So, into my greedy little hands came a copy of the newest addition to the #30 series from Rite publishing, #30 Variant Dragons....let's just get something out of the way right up front, I love Dragons...period. I have loved them since childhood, and can accredit them as one of the themes that drew me to roleplaying, so there was no small amount of happiness on my part when I saw this PDF. Now, that we have that out of the way, and we all realize the pressure this innocent PDF is under to impress me and not destroy my faith in a certain breed of reptilian awesomeness...let us see what's going on with the latest #30 offering shall we?
Weighing in at 23 pages (Front cover, credits, intro and 2 Kickstarter ads) with 18 pages dedicated to introducing us to the newest variations on the draconic bloodline to join the family. Format follows the dual column with embedded artwork (all of it pretty decent, always a plus!). Of the 30 Dragons, we are given 17 pieces of art, and yes the beast on the cover is one of them internally...now, yes, there is the initial moment of letdown that all 30 of these variants are not illustrated...but let's be real here folks. We're talking about dragons here, we know what they look like, lol. The fact that we got 17 pieces of art is pretty impressive in all actuality (that is over half after all)...a few pieces you'll recognize from other books, others are still fresh enough they haven't been used often yet, but again, all of the art is good.
Those of who who have been in this hobby long enough to remember there was a D&D before 4e should recognize the author of this collection, Eric Morton. His pieces from Dragon magazine were always an excellent source of new material/rules, and I am delighted to see him releasing new material under the Rite banner.
OK, enough dancing around it, lets discuss dragons.
Our intro opens with a note from the Dragon Sage Salvatorius, a note that sets a tone for the entire book as I quickly realized, as each dragon's description is presented in first person, with the dragon themselves detailing their own description...flat out brilliant! Not only was I presented with 30 new possible variants to the standard dragons my players know so well, each came with a voice all their own, a personality that instantly had my mind forming NPC's around each...I had to stop reading to open a notepad as I found myself designing and naming as I went through the book. Such a simple thing that one wouldn't think would do much for the overall effect, and yet it very much is a powerful tool utilized properly here. Bravo! For all of my table loving friends out there the intro gives us a quick and easy breakdown of the variants, and how they relate to the Dragon Type they belong to. I won't lie, I'm not a huge Table guy, lol, but I do understand their importance, so I was happy to see this included.
With 30 variants, I am not going to go through each...so I shall touch on a handful, starting with the first offering in the book, the Bell Metal Dragon (Bronze). Attuned to the forces of life in ways most would never know, this particular dragon enjoys a symphony of sounds and experiences unlike anything the rest of us could ever hope to know. Replacing some aspects of the bronze dragon's breath weapon with a sonic effect, and an interesting reply to physical attacks in the form of a radius sonic attack (think striking a giant bell, while standing to close, lol). The description is where I fell in love with this beast though, as “listening” to him describe himself he is actually apologetic, in that he realizes in describing how he feels the vibrations of that which lesser beings are unaware he is in effect “describing a symphony to the deaf.” His penchant for impersonating a bard at great festivals only further entrenches this dragon as the type you want your players to meet, to experience. Well done Mr. Morton, and an excellent start to a collection, a great way to wet the appetite.
The Frozen Dragon (White) brings some serious street cred to the white dragon family. Possessing the elemental subtype as well as draconic, this particular nasty customer has a fascination with undead, particularly frozen undead.
From the Bog's ability to animate dead at will, to the Caldera's capacity to start and maintain earthquakes for as long as they choose, there are some seriously wicked dragons here. But fear not, my musically inclined friend was not the only offering of a not quite so violent dragon, oh no...we also have a dragon who lives below the waves simply because he finds amusement in the body shapes of aquatic creatures, and takes delight in playing pranks upon the coastal communities, tricking them into fighting over useless junk. The Feathered Dragon, ancestor to the more recognized couatls, or Electrums playing amongst the electrical storms when not entertaining guests at their floating manors. And then we have the Pyrite (Gold) dragon, an excellent reminder that alignment is far more than a scale color. These golds are far from our grandpa's gold dragon, lol.
The Hydra Dragon (Black) is exactly what you would assume in that it is a multi-headed dragon...but its intro is from the point of view of several of the heads, all talking in a manner that would suggest different personalities for each....and that is freaking awesome!
Or, how about the Petrified Dragon (Green)...so old its hide has turned to an animated stone-like consistency...measuring time on a grander scale this age old being is entwined in manipulations of the world that go way above the pay-scale of most adventurers lol. Still, a very cool concept for a mastermind character behind a massive organization, quietly pulling puppet strings and directing the characters lives through its machinations.
There are the occasional grammatical misshaps, an odd wording in a sentence, things of that nature. Some of these are minor distractions, others are downright clunky to read through.
Now, those dragons I did not touch on are in no way inferior to what I mentioned here, I simply am not going to give them all away in this review...go buy the PDF, trust me, you'll be happy. Are there some editing issues with some wording? Yes, but it is all understandable, and a quick and easy fix if the Rite camp has time on their books (Yeah, I know, time, lol). Do to the sheer awesomeness of several, and by several I mean practically all of them, of these draconic variants I am giving this book a rating of 4.5, as the design far outweighs the editing issues. I am however, rounding down to a four, as there were a lot of editing misshaps, far more than I am used to seeing in a Rite product. So, final rating is a four star for this book, and the recommendation that any lover of the big flying lizards gets their hands on this book.
[4 of 5 Stars!]