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Reviews of 'Draconomicon'

Draconomicon

by Andy Collins, James Wyatt, Skip Williams
D&D Expansions, Volume 7


Reviews of 'Draconomicon'

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Reviewer: Matt

Rating: Stars

Are you interested in dragons? If there was ever a book for the "everything you wanted to know about dragons and then some" type of fan, the 288-page Draconomicon from Wizards of the Coast will fit the bill. Beautifully illustrated with a ton of detail on the various dragon races and all topics draconic, the tome contains information that will be of use to both players and DMs in Dungeons & Dragons campaigns, and is definitely worth the price of admission. More specifically, for players in Dragonlance campaign, there is a lot of excellent information that can easily be adapted to it, even if it's designed for the more general D&D game.

The vast majority of the artwork in the Draconomicon is done by Todd Lockwood, the artist who did the dragon artwork that appears throughout the D&D 3rd Edition product line. A lot of the drawings of dragon anatomy and functions (such as depictions of the various dragon heads and body styles) appear to be Lockwood's early sketches, so not only does the Draconomicon provide a variety of looks at the dragons themselves, but you can also see the artist's process as the draconic monsters were developed.

If you thought you knew anything about dragons, the opening chapter should put any doubts about superior knowledge to rest. The chapter goes into graphic detail (including internal schematics of a dragon's organs) about the metabolism, how the lizard's body maintains its temperature, and the draconic life cycle from hatchling to twilight—including such notes as how long an egg takes to incubate and specific details about each stage of a wyrm's life. There is also discussion about various type identifiers—much like a guide to determining if a crocodile is really a crocodile or an alligator—as well as diagrams of each dragon type, habits, society and much more. As an added bonus, the draconic pantheon and a brief primer on the Draconic language with some common words and their translations is also included.

The second chapter is designed for the DM and provides a wealth of good information about how to DM encounters with dragons. It includes suggestions for dragon encounters and interactions, dragon feats to power the dragons up, including "metabreath" feats that allow a dragon's breath weapon to be even more terrible than it typically is. New dragon-specific spells, such as Ennerving breath and Deafening breath are also included. Dragons also have their own set of prestige classes, including the Disciple of Ashardalon (which confers the half-fiend template when the dragon achieves 12th level in the PRC), the Dragon Ascendant, the Dispassionate Watcher of Cronepsis, or one of the two iconic PRCs: Sacred Warder of Bahamut and Unholy Ravager of Tiamat. The chapter also includes diagrams for the spread of a breath weapon and the various sizes of the dragons in their respective age categories on the battle grid.

Fearsome as the new prestige classes, feats and spells can make the dragons, the PCs also have new options to counter wyrmkind. In addition to some tips on battling dragons (don't engage a dragon in an open space where they can exploit their flying ability), the Player's Perspective chapter has feats, prestige classes, spells and equipment designed to defeat dragons. From PRCs like the Dragon Hunger or Dragonslayer, to the more cautious Dragonstalker, characters have more options to specialize in the art of dealing with dragons. Additionally, some new spells offer additional protection, such as the Aura of Evasion, which grants evasion against breath weapons, or Dragonskin, which confers some of the properties of a dragon's scales to the mage. Dragonhide armor is spelled out in full detail for those looking to don a suit of the rare material. There are also a number of new magic items, such as the Ring of Dragonshape, which grants the wearer the ability to shapeshift into the form of a young dragon of appropriate alignment once per day. Rules for using dragons as mounts (normal or specialized, like the paladin's or blackguard's) and as familiars are also included in the chapter. Finally, for those interested in playing in a completely different type of campaign, a section on "Dragons as Player Characters" is also presented.

No sourcebook would be complete without a chapter on monsters, and the Draconomicon doesn't disappoint. All the monsters in the chapter are dragon-related, from the dragolich to the elemental drake and the dragonnel. The draconic template, as well as faerie dragons, ghostly dragons, dragon golems, planar dragons—such as the radiant dragon, the shadow dragon and the zombie dragon are just a few of the new monsters.

Chapter five delves into extensive detail on sample dragons. For each major dragon type—the five chromatic and five metallic—sample dragons in each age category are presented with a variety of personality traits, hordes, abilities and all the information a DM would need to plug the sample directly into any campaign. In addition to the sample dragons, the chapter also includes drawings of most dragon types at their various ages, and also includes sample lair diagrams, including exteriors and floor plans, for many of the dragon types.

To close the book, two appendices are included: the first is a discussion on sample dragon hordes, including generation tables, as well as a sample list of hordes and their appropriate amount of treasure for each challenge rating up to 27. The second appendix includes an index of dragon references in other D&D books and Dragon magazine so that interested players can find more details about the various items included in the Draconomicon.

Even though it's written for a more general D&D audience, the information in the Draconomicon will be highly useful in a standard Dragonlance campaign. The draconic pantheon doesn't really apply on Krynn, unless of course your DM will go outside the traditional Dragonlance scope and allow the draconic deities as minor players in the campaign's cosmology, but the Bahamut/Paladine and Tiamat/Takhisis name switch can be accomplished easily enough. Prestige classes and magic that reference specific dieties can easily be substituted for a more appropriate Krynnish deity. And, if your DM won't allow some of that in his game, a lot of the feats and other background material on dragon rearing and development is useful in any campaign.

The Draconomicon is an indispensable part of the library of any D&D fan that has even a remote interest in dragons. The additional information provided in the book above and beyond what is included in the Monster Manual is enormous and will give the DM a huge amount of leeway and options when introducting dragons to his campaign. Likewise, the players are provided an arsenal of tools to enable their characters to fend off the threat. If you have any interest in the namesakes of Dungeons & Dragons, make sure you pick the Draconomicon up as soon as you find it on your favorite hobby or book store's shelves.


Reviewer: Weldon Chen

Rating: Stars

Chapter 1 starts out ambitious, detailing all you want to know about dragons. For those of you who are into dragon factoids, this chapter has a treasure chest in information. There's even a part that goes into the anatomy of the Dragon's eye to explain how the dragon can see far distances and in low light. That's detail. The chapter covers physiology, lifecycle, and movement, combat abilities, and society. A small vocabulary of the draconic language is even included.

Peppered within all this anatomy information are the D&D rules to play these dragons for the DM. A lot of these things I feel have been taken from the Dragonlance world, and recycled here for others to use. The dragon's graveyard rules are especially interesting. For those of you in the Tales of the Lance era of AD&D2 games, you'll note the Krynn has dragon graveyards. It seems the popularity of the idea has found itself in the Draconomicon.

There was one thing that bothered me as a Dragonlance fan. You see, in AD&D and in 3eD&D dragons get more powerful as they get older. Dragonlance Chronicles have dragons that get more senile and less powerful as they get older. This has lead to many problems for the Dragonlance Campaign setting. Is the setting more important than the D&D rules? Can there be compromise? Ultimately, Skie, who was always considered a native dragon, was used in the 5th age SAGA Campaign setting as an example of a dragon simply reaching massive size due to age. This conflicted with Matafleur and Pyrite of the Chronicles. Ultimately, in the War of Souls Trilogy, Skie was revealed to be a non-native dragon. The Draconomicon attempts to address this. The book contains rules called Onset of Twilight and Death. Under this rule, a dragon age and Charisma score determines how many years the dragon has before it starts to weaken and grow infirm. For every year, in twilight, the dragon needs to make a DC 20 Constitution check. Success means Con goes down one point. Failure means death. I wouldn't be surprised if Dragonlancers start modifying this rule to fit Pyrite and Matafleur. Perhaps Krynnish dragons have fewer years. Perhaps Charisma counts less. Perhaps twilight drops Wisdom and Intelligence scores each year as well.

The Draconomicon is a generic dragon's book. That seems most obvious with the section about the dragon's pantheon of gods. They are clearly oriented towards the generic D&D world, Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms. We have the gods, Aasterinian, Astilabor, Bahamut, Chronepsis, Falazure, Garyx, Hlal, Io, Lendys, Tamara, and Tiamat. The dragon gods are described in their relationships to other gods. This requires some retooling by changing the names and alignment stats to fit Krynn. For example, Bahamut and Tiamat are the dragon names for Paladine and Takhisis.

I suggest the following name changes:

  • Aastilerinian, CN goddess of invention, learning and Pleasure, could be Sirrion.
  • Astilabor, N goddess of wealth and power, could be Shinaire, neutral god of industry.
  • Bahamut would be Paladine.
  • Chronepsis, N god of death, fate and judgment, could be neutral Zivilyn, god of wisdom.
  • Falazure, NE god of decay, undeath, and exhaustion, could be Chemosh, god of the undead.
  • Garyx, CE god of fire, destruction, and renewal, could be Ionthas/Chaos.
  • Hlal, CG god of humor, story telling, and inspiration could be Branchala.
  • Io would be the High God.
  • Lendys, LN god of balance and Justice could be Kiri-jolith.
  • Tamara, NG good of life, light and mercy, could be Mishakal.
  • Tiamat would be Takhisis.

Chapter two, A DM's Guide to dragons is even better than chapter 1. I'm a person who likes tactics and strategy, and this section provides nearly everything. There are suggestions and adventure hooks on making dragons the puppet masters they can be. There's tactics on using dragon abilities, as well as honest justification of why using dragon breath is more cost effective in certain attacks. There are basic rules of air combat and strafing runs. We have dragon related feats.

As a dragonlance fan, and as a draconian fan, I find these feats fascinating. Most of the feats involve altering the dragon's breath weapon, making it more deadly. These Metabreath feats act like metamagic feats from the Player's handbook. For more power, the dragon pays through longer refire time. There are also combat feats, and spell focus abilities. What is especially interesting is combining the Draconomicon feats and applying them to DRACONIANS. J The feats here specifically say "dragon type" meaning that any monster in the monster manual that's "dragon type" can apply these feats. You'll notice in the DLCS that draconians are considered "dragon type" Watch out. Now that we have draconian breath weapons through the DLCS, it's possible to apply the meta-breath weapon feats from the Draconomicon to the draconians. The draconian players will have so many options the brain boggles.

The last section of chapter two contains dragon spells. These spells mostly affect breath weapons, but I find the potential for draconians nearly limitless. An Aurak or a Bozak with their innate sorcerer casting levels can easily use these spells. An aurak, who already has a breath weapon of noxious gas can now cast spells on himself to make this breath weapon act as a targeted dispel magic. Beyond that, the spells contained here also supports and explain inconsistencies in Dragonlance novels. Remember in The Legend of Huma, where the silver dragon breathed fire, when it should have breathed ice. Well, there's a spell, Breath Weapon Substitution that can switch the breath weapon to a different time of damage. That spell explains breathing fire from the novel.

Chapter three, the Player's Perspective. The writers clearly understood that a book about dragons would be half complete without a section on how players can deal with dragons. Chapter three focuses on players. This section starts off with combating dragons, and feats on how to beat them. I find it interesting that these feats can also be given to the same draconians who also qualify for the dragon feats. Draconians get the best of both worlds. J. There are also spells designed to fight dragons as well as help dragon allies. This chapter goes into creating dragonhide armor and crafting magical items from the parts of your slain dragon. There are prestige classes such as the dracolyte, Dragonkith, and dragon rider, dragon slayer, dragonsong lyrist, and dragon stalker, hoardstealer, Initiate of the draconic mysteries, the platinum knight, and the Talon of Tiamat. In my mind all of these prestige classes don't fit well in Ansalon, but they can definitely fit in some distant part of Krynn, such as Taladas. Chapter three also explores the possibility of having dragon familiars.

Finally, we get into rules for playing Dragons as player characters. The rules presented for dragon PCs are new and different from other rules. For example, the DMG gives rules for dragons, adding level adjustments. The savage species handbook gives rules for breaking down the HD and level adjustments of a monster, and to play them as class levels. The Draconomicon tries to merge these. The dragon gains levels as a particular class, but then, when his age comes into play, the dragon's increased HD replaces whatever level he would have achieved through experience points. The draconic PC rules acts more like multiclassing. In my mind, this makes the dragon WAY too powerful and epic. If every dragon adventured with these rules, we'd have young juvenile 12th level fighter dragons with over 20 Hit Dice.

Chapter Four is the Monster Manual section of the Draconomicon. As a Dragonlance fan, I found most of the monsters to be inapplicable to the Dragonlance and Krynn. For example, there are dragonnels, drakes, landwyrms, half dragons, and planar dragons. If I were to include these creatures, I'd make them unique on Krynn. They could be introduced as summoned creatures, mad experiments, or inhabitants on some remote section of the planet where isolation could allow these creatures to exist. However, there are some monsters I'd readily include. Those are the dracolich, Ghostly dragons, Golems, the pyroclastic dragon (which I would rename as a fire dragons following Chaos), shadow dragons, skeletal dragons, vampiric dragons, and zombie dragons. All would be rare or unique, and they would involve some god like Morgion or Chemosh as the prime enemy in such Dragonlance adventures.

Finally, we have chapter 5. Short and sweet, this chapter is nearly 1/3 of the book, and it contains sample dragons that can be used anywhere in any game setting. The background of each dragon is an adventure hook in itself. There are lairs for each metallic and chromatic dragon, with wonderful pictures of how each dragon would look in various age categories. Each dragon's lair has sample floor plans that I think match the psychology and mind-think of each dragon type.

So, was the book worth its $40 dollar price tag? For 288 pages worth of knowledge about dragons, it's got the same pages as the DLCS for the same price. I happen to be a draconian fan, and you can tell how valuable this book could be to me in terms of game mechanics for draconians. I'm sure people who love dragons might also find value in the chapter 1 and chapter 5. I'm sure the information in the Draconomicon will be a boon to D&D players and DM's. Dragonlance fans, however, will find that they'll have to adapt material to make it fit into the Dragonlance Campaign Setting. In my opinion that really makes this book less useful to Dragonlancers. It doesn't add anything profound to the Dragonlance world, so DL novel lovers probably won't find the book useful. However, if you play D&D, especially Dragonlance D&D, this book is worth the $40.

Editor's Note: Originally posted on the Dragonlance-L mailing list on December 26, 2003.


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