This post is the second in a series in which I go back through D&D lore and show you how you could adapt some of the ‘forgotten dragons’ for 5th edition.
Last month I focused on the lost chromatics: brown, purple, grey, orange, pink, and yellow dragons. Today I am going to look at the metallics. You will already know about brass, copper, bronze, silver, and gold – but there are others!
As far as I can tell, electrum dragons haven’t appeared in D&D since 2nd edition AD&D, where they first featured in The Ruins of Myth Drannor, a well known adventure box set. In real life, electrum is a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver, and, correspondingly, these dragons seem to take inspiration from both gold and silver dragons. They are peaceful, solitary creatures who prefer to live far from civilization.
- Start with a brass dragon but remove the burrow speed and immunity to fire.
- Electrum dragons are smaller than other metallic dragons and never grow to gargantuan sizes.
- Swap the brass dragon’s fire breath for the gold dragon’s weakening breath, and change the sleep breath so that it is a Wisdom save to avoid the effects of a confusion spell.
- For adult and ancient electrum dragons, use the gold dragon’s lair actions.
- For a spell list, consider the following as a starting point: identify and locate object for young electrum dragons, dispel magic for adults, and heal, project image, and telekinesis for ancients.
Unlike other metallic dragons, iron dragons are not good aligned. Since 2nd edition (they first appeared in 1991 in Dragon 170) they have been listed as lawful neutral, and some are actually evil. They view themselves as the rightful rulers of the world and prefer to build their lairs deep beneath great hills or high mountains where iron deposits can be found.
- Start with the stats of a blue dragon but remove the burrow speed.
- Change the breath weapon from a line to a cone (reduce its range by a third). It is more of a ‘shower of sparks’ than a bolt of lightning.
- Add the brass dragon’s sleep breath as a second breath weapon.
- The blue dragon’s lair actions are pretty good as is, but perhaps swap the dust cloud option for the bronze dragon’s thunderclap.
- For a spell list, consider the following as a starting point: detect thoughts and heat metal for young iron dragons, stone shape, transmute rock (from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything), and wall of stone for adults, and flesh to stone for ancients.
(By the way, there are other ferrous dragons – nickel, tungsten, cobalt, chrome – but, honestly, I’m not sure I can get excited about them. I might revisit them in a separate article if there’s sufficient interest.)
Given that mercury (commonly known as quicksilver) is the only metal to be liquid at room temperature, it makes sense that mercury dragons are, well, mercurial. These Chaotic Good dragons are whimsical, unpredictable and possibly mentally unstable. They first appeared in the AD&D Monstrous Manual (1993) and have since appeared in 3rd edition (Dragons of Faerûn) and 4th edition (Draconomicon: Metallic Dragons).
- Start with a brass dragon but remove the burrow speed and change the Dexterity to that of a gold dragon (change AC accordingly).
- Add ‘cold’ as a damage vulnerability and ‘blinded’ as a condition immunity.
- Remove the brass dragon’s sleep breath attack.
- For lair actions, you could swap the brass dragon’s for the red dragon’s as mercury dragons like to live in warm, volcanic regions.
- For a spell list, consider the following as a starting point: colour spray and mirror image for young mercury dragons, hypnotic pattern for adults, and prismatic spray, project image, and telekinesis for ancients.
Steel dragons have actually made it into 5th edition already! It would be a spoiler to give too much away, but let’s just say there is a disguised steel dragon in one of the published adventures. There it is essentially a silver dragon with a black dragon’s acid breath, but I wonder if we can do better than that. In Faerûn, steel dragons are sometimes known as Waterdeep dragons, and they are rarely seen in their natural form, which is somewhat feline, with bladed wings that are almost featherlike.
- Start with a black dragon but remove the swim speed and the amphibious trait.
- Add the Change Shape ability, common to most metallic dragons.
- Add proficiency in Deception (perhaps use a green dragon as a guide).
- For a secondary breath weapon, add the green dragon’s cone of poisonous gas.
- Lair actions are tricky as steel dragons prefer to live in urban areas. The green dragon’s magical fog is thematically appropriate, though. You could instead add shield as a reaction.
- For a spell list, consider the following as a starting point: charm person and enthrall for young steel dragons, suggestion for adults, and globe of invulnerability and mass suggestion for ancients.
Finally, platinum dragons: the rarest, largest, and most powerful of the metallic dragons. In fact, in most D&D settings, there is only one platinum dragon, and that’s Bahamut, the deity of good dragons. As such, the platinum dragon is more powerful than any mortal dragon, and its stats should reflect this.
- Where to start? Let’s go with the Tarrasque. Why not? (If you have Rise of Tiamat, though, it probably makes more sense to start with Tiamat’s stats. Oops, spoiler.)
- Add a 120 ft fly speed and bump the ground speed up to 60 ft.
- A platinum dragon shouldn’t have tarrasque-level Intelligence. Bump its mental ability scores up to 30.
- Give him proficiency in Arcana and Religion.
- Change the blindsight to truesight and add 240 ft darkvision.
- Add immunity to the blinded, deafened, and stunned conditions.
- Bahumat should have limited magical immunity. Unless he wishes to be affected, he is immune to spells of 6th level or lower. He also has advantage on saving throws against all other spells and magical effects.
- He regenerates 30 hit points at the start of his turn.
- Keep the claw and tail attack, but lose the bite, horn, and swallow options.
- Can cast divine word 3/day as an innate spell.
- Tiamat uses her breath weapons as legendary actions. I would do the same here. Bahumat gets three breath weapons: a 90-ft cone of cold (16d8 damage, Dex save DC 27 for half damage), a 120-ft distingetration beam (16d10 radiant damage, same save DC), and a special 90-ft cone, where creatures that fail a Constitution save (DC 27) are stunned for one minute. Ho ho ho.
That’s it for part one. If you enjoyed this article, let me know! If you end up using one of these dragons in your game, let me know how you get on.
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