Product Spotlight01/11/2006

Races of the Dragon
Designer Interview
Interview by Bart Carroll and the Wizards of the Coast Community

In this month's exclusive interview, Gwendolyn F.M. Kestrel, Jennifer Clarke Wilkes, and Kolja Raven Liquette, authors of the new Races of the Dragon book, discuss new races, classes, and all things draconic -- including the nature of kobolds!

In the interests of better involving the player community with the D&D website, questions for this interview were solicited in part via the message boards. Our thanks to the following players: Barloch, Kadasbrass, larry the titan, obrysii, rampant, Ravin Ray, JiCi, sabrecp, Decree Of Boredom, Taeldrin Laesrash, Kobold Avenger, Darren S., Nolgoth, MindWandererB, draxynnic, BrotherDog, MessiahOmega, KoboldMenace, smrtgmp, celestial warrior, Nika, mhacdebhandia, Wilds, Sephyrill, Valgard, technodemon, Genghis Cohen, Light of Day, cowdragon, Jonas Wolfhaven, rbrt Spade, The Mad Dragon, K, Zaphod Zarniwoop, Darth K'Trava, walker on the horizon, The Badger, turalisj, Lunarbat, Tokalla, Grand Theft Otto, davethebrave371, REZNA, VedicDragon, and reddingstacey66 for their participation.

Gwendolyn F.M. Kestrel: Jennifer (Clarke Wilkes), Kolja (Raven Liquette), and I are very excited about Races of the Dragon. Today (editor's note: this interview was conducted just before the holidays), Jennifer and I ooh'ed and ah'ed over the advance copy that just arrived at RPG R&D. We all love dragons and dragon-related creatures -- we're very pleased with the book and hope that you enjoy using it as much as we enjoyed creating it!

Wizards of the Coast: To start with, as Draconomicon covered dragons, what does Races of the Dragon look to explore? Where did inspiration for the book's material come from -- was there influence from the reptilian template in Savage Species? Unearthed Arcana's dragon bloodlines? Draconic mythology (real world and/or D&D's)?

Gwendolyn: Dragons are a rich part of the Dungeons & Dragons game history. There's plenty of material in the game system to serve as inspiration. Of course, we wanted to go beyond what we had done before. While familiar with both Savage Species and Unearthed Arcana, I didn't directly go to these books for inspiration for Race of the Dragon.

In general, I find dragons to be incredible, intriguing, and awesome creatures. Many of the pictures that decorate my home contain dragons; every morning as I start the day, I awake with Dark Dsarion, a Ciruelo dragon on the wall above my bed, I cross to the bathroom door which is flanked by two Ruth Thompson pictures, one of which (Dead of Winter) features a dragon, and walk into the bathroom to see Todd Lockwood's 25th Anniversary Silver Dragon. Trust me, that's just a small glimpse into my dragon-filled world!

In text, I also love references to dragons. In the Player's Handbook, the sorcerer class embeds one of the key inspirations for the new spellscale race: "Some sorcerers claim that the blood of dragons courses through their veins..." (pg. 51). This idea has been around since the introduction of the sorcerer in 3rd Edition; for example, we've riffed on it with the Dragon Disciple prestige class in the Dungeon Master's Guide (pg. 183), and put little hints about it in a number of places. I thought, "Hmm, if sorcerers have draconic blood in them, why can't this manifest in a more draconic humanoid on occasion? Some sort of genetic anomalies?" The result of this musing: the Spellscale.

Kolja Raven Liquette: As a freelancer, I can't speak for where the conceptual inspiration came from, but when Chris Perkins told me that the lives of kobolds would be detailed in this book, I signed on right away. I wanted to give credence to their "ectothermic" reptilian nature, but that was only the beginning. Kobolds are probably the most downtrodden race of Dungeons & Dragons, treated for the most part as fodder by young adventurers. (Come to think of it, I probably accessed my own early, bullying encounters without even realizing it.) I wanted to prop kobolds up a little, but without taking away their cowardly streak. Kobolds will avoid a fight if they can help it, but watch out if you push them too far.

Wizards of the Coast: Does Races of the Dragon assume that conflict with draconic enemies and partnerships with draconic allies are a large part of the campaign? Or is the book aimed at supporting dragon-themed characters first and foremost, and less at setting up major oppositions that are intended to dominate the campaign?

Gwendolyn: It's really open-ended. The two new races can be introduced to any campaign very easily without having to revise the backstory or retrofit them in. The information on kobolds, draconic creatures, and half-dragons enhances creatures that are likely in the campaign already. Chapter 9: Campaigns of the Dragon offers suggestions on how it might be done, and also provides a number of fleshed-out NPCs for each of the races that make introducing more of these characters a snap.

Wizards of the Coast: What makes the new races any different from existing races? That is, what niche in the campaign world and in the party might they fill?

Gwendolyn: Dragonborn (the transformative race) can really be anything. Statistically, they have improved Constitution, but decreased Dexterity. In this way, they're solid melee fighters but are perhaps less apt to be ranged combatants or rogues. Their racial abilities give them a strong draconic feel and also make them excellent dragon foes. They choose an aspect of their dragonhood to emphasize: heart (gaining a breath weapon), mind (dragonlike senses), or wings (gliding and eventually flying). In this way, they're very customizable to suit a particular player or campaign. Their favored class is fighter, but many are also paladins as they can leave and return to the class without penalty. I see them as great choices for any class that values Constitution, so my next Incarate (Magic of Incarnum) character is apt to be a dragonborn.

Spellscales are consummate sorcerers. They gain a bonus to Charisma, but a penalty to Dexterity. (Yes, and for you folk keeping score at home: No level adjustment! That's right, a bump to Charisma and no level adjustment!) They have special blood-quickening meditations they perform daily, focusing on a dragon god. A spellscale can change it every day. The benefits are good, roughly as powerful as a feat, and enable a spellscale to adapt to the current needs of the adventure or campaign. As part of their philosophy, they try to consider each of the 11 dragon gods once a year. I think they're my favorite of all the new races we've introduced in the Races of... series. They're whimsical, experimental, and lots of fun to play.

Wizards of the Coast: There are quite a few questions regarding transformative races (i.e., the dragonborn). How do the mechanics behind the transformation work? And is this a system we'll see in other books, applied to other creatures? Plus, the dragonborn race is described as "reborn in a new draconic form to combat and destroy the spawn of Tiamat" -- does this refer merely to chromatic dragons, or to evil-aligned draconic beings in general?

Gwendolyn: Lots of questions! I'm pleased to see such curiosity about the race. The dragonborn originated because Tiamat has become more active in the world. She's creating more evil dragonkind, while her minions cause all manner of horror and destruction. Bahamut felt the need to interview and help counter Tiamat's aggression. The Platinum Dragon foreswore breeding creatures to oppose Tiamat's spawn, instead calling volunteers to his righteous cause. These individuals dedicate their lives to Bahamut's cause, and can be humanoids of any nonevil alignment. Bahamut's call is a mental and spiritual one. Answering it is purely voluntary. In this way, any humanoid can become a dragonborn. The Rite of Rebirth takes two full days and some minor preparations. The supplicant loses many racial traits and gains those of the dragonborn. There are details on the specifics on page 10 of the book. However, I don't know of any other transformational races appearing in the near future.

"Spawn of Tiamat" refers in general to any and all evil creatures of the dragon type whether or not they directly serve Tiamat. Dragonborns also consider evil, nondragon worshippers of the Chromatic Dragon as her spawn. More spawn of Tiamat will appear in the Monster Manual IV (July 2006). And you can also look forward to dragon-related themes in other future products.

Wizards of the Coast: Ah, kobolds. While there is certainly support for evil characters in Dungeons & Dragons (the Book of Vile Darkness comes to mind), most resources tend to assume PCs are either good or neutral aligned. With this in mind, one of the races featured in Races of the Dragon -- kobolds -- are usually lawful evil. Will they still be presented as an evil race? Or will a non-evil version of kobolds be presented, such as how Races of the Wild featured non-evil gnolls?

Kolja: Kobolds are evil, but I took the "lawful" part of their racial alignment very much to heart. Kobolds are evil with a reason. One of things I explored in this book is that kobolds are not evil by nature so much as they are evil by reaction. Their race has been mistreated by other races (gnomes in particular) for countless generations. Rather than silently enduring the abuse heaped on their race (starting with Garl Glittergold collapsing a cave on Kurtulmak), kobolds have been inspired to commit acts of great evil in "retaliation" for unpunished crimes. I very much believe that a lawful evil kobold character could fit into a neutral or even good-aligned party of heroes, so long as nobody disparages that kobold (at all). That said, for the majority of kobolds that worship Kurtulmak, there is a minority that worship Io (who accepts open-minded followers of any alignment).

Wizards of the Coast: Could you give us a small taste of what was done to take the cute out of kobolds? Are there new substitution levels for them, aside from sorcerer?

Kolja: I really wanted to give kobolds enough depth of history to emerge as a core Dungeons & Dragons race. To do that, I gave them teeth. Not in the natural attack sense, but rather in their ability to suffer and yet prevail. I gave kobolds an undefeatable pride in their draconic heritage and a special ritual passed down to them from dragons. All kobolds now enjoy Craft (trapmaking) as a racial class skill (which primarily affects NPC classes and prestige class levels). As well, and to the best of my knowledge, kobolds receive more substitution classes than any other race in this book, including one for the fighter, ranger, and rogue class. The sorcerer substitution class applies to all races with the dragonblood subtype (which now includes kobolds).

Wizards of the Coast: Are there updates to existing prestige classes (such as for Dragon Disciple, Dragon Samurai), or are new PrC's presented?

Gwendolyn: No updates to existing prestige classes. We've created some great new ones, though: Disciple of the Eye, Dracolexi, Dragon Devotee, Dragonheart Mage, and Singer of Concordance. (The Dragon Devotee is a great bridge class to enable a fighter or rogue to take the Dragon Disciple prestige class from the Dungeon Master's Guide.)

Wizards of the Coast: Likewise, are there new draconic-focused feats (and are there feats that do not require sorcerer levels as a prerequisite)?

Gwendolyn: There are lots of good feats. Several new Draconic Heritage-based feats (Complete Arcane) do require sorcerer level 1st. Many feats don't require spellcasting, but usually have racial requirements such as the dragonblood subtype, kobold, or half-dragon. There are even two new tactical feats: one ideal for spontaneous casters, the other for flying creatures (you'll find lots of ways to become a flying creature in this book!).

Wizards of the Coast: What items might be available for those that favor all things draconic? If there are ways to become a flying creature, does this mean a chance to acquire wings and other features (how do draconic grafts work, for example)?

Jennifer Clarke Wilkes: There are ten draconic grafts, which use the same rules established for grafts in Magic of Eberron (pg. 126). They fit in body slots as magic items do, and they confer various draconic benefits on the user. For example, a glaring eye graft gives you a dragon's keen senses and grants immunity to magic sleep effects; a buffeting wings graft confers flight as well as a dragon's wing attack. In addition, the more draconic grafts you have, the greater the cumulative benefit, in the form of damage resistance.

Gwendolyn: Of course, in addition to the grafts, there's other interesting equipment including chitin armor, ditherbombs, fire beetle lamps, folding traps, necklaces of dragon's teeth...

Wizards of the Coast: Is there material and advice available for psionic play? For Eberron campaigns?

Gwendolyn: We do have a touch of psionics in the book. There are four new psionic powers that related to the dragon-theme.

Wizards of the Coast: Finally, the random dragon question of the day. The message boards raised more than a few queries regarding the possibilities -- or impossibilities, as the case may be -- regarding the interbreeding of dragon species. Although not likely covered in Races of the Dragon, are there any rules (or predicted results) for two different types of dragons or half dragons breeding (such as a gold with a silver)? Would two different half-dragon templates be applied to the offspring?

Jennifer: The question of where half-dragons come from has always been sure to lead to naughty speculation as well as serious genetic analysis. In a magical world, weird hybrids seem to happen easily, and fantasy literature is full of such creatures. But I wanted to provide some other explanations for the appearance of half-dragons and other dragon-descended creatures. A shapechanged dragon in humanoid form is certainly the most common, but magical experimentation or even genetic "weird science" can produce dragon-descended creatures. I had originally written up a new prestige class called the Dragon Grafter, whose purpose was largely to explain how half-dragons and grafts could appear in the world and give players a chance to try a character who could create such things; the character's class abilities allowed magical meddling with eggs and hatchlings to introduce material from other kinds of creatures, as well as using embryonic tissues to grow draconic grafts. Although it turned out that the class was not very suitable for player characters, much of its concept remained in the idea of NPC wyrmgrafters who specialize in such things. The kuo-toa Booldipdop is experimenting with black dragons and has created a number of bizarre creatures; in Races of the Dragon, PCs can encounter the mad grafter and his spawn in his hideout.

Kolja: This doesn't really fall into a discussion about half-dragons templates, but on rare occasions, a female kobold will lay what is called a "dragonwrought egg". The dragonwrought kobold that hatches from this egg is available for characters to play at 1st level. Be sure to check out the Dragonwrought feat for more details!

Dragonwrought Feat

Benefit: You are a dragon wrought kobold. Your type is dragon rather than humanoid, and you lose the dragonblood subtype. You retain all your other subtypes and your kobold racial traits. Your scales become tinted with a color that matches that of your draconic heritage. As a dragon, you are immune to magic sleep and paralysis effects. You have darkvision out to 60 feet and low-light vision. You gain a +2 racial bonus on the skill indicated for your draconic heritage on the table on page 103.

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