Alternate Traits and Actions
The following changes allow GMs to alter a graveyard dragon without modifying its challenge rating.
Elemental Immunity. The graveyard dragon has immunity to the type of damage dealt by its breath weapon.
The graveyard dragon loses its Elemental Resistance trait. It also gains damage vulnerability to a chosen type other than the type to which it has immunity.
Frightful Presence. Each creature of the graveyard dragon’s choice that is within 60 feet of the dragon and aware of it must succeed on a DC 12 Wisdom saving throw or become frightened for 1 minute. A creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success. If a creature’s saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, the creature is immune to the graveyard dragon’s Frightful Presence for the next 24 hours.
The graveyard dragon loses its Elemental Aura trait.
Life Drain. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 10 (2d6 + 3) necrotic damage. The target must succeed on a DC 14 Constitution saving throw, or its hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the damage taken. This reduction lasts until the target finishes a long rest. The target dies if this effect reduces its hit point maximum to 0.
The graveyard dragon loses its claw attack, and its breath weapon recharges only on a 6. Its multiattack changes so that it makes one attack with its bite and one Life Drain attack.
Rejuvenation. If killed in its graveyard, the graveyard dragon’s body reforms from other dragon bones in 24 hours, regaining all its hp and becoming active again. Its new body appears anywhere within the graveyard. Only the complete removal of its body from the graveyard prevents this trait from functioning.
The graveyard dragon loses its Elemental Resistance trait.
Rarely, a good-aligned dragon dies and becomes a guardian of a dragon graveyard, particularly if corpses of good-aligned dragons predominantly populate the graveyard. A graveyard protector shares most of the graveyard dragon’s traits and actions. Its alignment changes to neutral good, and its breath weapon changes to match the dragon it was in life.
- Brass. Fire breath in a 30-foot line that is 5-feet wide. Alternatively, sleep gas in a 30-foot cone; each creature in that area must succeed on a DC 14 Constitution saving throw or fall unconscious for 1 minute. The sleep effect ends for a creature if the creature takes damage or someone uses an action to wake it.
- Bronze. Lightning breath in a 30-foot line that is 5 feet wide. Alternatively, repulsion energy in a 30-foot cone; each creature in that area must succeed on a DC 14 Strength saving throw or be pushed back 30 feet away from the graveyard protector.
- Copper. Acid breath in a 30-foot line that is 5 feet wide. Alternatively, slowing gas in a 30-foot cone; each creature in that area must succeed on a DC 14 Constitution saving throw or have their speed halved and be unable to make more than one attack on its turn. A slowed creature can use either an action or a bonus action on its turn, but not both. The slowed effect lasts for 1 minute, but the creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself with a successful save.
- Gold. Fire breath in a 30-foot cone. Alternatively, weakening gas in a 30-foot cone; each creature in that area must succeed on a DC 14 Strength saving throw or have disadvantage on Strength-based attack rolls, Strength checks, and Strength saving throws for 1 minute. A weakened creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.
- Silver. Cold breath in a 30-foot cone. Alternatively, paralyzing gas in a 30-foot cone; each creature in that area must succeed on a DC 14 Constitution saving throw or be paralyzed for 1 minute. A paralyzed creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself with a successful save.
New Magic Items and Spells
The following magic item and spells are inspired by abilities possessed by a graveyard dragon.
Create Graveyard Dragon
9th-level necromancy (cleric, warlock, wizard)
Casting Time: 1 minute
Range: 20 feet
Components: V, S, M (coins worth 1,000 gp)
Choose a corpse of a Huge or Large dragon within range. This corpse becomes a graveyard dragon under your control. As a bonus action on each of your turns, you can mentally command the dragon if the creature is within 120 feet of you. You decide what action the dragon will take and where it will move during its next turn, or you can issue a general command. If you issue no commands, the dragon only defends itself against hostile creatures. Once given an order, the dragon continues to follow it until its task is complete.
The dragon is under your control for 8 hours, after which it stops obeying any command you have given it. To maintain control of the dragon for another 8 hours, you must cast this spell on the dragon before the current 8-hour period ends, or you can succeed on an ability check with your spellcasting ability contested by the dragon’s Charisma check. You can only make two successive contested ability checks before you must cast this spell on the dragon again. This use of the spell reasserts your control over the dragon rather than animating new ones.
Wondrous item, very rare (requires attunement)
Fashioned from the bones of a graveyard dragon, this cloak fits snugly around your body. The cloak also features a dragon skull that you can wear over your head.
While wearing this cloak, you can understand and speak Draconic. In addition, you have resistance to one damage type determined by the kind of dragon that provided the cloak (per the table below).
Finally, you can use an action to use a breath weapon determined by the kind of dragon that provided the cloak (per the table below). Each creature in the area must make a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw, taking 9d8 damage of the type corresponding to the cloak’s resistance on a failed save, or half as much on a successful one. This action can’t be used again until the next dusk.
|Black||Acid||30-foot line that is 5 feet wide|
|Blue||Lightning||30-foot line that is 5 feet wide|
1st-level transmutation (sorcerer, warlock)
Casting Time: 1 action
Components: V, S, M (a bone from a graveyard dragon)
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute
You rearrange your bone structure for the duration, allowing you to fit into a space as narrow as 1 foot wide without squeezing. While in this compressed form, you can’t make melee weapon attacks.
Graveyard Dragon Adventure Hooks
- A silver dragon seeks to destroy a graveyard dragon, but it can’t do so directly for political reasons or out of concern for reprisal. The silver dragon has no compunction about sending agents to carry out the job with the promise of a considerable reward for successfully destroying the graveyard dragon.
- A scholar studying ancient dragons uncovered tales of a cataclysmic underground battle that resulted in a massive dragon graveyard. The scholar suspects a graveyard dragon guards the former battleground and sends out a call for adventurers to explore the site and return with bones and other evidence of the battle. While the scholar can only offer a modest reward, assurances of untold wealth, most of which the adventurers can keep, should tempt a party. However, a surprise awaits treasure seekers as the graveyard is large enough to host multiple graveyard dragons.
The Tome Unbound series fleshes out monsters from the Tome of Beasts 2, giving GMs ways to modify the existing monsters to surprise well-prepared players or to introduce monsters to a campaign.