by Mike Shea on 1 January 2009
What would Christmas be without a fine tome filled with horrors buried in the deepest darkest depths of the known worlds? Pretty lame, if you ask me. Lucky for me, I was the proud receiver of Draconomicon, the Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition book on dragons. I wasn't particularly excited by this one, clear by my actions to put it on a wish list rather than buy it outright. What I found on reading it, however, was something both entertaining and useful.
What struck me right away is the high amount of useful information. Though Draconomicon has a fair bit of descriptions of dragons, society, physiology, and other such fluffy aspects, the crunch here is quite crunchy. The book contains nine short adventures, three per tier, that show off nine unique dragons. Full encounters are laid out in the traditional 4th edition style with complete stat blocks for about three encounters per adventure. Each of the settings are unique including some extra-planar areas like a green warlock dragon's lair in the Faywild.
The next most impressive area of the book are the statistics for many unique monsters of all levels. Wyrmlings will help challenge lower heroic tier players while some new big brutes including a pair of new dracolichs (who doesn't love dracolichs?). The three new chromatic dragons; the brown, gray, and purple dragons; are all interesting variants and give us an opportunity to use those silver and copper dragon minis that have sat on our mini shelf for so many months. A purple worm mini might even work for the purple dragon if your group has enough imagination to put wings on his back.
The vampiric dragon Bloodwind is worth the cost of the book alone. Imagine a huge 23rd level vampiric dragon with an exanguanation breath weapon able to suck the blood out of three victims at once. Bloody brilliant!
As reported, the full statistics for Tiamat are included as well, although I can't see many parties ever facing her and fewer still walking away from it. Overall there are over 80 pages of statistics for new dragons and related monsters.
There's a fair bit of space used up for draconic treasures which probably isn't necessary. I don't need detailed breakdowns of art pieces but perhaps I am the only one with players who can't convert everything to gold fast enough already. The draconic artifacts are interesting and the draconic traps are a nice bit of nastiness I hope to one day inflict upon unsuspecting PCs. The first half of the book, however, doesn't include nearly the useful content of the second half. I suppose an adventurer's vault style book packed with nothing but two hundred dragon stat blocks would turn a lot of folks off who expect more general descriptions so the mix of the two in the published book can likely win both sides over.
Between the draconic stat blocks and the nine mini-adventures, there is a lot of usable table-ready material for all three tiers of play. This alone justifies the cost of the Draconomicon.