draconic-lore[1]By Megan Robertson

Passing by a couple of pages tabulating and categorising the dragons herein, we come to a Welcome! which explains both that this is the first softcover book in the Legends and Lore series (although preceded by several hardbacks) and something about the contents. The dragon, of course, is THE iconic fantasy monster, and one which characters, however powerful, ought to fear. Some of the dragons presented here are designed to be just that, the fearsome end-of-campaign climactic challenge. Others, whilst still posing sufficient challenge to make any character think twice about taking them on, have purposes such as populating specific environments or meeting particular needs.

Each dragon is presented in a standard manner, with a stat block and considerable amounts of descriptive material. Tables cover the necessary detail pertaining to draconic abilities based on age/size. Most are going to provide opposition to your characters, although a few have sufficient intelligence and inclination to become allies or companion beasts. The aquatic varieties are of particular interest, as is the cavern dragon which is only to be found in the darkest depths underground. This dragon is blind, but has excellent hearing and sense of smell – it is said that one you have attracted the attention of a cavern dragon the only escape is to get above ground, as they do not venture out onto the surface. Their lack of sight provides for some unusual treasure hoards as they eschew the ‘shiny’ items in favour of those which feel or smell attractive.

Diamondback dragons like mountainous regions near deserts and feature a rattle on the end of the tail, the source of their magical abilities which include hypnosis and suggestion, although they are powerful fighters and have a breath weapon as well. They are crafty and, as they are restless wanderers, ensure that their lairs are protected by ample traps to guard them whilst they are out.

As for the aquatic dragons, a fun one is the dragonshark, which combines the most savage aspects of a dragon and a shark – not something you want circling around when at sea. They number amongst the several ‘mindless killing machine’ dragon varieties in this book, although some aquatic communities claim to have managed to tame dragonsharks if captured young. There are aquatic ‘real’ dragons as well, the oceanic dragon poses a threat to ships while the reef dragon is smaller and weaker, using skills, magic and allies to make up for their less-than-imposing stature.

A reclusive and uncivilised group of sentient humanoids, the dragoth, are available as NPCs or indeed characters. Bearing draconic characteristics such as coloured scales (in the hues of the main chromatic dragons) and accessing, at higher levels, breath weapons they could prove an interesting culture to interact with, despite being regarded as mere legend by many.

Drakes are smaller cousins to the true dragons and can prove valued companions if they choose to befriend you. Variants can serve as mounts, guards, scouts or couriers, all exhibiting great loyalty as well as mental communication with their companion being… and, it seems, the drake is convinced that it’s an equal partnership, whatever the companion may think!

Tome lizards are strange, although not smart enough to be able to read they love books and are drawn to libraries. They can be trained as guards, provided you can keep them from eating the volumes in their care! Their breath weapon is a black ink, prized amongst wizards for writing in spellbooks, and they can make good familiars. They have more dubious uses: wizards have been known to release one in a rival’s library and they can be used to destroy other records that a crafty individual would prefer remained unknown or unavailable.

Amongst the other varieties presented, another intriguing one is the woolly dragon, which lives in extreme cold and is an intelligent and cruel hunter. Although scaled, they also grow fur or wool, hence the name. They do not fly but climb well, and harbour a mutual racial hatred for white dragons.

From the ecological stand-point, this is a fun assemblage of variants on the theme of ‘dragon’ – you can imagine numerous learned tomes tracing the relationships between the creatures here and the classic dragons we already know. There’s plenty of scope for adventure and encounters involving these creatures, in all a neat collection.

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