Alternate Traits and Actions
The following changes allow GMs to alter a ghost dragon without modifying its challenge rating.
Possess Dragon (Recharge 5–6). One dragon that the ghost dragon can see within 10 feet of it must succeed on a DC 16 Charisma saving throw or be possessed by the ghost dragon. The ghost dragon then disappears, and the target is incapacitated and loses control of its body. The ghost dragon now controls the body but doesn’t deprive the target of awareness. The ghost dragon can’t be targeted by any attack, spell, or other effect except ones that turn undead, and it retains its alignment, Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma, and immunity to being charmed and frightened. It otherwise uses the possessed target’s statistics but doesn’t gain access to the target’s knowledge, class features, or proficiencies.
The possession lasts until the body drops to 0 hit points, the ghost dragon ends it as a bonus action, or the ghost is turned or forced out by an effect like the dispel evil and good spell. When the possession ends, the ghost dragon reappears in an unoccupied space within 10 feet of the body. The target is immune to this ghost dragon’s Possess Dragon for 24 hours after succeeding on the saving throw or after the possession ends.
The ghost dragon loses its Horrifying Breath attack. Alternatively, the recharge for this action and for Horrifying Breath can be modified to Recharge 6.
Shade of Life Breath (Recharge 5–6). The ghost dragon exhales a blast of energy reminiscent of its former existence combined with the terrible energy powering its current existence. Each living creature in the ghost dragon’s 30-foot-cone blast must make a DC 17 Reflex saving throw, taking 27 (5d10) damage based on the living dragon’s breath (acid, cold, fire, and so on, but the damage type doesn’t change) and 27 (5d10) psychic damage on a failed save or half as much damage on a successful one. A living dragon that fails its saving throw must succeed on a DC 16 Wisdom saving throw or become frightened for 1 minute. A frightened target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.
The ghost dragon loses its Horrifying Breath attack.
New Magic Items and Spells
The following magic items and spell are inspired by abilities possessed by a ghost dragon.
Ghost Dragon Horn
Wondrous item, very rare
Scales from dead dragons cover this wooden, curved horn. You can use an action to speak the horn’s command word and then blow the horn, which emits a blast in a 30-foot cone, containing shrieking incorporeal dragon heads. Each creature in the cone must make a DC 16 Wisdom saving throw. On a failure, a creature tales 8d10 psychic damage and is frightened for 1 minute. On a successful save, a creature takes half as much damage and isn’t deafened. Dragons have disadvantage on the saving throw and take 16d10 psychic damage instead of 8d10. A frightened target can repeat the Wisdom saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.
If the horn’s magic targets a dragon, it has a 20% chance of causing the horn to explode. The explosion deals 16d10 psychic damage to the blower and destroys the horn.
Once you use the horn, you can’t use it again until the next dawn. You can also regain the use of the horn after you kill a dragon and complete a short or long rest.
3rd-level evocation (sorcerer, wizard)
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Self (30-foot cone)
Components V, S, M (dried ectoplasm from a ghost dragon)
Icy terror escapes your hands in a screaming torrent. Each living creature in a 30-foot cone must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or take 5d10 psychic damage and be frightened for 1 minute. A creature that succeeds on its saving throw takes half as much damage and isn’t frightened. A frightened creature can make another Wisdom saving throw at the end of each of its turns. On a success, the creature is no longer frightened.
A creature killed by this spell has a 10% chance of returning as a ghost.
4th-level necromancy (sorcerer, warlock, wizard)
Casting Time: 1 action
Components: V, S, M (tarnished coin from a ghost dragon’s lair)
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute
A ghostly draconic maw superimposes your face when you cast this spell. For the duration, you can use your action to make a melee spell attack against a target within 5 feet. On a hit, the target takes 2d10 piercing damage and must make a Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, the creature takes 4d8 necrotic damage. On a successful save, the creature takes half as much damage.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 5th level or higher, the necrotic damage increases by 1d8 for each slot above 4th.
Ghost Dragon Adventure Hooks
- A red dragon haunting a mountain range has gone quiet, raising faint hope in the kingdom plagued by the dragon. The kingdom’s ruler asks for a stalwart group to investigate the dragon’s lack of activity and return with treasure from its lair if the group slays the dragon or in the unlikely event the dragon has perished on its own. In truth, a usurping red dragon killed the older dragon but fled when the slain dragon returned as a ghost dragon.
- A gold dragon dying of old age intended to distribute its treasure to various charities and heroic groups. Though it slipped its mortal coil, the dragon’s ghost remained compelled to complete its unfinished business. It now seeks individuals who can complete its task while guarding its hoard from greedy treasure seekers.
I’ll be turning my attention to the newly released Tome of Beasts 2 in future installments. If you’ve got a favorite from that book, please let me know in the comments or elsewhere in the Kobold warrens, and I’ll make sure to add it to the queue.
The Expanding Codex series fleshes out monsters from the Creature Codex, giving GMs ways to modify the existing monsters to surprise well-prepared players or to introduce monsters to a campaign.