Friday, October 13, 2006

d20 Tweaking: Dragons

This thread over at EN World is commenting on a recent article at the Wizard's web site by David Noonan.

The bit that I found interesting about the article - and the thread - was the belief that dragons-as-sorcerers is too complex and doesn't fit the concept of dragon's well. While I like the draconic connection to the sorcerer class, I have to agree that having a dragon casting a spell in combat just as a human or an elf would is kind of lame.

How would I fix this?

I'd make dragons more naturally magic. They aren't spellcaster so much as the living source of spells.

What the hell does that mean?

Well, first, a dragon should have spell-like abilities, rather than spells. A dragon shouldn't need spell components like a sorcerer does. (To me, the idea of a dragon using most material components is ridiculous.) These spell-like abilities could be chosen from the sorcerer spell list, and dragons might be very flexible in their use of them (to evoke the nature of the spontaneous caster). However, in my considered opinion, a dragon's spells shouldn't generally be used like spells - they should show up naturally in what a dragon does. It is kind of boring if the Blue Dragon casts Chain Lightning or shocking grasp. On the other hand, if it breathes lightning at a target and lightning arcs off of that target to strike all of its allies - or if the dragon bites you and its teeth - without warning - coruscate with electricity doing an extra 5d6 damage... well, I think either of those would be much cooler. If a dragon casts Hold Person, it is just a dragon casting a spell, but if all those who succumb to its frightful presence become subject to a Hold Person spell effect... again, this seems cool.

One way of accomplishing this would be to steal spell channelling abilities from classes like the Duskblade or Spellsword or Enlightened Fist. Additionally, we could create a feat that allow a dragon to attach a spell effect to its Frightful Presence... which, incidentally, begins to look a wee bit like that Draconic Aura thing that Wizards has been into lately.

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