A Walk Through the Planes – Part 93: The Draconomicon




If there’s one thing I’m almost as tired of as new planetouched races, it’s planar dragons. There’s a reason why these were so rare during the Planescape era of D&D, and when they did crop up they tended to be weird and unique like the Astral dragon. Since then we’ve had multiple attempts at adding planar dragons to the game, with wildly varying levels of success. Unfortunately, it’s the most recent of these articles, “Hellish Fangs on Abyssal Wings,” that the Draconomicon was largely built from. The author of that piece, James Wyatt, was also one of three authors credited with this work, so that isn’t a surprise, though it is a bit of a disappointment. 

Before I jump into the new planar content, I should add that despite my complaints below, on the whole the Draconomicon is wonderful, one of the absolute gems of this edition/half-edition and for that matter one of the best game supplements Wizards ever published. It’s nearly 300 pages of deep lore about dragons, with sections devoted to their physiology, life cycle, psychology, and lairs. All of the primary 10 chromatic and metallic dragons get quite a bit of material, and there’s also tons of new crunch for players and DMs to absorb into their campaigns, with all the new prestige classes, feats, spells, etc. that you might hope for. Want to know how a bronze dragon’s lair differs from a blue dragon’s? Well here’s you you should look. This is the best source of draconic information TSR/Wizards ever published, and I whole-heartedly recommend giving it a read if this information interests you even a bit. 


Now, back to the disappointing stuff. The book’s fourth chapter is “New Monsters,” and this is where we find all those new planar dragons that caused me to include it in this series, as well as 3.5 updates to the ones included in Wyatt’s earlier article. I’m not going to say much more about those five again, as their descriptions are often copy and pasted from earlier, and everything I said about them before still stands. Instead, let’s focus on the new dragons, in case they’re more interesting than their extraplanar kin. Hint: they’re not. 

Surprise, surprise—the abyssal drake looks like a dragon.

First is the abyssal drake, who’s described as “the horrific result of an ancient breeding program that combines the nastiest elements of demons, wyverns, and red dragons. Originally intended to serve as mounts for mighty demon princes, abyssal drakes proved too unruly for such service. Now they roam the wilds of the Abyss, preying on demons and visitors alike.” They’re not a true dragon, and as such don’t advance with age, instead they’re CR 9 beasties who seem… fine. Absolutely unremarkable in the extreme. I dig their backstory, but really they’re just chaotic evil fire drakes. 

Somehow even less impressive are the elemental drakes, who fill in the grid for elemental-themed wyverns in exactly the manner you’d expect, with the exception of a few outliers who don’t fit in well with third edition’s cosmology. In addition to the four who hail from the cardinal elements, there’s also the ice drake, the magma drake, the ooze drake, and the smoke drake. Their very existence and general habitats are murky, and while I appreciate their inclusion given that I like the classical Great Wheel more than third edition’s, it’s also just really weird that the game keeps pretending as if these make some sort of sense anymore. 

In addition to this smattering of rather mediocre drakes, there’s also a section on Planar Dragons, who, unlike these earlier monstrosities, are full-on dragons who improve in ability with age and all that sort of thing. This is where the ones from Wyatt’s earlier article show up, but there’s also a few we hadn’t seen before, plus new art for the ones we had.

Dawn Murin, the wonderful art director for pretty much the entire Planescape line, was also in charge here. As such, the entire book is gorgeous, and somehow many of its dragons are distinctive despite all being, you know, dragons.

Battle dragons hail from Ysgard, and like to fight all the time because that’s what their plane’s all about. I have little else to add, though their fear gas as a breathe weapon seems kind of pointless given that they are, you know, dragons, and as such have an innate frightful presence, but whatever. 


Chaos dragons are at least fun in that they’re all different from each other and even change in form individually over time. They like wrecking things just because, making them a natural fit for Sinkers, even if that seems a bit off philosophically from their home plane. Githzerai tried to make a deal with them and use them as mounts, but this didn’t work at all because, well, they’re chaos dragons, so what did the githzerai expect would happen? 

Ethereal dragons actually make a bit of sense in that they spend their time spying on the Prime for treasure. I also like adding more neutral dragons to the game, and the gem dragons were never interesting enough for me to use (and eww, psionics). Plus, their cone of force breath weapon is quite useful for sniping people on the Prime who are unaware they’re even around. 

Making Rebecca Guay a regular contributor was one of third edition’s stronger art choices. Her images here are as lovely as usual.

The Oceanus dragon clearly was made because there’s a Styx dragon and the designers wanted more symmetry. They’re quite aquatic, with webbed fingers and more of a giant eel look, though they can still fly, and apparently spend most of their time helping people out in Oceanus, which is a pretty dumb way of representing the good alignments. Their best trait is that they have art from Rebecca Guay.


The most frustrating new planar dragon is the radiant dragon, who does not hail from the Plane of Radiance because that entire universe no longer exists (this won’t be the last time I complain about radiance’s third edition nomenclature, either…). Instead, they’re from Mount Celestia, which is one of those details that feels like it could’ve been changed so as to not make things irritating to old school fans. Why not name it the “Celestial Dragon” or something of that sort? Other than their dumb name, they’re exactly what you’d expect and as such super boring and never to be heard from again. 

That’s the final new entry of this really random grouping of new planar dragons, which really makes you wonder about places like Mechanus that seem just as logical a place for them to hail from as Limbo (Ed. note: this “problem” will be addressed in the future). I should also note before moving away from the book that while the shadow dragon seems like it would be from that plane, it isn’t, and instead they just have “ties to the Plane of Shadow.” I believe that this was later changed and they and faerie dragons are now properly extraplanar, but that won’t happen until we get to at least fourth edition. 

The chaos dragon is a bit of a mess, but I’d prefer them even weirder.

You can see why I find these planar dragon additions just as boring as what we had before, and why even if a few more are added in the future I probably won’t include an article about them (Ed. note: Sean would later have to eats these words. Stay tuned to see how this turns out). However, in addition to these listings from the book proper, Wizards.com included one new planar dragon, gravewyrms (written by James Jacobs), who by virtue of being both online-only and an epic-level creature was almost immediately forgotten. That’s too bad, as I like it far more than any of the planar dragons from the book proper. Gravewyrms are essentially vultures of the Blood War, and despite not being linked with the Negative Energy Plane are for the most part negative energy itself incarnated as a dragon:


The gravewyrm is a truly fearsome foe that lurks in massive graveyards and battlefields found on the Outer Planes, particularly those found on the Lower Planes where the Blood War has raged for countless eons. This dragon feeds on the negative energy that animates undead creatures, and while one may suppose that its ravenous appetite for the undead might make it an ally of good, nothing could be further from the truth. The gravewyrm prefers freshly created undead, and it takes great delight in transforming living victims into undead so it can feast on their dead twitching bodies.

They’re also, uhh, CR 45 creatures with 1,420 hp and a breath weapon that causes 3d6 negative levels of damage (for reference, Tiamat and Bahamut are only CR 25 creatures in the Manual of the Planes). Though don’t worry, you can still save for only half damage.

Andy Collins also added a sprinkle of planar content to the game with a half-silver dragon/half-djinni named Azuria and a half-red dragon/half-noble salamander named Kelotrik in a web supplement PDF. However, neither of these are particularly interesting individuals except for their overall weirdness. In fact, the entire half-dragon supplement is just about weirdo creature combinations, since apparently dragons can and will fuck anything that moves, which is something I don’t remember reading too much about in the Draconomicon proper, but does seem pretty canonical nonetheless. 

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