More ink has been spilled on describing dragons than on nearly any other creature. These ancient, noble, yet savage beasts are a favorite subject of guidebooks, bards' tales, and ancient tomes and scrolls. Draconic knowledge is gained at risk of life and limb; dragons are rapacious, jealous of their secrets... and often hungry.
Wizards of the Coast: With the release of Draconomicon, let's discuss dragons in general. Now that 4th Edition has been out now for several months, how do you feel 4E dragons compare to their counterparts of earlier editions? That is, in your experience how do you find 4E dragons playing around the table? From a design perspective, how are you approaching their creation any differently?
Bruce R. Cordell: Dragons were always the quintessential "solo" monsters, so in a sense, 4E dragons, unlike many other monsters, are more similar in theme to earlier edition dragons. A single dragon is a challenge the party fears to face. This was true before and should still be true now.
Wizards: With Draconomicon I, let me ask this: why concentrate on the chromatics? When (and how) will we see support for their metallic brethren?
BRC: Chromatics are the traditional "baddies" of dragon-dom. You've got your red, your black, your green, and so on. We wanted to get the 4E take on these dragons out first to populate the campaigns of DMs hankering for them.
Were I psychic, I might predict metallic dragons could see support in equal measure in a package not unlike Draconomicon I. I might further prophesize that the metallics may not be as generally benign as earlier editions have painted.
Wizards: And on to the dragons! Brown, gray, and purple: what can you tell us about each of these new chromatic dragons? What sets them apart from existing chromatics? How was the decision made to include them within the ranks of chromatic dragons in the first place (and now won’t Tiamat now need 3 more heads)?
BRC: Well, the number of Tiamat's heads isn't an arbiter of how many chromatic dragon varieties exist. So we don't have to worry about that.
Anyhow, the brown, gray, and purple dragon are actually not new (they existed in previous editions), but Draconomicon I recognized them as part of the chromatic lineage, and gave them a treatment to match. Each of the new chromatics has an idiosyncrasy or two that makes them fit into their chromatic "family" quite well.
Wizards: There are more new dragons in Draconomicon than these three, of course. What can you tell us about the planar and undead varieties?
BRC: Chromatics seem prone to taking on characteristics of their environment. Thus many varieties of planar dragon are chromatic lineages that have lived too long in the Elemental Chaos or other alternate plane.
Likewise, chromatic dragons seem a favorite go-to corpse for necromancers looking to bulk up their arsenal through the creation of dracoliches and other undead wyrms.
Wizards: The book also presents the draconic hall of fame. Several famous dragons from various settings are listed in Chapter 2, and eight ultra-famous dragons are fully statted out in Chapter 4. How did these dragons stand out above the rest in a race of creatures where, arguably, every dragon might be said to be famous?
BRC: Well, I guess it came down to how much ink had been spilled regarding a particular named dragon. Even then, some named dragons who everyone is familiar with previous editions of the game didn't make it into the book, and I'm afraid that the constraints of page count can be a cruel judge.
Wizards: And what's a dragon without its lairs several are presented in the book. What can you tell us about dragon lair encounter design within 4th Edition, as opposed to dragon encounters of editions past?
BRC: There are three sets of dragon lairs per adventuring tier in Draconomicon I. These lairs were designed so a DM can pull them out and toss them into his or her ongoing game with relative ease. Since each lair is about 8 pages in length, in a sense Draconomicon offers 9 mini dragon adventures, which isn't something previous monster books have had the room to pull off.
Wizards: As far as loot goes, once you (theoretically) slay a dragon, what does the book provide in terms of loot/hoard generation? Something a bit more than "Treasure Type H"?
BRC: Indeed. We’ve got sample dragon hoards from 1 to 30, and subsystem helpful for DMs interested in generating more specifically dragon-flavored treasures.
Wizards: And finally, The Hobbit is due to start filming. Any thoughts to how you might classify Smaug as a particular kind of dragon, or what powers you might you assign him?
BRC: Smaug is old school, so I've always seen him as a red dragon. Besides all the standard red dragon powers, I might give him some sort of waistcoat of jewels ability that provides additional protection for the dragon over the already ridiculous AC… but protection that can be pierced should a Perception-Stealth-Bluff skill challenge succeed before battle begins!