By - December 9, 2008 - 11 Comments

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.

The Good

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 dragonsthoughts 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).

I’d be remiss if I didn’t share some of the things I learned about red dragons. For example, Expy, as a young red dragon, is roughly the size of a horse. He’s also very greedy, and hoards treasure just for the sake of hoarding it. He’s bloodthirsty, territorial, and very unforgiving. He also has exceptionally good hearing.         

Uh-oh…

The Bad

‘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?)

The Conclusion

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.

» Buy the Draconomicon

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Written by Janna

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Ow, Ow, Don't Eat Me!! A Review of Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons, 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating

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  1. Tonius "The Toxic" says:

    Is the Draconomicon conversable with 3.5? from the title I take it there are no Orential or Middle Eastern dragons included?

  2. Janna says:

    @ Tonius: This Draconomicon only covers chromatic dragons. I’m pretty sure we’ll see another one for metallic dragons someday. So far there are no Oriental dragons, and the closest thing to a Middle Eastern dragon is the brown dragon pharaoh, Nefermandias. The fluff, plot hooks and adventure ideas could easily be used in a 3.5 campaign, but it would take a lot of effort to convert the mechanics.

  3. Toord says:

    This book, IMO, is the worst of all 4e to date. Dragons are supposed to be magical beings … with God-like powers, cunning intelligence and the wisdom of sages. Yet, for some reason the authors of this primer decided to describe dragons as a mammal-reptilian-avian aberration with some magic and mystique. The physiology and physiognomy sections are completely preposterous. Brown dragons? Purple dragons? Gimme a break, WoTC. This book is atrocious in every other way. There’s absolutely no piece of information that you can’t live without. Skip this pup, save your dough and your sanity.

  4. Dave T. Game says:

    Wow, whereas I am willing to call this the best 4e book to date (though Manual of the Planes sounds like it’s ready to take that title shortly.) Tons of attention to detail on dragons, new dragon material to fit in with all the aspects of 4e DM rules, new dragons, tons of advice on how to use dragons in your game, famous dragons, Tiamat herself (!)… this is a great buy for DMs. Unless, apparently, you already have your mind made up about what dragons should be.

  5. Toord says:

    @Dave

    Sorry, mate. They’ve developed dragons for the last 3.5 editions. Chromatic dragons have been explained in detail for ever, it seems. Famous dragons? … err … sure you can find that information ANYWHERE for free. DM tips? Well yeah so-so there. Also, I’m criticizing the book as it offers little value and depicting dragon as mere magical aberrations. 1/4 avian, 1/4 mammal, 1/4 reptilian, 1/4 magic/elemental chaos …

  6. av says:

    “(7 year old girls – an untapped D&D market?)”

    I can see a my little pony table-top game coming! lol

  7. Jonathan says:

    Hell, the look on my player’s face when the Kobold Hobbler triggered some explosive traps, and the enmity they had towards him, made the cost of the book totally worth it.

    I found several things I’ll use just in my first skim through the book, and many more after reading through it.

  8. The Reaper says:

    Purple Dragons are uber! Not to say Red Dragons, such as Expy, are weak, but Purple Dragons can CONTROL MINDS! I give it 15 stars out of 10 for an accurate and true evil mastermind dragon that can work with other psionic creatures, such as illithids, as well as give any dungeon delver the chills just thinking of how such an encounter would end. I can’t begin to imagine what plotline would come out of this SOLO CONTROLLER!

  9. The Reaper says:

    My opinion of the wyrmlings is that they are decent, lower-level dragons that can face starting PCs and are efficient for being babies…

    P.S.: The Purple Wyrmling has an encounter dominating gaze that can scare those with a low will, which are usually those that deal lots of damage, so it can be put as a “End-boss” as early as the PC’s 1st adventure, being a lv 4 elite. Just pointing this out, being a Purple Dragon fan and all.

  10. The Reaper says:

    Another thing: If Tiamat had a purple head, the battle against her would not be even be close to survivable, except if you were a mega god.

  11. The Reaper says:

    Other than the Purple Dragon (which i ranted positively about for the last 3 posts), this book is a great tool, giving dragons for all type of campaign, even ones spreading into places where most dragons fear to tread, such as the Feywild (don’t ask why they fear that) and the Shadowfell (not as much as the feywild, but still, would you really expect a dragon to be there?) However, there are many NON-EVIL dragons here in a supposedly evil dragon book (however, that doesn’t go as far as unaligned, so they can’t be bad).

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