It has become clearer that the longer I play Dungeons and Dragons and create my own world for future use, the fonder I become of all things draconic. Even the latest Magic: The Gathering expansion is Dragon related. D&D has a nice variety in their dragons, good or bad, and I have been perusing the various wikis and subreddits, combing for more information. If Wizards come out with a Dragonomicon for 5E I will be all over it like a red dragon on a pile of gold.
Dragons, like people, are too often divided by colour. Unlike people, they tend to be defined by their colour. This is a case where you really can judge a book by its cover. They each have their own alignment, preferred habitat and breath weapon. Thankfully, the DM is god, so there’s nothing to stop you from making your blue dragon live in a forest fortress instead of the desert if you so desire. So far though, I prefer to stick to the stereotypes as written.
In the world I am creating, dragons of all types are quite common. They are kept from stomping all over the weak from a combination of competing with rivals and the good Metallic dragons keeping the peace. This ‘Pax Metallic(a)’ is centred on the largest city of the continent, home to an ancient Gold dragon on one side, and a small group of Silver dragons on the other side of the river bisecting the city. I’ve decided that the silvers will also be the custodians of the premier bank of the local kingdom, an easy way to acquire the wealth all dragons crave, and foreclosure will probably be avoided when you are dealing with giant ice breathing dragon.
In the Monster Manual, only Metallic dragons and Chromatic dragons are listed. Further reading shows that there are a variety of other dragons from older editions, from Gem dragons to Planar dragons. Without a monster manual entry for them, I probably won’t use them in a campaign, though if the situation calls for a Purple dragon then, by the gods, I will make the most glorious energy breathing dragon you ever did see. But just using the dragons listed gives you plenty of variety.
Metallic dragons are the good guys on the draconic spectrum. In order of challenge, it goes Gold > Silver > Bronze > Copper > Brass. One thing I like in particular about them is that the Ancients of each subrace can change shape. This makes for plenty of potential shenanigans, for e.g., maybe that powerful mayor is secretly a copper dragon? It also means they can feasibly dwell in human-sized areas. Plus I can’t stop thinking of making an antagonist that turns out to be a Metallic dragon. It won’t even necessarily be in an evil campaign either. One example:
The antagonist is a Bronze Dragon. Renowned for their fascination for warfare and fighting for a just cause, this particular fella decided that the king you were hired to depose is the best leader for the country.
Actually, I may use that- Nobody in my group remember that please…
Chromatic dragons are the more familiar bad guys. They are prideful, like Metallics, but unlike metallic they don’t wander the world in another form. Why mess with perfection? The Chromatics are a much more conventional enemy- a big bad lizard in its big bad lair. They match the Metallics in terms of challenge: Red > Blue > Green > Black > White. They are the weapon of choice for menacing a town, and the guys to sneak past when looking for loot. They seek power and wealth, and enjoy holding power over lesser creatures. All in all they are a fantastic antagonist to have in your world. Wherever your adventure heads, there is always room for a dragon, A vast trek across a desert? A blue dragon burrows out of the sand and demands tribute. Going clubbing in the frozen tundra? A white dragon is hungry, and will seal your fate. You’ve got Greens for the forest, Blacks for the swamps, and maybe that dwarven city deep in the mountain has run out of tribute for their local Red dragon – Adventurers wanted!
Dragons are highly intelligent (except for the feral White), and this is reflected in their stats. Some dragons have more Int than the average adventurer straight out of the egg! So I try to keep this in mind when crafting probable scenarios involving dragons. These are not creatures to find on until their last breath. Dragons can live to well over 800 years, and you don’t get to that age by fighting losing battles (not that they lose very often). For a party to take down a dragon, ideally the dragon should be backed into a corner or otherwise trapped. It makes no sense for a majestic winged beast to wait around for your killing blow.
In the event your plucky adventurers do take down a large dragon, consider a reward beyond just XP. Gold dragons for example are known for their diet of pearls and gems. Maybe it is worth sending the Halfling down the dragon’s throat? Dragons being innate spell casters in my mind means that dragon corpses, with the right knowledge, could be harvestable for their magical properties. Maybe dragon blood could have healing properties, or perhaps a potent poison? As for their skin, this could make for very good armour, particularly for a Druid. Just remember that just because there’s a lot of surface area on a dragon, doesn’t mean it can all be used with ease – we don’t want your world flooded with cheap dragon scale armour!
If that sounds like too much, best to stick to the classics. Every dragon loves treasure, and a dead dragon means an unattended hoard. This in itself could lead to more plot points. Maybe someone else saw the kill go down and wants to beat you to the score? And the power vacuum after a large dragon is killed could have vast repercussions for the area.
Including kobolds and drakes, I could easily populate a world with just dragons and still have enough to keep me entertained.
So what is your favourite dragon, past or present?