Dungeons & Dragons Reviews

Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons

Draconomicon:  Chromatic Dragons is a source book covering the chromatic family of dragons.  It is written by Bruce R. Cordell, Ari Marmell, and Robert J. Schwalb and published by Wizards of the Coast for use with the Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition role-playing game.

Unlike the third edition supplement of the same name, this Draconomicon only covers one of D&D’s iconic families of dragons.  The chromatic family is expanded to eight breeds, and the book also contains numerous other monsters derived from or related to chromatic dragons such as planar dragons and undead dragons, so there is plenty of material to cover.

The first chapter is an in depth look at the story elements of chromatic dragons.  It includes sections on draconic history, physiology, and religion.  Each breed of chromatic dragon, including the three new members of the family, are given a few pages providing species information such as preferred habitats and average body sizes.  The lore is well-written, but it also has a lot of overlap with material from previous source books such as the dragon entry in the Monster Manual and third edition’s Draconomicon.  One of the parts of this chapter that I did enjoy was fluff explanations for some of the mechanics such as a sidebar explaining bloodied breath.

The second chapter is full of suggestions and guidelines for DMs seeking to use chromatic dragons in their games.  This includes ideas for dragon-themed adventures and outlines for two dragon-focused campaigns.  Four new artifacts and several rituals are provided as well as rules for dragon hoards (both as treasure and hazardous terrain).  A list of famous dragons from Dragonlance, Greyhawk, and the Forgotten Realms concludes the chapter.  The adventure and campaign ideas were a good read, but the hoard mechanics will likely be the most useful for me.  I was also surprised that there were no famous dragons listed from Eberron.

The third chapter provides nine dragon lairs and a brief section on lairs in general.  Each lair includes a map and two complete encounters as well as ideas for several other encounters.  The maps are well done and each lair is unique.  I was disappointed to see overlap between one of the lairs and the the Dungeon adventure, Tomb of the Sand King’s Daughter, especially since there had been very minimal overlap between books and the magazines up to now.  The fane from Red Hand of Doom also makes an appearance in this chapter, albeit with different denizens.

The fourth chapter is my favorite because it is full of new and useful monsters.  The three new varieties of chromatic dragons are given the same treatment as the Monster Manual entries for the other colors.  These new chromatic dragons are actually renamed dragons that appeared in third edition (brown = sand, gray = fang, purple = deep).  This didn’t bother me (in fact, it’s what I was expecting), but I could see some people being upset over either the fact that the dragons aren’t really new varieties or the changes to D&D’s fluff.  In addition, wyrmling stats are given for all eight varieties of chromatic dragons.  The rest of the chapter contains planar and undead dragons, dragon-related creatures, a draconic hall of fame, and options for altering the powers of dragons.  I feel that these additional monsters could have used a higher art budget, but the monsters themselves are interesting and useful.  I was particularly happy to see stats for Ashardalon included in the hall of fame.  The section on poly-chromatic dragons and the alternate powers are also a great resource for DMs seeking to keep their players on their toes.

One thing that the book does not contain is player-focused material.  Other than the handful of rituals, there is almost nothing useful in the book for players.  This seems to be a pattern for the 4E books where they are clearly aimed at either DMs or players.

Overall, the Draconomicon is a great book, especially for DMs looking to run dragon-focused adventures.  It tempts me to run a converted version of the Bastion of Broken Souls or the Red Hand of Doom.  I hope the upcoming DM-geared releases, such as Manual of the Planes and Open Grave, are of the same quality and I look forward to a second Draconomicon covering the metallic dragons.  I just hope that the art budget increases for future releases.

By Scott Boehmer

A game enthusiast and software engineer.

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