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Saturday, December 4, 2021

Fizban's Treasury of Dragons Review

 

Cover by Chris Rahn

You can buy Fizban's Treasury of Dragons here.

Buy the digital version on D&D Beyond here

Buy the Alternate Cover here.

Fizban's Mini-Planner 2022

Today we're going to check out Fizban's Treasury of Dragons, a dragon-centric D&D 5e supplement.

This book is not hard to review. It contains about 30 pages of stuff for players - a few subclasses, a few new racial types, a few new spells. The rest is all material for DMs.

By far, my favorite chapter is the last one, which details new monsters, all of which are dragon-related. There's such a great variety, and a lot of cool ideas. 

The fifth chapter, which is full of dragon lairs, is incredibly handy. Any time your group wants to go meet with, steal from, or kill a dragon, you've got a mountain of material at your disposal. Each section is just a few pages long but has pretty much everything you need. Then you just grab some monster from the back to flesh the lair out. Piece of cake!

The thing I really like about the lairs is that the magic influences the surrounding area, and can go a long way in helping you make a unique village or town. There's a lot of fun to be had and it doesn't seem like it would take too much effort to bring it to life.

The Art: I'm a big D&D art enthusiast. I'd say the art in here is a mixed bag. There seems to be a real problem with making cool-looking humanoids in the 5e books. I don't know why, but a lot of the NPC art just looks too vague or... off somehow. There are a number of large pieces that I feel just don't cut it - they're too "muddy." Not enough detail, and the style just doesn't work.

That said, there's plenty of awesome pieces. I was able to place my absolute favorites in this review. 

Quick Verdict: Is this book worth buying? Yes! Is it mandatory? I'd say... yes! I think that Fizban's is necessary if you are going to try to use a dragon in your campaign. I mean, the game is called Dungeons & Dragons. You should probably have your group deal with a dragon at least once in any campaign, probably more than once.

Handling the D&D Multiverse: One concept in this book is the idea that D&D is embracing a bit of a Marvel-style multiverse. In previous editions, D&D worlds all existed in the Material Plane, and you could get to one or another by flying on a magically-powered ship known as a Spelljammer. So.. you could fly from Toril (the Forgotten Realms setting) to Oerth (the Greyhawk Setting). The Spelljammer products even gave you exact routes to take to do so.

As far as I can tell, all of that still exists. But there is a new wrinkle - certain beings exist on more than one world, as if there was an 'alternate universe' version of themselves. This idea goes a long way in explaining how the Forgotten Realms has slightly different versions of certain entities and NPCs. It also is handy when it comes to handling Takhisis from Dragonlance, who is very similar to Tiamat. 

I would guess this is partly a way to handle the continuity issues of streaming shows, as well as Critical Role doing things with major NPCs that conflict with the 'official story' of D&D (if there is such a thing).

This brings up an interesting question. Sigil is the city at the center of the multiverse. There is just one Sigil, right? Does that mean you might run into alternate universe versions of the same NPC? This book specifically has dragons (who are not gods) that have "echoes" of themselves living on multiple prime worlds. So in theory, you could go to Sigil and bump into three echoes of the same dragon.

Do "echoes" of your characters exist? Is there an Eberron version of your adventuring party? A Greyhawk version?

I've always said that my campaign world is an alternate universe. I consider the "prime" universe to be whatever the D&D makers are running. So.. Gary Gygax's Castle Greyhawk campaign. Monte Cook's Praemal campaign. The Chris Perkins Iomandra campaign. The Acquisitions Inc games.

Calling my own game an alternate universe gives me leeway. My brother ran Drizz't as a character a long time ago. He died in prison. So.. Drizz't isn't running around in my setting. But, that's OK, because he's an alternate universe Drizz't. The 'real' Drizz't is doing whatever R.A. Salvatore writes down. 

Let's get into the book. I'm going to go through and talk about anything notable, as well as try to give you a sense of what is in this book without spoiling too much, so you can decide if you want to buy it.

Elegy for the First World

Tiamat by Chris Rahn
 

Bahamut and Tiamat worked together to create the Material Plane in the form of a First World. 

Sardior: The "first-born of dragonkind." Bahamut and Tiamat created Sardior together, who was apparently a ruby-red dragon. "Sardior then joined with Bahamut to create the metallic dragons and with Tiamat to craft the chromatic dragons."

Sardior may have been destroyed and shattered along with the First World. This obviously would make for a very cool campaign - finding and exploring the First World.

Dragonsight: Some dragons (often gem dragons) can sense their other incarnations that exist on different worlds of the Material Plane. This allows dragons to amass knowledge that spans the Material Plane. 

This sort of suggests that the Material Plane is more of a multiverse, right? In 2nd edition, all worlds, even Dark Sun, were in the same universe, each contained in their own crystal sphere. Changing it to having each setting existing in its own sliver of the Material Plane does make sense to a degree, as each has a cosmology that somewhat contradicts the others. Eberron has its own planes. The Forgotten Realms has its own versions of certain NPCs.

Chapter 1: Character Creation

by Olivier Bernard

We get rules for making chromatic dragonborn, gem dragonborn and metallic dragonborn. Very cool, very brief, which I greatly appreciate. 

I really like how the gem dragonborn can communicate with telepathy. 

Then we get subclasses.

Monk: Way of the Ascendant Dragon: "The dragon god Bahamut is known to travel the Material Plane in the guise of a young monk, and legend says that he founded the first monastery of the Wat of the Ascendant Dragon in this guise."

My favorite origin: "After a dream featuring a five-handed dragonborn, you awoke with the mystical breath of dragons." A five-handed dragonborn?? At first I thought it said five-headed and imagined a cool dragonborn villain linked to Tiamat. 

These characters get a breath weapon at 3rd level and can sprout wings for short periods of time at 6th level. 

Ranger: DrakeWarden: This ranger has a 'draconic spirit' sidekick that evolves as the ranger levels up. It can eventually become a mount, gains a breath weapon, and when you hit 15th level it becomes Large.

Chapter 2: Dragon Magic

by Tyler Jacobson

We get a few new spells! Very cool.  am guessing some of these are converted from older editions. I know there were some Forgotten Realms dragons that had unique spells.  My favorite:

Nathair's Mischief: "You fill a 20-foot cube you can see within range with fey and draconic magic." It's sort of like a wild magic surge... and I love random tables. Those in the cube might be charmed, blinded, laughing or effectively slowed.

We also get magic items. Check it out:

Gold Canary Figurine of Wondrous Power: I believe these were used int he final adventure of the Scales of War adventure Path. In that path, these were actually Bahamut's advisors, all gold dragons. In this book, these figurines become giant canaries. But, if you have half your hit points or less, you can opt to turn them into gold dragons. 

Potion of Dragon's Majesty: "When you drink this potion, you transform into an adult dragon.." lasts one hour!

We also get "Hoard Magic Items." What's a hoard magic item? They are special items that have absorbed ambient magic of a dragon's hoard. Each has 4 states:

  • Slumbering:
  • Stirring (found in a young dragon's hoard)
  • Wakened (found in an adult dragon's hoard)
  • Ascendant (found in an ancient dragon's hoard)

The item must have been in the hoard for at least 1 year to gain this property. It's kind of funny, your character could sneak in, stash an item, then come back a year later and steal it back. You must remain attuned to the item, however.

If the dragon is slain: The item goes up one state if left in the hoard for another 8 hours. 

The item also gains a quirk, most of which are beneficial (glows when within 60 feet of a dragon, gives advantage on History checks, etc).

We get a few hoard items. My favorite is the Dragon Vessel - a container which can magically fill with a potion once per day. The type of potion is determined by the state of the item. It also can be filled with different types of alcohol, including mead, wine, or whiskey.

Draconic Gifts: "The death of a dragon can result in its power taking root in a character, whether that person is the dragon's chosen heir or the dragon's killer." 

You gain an ability! This is a great idea. You might become a dragonborn, gain blindsight, or gain the ability to use telekinesis once per day. 

Chapter 3: Dragons in Play

Tiamat by Tyler Jacobson

We are given tons of info on fleshing out a dragon, including bonds/flaws, a name generator, and customization. There's an idea here about red dragons actually being healed by fire damage, which I really like a lot. 

There's a section on what dragons are doing at each stage of their life. I got a lot of inspiration from these. For example, a young dragon has a goal of establishing a liar and amassing as much treasure as possible. It is entirely possible that your group is loaded up with magic items, right? And they might have a cool base, or they just cleared out a dungeon that would make for a cool dragon lair. 

Suddenly, they young dragon is hunting the heroes to steal their items for its hoard, and bringing them to its dungeon lair.

We are also given ways that dragons reproduce. My favorite: "By eating a significant portion of their own hoards, dragons cause themselves to lay clutches of eggs."

There's another one about dragon eggs growing on a tree in the heart of the world. Dragons seek it out and must persuade the guardian to relinquish an egg. Tremendous!

Dragon Organizations: We are given details on the Cult of the Dragon (from Tyranny of Dragons), The Chamber (from Eberron) and more. The "Hidecarved Dragons" are clumps of 3-5 dragons who are devoted to a common goal. They carve arcane sigils on their hides that give them special defenses, such as magic resistance or immunity to being polymorphed.

Dragon Campaign: Amidst the notes on using dragons in a campaign, there's some stuff on the Rod of Seven Parts:

"When an artifact called the Rod of Law was shattered into seven parts during the Battle of Pesh, seven ancient metallic dragons were assigned to be the guardians of its fragments. Even sundered, this mighty artifact was so powerful that great cities sprang up near the dragon lairs, forming the centers of civilization. The dragons are patrons of the seven cities, and their roles as guardians are all but forgotten."

Wow. So that's the deal in 5e! Which cities, I wonder. Each piece is in a dragon's hoard? I assume these dragons would have to be lawful...? Gold dragons, black dragons. I hope they make a big 5e Rod of Seven Parts adventure one day.

Chapter 4: Lairs and Hoards

by David Auden Nash

We get guidelines on how big a dragon's hoard would be. An adult dragpn has a hoard worth around 15,000 gp. They might have more than one hoard (up to 8!) . The hoard of an ancient dragon is worth 200,000 gp. Fun fact: If a dragon's lair no longer holds 10,000 gp, the site is no longer considered a lair.

"By gaining access to a hoard and making off with a significant portion of that wealth, characters can diminish the dragon's connection to both that lair and its associated territory."

Hoard Generator: We get a pile of charts to help us make a dragon hoard. I love random tables. Let's roll and make an adult dragon hoard!

  • 4,600 cp
  • 15,000 sp
  • 26,000 gp
  • 3,300 pp 

7 Mundane Items

  • Large wind chime.
  • 2 paintings by an artist long forgotten.
  • Small shrine devoted to a god worshiped by the dragon's minions.
  • A cask containing 65 gallons of drinking water.
  • An hourglass filled with sparkling sand.
  • A jar containing a dead illithid tadpole.

25 gems worth 13,480 gp

13 art objects worth 2,175 gp

5 Magic Items

  • Potion of Supreme Healing
  • Potion of Longevity
  • Spell Scroll (7th level - Let's go with Plane Shift)
  • Ammunition +3
  • Sun Blade

Chapter 5: Draconomicon

by Julian Kok

This is a huge section of the book, looks like it's about 80 pages long. It contains detailed lairs for dragons of all types.

We get 3-4 pages of details on each lair. most, but not all, get maps. I still don't understand why they are making print-friendly maps instead of full color stuff, but the maps are fine. 

My first reaction to these was that I was disappointed that they were general. There's no room-by-room description, just options for what would be in there. Again, it's more of a toolkit to create a lair than a specific, fully-fleshed out lair.

But, upon reading through these entries, they give you everything you need. It definitely makes you want to run a "dragon hunter" campaign.

Once I got to the faerie dragon section, I paused. What the heck would a faerie dragon lair be like? I've never even thought about it. I guess I just assumed they flew through the forest and slept on tree branches or something.

The answer: Their lairs are often near portals to the Feywild. They live in nests in crevices, in ancient trees, attics, that kind of thing. 

Let's look at the lair of my favorite type - Gold dragons. I don't really know why they're my favorite. I like to try to figure out ways to use a good-aligned dragon in D&D. I'm going to pull out my favorite ideas from each section and make my own gold dragon lair.

Gold dragon lair map piece by Dyson Logos

Personality Traits: "Disguises allow me to bestow small kindnesses and experience the simple pleasures of companionship without constantly being petitioned. I'm proud of my acting ability and never break character."

I can see how some people might get tired of the "I'm actually a dragon in humanoid form" trope, but it never gets old to me. It can be hard to hide, though. There's something about the wise, mysterious NPC who gives a knowing wink that clues players in that this person is a dragon in disguise. It's still fun, though.

Ideals: "Objectivity. I remain impartial in my judgments and refuse to let personal feelings get in the way of what's fair or necessary."

These are hard to choose from, as each one is fairly vague.

Spellcasting Options: A young gold dragon has a DC of 17 and can cast: Bless, cure wounds, slow, suggestion, and zone of truth.

So my gold dragon probably uses the disguise of a healer, or a cleric.

Adventure Hooks: "A gold dragon has been attacking travelers in an effort to drive them away from the dragon's territory, which holds a deadly artifact at its center."

I think I would change this so that the dragon is using some cover story or something to keep people away from its lair. I love the idea that the dragon kills evil creatures and takes their loot for its hoard, but it took a cursed item, or an evil artifact that is now contaminating the dragon's lair. 

Although.. what kind of item would be something that a gold dragon couldn't handle, but an adventurer could? The item would have to particularly harmful dragons or something.

Connections: "A young gold dragon and an archmage are uneasy companions, bound to defend each other by the dying wish of a heroic warrior they both loved."

OK. So, an archmage living with a dragon. The hoard is right there! The archmage probably is dying to get their hands on some of the loot. Then, the dragon brings home this cursed item and the archmage snatches it, but the gold dragon can't bring itself to fight the archmage, who is becoming more corrupted by the magic each day.

Lair: We get a map and all sorts of details. There's a waterfall and pavilions. In the cave is a grand hall and many smaller areas, including a treasury hall, the hoard, and a secret vault. 

Regional Effects: We get a list of effects in the area around the lair. I'm very interested to see what they came up with. There are 3:

"Small runes in the shape of a gold dragon appear to creatures in great need, marking a subtle trail to the dragon's lair."

"Creatures that spend a year within 6 years of the dragon's lair value fairness and justice over their personal feelings."

"Within 6 miles of the dragon's lair, any creature attempting to tell a deliberate lie must succeed on a DC 15 CHA save or find itself accidentally revealing the truth it was attempting to conceal. The first time a creature fails this saving throw, it is immune to this effect for 24 hours."

That last one is hilarious. Imagine there's a town within 3 miles of the gold dragon lair. A town where nobody lies. The heroes show up and are taken aback by the direct, perhaps brutal honesty there. Over time, they've probably become used to the truth, and heck maybe they are even more easily duped. Or, perhaps they don't trust outsiders because of the dishonesty they exhibit.

Then, how do you mix in our disguised gold dragon an the archmage? Does the dragon hang out at the bar and complain about their roommate all the time? Is the archmage the town hero, keeping it safe and helping the populace with their magic?  

Art Objects: A couple quick notes before I pick one item from the list of 10:

Gems and pearls are culinary delicacies to gold dragons. 

They like items they can learn from, such as texts, scrolls, and prophecies.

They often guard dangerous artifacts as a form of public service.

Let's see. I'll go with this one: "A clever clockwork music box that, when cranked, recites a prophecy in modron."

I might change that to a device that counts down to the next Great Modron March. Or, perhaps a device that shows the route of the next modron march, plane-by-plane. If it's a prophecy, It could be about a modron plan to push another stone into Limbo, one that will bring order to the chaos there (despite all previous attempts having backfired spectacularly).

We got all that from 4 pages and a map! Very useful section.

I should also note that throughout this chapter, we get sidebars on prominent dragon NPCs of different types. A lot of them are from the Forgotten Realms. Ashardalon gets a blurb. Ashardalon is mentioned a number of times throughout this book. This red dragon was the villain in Bastion of Broken Souls, a super high level 3rd edition adventure. 

I also really like shadow dragons. They only get three pages in this lair section, no map.

Chapter 6: Bestiary

by Kieran Yanner


The last 65 pages of the book feature monsters and stat blocks for those monsters. 

Since this book focuses so much on gem dragons, I feel like it's a good idea to give you a broad overview of what the different gem dragons are like.

Amethyst Dragon: They "...psionically manipulate the fundamental principles of the multiverse, from the force of gravity to the emanations of the Outer Planes."

They hate the Far Realm.

They "...are intrigued by and fond of flumphs." I cherish any flumph lore.

Crystal Dragon: They enjoy an innate connection to the positive plane (I actually wrote a guide to the plane of positive energy here). 

The study the stars, and see glimpses of the future in the patterns. 

Their breath weapon is starlight! Which does radiant damage. 

In local news, this very much overlaps with my homebrewed "star dragon" that I made when I was a kid. I'll probably just rip off this stat block if I ever use the star dragons again.

Emerald Dragon: They create illusions, often disguising themselves and infiltrating settlements, looking for interesting magic. 

Moonstone Dragon: From the Feywild, these dragons can project themselves into the real of dreams to communicate with creatures who sleep near their lairs. Their breath weapon is moonlight, which does radiant damage. You'd think that since moonlight is sunlight refracted, it would do half damage. Am I right? Ho, ho! Wait, don't leave.

Sapphire Dragon: Militant and territorial, sapphire dragons are always on the watch for Far Realm incursions. Their breath weapon is sonic energy (aka thunder damage).

Topaz Dragon: "Their psionic power manifests the fundamental entropic principle that mortal beings and their creations are ultimately doomed...." Favorite food: Giant squid. Breath weapon: Necrotic energy that weakens targets.

Gem Greatwyrm: These are like.. the ultimate gem dragons. A sidebar explains that there are 5 in particular who are going from world to world, absorbing their "echoes" (we're really all-in on the D&D multiverse in this book) with the ultimate goal being for the 5 gem greatwyrms to merge and become Sardior reborn.

Now let's look at the rest of the monsters. I'll just highlight some of my favorite stuff.

Aspect of Tiamat: Let's see what lore we get here.She is trapped in the Nine Hells, but she can send her aspect to the Material Plane. Not too much here, but it's an essential thing to have in a book like this. 

Dracohydra: "Amalgmating the magic of chromatic dragons with the blood of a hydra resulted in a many-headed draconic monster with wings and multiple snakelike tails."

The image of the dracohydra has 2 white dragon heads, 2 green dragon heads, one blue head, and one red head. The breath weapon is a single shot - "Prismatic breath" which does a type chosen by the dracohydra: acid, cold, fire, lightning, or poison.

I just love the idea of some kooky old wizard, or a cabal of wizards, hiring the heroes to kill a bunch of chromatic dragons and to bring back their blood. Then, kill a hydra and bring its corpse back. The wizards then make a dracohydra which of course, gets loos3e and the group has to deal with.

Dragonborn of Tiamat: I just like the small, simple stat blocks that they often give NPCs. These dragonborns serve Tiamat and work to get her out of the Nine Hells. Their breath weapon does necrotic damage. 

Dragonflesh Grafter: These are creatures who grafted parts of a dragon onto their body. I just think it is a cool idea. I'd like to know more about who or what are actually doing the grafting and making it actually work. You could graft a dragon's wings to your back, or a dragon's head to your shoulder. Lots of fun possibilities.

Elder Brain Dragon: What a tremendous idea. An elder brain is a huge thing that usually just sits in a pool and psychically commands a colony of mind flayers. But here, we see that an elder brain can press its tentacles into a dragon and essentially ride it and control it. It has a crazy breath weapon that I don't want to spoil. 

Ghost Dragon: It haunts it's old hoard! Love it. Your group is out in some forest and are attacked by a dragon. They kill it. They learn that its lair is far away and decide to go there to loot it. Uh oh... the ghost of the dragon is here, possibly attached to a single priceless object that becomes the focus of the undead dragon's existence.

Hoard Mimic: OK, that's funny but not nice. You kill a dragon, oh look, there's the hoard. Oh wait, it's actually a mimic that emits caustic mist that kills the already-wounded party. Tread carefully, my fellow DM.

Overall

This is such an easy thumbs up. If you're a player, there's really not a lot of player stuff. But if you're a DM, this is pretty much a must-buy.

Updates

I updated 3 of my guides with info from this book:

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