Dungeons & DRAGONS!
What are dragons in DnD 5e?
Dragons (also known as wyrms) are huge, reptilian creatures that typically have wings and powerful magic as well as the ability to polymorph. Although a very ancient race of creatures, dragons are much rarer on Toril now and generally lead a reclusive life, guarding hoardes of gold or transforming themselves to take on the appearance of a mortal so as to go unnoticed among other creatures.
They are the quintessential enemy in D&D and possessing such incredible knowledge, magic and physicality makes them intimidating foes. In the D&D universe, dragons come in many forms and varieties with an entire book dedicated to telling you all about the different types (Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons). Below I’ve put together everything you need to know about dragons and dragonkind.
Types of Dragons
While dragons are not common creatures, there are many varieties including creatures distantly related to dragons. I’ve detailed the main varieties below.
True dragons refers to the typical form of dragons that we often see in mythology; 4-legged creatures with scaly skin and wings. They also become more powerful the longer they live irrespective of how old they get. True dragons include:
These are dragons with non-reflective scales of a solid colour. They typically come in red, blue, green, black and white varieties with their colour determining the element from which they draw their power. They’re typically evil creatures.
Dragons whose scales are reflective taking on a metallic appearance. Like chromatic dragons, the metal of their scales determines the element from which they draw their powers. They tend to come in varieties of brass, bronze, copper, good and silver. These dragons are typically good creatures.
Dragons with crystalline scales. Typically they’re aloof, viewing themselves as superior to other creatures and remaining neutral on matters of morality. Their elemental powers are based on the gem from which their scales are derived; amethyst, crystal, emerald, sapphire and topaz
When a dragon lives or reproduces in an otherworldly location like Wild Space or a plane outside of the mortal plane, then its body may be changed in a permanent way turning it into a planar dragon.
Dragons that take on the appearance of mythical, oriental dragons, typically from the land of Kara-Tur.
Lesser dragons are not necessarily weaker than true dragons, rather, the distinguishing feature is that they do not get more powerful the older they get. Instead, age affects them in the same way it affects humans; becoming more powerful from infancy to adulthood, and then become progressively weaker again. Lesser dragons include:
Gigantic, dangerous dragons that live in the ocean. They have a tough shell and appear similar to turtles.
Smaller, less powerful cousins of true dragons that are easily trained making them ideal mounts. Other dragons often use them as guards.
Miniature dragons that are often used as familiars. They’re much less dangerous than other dragons, but are more playful.
Lizards with large wings and a venomous, barbed tail.
Some dragons don’t fit neatly into the above categories of dragons such as:
Dragons that have been combined with mind flayers to form terrifying, psychic dragons
Underdark dwelling dragons that are smaller and more agile than true dragons.
A dragon that has undergone a powerful ritual to access immortality through lichdom.
Small tricksters with butterfly looking wings and a wicked sense of humour. Faerie dragon scales change colour as they age which also affects the powers they possess.
Dragons that have been transformed by the influence of the Shadowfell, embracing darkness and evil.
Although reptilian in appearance and sharing certain biological aspects such as scaly skin and the laying of eggs, dragons are not actually reptiles as they have warm blood and a feline-like posture.
Dragons are inherently magical creatures, though each subrace of dragon has this manifest in a different manner. Some may use fire or cold breath while others might have multiple heads.
All dragons are omnivores although most prefer to eat meat when they can. Because of the powerful elemental magic inside of them and their hardy constitution, dragons are capable of eating things not normally considered food so eating an adventurer whole, armour and weapons included, generally isn’t a problem for a dragon.
Dragons mate in the same way as most other races, laying between 1-10 eggs depending on the subrace of the dragon. Evil dragons typically do not raise their wyrmlings, leaving them to fend for themselves but good dragons typically will.
Intelligent dragons will often form types of families with the mate and the wyrmlings, though with age, this would tend to change as the desire for treasure outgrows the desire for offspring. As this happens, dragons will typically choose one to act as the parent and the other to hoard the treasure.
Because dragons can polymorph, they can mate with creatures of other races, creating a half-dragon. Such cross-breeding could occur between multiple races such as humans, dwarfs and elves as well as creatures like angels and devils.
True dragons will get more powerful as they grow older, reaching a peak at somewhere between 1000-2000 years old. All dragons have some form of innate magical abilities. Often, this is linked to the element with which their subspecies is associated.
Due to their magical and even natural toughness, the body parts of a dead dragon could be very desirable for creators of armour and magical items. Dragon scales make great armor while dragon organs have many magical properties for spells and other magical processes. For this reason, dragons can often be hunted for the riches that simply come from using their body parts.
Dragons typically worship a pantheon of dragon gods, though some do worship the deities of humans. While many of these gods have been lost from memory in history, some of the major, currently worshipped dragon gods include:
Of particular note are Bahamut and Tiamat. Bahamut is the primary god of goodness for dragons while Tiamat is the primary god of evil.
Bahamut is a celestial dragon of platinum who often walks the mortal plane as an elderly man. While he rarely interferes in mortal affairs, when Tiamat is causing trouble, he tends to be happy to stick his nose in.
Tiamat is a 5 headed dragon with each type of chromatic dragon’s head (red, blue, green, black and white). She was once the ruler of Avernus but has since been supplanted by Zariel. Both Tiamat and Bahamut are considered lesser dieties.
No one is entirely sure where dragons originally came from on Toril. Some believe that the Tearfall caused a rapid evolution in proto-dragons (the evolutionary precursor of dragons). Others claim that they were born of meteors that were actually dragon eggs. Either way, dragons are an ancient race that has lived on Toril longer than most other races.
In the Dragonlance setting, dragons were created by Reorx, guided by the 3 high gods of good, neutrality and evil; Paladine, Gilean and Takhisis. These original dragons were all chromatic in form (red, blue, green, white and black), but Takhisis, in her deceptive ways, corrupted these dragons, turning them evil. Paladine loved these creatures, and in his grief, commissioned Reorx to create monuments to these dragons. Paladine then gave these dragons life, creating the metallic dragons of gold, silver, brass, copper and bronze.
Throughout the history of Krynn, dragons have been involved in conflicts between good and evil. So far, there have been 4 dragon wars, which themselves, have led to the creation of the Dragonlance in the 3rd dragon war; a powerful weapon capable of killing a dragon and wielded by dragon riders. Dragonlances are extremely difficult to forge though, requiring god-blessed artefacts to forge.
Including dragons in your campaign
Dragons make great creatures for inclusion in your campaign. I’ve put together a few ideas for how you can use dragons in your campaign:
- BBEG: Dragons are very powerful and intelligent creatures that are often scheming. Making one your BBEG and having the party traipse through their lair at the end of a campaign can be a great climax to a campaign. You can even have the dragon manipulating the party in a polymorphed form.
- Hoarding an important item: Perhaps there’s a powerful or important magical item in a dragon’s hoard that needs acquiring. Players may need to stage a heist, a deal or kill the dragon outright.
- Guardians: Some dragons may have been captured from a young age and trained into servitude. Perhaps they guard a gateway into another realm or the vault of a powerful lich. Whatever the case may be, the party will need to find a way past this particular dragon.
- Wise, ancient being: You could use the knowledge of a dragon like Bahamut to your advantage. Have them guide or enlist the party to ensure they are in the right place at the right time, similar to Gandalf’s role in Lord of the Rings.
- Worshipped by a cult: Dragons like Tiamat will often lend their power to cults to help them enact evil doings. You might simply use the dragon as the giver of power or even with the master plan for the cultists to enact.
- Patron: In a similar way, some dragons will grant powers to creatures in their servitude. You might use a dragon as the patron of the party.