Linnorms are a type of dragon that, rather than being made up wholesale for Dungeons & Dragons in the vein of the Chromatic and Metallic Dragons, borrows from real-world mythology. Specifically, linnorms are based off of the serpentine dragons of old Norse mythology, linnormr, now generally called lindworms. Fáfnir, Níðhöggr and Jörmungandr the Midgard Serpent are all notable dragons of Norse myth, and they have provided frequent inspiration for antagonistic dragons in fantasy stories and gaming.
Said to be ancient and primordial ancestors or cousins of true dragons, these long and slender monsters more resemble enormous serpents with draconic heads and forearms and can grow to hundreds of feet in length. They lack both wings and hind legs, however some may still fly while others are equally at home in the oceans reflecting some of their Norse roots as calamitous sea serpents. Particularly foul-tempered, intelligent and malevolent, they also share their winged kin's lust for hoarding treasures in their secretive lairs. Linnorms can be found in both D&D and in Pathfinder, with some slight differences between the two.
- 1 D&D
- 2 Pathfinder
"Scourge Dragons, sometimes called Linnorms, embody the afflictions that plague living creatures, much as Catastrophic Dragons embody natural disasters. They are almost universally evil, even more so than the chromatics, and they revel in the raw physicality of melee combat. Because they lack wings and rear legs, some scholars insist that they're not true dragons, but more closely related to drakes."
- – A quote from the 4th edition Monster Manual.
First appearing in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, linnorms promptly fell into disfavor by the release of D&D 3e. They did receive an "Ecology of the Linnorm" article in Dragon Magazine #356. They are sometimes blatantly called "Norse dragons."
4th edition intended to incorporate linnorms into the Nentir Vale setting as "Scourge Dragons", describing them in brief in the very first Monster Manual. Alas, beyond that single paragraph, the Scourge Dragons never came to be; they received passing mentions in the flavor text segments of the 4e Draconomicons, but dedicated mechanics or fluff failed to materialize. Only the quote above remains to give us any clue as to what might have been for the 4e linnorm.
Possibly a unique creature, this gross linnorm looks almost undead, with its cracked claws, slime-dripping hide, weather-beaten scales, and patchy clumps of hair. When at rest, it looks like a grossly diseased or very long dead tree. They are sedentary creatures, preferring to lurk in sepulcher-lairs guarded by the undead where they can dote over their treasure hoard, which they supplement by using the Underdark or undead minions to loot from graves and necropoli. They possess two different breath weapons; one that paralyzes, and one that inflicts a Strength-sapping wasting disease.
These two-headed monsters wield two separate breath weapons; a chilling wind and a cloud of super-heated dust. They have a weird taste for salt-seasoned wood, and have been known to attack oceanic ships to get this "delicacy" for themselves.
Flame linnorms wield various fiery powers, including separate breath weapons of flame and burning ashes.
Doubly unique amongst the linnorms in that it is completely limbless as an adult, but upon birth has four lizard-like limbs which reabsorb into the body as it matures. The forest linnorm has powerful illusionist magic as well as assorted spell-like abilities that are of particular use in their forest home. They have a particular hatred for beautiful things, and anything pretty in their hoard has always been smashed for the sake of wrecking it. Their breath weapon is a highly corrosive slime that also has the effect of a Wither spell on whatever it hits.
Without a doubt the most vindictive and savage of linnorms, frost linnorms cannot stand the presence of other intelligent creatures besides their own kind, and work tirelessly to drive away or massacre any intelligent being unfortunate enough to live in the territory around their lair. Their forelimbs are small and weak compared to other linnorms, so they only fight physically as a last resort, preferring to use their icy breath, runic magics, or magic items and superior tactics to overcome their enemies. Frost linnorms, it is said, do not need to eat, somehow drawing sustenance from frigid winds.
The smallest of their kin, the sadistic gray linnorm revels in hurting and terrorizing others, employing its poison-oozing, whip-like tail and black, metal-corroding ooze breath to deadly effect. Unlike other linnorms, which are more calculating, the gray linnorm is far simpler, preferring to engage in more savage combat, rending prey with bites and claws to toying with them for its own pleasure.
The only linnorm species to have all four limbs in adulthood, land linnorms are greedy manipulators who hate the nobility of humanoid races and revel in corrupting or destroying them. Cautious, they sometimes stalk potential quarry that enters their territory for days, burrowing, turning invisible, and polymorphing into animals all to size up their threat versus the perceived wealth of the target. When it is time to attack they do so first with their breath weapon, a blast of withering heat, or with rune magic. They particularly envy the humanoid adeptness with magic, and have been known to force such beings to teach them in the ways of arcane prowess.
A solitary creature, this seafloor-dwelling aquatic linnorm is the biggest and most powerful linnorm known to exist, commanding the reverence of all other linnorms - especially sea linnorms. The spawn of the Midgard Serpent, itself a spawn of Loki, it may be immortal and wiles away the time manipulating the affairs of others from afar with powerful magics. Considering actual combat to be beneath it, it will let its guards defend it, attacking with spells and its three breath weapons - a torrent of boiling water that can drown foes outright, a cloud of choking dust or a powerful blast of wind. Its favorite food is sea foam, anything else unlucky enough to be swallowed up while it feeds is just the cherry on top.
While other linnorms are content to live in unknown and in solitude, the rain linnorm, the vainest and greediest of their kind, are offended if they are not known for the atrocities they commit against lesser creatures, which is pretty much everything in their mind - including other rain linnorms. Rain linnorms earn their moniker for their love of inclement weather; when the sun shines, they hide in their lairs high on a mountain or hilltop, emerging only during downpours to hunt and slay. Their favorite food is said to be lightning.
Cold-hearted, vicious creatures, the sea linnorm is, in its own way, a devout protector of the oceans against those who would exploit it. Able to change their color like a chameleon from a young age to stay concealed they are fond of capsizing ships preferring to slay any survivors with spells or clouds of their acidic breath, biting or lashing out with its cruelly barbed tail is less preferred and, if they face serious opposition, will simply slink back into the depths. Whilst all linnorms in AD&D have weird diets, the sea linnorm's is arguably the oddest; they are herbivores who feed on seaweed and other oceanic plantlife, even going so far as to dry their meals in the sun for better flavors.
Treacherous primeval dragons of the northern regions of the world, linnorms thrive on their hatred for those they deem to be lesser creatures and seek to inflict as much suffering as possible unto their unfortunate victims. Sweeping bones and treasures alike into giant piles in its lair, the typical linnorm has a barbaric nature made all the worse by its insatiable greed and atrocious gluttony. Few creatures are as bold and as cruel as linnorms, and for that most people are thankful.
Linnorms are not true dragons, but they nonetheless possess incredible strength and deadly powers that often rival authentic dragon brutality. Their massive frames make crushing smaller enemies a simple task, and of those who have felt the sting of a linnorm’s venomous bite, few have survived the devastating poison long enough to tell the tale. A linnorm’s body is serpentine and lacks wings, yet these dragons fly through the air with supernatural ease, accomplishing the feat as easily as a fish through water.
Beyond the physical might, venom, and devastating breath weapons typical of all linnorms, the beasts all share a potent final defense—the death curse. This powerful plaguing of the mind manifests itself in myriad forms, but always serves as a horrid vengeance against any who might manage to slay a linnorm. Some theorize that the curse is a sending from malevolent gods who watch over linnorms and view them as destruction-loving pets. Others believe the linnorms’ curse is the closest remaining connection they have to the primeval world of the fey, from whence the first of these monsters is said to have come. Whatever the case may be, its curse makes killing a linnorm as dangerous as letting it live.
True dragons of higher intellect often hold linnorms in great scorn, viewing the beings as prematurely evolved beasts and refusing to even acknowledge the creatures as related to them. Linnorms have few feelings regarding the matter, battling younger and older dragons alike just as readily as any other creatures who dare to step foot in their territories. Their simplemindedness stifles any ability to assemble mass sieges or even cooperate in small groups, so linnorms almost always function alone, individually hunting over large territories in order to waylay as many travelers as possible. Linnorms only seek a mate once during their long lifetimes, the female producing several clutches of up to six eggs as a result. Of these eggs, only one will survive—the first to hatch immediately feasts on its unhatched brethren.
Despite their lust for devastation, linnorms usually live in relatively remote areas, never straying far from the northernmost reaches of the world. As they are universally hated and feared by most other intelligent creatures, their tendency to dwell in more isolated regions helps ensure their survival; while linnorms are vicious and unforgiving, their lack of organization makes them highly susceptible to raiding parties seeking to eradicate their presence, though such parties would need to be made up of truly impressive individuals. More often than not, a linnorm resides totally undisturbed in the spot it chooses as its own for hundreds of years, stewing in its own malevolence until finally snapping and going on a rampage. Sometimes, villages aren’t even aware of a slumbering linnorm’s proximity, but usually such settlements have long traditions and local legends revolving around “their linnorm.” Since a linnorm can hibernate for centuries, villages composed of shorter-lived humanoids might consider these tales as little more than quaint stories, but when the linnorm wakes, the truth becomes impossible to doubt.
Linnorms come in many different varieties, but all share the qualities of being horribly strong and bestial. They feast solely on meat, usually eating goats and other mountain animals when more intelligent creatures such as humanoids don’t readily present themselves. Linnorms are prone to gorging and then falling into a deep sleep near their treasure hordes, waking either when they become aware of intruders in their vicinity or to feed once more.
These gaunt, pallid linnorms haunt burial places, for they favor the taste of undead flesh above all else. Which makes it weird that they suffer a psychological block that makes them very reluctant to enter an enclosed burial site without permission from a priest or its denizens, which can also be used to entrap them in tombs - that said, this is purely a psychological quirk, and they can break through it if pushed, so watch out! Their breath weapon is a cone of necrotic bile, which inflicts acid damage and level drain on its victims, and their Death Curse causes the victim to age a year for every day that passes.
The weakest of their kind, these triple-tailed linnorms haunt mountainous regions, where their ability to spew magma makes them deadly predators. Those afflicted by their Death Curse become permanently vulnerable to fire attacks.
This unique linnorm is the most powerful of all his kind, with a mighty breath weapon of burning winds and a unique Death Curse that allows him to come back from the dead by consuming the soul of his killer and subsuming their body.
These eel-like linnorms, as their name suggests, are predominantly aquatic, haunting the complex coastline regions known as fjords and venturing out to sea in order to hunt whales and sharks. They spew icy fluid at their victims and their Death Curse makes their victims more likely to drown when plunged into water.
River-haunting kindred to the fjord linnorms, these malevolent dragons wield their boiling steam breath weapon and a Death Curse that causes its victims to start drowning whenever they imbibe liquid to deadly effect.
Dwelling in the deepest ice fields and amidst frozen glaciers, this frosty linnorm isn't the mightiest of its kind, but still a powerful threat. Its breath weapon is a viscous gel that freezes its victims in solid ice, and its Death Curse afflicts people with a vulnerability to cold damage.
Armored with vicious spines that makes striking them in melee a risky prospect, these linnorms haunt arctic forests. Their breath weapon is a gout of electrified vapor, and their Death Curse makes victims vulnerable to electrical attacks.
The mightiest of all the common linnorms, these two-headed horrors spew gouts of corrosive venom that emit clouds of toxic vapor as they mix with air. Their Death Curse renders its victims unable to heal damage in any way.
These fiery linnorms dwell amidst active volcanoes. Spewing clouds of flame and ash, their Death Curse causes a victim's blood to heat to boiling temperatures in their own veins, leaving them crippled by intense agony as well as being more vulnerable to fire attacks.