Monster Mayhem03/28/2004

Steel Dragon

The old bookseller gathered his wares as the hush of evening settled over the market. All around the bookstall, merchants and their assistants worked quickly to shutter their booths and leave for the night, but the bookseller labored alone, carefully packing each tome into a dusty pushcart fitted with folding panels and compartments. He worked at a painfully slow pace, his joints creaking nearly as loudly as the ancient hinges of his cart.

By the time he had finished his packing, night had fallen, and the bookseller had the deserted market to himself -- almost. A trio of hardened men (one with a half-orc's lantern jaw) strode from the shadows and walked on silent feet to the bookseller's cart. "Sorry boys," said the old man with a dry cough. "Just closed up, and these old hinges and joints are none too spry in the night air."

"Oh, we ain't buyin'," said the half-orc with a sneer. "We're sellin' -- offerin' a rare volume that's chock full of practical advice." The half-orc's companions sniggered at this.

The bookseller straightened and stared. "I'm always interested in rare books," he said with a sigh. "But I'm afraid it's been a bad day, and I have very little coin to spare. Perhaps you'd care to take a book in trade for your rare volume?"

The half-orc bared his teeth. "Oh, coin is what we want. A few coins will suffice, if that's all you have. We don't have the book with us, so just hand over the cash box and we'll bring the book along later." With that, the trio fanned out around the cart, brandishing saps that had quickly materialized from sleeves and belts.

Much to the thugs' amazement, the old bookseller leapt atop his cart, as agile as a cat.

"Are you sure you want to finish this transaction?" asked the bookseller, his reedy voice suddenly deep and booming. The old man seemed to loom larger as he leapt down into the empty market square, and he kept right on growing. Within moments, the thugs found themselves facing a lithe, reptilian creature with scales that gleamed like a polished sword in the dying light. The thugs panicked and scrambled, but the steely dragon pounced like a cat, pressing them against the cart.

"I think it's time for you boys to change your profession," purred the dragon.

Steel Dragon

Dragon (Air)

Steel Dragons by Age

Age Size Hit Dice (hp) Str Dex Con Int Wis Cha Base
Attack Fort
Wyrmling S 4d12+4 (30) 11 10 13 10 11 12 +4/+0 +5 +5 +4 +4 1d6 (13) --
Very young S 7d12+7 (52) 13 10 13 12 13 12 +7/+4 +9 +6 +5 +6 2d6 (14) --
Young M 10d12+20 (85) 15 10 15 14 13 14 +10/+12 +12 +9 +7 +8 3d6 (17) --
Juvenile M 13d12+26 (110) 17 10 15 16 15 14 +13/+16 +16 +10 +8 +10 4d6 (18) --
Young adult M 16d12+48 (152) 19 10 17 18 15 16 +16/+20 +20 +13 +10 +12 5d6 (21) 21
Adult L 19d12+57 (180) 21 10 17 20 19 16 +19/+28 +23 +14 +11 +15 6d6 (22) 22
Mature adult L 22d12+88 (231) 23 10 19 20 19 18 +22/+31 +26 +17 +13 +17 7d6 (25) 25
Old L 25d12+100 (262) 25 10 19 22 21 18 +25/+36 +31 +18 +14 +19 8d6 (26) 26
Very old H 28d12+140 (322) 27 10 21 22 23 20 +28/+44 +34 +21 +16 +22 9d6 (29) 29
Ancient H 31d12+186 (387) 29 10 23 24 25 20 +31/+48 +38 +23 +17 +24 10 d6 (31) 30
Wyrm H 34d12+238 (459) 31 10 25 24 25 22 +34/+52 +42 +26 +19 +26 11d6 (34) 33
Great wyrm H 37d12+296 (536) 33 10 27 26 27 24 +37/+56 +46 +28 +20 +28 12d6 (36) 35

Steel Dragon Abilities by Age

Age Speed Initiative AC Special
Wyrmling 60 ft., fly 150 ft. (average), swim 30 ft. +0 14 (+1 size, +3 natural), touch 11, flat-footed 14 Polymorph, poison resistance 1st 16
Very young 60 ft., fly 150 ft. (average), swim 30 ft. +0 17 (+1 size, +6 natural), touch 11, flat-footed 17 Minor arcane shield 3rd 18
Young 60 ft., fly 200 ft. (poor), swim 30 ft. +0 19 (+9 natural), touch 10, flat-footed 19 Moderate arcane shield 5th 20
Juvenile 60 ft., fly 200 ft. (poor), swim 30 ft. +0 22 (+12 natural), touch 10, flat-footed 22 Enthrall 7th 22
Young adult 60 ft., fly 200 ft. (poor), swim 30 ft. +0 25 (+15 natural), touch 10, flat-footed 25 Damage reduction 5/magic 9th 24
Adult 60 ft., fly 200 ft. (poor), swim 30 ft. +0 27 (-1 size, +18 natural), touch 9, flat-footed 27 Charm person 11th 26
Mature adult 60 ft., fly 200 ft. (poor), swim 30 ft. +0 30 (-1 size, +21 natural), touch 9, flat-footed 30 Damage reduction 10/magic 13th 28
Old 60 ft., fly 200 ft. (poor), swim 30 ft. +0 33 (-2 size, +24 natural), touch 9, flat-footed 33 Suggestion 15th 30
Very old 60 ft., fly 200 ft. (poor), swim 30 ft. +0 35 (-2 size, +27 natural), touch 8, flat-footed 35 Damage reduction 15/magic 17th 32
Ancient 60 ft., fly 200 ft. (poor), swim 30 ft. +0 38 (-2 size, +30 natural), touch 8, flat-footed 38 Mass suggestion 19th 34
Wyrm 60 ft., fly 250 ft. (poor), swim 30 ft. +0 41 (-4 size, +33 natural), touch 8, flat-footed 41 Damage reduction 20/magic 20th 36
Great wyrm 60 ft., fly 250 ft. (poor), swim 30 ft. +0 44 (-4 size, +36 natural), touch 8, flat-footed 44 Mass charm 21st 38

The dragon's body seems somewhat feline, but its face has a humanlike quality. Spines that vaguely resemble hair and a beard ring its head, and its scales shine like burnished steel.

Steel dragons prefer human form to their own, so they're rarely seen in their natural forms. They routinely use their special abilities to infiltrate human society, typically masquerading as sages, scholars, wizards, and other intellectuals. Endlessly curious about the art, culture, history, and politics of civilized races, steel dragons live among humans and similar beings. Though they keep their true nature secret from the people with whom they mingle, they can always recognize each other.

When a steel dragon hatches, its scales are a deep blue-gray color with steely highlights. As it grows to adulthood, its color lightens to a lustrous burnished steel, and its shine increases as it continues to age. In human form, a steel dragon always has one steel-gray feature, such as hair, eyes, or nails. In rare cases, this feature may be a ring, tattoo, or other ornamentation. In its natural form, a steel dragon smells of wet steel.

Since they prefer human form, steel dragons rarely live in caves. Instead, they choose human dwellings such as mansions or castles. Such a home need not be opulent, but it must be large enough to accommodate a strongroom that will hold all the dragon's treasure. Steel dragons also prefer to dine in human form, but since they need to eat much more than humans do to maintain their true body mass, they make monthly trips to hunt in dragon form. These absences are always explained away in terms consistent with the roles they take in human society. For example, a steel dragon in the guise of a historian might claim to be exploring records in another city's library.

Steel dragons prefer treasure that they can carry in their human forms, such as jewelry, valuable coins, and magic items usable by Medium-size creatures. They hate creatures that disrupt normal life in cities or despoil natural hunting grounds. Within a city, they usually rely on local authorities to deal with troublemakers, though they are quite capable of dealing out their own justice when such authorities cannot be relied upon to do so. Steel dragons tend to prefer swifter forms of justice in the wilderness.


Steel dragons prefer talking to fighting, but if forced into combat, they usually begin with spells and avoid actual melee. If seriously threatened, a steel dragon reverts to its draconic shape and uses its breath weapon. It tries to incapacitate foes with its spells and other abilities unless they display obvious lethal intent and seem capable of inflicting serious harm. If outmatched, a steel dragon tries to either teleport away or assume a human guise and become lost in a crowd.

Breath Weapon (Su): A steel dragon has two kinds of breath weapons: a line of acid and a cone of poisonous gas. Every creature within the area of the poisonous gas must succeed on a Fortitude save or take 1 point of Constitution damage per age category of the dragon. It must then succeed on a second save at the same DC 1 minute later or take the same amount of damage.

Minor Arcane Shield (Su): A steel dragon's spell resistance against 1st- and 2nd-level arcane spells is higher than normal by +10.

Moderate Arcane Shield (Su): A steel dragon's spell resistance against 3rd- and 4th-level arcane spells is higher than normal by +10.

Poison Resistance (Ex): A steel dragon gets a +10 racial bonus on all Fortitude saving throws against poison.

Spell-Like Abilities: 5/day -- polymorph; 1/day -- charm person, enthrall, mass charm, mass suggestion, suggestion.

Skills: Bluff, Craft (any), and Profession (any) are considered class skills for steel dragons.

Environment: Any city (rarely any hill, plain, or forest).

Organization: Wyrmling, very young, young: solitary (with humanoid companions) or clutch (2-5); juvenile, young adult, adult, mature adult, old, very old, ancient, wyrm, great wyrm: solitary (with humanoid companions).

Challenge Ratings: Wyrmling 2; very young 4; young 4; juvenile 5; young adult 7; adult 8; mature adult 11; old 12; very old 13; ancient 15; wyrm 16; great wyrm 18.

Treasure: Wyrmling, very young, young, juvenile, young adult: standard; adult, mature adult, old: double standard; very old, ancient, wyrm, great wyrm: triple standard.

Alignment: Usually lawful neutral, often lawful good.

Advancement: Wyrmling 5-6 HD (Small); very young 8-9 HD (Small); young 11-12 HD (Medium); juvenile 14-15 HD (Medium); young adult 17-18 HD (Medium); adult 20-21 HD (Large); mature adult 23-24 HD (Large); old 26-27 HD (Large); very old 29-30 HD (Huge); ancient 32-33 HD (Huge); wyrm 35-36 HD (Huge); great wyrm 38+ HD (Huge).

About the Author

Skip Williams keeps busy with freelance projects for several different game companies and has been Dragon Magazine's Sage since 1986. Skip is a codesigner of the D&D 3rd edition game and the chief architect of the Monster Manual. When not devising swift and cruel deaths for player characters, Skip putters in his kitchen or garden (his borscht gets rave reviews).

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