Welcome back. I hope you're ready for this month's creature: the dragon!
Dragons are iconic to D&D (heck, it is called Dungeons & Dragons, after all), and they have always been considered among the tougher foes that adventurers face. With the current rules (and Draconomicon offers even more options than the Monster Manual does), you can really create your own customized dragons so that one red dragon (or black, or white . . .) is not exactly the same as another. You can customize them within a color choice with feats, skills, and spells. You can even add templates to them. And that is what we will consider this month.
It is easy enough to make fiendish and celestial dragons, but here at the Creature Incarnations Project we have discovered some truly weird dragons that we would like to share with you. They are all based on the standard adult red dragon, an iconic image in Dungeons & Dragons. I hope your player characters have protection from fire spells up? Oh, and protection from cold for the last specimen? Good. Now, step this way . . .
d20 Modern: Alien Dragon
In the modern world, dragons are themselves strange mystical creatures that defy imagination even as they embody it. A flying dragon-shaped tentacled mass is a horror from within nightmares -- something that should not be unleashed on the world. Who knows where this one comes from? Perhaps in some place, some technologically advanced aliens can bring dreams to life, and this was one of their results. Perhaps it comes from beyond the universe.
The pseudonatural red dragon can assume the form of a tentacled mass that has its original shape, and this is the form that the creature stays in most of the time. It uses its unnaturalness to its advantage in combat, as well as its fiery breath and its FX abilities. It's smart enough to know when to worry about bullets and when not to, and it flees if its life is in danger. However, it remembers those it fled from, and returns to take revenge later.
Pseudonatural Adult Red Dragon CR 17
Snatch (Ex) Against Small or smaller creatures, bite for 2d8+11 per round or claw for 2d6+5 per round.
Crush (Ex) Area 15 ft. by 15 ft.; Small or smaller opponents take 2d6+16 points of bludgeoning damage and must succeed on a DC 26 Reflex save or be pinned.
True Strike (Su) As the true strike spell; once/day.
Breath Weapon (Su) 50-ft. cone, once every 1d4 rounds, damage 12d10 fire, Reflex DC 26 half.
Alternate Form (Su) As a standard action a pseudonatural creature can take the form of a grotesque, tentacled mass. Its abilities remain unchanged. Other creatures receive a -1 morale penalty on their attack rolls against the pseudonatural creature while it is in this form.
Talk about weird-looking dragons. This creature started out with draconic heritage, but the mixture of ooze within its bloodlines created something completely unnatural. It cannot fly, but it can still use its fiery breath weapon and cast spells (which are Charisma-based rather than Intelligence-based). It is more cunning than smart; in fact, it must be said, it is pretty stupid. Dungeon Masters may want to keep an eye on how challenging it turns out to be -- it may not be as tough as its CR would indicate. Sometimes adding a template to a creature that starts out tough does not produce a creature as tough as the template thinks it will be.
The ooze dragon has the shape of a red dragon, even with wings, but it is translucent and oozy. It attacks with its breath weapon first, and it casts spells such as mage armor and shield, expeditious retreat, false life, and protection from energy (cold) before battle begins if possible. It rarely thinks to use ray of enfeeblement or mirror image, but you can throw your players for a loop by having it use them.
Note: This creature uses the gelatinous creature template found on page 116 of Savage Species.
Gelatinous Adult Red Dragon CR 17
Acid (Ex) A gelatinous adult red dragon body produces a corrosive slime. Any creature that is struck by a gelatinous adult red dragon's attack automatically takes 1d8 points of acid damage.
Snatch (Ex) Against Small or smaller creatures, bite for 4d6+11 plus 1d8 acid per round or claw for 2d6+5 plus 1d8 acid per round.
Crush (Ex) Area 15 ft. by 15 ft.; Small or smaller opponents take 2d6+16 points of bludgeoning damage and must succeed on a DC 29 Reflex save or be pinned.
Breath Weapon (Su) 50-ft. cone, once every 1d4 rounds, damage 12d10 fire, Reflex DC 29 half.
Resilient (Ex) Gelatinous creatures have less defined shapes than the normal creatures they resemble. As a result, it is more difficult to score crippling or killing blows against them. A gelatinous creature cannot be flanked, takes 1d6 less damage from a successful sneak attack, and takes one-half the additional damage dealt by a critical hit.
Half-Troll Dragon or Half-Dragon Troll?
There are two ways to make a creature that is half troll and half red dragon. You can apply the half-dragon template to a troll, or you can apply the half-troll template (from Fiend Folio) to a red dragon. To see how these work out, both are presented below and you can see which you like best.
The first one, the half-dragon troll, looks like a troll with red scales and huge red draconic wings. It looks very imposing, but very troll-like, and came about when a dragon mated with a female troll.
The second version, the half-troll dragon, looks like a red dragon with bumps and warts on its skin, and some hair growing around its head ridges. It has a greenish cast to its scales, but that is hard to see unless you are within 60 feet (Spot DC 15 to notice). It might have come about through forcible magical experimentation, though it could have come about through a troll mating with a female red dragon.
Half-Dragon (Red) Troll CR 7
Rend (Ex) A half-dragon troll that hits with both claw attacks latches onto the opponent's body and tears the flesh. This attack automatically deals an extra 2d6+15 points of damage.
Breath Weapon (Su) 30-ft. cone, once every day, damage 6d8 fire, Reflex DC 20 half.
Half-Troll Adult Red Dragon CR 17
Snatch (Ex) Against Small or smaller creatures, bite for 4d6+14 per round or claw for 2d6+7 per round.
Crush (Ex) Area 15 ft. by 15 ft.; Small or smaller opponents take 2d8+21 points of bludgeoning damage and must succeed on a DC 29 Reflex save or be pinned.
Breath Weapon (Su) 50-ft. cone, once every 1d4 rounds, damage 12d10 fire, Reflex DC 29 half.
Rend (Ex) A half-troll dragon that hits with both claw attacks latches onto the opponent's body and tears the flesh. This attack automatically deals an extra 2d8+21 points of damage.
Water and Fire Mixed
Who said that you could not mix fire and water? Here is a perfectly good example: a half-water elemental red dragon. And while we're at it, we're giving it another head (the multiheaded template is my favorite). This allows us to make a cryo-based creature, which means it has the water, cold, and fire subtypes. Nothing says a creature cannot have both fire and cold subtypes (just look at Tiamat), though you may not want to make a practice of introducing such creatures into your campaign.
This dragon's skin and scales possess an almost purplish tint -- a mix of the blue-green from the elemental heritage and the red from the dragon heritage. It tends to have more of a nurturing nature than a red dragon normally would have, but watch out if you attack or threaten something under its protection. It lives in the mountains near lakes, since it prefers to live near the water and swim. Its two heads may disconcert any onlookers, and the fact that it can breathe frost or fire should be a total surprise.
Two-Headed Half-Elemental (Water) Adult Cryo-Red Dragon CR 20
Snatch (Ex) Against Small or smaller creatures, bite for 4d6+12 per round or claw for 2d6+6 per round.
Crush (Ex) Area 15 ft. by 15 ft.; Small or smaller opponents take 2d8+18 points of bludgeoning damage and must succeed on a DC 29 Reflex save or be pinned.
Breath Weapon (Su) 50-ft. cone, once every 1d4 rounds, damage 12d10 fire, Reflex DC 29 half. (Both heads breathe either fire or cold at the same time; when they do, be sure to roll damage for each head.)
Breath Weapon (Su) 20-ft. line, once every 1d4 rounds, damage 3d6 cold, Reflex DC 29 half. (Both heads breathe either fire or cold at the same time; when they do, be sure to roll damage for each head.)
Multiheaded: Having a redundant head makes a creature more able to survive otherwise lethal attacks. Thus, a vorpal blade would have to remove all heads to have its usual effect. Severing a head requires hitting the creature's neck (same AC as creature) with a slashing weapon and dealing damage equal to the multiheaded creature's original hit point total divided by the original number of heads. (The player must declare an attack against the neck just before making the attack roll.) The severed head dies, and a natural reflex seals the neck shut to prevent further blood loss. The creature can no longer attack with the severed head but takes no other penalties. A severed head cannot regrow naturally.
Feats Not Presented in the Player's Handbook or Monster Manual
Improved Multiattack (from Draconomicon): The usual -5 (-2 if you have Multiattack) penalty on attack rolls for secondary attacks does not apply to your secondary attacks with natural weapons. The damage bonus for such attacks is still only 1/2 your Strength bonus, if any.
Recover Breath (from Draconomicon): You reduce the interval between uses of your breath weapon. You wait 1 round less than usual before breathing again, but always at least 1 round. The feat stacks with the effects of metabreath feats, reducing the total time you must wait to use your breath weapon again by 1 round.
Swim-By Attack(from Stormwrack): When swimming, you can take a move action and another standard action (such as an attack) at any point during the move. You cannot take a second move action during a round when you make a swim-by attack.
About the Author
Robert Wiese entered the gaming hobby through the Boy Scouts and progressed from green recruit to head of the most powerful gaming fan organization in the world. He served as head of the RPGA Network for almost seven years, overseeing the creation of the Living Greyhawk and Living Force campaigns, among other achievements. Eventually, he returned to private life in Reno, Nevada, where he is still involved in writing, organizing conventions, and playing. He also models proteins for the Biochemistry Department of the University of Nevada, Reno and spends as much time as possible with his wife and many pets.
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