Review: “Draconomicon”

Overview: Draconomicon is the newest sourcebook for 4e DMs, focusing on the Chromatic Dragon family. The book contains background and ecology for all the chromatic dragons (including several dragons reconcepted into the chromatic family), new rules for draconic lairs, new dragon-themed artifacts and rituals, draconic encounters, new dragon monster write-ups, famous dragons (including stats for Tiamat herself), and other dragon-related monsters.

Details: Draconomicon is hardcover, 255 pages, full color. Retail price: $40. 

In-depth: The 3.5e Draconomicon is one of the best looking books that WotC has ever put out. In terms of presentation they tossed out all the rules of what D&D books should look like and made an incredible looking product. In terms of content, the book was crammed with useful information for both players and DMs. However, the content that I used the most was the fully statted out dragons, something that had to be assembled (a time consuming process that couldn’t be done on the fly) from the Monster Manual

Now, 4e doesn’t have the same issue with dragons stat-blocks, but it still manages to cram plenty of content into the pages. The biggest difference between the previous one and the new one is the total DM focus of the 4e version. There are no paragon paths for dragon slayers (you can find that in Dragon magazine) but you will find plenty of new monsters and encounter templates. Other than for possibly some new rituals, there is nothing that players will ever use out of the book. The primary overlap between the two books is in the dragon anatomy and background, though expanded to include the new chromatic types.

Speaking of which, I’ll assume you know the old chromatics. Here’s the new ones:

  • Brown Dragons: Epicurious sand dragons.
  • Gray Dragons: Stone/fang dragons.
  • Purple Dragons: Underground psychic dragons destroyed by sunlight.

Plenty of focus is given to describing the new types of dragons, but other dragons are also in the mix. There’s planar dragons who were chromatics then changed by the other planes. There’s also a variety of undead dragons (including several types of dracolichs.) After that come monsters that are associated with dragons, including new dragonborn and kobolds (and the famous kobold victory chart makes it appearance in print.)

One of the last sections in the book covers famous dragons. The most famous one is the Queen of Evil Dragons herself, Tiamat. She’s listed as a level 35 solo brute, and a god. This puts her at the top end of the spectrum of fightable creatures, but also specifically lists how she is a god and thus not easily defeatable. Suggestions are given for epic quests that must be undertaken in order to actually destroy Tiamat. I find this a great way to handle a potential epic end to a campaign, and much more useful than previous god stats.

The bulk of the middle of the book involve campaign elements in the game, specifically some major encounter areas (complete with maps) revolving around dragons and hoard creation rules. I’ve never been a big fan of detailing out treasure piles too much: players don’t tend to care how much of the hoard are objects d’art and how many are gems and how many coins there are, they just want to know the gp total. However, interestingly, this is the first place you can get costs for trade goods in 4e. An odd place to find the information, for sure.

Conclusion: Draconomicon has plenty of useful DM material, from adventure ideas to campaign ideas to plenty of new monsters. The dragon backgrounds, lair/horde rules, and encounters are useful across any system, though obviously 4e DMs will get plenty more out of the book. There are stats for tons of new monsters and various other rules that fit with 4e. It’s a no-brainer for any 4e DMs wishing to run heavily draconic campaigns, and a worthy purchase for other DMs as well.

About Dave

Dave "The Game" Chalker is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Critical Hits. Since 2005, he has been bringing readers game news and advice, as well as editing nearly everything published here. He is the designer of the Origins Award-winning Get Bit!, a freelance designer and developer, son of a science fiction author, and a Master of Arts. He lives in MD with e, the Geek's Dream Girl.

Comments

  1. Nice review! I just picked up this book and started reading it a few nights ago. It is very cool. Oh, and purple dragons are wayyy niftier than red dragons. (I don’t think Expy reads the comments here, so I can say that!)

    Geek’s Dream Girl´s last post: An Adventurer’s Guide To Thanksgiving Survival

  2. You forgot to mention that they have astral dragon/pact dragon rules for all the Githyanki swordmage/dragon riders out there…

    joshx0rfz´s last post: YouTube Tuesday: Singing about Kissing Wookies Edition

  3. Good review. I never really liked dragons much, but I can’t not like a book with loads of monster crunch.

    Wyatt´s last post: Turbulent Thoughts: Around The Net

  4. Very good review, and I agree on all points. Wasn’t even a very big dragon fan until this one came along, and now I’ve got a scuffle with a Black in my next session.

  5. Not fans of Dragons? So what, you guys do it all just for the Dungeons?

    Very happy to see the Kobold Victory Chart in print, the only problem is that it so rarely gets to be used!

  6. Good Christmas present for a dm that doesn’t have it.

    Samuel Van Der Wall´s last post: Fun With 3D Maps

  7. Good review! I wasn’t sure about this book as I already have the 3.5 Draconomicon but it does sound both useful and an interesting read.

    RichGreen´s last post: Eagles 4 Robins 2

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