So there I was, raiding a wizard’s library as one does, and I found this book labeled For Review. Someone (James Wyatt) has dragons on his mind, and we need to get to the bottom of this. He isn’t working alone – there’s a whole cabal of wizards backing him up, along with some top-tier mercenaries they hired for the job.
Which is to say, I received a review copy of Fizban’s, I’m reviewing it here, and I can’t even pretend that I’ll get through this in one article.
Hot damn that cover art, the limited cover especially.
The introductory chapter is short but electrifying. It’s a high-level overview of multiversal draconic mythology: D&D has decided that if they’re going to make dragons half of the title, they can be the unifying through-line of all these Material Plane worlds. We’ve seen references to the First World going back to Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, but this expands on that lore with Bahamut, Takhisis, and their firstborn offspring Sardior the Ruby Dragon.
I’ll probably get into this as we go, but Sardior is one of my favorite things in all of the lore here. Sardior is dead and shattered, but their (the text is phrased to avoid using any pronoun for Sardior) shards became gem dragons, and the gem dragons now work to reconstitute Sardior. Sardior’s shattering may have been the same moment as the shattering of the First World.
I also like the angle this takes on Tiamat and her relationship to Bahamut. It’s a lot to get into here, but it shows a motivation other than because she’s Eeevil for her clashes with Bahamut and the other gods, while at the same time Bahamut isn’t really trying to fight her.
Four settings get pride of place for a discussion of how Bahamut, Tiamat, and the Elegy for the First World: Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk (Io gets name-checked here), Dragonlance (canon change: Paladine really is Bahamut, Takhisis really is Tiamat, even and especially where this creates baffling contradictions), and Eberron (where Siberys, Eberron, and Khyber take some explaining). I can’t fathom why the entry for FR doesn’t even touch on Tyranny of Dragons.
Finally, dragonsight: an idea that some dragons connect with their selves on other Material worlds – that there’s an Ashardalon echo on many worlds, and they can interact. Possibly, as in Ashardalon’s case, even run afoul of one another and be destroyed. This idea is going to get a lot more airtime later in the book, but the core idea is that what happens with or relating to dragons echoes across the Material worlds. Like I said, unifying through-line.
If you’re one of the many, many people to come to D&D without playing 2e, well, gem dragons have been part of D&D for a long time now, but they didn’t get a lot of priority in 3.x or 4e. The 5e design team has been clear about their interest in gem dragons, going back to the sapphire dragon stats included in the Laeral Silverhand’s Explorer’s Kit.
Very grabby intro chapter!
There’s also a sidebar about the fact that creature types are now capitalized. It’s a strange style change seven years into an edition (and contrasting the last 47 years of D&D’s style), but… okay. Mostly they’ve just taught me how things should look to such a degree that it looks wrong.
Chapter 1: Character Creation
We get three new races, two new subclasses, and three new feats. It’s mind-boggling to think how much less player-facing content this book offers (while still feeling sufficient for 5e) than the 3.x or 4e Draconomicons. If you’re coming to this book expecting to find a dragon-related option for every character class, this book isn’t that. (There is more player-facing content than just this chapter, but it’s still modest.)
First up, you can use the PH dragonborn (as the text spells out), but here we see what a rebuild into the new race dynamics looks like. Since I’ve often heard the PH dragonborn criticized for being underpowered, I think there are good reasons to make them an early revision. We did see all of this in a recent-ish UA, of course. Oh good Lord, it was April? What even is time.
No changes in their story, so we can get right to the mechanics.
- At this point the dividing line between Humanoid and whatever else is pretty dubious, but okay, sure.
- Medium size, 30 ft speed.
- Chromatic Ancestry has you choose your draconic type, which decides what you get for your other features. These are the five dragons and elements you would expect.
- Breath Weapon lets you blast a 30-ft-long, 5-ft-wide line, proficiency bonus times per long rest. The saving throws to avoid these are now standardized to Dex saves, which seems odd for green dragonborn at minimum, maybe white dragonborn too. The damage is 1d10 per tier, so 1.5 average damage lower in tier 1, half a point higher in tier 2, 2.5 points higher in tier 3, and 4.5 points higher in tier 4.
- It’d be at least fairly rare for many campaigns that 1/short rest is more frequent breath weapon usage than PB/long rest, so I can’t get too fussed about that.
- The action economy is improved as well – instead of using your whole action, you can replace one attack of your Attack action with a breath weapon use. I mean, it’s better for some classes, no change for others. Which is kind of odd, but there’s nothing particularly wrong with nudging dragonborn toward barbarians, Valor bards, fighters, monks, paladins, rangers, and bladelocks.
- Draconic Resistance, as you’d expect from the name, grants resistance to your dragon’s damage flavor.
- Chromatic Warding doesn’t kick in until 5th level, but it’s a 1/long rest full immunity to your Chromatic Ancestry damage type. This will absolutely wind up breaking some encounters, but it’s not always-on or anything, so enemies that are sufficiently inconvenienced by your immunity might be able to stall for another nine rounds to run out the clock.
Overall, this is a very substantial powerup for five dragonborn types, and I would absolutely play one of them.
We haven’t had one of these before in official rules. Their theme reads a bit like someone riffing on the roster of Lantern Rings in DC.
- Humanoid, Medium, 30 ft speed.
- Gem Ancestry just defines your draconic type, of course.
- Breath Weapon gives you a 15-ft cone, and it’s otherwise the same as the Chromatic breath weapon. The gem dragon damage types are the more esoteric ones – force, radiant, psychic, thunder, and necrotic.
- Draconic Resistance does what it says on the tin. We’re seeing radiant damage creep up in NPC stat blocks a bit, so it’s not a sucker bet for PCs anymore, but necrotic and psychic resistance are still a lot better than the rest of the list, in frequency terms.
- Psionic Mind grants you 30-foot-range telepathy. This version doesn’t require a common language as long as your target understands language in principle.
- Gem Flight is their 5th-level upgrade, and just let me say, if everyone is getting new race features at 5th level now, that’s going to throw a lot of past design for a loop but I’m gonna say it’s worth it. Just a thought for anyone else who, like me, is working on Under the Seas of Vodari right now.
- Flying speed equal to your walking speed, 1 minute per long rest. This is a way to have a flying PC that keeps standard exploration challenges on the table. I kinda want to drill down into deadlift-while-flying encumbrance right now… and 95% of the time, looking closely at encumbrance rules in a tabletop game is staring into the Nietzschean abyss.
- In the UA, the added features opened up at 3rd rather than 5th. Can’t help but be curious about what impelled that shift.
There’s no legacy of gem dragonborn rules to compare to this outside of the UA, but I like what I see here. Also the gem dragonborn art on this page is cool – the choice to give them a smoother, glossier texture than the red dragonborn on the facing page and the copper on the page following is very striking.
The flavor text responsible for differentiating metallic and chromatic dragonborn in a nonvisual way is poetic, and communicates on one hand some ascetic loneliness, but also dangerous things made safe by sapient will. At some risk of overstepping the metaphor, maybe what we have is chromatic = id, gem = ego, metallic = superego. (Uh, I am not a significant student of Freudian psychology. Be gentle in correcting me on this.)
- Humanoid, Medium, 30 ft.
- Especially in UA, we’re starting to see some “choose Small or Medium at character creation” options, so I wonder a bit why that wasn’t implemented here. Sure, dragonborn are typically built like someone who could be an NFL linebacker while moonlighting as an NBA center, but we’re kind of doing away with typical as an idea in builds, too.
- Oh right, a Small dragonborn is a kobold with halitosis.
- Metallic Ancestry… yep.
- Breath Weapon – a 15-foot cone. Otherwise does what you would think, as long as you know that brass and gold double up on fire.
- I don’t think D&D will ever move gold dragons away from fire, but I would accept radiant in place of fire if we wanted each metallic to have a unique damage type.
- Draconic Resistance… yep.
- But wait, don’t metallic dragons get two breath weapon types? Why yes, they do! Metallic Breath Weapon is their 5th-level feature. You get two options here, they’re both 15-ft cones, and you choose at the time of use, 1/long rest and replacing one attack of an Attack action:
- Enervating Breath incapacitates creatures in the area that fail a Con save, until the start of your next turn. This is an AoE skip-their-turn effect, which makes it incredibly potent if it’s replacing just a part of your Attack action.
- Repulsion Breath is a 20-foot knockback and knockdown, unless the target succeeds a Strength save. Enervating is probably stronger in most situations, but a 20-foot knockback could be a lot of throwing people off high things or into pits of spikes.
My only issue here is some concern about the action denial power of Enervating Breath. Worth noting, though, that we’re also going to see some shifts around Legendary Resistances, including more creatures with 1 use per day, some creatures with 4+ per day, and Mythics getting to replenish their legendary resistances when they shift phases. Stick with me for several more articles in this series.
Up front – I like the subclasses we get here, but I’m a little surprised there’s no Dragon Knight in fighter or paladin. It’s not wrong, I just think back to the Draconomicons and the content that stuck out to me from those.
Way of the Ascendant Dragon Monk
Dragon monks are about as iconic and grabby of an idea to me as dragon knights, so I’m into this. The flavor text gives only a nod to chromatic dragons and less to gem dragons, which is a little surprising, but it still works. It’s more surprising because the subclass offers poison damage, which chromatics but not metallics use.
- Draconic Disciple lets you reroll a failed Intimidation or Persuasion check, and once it flips a failure to a success, it’s expended until you finish a long rest. The problem with this is that failure and success can be very fluid ideas in social scenes for a lot of DMs.
- Okay, your reroll gets you a 16 instead of a 14, great. You get some intimidation for that, or maybe now you’ve intimidated the mooks but not the lieutenant. What would that mean for this power? Also, a straw poll on Twitter suggests that a lot of DMs aren’t setting hard pass/fail numbers in social, knowledge, or Perception checks, but are using the overall quality of the roll to shade their description. I like the promise that you’ll get benefit out of a reroll feature, but this application isn’t fitting the way many DMs resolve rolls at the table.
- You can also change your unarmed strike damage to acid, cold, fire, lightning, or poison.
- Tongue of Dragons teaches you Draconic, of course (or another language if you want).
- Breath of the Dragon gives you a breath weapon that replaces one of your attacks as part of an Attack action (so it still leads into Flurry of Blows properly and doesn’t wreck, you know, being a monk). The damage is two Martial Arts dice, so this isn’t terribly worthwhile (because MA die + Dex modifier is probably better than two dice) unless you can damage two or more targets, or there’s some kind of resistance or vulnerability situation.
- That shifts a bit at 11th level when you deal three MA dice, but with magic items boosting your normal attacks far more reliably than your breath weapon, there’s no telling what might fall out here.
- Proficiency bonus uses per long rest, and you can burn 2 ki points for another use. 2 ki is a tough price point for a monk thanks to Stunning Strike (everything in ki pricing is about Stunning Strike, unless it’s about Flurry of Blows), so even after 11th level you’re probably only spending ki for more in a seriously target-rich environment.
- Lots of physical disciplines say to focus on your breathing, but for a dragonborn monk, it really is the path to enlightenment!
- Wings Unfurled at 6th level lets you pop wings and gives you a flying speed until the end of your turn when you use Step of the Wind, and proficiency bonus uses per long rest. Monks with flying speeds are always going to seem like some peak wuxia movement to me, spectral wings or no.
- Aspect of the Wyrm at 11th level gives you a 10-foot aura for 1 minute, as a bonus action. Okay, this is starting to feel a little more like a dragon-themed paladin. The aura is either Frightful Presence or Resistance. This is 1/long rest, and you can expend 3 ki for another activation. Especially with resistance, it’s not hard to see how that would be worth it.
- Frightful Presence lets you choose one creature within the aura, and again as a bonus action each round after the first. The target rolls a Wis save, and they’re frightened for 1 minute on a failure, new saves each round. One-target-per-round is a little odd for an aura, but presenting it in a single feature alongside Resistance necessitates this.
- Resistance gives you and your allies (“allies” is always an interesting word choice in D&D, and usually they go for “creatures of your choice”) resistance to one of acid, cold, fire, lightning, or poison.
- One thing about smallish-radius effects, like this 10-foot resistance aura – WotC makes assumptions about how many allies you’re fitting into that area. When they make assumptions about party size in adventures, there are tools for adjusting that. For obvious reasons of complexity, not so much for class and subclass features.
- Ascendant Aspect at 17th level grants three new features. It’s not that often that we see a subclass’s final feature do this much different stuff, and I can’t help but wonder about the design conversations that drove this. Oh, I see, two of the three are just cranking up the volume on lower-level features. That works.
- Augment Breath lets you add a 1-pt ki spend (now that you have piles of ki and can spare 1) to your Breath of the Dragon, expanding the area to a 60-foot cone or 90-foot line (still 5 feet wide) and adding a fourth MA die to the damage. Very nice to have.
- Blindsight, 10-ft radius. Nigh-immunity to invisible melee attackers is very useful in tier 4, I would imagine.
- Explosive Fury adds a 3d10 damage blast when you activate Aspect of the Wyrm, affecting creatures of your choice in the aura. It is an acid, cold, fire, lightning, or poison blast, and unlike all the other Dex saves this subclass uses, this one is no damage on a success.
I can’t think of another monastic tradition that pays the monk to think about positioning, keeping opponents clustered, and moving into and out of being surrounded quite like this one does. It’s driven by cone, line, and point-blank sphere AoEs – still playable in theater of the mind, of course, but enjoying some of its most rewarding play on a grid.
I love what I see here, and I think you’re making an odd choice if you start a Four Elements Total Landscaping monk rather than an Ascendant Dragon monk (assuming you have access to both, obviously) any time before the ’24 revision. (I don’t know anything about what will change for 4ETL monks in the revision, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that the subclass is reviled in surveys.)
Drakewarden Ranger Archetype Conclave
This is “what if Beast Master, but a lesser dragon rather than a beast.” Something dragon-like as a companion to a hero has been popular for a long, long time (Kitty Pryde), so making a pet subclass? Heck yeah. Also, the Drakewarden Origin table is six different kinds of amazing.
- Draconic Gift teaches you thaumaturgy and makes it a ranger spell for you (probably for draconic roars?) and teaches you Draconic or another language of your choice (in case you started with Draconic, probably).
- Drake Companion is the headliner feature of the whole subclass. Getting one specific rapper to follow you around is probably good for making new memes, but seems like an odd choice for com… I’m being informed this is neither the rapper nor the male duck.
- If you read the new stat template version of beast companions in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, the basic format here won’t be a surprise. The dragon starts out Small, and has an essence of acid, cold, fire, lightning, or poison. It also has a reaction to grant a nearby creature that hits with an attack +1d6 damage on that strike, sharing the damage flavor of its essence. The dragon does pretty well on AC (14 + PB).
- It’s weird to me that the dragon doesn’t deal 1d6 plus Strength plus proficiency bonus. Coming in a point below 1d6 + Str for two levels is not the nicest surprise.
- Commanding the drake to do stuff other than use its reaction, move, or Dodge costs your bonus action. Another cruel blow against two-weapon-fighting (Using a greatsword or longbow, with the drake as your “off-hand weapon,” means you can really embarrass TWF rangers.) The drake acts on its own if you’re incapacitated, which I’ve always liked as seizing a way to keep the player in the action.
- You get to change the draconic essence (damage flavor) of your dragon each time you summon it. Man, that reads like you have a close personal relationship with Tiamat to me, even if the flavor text nudges you a little more toward Mister Canaries.
- You get one free summon per long rest, and each summon after that costs a spell slot of 1st level or higher.
- Bond of Fang and Scale at 7th level gives you a raft of new Stuff.
- Your dragon now has wings and a flying speed equal to its walking speed.
- Your dragon is now Medium, and if you are Medium (!) or smaller, you can ride it, but it can’t carry you while flying yet. Honestly surprised to see a Medium mount/Medium rider, but it’s so much better than “Small rangers are objectively better Beast Masters.”
- Your dragon’s Bite deals +1d6 damage of the dragon’s essence type. (So you’re getting offhand + hunter’s mark +3 damage; at most this is losing 1-2 points of damage you could be dealing with Two Weapon fighting style and an +4 or +5 Dex.)
- You gain resistance to your dragon’s essence damage type.
- Drake’s Breath at 11th level gives you a 30-ft cone breath weapon, using your dragon’s essence damage type and dealing 8d6 damage (10d6 at 15th level), and you can use either yourself or the dragon as the source. You get this 1/long rest, and you can burn a slot of 3rd level or higher for more uses.
- 8d6 damage (avg 28) is good if you’re catching multiple targets in the blast, but if you’re in a single-target situation, you’re probably better off with your attacks and the dragon’s Bite.
- Perfected Bond at 15th level gives you another collection of features. I probably owe a friend of mine an apology for discouraging the three-bullet feature model in a subclass he was working on.
- Your dragon’s Bite improves again, for a total of 1d6 piercing + PB + 2d6 energy.
- Your dragon grows to Large and can now fly while carrying you.
- “I am sworn to carry your burdens” –your dragon, probably (from another game all about dragons)
- Reflexive Resistance is kinda-sorta Uncanny Dodge, except that resistance doesn’t stack with resistance, and some things ignore resistance, so it’s weaker in some situations. Anyway, it costs your reaction and applies to one source of damage affecting you or your pet. You can use it proficiency bonus times per long rest. It’s still a great survivability boost – taking into account that at 15th level, your drake has 80 hit points, nice but not that sturdy in the face of late tier 3 damage.
I love the heck out of this subclass. The worst I can say of it is that like a lot of ranger subclasses, you need a good to great Wisdom to feel like you’re getting the most out of it. (Or: why my orc ranger went Hunter rather than Monster Slayer.) On the other hand, the dragon companion is awesome as hell and just gets cooler, and I think most of us are into getting to ride dragons and burn Thread out of the sky, right? (Holy forking shirtballs there are a lot of 15th-level rangers knocking around Pern.)
Heroes of the Dragon
There’s a cool d10 table of how your character is connected to dragons, along with classes most appropriate to each of those options. Numbers 1 and 3 on this table are your dragon knight/dragon cultist option, so that’s my one “absence” from the subclass list sorted. Number 2 is Argonnessen from Eberron.
Number 10 is how you eventually get Beowulf killed, you jerk. Don’t you understand that he’s going to uphold the comitatus code even when no one else does? Read a book!
In addition to being feats you can buy in place of an Ability Score Increase, the book also suggests using them (or any number of other feats) as Draconic Gifts, which might come from a dragon’s favor or from absorbing some of its essence after slaying it. Man, the Dark Souls vibe I get off that.
Gift of the Chromatic Dragon grants two features, Chromatic Infusion and Reactive Resistance. The first is +1d4 damage of a draconic energy type, for 1 minute, activated as a bonus action, 1/long rest. It’s sort of divine favor but without concentration. The second is a reactive resistance against acid, cold, fire, lightning, or poison for yourself – a lot like the Drakewarden’s Reflexive Resistance, all the way down to proficiency bonus uses per long rest.
Gift of the Gem Dragon gives you +1 to Int, Wis, or Cha, and Telekinetic Reprisal. When a nearby (10 ft) creature deals damage to you, you get to hit them back with 2d8 force damage and a 10-ft push. They get a Strength save to halve the damage and resist the push. Proficiency bonus uses per long rest, etc. It’s a nice panic button for getting enemies off a squishy caster, though you may not be pushing them far enough that they’re out of movement speed to re-engage with you.
Gift of the Metallic Dragon grants two features as well: Draconic Healing and Protective Wings. The first teaches you the cure wounds spell and gives you one free casting per long rest. The latter feature gives you a reaction to add your proficiency bonus to your AC or the AC of a creature within 5 feet that has been hit with an attack, potentially causing the attack to miss. Proficiency bonus uses per long rest, of course.
That brings us to the end of Chapter 1. As you see, it’s a lot – but the next chapter, Dragon Magic, is no slouch for players either, with spells, magic items, and supernatural gifts. I am a huge fan of this book so far and that opinion is here to stay.