UPDATE: The statistics for these catastrophic dragons have been moved, but fear not! You can now grab them in a totally awesome Pay What You Want PDF on the DMs Guild.
I loved a lot of things in fourth edition Dungeons and Dragons. The balance, the monster stat blocks, the warlord class, the shardmind race, and more. While that edition has been panned for many worthy and unworthy reasons, it created some of my favorite beasties ever – the catastrophic dragons.
It’s no surprise we didn’t see the blizzard, earthquake, and volcanic dragons in the fifth edition Monster Manual. The book already has over thirty pages of draconic goodness between the chromatic and metallic dragons. Still, you know what the great thing about TRPGs is? We can, nay, we are encouraged to create things on our own for our games. Well I thought I’d share my version of the catastrophic dragons with you over the next week or so for feedback and use in your own game. Once I’m happy with it and after reading your feedback, I’ll put these bad mamma jammas on the Free Game Resources section of this site!
But First, a Shoutout!
I probably wouldn’t be writing this post if it weren’t for this month’s RPG Blog Carnival theme of races, chosen by John Four over at Roleplaying Tips. Now I know by races John means PC races, but I’m going to write about a few new races of dragons! I want to use these baddies in my Exploration Age campaign, so here I’ve given them a story that should work in most game worlds in case you want to use them in yours too.
Crafting the Story
When you look at the catastrophic dragons description in the Monster Manual 3 for fourth edition, you learn these beasts are tied to primordials and the Dawn War. Essentially once Io died, some chromatic dragons were all like, “Tiamat’s my jam!” and the metallics were all righteous and like, “Bahamut’s the shiz, brah.” Some dragons, though, were like, “Both ya’ll cray. Those gods are selfish and weak.” These dragons went to the side of the primordials, seeking protection from the chromatic and metallic dragons who were all, “Say what? Now you gots to die for talking smack about our gods.” The primordials hid away these naysayer dragons in the furthest reaches of the Elemental Chaos, where they were reforged in elemental forces and became the catastrophic dragons. They hate pretty much everything that isn’t an elemental and want to watch the world be torn apart by these forces.
It’s a good story, but not all campaign settings fit that mold so I want something that can work a little more generally. This includes the world of Exploration Age, which has no Dawn War in its history. My idea for a story is below, which borrows from the original tale above.
It was around this time monsters got really great in fourth edition.
The History of Catastrophic Dragons
Catastrophic dragons were once chromatic dragons who desired more than a hoard and a lair. For while others stole and hid from the humanoids over whom they claimed superiority, these dragons knew that all other life in the multiverse should be bowing to their will. Power is a far greater reward than any material possession and as the smartest and strongest in the land, dragons deserved to be in charge. Any thought other than this was impractical and stupid.
These dragons tried to convince their brethren to leave their caves and make the humanoids submit to their will. The other chromatic dragons did not like this sudden interest in the affairs of lesser beings and so with greater numbers they did come together. They banished their radical kin to the elemental planes. For hundreds of years these rebellious chromatic dragons were locked in seas of fire, ice, wind, and stone. Those who did not die were shaped by elemental forces and remade into catastrophic dragons.
Each trapped catastrophic dragon has its imprisonment tied to the soul of a chromatic dragon on the material plane. If one of these gatekeeper chromatic dragon should die before it can pass the responsibility onto another, the catastrophic dragon can leave the plane of its imprisonment and wreak havoc on the world.
Behavior of Catastrophic Dragons
Catastrophic dragons once wanted to dominate all life in the multiverse. After years of suffering the harsh terrain of the elemental planes, their minds are warped and they desire only to kill all those inferior to them, especially chromatic dragons whom they hate above all others.Their memories are long and catastrophic dragons do not forget their betrayal at the hands of their kin. If they escape their bonds they may keep a hoard, but usually only for the purpose of attracting other dragons and killing them.
Blizzard dragons appear almost wraith-like. These creatures have thin hides of ice-covered snow which crackles and mists with elemental energy. Their eyes glow white and their frozen bones are visible through the tightly packed snow around their joints.
Cold and storm follow a blizzard dragon wherever it goes. As one approaches the weather turns bitter and windy as snow heralds the blizzard dragon’s arrival.
Planners and Schemers. Blizzard dragons are the most level-headed of the rage-filled catastrophic dragons. This is not to say they are without anger, but they are more likely to work with other elemental creatures and formulate a plan before battle, rather than simply relying on their might to kill everything in sight.
Friend of the Undead. Blizzard dragons have been known to work alongside undead. They recognize in undead the same hatred for life and the desire to destroy and use that to mutual benefit for as long as a partnership will allow.
A Blizzard Dragon’s Lair
Where other dragons carve lairs out of the earth, blizzard dragons often build theirs out of ice and packed snow, creating elaborate, twisting mazes with slick floors and walls. From the outside this mass of tunnels looks almost like an enormous forgotten ball of clear yarn.
These passages are riddled with holes, so the sleet can still pelt the dragon’s enemies as they move through its home. The wind can carry the scent of intruders to the dragon deep within. The tunnels often take sudden turns or dips, creating slick, icy slides which take the dragon’s enemy into some perilous trap.
Legendary blizzard dragons often build their personal chambers with deep pits and ice spiked floors into which they move their enemies using their Catastrophic Aura. Blizzard dragons are crafty. As their aura grows they might cling to the walls or ceiling to use it to its fullest effect. They always have a secret escape tunnel in case events go awry, hidden by a thin sheet of ice and snow.
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