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Draconomicon I: Chromatic Dragons (4e)

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Draconomicon™ I: Chromatic Dragons describes several varieties of dragons, including red, blue, green, black, and white dragons, as well as three completely new chromatic dragons.

 The sourcebook gives details of each dragon's powers, tactics, myths, lairs, servitors, and more. In addition, this book provides new information about draconic nations (such as Arkhosia) and organizations, and how chromatic dragons fit into the D&D® game. Wide-ranging story and campaign elements in the book give DMs ready-to-play material that is easily incorporated into a game, including adventure hooks, quests, and pregenerated treasure hoards.

Product History

Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons (2008), by Bruce R. Cordell with Logan Bonner, Ari Marmell, and Robert J. Schwalb, was the first monster splatbook for D&D 4e. It was published in November 2008.

Introducing the Monster Splatbooks. The release schedule for D&D 4e was carefully laid out into numerous regular lines of books. The yearly core books and the yearly campaign books were the highest profile releases, but players also were supported with the Powered (2008-2010) series of character splatbooks and the Adventurer's Vault (2008-2009) series of equipment books.

However, game masters weren't left out. If the Powered and Vault books were essentially Player's Handbook expansions, then game masters got to enjoy Monster Manual expansions — a series of splatbooks detailing individual races of monsters. The first of these was Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons.

The 4e designers saw dragons as the "quintessential 'solo' monsters". They wanted to focus on the chromatic dragons in particular because they were the traditional draconic bad guys. Having decided on the subject of the first monster splatbook for 4e, the designers then laid out a standard format which included: background fluff, encounters, adventures, artifacts, and other info for GMs; several lairs; and a bestiary full of new monsters.

After Chromatic Dragons was published, the designers predicted that metallic dragons would get their own book soon, and that they might not be as "generally benign" as they had been in previous editions of the game. However, the second monster splatbook was actually Open Grave: Secrets of the Undead (2009). Draconomicon: Metallic Dragons (2009) would follow several months later.

A History of Dragon Sourcebooks. It's appropriate that the 4e monster splatbook sequence because with a look at dragons, because they'd long been a favorite for D&D. It all began with FOR1: Draconomicon (1990), though second edition AD&D (1989) also included a dragon setting called Council of Wyrms (1994, 1999) and a dracolich sourcebook, Cult of the Dragon (1998). D&D 3e (2000) had a few dragon books of its own, most notably Draconomicon: The Book of Dragons (2003), Dragons of Faerûn (2006) and (to a lesser extent) Races of the Dragon (2006). Now, D&D 4e (2008) was continuing with the tradition.

Expanding the Dragons. The Monster Manual (2008) had included stats for the five standard chromatic dragons: the black, blue, green, red, and white dragons. Chromatic Dragons lists three new ones. Each is a conversion of a dragon that in the past hadn't been colored, but was now "recognized … as part of the chromatic lineage".

The first-ever brown dragon was created by Len Lakofka in The Dragon #38 (June 1980), which expanded the chromatic dragons for the first time ever, and which also introduced orange and yellow dragons. A different sort of brown dragon, with a desert heritage, had long been a feature of the Forgotten Realms, beginning with FR10: "Old Empires" (1990). However, Chromatic Dragons instead adopted the sand dragon from Sandstorm (2005) as its new brown dragon.

The idea of a gray dragon was first put forth by Greg Detwiler in a Bestiary entry for Dragon #146 (June 1989). However the grey dragon in Chromatic Dragons is instead based on the fang dragon from the Forgotten Realms, who premiered in Ruins of Myth Drannor (1993) and appeared in many later publications.

Finally, an energy-based purple dragon first appeared in Dragon #65 (September 1982) in an article by Richard Alan Lloyd that was about "filling in the tints of the color wheel"; it also detailed new orange and yellow dragons, just like Lakofka's article two years' previous. However, the purple dragon in Chromatic Dragons had another source: the deep dragon, which premiered in MC11: "Monstrous Compendium Forgotten Realms Appendix" (1991).

Draconomic: Chromatic Dragons also stats up several other types of dragons, a few of which are of historical note.

The first planar dragon was an adamantine dragon that appeared in MC8: "Monstrous Compendium Outer Planes Appendix" (1991), but the idea of planar dragons only became popular with the release of the D&D 3e (2000). James Wyatt introduced five planar dragons in Dragon #300 (October 2002), then five more appeared in Draconomicon: The Book of Dragons (2003). The 4e designers decided to include planar dragons in the Chromatic Dragons book, because they took on attributes of their environment, just like chromatic dragons did. They revisited some old favorites like the battle dragon and the Styx dragon, but featured many of their own as well.

Finally, Chromatic Dragons features many undead dragons, including the dracolich — a monstrosity created by Ed Greenwood for Dragon #110 (June 1986) and the novel Spellfire (1987).

NPCs of Note. Several notable dragons from the past reappear in Chromatic Dragons

  • Ashardalon is a red dragon who was mentioned throughout the 3e adventure path (2000-2002) before finally coming center stage in Bastion of Broken Souls (2002); he's since earned his own board game, Wrath of Ashardalon (2011).
  • Cyan Bloodbane is a green dragon who first appeared in DL10: "Dragons of Dreams" (1985).
  • Dragotha is an ancient dracolich, who was first mentioned in S2: "White Plume Mountain" (1979), which contains an infamous note on a map that reads "Beyond to the lair of Dragotha, the undead dragon, where fabulous riches and hideous death await." He finally got some stats in Dragon #134 (June 1988).
    Tiamat is of course the queen of chromatic dragons, who was first mentioned in Supplement I: Greyhawk (1975) as the “queen of the chaotic dragons”. She got a name in the AD&D Monster Manual (1977).

Other NPCs such as the black dragon Gulgol, the brown dragon Nefermandias, the white dragon Rime, and the gray dragon Zebukiel are new to this sourcebook. Future History. Ari Marmell wrote a short article to complement this article from the players' point of view. "Dragon Slayers" appeared in Dragon #369 (November 2008).

About the Creators. Cordell was a constant author for D&D 4e books from 2008-2010. He'd be the lead on the next monster book, Open Grave (2009) and would also coauthor more than half of the "HPE" adventure path (2008-2009).

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

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Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
February 18th, 2009
Intended to serve as a collection of information about red, blue, green, black, and white dragons (as described in the Monster Manual, as well as a few newcomer dragons in the shape of grey, brown and purple ones, this work launches straight into its [...]
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