Thanks for dropping by my weekly feature, Irreverent Reading! It’s where we turn the Monster Manual upside down and give it good shake to see what falls out. Sometimes it’s actual pages. Yes… as you can see with your own eyes, we are literally reading the cover off!
An incredible amount has happened in the world since our last post. For one my son will be learning at home, as will millions of other kids. So, it’s good we are already well into this! It would be easy to just plant myself in front of the news all day long and get more and more anxious. We’ve made the choice to seriously curtail our social lives and limit trips out as much as possible. It’s not full isolation, but it’s close. Luckily we can still hike. Remember: being alone doesn’t mean being inside!
I’ve made a commitment to keep going with the posts even though it’s not always going to be easy. And so… we press on in our epic quest.
This week we search high and low for that true dragon goodness.
I wanted to call this post It’s Dragons All the Way Down… but the boy pled for me to call it The Chromatics. We managed a compromise.
Dragon (Black). You’ll find these guys at the end of last week’s post.
Dragon (Blue). Just another great realization of a dragon at its essence. This is the most inventive and rich of all the Chromatic write-ups. I’m not sure how far this notion extends into the D&D back catalog, but the pairing of electricity and the Blue’s desert home is magnifique. If you’ve been to the desert you know how incredible the static discharges can be. This write-up just leans right into that.
Blue dragons make their lairs in barren places using their lightning breath and their burrowing ability to carve out crystallized caverns and tunnels beneath the sands. Thunderstorms rage around the legendary blue dragon’s lair, and narrow tubes lined with glassy sand ventilate the lair, all while avoiding the deadly sinkholes that are the dragon’s first line of defense.
When it hunts, a blue dragon buries itself in the desert sand so that only the horn of its nose pokes above the surface of the sand, appearing to be an outcropping of stone.
Watching your players react as a camouflaged Blue erupts out of the sand sounds like instant table magic!
Yeah, I like everything about this listing. The way all the little details are woven together, the ant lion-style traps in the sand, the lair stitched together with lightening-formed glass, just all of it.
Maybe one of these dragons fancies itself an artist? Imagine the PCs are carefully sliding down one of the ventilation tubes referred to above. They hear odd humming and occasional zaps of electricity. Player’s luck being what it is, they eventually snap the tube and fall into a heap in a sand filled cavern. They land at the foot of a Blue making an enormous glass sculpture of itself. Are the players smart enough to praise the dragon’s craftsmanship, or do they find themselves in a deadly confrontation?
Dragon (Green). More than the other dragons, the Green asks for the GM’s utter ruthlessness…
The most cunning and treacherous of true dragons, green dragons use misdirection and trickery to get the upper hand. Nasty tempered and thoroughly evil, they take special pleasure in subverting and corrupting the good-hearted.
If the dragon is cunning, then the DM needs to really go for it with plotting and scheming… both at the tactical and strategic level. The Green’s favored environment, the forest, should make planning ambushes a snap. Also, they like to toy a bit with their prey. Maybe your PCs encounter a party that’s been harried and harassed for days by a Green, and they beg the party to help them get out of the forest. (Sometimes showing the characters their potential future selves is a great way to build tension!)
Greens are also “capricious hunters” and they favor the taste of elf flesh. (This reminds me of the Bulette’s fondness for Halfings.)
After thoughtfully considering this listing I’m wondering… is the Green Dragon the asshole of dragonkind?
Dragon (Red). X noticed right away how simple the Ancient Red Dragon write-up is… it is very much a quantity build. A million hit points and a withering breath weapon. What else do you want from the king of dragons? When we got to the description of the hot gases swirling over the Red when it sleeps he smiled and said, “I bet that feels good to them!” As a guy who’s been known to rock a hot bath now and again, I bet it does, too.
Have fun with a playing a Red as high-handedly as you like. Since they see themselves as the dominant dragon form, really lean into that arrogance. Maybe they’re a little sloppy with their hoard security. Give the PCs what they always seem to want… a clear shot at a huge pile of treasure while nobody’s home. (Sure, go through the motions of making rolls, hemming and hawing, and then say something like, “Well, I guess you got lucky this time.”) Let them load up with hoard goodies as they anxiously eye you, all smiles, behind the DM Screen.
And then give them a one day head start…
Dragon (White). Xander and I noticed right away that the White had a much lower intelligence than the other Chromatics. And then, of course, we discovered that this is the most feral and animalistic of them all. Nice change of pace here. There’s only so many ways to handle the standard Dragon tropes of dominance, greed, territoriality, etc.
There’s plenty to creep players out with too. Listen to some of this…
A white dragon also keeps the bodies of its greatest enemies as trophies, freezing corpses where it can look upon them and gloat.
A white dragon only consumes food that has been frozen, devouring creatures killed by its breath weapon while they are still stiff and frigid.
Imagine the sound that makes; put your player characters in a position to hear it.
The White Dragon’s lair is a frozen hell. A fight in the lair should be a harrowing experience as the PCs trip over frozen victims while the dragon repeatedly swoops from concealed perches. Play up the broken ice and difficult terrain for all its worth. Throw in hidden crevasses, traps with sub-freezing water, and avalanches of ice chunks for added flavor. And don’t forgot, blood on the ice is always a great image.
Also, this seems deliciously cryptic… the White likes to block off areas of its lair with ice walls. Why? Are these holding cells, hoards, traps… or places where guard animals are kept to slow unwary invaders? Let your imagination, and you players, run wild.
We push forward. We are in unprecedented times, but, hey, at least we’ve got each other.
Next week, Metallic Dragons… it’s been interesting, but X and I will both ready to move on from dragons!
3 thoughts on “Irreverent Reading: D&D 5E Monster Manual from Dragon (Blue) to Dragon (White) – All the Chromatics”