Van Graaf's Journal of Dragons (PFRPG) Hardcover

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Legendary explorer and adventurer, Van Graaf, takes you on a grand voyage of discovery, uncovering the mysteries and secrets of those most fearsome of beasts dragons! Compatible with Pathfinder, Van Graaf's Journal of Dragons looks at the different species of dragons, their lairs, treasures, allies and habits. It forms an invaluable resource for every games master looking to place dragons within his campaign world, and bring them fully to life.

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A GM's guide to modifying /creating dragons

4/5

This massive book is 250 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 5 pages advertisement, 1 page back cover, 1 page SRD, leaving a whopping 241 pages of content on dragons, so let#s dive right into draconic glory.

First of all, let me make one thing perfectly clear to you - while "Van Graff" evoked associations with the Van Richten guides of old, this book cannot be considered a fluffy PC handout with a lot of narratives, instead catering specifically to the DM and his ability to present dragons, perhaps the most iconic beast of them all in a way that makes them fearsome foes indeed. After a short introduction and fluff-text, we are introduced to the first of many of supplemental ideas that primarily serve to enhance a dragons iconicity and may or may not be adapted to your campaign world.

The first of these concepts is the dragon's domain, or, as the book calls it, its desolation (or sanction in the case of good dragons). The intensely magical nature of the dragon bleeds into the land, changing it for the better or for worse and powers magical perceptions of the dragons. The environmental ideas are quite nice - I like this section due to its iconicity, as the respective areas have several sub-sections with progressively more intense draconic influence.

We all know that dragons tend to amass wealth, followers, be the object of worship for cults and sleep a lot. Thus, it makes sense for them to have not only a plethora of followers, but a system to track them from rousing from sleep. The alarm system covers the PCs trying to infiltrate the desolation of the dragon and makes for a very complex, simulationialist approach to tracking the general level of alertness of the dragon and its forces. I did actually like this system, but I guess tracking the alertness-levels might be a bit complex for some DMs, in spite of the system's simplicity. If you want to simulate a dragon and its follower's smartness and emphasize the feat that is reaching such a creature, then you'll like this system.

The next chapter details servants of the dragons, including quick write-ups for creature types, extensive leadership tables for fiefdoms, networks, armies etc., including modifiers to track loss and leadership damages when suffering major and minor defeats. This chapter also includes new draconic sentry creatures, goldghosts and golems made from discarded skin. Have I mentioned the draconic ability to buy undead from Charon via cursed coins that borrow into his foe's skulls through the eyes.

After that, we are introduced to dragon lairs and their individual defense mechanisms, providing information for all of the draconic subspecies as well as Gp-costs for outfitting rooms. Abyssal Serpents and Hell Worms are covered as well as several other neat ideas to make venturing into the lairs of dragons not something your PCs are likely to forget.

Of course, once the PCs have reached the dragon, they might have to grovel and flatter their way back out of the cave, thus we are presented with a conversational matrix to track a dragon's attitude as well as a rather extensive selection of flattering, riddle-posing and groveling, including, of course, consequences for failure and in-character prose to give you an idea what to expect. If diplomacy fails, though, tactics and warfare are covered in the follow-up chapters, providing extensive information for the Dm to properly portray the cunning reptiles in battle and make maximum use of their wide variety of strategic options. This chapter also includes specific weapons and armor that dragons may put on to boost their already formidable defenses.

But their formidable prowess in just about all fields are not only what makes dragons iconic in literature and myth - their parts, from dragonbone weapons to eating the heart and bathing in their blood has been a staple for human myths and fantasy for centuries and subsequently, the following chapter includes a wide variety of things that can be crafted from the carcass of a dragon - from a discussion of their anatomy (including rules for called shots on dragon parts) to curses on the hoard and aforementioned symbolic adaptions/consumptions of the dragon's strength, all the staples and tropes are covered in glorious detail, making this one of my favorite chapters in the whole book and one that is vastly superior to its 3.5 Draconomicon counter-point. Hoards are, of course, also covered and while the chapter goes into some detail and provides e.g. a one-page table of hook-ladden jewelry, I would have loved some more tables of this kind.

Customizability is king and thus, the next chapter offers us a wide variety of different age advancements for dragons, enabling you to create wyrms with more of an arcane bent, roaring engines of destruction etc. While these rules make dragon-building potentially more complex, they also are optional and provide a distinctly versatile backdrop for lending variability to the most iconic of all monster species.

Of course, this is not enough and if you recall the Draconomicon, you might have an idea what#s up next - bingo, new draconic feats, mostly centering on improving the control/lethality of their already formidable breath and natural attacks. Especially when creating the Draco Invictus, dragons even older and more powerful than Great wyrms, these feats make for deadly choices and some are sure to leave PCs whimpering for their mothers. These super dragons all come with their final age advancement in their very own chapter, by the way.

And if that is not what you're looking for, but rather guidelines on how to develop your own draconic species, we get a complex, yet easy to grasp build-your-own-dragon-species-kit, which has also been used to create the new dragons presented in this book. The new dragons e.g. cover the 7 deadly sins via the Sin Dragons (creatures that feed on sins) and cool hellish miniature versions of Tiamat (which are perhaps the most lethal dragons released for PFRPG!) to, unfortunately lame dragons like Web dragons and stupid beasts of burden if you're inclined to play in a world where all-out dragon-based warfare is common.
Being the originators (at least in some worlds) of magic, no book on dragons would be complete without a section on draconic magic and I have to say: I like this particular one. From transforming the dragon's gullet into a bag-of-holding like space to Power Word: KNEEL!, the new space feel distinctly like they cater to the vain and glorious reptiles. Magical scales and draconic dream-avatars are covered as well, ensuring that even when asleep (or in the plane of dreams), the PCs might be harassed by their draconic foes. Even better from a DM's perspective, the dream avatar often is subconsciously controlled and thus might differ in alignment, providing a fine excuse for the PCs to fight otherwise noble metallic dragons.

Dragon culture, mindset, draconic steeds and even rules for hatching and raising wyrmlings are covered in the following chapters before going into 3 different takes on dragons in a given campaign as well as detailed suggestions on how to incorporate them in different play-styles and going so far as to even provide a sketchy (post-)apocalyptic world of exceedingly common dragons. The adventure hooks provided throughout these pages are well-thought out, smart and exciting, as befitting of the creatures.

The final chapter provides the Dragon Rider and Dragon Binder PrCs as well as short guidelines for playing dragons, though the latter can be considered rudimentary at best and the 5-level PrCs feeling rather bland. The adventure hooks, on the other hand, neatly round out this tome and leave you with several interesting ideas to incorporate in your game.

Conclusion in the product discussion, Post 11.


Dark Archive

A dragon book huh. Curious what some of the details about the book will be.


I am quite curious my self, about this and the other book in the series.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

PFRPG update of the Slayer's Guide to Dragons?


Interesting... When will we see this published?


According to Mongooses' site, should be August sometime. The second one should be in September. Beyond that, no idea.

Liberty's Edge

Has anyone seen this yet? Is it any good?


Yeah, some more info would be good. The premise sounds interesting, but at 40 bucks (and 30 for the other one) forking out that much for a Hardcover with this little info is a bit much for me. A page count at least!

Dark Archive

I am a little surprised neither of them have a PDF only option.

Jon Brazer Enterprises

Dark_Mistress wrote:
I am a little surprised neither of them have a PDF only option.

Mongoose signed the DriveThru exclusive license. I don't expect them to change that anytime soon.

Dark Archive

Ah ok.


Conclusion to my review.

Editing and formatting are top-notch - I only encountered 2 glitches over almost 250 pages. Layout adheres to an easy to read, printer-friendly b(w-2-column standard. My point of reference for reviewing this book will be the 3.5 Draconomicon and at least in the art-division, WotC's book blows this guide out of the water - while the b/w-illustrations are many and ok, they fail to capture the threat and majesty of the dragons and never reach the quality of the cover artwork. More importantly, the pdf version of this book has no bookmarks - at this length, that's inexplicable and just unacceptable, as navigation on screen thus rather is problematic - especially due to the nature of the rules and the matrixes presented herein, bookmarks would have been neat to have.

That being said, we don't get stupid, unbalanced PrCs for the dragons, which is a plus in my humble opinion. The social rules for flattering, the dragon-creation rules, the draco invictus and more importantly, the section on anatomy, tactics, hooks etc. make for awesome content that is undermined in its stellar quality by some rather boring dragons, lamely executed PrCs and resurfacing bits of content, that, while never truly bad, stand out among the excellent pieces of content. It should also be noted that the original new creatures presented are mostly on the bland side of dragons. The new rules provided make it possible to run truly complex draconic encounters, but not all DMs will get the maximum out of this book. Those of you who want to shoot for more or less simulationalist approaches and emphasize the smartness of dragons, though, this book finally does what the Draconomicon failed to do: Making running smart dragons easy. While there are crunchy bits to make your dragons harder to beat, the true strength of this book lies in the fluff that enables you to better capitalize on the dragon's experience and intellect rather than its stats to make it challenging, making running dragons thus more logical in the formidable challenges they represent. Were it not for the subpar parts and the lack of bookmarks, I'd give this 5 stars - with the distinct blemishes, though, I'll settle for a final verdict of 4 stars and pronounce this the most comprehensive resource on dragons for PFRPG yet. (By the way, if you're looking for fully stated dragons, check out SGG's Codex Draconis series.)

Reviewed here and sent to GMS magazine.

Endzeitgeist out - happy holidays.

Dark Archive

Nice review End.


Thanks, D_M!


Just received my copy. Looking at the magic items I noticed the creation costs still reflected an xp cost. HD referred me to multiplying the xp by 10 and adding it to the cost to create. However, that still didn't realistcally reflect the cost of the Draconic Glaive of Opposition; cost 22,500; create 11,275 + 450 xp. The weapon has the ability to activate one of five serpents carved on the staff to give the blade abilities of: flaming, frost, shock, thundering, and weeping (acid). There is no mention of how often these can be called on per day. So at quick glance this should probably cost closer to a +5 or +7 weapon.

Howewver, this is a minor hiccup in a very interesting book. I shall spend more time consuming the information inside.

Dark Archive

Silver my guess is because this and the others in the series are updates of some of their previous 3.5 books. It just got over looked the xp cost part of it.


@ D_M,

I don't disagree. I just wanted to mention the oddity of finding a mention of xp costs. As I said this is a minor hiccup.


Hi,

While preparing a new green dragon for my game, I noticed something odd:

in Age Advancement, the text keeps referring to the special ability progression table... But there is no such table anywhere.

Doing a "special Ability +2 shift" can be challenging when there is nothing to tell you what "+2" means.

Also, while the book does provide the "basic" progression for magic and ability for standard dragons, its does not provide the progression rate for basic ability:

Page 112 says "However, different breeds of dragons have different rate of improvement for their statistics."

But... What are they?

I think there is a page missing. :(


I don't have this book, so I don't know specifically that this is what they're referring to, but each Dragon type has progression tables for their special abilities in the Pathfinder Bestiary.

The one for the green dragon is on page 96, top right.


Saw that this product was updated, so I bought it, again.

Slightly disappointed, it is STILL missing the 'True Dragon Normal Progression' table. This is the table for the Ability score progressions. Had to go dig up the table from the 3.5e version on The Grand OGL Wiki site.

Love the book, just wished it had included the table. Age progressing dragons is a "little" hard without it.


amberkat wrote:

Saw that this product was updated, so I bought it, again.

Slightly disappointed, it is STILL missing the 'True Dragon Normal Progression' table. This is the table for the Ability score progressions. Had to go dig up the table from the 3.5e version on The Grand OGL Wiki site.

Love the book, just wished it had included the table. Age progressing dragons is a "little" hard without it.

The Grand Wiki does NOT have this book, but does have Classic Play: Book of Dragons from Mongoose instead. Seems to be the same book, at least what little I compared. That book does contain the missing table.

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