Chromatic dragon

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Chromatic dragon is a classification of 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.


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: image
  • Notes:
Black dragons are the most vile-tempered and cruel of all chromatic dragons, apart from the fact that they love to bargain. Physically, black dragons are most 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 very good parents, relying more upon disguise and hiding to protect their eggs than upon guarding them personally. Black dragon eggs must be submerged in strong acid while incubating. Their wyrmlings (babies) are noted for their exceptional cruelty and their utterly insatiable appetites. They will eat almost anything organic they can kill, even plants. As a black dragon matures, its scales will very gradually grow lighter. The most ancient 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 work its way under the heaviest armor with ease. Their only disadvantage is that their heavily wooded habitats tend to 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: image
  • Stats: OGL stats
  • Notes:
Blue dragons are the second most powerful of the classic chromatic dragons. They are physically distinguished by the single large horns protruding from their heads and also by their ears, which are rather large and frilled. The tail is thick and bumpy, like that of a caterpillar. 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 greatly by their natural talents for hallucination. They are infamous for tricking desert travelers into drinking sand or going miles out of their way to avoid nonexistent dust basins.
Blue dragons tend to be carnivorous though they will eat plants on occasion. While almost anything is potential food, a blue dragon prefers camels above all else. They are enemies of brass dragons.
Blue dragons are orderly creatures, and are unusual for chromatics in that they keep fairly well-ordered, hierarchical societies.
Despite their evil nature, they are actually excellent parents to their young, and will rarely leave their eggs unattended. Blue dragon eggs must be buried in warm sand to incubate. Blue wyrmlings are actually quite cute, but they are quick to taunt any other creature, and even quicker to hunt small desert creatures for food.
The typical blue dragon lair is dug into one of the towering rock formations that dominate desert landscapes. As with all dragon lairs, the blue dragon's lair will have two entrances: one at ground level and 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 large subterranean cavern with a large pool of water and a sandy beach, which its inhabitant will use for drinking and relaxation.
The blue dragon excels at aerial combat, perhaps more so than any other species of dragon. Their lightning discharges are very easy to aim at other aerial foes, or at creatures below them on the ground. They are one of the most powerful dragons at spellcraft. They are also extremely adept at burrowing in sand, and often lie in wait just below the surface of the desert for prey. When they are so burrowed, their large horns can easily 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: image
  • Stats: OGL stats
  • Notes:
Green dragons are the third most powerful of the classic chromatic dragons. Physically, they are most notable for the large, waving crest or fin that starts at the dragon's nose and runs the entire length of the dragon's body. They also have exceptionally long, slender forked tongues. They smell like chlorine gas and 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. Green dragon females either keep their eggs in a solution of acid or bury them in leaves moistened with rainwater. The green wyrmling is easily mistaken for a black, due to their nearly black scales. As the wyrmling matures, its scales become steadily lighter in color until they reach the striking green shade of an adult. The wyrmlings typically stay with both parents until they reach adulthood (approximately 100 years).
The typical green dragon lair will be a complex of caves and tunnels, with its main entrance hidden behind a waterfall. The preferred green dragon lair is a cave high up on a cliff, but such locations are usually hard to find and thus only home to the oldest and most powerful green dragons.
The territories of Green and Black dragons frequently overlap, but as greens are more powerful, they typically hold the upper hand, but most Greens will allow a Black dragon to remain in their forest, so long as the lesser dragon remains in the swamps.
Green dragons revel in combat, and will often attack for no apparent reason. They are highly territorial, and will often view any intrusion into their domain, voluntary or not, as a personal affront. They are extremely cunning and duplicitous foes, and love double-crossing others. A traveler who stumbles into a green dragon's territory may be able to bribe the dragon for safe passage, but more often than not the dragon will 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: Absolutely anything; they claim that female humans and young elves taste best
  • Preferred Treasure: Absolutely anything with some monetary value
  • Alignment: Chaotic Evil
  • Image: image
  • Stats: OGL stats
  • Notes:
Red dragons are the largest, most powerful, and most (in)famous of the classic chromatic dragons. Physically, they are distinguished by their enormous size and wingspan. They have two large horns upon their heads, which point backwards toward their wings. 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 (either male or female) will remain behind to guard the eggs and keep their nest of flames burning. Once they hatch, the wyrmlings are left to fend for themselves. They usually have little problem in doing so. A red wyrmling is highly dangerous, being approximately the size of a human at hatching. They are fully 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 exact amount of disdain being proportional to the variety's general power level. When a Red Dragon and a White cross paths, the Red generally allows the white to sulk out of sight and out of mind, as they do not consider them worth the effort to kill; other Chromatic dragons are either killed outright, 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 the frivolous copper dragons, and clash with them quite often.
Red dragons have an amazing eye for value, and can determine the monetary worth of absolutely any material object at a glance. All dragons are known for hoarding treasure, but the red dragon far surpasses all other species in this regard. The gaining and keeping of treasure is the complete 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.
The preferred home for a red dragon is (naturally) inside an active volcano. If a volcano is not available, however, 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 will (surprisingly) often have only one entrance, which will be very high above ground level. The entrance leads to a narrow tunnel, which drops off into a steep pit. At the bottom of the pit lies a pool of water, surrounded by several chambers. One chamber will typically be the dragon's sleeping quarters, while the other will contain its hoard.
In combat, red dragons are exceptionally dangerous. Proficient in magic, they are also very fast in the air, but somewhat clumsy, so they prefer to do their fighting on the ground. They often spend years designing battle strategies, and will wait patiently until the precisely best moment to call upon them. Their massive blasts of fire end most battles before they truly begin, however. As a result, red dragons will use their powerful breath weapons as their favored method of attack, followed by power strikes from their massively powerful bodies, followed by magical attacks.
Many red dragons hoard women and children in their lairs, along with their wealth. In some genres they have the 'power of persuasion', which means they can get someone to do anything, as long as the opponent's mind is weaker than the dragon's. As a result, they often convince the chieftains of villages outside their volcanoes to make sacrifices to them of young girls.

White dragon[edit]

White dragons are the weakest and the most feral of the classic chromatic dragons, but they are by no means harmless. Though somewhat dimmer than other dragons due to the inbreeding necessary to create an animal that could resist the frigid temperatures that white dragons endure, they are still powerful enough to overwhelm most humans and have exceptional long-term memories. They are physically distinguished by several features: their heads and necks seem to blend seamlessly into one another, and their wings appear somewhat frayed along the edges. They have a flap of skin (dewlap) lined with spines beneath their chins. Their heads are very streamlined, and they have a high crest atop their skulls. They have a crisp, vaguely chemical odor.
White dragon eggs must be buried in snow or encased in ice while incubating. The parents do not bother to tend or protect the eggs in any way, although they will usually lay them near their lairs. A newhatched white wyrmling has scales as clear as ice, which become white as the dragon matures. They are expected to survive on their own from the moment they hatch, 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 very high and fast, and are exceptional swimmers. They love to swim in cold water; the more frigid, the better. Much of their diet often consists of aquatic creatures, even whales. 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, often dug into the side of an arctic mountain. Their lairs often contain many more tunnels and chambers than those of other chromatic dragons. More powerful white dragons will sometimes turn a large iceberg into a floating lair. Such lairs always have an underwater entrance as well as one to the open air.
White dragons are not strong combatants as dragons go, but they should never be underestimated. Their icy breath can freeze an unprepared foe solid in an instant. They typically avoid fights with more powerful dragons, but will avail themselves of any opportunity to take their frustrations out on 'lesser' creatures. Whites also have exceptional memories, and will often hunt down beings who cross them, no matter how long it may take.

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: 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 also 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 highly territorial and natural tyrants who seek to bring creatures in their area under their control. They bear a passing resemblance to a monstrous, orange alligator.

Purple dragon[edit]

  • Breath weapon: A purple dragon's breath weapon can take on three different forms. It can manifest as a cone of searing energy, a burst of blinding power, or a deadly blade of pure 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.

To clarify their breath weapon, it's a watery blast that contains a highly corrosive sodium compound. They adore water and often spend their free time playing in it.

Grey dragon[edit]

  • Breath weapon: A caustic ooze that burns flesh and also 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 all the chromatics. Elder and ancient gray dragons have a special affinity with stone. They can exude a stony essence that petrifies foes that have been immobilized by their claw or breath weapon attack. An ancient gray dragon's spikes have an elemental resonance that petrifies not only the dragon's primary targets but also nearby creatures.


  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]