Best of the Beastiary, D&D

Shadow Dragon: Technically Not a Dragon, I Guess

Why does the dragon section start on the next page? This guy literally has dragon in his name! Why doesn’t he count?!

This guy falls into the same category as the Dracolich: the “I’m a dragon, except not really” kind of monster. Thankfully, like the Dracolich before it, I don’t need to talk about the design. It’s a black-and-purple dragon. You all know what a dragon looks like; they’re the definition of awesome and I don’t need to bother.

Original? No. But it’s a fucking dragon! That’s an automatic win in my book!

Lore: Live in the Dark, Become the Dark

Honestly, the lore here is pretty fucking weak. It’s just five paragraphs of ‘dragon goes into dark dimension and transforms’. I don’t even need to talk about it more than that. But for the sake of fairness, I will anyways.

A Shadow Dragon is a transformed dragon; in order to change forms, a dragon must spend years within Shadowfell. Sometimes they’ll fall through dark portals and end up there without even realizing it. Other times, they’ll seek it out for the power. Some of them will remain in Shadowfell and lure people in there to keep them company; others will return to the Material Plane to continue searching for power and treasure.

There’s not much you can do with that. At best, you can do some fun foreshadowing for a boss fight; have some NPCs in the background talk about a dragon that disappeared long ago or some shit like that. That part could be cool. But if you want to make it the centerpiece of a story, you’ll need to do a lot of brainstorming.

Luckily, it makes up for it in the next department.

Stats: Close the Curtains, Mom!!

This thing gets Disadvantage on attack and Percpetion rolls in sunlight. It can’t function in sunlight! It’s literally just me, but it’s a dragon!

Whether it’s shrouded in darkness or not, the Shadow Dragon is certainly not one to fuck with. The AC is just shy of an even 20 and the HP just short of 200. It moves fast as hell, especially when it’s flying, so don’t bother trying to escape without a solid teleport spell at the ready. Plus, it’s immune to the element from its previous form; if it’s a red shadow dragon, you can’t hurt it with fire.

Though you’ll have to do a bit of work on your own end. The book only provides the stats for a red shadow dragon.

The Shadow Dragon has a ton of special abilities that make it tricky to fight. Living Shadow gives it resistance to all damage that isn’t force, psychic, or radiant, so long as it’s in dim light or darkness. In those same conditions, it can use Hide as a bonus action, essentially disappearing at a moment’s notice. That’s right: the biggest, most powerful (one of them; I am aware that the Tarasque exists) enemy in Dungeons and Dragons now has a stealth mode!

I hope you’ve got some bright-ass torches. Or lots of people with light spells. Finally justify the bastard that started with all the lamest spells.

Aside from those two, it’s a very straightforward fight. It can bite you, claw at you, and hit you with a shadow-version of its previous elemental breath. The damage numbers are ridiculously high for a Challenge LVL 13 monster, which will make it rather challenging for an appropriately leveled party. But that’s to be expected; it is a dragon, after all.

If you don’t set this guy up in dark conditions, then this fight will be rather boring. But put the party up against one in a dark room, and bam! You’ve got one of the most exciting, terrifying, and fun boss fights you could possibly setup!

Just don’t use the hide ability too often. Otherwise, it could quickly become tedious and draining.

Placement

In all honesty, the Shadow Dragon is pretty weak. It makes for a great boss fight! But it lacks any substance beyond that. It’s just a cool fight with no interesting story behind it.

With all that in mind, let’s put the Shadow Dragon on the Best of the Bestiary!

  1. Beholder
  2. Death Tyrant
  3. Couatl
  4. Behir
  5. Aboleth
  6. Chuul
  7. Chimera
  8. Death Knight
  9. Bone Devil
  10. Dracolich
  11. Ankheg
  12. Shadow Demon
  13. Marilith
  14. Aarackockra
  15. Azer
  16. Demilich
  17. Spectator
  18. Cambion
  19. Animated Armor
  20. Banshee
  21. Basilisk
  22. Yochlol
  23. Bulette
  24. Cloaker
  25. Darkmantle
  26. Doppelganger
  27. Pit Fiend
  28. Erinyes
  29. Chain Devil
  30. Bearded Devil
  31. Barbed Devil
  32. Spined Devil
  33. Ice Devil
  34. Nalfeshnee
  35. Glabrezu
  36. Chasme
  37. Barlgura
  38. Horned Devil
  39. Balor
  40. Shadow Dragon <———-
  41. Vrock
  42. Dretch
  43. Goristro
  44. Hezrou
  45. Manes
  46. Quasit
  47. Planetar
  48. Imp
  49. Displacer Beast
  50. Carrion Crawler
  51. Rug of Smothering
  52. Bugbear Chief
  53. Bugbear
  54. Vine Blight
  55. Twig Blight
  56. Needle Blight
  57. Bullywug
  58. Cockatrice
  59. Lemure
  60. Solar
  61. Deva
  62. Cyclops
  63. Centaur
  64. Dinosaurs (All six of them)
  65. Flying Sword
  66. Crawling Claw

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