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Friday, January 16, 2015

Dungeons & Dragons - A Guide to Tiamat

by Wayne Reynolds

In this article, I am going to do my best to run down what is known about one of the most legendary monsters in D&D history: Tiamat, the five-headed dragon. I have gone through many different Dungeons & Dragons products and can now present to you a fairly definitive look at one of the most popular villains in the game.

I'm sure I've missed some stuff, but this should give you a solid foundation of knowledge to help run Tiamat effectively.

First I'm going to go over a few miscellaneous things about Tiamat. Then I will run down details about Tiamat from each edition of Dungeons & Dragons.

Tiamat Is Not Takhisis?

Takhisis by Clyde Caldwell
In the Dragonlance setting, there is a goddess named Takhisis who is very similar to Tiamat. Different products say different things about what the deal is with these two. Some suggest that they are the same being, others say that they are aspects of each other.

Apparently, the Planescape supplement On Hallowed Ground presents them as completely separate entities. In Tiamat's Monster Mythology entry, there is a vague notation:

In the 5e book Fizban's Treasury of Dragons, it is made official: Takhisis is Tiamat.

Tiamat from the Dungeons & Dragons Animated Series

Tiamat on the cartoon is this sort of other-villain, a force of nature that hates the heroes and their enemy Venger, alike. Tiamat is shown to have multiple lairs. She often dwells in this weird demiplane known as the Dragon's Graveyard, a place where magic items are more powerful.

I am usually not one to advocate for Wizards of the Coast to use material from the cheesy 80's cartoon, but I'd love to see the dragon's graveyard worked in to official lore. It's much cooler than a lot of the stuff Tiamat is involved with in the D&D game. It feels "special", like it should.

Tiamat Miniatures

There's two Tiamat miniatures made for the game. The old one shows Tiamat on her feet, while the new one shows her flying in the air. They're both expensive, but very cool to own. 

AD&D 1st Edition

In the 1e Monster Manual, Tiamat is listed under "Chromatic Dragon.". From what I understand, in the original D&D white box, Tiamat is called "The Chromatic Dragon". We learn that:
  • She rules the first plane of the Nine Hells where she spawns all of evil dragonkind.
  • Her heads can cast spells, use breath weapons, or bite.
  • She can only use each breath weapon once per day.
  • Each head can cast two spells. The blue head casts 4th level spells, the red head casts 5th level spells.
  • If a head is cut off (it only takes 16 points of damage to do so) it grows back the next day.
  • She has five consorts in her lair.
  • If her body takes 48 points of damage, she is sent back to hell.
Dragon Magazine #38
Tiamat has a few spells

Lenard Lakofka strongly advises that Tiamat be made a deity. He offers a revised stat block, changing her AC from 0 to -3 (in old editions, a low AC is good). He submits that she is an arch devil and has a slew of at-will spells like Animate Dead and Teleportation. +2 or better weapon to hit her. Vorpal blades will not sever a head (!?) unless a natural 20 is rolled.

He lists her consorts and says that they can cast spells and that Tiamat gets rid of them when they get old. How shallow! He further notes that protection from evil/devil just plain do not work in hell.

I appreciate Lenard's zeal here. He is really trying to make sure Tiamat is a big deal. I also love the idea of a party of heroes fighting five dragons, one of each type, at the same time!

Dragon Magazine #75

I've covered this legendary Ed Greenwood "Nine Hells" article previously, but for the sake of completion... Her lair in hell is known as "The Dragonspawn Pits". When she mates, it is in a protective ring formed by the other four. Hmm.

She bears litters of 1-4 "mewlings" (I love Ed Greenwood). It says that most of her offspring are regular dragons, but any newborn spawn who are multi-headed are eaten by her!

Tiamat loves finding new 1st to 5th level spells.

Throne of Bloodstone

This is a really insane adventure for impossibly-high level PCs: "For Character Levels 18-100". The heroes learn that they can destroy the Wand of Orcus by dipping it in the blood from Tiamat's heart and bringing it to Bahamut, god of good dragons.

Bahamut himself teleports our heroes right to Tiamat's Den, and the heroes immediately battle Tiamat and her 5 consorts (one chromatic dragon of each color) in a combat arena.

If the PCs fail and flee, Bahamut is not happy. He teleports them back to Tiamat's Den, still wounded, and battle the bad guys again. Of course, Tiamat and her 5 consorts are fully healed. 

AD&D 2nd Edition

Monster Mythology

I love this book. In fact, I love most of these blue DM reference books from 2e.

This book talks a bit about Bahamut (the good guy dragon god) and Io, the supreme god of dragons. The flavor for Io is beyond Epic. "Io is the creator of all dragonkind, father of the Sleeping Deep Dragons whose spirits lie at the core of many worlds still, the whose blood, thoughts, and life force established the ground for creation and sustain it still"

In 4th edition, they altered this a bit. Io was cut in half by a primordial, and the two halves became Bahamut and Tiamat. There is an epic destiny that allows a PC to unite Tiamat and Bahamut to re-form Io. It happened in my Scales of War campaign.

This is Io about to be cut in half by a primordial
Tiamat is a nasty lady: "...she enjoys such wretched pastimes as torture, bickering, and fighting among her consorts, as well as destroying valuables and treasures which her avatars bring to her.."
Her avatars bring her treasure? I don't get that. Isn't an avatar just a projection of herself?

Her stats are different:
  • Her AC got bumped to a -12!
  • Each of her heads can use their breath weapons three times per day
  • Immune to all spells under 5th level
  • The Blue head's breath weapon does 14d12+14! Can you imagine rolling 14 d12's at once? They'd roll all over the place.
The author did a fantastic job of fitting tons of info into a single page

Planescape - Fires of Dis

I went over this ad nauseum here. Part of this adventure details Tiamat's lair in Hell, except that the author declares that the heroes have no chance of battling the dragons or obtaining the treasure, so it is not detailed! There's cursed treasure, a wisdom-draining lake, super-hot gold, and a door to Dispater's realm that you have to crawl through.

Dragon Magazine 260


This is pretty awesome. An article on children of Tiamat!

An-Ur, The Wandering Death: He lives in the ethertal plane eating concentrated ethereal mist. He doesn't like fighting. He can summon ether cyclones that send you to some other plane. Eh.

Dhrakoth the Corrupter: A black dragon with scarred, oozing, membranous wings. This creature is the pinnacle of undeath. It breathes "pure decay", doing 10d8 damage and corrupting living tissue reducing a character's Charisma by d4 points! Wow. He also has an energy-drain breath weapon that drains 2 levels in one shot. Because he feeds on life energy, anyone slain by Dhrakoth cannot be raised or even wished back to life!

He can animate dead and commands a legion. Tiamat apparently created Dhrakoth by fusing his essence (he was a thing in the negative energy plane) with a dragon. While he works with Tiamat, his ultimate goal is to slay all living things.


Mordukhavar the Reaver: The spawn of Tiamat and a Pit Fiend (one of the Dark Eight, the generals of the Blood War). OK, that's just awesome. It has six attacks a round, all of them cause a save vs. poison. If you fail, you're in a coma for d4 rounds.

  • Breath Weapon #1: Hellfire! It does 22d10 damage.
  • Breath Weapon #2: Corrosive acid. 20d8 damage. If you fail your save, it may destroy your items!
Mordukhavar serves Tiamat and travels Hell doing her bidding. He also commands a legion and aspires to become one of the Dark Eight.

D&D 3rd Edition

Deities and Demigods

by Jeff Easley

AC: 69! You need a +4 weapon to hit her. She has blindsight for 10 miles. Each breath recharges in d4 rounds.

They even list her magic items. She's got a portable hole, an amulet of the planes, a cloak of displacement... all sorts of stuff.

The Red Hand of Doom

Azarr Kul by Howard Lyon

This adventure is considered by many to be one of the best adventures of the modern era. It is set in the generic Elsir Vale, a place revisited in the 4th edition semi-sequel Scales of War adventure path.

This adventure is about The Red Hand, a tribe of hobgoblins and monsters who worship Tiamat. One of their allies is a blue dragon named Tyrgaron. The heroes do all sorts of cool stuff in this adventure, like trying to recruit an elf army to battle The Red Hand. In the end, they must go to The Fane of Tiamat to take out the leader, Azarr Kul. 

I feel very conflicted about giving spoilers to the end of this adventure, so look away if there's any chance of you playing The Red Hand of Doom. You're ruining it for yourself..

Once Azarr Kul is slain, Tiamat tears the roof off and swallows his corpse. The heroes must battle an aspect of Tiamat.

If has an AC of 25 and 174 hit points. Each head can breathe every d4 rounds (doing 12d8 each!).

D&D 4th Edition

Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons

On page 158, there is a truly epic Tiamat trap. All five heads breathe. It nearly killed my entire party.

This trap is part of a mini-adventure called The Regnant Fane. The fane was created by none other than Azarr Kul before he was slain. Tiamat laid some eggs in here..! My heroes kept the eggs and raised the dragons as pets (this seems to happen a lot in my games).

Tiamat gets a full entry starting on page 244. "A nightmarish synthesis of hatred, rage and draconic might embodied in the form of a five-headed dragon."
  • She's the evil goddess of wealth. greed and envy.
  • All evil dragons pay homage to her.
  • She is rumored to have the ability to take the form of a dark-haired female mage.
  • In 4e, she lives in the Astral Sea, on a floating island called Tytherion. It's a place of gloom and lightless terror. This is a clean break from Tiamat being trapped in Hell, and I'm not sure why they did this. What's weird is that in the 4e cosmology, Hell is in the Astral Sea.
  • Her stats are crazy. She rolls initiative 5 times! One for each head. She can have all five heads breath at the same time, doing ongoing 25 acid/cold/fire/lightning/poison.
  • There's a few sidebars detailing deity discorporation and suggestions on how to slay Tiamat for good.
They still kept the Maggot Pit from Fires of Dis, though.

Dungeon Magazine #172 - Legacy of Io

Tiamat vs. Bahamut by William O'Connor

This is one of my favorite adventures of all time. It is part of the Scales of War adventure path, which is about Tiamat's evil schemes from start to finish. Rather than list each adventure in the path, I'm just going to discuss the two most directly relevant to Tiamat herself.

The plot of this adventure is that Tiamat has killed Bahamut. What our heroes don't know is that Bahamut had placed a portion of his essence in a deva named Amyria, an NPC who's been a part of our heroes for a very long time in the path. Amyria can be used to bring Bahamut back to life.

To stop Tiamat's schemes and to resurrect Bahamut, the must find an artifact known as The Arrow of Fate, a spear made of Io's blood. Way back in the Dawn War, Io was cut in two by a primordial. The two halves became Bahamut and Tiamat. The little leftover blood became the Arrow of Fate.

Dungeon #175 - Last Breath of the Dragon Queen

This is a fantastic adventure, the culmination of the Scales of War adventure path. Our heroes go into Tiamat's lair and kill her! I highly recommend that you take this lair and stick it in hell, over top of the "Fires of Dis" version.

Tiamat's lair is on Tytherion in an area known as Azharul. Her lair itself is known as the Caverns of Fiery Splendor. Bahamut gives our heroes canaries which can transform into gold dragon mounts to help them battle her.

Tiamat is on this platform way up in the air, held aloft by a twisting column of lava. At the base, there's five statues. If the PCs try to fly up to her, the statues fire disintegrator beams which pretty much just instantly kill you. Each of these statues is linked to an ancient dragon lurking in the lair. Killing the five ancient dragons deactivates the statues.

These five dragons are ancient brood mothers.

This is another odd thing about the 4e Tiamat. It says that "For all her power, Tiamat is unique among dragonkind and cannot lay eggs herself."

This not only contradicts lots of previous lore, it also contradicts the 4e Draconomicon.

  • Red Dragon Brood Mother: Lurks on islands in a vast pool of magma. She's pregnant with dragon eggs!
  • Green Dragon Brood Mother: She lurks in a a pool of water with many floating logs. She is attended two by a pair of dragonborn vampires.
  • White Dragon Brood Mother: She lurks in ice and water. Her eggs aren't hatching, so she tried using necrotic energy on them.
  • Black Dragon Brood Mother: She's in a forest of twisted trees.
  • Blue Dragon Brood Mother: She is in a dusty room with mini-cyclones flying about.


by Mike Schley

The final fight with Tiamat is beyond epic. When I ran this in 2010, I had to adjust the brood mother stats, as the 4e monster math often erred on the side of too many hit points, not enough damage. But the Tiamat fight went perfectly. This battle was the culmination of 114 sessions of D&D.

D&D 5th Edition

The Rise of Tiamat

The entire first storyline of 5th edition is about a cult trying to bring Tiamat out of Hell and into the world. So the whole "Tytherion" thing has been forgotten.

The plot culminates in the final episode, where two armies wage war as the cult tries to bring Tiamat through a portal. The heroes may only have to shut the portal off as she comes through, or they may have to battle her for the fate of the Forgotten Realms.

People online have complained that no party of 15th level PCs could kill her. I have no idea if this is true. I should find out in a few months when my party plays through this.

She has a lot of hit points but her AC isn't too high. My level 8 party fighter can hit her right now, though he has to roll pretty high.

She can cast Divine Word, which kills anyone with 20 hit points or less instantly!

Her legendary actions involve her 5 heads and the breath weapons. She can breathe twice per round, more or less. I wish they'd given her a combined breath weapon attack.

Baldur's Gate: Descent Into Avernus

Once the group gets to Avernus, they may interact with Tiamat, depending on what their plan is. Tiamat's servant, Arkhan the Cruel, will most likely speak on her behalf. It is possible that ultimately, Tiamat will help the group free the chained city of Elturel.

Tiamat's Stolen Treasure: A Dead Three cultist and a Duke of Baldur's Gate named Thalanna Vanthampur has possession of stolen money from the hoard of Tiamat (it was originally stolen by agents of Zariel, the archduke of Avernus).

In the Baldur's Gate section of this adventure, the heroes can find the stolen treasure, which is contained in 4 chests, and more is found in another area. Here's the total hoard:

  • 6,900 cp
  • 1,750 sp
  • 10 eye agates (10 gp each)
  • 20 azurite gemstones (10 gp each).
  • A delicate porcelain dragon mask (25 gp). Each spire is shaped and painted to resemble one of the five kinds of chromatic dragons.
  • A bronze crown with five spires (250 gp)
  • A broken ivory dagger called "Fang" worth 250 gp if repaired.
  • 2 potions of fire breath

4 cultists of Tiamat have been sent to Baldur's Gate by Arkhan the Cruel to find the stolen treasure.

Uldrak: An Empyrean who served Surtur. He tried to kill Tiamat, but failed, and was transformed into a spined devil (he needs some of Tiamat's blood to regain his former form).

Krull by David Sladek

Krull: A tortle death-priest of Tiamat. His shell is carved with runes that spell out prayers to Tiamat. He has 4 ghoul assistants. He can cast up to 7th-level spells, including anti-life shell, create undead, and regenerate.

Arkhan the Cruel by David Sladek

Arkhan the Cruel: A dragonborn who serves Tiamat and wields the Hand of Vecna. He lives in a tower on Avernus, and commands 50 skeletons, 30 zombies as well as 5 dragons:

  • Obtala: An adult white dragon 
  • Slarkas: A young black dragon
  • Vistalancer: A young blue dragon
  • Vermilius: A young green dragon
  • Flash: A red dragon wyrmling

The Hand of Vecna is slowly decomposing Arkhan's body on one side. He needs to use the Hand to snuff the life out of good-aligned creatures to stave off this effect. Arkhan wears a vial of Tiamat's blood around his neck.

One possibility in this adventure is that the group deposes Zariel with Tiamat's aid, and Arkhan takes her place as archduke.

Torogar Steelfist: Arkhan's bodyguard, Torogar is a minotaur with gauntlets of flaming fury.

Chango: Arkhan's minotaur companion.

Monument to Tiamat: This locale protects a tunnel that leads to Tiamat's lair. "A colossal dragon’s skull leans against a mountainside, surrounded by bones the size of houses. Acrid smoke rises from the skull’s maw."

A tunnel at the back of the skull leads to Tiamat's lair. Abishai of all colors nest in the caves behind the skull.

Burney: Burney appears to be a barber working at the Wandering Emporium of Avernus, but she is actually an ancient copper dragon in disguise. She is a spy who serves Bahamut. She is keeping an eye on Tiamat and her followers.

Fizban's Treasury of Dragons

by Tyler Jacobson

This book contains an ancient poem called the Elegy of the First World. It describes the origins of Tiamat and Bahamut. 

"...before the myriad worlds of the Material Plane came into being, before Oerth and Toril and Eberron and Krynn existed, the primordial dragons—Bahamut and Tiamat—worked together to create the Material Plane in the form of a single First World. All the worlds that now constitute the plane are, in the words of the poem, “seedling realities” formed when the First World was sundered in some unexplained catastrophe."

Sardior: Bahamut and Tiamat also created the first dragon: Sardior, a ruby dragon. "Sardior then joined with Bahamut to craft the metallic dragons and with Tiamat to craft the chromatic dragons. Some dragons who have studied the poem believe that Sardior was destroyed and shattered along with the First World and that the Ruby Dragon’s splintered consciousness became the gem dragons on the new worlds of the Material Plane."

Tiamat is known as "Tchazzar" in the Forgotten Realms.

Tiamat is known as "Takhisis" in the Dragonlance Setting.

Flail of Tiamat: A magic flail +3 that has five jagged heads shaped like the heads of five different chromatic dragons. The heads can breathe multicolored flames (you pick acid/cold/fire/lightning/poison) that do 14d6 damage.

by Chris Rahn

Tiamat is a God: "Bahamut and Tiamat, the primordial dragons and the purported creators of the First World, are the closest things to gods among dragonkind. Since they share the same fundamental connection to the Material Plane as their dragon offspring, Bahamut and Tiamat are ontologically distinct from the gods that hail from the Outer Planes. But for practical purposes, they are divine—worshiped by mortal creatures, able to grant cleric spells to their followers, and both ageless and immortal. Since the destruction of the First World, both primordial dragons now dwell in the Outer Planes—Bahamut on Mount Celestia and Tiamat in the Nine Hells."

Aspect of Tiamat: We learn a bit about Tiamat's current predicament:

"Since the destruction of the First World, she has dwelled in the Nine Hells—some say by choice. But others claim that she is imprisoned there to punish her for the evils she perpetrated when the gods sought to colonize the First World with their followers."

She remains in the Nine Hells, but Tiamat can send her aspect to manifest in the Material Plane.

Dragonborn of Tiamat: Also known as "Talons of Tiamat," these dragonborn struggle to free Tiamat from the Nine Hells. They often work with the Cult of the Dragon, and their breath weapon is shadowy fire (it does necrotic damage and frightens those hit by it.

That's what we have so far! Thanks for reading.


Timothy S. Brannan said...

I am enjoying the hell out your "deep dive" posts here.

Some guy said...

DMG page 285 on the Orb of Dragonkind

"The dragon essence within the orb might want many things: the annihilation of a particular people, freedom from the orb, to spread suffering in the world, to advance the worship of Takhisis (Tiamat's name on Krynn), or something else the DM decides.

Apparently 4e Dracnoicon stated they were the same deity as well.

Also according to the 5e DMG gods can differ in Divine Rank on different worlds depending on their following there. Takhisis after all is a greater god, While Tiamat is a lesser god in most settings.

Sean said...

Timothy: Thanks!

Unknown: I'd like to hear wizards talk about how different settings co-exist. In 4e there was "the world", which I guess meant that other campaign worlds were i other dimensions? I've always stuck with the spelljammer concept, where all the worlds were in the same prime material plane, just spread out through wildspace. Thanks for the info!

Mark said...

Great stuff. Thanks for the compilation. I will be submitting a revision to understand Tiamat better soon.