Excerpts Archive | 10/24/2008
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Excerpts: Brown Dragons
Draconomicon

In today’s Draconomicon preview, we introduce brown dragons -- of all the chromatics, the least likely to head great armies, rule kingdoms, or otherwise seek to carve out empires; instead, they prefer the comfort of their desert lairs and are at home below the earth.


Brown dragons revel in the comfort of sand-covered lairs filled with treasure they have filched from desert tombs. Browns also like exotic live food kidnapped from far lands.

To come face to face with a brown dragon requires extra work on the part of a would-be vanquisher. Brown dragons accomplish their goals in a manner that puts them in the least amount of danger—or, more accurately, requires the least effort. For instance, if given a choice between attacking an armed castle to eat the baron’s horses or swooping down on a straggling bull among a herd of buffalo, a brown dragon chooses the latter.

Nevertheless, a diet of buffalo or other easily acquired herd animals pales after a time, so even risk-averse, relatively easygoing brown dragons might take progressively greater risks to try new flavors. Brown dragons, enamored with eating well, sometimes design elaborate schemes for obtaining unusual morsels—schemes of a sort that other dragons would apply toward stealing great treasure or defending their lairs. To brown dragons, life is best lived by eating often and well. A black dragon might find satisfaction in a diet of swamp things and the occasional drowned adventurer, but a brown dragon’s ultimate happiness comes with new tastes and spices.

In the extreme, this peculiarity can result in a brown dragon taking unnecessary risks in the heat of combat, all for a chance to bite a species never before tasted. After a brown dragon samples such a new taste, it invariably muses aloud about the flavor while the fight continues. Possibly browns intend this as a tactic to demoralize foes, but more likely they follow a gastronomical compulsion.

Brown dragons stand out for another reason apart from their love of food. They have the ability to exhale screaming, blinding sand that hits like a concentrated desert sandstorm. Indeed, these dragons are like elementals of the wastelands. The natural dangers of its favored terrain are part of a brown dragon’s armory. At the extreme, an ancient brown dragon’s sandstorm is large enough to encompass an entire battlefield. Anything caught within such fury is tossed about like a doll in a tornado.

Lairs and Terrain

Brown dragons favor desiccated and deserted landscapes, places where humanoid societies are less likely to thrive and bother them. Browns locate their lairs beneath the desert floor, in hollows of empty air supported by old ruins or in buried cave mouths. Other browns might occupy large ruined structures on the desert’s surface, such as grand tombs from which looters have long departed. A brown dragon’s lair consists of a series of rooms or hollow spaces cut off from each other by earth or shifting sand. A burrowing brown digs tunnels as needed.

Favored Treasure

Brown dragons covet food as much as treasure, and even the treasure they favor takes the form of cutlery and crockery, from silver tea sets to crystal decanters once used by deities. Brown dragons cannot resist seizing fine utensils of great value or of noteworthy past ownership. They might even employ intermediaries to buy these types of treasure.

Brown dragons appreciate treasures of other sorts, too: coins, artwork, rare lore books . . . anything valuable that can fill out their hoards. They might also use these kinds of treasure as bait.

Brown Dragon Lore

A character knows the following information with a successful Nature check.

DC 15: More than any other kind of dragon, brown dragons are driven nearly as much by the desire to discover new tastes as by the need to accumulate a hoard. They so love eating that they sometimes take risks in combat merely to “sample” one or more of their foes. Thus, a brown dragon might take a bite instead of making a more tactically advantageous attack for the chance to taste an enemy, especially a creature it has not previously encountered. Brown dragons prize elf flesh for its succulence and tenderness, and least prefer dwarves, whose tough meat they consider unpalatable unless it is aged.

DC 20: A brown dragon’s breath weapon is a blast of supernaturally hot and stinging sand that corrodes flesh and blocks all visibility.

DC 25: A brown dragon makes its lair under the sands, in a hollow within a ruin, a cave, or a similar structure. A lair can consist of several such chambers, each one an island of air surrounded by an ocean of smothering sand. A brown dragon doesn’t need tunnels—it can burrow between the rooms of its lair without difficulty.

A brown dragon might keep a supply of food in its lair, usually smoked or seasoned meats but sometimes a stock of living creatures. It might set aside a space for seasonings, including sea salt, sage, thyme, and more exotic flavorings.

In addition to unusual food items, rare spices, and precious dishes and utensils, brown dragon hoards often contain treasures from civilizations that fell in earlier ages. They are likely to contain unique items (both mundane and magical) from long-extinct cultures now hidden under the shifting sands. A brown dragon might use its treasure as bait for living prey, depositing a half-buried chest on the surface near a crossroads or an oasis to lure treasure-seekers.

DC 30: Brown dragons lay their eggs deep within loose earth, preferably sand. When the eggs hatch, the wyrmlings claw their way to the surface, giving the impression of springing spontaneously from the sand. Even newly hatched brown dragons have fully developed digging horns and claws, giving them the same burrowing ability as their parents.


Elder Brown Dragon
Level 16 Solo Lurker
Huge natural magical beast (dragon)
XP 7,000
Initiative +15 Senses Perception +12; darkvision, tremorsense 20
HP 775; Bloodied 387; see also bloodied breath
AC 34; Fortitude 34, Reflex 30, Will 32
Resist 25 fire
Saving Throws +5
Speed 10, burrow 8, fly 7 (hover), overland flight 14
Action Points 2
Melee Bite (standard; at-will)
Reach 3; +22 vs. AC; 2d8 + 7 damage.
Melee Claw (standard; at-will)
Reach 3; +22 vs. AC; 2d6 + 7 damage.
Melee Double Attack (standard; at-will)
The dragon makes two claw attacks.
Ranged Sand Spray (immediate reaction, when an enemy attacks the dragon with a ranged attack; at-will)
Ranged 20; targets the triggering enemy; +19 vs. Reflex; 2d8 + 3 damage, and the target is blinded until the end of the dragon’s next turn.
Close Burst Breath Weapon (standard; recharge 56)
Close blast 10; +19 vs. Fortitude; 3d10 + 4 damage. The blast creates an area of swirling sand that remains in place until the end of the dragon’s next turn. Any creature that starts its turn adjacent to the area or that moves through the area takes 10 damage. The area blocks line of sight for all creatures except the dragon.
Close Burst Bloodied Breath (free, when first bloodied; encounter)
The dragon’s breath weapon recharges, and the dragon uses it immediately.
Close Burst Frightful Presence (standard; encounter) Fear
Close burst 10; targets enemies; +19 vs. Will; the target is stunned until the end of the dragon’s next turn. Aftereffect: The target takes a –2 penalty to attack rolls (save ends).
Close Burst Quicksand Vortex (minor; encounter)
Close burst 5; +19 vs. Fortitude; the target slides 2 squares and is slowed until the end of the dragon’s next turn.
Sand Cloud (move; recharge 56) Polymorph
The brown dragon transforms into a cloud of sand and shifts a number of squares up to its speed. It can move through occupied squares but must end in a legal space. Any creature whose space the dragon enters takes 2d6 + 4 damage and is blinded (save ends). The dragon returns to its normal form at the end of this move.
Combat Advantage
The brown dragon deals 3d6 extra damage against any target it has combat advantage against.
Alignment Evil
Languages Common, Draconic
Skills Endurance +17, Stealth +16
Str 24 (+15)
Dex 17 (+11)
Wis 19 (+12)
Con 19 (+12)
Int 17 (+11)
Cha 15 (+10)