Chromatic dragon

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A Chromatic dragon is a classification of fictional dragon found in the role playing game Dungeons & Dragons. In this setting, chromatic dragons are typically of evil alignment. They contrast to the metallic dragons, which are typically of good alignment.

Tiamat is the queen of chromatic dragons. Chromatic dragons have played a large role in various D&D monster compilation books: white, black, green, blue and red dragons being the classic chromatic dragons.[1]

Publication history[edit]

The classification of "chromatic dragons" was used in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons second edition Monstrous Manual (1993),[2] although the dragons comprising the category had been in print since the original Dungeons & Dragons "white box" set (1974).[3] The term was continued in use in the third edition and fourth edition Monster Manual.

Types[edit]

Black dragon[edit]

  • Breath weapon: Line of Acid
  • Habitat: Boggy Swamps
  • Diet: Fish, mollusks, aquatic critters, some red meat from terrestrial animals
  • Preferred Treasure: Gold Coins
  • Alignment: Chaotic Evil
  • Image: Wizards.com image
  • Notes:
Black dragons are the most vile-tempered and cruel of all chromatic dragons, apart from their love of bargaining. Black dragons are distinguished by their horns, which protrude from the sides of their heads and wrap around, projecting forward. A large frill adorns the upper part of the neck. They smell like rotting vegetation and foul water, or like the powerful acid they can breathe.
Black dragons are fierce hunters that will normally attack from the water. They will often prey on fish, crabs, birds, turtles, crocodiles, lizardfolk, chuuls, hydras, and green dragons that are smaller and younger than they are. Their enemies include green dragons and swamp landwyrms.
Black dragons are not noted as good parents, relying more upon disguise and hiding to protect their eggs than upon guarding them. Black dragon eggs must be submerged in strong acid while incubating. Their wyrmlings (babies) are exceptionally cruel with insatiable appetites for nearly anything organic. As a black dragon matures, its scales gradually grow lighter. The oldest black dragons appear almost purple in color; hence the name of Cormyr's Purple Dragon knights stems from the legend of the great black dragon Thauglor, who once dominated the area encompassed by the present kingdom.
A black dragon typically lairs in a large cave or underground chamber next to a swamp or murky pond. Their lairs always have two entrances: one underwater through the adjacent swamp/pond, and one above-ground, disguised amidst the undergrowth.
In combat, black dragons prefer ambushes to straightforward fighting. They are vicious and ruthless adversaries, and their acidic bile can easily work its way under the heaviest armor. Their heavily wooded habitats prevent them from flying very high in combat.

Critical reception[edit]

The young adult black dragon was ranked first among the ten best mid-level monsters by the authors of Dungeons & Dragons For Dummies.[4]

Blue dragon[edit]

  • Breath weapon: Lightning
  • Habitat: Sandy Deserts
  • Diet: Meat from large animals such as camels, snakes, lizards, plants
  • Preferred Treasure: Sapphires
  • Alignment: Lawful Evil
  • Image: Wizards.com image
  • Stats: OGL stats
  • Notes:
Blue dragons are the second most powerful of the classic chromatic dragons. They are have single large horns protruding from their heads and large, frilled ears. The tail is thick and bumpy. The wings are more pronounced than most other species. They smell like ozone or sand.
They are more likely to be mocking and manipulative than outrightly cruel or murderous to 'lesser' creatures, aided by their natural talents for hallucination. They trick desert travelers into drinking sand or going miles out of their way.
Blue dragons are mostly carnivorous though they will eat plants on occasion. Camels are the preferred food. They are enemies of brass dragons.
Blue dragons are unusual for chromatics in that they keep fairly well-ordered, hierarchical societies.
Despite their evil nature, they are excellent parents to their young, and rarely leave their eggs unattended. Blue dragon eggs must be buried in warm sand to incubate. Blue wyrmlings are quick to taunt any other creature. They hunt small desert creatures for food.
The typical blue dragon lair is dug into desert rock formations with two entrances: one at ground level, hidden by the sand, and one opening onto a high ledge on which it can perch and survey its territory. Each lair also has a subterranean cavern with a pool of water and sandy beach, which its inhabitant will use for drinking and relaxation.
The blue dragon excels at aerial combat. They discharge lightning at aerial foes, or at creatures on the ground. They are powerful at spell craft and adept at burrowing in sand. They often lie in wait just below the surface of the desert for prey. When they are so burrowed, their large horns can be mistaken for pointed desert rocks.

Green dragon[edit]

  • Breath weapon: Cloud of Chlorine Gas (changed to cone of acidic mist in Edition 3.5)
  • Habitat: Forests with tall trees
  • Diet: Small humanoids such as gnomes are preferred, but prize elves and sprites most. Will eat any animal if hungry.
  • Preferred Treasure: Emeralds
  • Alignment: Lawful Evil
  • Image: Wizards.com image
  • Stats: OGL stats
  • Notes:
Green dragons are the third most powerful of the classic chromatic dragons. They have a large, waving crest or fin that starts at the dragon's nose and runs the length of the dragon's body. They also have long, slender forked tongues and smell like chlorine gas. They are highly adept at magic.
Green dragons are reasonably good parents, with both mother and father typically staying close to their eggs while they are incubating. Females either keep their eggs in a solution of acid or bury them in leaves moistened with rainwater. The green wyrmling may be mistaken for a black, due to their nearly black scales. As the wyrmling matures, lighten in color. The wyrmlings typically stay with both parents until they reach adulthood (approximately 100 years).
A green dragon lair will be a complex of caves and tunnels, with its main entrance hidden behind a waterfall. The dragons prefer caves high up on a cliff.
The territories of Green and Black dragons frequently overlap, but as greens are more powerful, they typically hold the upper hand. Greens may allow a Black dragon to remain in their forest, as long as the lesser dragon remains in the swamps.
Green dragons revel in combat, and will often attack for no apparent reason. They are territorial, and may view any intrusion into their domain as an affront. They are cunning and duplicitous foes, and love to double-cross. A traveler who stumbles into a green dragon's territory may be able to bribe the dragon for safe passage, but the dragon may pretend to agree and then attack the unsuspecting offender once their guard is down. Though aggressive, green dragons prefer to use magic before attacking physically.

Red dragon[edit]

  • Breath weapon: Fire
  • Habitat: Mountains or hilly plains
  • Diet: Anything; they claim that female humans and young elves taste best
  • Preferred Treasure: Anything with monetary value
  • Alignment: Chaotic Evil
  • Image: Wizards.com image
  • Stats: OGL stats
  • Notes:
Red dragons are the largest and most powerful of the classic chromatic dragons. They are large with a wide wingspan. They have two swept back horns on their heads. They smell of smoke and sulphur.
The eggs of a red dragon must be kept in open flame at all times while incubating. Incubation takes approximately 660 days. After the eggs are laid, the younger of the two parents remains behind to guard the eggs and keep the nest of flames burning. Once they hatch, the wyrmlings are left to fend for themselves. A red wyrmling is roughly human-sized at hatching and dangerous. They are capable of breathing fire, and revel in wreaking destruction and havoc on almost anything that moves. The latter trait is carried fully into adulthood.
They regard all other Chromatic dragons as inferiors, with the amount of disdain proportional to the variety's general power level. When a Red Dragon and a White cross paths, the Red allows the white to leave, as they do not consider them worth the effort to kill; other Chromatic dragons are either killed, driven away, or bullied into servitude depending on the Red's mood and personality.
Due to their choice of living space, they cross paths with many of the metallic dragons, most notably the silvers, who are their worst enemies. They have the greatest disdain for copper dragons, and clash with them often.
Red dragons have an eye for value, and can determine the monetary worth of any object at a glance. The gaining and keeping of treasure is the focus of a red dragon's adult life, and they tend to amass incredible hoards with amazing rapidity. At any given moment, a red dragon will be able to tell you the precise monetary value of all the objects in its hoard, down to the last fraction of a coin.
Red dragons prefer to make their homes inside active volcanos. If a volcano is not available, they will reside in any mountain, provided that it has a good ledge from which the dragon can survey its territory. A red dragon's lair may have only one entrance, high above ground level. The entrance leads to a narrow tunnel, which drops off into a pit. At the bottom of the pit lies a pool of water, surrounded by several chambers. One is the dragon's sleeping quarters, another contains its hoard.
Red dragons are very dangerous in combat. Proficient in magic, they are also fast in the air, but clumsy, so prefer to fight on the ground. They spend years designing battle strategies, and wait until the best moment to call upon them. Their blasts of fire end most battles before they begin. As a result, red dragons use their powerful breath weapons first, followed by physical strikes, then magical attacks.
Red dragons may hoard women and children in their lairs along with their wealth. In some genres they have the 'power of persuasion' over weaker minds. As a result, they convince the chieftains of villages to sacrifice young girls to them.

White dragon[edit]

White dragons are the weakest and the most feral of the classic chromatic dragons. Though dimmer than other dragons, they are still powerful enough to overwhelm most humans and have good long-term memories. Their heads and necks blend seamlessly into one another, and their wings are frayed along the edges. They have a flap of skin (dewlap) lined with spines under their chins. They have a high crest atop a streamlined head and a crisp, vaguely chemical odor.
White dragon eggs must be buried in snow or encased in ice to incubate. The parents do not tend or protect the eggs in any way, although they lay them near their lairs. A newly hatched white wyrmling has clear scales, which become white as the dragon matures. They are expected to survive on their own after hatching, although some white dragon parents will permit their young to live in their lair until they reach adulthood.
Adult white dragons have several abilities well suited to their arctic habitat. They can climb ice cliffs with ease, fly high and fast, and are exceptional swimmers. They love to swim in cold water. Much of their diet consists of aquatic creatures. White dragons are always hungry, and tend to become more savage as they mature. Knowing that they are the smallest and weakest of dragons, many whites harbor inferiority complexes. They take any opportunity to bully beings such as giants and younger dragons of other species.
White dragons lair in ice caves dug into mountains. Their lairs contain many more tunnels and chambers than those of other chromatic dragons. More powerful white dragons may turn a large iceberg into a floating lair. Such lairs have an underwater entrance as well as one to the open air.
White dragons are not strong combatants compared to other dragons. Their icy breath can freeze a foe solid. They avoid fights with more powerful dragons, but will take any opportunity to take their frustrations out on 'lesser' creatures. Whites also have exceptional memories, and will hunt down those who cross them, no matter how long it takes

Critical reception[edit]

The young white dragon was ranked eighth among the ten best low-level monsters by the authors of Dungeons & Dragons For Dummies. The authors chose the young white dragon over a wyrmling, feeling that "it's more satisfying for characters to battle against a dragon that's at least as big as a person, if not bigger. The young white dragon offers the best chance for this kind of fight".[4]

Other chromatic dragons[edit]

This is a list of other dragons which are based on colors, but are not truly related to other chromatic dragons. In 4th edition, the gray, brown, and purple dragons were released in Draconomicon, but they were different. Instead of being based on the dragons listed here, they were based on the fang, sand, and deep dragons of 3rd edition.

Brown dragon[edit]

  • Breath weapon: a blast of supernaturally hot and stinging sand that corrodes flesh and blocks all visibility.
  • Terrain: Desert
  • Alignment: Neutral Evil
  • Image: Wizards.com image
  • Notes: Described in Monsters of Faerûn
Ferocious though intelligent beasts from the Forgotten Realms campaign setting which reside in the wastes of Eastern Mulhorand. They view humans as food and think it peculiar to talk with one's meal, but they talk to almost anything else. They have a membranous frill that connects each row of spines down the length of the dragon's body allowing undulating flight through the air. They love digging in the sand.

Orange dragon[edit]

  • Breath weapon: Explosive compound
  • Terrain: Forest
  • Alignment: Neutral Evil
  • Notes: Described in the Dragon Compendium Vol. 1; appears in the module "Under the Storm Giant's Castle"
Crafty predators who attack from ambush. They prefer to lurk in deep rivers and lakes. They are territorial and natural tyrants who seek to bring creatures in their area under their control. They resemble to monstrous, orange alligators.

Purple dragon[edit]

  • Breath weapon: A purple dragon's breath weapon can take on three different forms. It can manifest as a cone of energy, a burst of power, or a blade of energy.
  • Terrain: Temperate Plains
  • Alignment: Lawful Evil
  • Notes: Described in the Dragon Compendium Vol. 1
Long, lean bodied dragons with deep purple to midnight black scales. These fancy themselves to be the lords of all dragonkind, believing themselves arisen from the long dead sister of Tiamat. They are among the most intelligent of dragons, able to gather and control vast numbers of minions. Their energy-related attacks make them powerful fighters.

Yellow dragon[edit]

  • Breath weapon: Salt water
  • Terrain: Aquatic and coastal areas
  • Alignment: Chaotic Evil
  • Notes: Described in the Dragon Compendium Vol. 1
Solitary and secretive dragons who prefer to lay in wait for prey to stumble into carefully prepared traps instead of hunting actively. They are among the most agile and quick of all dragons. Their breath weapon is a watery blast that contains a corrosive sodium compound. They adore water and will play in it.

Grey dragon[edit]

  • Breath weapon: A caustic ooze that burns flesh and immobilizes victims.
  • Terrain: Badlands, scrublands, dry prairies, and other flatland terrain.
  • Alignment: Chaotic Evil
  • Notes: Grey dragons are the most rapacious, venal, and brutish of the chromatics. Elder and ancient gray dragons have a special affinity with stone. They can exude a stony essence that petrifies foes. An ancient gray dragon's spikes have an elemental resonance that petrifies not only the dragon's primary targets but also nearby creatures.

References[edit]

  1. ^ DeKirk, Ash; Oberon Zell (2006). Dragonlore: From the Archives of the Grey School of Wizardry (1 ed.). New Page Books. p. 224. ISBN 978-1-56414-868-1. 
  2. ^ Stewart, Doug, ed. Monstrous Manual (TSR, 1993)
  3. ^ Gygax, Gary, and Dave Arneson. Dungeons & Dragons (3-Volume Set) (TSR, 1974)
  4. ^ a b Slavicsek, Bill; Baker, Rich; Grubb, Jeff (2006). Dungeons & Dragons For Dummies. For Dummies. p. 373. ISBN 978-0-7645-8459-6. Retrieved 2009-02-12. 

Additional reading[edit]

  • Sharp, Gregg. "The Ecology of the Red Dragon." Dragon #134 (TSR, 1988).

External links[edit]