Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Bestiary: D is for Dragons

An effort to force myself to finish the Bestiary for the Mountain at the End of the World. Stats are for the GROG, so base AC is 0 ascending and base attack is 10 + HD ascending. Morale would be 7 or 8 + WIS modifier, if you don't feel like assigning it by fiat (you should assign it by fiat).


Dragons are ancient and powerful creatures, each unique in their own right. Only a handful currently live, not more than twenty. Imagine you take the inventor of a deeply oppressive pseudoscience, make them both an aristocrat and the head of a vast and powerful organization devoted to the extractive accumulation of wealth, and put them in charge of a major intelligence service at the height of its power and madness and a band of slave-taking pillagers, which happen to be the same thing. That's a dragon, or at least that's all the dragons that are known to exist. They're emphatically very bad and very dangerous people. And that's without going into their several tons of coiled serpentine muscle, iridium scales, and unequaled arcane power.

A baby dragon is called a kobold. Hatched in great clutches of over a hundred, they are treated more as a disposable labor force than like children by their parents—sent out on longships from Iolund, frozen island home of the dragons, to capture slaves and treasure from the Pyrenican and Escautian coasts and sometimes further inland. If a kobold ever managed to hoard enough treasure and power, one could presumably become a dragon themselves. The dragons, however, take care to avoid letting this happen; kobolds that perform too well for too long at their roles are ritualistically eaten, to return their power to their draconic parent. Dragons aren't fond of competition.

Not all kobolds are horrible draconic minions. Some, albeit few, flee or are exiled from their island home and make their way to other parts of the civilized lands to attempt to live out their lives in peace. The dragon-clans of course take advantage of this, and emplace spies pretending to be these "free kobolds" in numbers at least equal to the genuine articles.


HD 6 HP 61 Size Huge AC 15 (iridium scales, as plate + shield) Immune to fire damage (both holy/consecrated and unholy/natural)
Init +5 Speed 50' Fly 120'
Strength 20 +5 Dexterity 10 +0 
Intelligence 20 +5 Wisdom 20 +5
STR Attack 21 melee bite or claw swipe 2d8+5
Special tail sweep 1d8+5 hits all in rear arc, roll Dexterity for half, knocked prone on failure
Special see wind-up attacks
Speaks Common, Scale, High Charter, Imperial Court Obsequience, at least three other languages

This is a minimum stat block for a dragon. This is the weakest, smallest dragon on Iolund, or maybe a rogue exile found on the Mountain. This is a sickly dragon with a shitty, depleted clan of kobolds who all the other dragons make fun of. Put bigger numbers and more bells and whistles on stronger dragons appropriately.

Iridium Scales: Dragons have metallic scales that are harder and more dense than steel, granting them AC as plate + shield (+10). They're also immune to fire damage and draconic poison.

Unequaled Arcane Power: Dragons are spellcasters with a level, MD, and known spells equal to their HD.

Ablative Saves: If a dragon fails a roll to resist an effect, it can choose to succeed instead and take 20 damage.  Alternatively, it can take 10 damage and suffer from half the effect if that makes sense. 

Wind-Up Attacks: Each round in combat, the dragon will either telegraph a wind-up attack, or perform a wind-up attack that was telegraphed on their last turn. It can't telegraph the same wind-up attack that it performed last turn. This doesn't take an action.
  1. Poison Fire Breath. 50' cone of 4d6 natural fire damage, roll Dexterity for half. Targets that breathe within the area also roll Strength or take 2d6 poison damage per round until a Strength roll is passed.
  2. Smoke Exhalation. As fog cast with 5 MD.
  3. Wing Beat. Unsecured objects/creatures smaller than the dragon will be blown to end of 50' cone. Clears fog.
  4. Pounce. Dragon attempts to grapple target.
Goblinpope wrote some good things here on how to run a dragon (which i stole most of the above abilities from) and LaTorra has some here, but I don't see why they can't have big stats too.


HD 1 HP 4 Size Small AC 4, 1 E (kobold scales +1 AC, leather or padded armor) or 6, 3 E (with wooden round shield) Immune to 5 points of fire damage (both holy/consecrated and unholy/natural) from each event
Init +1 Speed 30'
Strength 10 +0 Dexterity 12 +1 
Intelligence 10 +0 Wisdom 10 +0
STR Attack 11 melee waraxe 1d10 (no shield) or 11 melee seax 1d6 warblade (-1 difficulty and +1 damage vs humanoids) (with shield)
Speaks Common, Scale
Equipment waraxe or seax knife and wooden round shield (50% chance each), leather or padded armor (50% chance each), 2d10 sp in coins and looted jewelry. More skilled kobolds often wear mail shirts and iron spangenhelms into battle.

Kobold Scales: While not nearly as tough as dragon scale, kobolds' scaly bodies still afford them +1 AC and decrease fire damage taken by 5 points.

Warsong Berserker Skalds and Runepriest Skull Scientists (Playing a Kobold)

When kobolds rise above the raider-minion milieu of their brethren, they do so as Warsong Berserker Skalds or Runepriest Skull Scientists. Raiding parties will usually be led by one or the other, and especially successful ones will usually contain multiples of both at various (sub-4th) levels.

You can't play as a kobold if your party befriends the kobolds. They're bastards, they're not going to help you. You can play as a kobold if your party befriends a group of kobold refugees who have forsaken their paranoid spymaster dragon parents and escaped to the Mountain. Reroll Dexterity. You have Kobold Scales. You probably weigh about 60 pounds (this will be important later).

Warsong Berserker Skald

Starting Equipment: Mail shirt (4 AC 2 E), iron spangenhelm with looping eye mask and horns if you feel like it (1 AC 1 E), wooden round shield (2 AC 2 E), waraxe (medium headsplitter 1d10), shortspear (medium brace 1d8), kobold-sized straight sword (light warblade 1d6), drinking horn, frozen leg of mutton (5 rations), 6 torches.

Fire Breath: You can breathe fire in a 15' cone, dealing [HD] d6 natural fire damage with a Dexterity roll for half. You can do this at most every other round.
At third level, the area of your fire breath increases to a 30' cone.

Warsong: Your singing in battle emboldens your allies and intimidates your enemies. While you are singing, you and all allies within earshot get a bonus to STR Attack, Dex Attack, and rolls against fear—and enemies take difficulty on attack rolls—equal to your HD. Speaking short phrases doesn't end your song, and you are assumed to be singing at all times in combat unless you say otherwise (for example, when attempting to be stealthy).

Berserk: At second level, you can fly into a bloodthirsty frenzy in combat. At the beginning of your turn or in response to receiving damage, you can choose to enter a rage. While in a rage, you can make one additional attack per round, halve all damage taken, and are immune to nonlethal damage and pain, fear, or other negative mind-affecting abilities, but cannot take any defensive, curative, or tactical actions. When combat is over, you must roll Wisdom to end your rage or continue fighting, attacking your allies. You can re-roll Wisdom once each round to end your rage. Record all damage prevented through use of this ability—when your rage ends, you take all of it at once.

Frightful Presence: At second level, you are such an intimidating presence on the battlefield that enemies flee before your mighty blows. When you down an opponent you can immediately make an intimidate special attack without spending an action. Whenever you attempt to intimidate opponents, they have +2 difficulty on their Wisdom roll.
At fourth level, the terror of facing you overwhelms ordinary opponents. Enemies that you have not personally attacked and who are not immune to fear must roll Wisdom to attack you in melee combat.

Hypnotic Song: At third level, you can recite poetry so beautiful that it holds your audience captive. Listeners must roll Wisdom or become distracted and sit listening peacefully until and unless a direct threat to them presents itself. If you attempt this in combat, you must sing for 1 round per HD of the target with the highest HD before the recital takes effect. If anyone other than the targets takes a directly threatening action during that time (parrying is OK, attacking isn't) it automatically fails.
At fourth level, your recital can instead lull listeners into a restful sleep. Targets that fail their Wisdom roll lie prone and fall into a natural slumber, if you wish.

Dragonform: At fourth level, you attain the bare minimum of potential to become a dragon. You grow massive, scaly wings (Fly speed 60'), your scales harden (+1 AC), and your tail lengthens (no mechanical effect). If you amass a hoard of pure gold equal to ten times your body weight, anoint it with the captured soul of an angel, throw the thing you love most into a volcano, and do one other suitably awesome and terrible thing, you will fall into a nightmarish coma for 1d6+6 weeks the next time you sleep and awaken as a dragon. Your draconic parent, whoever they are, will do their best to prevent this. Expect assassins, raiding parties, a full assault from your clan, and eventually your parent's appearance in person, in that order, once you gain this ability.

Runepriest Skull Scientist

Starting Equipment: Leather armor (2 AC 1 E), iron skullcap (1 AC 1 E), sacrificial dagger (light close quarter 1d6), dragonborn whip (light chain reach 1d6), small hammer (light improvised crushing 1d4), skull-measuring calipers (as tongs), scrimshaw chisel, skull with your spells scrimshawed on it and a candle stuck on top, 20 candles, flint and steel and tinderbox, frozen side of pork (10 rations).

Spellcaster: This is a wizard school. Your perks are kobold scales and dragonform. Your drawback is that nobody trusts you, you probably have some shitty beliefs to work through, and your dragon parent will try to eat you if you reach fourth level. You are a spellcaster and a white mage, though your seals are draconic rune-stones rather than sun-sigils. You know one spell from the warmind scrivener list and one spell from the witch list OR this list. At second and third, you can choose which list to roll on for your new spell. If you choose the skull wizard list at any level, roll 1d6 at first level, 1d8 at second level, and 1d10 at third level. At fourth level, pick four spells from any combination of the preceding lists.

1. Poison Breath. You can breathe poison in a 15' cone, poisoning everything that breathes within the area and fails a Strength roll for 1d6 damage per round until a Strength roll is passed. You can do this at most every other round and are immune to draconic poison.
At third level, the area of your poison breath increases to a 30' cone and the damage increases to 2d6.
2. Know Skull. You can identify any skull, knowing its species, sex, approximate age (both at time of death and currently), whether or not it was a spellcaster, and if it was, how many MD it had at time of death and how many it could hold at maximum. Requires ten minutes of examination with your calipers and excited muttering.
3. Scribe Rune. You can create and dismiss permanent, inert glowing draconic runes with an action which shed light as a candle. You can also imbue spells into your runes, which go off targeting the rune or the reader (your choice at the time the rune is placed) when read or touched (also your choice at the time the rune is placed), destroying the rune. MD invested in rune-spells do not return to your pool until the spell is triggered or the rune dismissed.

Dragonform: At fourth level, you attain the bare minimum of potential to become a dragon. You grow massive, scaly wings (Fly speed 60'), your scales harden (+1 AC), and your tail lengthens (no mechanical effect). If you amass a hoard of pure gold equal to ten times your body weight, anoint it with the captured soul of an angel, throw the thing you love most into a volcano, and do one other suitably awesome and terrible thing, you will fall into a nightmarish coma for 1d6+6 weeks the next time you sleep and awaken as a dragon. Your draconic parent, whoever they are, will do their best to prevent this. Expect assassins, raiding parties, a full assault from your clan, and eventually your parent's appearance in person, in that order, once you gain this ability.


HD 1 HP 5 Size Medium AC 2 (false scales) Immune to 5 points of fire damage (both holy/consecrated and unholy/natural) from each event
Init +0 Speed 30' Fly 30'
Strength 12 +1 Dexterity 10 +0 
Intelligence 10 +0 Wisdom 10 +0
STR Attack 12 melee greataxe 2d8+2 headsplitter
Speaks Common, Scale, former languages
Equipment greataxe (heavy headsplitter melee 2d8), tattered rags

Dragonborn are the results of fell experiments performed on captive subjects by dragons and runepriest skull scientists. The above stat block was probably a hobgoblin before its transformation. They are driven into combat before kobold armies, hissing and shrieking, determined to free themselves through death in battle.

False Scales: A dragonborn has had their skin toughened and heavy steel scales affixed to it through obscene alchemical processes. These grant them +2 AC and the same resistance to fire that kobolds have.

False Breath: A dragonborn has had their flesh infused with dark magic in an effort to mimic the breath weapon of their creators. They can spew forth a 15' cone of poisonous liquid flame and acrid smoke, dealing 1d6 natural fire damage with a Dexterity roll for half and causing targets hit that have exposed skin and a circulatory system to roll Strength or be poisoned for 1d6 damage per round until they succeed at a Strength roll. The dragonborn can do this at most once every other round, and suffers 1d6 damage themselves each time. Dragonborn are not immune to draconic poison.

Tatterdemalion Wings: A dragonborn has tattered, frankenstein-esque wings clumsily stitched to their shoulders, and new muscles grafted to their bodies to control them. They have a fly speed of 30' and really shitty maneuverability. They can fly for a maximum number of rounds equal to their Strength, at which points they must rest for an hour before flying again.

Experiments (Playing a Dragonborn)

Dragonborn are even more likely to flee Iolund if given the chance, though precious few chances exist. Those that make it out are seen as tragic figures, their monstrous transformation preventing them from returning to the lives they once had, even if said life was not destroyed by the same raid that captured them.

You can play a dragonborn if your party aids a number of dragonborn in escaping a draconic raiding party, you want a tragic backstory, and the rest of your party is cool with it. Choose another species first, and apply all of their modifiers and rerolls. Then reroll Strength again, and reroll Dexterity and take the lower result. You have false scales, false breath, and tatterdemalion wings. As a dragonborn you advance in whatever classes you would normally have access to, or the kobold classes. If you choose a kobold class you don't get dragonform at fourth level but your creator clan will come after you anyway, although the dragon itself probably won't bother to show up.

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