There was not a time where I was not an avid fan of Dungeons & Dragons. Even before I could even begin to wrap my head around the game mechanics, I would peruse my dad's Monster Manuals for hours at a time. They were among my first reading material. None of my games have been overly fancy, but they were fun at the time, and I'd certainly love to get back to them.
And of course, as one might expect, my favorite part of any Monster Manual was always the dragon section.
Then came the third edition, where I tried unsuccessfully, but constantly to build my own campaign. But in this manual, the dragons were different. More homogenous. Not as varied. And as my tastes grew, I began to resent that this same revamp was taking ALL dragon art by storm. A certain aspect of my personality of which you're all probably aware followed soon.
But that has all passed. My tastes have changed, my artistic eye has developed, and I'm not an angsty teenager anymore(for the most part.). So why not take a look back and put myself into these things I loved so much as a child?
One thing I wish to do with this project is wipe away some of that bothersome moral absolution that D&D is infamous for. While the game itself has been trying to shake it off itself, and for the most part doing a good job, it's rather hard to get away from when your evil dragons have been beaten half to death with the ugly stick, while your good dragons have been preened and groomed to the point where they don't even look vaguely related to the evil ones. No, my chromatics have defining quirks and tendencies, but like all beings, they have the capacity for good or evil.
Another thing worth noting is that, as supernatural entities that haven't been produced by evolution, I tried to avoid making them all look too similar. There are key traits that they have in common, but the idea is more of an artistic theme than an evolutionary link.
Lurking in deserts, volcanoes and occasionally forests, red dragons are the most powerful and the most aggressive of the chromatics. Not only are they fiercely territorial, but they have enormous amounts of testosterone, and will strike at the slightest hint of provocation. They will fight to the death for what is theirs, and theirs is, in their eyes, everything within sight. Red dragons are blood knights, through and through, and will attack not only other dragons, but any force, man or monster, who it feels is a threat.
Bullies and killers they may be, red dragons are not inherently sadistic. While they loathe the thought of anything even coming close to rivaling them in power, occasionally small villages have been known to come to understandings with red dragons. So long as they don't make a lot of noise or impact the dragon's territory too much, the dragon will be content to ignore them. What's more, it will viciously attack other monsters who might threaten their shared land.
The red dragon is prettymuch the single most iconic D&D monster, rivaled only by beholders. I avoided changing much to it. Reds are basically western fairy tale dragons with an extra helping of Godzilla. Bipedal locomotion is almost mandatory, as this dragon likes to stand tall over the opposition.
In my version, red dragons have two breath weapons: A ball of fire, and a conical vacuum that draws heat into its mouth, incinerating anything caught inside, while leaving everything else frozen solid.
The second most powerful of the chromatic dragons, but arguably the least menacing. While sapient, blue dragons are very similar to titanic lizards, spending their nights burrowed in the sand, waiting for prey to pass by, while taking to the air to hunt on the wing by day. Solitary and largely amoral, blue dragons are typically not adverse to eating humanoids, but tend to prefer meatier fare, and are more of a threat to livestock. They have a way of ambushing desert travelers, but their focus tends to be on the beasts who carry said travelers, and should its rider fall, only the hungriest of dragons will pursue.
Blue dragons tend to view humanoids more as competitors than anything else, though humanoids who give it a wide berth tend to be ignored. Indeed, some villages have been known to offer their draconic neighbors a portion of their food. Sometimes such villages will even develop a semi-healthy relationship with blue dragons, as it will attack other monsters who might threaten the village - and by extension, one of its resources.
I confess, the blue dragon was always my favorite. They're generally regarded as the least evil of the evil dragons. I tried to work with that. I realize I revamped it rather radically, but my version of the red kind of already covers what the traditional blue does: Lord over the puny humans, but not necessarily exterminate them. As they're known for burrowing in the sand, I decided making it lizardlike was ideal. Then I was hit with the issue of the wings, which really aren't good for burrowing, so I altered those into something lower to the body. It''s unconventional, but I did want at least one six-legged dragon in my ensemble.
The goal here was something that's not so much aggressive as it is alien and unknowable, not unlike the dragons of a certain movie I love. These are beasts who think differently from us and hold no value of the things we do. That doesn't make them evil. It just means we have to keep our differences in mind.
Cold, crafty and carnivorous are the words that come to mind when referring to these forest beasts. Green dragons are among the most intelligent of the chromatics, but that doesn't make them any more affable. Green dragons are titanic creatures, so large that they don't bother with wings. Their domain is in the cover of the trees, through which it can move as easily as through air, or among which it can camouflage itself to near invisibility.
These beasts are a menace to wood elves, but are regarded no better by any being who travels through the woods. They've been likened to colossal cats, who might spend hours stalking their victims, playing games with them, be it with their myriad of magical abilities, or through simply stalking them silently, toying with their prey's nerves by making noises or appearing for brief moments before vanishing. These games can last for days before the dragon pounces.
Travelers have occasionally been known to negotiate or bribe their way out of a green dragon's clutches, but only the most naive will trust it, as the dragon is likely to chase down and devour victims it has already promised to let go.
Occasionally, a green dragon might be made to feel some degree of remorse, or even bond with beings it would normally consider prey. A handful of greens have sworn off intelligent prey, or at least established a set of unspoken rules regarding its neighbors so that they might at least show one another respect. However, these dragons then face the obstacle of finding enough food to go sustain themselves, often preying on outsiders or magical beasts, as green dragons require both chemical and magical sustenance.
It should be noted that green dragons feel this way, not only about humanoids, but about the hill giants, whose territories sometimes overlap with theirs. As hill giants often consider young green dragon meat a delicacy, they have considerably more animosity towards one another, and even the tamest of greens have been known to viciously attack giants.
The green was probably my second favorite chromatic dragon, growing up. This is one case where I actually like the third edition design more than the second. I like the carnivorous brachiosaurus thing it has going for it, though the wings looked EXTREMELY tacked on. And being creatures of the forest, are wings really necessary for it? Plus, without the wings, it suddenly has a curious duality with hill giants.
The green dragon was, as far as I can remember, the only one of the main chromatics who was particularly noted to eat people, so I made that a thing.
Cranky, aggressive and solitary, the black dragon is feared by lakeside or swamp-heavy communities. While intelligent, this dragon makes no distinction between humanoids and the large fish, crocodiles and shellfish it hunts, except as a competitor. Black dragons seldom leave the water, usually only to relocate or to raid unfortunate homes for prey, or in some cases, as a preemptive strike. They are nocturnal by nature, as their dark coloration shows.
Like red dragons, blacks have a hoarding instinct, and will often collect prizes from those it has slain. Some will also hoard gold and jewels, perhaps unaware of their value, but recognizing them as a resource that must have some value. Unlike reds, however, black dragons do have a concept of borders. While any being who steps into the black dragon's domain is at its mercy, and it they're known for vengeful raids on towns who have stolen from them or abused their time in its territory, so long as the black dragon isn't disturbed, it will leave its distant neighbors to their own devices.
Now, the 3rd edition black dragon honestly makes me kind of mad. It's not enough that it's jet black, has beady yellow eyes and is the most murderous of the dragons... no, we have to give it a skeletal head and nickname them 'skull dragons'!
While I actually do think they did a good job of keeping the swamp angle with its build, I really must emphasize my preference for the original, and so my design is largely the original with some slight details tweaked, such as the body being more gatorish, with the features looking more snake or eel-like.
The smallest and least intelligent of the chromatic dragons, whites are none the less fierce and powerful forces. While not as strong as a red, nor as sly as a green, nor even as vicious as a provoked black, the white dragon is the lord and master of its domain. For the white dragon is the opposite of its red kin, favoring tundras and frozen mountains.
The white dragon's body is constantly well below freezing temperatures, literally pushing all heat around it back. As a result, the lair of a white dragon is easily spotted, as while the land will be snowy, and the mountains almost supernaturally cold, the area around it will be hotter than usual, forming deserts(or in the case of northern white dragons, islands composed purely of ice). As such, white dragons are often neighbors to blue and brass(or bronze) dragons, who tend to keep a healthy distance from one another.
White dragons nest in the highest point they can find, where they can spot prey below and swoop in to snatch it up before it knows what hit it. While ostensibly aerial predators, however, white dragons are fully triphibious, able to spend extended stays underwater where they can stalk prey from below, before erupting from the ice to snatch it away.
What the white dragon lacks in power, it makes up for in versatility.
The white dragon's breath weapon, curiously, is very similar to that of its red cousins. The white dragon's body naturally repels heat, and it can project a ray of magical energy that can extend this effect to other targets, freezing them on the spot. However, it can also control this effect, and actually draw the heat to a point in its mouth and project it out in a searing beam, ensuring that the dragon is equipped to slay not only victims from outside the icy tundra, but even other cold-affiliated monsters.
I have a thing for isolated, cold regions, so I wanted to take advantage of this with the white dragon. While not as powerful as the others, it's arguably the most deadly.
Classically, white dragons like to bully others, to vent their inferiority complexes, but I didn't really care for that. Instead, I focused on the 'animal predator' aspect.
I also played with the cold theme, because I always wondered, if you live in the ice and your neighbors, competitors and main prey are all either adapted for the cold or supernaturally affiliated with it... just WHAT is a freezing breath weapon going to do?
The design takes the original's head and gives it a new body. I based it on an oldschool woodcut dragon to go with the idea that they're smaller and more animalistic than the kaiju-like reds and greens, and just because I felt like playing with body designs. A single wing finger, since long, thin appendages freeze and die quicker than others, and a vaguely seal-like body, with large, padded paws. Also, a mane. None of the others have hair, and at least one of them needs it.
Aaaaand we have a rough sketch of a brass dragon, because negative space. Yes, I will be doing the metallic dragons too.
So, D&D fans or just folks who gave it a look... enjoy!
I like the thoughts here. I like the red, blakc and white the best, but the green and he blue are nice too. I like the idea of a strictly land based dragon (green) and I could see it working for the white too. I like your blue redesign, except I am not really a fan of the Varan-like wing membranes.
When I get more time I will read your comments on more depth, but was there a reason you only posted their 2e and 3e designs? Personally the 1e black, white and green were some of my favorites.
The Varan-membranes(I love how we're comparing the membrane to an obscure kaiju instead of the animal it's based on) were sort of improvised. I really wanted the blue to be lizardlike, but wings don't really lend themselves to burrowing into the sand, and... well, who's a big, pale blue lizard we know who manages to fly without having huge, obvious wings?
I confess, I cannot for the life of me FIND any first edition designs. >> I sort of assumed they were more or less the same as the second editions, though I admit, I based this assumption on the fact that I saw some simpler black and white drawings of them in one of my dad's older books. No clue which one it was. In fact, I was only able to find the second editions because someone was so kind as to post them all on a Council of Wyrms download page.
I've had a secret desire to make a red dragon with a kaiju/dinosaur like body type and this showed a possible way it could be done which I find awesome. Each one is even more unique and answers a lot of the questions surrounding the silliness of wings and the so called burrowing and forest hunting they'd do while having such obstructions. I mean, some winged bugs burrow but they have carapaces to shield their wings from debris. For a dragon it would be a serious problem.
I'd love to see a less 'shining beacon of shinyness' take for metallic dragons.
Well, my issue with the green dragon's wings has more to do with liking the particular design we got, but finding the wings... REALLY tacked on. Though the second edition's wings also look rather phoned in as well. I figure we needed one wingless dragon, and the green was in such a good position to make it so.
Wings in general are difficult to apply to creatures like dragons. You prettymuch have to alter the entire anatomy to make it flightworthy, but if you change too much, you run the risk of losing what gave it its distinct look in the first place. Generally, the goal is looking *right* in the air, more than looking feasible.
Wait til I finish the metallics... those guys have some BIZARRE wings....
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`anmari has been spreading her infectious positivity throughout our community for over 6 years. Throughout this time Ana has been at the core of all things devious, passionately developing an eclectic gallery, helping organise devmeets, participating in chat events and also recently completed dedicating her time as a Community Volunteer. We are absolutely delighted to bestow the Deviousness Award for May 2013 to `anmari, congratulations! Read More