It's the Year of Dragons! As a part of this celebration, we're taking a closer look at these iconic beasts, their abilities, and some of the best ways to fight them ... and come back alive.
This time, we sit down and chat about the talkative, prank-pulling copper dragon. It might seem easy to dismiss the jokes and antics of the copper dragon as being harmless, but crossing one could prove dangerous, even fatal. Although copper dragons are Chaotic Good, they are also among the easiest of the metallic dragons to annoy ...especially if you can't take a joke.
Copper dragons inhabit the same terrain as red dragons, meaning that the two are in constant conflict. Those that flee the rocky hills for the deeper desert find themselves competing with blue dragons. Either way, the copper dragon keeps its head and sense of humor at the folly of the situation. Anyone who runs up against a copper dragon is dealing with a smart, savvy foe used to competition.
Copper dragons prefer twisting canyons, dry ravines, and towering buttes in which to make their lairs, so be prepared for intense, dry heat and a lack of potable water. Despite the desolation of their lairs, copper dragons also try to set their homes close to humanoid towns, villages, and caravan routes to ensure that they have people to talk and joke with (or play pranks on). You're more likely to find a copper dragon than a red dragon living close to a humanoid settlement -- count yourself lucky!
Younger copper dragons make their lairs high in the hills and keep the entrance hidden from observers at ground level. Older coppers use their special abilities to hide their lairs from view (see below). If you find the entrance to a copper dragon's lair, be prepared for a twisting maze of tunnels, pits, traps, and other 'amusing tricks' on the way to the main chamber.
The Dragon's Side: Copper
While not as intrinsically tied to heat and sand as other dragons, copper dragons can learn many of the feats, spells, and tricks described in Sandstorm. In addition, these creatures of the Earth subtype can also find additional tactics in Races of Stone. In particular, copper dragons may learn some of the same fighting styles as giants, including the Rock Hurling or Knockback feats. Being able to cast divine spells, copper dragons may also pick up spells from that tome in order to harness the power of stone, such as earth hammer, earth glide, or stone fist.
As creatures with the earth subtype, copper dragons are immune to acid and can potentially be rebuked by clerics with the Air domain. They can scramble along rocky terrain as if they possessed the spider climb ability. This means that they can cling to the walls and ceilings of their rocky homes as effectively as if they were on the ground -- always keep someone looking up to make sure a copper dragon isn't ready to pounce on you from above. Copper dragons have Hide and Jump as class skills, meaning they are adept at blending into rocky walls and leaping immense distances onto their foes.
Adult and older copper dragons use stone shape to hide the entrances to their caves and craft unique, if confusing, statues, murals, and other bits of artwork all about their lairs. A copper dragon that picks up some ranks in Craft (artist) may even use this ability to make statues that look like people turned to stone, in much the way that a basilisk or medusa might do. If you think you're in one of these creature's lairs, be aware that you might be in copper dragon territory!
Old and older copper dragons make judicious use of transmute rock to mud/mud to rock in order to bog down and humiliate their opponents. If you're planning on facing a copper dragon at this age category, make sure that you have freedom of movement cast on everyone in your group in order to quickly get out of the sticky mud that's bound to come.
Dealing with a Copper Dragon's Breath Weapon
Copper dragons possess two types of breath weapons -- a line of acid and a cone of slow gas. As when facing any dragon that has a breath attack, avoid forming into a straight line so the dragon can't catch everyone in the blast. See the black dragon article for spells and magic items to avoid the worst of this acid damage. To avoid the worst of their slow breath weapon, make sure to boost your group's Will saves in any way possible, and be prepared for at least some of your party members to be slowed. Counter this with haste -- though expensive (750 gp), having everyone in your group carry potions of haste can keep your party moving at full speed during the encounter.
Ancient and older copper dragons use wall of stone to block off possible exits against their foes and to make solid barriers in the entrances of their lairs. Because they can shape this wall any way they choose, copper dragons typically hedge in their opponents with a circle of solid stone, then sit over the top and have a 'chat' with them (or blast them with their breath weapon).
The oldest copper dragons make extensive use of move earth to tailor their lairs and the surrounding area to their liking. If you face a great copper wyrm, realize that the earth beneath your feet is no longer safe. Be prepared with spells such as teleport, ethereal jaunt,passwall, and other means for getting out of potential stony tombs.
Copper dragons can also cast cleric spells and those from the Chaos, Earth, and Trickery domains as arcane spells. Be prepared for spells that confuse, dazzle, or divert you from the task of fighting your copper dragon opponent.
Game Resources: To use the material in this article to its fullest, check out the following resources -- Dungeon Master's Guide, Monster Manual, Draconomicon, Sandstorm, and Races of Stone.
About the Author
Eric Cagle cut his teeth at Wizards of the Coast but now lives the extravagant freelancer lifestyle. Look for his name on D&D, d20 Modern, and Star Wars books. Recent credits include d20 Apocalypse, Races of Destiny, and Monster Manual III. He is also a contributor to the Game Mechanics, Green Ronin Publishing, Dragon Magazine, and this lovely website. Eric lives in Seattle, where the coffee is dark and bitter like his goddesses.