens since dragons can breathe on the wing. If a dragon stalls in an area with lots of trees or loose earth, the draft from its wings creates a dust cloud with the same radius as its fear aura. Creatures within the cloud are blinded, and no spell casting is possible. The dust lasts for one round.

Spells: Dragons learn spells haphazardly over the years. The DM should randomly determine which spells any particular dragon knows. The dragon can cast each spell once per day, unless random determination indicates the same spell more than once, in which case the dragon can cast it more than once a day. Dragons to not use spell books or pray to deities; they simply sleep, concentrate when they awaken, and remember their spells. Dragon spells have only a verbal component; the spells have a casting time of 1, regardless of level. Dragons cannot physically attack, use their breath weapon, use their magical abilities, or fly (except to glide) while casting a spell.