Expanding the Adventure: Lesser Dragons

Hello again and welcome to another one of our features. Today we have a feature of “Expanding the Adventure.” In this segment, we dive into published adventures and look for ways in which more can be added to an adventure or ways you could bring the adventure into new directions.


In past editions of Dungeons and Dragons, Metallic and Chromatic dragons were always the big bads in the adventures or major allies when they weren’t. However, there were other families of dragons in the history of the game. Two of my favorite types were the gem dragons and the catastrophic dragons that were introduced in 4th edition. Today I want to offer ways you could insert these into the conflict of Tyranny of Dragons, particularly the “Rise of Tiamat,” adventure.


As things currently stand, these dragons have not been statted for quite some time and neither of them have been updated officially for the 5e rules. Here are some ideas on how you could make them up using existing dragons.


  1. Gem Dragons and catastrophic dragons were weaker than the more famous kinds of dragons, so for any age category, you might want to base their stats off of some of the weaker dragons in that age category or even drop to the next one down.
  2. Gem dragons had their own breath weapons that were very unusual and included things such as the beam of concentrated light from the amethyst dragon and the dehydration beam from the topaz dragon. If you can’t find out what they originally used, go weird!
  3. Catastrophic dragons did not have conventional breath weapons. They had expanding auras that eventually blasted out in a big burst centered on themselves. Instead of a breath weapon, perhaps have them cast a spell around themselves that is area of effect but does not hurt them. For example, have a volcanic dragon have stinking cloud cast on itself and then it can cast a weakened version of fireball on itself on a recharge.
  4. Gem dragons tend to be neutral, and in the 4e alignment system, catastrophic dragons tended to be “unaligned,” which could either translate to neutral alignments or evil if you read the descriptions of them in the published material for the edition. Catastrophic dragons don’t have conventional bodies but are flowing raw destructive elements in a vaguely draconic shape.


Here are two ways you could bring these into Rise of Tiamat as factors in the conflict.


A Third Rage.


This is an option inspired by the “Year of Rogue Dragons.” Novels in which an ancient elven curse drove dragons mad. Because in the days of the draconic empire, even the metallics were part of the tyrannical oppression, the curse didn’t discriminate. The novels ended the threat but perhaps the Cult of the Dragon has found the secret and is planning to use it to bolster its own ranks. This would be fitting as the Cult of the Dragon in an earlier iteration was fundamentally involved in that story. The Cult could simply be just releasing the curse. Because Metallics are by and large followers of Bahamut, perhaps they enjoy partial or total protection from the curse. Being not naturally good, gem dragons don’t enjoy this protection. The heroes are to infiltrate a set of ruins being used as a quarters for a powerful Dragonborn sorcerer. This guy or girl is blessed with unusually thick green dragon traits and is using his increased craftiness and connection to dragons to work the curse. You have to stop him before it is too late.


The sorcerer is an archmage with the following alterations


He has the breath weapon feature of green-dragon descendant dragonborn and also their resistance to poison

  1. He has resistance to 2 of the following, rolled randomly each round a. fire b. lightning c. cold, d. acid
  2. He has magic resistance.
  3. he has actual wings and has a fly speed of 50 feet.
  4. He is Neutral evil in alignment
  5. he speaks common, draconic, primordial, elven, and infernal.
  6. he uses a shortsword instead of a staff or dagger. And is proficient with it.


The players must destroy both the sorcerer and the device he is creating to restart the rage in a more directed form.


  1. The elements fight for the Dark Lady.


According to the 4e material, catastrophic dragons were formed when metallic and chromatic dragons turned away from the battling twins (Tiamat and Bahamut) and sought power from primordial beings. These wicked primordials destroyed most of their flesh, turning them into raging torrents of raw elemental destruction and released them upon the world. Tiamat might want to reclaim beings of such power for herself, and she knows exactly how to do it.


The Cult of the Dragon has entrusted its most powerful wizards to find a way to funnel the fury of these destructive beings, hopefully then having a reserve for the battle they know will happen when they release Tiamat into Toril. The results were that a Githzerai psychic stone was discovered that could be used to impose order onto chaos. It would attract any beings to it who were manifestations of pure chaos and thus simply putting it among enemies would send a torrent of catastrophic dragons down on them. However, this object has the weakness that it can’t be deactivated and thus the cult has had to find creative ways to control it. What they settled on was keeping it in the elemental Chaos where the raw energies would keep it hidden except in the unlikely event a catastrophic dragon got extremely close while they were not using it.


The players will be attacked by one or more relatively weak catastrophic dragons which will put them on the trail of the object. They will then travel to the people who know it best, the githzerai who dwell in the elemental chaos as well as Limbo. The players will then set out in the madness that is the plane of the Elemental Chaos to find where the object is located, and retrieve it for the githzerai who will take it so it cannot be used as an instrument of hated chaos. When the players approach where the focus is hidden, they will go through an elemental gauntlet filled with elementals and their kin, including catastrophic dragons, adepts in elemental magic in service to the cult, and perhaps one or two genies to finish everything off.


With these two little adventure ideas, you might be able to introduce something other than the big two families into your playthrough of “Rise of Tiamat.” I love the Metallics and Chromatics, but more options is a better way to go so I hope you enjoy.


About the author:

Zachary Ruffing is one of the DMs for “The Companions of the Perception Check” and he is running the “Children of Gith,” Storyline for the group, a campaign of his own design from the “Points of Light,” setting. He lives with his rat and 2 dogs and loves classic lit and bad sci-fi and horror flicks. He is waiting for the worst of all the catastrophic dragons to be statted, the US and UK politics dragon.

About Zachary

Zachary is the original DM for the group but has recently had the pleasure of sharing this role with Kevin. He is a fan of all things Dungeons and Dragons and loves classic lit and bad monster and horror flicks. He is also blind.
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