How to Run: Metallic Dragons

Last year on “How to Run:” we covered Chromatic Dragons and discussed various ways to make them feel more alive and memorable. But today we are going to be talking about Metallic Dragons!

Welcome back adventurers and DMs (Dungeon Masters) Wizard Charlie here! Welcome back to a new year with a whole new set of Dragons! Last year on “How to Run:” we covered all of the Chromatic Dragons in the MM (Monster Manual) and discussed various ways to make them feel more alive and memorable. But today we are going to be talking about Metallic Dragons! Come one, come all and join me as we discuss how to run…

Metallic Dragons

I know what you are thinking, “Why do I need to learn how to run a good aligned Dragon, they’re good”, well I’ll tell you why! Last time I mentioned the expectations of running a big bad evil dragon, but I find it rarer to find someone talking about running the opposite end of the spectrum. A challenging encounter can be loads of fun for players and dms alike, and rewards in loot and magical items is always an amazing feeling. However, what do you do with a creature that you rarely face in battle? How do you make a good creature come off as something more than a statblock? Why can’t your encounter not also be the reward? You portray these majestic beasts well enough to your party and it will be! But magic items from a friendly dragon are even better, just saying. Just like last time, it is personality, my curious friends. Now, let’s get started with your friendly and sometimes grumpy gentle giants, the metallic dragons!

Metallic dragons are considered the good versions of their kind in the Monster Manual (MM) and they consist of the five colors; copper, bronze, brass, silver, and gold. Metallic dragons, although still dragons who like to hoard treasures, tend to be more good-natured, kind, patient, helpful and at times silly. That is not to say that all metallic dragons are like this, but because they are good-natured and good aligned they are often much more “approachable”. 

When thinking of designing your metallic dragon it is important to think about life from their eyes as well as expectations of players. Dragons can live for thousands of years, this gives them a perspective similar to elves in that something that bothers us may not necessarily bother them. However, due to their nature they can not help but to preserve and protect life. Even the treasures that metallic dragons hoard aren’t always usually what you would expect. Whereas a chromatic dragon builds a hoard out of greed and selfishness, a metallic one instead gathers treasures out of curiosity or from good memories; some are known to even collect cursed items to keep hidden away from those that would be harmed by them. A handful of metallic dragons, after a certain age, might immerse themselves in the cultures of humanoids while some dragons shy away from people and prefer to live in solitude. And most of all these dragons have very long memories; which allows them to actually smell one’s bloodline. 

Now that we have more of an understanding of our dragons, what comes to mind? Are they young and full of life? Or are they old and filled with wisdom and experience? That is something that must be kept in mind, these dragons vary in age and might act differently depending on where in their long lives they are currently in. A young Bronze dragon might find themselves soaring coastal regions with a smile on its face as the wind whooshes by, an adult Bronze dragon might join an army if they fight for a just cause, while an ancient one might prefer to watch over sailing ships from a coastal cave and helps those that are attacked by pirates. These are things to consider when making your dragon, but for now lets go over our main 4 tools when making our goodest bois. 

  1. Voice:
    When it comes to picking the right voice it all depends on two things, age & dragon type. One young metallic dragon can sound childlike and innocent while another might try too hard to seem older than what they are, and fail at it miserably. An older Gold Dragon might be grumpy but still care about people while an older silver one might have slowly drawn out gems of wisdom with each spoken word. But most importantly above all things, I feel that they should sound trustworthy for these are embodiment of what it means to be good-natured.
  2. Speech Patterns/Cadence:
    This is where you can have a lot of fun with your metallic dragon. A young dragon might be so excited to talk that they make mistakes in their speech or slur words together. Imagine if a dog learned to speak, how might they sound? A young dragon isn’t a newborn by any means but they might have lived a life of solitude, most likely taught to them by their parents, and now they are excitedly meeting adventurers for the first time.Or maybe your young dragon is quite shy and keeps trying to get away from people. An ancient metallic dragon might speak with a slow drawl or a methodical precision. Maybe your metallic is an adult who has picked up sarcasm from his peers, they can be grumpy but still caring. Maybe you have a paladin-esque dragon with a hero voice to boot, the potential is endless. 
  3. Actions/Mannerisms:
    I lied before, this is where you can have the most fun with your metallic dragon. A young dragon might be surprised by everything your players’ characters might do. The sound of a bard’s music might make a young dragon tilt their head like a confused dog followed by a jovial outburst of excitement. An ancient grumpy dragon might huff every time he is annoyed while an adult Copper Dragon might chuckle with how strange it is to see the sour and overly serious rogue. A dragon who has been around a long time could potentially be extremely polite as they have learned human etiquette and wish to make your team feel comfortable. A young dragon might not have any understanding of personal space just yet and therefore might get too close to people’s faces as they listen to them speak intently. A young dragon might have difficulty staying still while an ancient one might barely move other than to get into a more comfortable position while speaking with your players.
  4. Tactics:
    This is more difficult since fighting a metallic dragon is pretty rare outside of an evil campaign…unless. I see this being handled two ways; 1. A Metallic dragon is corrupted by some dark power or 2. Your dragon is testing the strength of your heroes. Both of which we can go more into detail in a future How to Run, when I focus on each individual metallic dragon. But either method allows you to run your dragon in a combat scenario. The beauty of a “test battle” in which your dragon puts your party through a trial, is that it is not to the death, after a point they will stop and congratulate your players on a well fought match. Following this same train of thought, maybe your dragon pulls back on the full strength of their attacks? Maybe all the damage is halved to show they are holding back.

The point of all of this is to have fun with it. It is okay to subvert expectations and throw an evil or corrupted metallic dragon but just make sure to have a balance to that with some kind or benevolent creature at some point. My first interaction with metallic dragons was not exactly nice or even memorable so make sure you don’t make that mistake, metallic dragons should usually be good-natured creatures to your party. Just think about facing a world of goblins, orcs, evil demons, and liches; now imagine that world not having a single good-natured creature that treats your players with respect or kindness, it’s a receipt for disaster (unless that is the type of game that every subscribed for and wants). Just remember that your team does not just need things to fight, they could also use good interactions and compassion. 

Well my friends there you have it. This was just a general overview of metallic dragons, if you want a more detailed view with examples then stay tuned for future How to Runs where I will cover each of the metallic dragons in the Player’s Handbook. So go out there and show your players what a real good-natured dragon is made out of. And remember DMs it isn’t just your world, and it isn’t just the player’s world, it’s all of yours. 

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