This system is only used for designing true dragons, the fearsome monsters that get more and more powerful as they pass through a series of age categories.
For dragonkin such as wyverns, dragon turtles, pseudodragons and other creatures that use the ‘Dragon’
monster type, just use the general creation guidelines given in SRD.
Creating a new true dragon for a game therefore is not quite the same as creating a new monster. This chapter contains a point-based system for building new dragon species. Instead of creating a fully-grown dragon, this system creates a wyrmling and then adds age advancements on.
Creation points are used to measure the power of a new dragon species. The more creation points used, the more dangerous the dragon and the higher its Challenge Rating. More creation points can be bought by adding disadvantages and drawbacks to the dragon.
The basic dragons are already extremely flexible creatures that can be encountered in a wide variety of situations and environments. Rather than create an entirely new dragon species, it is possible to add class levels, prestige classes, hit dice or age advancements to alter a dragon for use in a game. It is not necessary to go through the whole dragon generation system if all that is desired is a slightly tougher red dragon – just put on a level or two of barbarian and let the dragon rage.
New dragons should have some distinct qualities to justify their existence. For example, none of the basic dragon types are suitable for use in a lot of dungeons. They are too big to fit down a lot of corridors, and wings are not much good if the ceiling is only 10 feet from the ground. So, an obvious new concept for a dragon might be a ‘dungeon worm’, a smaller, more sinuous wingless dragon that snakes through caverns and passageways.
This example is developed throughout this chapter. Have a definite idea for what sort of dragon you are aiming for when using this system. Give your new monster a theme or a reason to exist, or else base it around some really cool concept or effect. Stacking abilities on a monster does not make it memorable no matter how tough it is, but come up with a good concept and you are halfway towards an excellent addition to the draconic menagerie.
How many Creation Points?
In the example, the dungeon worm is built using 80 creation points, putting it on a par with the white dragon. For reference, here are the creation point totals for the true dragons in SRD.
Creating a dragon
The steps for creating a new dragon species are:
1. Create the wyrmling
a) Ability scores
b) Initial Hit Dice
c) Shape & movement
e) Breath weapon
f) Special abilities
h) Challenge rating
2. Choose Progressions
a) Ability scores
c) Special abilities
d) Challenge rating
3. Generate grown dragons
4. Finishing touches
5. Eat adventurers, gather gold, sow havoc
True Dragon Creation Points
Dragon generation begins with the wyrmling, the newly hatched form of the dragon. Even in this comparatively weak and small form, the full growth and grandeur of the adult dragon can be glimpse. Abilities and traits present in the hatchling are magnified by aging, so whatever the hatchling is good at, the adult dragon will be excellent in that same field. Strong hatchlings produce extremely strong adults.
Initial Ability Scores
A hatchling’s ability scores all start at 8. Creation points can be spent to purchase higher stats, according to the following table. Taking scores below 8 gives more creation points back for other purposes.
Ability Score Costs
|Ability Score||Cost||Ability Score||Cost|
Our dungeon worm is not especially smart, wise, or charismatic, so we reduce its Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma down to 6 each, giving us 6 extra CPs. The worm needs to be strong and fast, so we spend 20 points to give it a beginning Strength and Dexterity of 16. Finally, we spent 5 points to give it a Constitution score of 13. Points spent so far: 19.
Initial Hit Dice
The initial hit dice of a dragon vary between 2 and 10 hit dice. The number of initial hit dice also determines the beginning size of the dragon.
Hit Dice Costs
|Initial Hit Dice||Cost||Size|
2 Hit Dice seems plenty for our dungeon worm, so we spend 10 points here. Points spent so far: 29.
Shape and Movement
The true dragon is a four-legged, winged beast, but dragons of legend have been huge serpents, sea-monsters and even stranger creatures.
Limbs: The number of limbs possessed by a dragon determines what combination of attacks it can use.
Choose any one of the following limb configurations:
† Serpents have no limbs, and therefore have no claw attacks. A serpent can, however, make a constrict attack on a creature of equal size or smaller if it first succeeds in snatching the creature by making a successful bite attack. To constrict a foe, the dragon must make a grapple check; if successful, the constriction inflicts damage equal to the claw damage for a dragon of that size, plus 1.5 times the dragon’s strength bonus. Being a serpent costs 0 points.
† Two-legged dragons can make two claw attacks per round while flying, but not while on the ground. Being a two-legged dragon costs 5 points.
† Four-legged dragons can make two claw attacks even while on the ground. Being a fourlegged dragon costs 10 points.
The dungeon worm is obviously a serpent, so we spent 0 points here.
Walking speed: Dragons have a base movement of 40 feet per round. It can be increased, as follows:
Wings: Having wings costs 5 points, plus points for manoeuvrability and speed.
Other movement: Some dragons can burrow, swim or climb. These movement rates cost points, as follows:
Our dungeon worm stays at the base movement of 40 feet per round. We could add climbing, but magic can do it more cheaply. We spent no points here.
Heads: Two heads are clearly better than one. Each additional head may take a partial action every round in addition to the dragon’s normal action. A head may bite, cast a spell, talk, or use a breath weapon. Each head has a separate breath weapon – keep track of the 1d4 round delay between breathes separately for each head. Additional heads cost 20 creation points each.
Tail: Almost every dragon has a tail, which can be used for slaps and sweeps. Having a tail costs 3 points.
Our serpent has no wings and only one head, but it does have a tail. Points spent so far: 32.
Hide: Most dragons have extremely tough, scaly skins. In most species, the only weak spot is the belly, and that is often girded in gold and gemstones trapped between scales. Other dragons have iridescent skin or thick fur instead of reptilian scales. Especially magical species might have a hide of invisible force containing the seething pure elemental energies of the dragon’s body. Armour costs 3 points per +1 natural armour class bonus.
We spend nine points on hide, giving our dungeon worm a natural armour class bonus of +3. Points spent so
Dragons may breath fire, poisonous gas, acid, or any of many other deadly substances. Wyrmling breath weapon damage is as follows:
Breath Weapon Costs
Each breath weapon is shaped like a line or cone, the size of which depends on the size of the dragon. See SRD for details.
Alternate Breath Weapon Shapes
Most breath weapons are lines or cones, but some dragons do spit their lethal breath in different shapes. Such shapes include clouds (suitable for gas-based breath weapons), gouts (short, wide jets) and explosions (similar to the effects of the Spit Breath feat). The following table summarises the areas of effect of these breaths.
Clouds and Gouts are as high as they are wide. Explosions are a 5 foot wide and high line up until they hit a target not entirely destroyed by the damage, or until the end of their range, whereupon they explode in a burst. The size of the burst is determined by its radius.
Some dragons have a breath weapon that does not inflict damage, but instead saps the victim’s will, strength or some other ability. Find a spell that has a similar effect – this breath weapon costs 2 points per level of the spell. For example, silver dragons have a paralysing gas breath weapon, which costs 4 points (paralysing is a similar effect to hold person, which is a 2nd level spell).
Dragons may have a breath weapon that combines two effects into a single attack, such as a negative energy blast that inflicts hit point damage and gives negative levels. Most effects have a caster level of 1d6 + the dragon’s age category.
Dragons might breathe:
† A gout of molten rock and volcanic gases (2d12 damage)
† A beam of invisible force that shatters enemies like a hammer-blow (2d6 damage)
† A cloud of elemental darkness that drains heat and life from those it touches (2d8 damage)
† A blast of pure time that age and weathers anything caught in the blast (2d6 damage)
† A sonic scream (2d4 damage)
† A jet of scalding-hot salt water (2d6 damage)
† A cloud of razor-sharp crystalline particles that slice through skin and clothing (2d8 damage)
† A stream of abrasive sand (2d6 damage)
† A blast of energy that causes whatever it touches to explode violently (2d10 damage)
† A green cloud of foul micro-organisms that devour flesh (2d8 damage)
† A jet of hot dust (2d4 damage)
† A beam of Antimagic (as Antimagic field)
† A cone of necromantic power than reanimates the dead (as animate dead)
† An iridescent beam of rainbow energy (as prismatic spray)
† A foul gout of pestilence (as contagion)
† A cone of force that dimension doors or dismisses any creatures caught in the blast
† A wave of energy that animates objects (as animate objects)
† A cloud of will-sapping gas (as mind fog)
† A stream of lethal poison (as poison)
† A cone that transforms anyone caught in it into small animals (as polymorph other)
The dungeon worm needs a breath weapon that fits with its concept. After thinking about options like a breath weapon that fires a hail of coins (the worm eats treasure and spits it at enemies) or darkness (dungeons are full of shadows), the final breath weapon chosen is a spit of a vile liquid that burns like acid, then hardens into a stonehard brownish resin. This breath weapon combines 2d6 points of acid damage (costing 7 points) with a hold person effect (costing 4 points) for a total of 11 points on the breath weapon. Points spent so far, 52.
Alternate Breath Weapon Shapes
|Tiny||5 ft.||5 ft.||15 ft.||10 ft.||20 ft.||5 ft.|
|Small||10 ft.||10 ft.||20 ft.||10 ft.||30 ft.||5 ft.|
|Medium||15 ft.||15 ft.||30 ft.||10 ft.||40 ft.||10 ft.|
|Large||25 ft.||20 ft.||40 ft.||15 ft.||50 ft.||20 ft.|
|Huge||35 ft.||25 ft.||50 ft.||15 ft.||60 ft.||25 ft.|
|Gargantuan||50 ft.||30 ft.||60 ft.||20 ft.||70 ft.||30 ft.|
|Colossal||75 ft.||35 ft.||70 ft.||30 ft.||80 ft.||30 ft.|
All dragons gain special abilities as they advance in age. These abilities are usually spell-like abilities drawn from the dragon’s innate connection to magic, but dragons also gain damage resistance and other unique powers.
The first ability is always immunity to the dragon’s primary breath weapon (this costs no points), and the second is usually a mode of transport for the dragon’s natural habitat. After that, the other abilities are related to the basic concept of the dragon.
For example, red dragons are hunters, so they can locate object and discern location. Their suggestion power is derived from the traditional persuasive voice of the dragon. Green dragon combine an even more beguiling voice (having both suggestion and dominate person).
A dragon gets 40 spell levels worth of powers for ‘free’. Extra spell levels can be purchased at a cost of one point per spell level. Each power can be used once per day. Increasing the spell level by two adds another two uses per day.
A dragon must have a total of 10 special abilities (the tenth special ability is always the package of powers obtained when a dragon reaches the age of Draco Invictus). The scope of a dragon’s powers increases at it ages, but special abilities gained at one age category are not automatically more powerful than those gained at a previous age category. The maximum spell level available for use as a special ability at each age category is equal to the age category+3 for abilities that affect only the dragon; and equal to the age category+2 for abilities that target other creatures or the surrounding area.
Wyrmlings usually begin with two powers, but this depends on what Special Ability progression is used – see below. Some of these special abilities – from VII on, usually – will only see play if the dragon uses the Mystical age advancement instead of the normal advancement, Age Advancement.
Our dungeon worm dwells in catacombs and tombs, which gives a huge range of potential abilities. The first is immunity to the dragon’s breath weapon, in this case acid. The second ability is a permanent spider climb spell.
The worm lives in undead-haunted tombs and mazes, so it makes sense to have a few necromantic abilities. It can also manipulate its environment even without limbs, and can also control stone and elemental earth. The catacomb worm’s roster of special abilities ends up looking like this:
Dungeon Worm Abilities
|III||Mage hand 5/day||0+4|
|V||Animate dead 1/day||5|
|VIII||Death knell 3/day||2+2|
|X||Draco Invictus Abilities||0|
The total number of spell levels is 40, costing no points. So far, we have spent 52 points.
Feats & Unique Special Abilities
Dragons begin with a single feat. Dragons may purchase extra feats from the Dragon Feats chapter or any other source of feats at a cost of 3 points each. Other unique abilities may also be added to the dragon. Many examples are shown in New Dragons. These special abilities are not rated in points – their effect should be measured by playtesting.
A dragon may have any subtype, usually one related to its breath weapon.
The challenge rating of the wyrmling is determined by the number of creation points used:
Wyrmling Challenge Ratings
|Creation Points||Challenge Rating|
The dungeon worm cost a mere 52 points, giving it a challenge rating of 2.
Dungeon Worm Wyrmling
Hit Dice: 2d12+2 (14 hp)
Initiative: +3 (dex)
Speed: 40 ft.
AC: 18 (+2 size, +3 natural, +3 dex), touch 15, flatfooted 15
Base Attack Bonus/Grapple: +2/-3
Attack: Bite +5 melee (1d4+5)
Full Attack: Bite +5 melee (1d4+5)
Space/Reach: 2 ½ ft. x 2 ½ ft /5 ft.
Special Attacks: Breath weapon (damage 2d6+paralysis)
Special Qualities: Acid immunity, spider climb
Saves: Fort +3, Ref +5, Will +2
Abilities: Str 16, Dex 16, Con 13, Int 6, Wis 6, Cha 6.
Skills: Listen +4, Spot +4.
Challenge Rating: 2
Alignment: Neutral evil
Dragons grow throughout their lives, becoming bigger and nastier with every passing century. The cute baby dragon that once entertained your grandparents with its amusing antics might be the one swallowing you whole today, and some day will be the one conquering the whole nation where your grandchildren dwell. The rate at which a dragon’s abilities increase depends on what progressions are used.
Ability Score Progressions
The progressions for ability scores are given in Age Advancement. Dragons normally have Poor progression in all ability scores except Dexterity, but can purchase slower or faster progression as follows:
Ability Score Progression Costs
Dexterity progression begins at the null progression (i.e. the dragon gains no dexterity as it ages), but can be increased:
Dexterity Progression Costs
Dragons begin at Poor magic progression, but again it can be increased.
Magic Progression Costs
Special Ability Progression
Special ability progression also begins at Poor, and costs the same amount to increase.
Special Ability Progression Costs
Our dungeon worm hatches as a fairly small beast, costing only 43 points, so we have another 17 points to buy progressions with. This means that young dungeon worms are weak for a dragon, but older worms will be very, very tough indeed.
As the worm lives in an environment where climbing and agility are useful, we spend 3 points to give it a Very Poor Dexterity progression. Its constriction attack’s damage is based on Strength, so we give the worm an Excellent Strength progression, costing 9 points. So far, the worm seems like an unpleasant and uninspiring monster, so we leave its Charisma progression at Poor. We spend the remaining points buying Standard Intelligence and Magic progressions (3 points each), Good progressions for Constitution and Wisdom (6 points each) and Excellent special ability progression (9 points). Total spent: 30 points on advancements, for a total of 82 points.
The final progressions for the Dungeon Worm are shown above.
Most dragons add 2 dice on to their breath weapon damage at each age category. However, those dragons whose breath weapons inflict only a single die of damage increase breath weapon damage by only one die when they age.
The dungeon worm has a breath weapon that inflicts 2d6 points of damage, so its breath weapon will increase by 2 dice every age category.
The challenge rating of a dragon increases at a rate that depends on the number of points spent on buying progressions.
Challenge Rating Progression Thresholds
|Points Spent||Challenge Rating Increases|
Challenge Rating Progressions
Dungeon Worms by Age
|Age||Size||Hit Dice (hp)||Armour Class||Base Attack/Grapple||Attack Bonus|||~ Fort Save||Ref Save||Will Save||Breath Weapon (DC)||Fear DC||SR|
|Wyrmling||T||2d12+2 (14 hp)||18 (+2 size, +3 natural, +3 dex)||+2/-3||+7||+3||+5||+2||2d6 (12)||-||-|
|Very Young||S||5d12+5 (37)||20 (+1 size, +6 natural, +3 dex)||+5/+6||+11||+5||+7||+4||4d6 (13)||-||-|
|Young||M||8d12+8 (54)||22 (+9 natural, +3 dex)||+8/+18||+15||+7||+9||+6||6d6 (15)||-||-|
|Juvenile||L||11d12+22 (93)||24 (-1 size, +12 natural, +4 dex)||+11/+24||+19||+9||+11||+7||8d6 (17)||-||-|
|Young Adult||L||14d12+42 (133)||29 (-1 size, +15 natural, +5 dex)||+14/+28||+23||+10||+14||+9||10d6 (20)||16||18|
|Adult||H||17d12+68 (178)||32 (-2 size, +18 natural, +6 dex)||+17/+37||+27||+14||+16||+11||12d6 (22)||17||20|
|Mature Adult||H||20d12+100 (230)||36 (-2 size,+21 natural, +7 dex)||+20/+41||+31||+17||+19||+14||14d6 (25)||20||22|
|Old||H||23d12+115 (264)||40 (-2 size, +24 natural, +8 dex)||+23/+45||+35||+18||+21||+16||16d6 (27)||21||24|
|Very Old||H||26d12+156 (325)||44 (-2 size, +27 natural, +9 dex)||+26/+47||+39||+21||+24||+15||18d6 (29)||24||25|
|Ancient||G||29d12+174 (362)||46 (-4 size, +30 natural, +10 dex)||+29/+55||+42||+22||+26||+20||20d6 (31)||25||27|
|Wyrm||G||32d12+224 (432)||50 (-4 size,+33 natural, +11 dex)||+32/+46||+46||+26||+30||+24||22d6 (33)||28||29|
|Great wyrm||G||35d12+280 (507)||54 (-4 size,+36 natural, +12 dex)||+35/+65||+50||+29||+33||+27||24d6 (35)||30||31|
|Draco Invictus||G||38d12+380 (627)||59 (-4 size, +39 natural, +14 dex)||+38/+70||+54||+31||+30||+28||26d6 (39)||34||34|
Generate Grown Dragons
Once the basic wyrmling is created, and the progressions for the dragon’s abilities are determined, then all that remains is to apply the progressions to the wyrmling and work out what the dragon looks like at each successive age category.
At age category, the following changes are made:
† The dragon gains 3 Hit Dice.
† The dragon’s natural armour class bonus increases by 3.
† Its ability scores increase by the appropriate amount for their individual progressions.
† It gains new special abilities from its special ability progression.
† It gains new spellcaster levels from its magic progression.
† Its breath weapon increases in damage. The Difficulty Class for the Fortitude save against the breath weapon is equal to 10 + ½ the dragon’s hit dice total + the dragon’s Constitution bonus.
† Its challenge rating increases.
† If the dragon is aged young adult or older, it gains a Frightful Presence. The Difficult Class to resist the Frightful presence is equal to 10 + ½ the dragon’s hit dice total + the dragon’s Charisma bonus.
† If the dragon is aged young adult or older, it gains Spell Resistance, equal to its Challenge Rating + 7.
† The size of a dragon increases as it grows. It grows one size per age category until it reaches Large size. It takes two age categories to grow through Large size, and then spends four age categories being Huge, four being Gargantuan, and any remaining age categories being Colossal.
† The flight speed of a dragon increases by 50 feet every four age categories. Its manoeuvrability decreases by one step every four age categories, to a minimum of clumsy.
At this point, the new dragon species is almost complete. The special abilities possessed by a wyrmling are determined by looking at its special ability progression. Dragons usually have triple standard treasure, although some concepts might shy away from this. Alignment, habitat, organisation and other fields of information should be worked out from the concept.
For example, the finished dungeon worm is shown on the preceding and following table.
Dungeon Worm Abilities by Age
|Age||Speed||Initiative||Str||Dex||Con||Int||Wis||Cha||Special Abilities||Caster level||CR|
|Wyrmling||40 ft.||+3||16||16||13||6||6||6||Acid immunity, spider climb, mage hand||-||2|
|Very Young||40 ft.||+3||20||16||13||6||6||6||-||3|
|Young Adult||40 ft.||+5||30||20||17||10||10||8||DR 5/+1||3||11|
|Adult||40 ft.||+6||34||22||19||12||12||8||Animate dead||5||13|
|Mature Adult||40 ft.||+7||36||24||21||14||14||10||DR 10/+2||7||15|
|Very Old||40 ft.||+9||40||28||23||16||18||12||DR||15/+2||11||18|
|Wyrm||40 ft.||+11||44||32||25||18||20||14||DR 20/+3||15||22|
|Great wyrm||40 ft.||+12||46||34||27||20||22||16||Death knell||17||24|