Creature Feature Friday: Dragons

Dragons in space. There are dragons in space. Dragons! In! Space! Is your interest piqued? I certainly hope so, because dragons are an extremely versatile threat in Starfinder. Dragons have twelve age classes to use, starting with wyrmling at CR 3, progressing through very young at CR 5, young at CR 7, juvenile at CR 9, young adult at CR 11,  adult at CR 13,  mature adult at CR 15, old at CR 17, very old at CR 19, ancient at CR 21, wyrm at CR 23,  and finally peaking at great wyrm at CR 25.

Examining the abilities of dragons are difficult, as they are provided as a series of templates rather than static monsters. The Alien Archive provides five such templates for the chromatic dragons, so we’ll take a look at those. All receive an immunity to paralysis and sleep, as well as DR 5/magic and SR 11+CR. This DR increases to 10 at CR 12 (CR 13 for blue and green dragons), 15 at CR 14 (CR 15 for black, blue, and green dragons), and capping out at DR 20 at CR 16 (CR 17 for black, blue and green). Each also receives immunity to one type of elemental damage based on the dragon type (fire for red, electricity for blue, cold for white, and acid for both green and black).

Defensive capabilities aside, dragons also receive several offensive powers. Each has a breath weapon, which takes the form of a 30 foot line (Black and blue dragons) with an additional 10 feet per 2 CR or a 15 foot cone (Red, white, and green dragons) with an additional 5 feet per CR. Each breath weapon does a base damage dice determined by the dragon type (1d10 for red, 1d8 for blue, and 1d6 for green, black, and white) with an additional die for every CR of the dragon. They also come with a frightful presence ability that kicks in at CR 9 (CR 10 for red and white, CR 11 for black) that has a sixty foot range plus an additional 10 feet per CR.

Finally, dragons also get a couple tertiary abilities in case all that wasn’t enough. All dragons get darkvision with 120 foot range and blindsense with 60 foot range. On top of that, red and white dragons gain sense through [vision] for smoke and snow, respectively. Several also gain additional modes of movement, with black dragons gaining a 60 foot swim speed, blue dragons gaining a 60 foot burrow speed, green dragons gaining a 40 foot swim speed, and white dragons gaining both a 60 foot swim speed and a 30 foot burrow speed. Several dragons also gain unique abilities. Black dragons gain Swamp Stride (Ex), allowing them to move through swamps and quicksand at full speed without penalty. Green dragons gain Woodland Stride (Ex), which functions identically save that it applies to jungles, forests, and other patches of flora. White dragons gain Ice Walking (Ex), which not only allows them to ignore all movement and Acrobatics penalties of being on ice but grants them the effects of spider climb on icy surfaces. Blue dragons are the only ones with a unique ability not meant for movement, with Sound Imitations (Ex) allowing it to flawlessly copy any sound or voice it’s heard. You’d think that with this many abilities, dragons would also come with some weaknesses, but for the most part you’d be wrong. While red dragons have a vulnerability to cold and white dragons have a vulnerability to fire, black, blue, and green dragons have no specific weaknesses.

We spent a while on powers there, so let’s take a look at the story potential of dragons. Western-style dragons in fantasy tend to be the top dogs of wherever they are, which tends to happen for a variety of reasons. One is just tradition.  They’ve been the biggest, baddest, meanest monsters in countless works before you, so why would you be the one to make dragons the ones handing over their lunch money? There are exceptions of course, but the vast majority of dragons tend to be of the Smaug or Drogon types. Another is good old fashioned symbolism. You probably don’t consciously think about it, but dragons are pretty out-there creatures. To start with, reptiles don’t tend to be that terrifyingly bug. Sure you’ve got crocodiles and the like, but odds are if someone says “top of the food chain,” you think of something more like a lion. Compounding that is the fact that most western dragons fly, and once more, you probably don’t think of flying creatures of being that big. Rounding all of that out is the traditional fire breathing, something no real animal can do. Put all that together and you have a giant reptile that can fly and wields one of the most base destructive forces, a surefire recipe for freaking out anyone not familiar with the concept of a dragon.

As for the roles they tend to play, dragons tend to vary between feral beasts and cunning masterminds. Pathfinder and Starfinder tend towards the latter when it comes to true dragons like the chromatics and metallics, using various other single dragon species to fill the mindless destroyer niche. So think for a moment about what dragons might become as time goes on and empires spread to the stars. With their intelligence and power, they could maintain the same role they always have at the top of the hierarchy. On the other hand, what if they couldn’t adapt with the times, becoming relics of a bygone age? Their lust for gold and treasure would become far less adaptable in a world where credit cards and cryptocurrency is the norm, making them more like antique coin collectors rather than the holders of vast wealth. On top of that, think of how their physical and magical might would wane in usefulness. In ancient times being good at dueling and combat would let you remove rivals and enemies, but nowadays violence is a tool of last resort when you’re in danger. How would dragons have to change to fit into this new social dynamic? They still have their incredible magical potential, so would they change to something of a subtler stripe, trading evocation for divination and enchantment? And then there’d be the ones who don’t want to adapt. A sole dragon wreaking havoc is a threat in a fantasy world, but when razing a town can get gunships and drone swarms sent after you, that type of dragon would go the way of classical piracy. If dragons want to keep up their plunder-heavy lifestyle, they’d have to throw their lot in with a group, an action which could eventually see them relegated to the muscle of an organization rather than the head. That alone would make a good set up as the dragon schemes Starscream-style to become the boss, but in the meantime taking out their anger on targets, but here’s a few more plot-hooks to use dragons in your game:

  • A reclusive dragon is slain by explorers, who promptly loot his lair for his horde of valuable items and volumes of currency. Unfortunately, they  failed to take into account that reclusive doesn’t mean without contacts, and this particular dragon had a will. The explorers now find themselves hounded by the inevitables who serve as executors, as well as the dragon’s friends and family who hope to claim more than their share of the will.
  • An ancient wyrm has found a way to assemble a larger horde than any other dragon in history. Rather than raid and plunder for her loot, she has worked her way to the position of president and CEO of a major bank. The resulting accumulation of wealth has allowed her to fund businesses and criminal enterprises alike, all strung together in a web to constantly earn her even more money. However, the bank’s bylaws and rules have become even more labyrinthian as she seeks to ensure none of “her” money is ever withdrawn, utilizing summoned devils to ensure the tightest possible contracts.
  • Within the Draconic Empires, dragons want for nothing, having established  themselves as the ruling class long ago. The general reaction to this varies from dragon to dragon. Abryxa, a green dragon, draws on his family’s great wealth to fund ever more outrageous experiments, regardless of the dangers they pose. Biergos, a black dragon, has chosen to amuse himself through corporate sabotage and assassination to elevate himself by bringing low all competition. Ojiri, a blue dragon, find inherited wealth to be worthless and has attached herself to a newly founded colony to obtain her own wealth by shaping the growing planet to her own desires.

About nwright

A freelance writer for the Open Gaming website who looks forward to building plots out of monster entries for you to enjoy as a player or DM.

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