Ferrous Dragon

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Ferrous Dragons are a lesser family of dragon in Dungeons & Dragons. Introduced in an article for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in Dragon Magazine #170, they are a branch off of the Metallic Dragon tree, defined by both their deriving from "baser" metals and their not being inherently Good like Metallic Dragons are. In AD&D, they covered an array of alignments, predominantly Neutral and Evil, but in 3rd edition, were changed to be defined by their strong adherence to the Lawful alignment instead of the Goodly alignments. The demigod-like ruler of the Ferrous Dragons is Gruaghlothor.

Ferrous Dragons (other than Steel) were later updated for 3rd edition in issue #356 of Dragon Magazine. Aside from the lack of any mention of Gruaghlothor, and some key alignment changes, they remained pretty much identical to their AD&D selves. The Cobalt, Iron and Steel Dragons would later be promoted to full-fledged members of the Metallic Dragons in D&D 4th edition. Check the Metallics page for info on the 4e rendition of those dragons.

Chromium (Chrome) Dragon[edit]

"The dragon's face is smooth and reflective. A frill lined with long spines runs from its snout to the tip of the tail. It has a mane of shiny horns and wings that are wide and sleek. Its scales gleam like liquid metal, catching the reflection of the nearby terrain."

– Official description of the dragon from Dragon #356, the only textual description that exists.

With scales that initially resemble tarnished silver and grow shinier as they age, it should be no surprise that Chrome Dragons are often mistaken for Silver Dragons. That would be a terrible mistake to make, as Chromium Dragons are known for their greed, malice and cruelty, which gives them a Chaotic Evil alignment in AD&D and a Lawful Evil one in 3e.

Avaricious enough to give a Red Dragon pause and sadistic enough to make a Black Dragon take notes, Chrome Dragons live for the sake of hunting treasure and killing anything that catches their attention. Although fully capable of living off of nothing but ice and snow, they vastly prefer raw, bloody meat.

Chrome Dragons inhabit only cold regions that see plenty of ice and snow, where their various innate powers over frost can be used most effectively. This brings them into conflict with both White and Silver Dragons, and whilst they are strong enough to easily dominate Whites, Silver Dragons are their deadliest enemies, and the two races will fight to the death upon sighting each other.

These dragons wield two different breath weapons; a conical gout of super-chilled snow that numbs and paralyses victims, and a gout of solid ice that can freeze whatever it touches. Naturally, they're immune to cold, and have other spell-like abilities relating to their environment. From their youth, they can cast an Arctic-exclusive variant of Pass Without Trace three times per day. Adults (or Young Adults, in AD&D) can cast Ice Shape, a variant of Stone Shape, twice per day. Those that reach Old age can create a Wall of Ice twice per day. In 3rd edition, Ancient Chrome Dragons can cast Gelid Blood once per day. Those Chrome Dragons who live to the state of Great Wyrmdom can also cast Flesh to Crystal, a variant of Flesh to Stone, once per day.

Chromium Dragons enjoy attack from the air, seeking to cripple foes with their numbing breath before closing in to enjoy a close and bloody combat. Most of their spell-like abilities are used defensively, in order to escape from prey that turns out to be more competent than the Chrome Dragon expected.

Chrome Half-Dragons are Immune to Cold and possess their draconic progenitor's Line of Ice breath weapon.

Cobalt Dragon[edit]

"This dragon's face bears a large muzzle, its lips curling in a sneer and displaying pronounced canines. Two small horns jut from its head, just above its glowing red eyes. Its tail is long and thin, almost rat-like in appearance. It is covered in midnight blue scales of varying brightness."

– Official description of the dragon from Dragon #356, the only textual description that exists.

Arrogant and domineering, even other dragons think of Cobalt Dragons as joyless control freaks, which should really tell you something right there. Covered in midnight blue scales of varying shades, there's no chance of mistaking them for the more common Blue Dragon - particularly if one takes from their 3rd edition description. They didn't change alignments between editions; both versions of the Cobalt are Lawful Evil to the core.

For obvious reasons, Cobalt Dragons are very solitary by nature, unless mating or called together by the clan sovereign. Although, strangely, they actually make pretty good parents. They favour especially dark and dense forests and jungles, although sometimes they lair in caves based in such regions that ultimately lead down to the Underdark. This gives them a particular enmity for Green Dragons.

Unusually for dragons, Cobalts are known for their fascination with traps. They spend most of their leisure time creating new traps, working carefully-cut trees, pitfalls, trigger-able rock-slides and pits into their territory. Their spell-like abilities facilitate this fascination with altering the battlefield; the details vary slightly between editions (Improved Phantasmal Force 3/day for Adults and Animal Summoning II 1/day for Great Wyrms being replaced by Minor Image + Snare and Summon Monster V in 3rd edition), but their innate abilities to turn the terrain against foes with Entangle and Plant Growth are always useful.

This fascination with traps - and, let's be honest, the name, and the rather ratty features of the dragon - has led to many considering Cobalt Dragons the original progenitors of the kobold race. Whether this is true or not, nobody may ever prove, but the two races share a lot in common and get on very well - rare indeed is the Cobalt Dragon who lacks a large tribe of kobolds to do its bidding and make its territory more dangerous.

Uniquely amongst dragons, Cobalts produce a pulsing line of magnetic energy for a breath weapon. The precise rules for this are somewhat convoluted, but it mostly works out as force damage and sends creatures hit by it flying. They're also immune to electricity and the magnetic breath weapons of other cobalts, and can breathe water.

Cobalt Half-Dragons inherit both the magnetic ray breath weapon and the immunity to electricity.

Cobalt Dragons were one of two Ferrous Dragons promoted to Metallic Dragon status in 4th edition. As that version is a very different beast, see the relevant page for details.

Iron Dragon[edit]

"The dragon's head is almost shovel-shaped, with a pointed snout. Its scales are metallic black with flashes of silver. Large plates, which look like shark fins, run down its neck and back."

– Official description of the dragon from Dragon #356, the only textual description that exists.

Known as the most powerful of all the Ferrous Dragons, the Iron Dragons have a dream: a dream that one day, dragons will take their rightful place as rulers of the world and render all humanoids into servants of dragonkind. They're not hostile towards non-dragons, they simply see this as the natural order of things, and seek to bring it about by whatever means are necessary, which D&D figures makes them Lawful Neutral.

The only Ferrous Dragons with the innate ability to assume humanoid shape, Iron Dragons exploit this ability to walk amongst other races to learn all they can about worldly events and how these can be used to their advantage. They even prefer to fight to the surrender of would-be assailants rather than the death, although their victims are usually eaten once the Iron Dragons feel they have extracted all useful information.

For obvious reasons, most people who are aware of Iron Dragons don't like them very much. Dwarves and other mining races in particular dislike them; these dragons always lair near deposits of iron ore, typically in hilly and mountainous terrain, and hoard raw and worked iron with as much fanaticism as a Red Dragon hoards gold and jewels. Some have suggested that they actually need iron ore to reproduce, a suggestion the dragons themselves won't dignify with a response.

Their strongest enmity, however, is reserved for Red Dragons. The two breeds absolutely despise one another, and fight to the death on sight; Red Dragons view their ferrous relatives as weakling interlopers too pathetic to be considered true dragons, whilst Iron Dragons regard the infamous chromatics as a stain on draconic character that must be erased. Iron Dragons have even been known to cooperate with dwarves in order to get rid of a mutually troublesome Red Dragon.

Iron Dragons are uniquely colored, with flat black scales that take on an increasingly glossy, metallic texture with silvery highlights as the dragon ages.

These dragons are formidable opponents; they have two breath weapons, both conical gouts, one of super-heated sparks that inflicts half electric and half fire damage, and one of sleeping gas, they can cast Heat Metal 3/day, and twice per day can cast Stone Shape, Detect Thoughts (ESP in AD&D), Transmute Rock to Mud, and Wall of Iron. Upon reaching the age of Great Wyrm, they can use a variant of Flesh to Stone called Flesh to Iron once per day, although in AD&D it was a simple Flesh to Stone spell-like ability. They are immune to fire.

Iron Half-Dragons wield conical blasts of superheated sparks (half and half fire/electric damage) and are immune to fire.

Iron Dragons were one of two Ferrous Dragons promoted to Metallic Dragon status in 4th edition. As that version is a very different beast, see the relevant page for details.

Nickel Dragon[edit]

"This dragon is squat and muscular. Its crocodilian face has raised eyes and a long, toothy snout. Two smooth horns sweep back and down from its head. Its scales are metallic grey, with patches of white. The smell of stagnant water is strong in its presence."

– Official description of the dragon from Dragon #356, the only textual description that exists.

The swamp and marsh-dwelling Nickel Dragons are the smallest and weakest of their family, although they're still highly dangerous opponents who make up for physical deficits with deceitfulness, tenacity and sheer viciousness.

In AD&D, they are known for being extremely fickle and unpredictable, giving them a Chaotic Neutral nature. In 3rd edition, instead, they are just jerks who enjoy harassing and bullying others, making them Lawful Neutral. In fact, the AD&D version of the Nickel Dragon is pretty Chaotic Stupid, especially when it comes to rearing its offspring, which is contributing to the race's decline.

Of course, the frequent, bloody, fang-and-claw battles with Black Dragons over their swampy homes don't help.

Although their breath weapon, a cloud of corrosive fumes, their acid immunity and their ability to breathe water remains unchanged between editions, their spell-like abilities differ.

In AD&D, juveniles can cast Resist Fire 3 times per day, adults can cast Mass Irritation (Itching or Rash versions) 2 times per day, very old nickel dragons can affect normal fires at double effectiveness 2 times per day, and a great wyrm can assume vaporous form once per day.

In 3rd edition, Mass Irritation is no longer a spell, although they can still induce itching or a painful rash in anyone nearby twice per day upon reaching the Old status. Their spell-like abilities are changed to Resist Energy 3/day (Juvenile), Entangle 3/day (Old), Gaseous Form 3/day (Ancient), and Confusion 1/day (Great Wyrm).

Uniquely, Nickel Dragons change colors as they age, going from charcoal grey to a more metallic hue as they reach adulthood, and then fading to a brilliant metallic white color by the time they reach the status of Great Wyrm.

Nickel Half-Dragons, as you might expect, spew cones of corrosive gas and are immune to acid.

Steel Dragon[edit]

"This dragon's body is somewhat feline. Its face is very expressive and humanlike, surrounded by spines, almost like a hair and a beard. The dragon smells of wet metal, and its scales shine like burnished steel."

– Dragons of Faerûn

Introduced in the 2E version of the Draconomicon, updated to 3E in an article on Wizard's website and then 3.5 in Dragons of Faerûn, Steel Dragons are unusual in that their environment of choice is urban. Masters of polymorph and charm magic, these dragons realize sleeping in a cave in the middle of nowhere is for losers. Their hoards are also unusual in that they are actually mansions full of man-made items (including slaves for the rare evil ones) while coins go in the bank.

Unusually for a true dragon (or indeed, any monster species that isn't roughly humanoid), their 3rd Edition stats make them perfectly suited for player characters in a normally balanced game if the game starts at a high enough level (6 or higher). At a level adjustment of only 2 (one which can be bought off right away if using the optional level adjustment buyoff rule) and 4 dragon racial hit die (which are actually good, getting the best hit points, good skills and all good saves) that give one level of casting (with both cleric and sorcerer spells available) they are a solid Gish, even without using dragon only options. Said options are the main attraction thanks to the sheer number of options 3.5 printed for true dragons that, without cheese, players would never, ever be able to touch. As a result of this they gained moderate popularity. A popular option of these is Tome Dragon, which at the cost of slightly lower HP and no cleric spells brings them to 3 levels of casting. It also helps that adventuring actually fits their described character perfectly.

Whether Steel Dragons actually count as Ferrous Dragons or not is really up for debate. They first appeared as the Greyhawk Dragon, and whilst they also received an update for 3rd edition in Dragon Magazine, it was in issue #339 in the Creature Catalog IV article, a good 17 issues before the Ferrous Dragons appeared in issue #356. They later appeared in 4e as a Metallic Dragon species in the Metallic Draconomicon.

Tungsten Dragon[edit]

"The dragon's head is almost insectile, with numerous small horns dotting its face. Its wings look nearly identical to the large sail that rises from its back. Its scales are a dull, flat green."

– Official description of the dragon from Dragon #356, the only textual description that exists.

Tungsten Dragons are unique amongst the Ferrous Dragons for having a racial alignment of Good. However, it's not exactly a nice form of good. In a nutshell, Tungsten Dragons believe the adage "the ends justify the means"; after all, if evil will stop at nothing to win, then good must stop at nothing to defeat evil. This is why they are Neutral Good in AD&D, and Lawful Good in 3e.

Of course, in a typical display of draconic hypocrisy/incompetence, that dedication to preserving and expanding good typically ends at the borders of a Tungsten Dragon's territory. Furthermore, they deal harshly with intruders, unless somehow convinced that their potential victims are actually working for the side of good.

Fortunately, Tungsten Dragons aren't common, as they prefer arid regions with warm climates. This also brings them into frequent conflict with both Blue and Brass Dragons; the evil nature of the Blues means that Tungstens will readily gang up on them, whilst Brass Dragons are merely looked down upon as being "boorish, irresponsible, and generally not deserving to be considered one of the good guys".

Impervious to flame, Tungsten Dragons produce blasts of high-velocity, scorching hot sand as their breath weapon, and have a versatile array of spell-like and magical abilities. In AD&D, they can detect the presence of good and/or evil thrice per day after reaching the Young stage, and detect a lie once per day after reaching the Young Adult stage. In 3e, Young Tungsten Dragons can cast Discern Lies 1/day, Old ones can cast Dispel Evil 1/day, and Ancient ones can cast Plant Growth 2/day.

In both editions, adult Tungsten Dragons can conjure up a Sand Cloud (a variant of the Fog Cloud effect) twice per day, whilst Great Wyrms can cause a victim to spontaneously combust once per day.

Tungsten Dragons stand out in their usually brownish environments, as their scales are green; deep forest with brown flecks at hatching, they become gleaming and metallic green with no flecks by adulthood, then dull as the dragon ages.

Tungsten Half-Dragons retain the scouring sand breath and fire immunity.

The Dragons of Dungeons & Dragons
Arcane Dragon - Catastrophic Dragon - Chromatic Dragon
Dragonet - Epic Dragon - Faerie Dragon - Ferrous Dragon
Gem Dragon - Half-Dragon - Linnorm - Metallic Dragon
Oriental Dragon - Planar Dragon - Pseudodragon - Song Dragon