Ancient Red Dragon
Hear me now, you insignificant speck. I have annihilated your armies, and your pathetic “champions” warm my stomach. Do not insult me further by attempting to run… Did you actually dare to believe that you could so much as scuff my scales? Have I been withdrawn so long that the universe forgets the respect I am due? Do you not recognize oblivion when you look upon its face? Make no mistake, foolish morsel: I am a dragon, I am death.
I hold favor with Tiamat herself. Civilizations rise and fall at the twitch of my tail. I have lived so long that stars and gods wink into and out of existence in the time it takes for my flames to extinguish themselves. I am that ancient power which all creation fears… And you have roused my ire.
No, I am not going to kill you, impotent mite, though it would take no effort at all. In your ignorant attempts to harm me you have done me a favor. You made me aware that the world has forgotten who is its master, and for that I shall honor you as my thrall and herald. You shall bear witness to my glory as I reduce all that your kind has wrought to ash, and from the soot establish my dominion once again. Go, sing my song of fire and blood. Remind the world that you, all of you, are beneath me. I am the King of Red Dragons.
-Etrigan the Eternal to Daniyel Albright, last Emperor of the Seven Kingdoms of Sunstep.
All dragons are characterized by their power, cunning, pride, and the compulsion to hoard. These traits are embodied by reds to the extreme. Please note this report does not intend to belittle the abilities of any other dragons nor marginalize the accomplishments of any who manage to best a dragon (in whatever fashion), for every dragon is a significant danger and challenge which should NOT be taken lightly (as any who do so will quickly find themselves in the afterlife). The aim of this report is to better understand and deal with Reds, who display such enormous amounts of greed and arrogance (even compared to other dragons) that they have come to be viewed as the archetypical evil dragon by many cultures.
Red dragons share the extended serpentine necks, reptilian heads, and feline style bodies covered in immensely tough scales of all dragons. They distinguish themselves by being somewhat bulkier than their cousins, having the longest wingspan of any chromatic dragon, and carrying themselves in a consistently proud/disdainful manner even when they do not think anyone can see them. The scales of a red dragon wyrmling are a bright glossy scarlet that become a dull, deeper red as they thicken and become as strong as metal as they reach adulthood. At which point the features which most people’s know them for will have fully developed: the beaked snout which constantly vents smoke, the golden orbs for eyes which dance with flame when enraged, the blue-black tint along the wings which resembles burnt metal, and the swept-back horns and spinal frill which define their silhouette. Red dragons lair in high mountains or hills, dwelling in caverns under snow-capped peaks or within the deep halls of abandoned mines and Dwarven strongholds. Caves with volcanic or geothermal activity are most highly prized by red dragons, as they then have even more hazards which hinder intruders and allow searing heat to wash over the dragon as it sleeps. It should be noted that due to the high level of confidence in the protection of their treasure hoard Reds spend as much time outside the mountain as in it.
There is a reason peoples of the Material Plane are hard-wired to notice the color red even against other shades of itself… I suspect it has nothing to do with berries.
-Amber Ironfist, Dwarven Chief of Overground Security
Red dragons, like all dragons, live mostly in isolation and are fiercely territorial, preferring only their own opinions on lair aesthetics, treasure priorities, etc. Reds are aware of where other dragons are located, but are only truly interested in their status and accomplishments compared to other Reds. Unlike most dragons however, Reds are actually willing to actively seek out their elder Reds and other-colored cousins if there is a significant problem they cannot solve by themselves, using their authority as “Tiamat’s chosen” or bribes from their horde to enlist their “servitude”. When mating, Reds display a rare level of respect for each other compared to the rest of Chromatics. The female seeks a male’s lair when she is in heat, then each courts the other through a sculpting competition where the duration, control, and intensity of flame is compared in addition to aesthetic creativity of the sculpture. The winner of this competition receives the honor of “hosting” the eggs and hatchlings. Due to their extreme ego both parents help raise the wyrmlings, as each believes them self to be the best and most knowledgable parent and will unload all of their collective knowledge on their children at only the slightest prompting. As soon as they deem a child old enough, usually the first time it speaks out against either parent, they kick it out. Confident that they have done the most absolutely perfect job in child-rearing. I must note that an unforeseen aspect of Chromatic dragon culture has been recently discovered, at great personal sacrifice by two colleagues and dear friends of mine, the half-elf Varis Tanner and Dragonborn Kepeshkmolik Ghesh. It would seem that once a century all Chromatic dragons are compelled by a mysterious force (I suspect Tiamat) to gather in one place, an island which only dragons are able to find naturally. Ghesh and Varis were able to follow a Red they had been hunting to this island and reported it to be similar to a Kings Moot. Apparently this is the one instance when dragons break their characteristic isolationist nature to share knowledge (including strategies used by adventurers who attempted to harm them), compare accomplishments, and select a “King” (a tradition which began during the Giant war I’m sure, though I must consult a Brass dragon to determine if Metalics conduct a similar “Dragons’ Moot”). It seems that their hoards are in minimal danger while they are away, as the collective magic from a large number of dragons in close proximity with each other creates a field or “bubble” of magical time distortion and each dragon is aware of the date of gathering as it approaches thus making extra precautions to their respective lairs. According to my calculations, it seems that within this magic field one experiences a year in the span of a single day, as when one of my fellows would exit to safely relay their report to me the other would tell them they had been missing for several weeks, even months at a time. The phrase “might is right” appears to be fact among dragons as Reds, being the strongest physically, are the only contenders for royal title although the other colors devise various tests which determine which Red is worthy of “wearing the crown” for the next hundred years (whether this is a physical crown or not is unknown as my compatriots were unable to get very close). For example, it seems the Greens present a series of difficult riddles and complex puzzles to determine the “strongest” mind, whereas the Blues demand various physical tests (a trial by combat section forced my friends to leave the field for several minutes). The Whites demanded a a series of hunting challenges, the word “dangerous” apparently was used to the merriment of all dragons in attendance. All dragons seek immortality, and apparently this is the most viable route for Reds, as any consort of Tiamat receives boons, and one can only imagine what favors await a Red that distinguishes itself among the rest in her eyes. All this was communicated to me through scrolls in a Secret Chest spell of which we each share a replica… Unfortunately this is as much as I know, as I have not heard from them in a month, and must assume they were discovered and killed.
Like most dragons, Reds are carnivorous. Dragons being at the top of the food chain for the earth and sky, and Reds being at the top of the Chromatic hierarchy, they are not picky about what they eat so long as it is meat. This often means that most sentient creatures are classified as “food”. However, as they see themselves as the rulers of the world, Reds are actually the most likely Chromatic dragon to entertain non-lethal options when dealing with intelligent species. In addition to kobolds, who so frequently worship and work for Chromatic dragons, Reds have been known to allow adventurers leave their lair alive, so long as their treasure hoard doesn’t seem to be in danger. Add to this the competitive nature amongst Reds and it is not surprising that they enjoy conquering and ruling tribes or even cities of “lesser” creatures, often counting these as an extension of their hoards and the accomplishments of “their loyal citizens” as something to lord over other Reds. This brings up a point which has long been slightly misunderstood. Reds seek wealth for their hoard, not only because of their greedy nature but because red dragons desire recognition of their power above all. The power they have due to their possessions is determined by the value others place on it, so by extension they understand the worth of each slave in servitude to them in relation to the rest, and each brick in a building. In addition to material wealth, they are able to estimate the value of a year’s worth of labor from each individual according to only a day’s observations. However, no dragon will allow a giant or their descendants to live as its servant, due to the blood feud between them. The one other silver lining for adventurers who encounter a red dragon is that they are the most likely to allow their vanity to be used against them. Flattery, though not effective as a long term stalling tactic, has saved many a hero’s life, and Reds are the most likely to underestimate the cunning of non-dragons in comparison to themselves. Legend has it that the most frequent method of successfully slaying a Red has been through manipulation of its ego in order to get it to leave its lair. While allowing them room to fly does seem unwise, dragons’ weakest spots are their eyes and wings. Remember: a downed dragon is a dead dragon… Occasionally. Red dragons are absolutely ferocious combatants, and will fight all the harder to avoid the slight to their pride should they need assistance.
When dealing with dragons it is best to understand their history. We don’t know exactly how the war between the Giants and Dragons ended, but only one side was forsaken by their god… And last I checked, Tiamat was still accepting dragon consorts.
-Birel Ilphelkiir, Head Librarian of the High Elf Museum of Natural Science
Reds fulfill all of the classic tropes associated with dragons (at least in Western Cultures), so it’s the perfect chance for you to try portraying a megalomaniac, have fun with it. Some ideas for incorporating them into a campaign include:
• Slaying or stealing from the dragon that threatens/possesses your MacGuffin, obvious but always enjoyable.
• If your PCs start to die off it may offer the one or two survivors the chance to live as slaves, which could lead to a “heroes turned villain by necessity” campaign.
• The Red rules a city/empire and your PCs are hired by/leading the resistance.
• The Red can be convinced to give your PCs information if it has something to gain from it. It may even employ them to collect treasure or information on the accomplishments of other Reds. Even steal from other dragons if your PCs can display they won’t die or give up their employer.
• There are often evil sentient items that can only be destroyed by magic fire, an ancient red dragon serves as the perfect twist on the “Mount Doom” trope.
• Food is becoming scarce because of red dragons raising their young nearby.
• A multi-dragon encounter. Perhaps even Dragon wars.
• Make smart dragons! If a tactic worked too well for your PCs in the past, allow the next one to have heard the story & counter their strategy.