Saturday, July 19, 2014

Dragon Artifacts – Using Dragons as Literal Piles of Loot

In just about every D&D game, at some point there's going to be a dead dragon. Whether that dragon has slain dozens of PCs in a particularly-lethal old-school game or barely got to start its villainous monologue before being unceremoniously slaughtered, it's going to happen.

Usually, the aftermath is pretty simple for the PCs. They write down the vast amount of XP they've gotten for slaying the dragon, and then spend the next half-hour or so divvying up the loot from the dragon's hoard/bed. But sometimes that's not quite enough. A lot of dragon slayers want to make it very clear that they've been out slaying dragons. What better way to show off your dragon slaying skills than by using the dead beast's own body as your armor, weapons, and magic items? After all, gold can come from anywhere, but dragonscale plate armor can only come from a dead dragon.
That guy can get a lot of loot out of the dragon. Source

Naturally, only particularly skilled craftsmen can make these artifacts. Sometimes, a mage is also needed to add the necessary enchantments. Using a dragon's scales, bones, or blood might be a quest in and of itself; PCs are rarely fortunate enough to find someone of the necessary skills in their hometown or near their stronghold, after all.

Dragon slayers taking advantage of artifacts made of a dragon's flesh or bones must be wary, however. Other dragons may take offense to one of their kin being made into armor or weapons and retaliate against the PCs.

NOTE: I'm using the dragons from ACKS for this, which I'm adapting over to Swords & Wizardry White Box. The exact nature of dragons in my games will be another blog post. These items can be used in pretty much any retroclone or old-school D&D game with a bit of tweaking. Also, a lot of this is intended to inspire GMs, which is why most of the stats are vague.

Dragonbone Armor
Heavy armor, such as plate, can be crafted of a dragon's bones rather than steel. Such armor grants protection from the dragon's breath weapon or similar effects. Dragonbone armor reduces damage from the dragon's associated breath weapon type by half. For example, dragonbone armor made from the bones of a red dragon cuts fire damage in half, while armor made from a green dragon protects against damage from poison.

Plate armor and shields are the most common types of armor to be crafted of dragonbone. Dragonbone armor is not inherently magical, though it may be enchanted.

Dragonscale Armor
Lighter armors, like leather or hide, may be made of dragonscale leather, much like how plate may be made of dragonbone. Similarly, dragonscale has the same effect as dragonbone, granting the wearer resistance against effects like the particular dragon's breath weapon.

Like dragonbone armor, dragonscale armor is not necessarily magical, but may be enchanted.

Dragonbone Weapon
Depending on the size of the slain dragon, its bones may be utilized to create weapons. A shoulder blade can easily be carved to be an axe blade, while the strong leg bones are commonly used for staves or maces.

Dragonbone weapons always deal +1 damage over an equivalent weapon made of normal materials. They are not inherently magical, but they are frequently enchanted.

Dragonfang Dagger
Dragonfang daggers are, naturally enough, carved from the teeth of dragons. These daggers act as +1 daggers and, in addition, deal double damage to dragons and draconic creatures. These daggers are frequently enchanted to deal extra damage of the dragon's breath weapon type.

Dragon Blood
Though typically used in potions, dragon blood has a more dangerous use known only to the most dedicated of scholars and those most dedicated to power. A series of infusions of dragon blood, taken over a period of several weeks, can bestow great draconic power. The infused begins to take on certain draconic qualities – wings, a breath weapon, and scales among them.

Most people would be afraid of this. Adventurers see only loot.
A person infused with the blood begins to grow scales. By the end of the first week, the scales are hard and bulky enough to provide -2 [+2] AC. A week after that, the scales provide -4 [+4] AC and are bulky enough to prevent the wearing of armor.

The second infusion grants the use of a breath weapon matching the type of the dragon whose blood is being used. The breath weapon deals 1d6 damage per Hit Die of the newly-draconic creature and half-damage on a successful saving throw.

The third and final infusion causes wings to sprout from the person's back, further impeding the use of armor or similar coverings. The person can use those wings to fly at their normal movement rate. If the person falls unconscious while in flight, the wings automatically stiffen and turn to induce a circular glide down to the ground – safer than falling, but still uncontrolled.

The blood must come from a single dragon – dead or alive – and the creature must make a successful saving throw vs. death for each infusion. The infusions should be given two weeks apart – any faster and death will shortly follow, as the recipient's body breaks down under the strain of transformation. A creature infused with dragon blood cannot be infused with the blood of another type of dragon; mixing the blood causes horrific transformations and, in most cases, death.

Dragon Breath Wand
A dragon breath wand is crafted of dragonbone and adorned with gems. The length of a human's forearm, a dragon breath wand is thick, almost more akin to a mace's haft than a wizard's wand. These wands give a mage the power to cast a spell that acts as the breath of a dragon.

Each dragon breath wand is crafted with fifty charges. Once the last charge is used, the wand loses its enchantment and may not be enchanted again. The wand may not expend more than three charges per day. Each charge grants the user one use of the breath weapon of the dragon the wand was crafted from. The older the dragon, the more powerful the breath. The breath of a hatchling, for example, is far less dangerous – and far less valuable – than that of a thousand year old great wyrm.

Dragonwing Cape
Though the most famous dragons are ancient and massive, even dragons are not truly eternal. Their young hatch from eggs and, depending on the variety of dragon, are between the size of humans and halflings at hatching. If such a young dragon is slain, their wings may be crafted into a cape of sorts and enchanted. Such capes, when the command word is spoken, can return to a semblance of life, bonding to the wearer and bestowing the gift of flight.

For up to ten minutes per day, the wearer of a dragonwing cape can fly at up to double their normal movement rate. However, heavily-encumbered wearers may not be able to fly. If the time runs out while the wearer is flying, the wearer's player should consult the relevant rules on fall damage.

Dragon Steel
As a dragon ages, its scales become more lustrous and deeply colored. The oldest dragons appear to be scaled entirely in colored gemstones, due to their scales' great age. These scales, harvested upon a dragon's death, can be melted down and mixed with steel, alongside their more mundane use as armor or jewelry.

This dragon steel becomes tinted with the color of the scales and takes on arcane properties. Though named dragon steel, the metal is as soft as gold and is unsuitable for use in armor or weapons. Dragon steel is thus highly sought after by mages of all kinds. Rings, wands, arcane rods, even necklaces – these can all be made of dragon steel.

Spells cast through rods or wands that deal the same type of damage as the original dragon's breath weapon do 50% more damage. Necklaces or rings of resistance that resist the dragon's breath weapon type cause the caster to take half-damage from attacks of that type.

Specific Items

This vicious dagger was crafted by an ancient order of mages after they came together to slay Onyx, a great black wyrm. The mages, dark and devious, crafted four of these blades. Three were lost to history and are thought to be lost, while the fourth has passed from owner to owner over the ages. A favored weapon of assassins and dark paladins, Onyxfang must be carried in a special black scabbard due to its acidic nature.

Crafted from a massive dragon tooth, Onyxfang is a curved short sword. The tooth blade is stained greenish-black and the hilt is inset with a black gem on both sides. On a successful hit, Onyxfang releases acid into the victim, doing an extra 2d6 damage. Onyxfang is a +2 short sword.

The Sapphire Shield
The Sapphire Shield was once wielded by an elven warrior named Illithia, who defeated the blue dragon Delastrix and crafted this shield from the dragon's bone and scale. Though Illithia fell in battle several years after, the shield was passed on through her knightly order. Over a hundred years ago, the Sapphire Shield was lost in battle after its wielder was captured and later killed by ogres.

The Sapphire Shield is made of dragonbone and wrapped in shiny, sapphire-like scales, hence its name. The shield grants its user immunity to lightning and the ability to reflect lightning-based attacks at others (standard ranged attack roll, damage equal to original attack or spell).

Winter's Bane
A two-handed battleaxe with a single blade, Winter's Bane has a blade carved from the shoulder blade of an unknown red dragon. The blade is the color of ivory and the haft is steel carved in the shape of vertebra. The head of a dragon is carved into the top of the axe, with the blade extending from beneath the head. The phrase “Flame conquers all” is inscribed in the Draconic tongue on the blade.

Winter's Bane was originally crafted by a group of lizardfolk enslaved by a relatively young red dragon. Stealing into his lair while he slept after devouring a party of adventurers, the lizardfolk slew him while he was still weak from the battle. After, they crafted Winter's Bane, giving it to their greatest champions to free those clans of lizardfolk still in thrall to other dragons. They found that the axe's flames worked best against the white dragons in the southern ice plains and gave it the name Winter's Bane.

Winter's Bane is a +3 battleaxe. At the wielder's command, Winter's Bane bursts into flames. These flames do not harm the axe or the wielder, but deal an extra 2d6 damage to whatever the axe strikes. In addition, Winter's Bane deals double damage (both fire damage and regular damage) to white dragons and their kin.

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