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20 Awesome D&D Dragons And How To Use Them Properly

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The books of Dungeons & Dragons are full of dragons, creatures so iconic that the game itself is named after them. They are an iconic threat and the classic boss monster of the game. With so many to choose from, it can be a burden for a DM to sift through them all. This is especially true with the dozens of varieties introduced in Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons.

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Every type of dragon is unique, with its own capabilities, behaviors, and psychology. Picking the right one for an adventure and playing it to the hilt can make for a memorable experience. As such, it’s important for DMs to know some of the best types of dragons available, and to know what makes them tick.

Updated January 4th by Isaac Williams:Dungeons & Dragons’ roster is full of strange and powerful dragons. Many are situational and not suited to every campaign. Nonetheless, there’s a dragon to suit almost any campaign or adventure. This list has been updated with even more of the best dragons in D&D, along with how they might fit into the game.

20/20 Red Dragons Are Covetous And Easily Baited Into A Fight

CR: 4 – 27

An adult red dragon in the mountains in DnD

Red dragons are classic D&D villains for good reason. They are avaricious and they like all manner of gold and jewels, but what they seem to desire the most is prestige. It’s not the gold or fine goods in their mountain keep that delights them, but the notion that it is theirs.

  • Fire breath weapon
  • Can conjure gouts of magma or cause earthquakes using lair actions
  • Able to turn the area around their lairs into deserts and see through any open flames

Red dragons are willing to lay waste to whole kingdoms with their fiery breath for even the smallest of slights. For all their great power, they are very insecure. This makes red dragons very well-suited to being villains of a D&D campaign. However, it also makes it easy for player characters to manipulate them.

19/20 Dracoliches Are Powerful Undead Spellcasters That Don’t Fight Fair

CR: Varies

A Dracolich readying its breath weapon in DnD 5e

Liches and dragons are two of the most iconic and popular villains in Dungeons & Dragons. The dracolich simply combines those concepts. Dragons are long-lived and intelligent magical creatures. They are every bit as capable of transforming themselves into liches as humanoids.

  • Added necrotic damage resistance in addition to the dragon’s normal elemental resistance
  • Magic Resistance grants advantage on saving throws against all spells
  • Very difficult to kill thanks to the power of a phylactery

Given that the very process of becoming a lich is evil in and of itself, requiring the consumption of others’ souls, dracoliches are natural villains. They are also immensely powerful and are unlikely to wander into a fight with the party. Old age and an intelligent mind are likely to see them become shrewder and less overt in their methods.

18/20 Blue Dragons Are Vicious But Can Be Reasoned With

CR: 3 – 27

An Ancient Blue Dragon in DnD

The blue dragon is the most hospitable of the evil dragons. They make their lairs in barren, sprawling deserts, and use them to leave travelers and interlopers at their mercy. They prefer order and mockery to chaos and outright devastation. This doesn’t make them any more moral than their fellow chromatic dragons.

  • Powerful line-based lightning breath weapon
  • Can use lair actions to conjure mirages or sandstorms to confuse enemies
  • Fill the region surrounding their lair with sinkholes and dust devils, making travel almost impossible

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The blue dragon has a fascination with jewels, particularly those that are beautiful or visually stunning. A blue dragon may, in certain cases, leave a treasure behind if it feels it might sully the rest of its hoard. The beast demands respect from all who observe it. An act of deference by an adventurer along with tribute may likely be enough to dissuade this dragon from killing them.

17/20 Ghost Dragons Haunt One Particular Item

CR: 17

A Ghost Dragon lingering beyond death in DnD 5e

Dragons are known for their greed and jealousy. One of their main instincts is to protect their hoard. This can even linger beyond death. A ghost dragon is one whose spirit has become attached to one particular item they owned in life. This renders them incorporeal, gives them many benefits of undeath, and adds a fear effect to their breath.

  • Exist to protect one specific item
  • Can travel through solid objects to pursue enemies
  • Breath attacks inflict the Frightened condition

Ghost dragons fight similarly to other types of dragons. However, their role in the story can be very different. They can guard a single item that the PCs desperately need, or become enraged when the PCs take it. This can lead to some very difficult decisions for the group — especially if the item is something important to their quest.

16/20 Green Dragons Work Best From The Shadows

CR: 2 – 27

A green dragon preparing to use its poison breath in DnD

Green dragons value information networks and slaves. They spew poison or corrosive vapor from their mouths and live in deep forests. Green dragons are a persistent threat to any wood elf community, and their influence and political machinations have undermined many an adventurer. A green dragon’s reach goes far beyond its home forest as it uses its thralls to bribe or assassinate others.

  • Area of effect poisonous breath weapon
  • Better social skills than many other dragons, opening opportunities for intrigue
  • Able to manipulate forests and creatures around their lair to do their bidding

The green dragon’s preferred treasure is anything that another creature has taken time and effort to craft. The more time and effort put into the work, the more the green dragon admires such things. A green dragon’s desires, coupled with their subterfuge and influence, can make for an entire story arc in and of themselves.

15/20 Dragon Turtles Are Aquatic Threats

CR: 4-24

A Dragon Turtle attacking underwater in DnD

Dragons are best associated with the skies. However, dragon turtles make their home in the seas. The dragon turtle is known as one of the biggest threats in any D&D ocean. This gives them a unique role in the story. A dragon turtle can be a pressing threat in any aquatic, island-based, or coastal campaign.

  • Native to the ocean, unlike most dragons
  • Steam breath deals full fire damage even underwater
  • Ancient dragon turtles reach the status of Mythic Monsters

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Dragon turtles also require a unique approach to fighting them. Many D&D PCs are less effective in or under the water. A party might need to fight a dragon turtle from a boat or after using powerful magic to even the odds. They’re an excellent way to change up the pace and give the party a new challenge.

14/20 Sapphire Dragons Are Archetypal Gem Dragons

CR: 3 – 26

A Sapphire Dragon its underground lair in DnD

The two best-known categories of dragon in Dungeons & Dragons are the evil-aligned chromatic dragons and the morally good metallic dragons. However, a third category does exist. Gem dragons fill the neutral part of the alignment chart. They range from stalwart and lawful to chaotic and self-involved.

  • Debilitating breath weapon that is capable of instantly incapacitating a target
  • Innate psionic powers for both in and out of combat
  • Capable of incredible feats of telepathy and able to manipulate stone in the region around a lair

Sapphire dragons are the iconic gem dragons, sticking to the neutral alignment perfectly. Unlike other, more benevolent gem dragons, sapphire dragons are antisocial and territorial, and thus more likely to pick a fight with adventurers. In combat, they can be fierce, combining a powerful physical threat with psionic magic, mighty thunder-based melee attacks, and Telekinesis.

13/20 White Dragons Are Primal, Cunning Hunters

CR: 2-27

A white dragon its frozen cave lair in DnD

White dragons hunt and prowl snowy regions, unleashing their icy breath on others. They are the most feral of the dragons and rely on their instinct rather than their intellect in almost all things. Once they have achieved their goal of decent shelter and a full stomach, they are usually satisfied.

  • Powerful melee attacks supplemented with combat-based lair effects at higher levels
  • Surprisingly stealthy and mobile, especially in icy environments
  • Able to lock down a lair with icy walls and blizzard

White dragons are ambush predators that lack the cruelty of their kin. They spend their lives looking to hunt and kill more and more dangerous prey. Their lower danger and simple behavior can make them a good villain for the early part of the campaign. Alternatively, they can develop a fixation with hunting the party and become a more physical threat.

12/20 Moonstone Dragons Are Fey Tricksters And Guardians

CR: 2 – 21

A Feywild Moonstone Dragon in DnD

The Feywild is one of Dungeons & Dragons‘ brighter and prettier planes of existence. It’s an exaggerated and magical echo of the Material Plane. The Feywild’s inhabitants are morally ambiguous. Most of them are more interested in satisfying their curiosities and vices than the well-being of others.

  • Multiple breath weapon forms to deal damage or incapacitate foes
  • Powerful innate magical abilities of many kinds
  • Able to cross planes both physically and in communication

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Moonstone dragons are every bit as dangerous as other types of dragons, but also have a sense of whimsy that others lack. They’re not inherently malicious. Nonetheless, they could easily have dealings with a party as members of a Fey Court or while seeking to guard regions of the Feywild against intruders.

11/20 Black Dragons Are Brutes Who Live To Subjugate

CR: 2 – 27

A Black Dragon stalking its prey in DnD

Black dragons actively take pleasure in the suffering of other creatures. They are ambush predators like white dragons, but they are far more cunning. Black dragons like easy, crushing victories, and will retreat if a fight turns against them. They use the natural environment of their swampy lairs to their advantage.

  • Stealthy and amphibtoer to fight with ambush tactics
  • Able to manipulate swamps to entrap enemies in and out of combat
  • Inflicts both acid and poison damage with breath weapon and lair actions

Black dragons enjoy the suffering of their prey, but they share the same thirst for treasure as their ilk. In their case, they lust after simple gold coins, especially those from older and long-gone civilizations. Black dragons can make for particularly vile villains. If a DM focuses on a black dragon’s cruelty and desire to dominate, it can make for a very memorable and ruthless antagonist.

10/20 Greatwyrms Are The Pinnacle Of Dragonkind

CR: 26-28

An image of a Chromatic Greatwyrm laying waste to a city in DnD

Greatwyrms are the end stage of any dragon’s life cycle. After dragons reach ancient status, they can learn of their other incarnations on other worlds. If they can merge these incarnations, they become a near-unstoppable greatwyrm. This makes them so much more powerful than a regular ancient dragon.

Chromatic, metallic, or gem dragons can all become greatwyrms. Each of them has a different statblock with unique abilities. Notably, they are all Mythic Monsters. When they’re first reduced to zero hit points, they start a new phase of their fight instead of dying. This makes them perfect endgame bosses for sufficiently powerful parties.

9/20 Gold Dragons Desire Both Treasure And The Downfall Of Evil

CR: 3 – 28

A Gold Dragon in its ornate lair in DnD

Gold dragons stand at the apex of D&D dragon-kind. They’re the most powerful of the more basic chromatic and metallic dragons. Gold dragons make their homes in stone structures, great caverns, or castles, often hiring loyal creatures to serve as guards. They will appoint themselves as guardians of good, finding quests to fulfill and punishing evil should they find it.

  • Versatile breath weapon that can deal massive fire damage or weaken foes non-lethally
  • Able to transform into a humanoid to live among non-dragon societies
  • Lair can function as a beacon and refuge for good creatures in need

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The gold dragon’s preferred treasure is that which displays artisanship. As most D&D parties are heroic, it’s unlikely for a gold dragon to be an antagonist. They can instead be an aloof ally or a quest giver. Nonetheless, dragons don’t have fixed personalities. A gold dragon could take a very good idea to the party and refuse to listen to them. Conflict can easily spring from such a scenario.

8/20 Emerald Dragons Are Curious Masters Of Illusion

CR: 2-21

An Emerald Dragon rearing back in DnD

Emerald Dragons are one of the more proactive types of gem dragon. They’re curious and prone to seeking out potential people of interest. When they find them, they like to hide behind illusions to study them. In particular, they’re drawn to unusual magical phenomena. This often leads them both to adventuring parties and to matters that need a party’s attention.

  • Able to misdirect adventurers with illusions both in and out of battle
  • Capable of powerful psionic spellcasting
  • Breath weapon disorients targets and disrupts their actions in combat

Emerald dragons could easily slip into hostilities with a party if they’re caught spying. Alternatively, they might root out threats — particularly aberrations — that need a party’s attention. They can play very versatile roles in a campaign’s story.

7/20 Bronze Dragons Are Hardy, Pragmatic, And Just

CR: 2 – 28

An Ancient Bronze Dragon in DnD

Bronze dragons are naturally inquisitive, with a strong sense of justice. They seek to fight evil in its many forms and often take on a humanoid appearance to test travelers’ moral compass and to punish them should they act cruelly.

  • Versatile breath that can deal damage or blast enemies away
  • Specialized lair actions perfectly suited to combat at sea
  • Able to shape change into a humanoid creature at will at higher levels

Bronze dragons enjoy warfare and fighting. This could lead them into conflict with a party despite their good alignment. Alternatively, a bronze dragon might take umbrage with more ruthless or evil members of an adventuring party. This sort of threat can pose an interesting dilemma for the rest of the party.

6/20 Shadow Dragons Are Intelligent And Can Cause Untold Devastation

CR: Varies

An insubstial Shadow Dragon in DnD 5e

Shadow dragons are unpleasant creatures. They’re regular dragons transformed into much worse by the effects of the Shadowfell. Wispy and insubstantial, they are nonetheless keen threats in combat. Worse, they are incredibly intelligent, on par with gold dragons. They eclipse even their red kin in their cunning.

  • Enhanced stealth and damage resistances
  • Necrotic damage in place of a normal elemental breath weapon
  • Able to raise slain foes as shadows

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A shadow dragon is inherently hostile to all life. This puts them in an ideal position to menace a party. However, they prove most deadly in cities or other crowded areas. Their breath attack turns its victims into shadows – creatures known for being disproportionately deadly compared to their CR.

5/20 Copper Dragons Are Good-Natured But Tricksy

CR: 1 – 28

A Copper Dragon in flight in DnD

Copper dragons are playful, sociable, and very greedy. They search for entertainment in their lives and will not actively route evil unless it should threaten their entertainment. They make their homes in rocky areas with ravines or caverns and rely on their acid breath in combat.

  • Instills chaotic and benevolent effects in the region around its lair at high levels
  • Able to fight lethally or nonlethally with acid or slowing breath weapons
  • Many abilities to restrain and hinder enemies

Bronze dragons’ less hostile nature is shown in their combat options. As well as an acid attack, they have a slowing breath weapon that inconveniences combatants. A bronze dragon is more likely to seek out adventurers than many other types, due to seeing them as good entertainment. They can be a recurring annoyance or an unreliable ally.

4/20 Elder Brain Dragons Are Abominations That Desire Supremacy

CR: 22

A Mind Flayer Dragon roaring in DnD 5e

Elder brains are the leaders of the aberrant illithids, also known as mind flayers. Illithids are a race of alien beings who believe that they are the superior form of life. They seek to rule over others. They take slaves to use as thralls, hosts to parasitize into more of their kind, or simply as food. Elder brains are a fearsome psionic threat. However, they can lack direct combat potential.

  • Able to infect enemies with mind flayer tadpoles
  • Extremely powerful Perception and Insight skills
  • Able to disrupt enemy spellcasters’ concentration

A far more horrifying prospect is an elder brain that has parasitized a dragon. An elder brain dragon, found in Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons, is a threat on every level. A potential villain anywhere there are illithids, they can make for a suitable final campaign boss. They pose a huge threat by themselves, let alone when surrounded by illithids.

3/20 Brass Dragons Desire Friends More Than Conflict

CR: 1 – 28

A Brass Dragon in flight DnD

The brass dragon is the weakest of all the true dragons, but also the most social. They will spend hours in conversation with enemies and friends alike. Brass dragons rarely look for a fight and would prefer to discuss things rather than turn to violence, using their fire breath only as a last resort.

  • Breath weapon can burn enemies or put them to sleep
  • Regional effects can help good creatures find refuge and keep them safe from the elements
  • Able to conjure gusts of sand and wind to buffet enemies in and out of combat

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Brass dragons make their lairs in arid regions. At the center of every brass dragon lair is the conversation hall. Their social nature means that they could be well-acquainted with the player characters for much of the campaign. Alternatively, a brass dragon could turn to an adventuring party for help in slaying something much stronger than it.

2/20 Hollow Dragons Are A Unique Form Of Undead

CR: 18

An undead hollow dragon in DnD

D&D has several types of undead dragons. The hollow dragon is the strangest. It’s a dragon that is so obsessed with a single cause that it continues trying to fulfill it beyond death. Rather than a skeleton or a ghost, they are a dragon’s husk infused with powerful, radiant energy.

  • Have a unique radiant breath weapon attack
  • Can restrain a creature with legendary actions
  • Reform after death unless specific measures are taken

Hollow dragons are undead metallic dragons. However, this doesn’t limit their alignment. Even a good hollow dragon is single-minded and could come to blows with the PCs if they’re at cross-purposes. In addition, even death doesn’t stop it. Assuming its body parts are nearby after its death, it can reform. This lets it be a powerful and recurring foe throughout a campaign.

1/20 Silver Dragons Have A Passion For Humanoid Life

CR: 2 – 28

A Silver Dragon perched on a rock in DnD

The silver dragon is the most likely to live among a humanoid populace in disguise. Using its magic to hide its true form, the dragon will ingratiate itself into society without anyone being the wiser. It tries not to flaunt its draconic nature, but it will transform when necessary to defend its friends using its icy breath.

  • Capable of paralyzing or dealing cold damage with a breath weapon attack
  • Can shape change to live among humanoids
  • Able to create structures of solid fog throughout its lair

Silver dragons rarely seek to stamp out evil, but they will correct an injustice should they see one. This can make them valuable allies for any party, or even a threat to more ruthless adventurers. Their tendency to exist around humanoids gives them a unique perspective that can help them interact with player characters.

NEXT: 15 Weakest Monsters in Dungeons & Dragons, Ranked

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