Imagine a land where people are afraid of dragons. It is a reasonable fear: dragons possess a number of qualities that make being afraid of them a very commendable response. Things like their terrible size, their ability to spout fire, or to crack boulders into splinters with their massive talons. In fact, the only terrifying quality that dragons do not possess is that of existence.
-David Whiteland, Book of Pages
We are now at the crux of why I started reviewing the Pathfinder creature types in the first place…dragons. I’m going to catch some shit for this one, I’m sure, but dragons should not be a type of their own. While they are the most iconic of all mythical creatures their continuation as an entity removed from a more general heading is without reason.
It’s obvious which of the creature types dragons should be rolled into; hell, even 4th edition managed to get it right: Magical Beasts. Even without further argument this seems rationally sound, after all, dragons are the quintessential magical beasts, but there are many differences between these two types. You see, years and years of fandom has put dragons at the to top of the creature type food chain. Dragons, shockingly, have been given the best of everything; in fact, their existence is an affront to good taste. To explain I’m going to focus on the “features” and “traits” as they appear on the Pathfinder SRD:
As you can see dragons really do get the best of the best: the best hit dice, fast progression on BAB, all good saves, a plethora of skills and the skill points to use them, they’ve become the masturbation of fantasy monster creation, which is why they’re boring to me. Call me old fashioned, but I like my monsters a little less caked in gamer…drool. So, while the change I’m proposing is for mechanical reasons it’s even more for the salvation of a creature that, if its used much more, will end up the trite husk of a once great legacy.
Things I’d leave the same:
- Skill List – Let them have all the listed skills. Dragons live for forever-and-a-day, so the development of skills generally outside the purview of, say, giant fucking winged lizards is acceptable. Also, just give them Acrobatics.
- Proficiencies – You know, that whole line about if it can take human form blah, blah, blah.
- THAT’S IT!
Thing I’d Change:
- Everything else.
So, your Ancient CR19 Red Dragon from the Pathfinder Bestiary would look like this:
Ancient Red Dragon
Speed 40 ft., fly 250 ft. (clumsy)
Melee bite +35 (4d6+21/19-20), 2 claws +35 (2d8+14), 2 wings +33 (2d6+7), tail slap +33 (2d8+21)
Space 20 ft.; Reach 15 ft. (20 ft. with bite)
Special Attacks breath weapon (60-ft. cone, DC 30, 20d10 fire), crush (Medium Creatures, DC 30, 4d6+21), manipulate flames, melt stone, tail sweep (Small Creatures, DC 30, 2d6+21)
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 25th, concentration +30)
Spells Known (CL 15th, concentration +20)
7th (4/day)—limited wish, spell turning
6th (6/day)—antimagic field, contingency, greater dispel magic
5th (7/day)—polymorph, telekinesis (DC 20), teleport, wall of force
4th (7/day)—fear (DC 19), fire shield, greater invisibility, stoneskin
3rd (7/day)—dispel magic, displacement, haste, tongues
2nd (7/day)—alter self, detect thoughts (DC 17), misdirection (DC 17), resist energy, see invisibility
1st (8/day)—alarm, grease (DC 16), magic missile, shield, true strike
0 (at will)—arcane mark, bleed, light, mage hand, mending, message, open/close, prestidigitation, read magic
Str 39, Dex 8, Con 27, Int 20, Wis 21, Cha 20
Base Atk +25; CMB +43; CMD 52 (56 vs. trip)
Feats Cleave, Critical Focus, Greater Vital Strike, Improved Critical (bite), Improved Initiative, Improved Iron Will, Improved Vital Strike, Iron Will, Multiattack, Power Attack, Quicken Spell, Staggering Critical, Vital Strike
Skills Appraise +23, Bluff +24, Diplomacy +24, Fly +4, Intimidate +24, Knowledge (arcana) +24, Knowledge (history) +24, Perception +24, Sense Motive +24, Spellcraft +24, Stealth +6
Languages Abyssal, Common, Draconic, Dwarven, Giant, Orc
An ancient red dragon is surrounded by an aura of intense heat. All creatures within 10 feet take 2d6 points of fire damage at the beginning of the dragon’s turn.
An ancient red dragon can control any fire spell within 100 feet as a standard action. This ability allows it to move any fire effect in the area, as if it were the caster. This ability also allows it to reposition a stationary fire effect, although the new placement must be one allowed by the spell. Finally, for 1 round following the use of this ability, the dragon can control any new fire spell cast within its area of control, as if it were the caster. It can make all decisions allowed to the caster, including canceling the spell if it so desires.
An ancient red dragon can use its breath weapon to melt rock at a range of 100 feet, affecting a 50-foot-radius area. The area becomes lava to a depth of 1 foot. Any creature in contact with the lava takes 20d6 points of fire damage on the first round, 10d6 on the second, and none thereafter as the lava hardens and cools. If used on a wall or ceiling, treat this ability as an avalanche that deals fire damage.
An ancient red dragon can see perfectly in smoky conditions (such as those created by pyrotechnics).
The differences are slight: 50 fewer hit-points, a 14 Will Save instead of a 21, and a set of skills that aren’t as robust, but overall the change over to Magical Beasts is a simple one. You’d probably miss the changes completely if you didn’t know what you where looking for and I don’t personally think these changes are all that significant, but I can see where people might disagree.
One of the things I struggled with in this article was whether to port dragons over completely to the Magical Beast category (as I did above) or, make them a subtype of Magical Beasts and let them keep a few of their other traits. After a lot of thought I realized this was just complicating the rather simple issue of changeover, so I went with a straight port-over.