• The Infractions Forum is available for public view. Please note that if you have been suspended you will need to open a private/incognito browser window to view it.

[Let's Read] 4e Dragon & Dungeon Magazine: Monster Articles

Gilphon

Registered User
Validated User
I enjoy the heck out of Catastrophic Dragons, although I use them less as 'elemental dragons' and more 'dragon-shaped elementals'- Sometimes you want something a bit more dramatic and exciting to back up a bunch of standard elementals, and Jinn aren't always quite the flavour you're going for.

So when a BBEG decides to carry out a ritual to cause a massive avalanche, crushing the Dwarves that live the mountain to pulp, I describe the energy of destruction he's harassing as binding the rock and wind together, creating a distinctly draconic shape as everything around the site shakes and trembles, a prelude to the disaster to come.
 

VoidDrifter

Registered User
Validated User
Since we made a new page, I figured I could go ahead and post the other half of the Catastrophic Dragons article. I hope you folks will forgive me.

Bestiary: Catastrophic Dragons (Part 2)
Catastrophic Breeding
Catastrophic Dragons rampage for many reasons; rage, avarice, sheer love of wanton destruction. But first and foremost, they rampage to reproduce. As discussed in the first half of this article, the elemental transition has stripped this family of dragons of biological genders. Instead, when a catastrophic dragon of at least adult age participates in an elemental cataclysm (aka, the disasters they take their names from), there is a chance that one or more catastrophic dragon eggs will form in the area. In fact, they have been known to spontaneously form when a disaster of sufficient magnitude occurs. This process is known as "imprinting".

Each breed of catastrophic dragon reproduces at a different rate; dragons who catastrophes occur on seasonal basis, such as avalanche and typhoon dragons, tend to reproduce yearly, whilst others reproduce at a far more intermittent schedule. Likewise, the viability is also unpredictable; catastrophic dragons who imprint more frequently tend to have a lower success and survival rate. Even the gestation period isn't fixed, but instead depends on the frequency and intensity of elemental forces affecting the local environments; they have been known to hatch in everything from a few months to decades after being formed.

Catastrophic dragon eggs appear as nodules of elemental whose size, shape, consistency and structure varies depending on the progenitor. The one constant between all such eggs is that they are sources of raw elemental power, and this makes them valuable... and dangerous. Outside of their original spawning ground, a catastrophic egg becomes very fragile, ready to explode at a moment's notice - beyond killing anybody nearby in an outburst of elemental energy, these could have other effects, such as permanently altering the terrain or landscape, or even drawing the attention of a catastrophic dragon.

Despite this, catastrophic dragon eggs remain valuable. It doesn't actually explain why, beyond the ability to transform them into basically arcane grenades. Stats for the eggs in their various forms, and rules on using the Enchant Magic Item ritual to make them into grenades, are presented.


Tornado Dragons
Tornado dragons are fearsome storm elementals crafted from heartbroken dragons by Yan-C-Bin in the wake of Io's death. He poisoned them against the gods and the mortal races, and sought to use them as a weapon to free the Chained God; their rampage was ended by Bahamut and his seven golden dragon exarches. Ever since then, tornado dragons have haunted the wilderness; some remain loyal to Yan-C-Bin, others seek to escape him, but all scorn the world and despise mortals.

Fortunately, tornado dragons prefer to roam the untamed prairies, savannahs and forests, though isolated settlements are likely to come under attack; tornado dragons love to hunt, despite no longer needing food, and their contempt for humanoids means they enjoy tearing down borderland settlements. The main reason these monsters survive is that they show an almost instinctive fear of and deference to other dragons; even then, their fickle natures and violent tempers often result in nasty outbursts agsainst creatures too dangerous for them to fight.

Known variously as "sky demons", "heaven's swords" and "sword dragons", these fierce-tempered creatures are inherently flighty, roaming the land wildly and rarely spending too long in any one place. Uniquely amongst dragons, they always maintain multiple lairs, cycling between them. Whilst they may sometimes cultivate mortal servants, these are inevitably cast aside violently; the only kinship that tornado dragons feel is for other air elementals, such as storm giants, djinn, and typhoon dragons.

Mechanically, Tornado Dragons are Lurkers whose special Whirling Winds aura grants them partial concealment against enemies within the aura. They rake at foes with claws of lightning and savage them with teeth of freezing cold ice.


Wildfire Dragons
When Erek-Hus slew Io, he found himself pursued by an enormous pack of red and gold dragons, united in an almost insane desire for vengeance on their creator's killer. Fearful that they might overcome him, Erek-Hus lured them through a portal to the realm of Imix, Prince of Fire, who sought to corrupt them to his service. He turned their own fire against them, reducing them to vaguely dragon-shaped masses of animated flame, smoke and cinders... but then he realized that even this would not bend them to his will. Disgusted, he cast them out of his realm.

But Imix did achieve one thing: he reshaped their thirst for vengeance into a need to unleash purifying flame. Whether they couch this in terms of a hunger for destruction or a need to uphold the sacred cycle of birth, death and regrowth through purifying flame, wildfire dragons live to burn. As such, they are amongst the most systemic of the catastrophic dragons, spending long periods of time in dormancy in between their destructive rampages.

These dragons are highly territorial; they care only about their territory and their need to regularly subject it to a fiery cleansing. They don't work well with others, and whilst fiery elementals or creatures are often drawn to their presence, the wildfire dragons are quick to turn on them after more pressing threats are defeated. In fact, uniquely amongst the catastrophic dragons, wildfire dragons despise the primordials; they will immediately attack any servitor or would-be ally of the primordials they become aware of.

Humanoid cults often form around wildfire dragons, exemplifying and honoring them as either icons of destruction or as symbols of rebirth. The former prefer to unleash wildfire dragons to ravage the world; the latter, who are most likely to form around wildfire dragons that dwell in settled lands, attempt to appease it and control its hunger for fiery destruction with annual burnings of croplands and forests.

Wildfire dragons are Skirmishers. Their Aura is Withering Heat, which causes any creature that ends its turn therre to take no actions until the start of its next turn and take Fire damage. They can also enter enemy spaces during their movement, a trait called Flash Fire. They wield fiery bite and claw attacks, and their Sudden Conflagration ability lets them make a half-speed shift that causes fire damage on anyone whose space they pass through. As these are some of the fastest dragons in the game - Speed 6 and Fly 6 as Wyrmlings, upgrading to Speed/Fly 8 at Young Adult and Speed/Fly 10 at Elder - this is nothing to sneeze at.


Closing Thoughts:
What is there to say that I didn't say in part one? I love the Catastrophic Dragons, and I think they're a great addition to the World Axis.

I forgot to mention in my previous part; Typhoon Dragons are Brutes whose special Aura, Grasping Winds, becomes difficult terrain that opponents cannot shift it. They attack with claws and an electrified bite.

We're down to our last three Dragon articles! Issue #427 houses Bestiary: The Lost World and Ecology of the Neogi, whilst Dragon #430 will give us the Ecology of the Kruthik!
 

Lysus

Unbelievably Fancy Ostrich
Validated User
Based on these summaries, the catastrophic dragons seem loaded with flavor. I'm not particularly attached to the D&D paradigm of color dragons bad, metal dragons good, so this is the type of thing I might pilfer while homebrewing to be the primary dragon type. It certainly feels more distinctive than the typical dragons.
 

NobodyImportant

Registered User
Validated User
Stats for the eggs in their various forms, and rules on using the Enchant Magic Item ritual to make them into grenades, are presented.
I know DnD doesn’t like treating dragons like the people they are, but I’m surprised the monstrosity of this action doesn’t get so much as a passing comment.
 

MoutonRustique

Registered User
Validated User
These dragons were an introduction of some of the coolest mechanics around!

4e is an awesome tactical game - that's a given - but there's still a fairly low amount of "telegraphed" moves or tactics from the enemy. I mean, officially, even the recharge roll is meant to be done at the start of a creature's turn : players can't even react to it (unless you have an intense love of "ready action"...)

These guys changed all that.

AND they're super cool : cool lore, awesome look, easy to use in any setting, primed for re-flavouring, and on, and on! Just the Bee's Knees!
 

VoidDrifter

Registered User
Validated User
Bestiary: The Lost World
Opening Thoughts:
Who here likes prehistoric creatures? Who likes lost worlds full of anachronistic beasts forgotten by time? I grew up in Australia in the late 80s, so my childhood was full of 60s-80s cartoons like Dino Boy in the Lost Valley or Land of the Lost - I was a huge dinosaur nut. But, somehow, I never quite grokked the love of adding them to D&D.

Because that's what this article is all about. Since dinosaurs are traditionally well-represented, but the other fascinating prehistoric beasties aren't, this article adds seven new prehistoric monsters to the Nentir Vale that aren't bound to the usual "dinosaur and dinosaur-like reptiles paradigm". Sadly, there's not a lot of fluff here, but hey, that should let us make it through things fairly quickly, right?


Udrakes:
Combining reptilian appearances with fur and mammalian mobility, urdrakes are a strange blend of reptile and mammal that commonly found in areas inhabited by behemoths and drakes. In case it's not obvious, these critters are the "D&Dification" mammal-like reptiles.

Two specific urdrakes are discussed in this article.

Venomous Urdrakes, which are based on Euchambersia, are pack-hunting predators which rely on a combination of their mobility, their tactics, and their venomous bites to bring down prey. They are relatively easy to train, and kobolds, lizardfolk, and tropical-dwelling goblins all enjoy using them in a manner similar to hunting dogs; they are easiest to train in groups. These are level 2 Skirmishers.

Sabermaw Urdrakes are muscular brutes; 12 feet long, 3ft high at the shoulder, and with a single pair of enormous dagger-length fangs earning their moniker. Based on the Inostrancevia, sabermaws use their oversized teeth to deliver savage, rending bites, favoring a "bite and release" strategy in which the victim is then allowed to bleed out after the sabermaw has delivered a few good chomps. They can be trained to accept riders, and are popular with goblinoids of all stripes as well as gnolls. These are level 7 Brute Mounts.


Sea Scorpions:
As their name suggests, these are the aquatic cousins of common scorpions - the eurypterids. They vary from foot-long swift-swimming hunters to ogre-sized specimens as dangerous as sharks. Fortunately, unlike their land-dwelling kindred, the need to use their tails as paddles prohibits them from wielding venom. Instead, they use barbed claws and crushing pincers to rip, tear and mangle their victims. Sahuagin are known to use them as penned-up guardians or as expendable battle-beasts.

Once again, two varieties are presented for our edification.

Spiny Sea Scorpions are small but vicious swarming carnivores. They're minor predators who mostly scavenge from the kills of bigger beasts, like sharks and crocodiles. Still, when prey appears, they launch themselves at it, seeking to scythe it apart with their barbed pincers. These are level 1 Skirmishers based on the Mixopterus.

Sea Scorpions, in this article, are converted Jaekelopterus; these are amongst the biggest sea scorpions, and are ambush predators, concealing themselves on the water bottom and making explosive attacks against vulnerable prey. If their first strike fails to be a kill, these sea scorpions will retreat and stir up a silt cloud in order to hide, hoping to make a second ambush strike. If things go south for it, the sea scorpion will also stir up a silt cloud to cover its escape. This is a level 6 Skirmisher.


Urbeasts:
Like the behemoths (a monster type I actually don't recall existing), urbeasts are hulking mammalian creatures believed to have existed since the dawn of time. Some sages believe they are the last survivors of a nearly extinct order of beasts, whilst others speculate that they are ancestors to more common creatures, such as wolves, hyenas and rhinos. Regardless, savage humanoids such as gnolls, orcs and hobgoblins love to train them as mounts and muscle.

In case it's not obvious, these are our prehistoric mammals; three of them, in fact.

Bonecracker Urbeasts are legendary for the strength of their bite - which only makes sense, since they're based on the hyena-like Andrewsarchus. They occasionally hunt in packs, but prefer to attack as individuals. Gnolls love them, and chieftains in particular revel in riding them into battle. These are level 9 Brutes.

Ironclaw Urbeasts are multi-ton behemoths of fur and muscle, adorned with subdermal armor plating and wielding armor-shearing claws. Worse, they are extremely belligerent, almost completely fearless, and bad-tempered. Though trainable to a point, when in combat, they become all but impossible to control. Rearing up on their hind legs, they slash out wildly, grabbing whatever has earned their ire and dashing it to the ground so they can rip them open. It's pretty obvious that these are based on the infamous Megatherium, even without the direct name admission. These are level 11 Elite Brutes.

Groundshaker Urbeasts are the biggest monsters in this article; growing to statures that rival dragons, these peaceful herbivores make formidable beasts of war, their sheer size and strength allowing them to crush, stomp and trample smaller creatures whilst also bearing whole squads of warriors into the fray. This Gargantuan level 13 Elite Brute is, of course, based on the Paraceratherium.


Closing Thoughts:
This is one of those articles you kind of need to be sold on going in. It knows what it wants to do, and it does it well, but it doesn't put any fripperies on it, which I honestly think is a disappointment. More fluff would have really sold this article and made it greater, but if you were already itching for more prehistoric monsters to feature in your 4e campaign? This article has you covered.

Also, the article's introductory artwork is really, really awesome. Kudos to the artist for trying to embrace the idea that these are monsters inspired by prehistoric beasts, not just prehistoric beasts in a magical world.

As an aside, I know that a lot of people dislike 4e for going with made-up names for its dinosaurs, but I actually quite approve of it. For one, it gives them more verisimilitude than just using Latin. For another... those "elegant" Latin names? Tend to be the same kind of Nounverber Names that so many people dump on 4e for using. Tyrannosaurus Rex literally translates directly as Tyrant Lizard King. Nounverber naming is an OLD way of naming stuff in reality, so stop ragging on D&D for using it.

Anyway, we're down to our last two Dragon articles, and then we can start the Dungeon ones! It's an Ecology threeshot, with the Neogi, Kruthik, and Mithral Dragon to come!
 

VoidDrifter

Registered User
Validated User
Bumping this... I was kind of hoping to get at least one reply here, in order to pad things out before I tackle the Ecology of the Neogi. Unless anons think I should stop this...
 

Bira

Registered User
Validated User
By all means continue! Sorry for not posting earlier. I loved the concept of behemoths in the Monster Manual and I love these too. Go fantasy megafauna!
 

Gilphon

Registered User
Validated User
Weird prehistoric beasties is a fairly rich, mostly untapped vein for D&D monsters. This article... could do a better job of using that. The Urdrakes and Urbeasts simply aren't weird enough to stand out as D&D critters. And with Sea Scorpions... well, calling them that just makes me imagine a creature identical to scorpion, just underwater, which is again a less-than-inspiring thing that D&D. I understand that that's just what the real life animal group in called and really they have about as much in common with Scorpions as Sea Lions do with Lions, but I don't really get that from the article, which really could've used an illustration to sell the concept.
 

Bira

Registered User
Validated User
The lack of weirdness in these prehistoric creatures is precisely what I like about them! This tells me that their role is not to be an exotic monster only found in dungeon-like environments, but to be an everyday, perhaps even widely domesticated animal for the people who live in those worlds. The weirdness is not that, say, megatheriums exist, but that the most decorated military unit in the otherwise bog-standard Human Kingdom is the First Megatherium Cavalry. Or that the forests are plagued not by wolves, but by the fuzzy venomous drakes and/or terror birds who ate all the wolves ages ago.
 
Top Bottom