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Thread: Dragon Magic
Monday, 5th February, 2007, 03:05 AM #1
The Great Druid (Lvl 17)
It's nice when you're thinking of a campaign concept that's just a little "non-core" and wotc releases a product that supports your idea. It happened to me a few years ago when I wanted to build an ice world and Frostburn was released a week later. It's happening again with Dragon Magic.
I want to make a world where the dragons are the ruling powers, and dragon magic supports this idea rather well. However, it is not just a dragon-themed book (such as, say, draconomicon), but rather a book designed for Dragon-themed player characters.
The book is designed much like other splatbooks - the excellent Player's Handbook II is the one that springs quickly to mind. In essence, it provides a bunch of options for the player that wants to be just a little more draconic. It works, although it definately has it's faults.
The first chapter is all about character races classes. The races seemed a bit boring to me - Humans that have a bit of silver dragon in them, hobgoblins that work with blue dragons, and so on and so forth. I thought the races were generally boring, much like the races encountered in the environment series.
The classes part of the chapter was much more interesting, though. It provides options for many character classes, where you can sub out one ability in exchange for another. These are things I *love*, so I jump at the chance to see new ones. Some are not that useful unless your game REVOLVES around dragons (rogues being able to steal a dragon's breath weapon, for example), while others just make your character a bit more draconic (fighters who gain draconic scales instead of armour proficiency is kind of cool, as are draconic druids). One thing I really liked in this part of the book was the support for the Dragon Shaman - I have one in my group, and he jumped at the Shamanic Invocation feature. Now, his dragon shaman has one less aura, but can cast detect magic and identify at will, which has come in pretty handy.
Chapter one also includes feats, which is sort of handy - usually these splatbooks make feats a chapter of it's own. The feats are either ceremonial feats (neat little things that let you perform a ceremony tied to a skill use that give you and your group a variety of powers), initiate feats (which add spells to your cleric spell list), and draconic feats (which expand upon your sorcerer's abilities, and make the class just a little bit more interesting).
Really, the feats are only so-so in my eyes, and I'm a little ticked off by the initiate feats - since they're tied to a draconic deity, but those deities are not explained in the book (I think they're found in Races of the Dragon, but I can't confirm this), it's pretty hard to tell the focus of the dragon god Io, for instance. I also do not like the feat that grants a willing character access to a draconic aura (as found in the PHB2) - being able to replicate another class's primary ability for the cost of one feat seems pretty lame to me. Imagine being to burn one feat to get sneak attack, evasion, or a monk's unarmed damage. Thumbs down to that one.
Chapter two, Dragon Aspirants, introduces the Dragonfire Adept. This class is a lot like the warlock in that it can cast unlimited spells and has a blast attack. However, the dragonfire's "blast attack" is a breath weapon, and the class knows far fewer invocations. It's a neat class, and my dragon shaman player has expressed interest in playing it sometime in the future. One thing that's kind of neat about the class is that, unlike the dragon shaman, the Adept is not tied to any particular dragon type. The one big miff I have with the class is that it gains access to draconic feats, but doesn't explain how these interactions work. For example, there's a draconic feat that lets a character heal hit points each time he casts a spell. A dragonfire adept qualifies for the feat, but can cast spells an unlimited number of times perday. Seems a bit broken to me.
The rest of chapter two consists of prestige classes. These are in the new "expanded format", meaning it takes a couple of pages per class... which would be pretty cool, were it not for the general lameness in the PrCs. Really, I thought this was the weakest part of the book. Take a look at the options -
Diamond Dragon - Dragon-themed class aimed towards psions. Can channel various draconic features.
Dragon Descendant - dragon-themed class aimed towards monks. Can tap into various draconic features.
Dragon Lord - dragon-themed class aimed towards fighters. Gains a dragon shaman's auras (grrr....) and taps into draconic fear effects.
Hand of the Winged Masters - dragon-themed class aimed towards rogues. Character can make a few dragon-like attacks. The PrC represents a rogue cell that, unknown to the members, is run by a dragon. Of course, this is stupid, since the player reading the book will know right off the bat that his organization is run by dragons.
The Pact-Bound Adept- a Dragon-themed class aimed towards sorcerers. Possibly the only good PrC in the book, it takes advantage of pact magic, described later on.
The Swift Wing - A dragon-themed class aimed towards clerics. *yawn*
Wyrm Wizard - a dragon-themed class aimed towards arcane casters. The character studies dragons, and learns some of their magic... and loses 3 levels of spellcasting ability for it. Also, the class grants access to low-level divine spells... how dragons can teach wizards spells the dragons themselves don't know is beyond me.
Chapter three gets better. It's draconic magic, and it gives us a bunch of new spells (about ten pages' worth) that generally seem interesting. There's a Wu Jen spell, Channel The Dragon, that grants the casters some minor dragon elements that seems kind of cool. There's a few polymorph spells that grant draconic forms (very cool, by the way,since a statblock is included), and, my personal favourite - hoard gullet, a spell that lets the caster create a bag of holding in his stomach that carries anything he can swallow. Fun stuff, that.
We also get a couple of psionic powers, a page or two of invocations for the dragonfire adept, a page of warlock invocations, some draconic soulmelds (for those who actually bought Magic of Incarnum), a new Vestige (from Tome of Magic), and a few new Draconic Auras (From Players' Handbook II).
The chapter also introduces dragon pacts, which let a spontaneous caster lose a spell slot in order to gain a few spell-like abilities. While they're mechanically very simple (and that's a good thing), they serve as a way to tie a sorcerer character to a draconic being. This is cool, because it supplies all sorts of role-playing opportunities. Also, it's very easy to create your own dragonpacts - there are a bunch listed already, though. I plan on using dragonpacts in my game quite heavily, although I think I might expand them a bit to allow wizards access to 'em.
We also get some new Draconic Companion Spirits (DMG 2), and five pages of magic items in the new format - none really leapt out at me, but they all seem pretty decent and unbroken. There's also a new legacy item, from Weapons of Legacy.
Dweomered Dragon Scales are a cool new feature - basically, they're a dragon's scale that is imbued with an ability that benefits the scale's wearer. They function much like normal magical items, and are functionally exactly like magical items. A sidebar discusses making dragonscales special, something I fully endorse. To be honest, the scales sort of remind me of the movie Dragonheart - a dragon bequeaths a scale onto a mortal, who uses the dragon's powers to his advantage.
We also get a few draconic beasts in chapter 4 - an aspect of both bahamut and tiamat, "Drakken" creatures (animals that have been infused with the essence of dragons over a very long period of time), the spell-eater (a dragon that eats magic... fun stuff!), and the twilight guardian - a plant that is imbused with the essence of a dead dragon nearby. There are other monsters, but those were my favourite. It's a pity the Drakken weren't developed further - there's only three example monsters given (a horse, a bird, and a hunting cat). I'd rather see a template that could turn animals INTO drakken.
This chapter also gives variant draconic abilities - much like variant class abilities, where one ability is subbed out for another. This is great - I can get rid of a dragon's frightful presence (which I always forget about until the fifth round of combat) in exchange for the dragon, say, dealing fire damage every round. There are a LOT of these variant abilities, and I really think they make dragons a bit more mysterious.
The final chapter deals with incorporating dragons more into your campaign world. I found this chapter to be an excellent read, describing how and why dragons would become kings. While I didn't read much in this chapter that fit with my idea for a dragon-run world (my world would be based on the roman republic, whereas this book sees dragons as being much more monarchic in nature), I thought it shed light on how to put dragons in your campaign. In fact, there are several campaign models for the GM writing up a new world - and they all seem great.
The chapter also gives us new affiliations (which I skimmed - the affiliation rules from PHB 2 confuse me), as well as maps of draconic lairs (very handy!), libraries, religious sites... they're very well done. There is also a mini-adventure, the battle of dragon fall - a 7 page adventure aimed towards 12th level characters.
This book is pretty good, as far as splat books go, but it's not the cream of the crop. The prestige classes are a bit weak, and there are some mechanical issues that show up. I found the PrCs to be a bit on the stale side (I really hate the dragon lord!). Also, the book expands upon a lot of existing books - which is great if you have them, but terrible if you don't. While I have a bunch of D&D books, I cannot use around ten pages of the book because I lack access to the Expanded Psionics Handbook, Weapons of Legacy, Magic of Incarnum, Race of the Dragon, and Tome of Magic. I really wish, instead, that the book focused on providing new rules for draconic games - the dragon scales and dragonpacts were great additions, and I know I'll find a use for both.
Also, I'm a bit surprised that wotc hasn't printed the dragon monster classes that were originally published in dragon magazine. I would have thought that dragon player characters would have been an obvious addition to this book. Also, there's very little in the book aimed towards half-dragon PCs... again, a fairly big oversight.
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