Ow, Ow, Don’t Eat Me!! A Review of Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons
‘Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons’ is your one-stop shop for everything draconic. This 255-page hardcover supplement gives you all the information you need to run dragon encounters, learn about draconic anatomy and ecology, and design dragon lairs and treasure hoards. Added into the mix are draconic artifacts, draconic rituals, scores of dragons old and new, and even a draconic Hall of Fame. So is it worth a read? Let’s take a closer look.
Being both a DM and a dragon junkie, I was pretty happy with this book’s fluff-to-crunch ratio. That is, there’s enough fluff to give you a good feel for how dragons think and behave, but not so much that it detracts from the crunchy mechanics. There is plenty of material here to fire up a draconic campaign, including 14 pages of campaign outlines, adventure synopses, and plot hooks for every level range – followed by 75 pages of detailed dragon lair maps and encounters for groups from level 5 to level 30.
‘Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons’ starts out with a scrutinizing look at chromatic dragons (our fave five, plus gray, brown, and purple – you can read what our resident red dragon, Expy, thinks about other dragons: thoughts on green dragons, thoughts on white dragons), their internal and external anatomy, and their societies and psychology. Without detracting from chromatic dragons’ vicious reputations, the book also suggests ways to use these monsters as patrons for an adventuring party. The draconic encounter guide in Chapter 2 spends a couple of pages discussing social encounters with evil dragons, for those who prefer some interaction with their hack-and-slash. And for trap-loving DMs, there’s even a small collection of traps that dragons like to spring on unwary PCs.
A large swath of the book reads like the Monster Manual. Here, we find a vast array of draconic beasts. In particular, the undead dragons caught my eye. They range from the imaginative (a dracolich that stays immortal by dreaming itself into existence), to the creepy and crazy (zombie and vampire dragons), to the downright pitiful (a little mismatched dracolich that looks like damaged goods found at a garage sale). You’ll also find dragons native to the Abyss, the Astral Sea, the Feywild, and the Shadowfell.
You can get a red dragon wallpaper and
cool artwork on D&D Insider
After the dragons come the draconic associates – creatures that have some connection to dragonkind. Yes, there are new kinds of kobolds, and some of them even get up to level 6! Without giving too much away, I must say that the ‘Kobold Victory Table’ is a must-read for anyone with a sense of humor. Any table designed to “inject some random craziness into your game” is okay in my book!
The Dragon Hall of Fame was entertaining – and sometimes scary. It reinforces the notion that you really don’t want to mess with chromatic dragons if you can help it. The ancient brown dragon ‘Nefermandias’ is one scary mofo, but even he pales in comparison to the full-page stat block for Tiamat. (Yes. The stat-block of a goddess is every bit as insane as you’d expect, and well worth the page space.) Being a former DragonLance addict, I must kick a shout-out to my devious homey Cyan Bloodbane, who’s also featured in the Hall of Fame section.
Finally, we have directions for adding a functional draconic template to any monster, coupled with alternative powers for chromatic dragons and bloodline powers specific to polychromatic dragons. And blessed be, there’s even a monster index at the end to make it easy for DMs to read up on their next ravenous villains of choice.
I think the good stuff in this book far outweighs the bad or the useless. But some of the bad stuff is downright baffling, so I’m sharing it here for your entertainment (and my venting).
‘Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons’ has its share of WTF moments. For example: a full section on draconic parasites. Is that really necessary? Does this mean we need to de-worm Expy?! I could have done without the 2-page spread on parasites that pick stuff out from between dragons’ teeth and partially digest the dragon’s prey for it. Blecch.
Also, the section about vampire dragons bothers me. Not so much because it describes a vampire and a dragon mixed, but because it insults my intelligence in places. Do I really need a DC 25 religion check to know that huge undead dragons don’t sleep in coffins? I’m just sayin’.
And in the “so cute it’s painful” category, we have the faerie dragons. Yes, they’re adorable and always have been. But with names like ‘Flitterwing’ and ‘Windgleam’, they sound like something from the My Little Pony lineup. (7 year old girls – an untapped D&D market?)
This book isn’t a necessary addition to a DM’s library; you can happily run games without it. But it has enough new information to make the purchase worthwhile. I recommend it. For dragon fans, I decree it.
How did you like the Draconomicon? Have you used it in your game yet? Let’s hear about your experiences in the comments section.