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Nightmare Dragons

by Rodger Burns

Dragons can be found almost everywhere in the multiverse - including the Nightmare Dimension. The planet of Aratsym has beings of draconic heritage, of similar power and capabilities as Mystaran dragons, but notably differing appearance. Nightmare dragons (also sometimes called 'drakkhyn' by sages wanting a shorter term for these beings) have bodies covered in multicolored fur and feathers rather than the single-hued scales and hide of Normal dimension dragons; their kindreds are distinguished by body type and physical features, which are as well-known to diaboli adventurers as scale color is to Mystaran dragon-hunters.

- Feral drakkhyn: These are the smallest Nightmare dragons, and have bulky torsos with thick, corded muscle. In spite of their body mass, their shapes are sleek and streamlined, without spines, frills or similar ornamentation. They are direct, cruel, unsubtle and generally selfishly vicious, even when they possess the talent of speech. Feral drakhynn are usually (75%) Neutrally aligned, rarely (25%) Chaotic. Their breath weapon is a cone of snowscour, crystallized abrasive force, and their statistics are similar to white dragons.

- Clever drakkhyn: This breed of Nightmare dragon is known for its oversized head and its thin and double-jointed limbs. Drakkhyn of this type are aptly named, displaying a taste for tricks, ambushes and barbed mischief; those able to speak will often seek to parlay with travellers and prove their mental superiority with arcane riddles and puzzling conundrums. In combat, a Clever drakkhyn will often seek to stalk its prey over extended periods, using tricks, traps and ambush tactics to split apart groups and slowly weaken its foe. Clever drakkhyn are usually Chaotic, sometimes Neutral. Their breath weapon is a line of clinging caustic, and their statistics are similar to black dragons.

- Serpentine drakkhyn: These creatures are limbless, save for multiple sets of thin, flexible wings that the drakkhyn can use to batter and tear at enemies (same attack potential as normal claw/kick attacks). They are proud, aloof and vain even for beings of draconic descent - susceptible to flattery and humble abasement, but intolerant of anything that could be construed as outside interference or any attempt to give insult. They are usually Neutral aligned, sometimes Lawful, and if intelligent are inclined to establish 'ranges' around their lairs where all who pass through must make some display of tribute or submission, on pain of the drakkhyn's displeasure. Their breath weapon is a cloud of alkaline, and their statistics are similar to green dragons.

- Ascetic drakkhyn: These drakkhyn have a bulbous and multi-segmented body, arguably almost insectoid in nature (aside from the fur, feather-down and quill-patches covering it) and multiple sets of eyes. They show a marked tendency towards 'burst' activity, spending years in torpor or seclusion, silently brooding or planning, before emerging into the wider world to implement their schemes with a frantic, manic purpose. Ascetic drakkhyn are usually Lawfully aligned, sometimes Chaotic. Their breath weapon is a line of detonal, energy which causes solid matter to swell and explode (intangible beings, such as wraiths, are immune) and their statistics are similar to blue dragons.

- Grasping drakkhyn: Drakkhyn of this type all have at least four pairs of lower limbs, in addition to their wings - the middle pairs are short, stubby and have a restricted range of motion, though, being mostly useful to clutch unresisting objects against the Nightmare dragon's broad chest. Drakkhyn of this type are perceptive, hoarding and cunningly selfish - they care little for the needs of others, but are capable of planning well for the long term and forgoing immediate gratification for a greater gain in the future. They are usually Lawful in alignment, sometimes Neutral. Their breath weapon is a cone of numbbolt, crackling light which kills nerves and deadens tissue (golems and other construct beings are immune, though undead are not) and their statistics are similar to red dragons.

- Noble drakkhyn: These are the physically largest of the drakkhyn, though this is not immediately apparent - they are extraordinarily graceful and elegantly proportioned, awe-inspiring to diaboli and humans alike. They can be distinguished from other Nightmare dragons by the large number of horns, spines and frills adorning every portion of their bodies, and by the multiple tails they possess (forking about half the distance from their lower torsos). Noble dragons are thoughtful, generous and magnanimous, though reclusive and often prone to underestimating mortals; they can be stalwart allies for diaboli who treat them with the proper respect. Sometimes, though, a Noble drakkhyn will decide that some population of diaboli needs to drastically change 'for its own good', and will take extreme actions to accomplish this; deterring a Noble drakkhyn in this state is both difficult and dangerous. Noble drakkhyn are usually Chaotic, sometimes Lawful. They have one breath weapon, a cone of blackflame. Their statistics are similar to gold dragons.

Nightmare Dragons on Mystara: Unlike other natives of the Nightmare Dimension, drakkhyn are not inherently poisoned by (or poisonous to) Normal Dimension life, and though not native to Mystara can survive just fine should they find themselves in the Normal Dimension. (The same is presumably true of Normal dragons on Aratsym, but this is of only academic interest to most non-diaboli). Perhaps as many as a hundred Nightmare dragons reside on Mystara, between the surface and the Hollow World - either victims of magical accident or voluntary emigrants.

The single biggest source of Nightmare dragons on Mystara stems from the meddling of Subhadesh the Mad, a Sindhi-born wizard who rose to become the High Master of Glantri's Secret Craft of Illusion a little less than four centuries ago. Though Subhadesh only held his title for a few years, his reckless experimentations are still responsible for dozens of Nightmare dragons (along with numerous other less robust horrors) being summoned from the Nightmare Dimension into the northern parts of the Kurish Massif range. Though many of the drakkhyn have since departed for other lands, some still remain (tending to their own affairs, and possibly hoping that the original site of Subhadesh's experiments would prove to be a good site for a more stable portal between the dimensions) and are generally no friends to the Glantrians. This may help to explain why Glantri lacks much contact at all with Sind, and why Sindhi wizards have no descendants among Glantrian nobility even though most other nations of the Known World do.