In today’s Draconomicon preview, we present the origins of dragons (at least, according to the sages), including a look at the first dragons and the sundering of Io's children.
Only the most arrogant enthusiast might claim certain knowledge of dragons’ origins, and such a claim should be taken with a grain of salt. Legends and the knowledge that sages do have, however, stretch back for centuries and hint at what might have been. Sometimes new stories come to light, prompting reassessments of the existing body of knowledge and speculation regarding dragon inception.
The five major dragon families (chromatic, catastrophic, metallic, scourge, and planar; see the Monster Manual for details) share a common origin. Most accounts begin with mention of the deity Io.
Io, as legend has it, created dragons in his own shape but without a divine spark, so that dragons might frolic and exult in the new world formed by the primordials. To Io, dragons were the epitome of mortal form. Though they lived in the world, the power of the Elemental Chaos flowed in their veins and spewed from their mouths in gouts of flame or waves of paralyzing cold. They also developed keen minds and lofty spirits that linked them, as with all sentient mortal beings, to the Astral Sea.
During the wars between the primordials and the gods that followed the world’s creation, the primordial known as the King of Terror attacked and slew Io and the dragons defending Io. According to one account, the dragon deities Tiamat and Bahamut rose from the two halves of Io’s corpse. Another legend claims that Tiamat and Bahamut were among Io’s eldest creations and received their father’s divine spark upon his death.
Io’s remaining children found their position less secure than they had believed it to be. Forced to adapt to a changing world, they chose diverse philosophies and lifestyles to reflect their individual natures.
A number of surviving dragons chose to follow Bahamut, called the Platinum Dragon, and they became the first metallic dragons. Over the ages, as Bahamut upheld justice, opposed evil, and liberated the oppressed, creatures other than dragons came to honor him as the deity of justice, protection, nobility, and honor. In the fullness of time, he has become better known for those attributes than for his association with metallic dragons. Today, all metallic dragons revere Bahamut as their originator, but not all of them worship him.
Other dragons that survived Io’s death embraced their physical link to the Elemental Chaos, allowing the power within them to manifest externally. They became disasters incarnate, taking the forms of fantastic catastrophes that shook the world and that continue to wreak havoc millennia later. When a mountain explodes, a catastrophic dragon might erupt from it along with sprays of molten rock. When a cyclone or a hurricane rages, a catastrophic dragon might lurk at the eye of the storm, reveling in the destruction. Catastrophic dragons care little for wealth or power. They seek to make their marks on the world, literally, and to have others fear and propitiate them.
The order of scourge dragons also arose from among the survivors of Io’s death. Similar to the way catastrophic dragons embraced their link to the Elemental Chaos, scourge dragons (also called linnorms) celebrated their connection to brute reality. They learned to visit afflictions upon living creatures. Almost universally evil, scourge dragons enjoy the raw physicality of melee combat.
The remainder of Io’s surviving dragon children threw in their lot with Tiamat, whose hatred of the world that killed her father colored her every deed and attracted dragons given to rapacity and suspicion: the chromatics. Chromatic dragons have become the best-known dragon family thanks to their often antagonistic relationship with humanoids. Like Bahamut, Tiamat matured into a deity appealing to more than just her dragon kin. Today, as the evil deity of wealth, greed, and envy, she urges her followers to take vengeance for every slight. Most chromatic dragons follow this dictate.
Planar dragons are categorized as the fifth family of dragons, but planar dragons did not appear until long after the other dragon classes matured in the aftermath of Io’s dissolution. Dragons that emigrated to offworld planes were affected by their environment, sometimes radically. Chromatic dragons seem most susceptible, and later generations of these planar dragons bear only slight resemblances to their worldly kin.