Review – Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons

Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons is the second (after The Wild Beyond the Witchlight) of four D&D books hitting in the last four months of 2021. Fizban is a character from the original War of the Lance trilogy that kicked off the Dragonlance campaign setting. He was an eccentric old mage who (35-year-old spoiler alert) is a shapeshifted version of Paladine, the Dragonlance version of Bahamut (the good dragon deity of the Forgotten Realms). Like Xanathar’s Guide to Everything and the other named-for-characters 5E books, Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons includes various ‘handwritten’ notes scattered throughout the book. Unsurprisingly, the book focuses exclusively on the dragon part of Dungeons & Dragons, with a few new character options, new dragons, more information on existing types of dragons, and a lot of discussion on using dragons in campaigns. Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons is not a campaign/adventure. However, it is just as much a DM-focused book as the published 5E campaigns/adventures. Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons will be of the most value for the DM who crafts their own campaigns and adventures, wants to have a lot of dragons around, and wants to infuse them with distinctive personality.

Some Highlights:

  • Three new dragonborn variants;
  • New dragon-themed subclasses for the ranger and monk;
  • A whole set of five new (neutral, psionic) dragon types; and
  • Stats for draconians (for those of us who grew up with Dragonlance).

Gem Dragons

One of the central mechanical and thematic additions of Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons is a new set of five dragons – gem dragons (amethyst, crystal, emerald, sapphire, and topaz), to go with the existing metallic and chromatic dragons. Somewhat like how the chromatic dragons have Tiamat and the metallic dragons have Bahamut, the gem dragons have Sardior. The figure of Sardior predates Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons, a lesser deity who was the dragon god of psionics and the neutral gem dragons. In the mythology presented here, which I believe is new, Sardior is presented as the first dragon created by Bahamut and Tiamat, and then helped them create the chromatic and metallic dragons. This new mythology presents the dragons as the original inhabitants of a first world that was later invaded by deities from the outer planes, which resulted in the fragmentation of the first world into the various worlds of the material plane, and the spread of the creations of those deities. The true dragons, then are the most pure embodiments of the material plane, while most other beings (humans, dwarves, etc.) are combinations of the material plane and an outer plane (perhaps the D&D version of Cartesian dualism).

The gem dragons are, however, still psionic and still typically neutral. Amethyst dragons are the mightiest of the five, manipulating gravity and dealing force damage with their breath weapon, which can also reduce a target’s speed to zero. Crystal Dragons are connected to the positive energy plane; they’re very shiny and their breath weapons deal radiant damage (and also heal the dragon). Emerald dragons are sneaky and secretive, and their breath weapons deal psychic damage and can disorient. Sapphire dragons are also on the sneaky ambush side of things, and their breath weapons deal sonic damage and can incapacitate. Topaz dragons are linked to the negative energy plane; their breath weapons deal necrotic damage and can weaken affected targets.

Player Options

Dragonborn Variants

Now that we’ve got the gem dragons introduced, we can move on to the player options, because one of the primary new player options is three dragonborn variants. The baseline dragonborn in the Player’s Handbook can pick any of the five chromatic and five metallic dragon types. Dragonborn get resistance to their ancestry’s damage type (acid, lightning, fire, poison, or cold) and a breath weapon (30 foot line or 15 foot cone).

Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons introduces chromatic, metallic, and gem dragonborn. All three are new, because (for example) a chromatic dragonborn is not quite the same as a standard dragonborn with chromatic ancestry. Overall, all three new variants are somewhat more powerful than the standard dragonborn. All three still get damage resistance. All three types get breath weapons, but there are differences. The damage scales differently. For example, at 1st level it does 1d10 (5.5) damage, instead of 2d6 (7) damage. But at 17th level the new breath weapons do 4d10 (22) damage, instead of hitting 5d6 (17.5) damage. The tipping point is at 11th level – the new variants do slight less damage before that, and slight more at that point. All dragonborn of the same variant now have either a line or a cone, rather than having variation within their overall category. For example, standard brass dragonborn have a 30-foot line breath weapon, but a brass metallic dragonborn has a 15-foot cone because all metallic dragonborn have 15-foot cone breath weapons. Additionally, the dragonborn can now use their breath weapon a number of times equal to their proficiency modifier, but these uses only recharge with a long rest. Low-level characters who take a couple short rests per day will get fewer breath attacks with the new variants, but I think that otherwise characters will tend to get more breath attacks with the new variants.

The gem dragonborn breath weapons are force (amethyst), radiant (crystal), psychic (emerald), thunder (sapphire), and necrotic (topaz).

But then each type of dragonborn has an entirely new ability. Chromatic dragonborn can (once per day) make themselves immune to their ancestry’s damage type. Metallic dragonborn gain a second breath attack, usable once per day, that either enervates enemies or pushes them back. Gem dragonborn can send short-range telepathic messages (they cannot read minds) and can briefly fly once per day.

Subclasses

There are also two new subclasses, the Way of the Ascendant Dragon (monk) and Drakewarden (ranger).

The Way of the Ascendant Dragon will be most familiar as the Order of the Platinum Dragon, a Faerûnian monk order dedicated to Bahamut as the “Grandmaster of Flowers” (MTG players may recognize this as the guise Bahamut takes in his Planeswalker card in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. Way of the Ascendant Dragon monks seek to emulate dragons and achieve spiritual unity with the Material Plane. These monks gain several immediate benefits upon choosing the subclass at third level – a reroll on an Intimidation or Persuasion check, learning a new language (presumably Draconic, if the character doesn’t have it already), the ability to deal acid, cold, fire, lightning, or poison damage with an unarmed strike, and a breath weapon (usable several times per day) with damage that escalates with the character’s martial arts die. Higher level characters can gain an aura (scaring things or resisting damage), and eventually a much bigger breath weapon, blindsight, and another area-of-effect attack.

Drakewardens are a pet/mount class, except instead of gaining a normal animal companion they gain a drake. At 3rd level, the drake goes around looking cool, and also increases the damage from one melee strike a turn by 1d6. At 7th level the drake grows wings and becomes big enough to use at a mount (although it isn’t big enough to fly and be a mount at the same time), plus it grants damage resistance. At higher levels the Drakewarden gains a breath weapon, and the drake gets even bigger, does even more damage, resists even more damage, etc. It kind of beats the pants off of the basic Beast Master ranger (although that’s pretty a low bar).

Other Player Stuff

The remaining player options are limited to Dragon-themed spells, although I didn’t see anything that lit my world on fire. Ashardalon’s Stride (3rd level for wizards, sorcerers, and rangers) presents a pretty cool visual. The caster gets a speed boost for the turn, doesn’t provoke attacks of opportunity, and then zig-zags around the battlefield, dealing damage to anything you run nearby. But the damage per creature is small, and it’s hard to see how that can compete with existing options for shear damage-dealing potential, however. Raulothim’s Psyhic Lance (it’s named after an emerald dragon) might not be a bad single-target option, because it has an uncommon damage type (psychic) and a relatively uncommon saving throw (Intelligence).

Magic items are really more DM-focused, what with the DM being the one who gets to pick which ones the players get, but since players tend to be interested in magic items, I’ll throw them in here. There are 13 new ‘normal’ magic items, more than half of which are legendary. As you might guess from my repeated references to the Dragonlance Campaign Setting, I’m most interested in the dragonlances. In their 5E iteration, dragonlances (whether full dragonlances or footmen’s pikes) are +3 weapons that deal an extra 3d6 damage to dragons and allow a nearby friendly dragon to take an extra attack (if you happen to have a friendly dragon nearby). The most impactful item below rare is probably the Dragonhide Belt +1, which is a monk-only item that increases the save DC of their ki features and can regenerate ki points once per day.

Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons also introduces the concept of “hoard” magic items, which are essentially objects that started out non-magical but have been imbued with power by spending time in a dragon’s hoard (the longer the stay and the older the dragon, the more powerful the item). Each item has four levels (slumbering, stirring, wakened, and ascendant) that match the uncommon/rare/very rare/legendary, and each level has all of the abilities of the levels below it. So, for example, a slumbering dragon-touched focus acts as a focus and grants advantage on initiative rolls. The stirring one gets another bonus depending on the type of dragon (e.g., one from a metallic dragon’s hoard can be repeatedly used to grant advantage to another on a saving throw). The wakened one does all that and can cast a couple spells a day. The ascendant focus does those three things, plus let’s you once per day cast a 1st-level spell as if it was being cast in a 9th-level slot.

There are also draconic gifts, which might arise when a character kills a dragon or does a great service for a dragon. As an uncommon gift the DM might hand out a pseudodragon familiar, while as a rare you might get blindsight and advantage on all Perception checks (which seems a bit over the top to me).

Bestiary

In addition to the five gem dragons, the new bestiary entries tend to fall in a few categories.

  • Legit new dragons, including deep dragons (like drow or duergar, but evolved from dragons) or moonstone dragons (dragons from the Feywild).
  • Dragon-adjacent creatures, who have the Dragon type but aren’t true dragons, like dragonnels to use as mounts, liondrakes, and sea serpents.
  • Entities who are, in one way or another, what’s left of a dead dragon – a draconic shard (the mind of a deceased gem dragon stuck in an item), a dragon elder brain (what you get when an elder brain uses a dragon as a mobile brine pool), ghost dragons, and hollow dragons (a voluntary sort of undeath so the dragon can continue to guard something). There are also things like dragonblood oozes, dragonbone golems, and dragonflesh grafters, but those are basically just things that someone else is making out of dragon body parts.
  • Beings who come into existence from the sheer magical oomph of living dragons, including animated breath, eyedrakes (what you get when a beholder dreams long enough about a dragon), gem hunters, and metallic peacekeepers.

As noted earlier, there’s also a full array of draconians. Originally designed for Dragonlance (where they have setting-specific names like ‘sivak draconians’), draconians are created from the corruption and metallic dragon eggs (although there isn’t that sort of correspondence outside of Krynn). There are five types, one for each type of metallic dragon. In generic terms, they are draconian dreadnaughts (sivak), draconian foot soldier (baaz), draconian infiltrator (kapak), draconian mage (bozak), and draconian mastermind (aurak). Probably the most mechanically noteworthy thing about draconians is their death throes – turning to stone to trap weapons, dissolving into acid, blowing up, that sort of thing. But really I just love seeing them because of fond memories of Dragonlance.

If you want to take the mimic concept further, you can make one out of an entire dragon hoard, or use hoard scarabs, which are kind of like mimics but look like coins. Note that there are a relative pile or high CR entries in Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons, including several CR 27+ beings here, including aspects of Bahamut and Tiamat, but also three sorts of greatwyrms (there’s only one entry each for chromatic, metallic, and gem). There are also a few samplings of NPCs, like a dragonborn champion of each of the Big Three, or some dragon followers.

Other DM Material

Beyond the new and expanded stat blocks described above, I would divide the material in Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons into two categories – stuff that might be useful whenever a dragon shows up and stuff that requires a whole campaign about dragons to really shine. There’s a lot more of the former than the latter.

Dragon-Focused Adventures

Within the ‘can work for any dragon you throw in’ category there’s advice on roleplaying dragons, constructing encounters with dragons, and “dragon adventures.” Don’t get too excited by the latter, as it’s pretty vague – dragon as monster, dragon as schemer, dragon as power, and you’re done in two pages.  There are also piles of random tables scattered throughout. I continue to have no interest in randomly rolling up personality quirks, physical features, or the like, but they are sometimes useful as inspiration when you’re stuck for ideas.

More useful is guidance on crafting dragon lairs, including a sample lair for all 15 ‘standard’ dragon types, and new suggestions for lair actions and regional effects. Even if this is the one blue dragon in this campaign, it’s nice to have it not show up in exactly the same way as the one blue dragon last campaign. This material is a bit longer for the original 10 dragon types, because the gem dragons got full-length stat blocks with lair actions and regional effects. Deep dragons, dragon turtles, faerie dragons, moonstone dragons, and shadow dragons get some extra discussion as well, but they don’t get lair maps. There’s a lot of material here, as this section takes up over a third of the book.

There’s also guidance on constructing a dragon’s hoard. I have to admit that, at this point in my life, I’m not excited enough about giant piles of treasure to be that interested, but this is the place to go if you want to know exactly how many art objects or gems or mundane items might be in the hoard of a dragon of a particular age.

Dragon-Focused Campaigns

The campaign-focused advice is overall more detailed, although there’s a significant quantity of this that’s not of a bunch of use unless you’re aiming for a dragon-focused campaign but are drawing a complete blank. For example, there’s a list of possible roles that a dragon might take in a campaign, or what kinds of followers a dragon might have. But they kind of amounts to a list of any sort of NPC that might be around … except it’s a dragon! Dragon warlord, dragon noble, dragon teacher, etc., etc. The advice on dragon campaigns is, of course, tailored to dragon campaigns, and the limited information on draconic organizations is really only suited for a dragon-focused campaign.

Other Thoughts

Alas, the little notes from Fizban did not feel terribly like Fizban, at least to the me who’s sitting here right now dredging up memories of when I most recently read the War of the Lance trilogy a decade ago. Fizban’s whole schtick included being kind of confused and ‘accidentally’ doing things that ended up being rather important. It’s hard to infuse that into a series of notes that are coherent and knowledgeable on the subject, if a bit personal. The tone of the notes tends to be of someone who knows what he’s talking about, but doesn’t necessarily care about the sort of things that you (or most characters would). So expect things like commentary on how awesome dragons are and this particular ancient dragon’s baking skills.

Players who picked up cards for the Magic: The Gathering expansion Adventures in the Forgotten Realms may notice multiple pieces of crossover artwork. Flipping through the book with my 11-year-old watching produced a lot of comments like “Oh, that’s Dragon Disciple!”

Final Thoughts

Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons isn’t an adventure or campaign, but it’s just as DM-focused as one of adventures or campaigns are – there are a few new player options, and then the rest of the book is really only for the DM. While adventure and campaign books are aimed at the DM who wants things all laid out for them (I’m usually in this camp), Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons is for a DM who want to craft their own tales – and wants those tales to involve lots and lots of dragons.

Players looking for greater tie-ins to dragons will like getting the three new dragonborn variants. After all, being a dragonborn is the most straightforward way to build a draconic history into a D&D character. And the new variants are a bit more powerful than the standard option from the PHB. The Drakewarden ranger is way better than the Beast Master ranger (although, as noted before, that isn’t really saying much). Add in the Way of the Ascendant Dragon monk subclass, and there are just a lot of ways to gain breath weapons, deal elemental damage, and resist that damage. The other minor options, like the spells, aren’t too exciting.

As a DM, the best part of the book was new bestiary entries (including the five new dragon types), lots of extra suggestions for lair actions and regional effects, and the pre-made lairs for different dragon types. Probably the weakest part of the book was the advice. There’s value to me in a map and description for a red dragon lair. There isn’t a ton in suggesting that this red dragon might be a warlord leading an invasion. It just isn’t detailed enough to be all that useful. Additionally, alongside the great suggestions like lair actions and regional effects, there was a decent amount of space taken up with much less useful suggestions like what sorts of art objects different dragon types might have in their lair.

Overall, Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons will be at peak value for the DM who wants to add more dragon content to their games, while not repeating the same old dragon types and dragon personalities.

 

Promotional consideration was provided in the form of a review copy. Strange Assembly may earn commissions from affiliate links in this article.

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