Last Updated on January 22, 2023
Dragons are innately intertwined with the arcane energies that underpin the material plane. Scholars of draconic lore describe them as knots in the fabric of magic – arcane power made flesh and blood.
The death of a dragon is therefore a significant event, as the magical energy bound up within its mortal form is released back into the world. Those who slay a dragon (or just happen to be standing nearby at the time) are forever changed by the experience as their bodies take the full brunt of the magical discharge.
Sometimes, the death of a dragon can transfer a measure of its power to a nearby creature. These arcane mutations are called Draconic Gifts.
Whether they are the dragon’s chosen heir or its killer, the power of a dragon can take root in the fabric of another being at the moment of its death.
These Draconic Gifts can subtly change their recipient, or leave them completely unrecognizable, and vary widely in their power – from minor charms to formidable magical mutations – usually depending on the size, age, and magical aptitude of the slain dragon in question.
Draconic Gifts have rarities like magic items, which are tied to the age of the dragon that grants them.
Draconic Gift Rarity
When it comes to the frequency with which dead dragons bestow a Draconic Gift, I’d think about the type of game you want to run.
There are (frankly quite upsetting) stories about humans in the real world resorting to cannibalism, animal sacrifice, and ritual murder as a way of stealing someone else’s power.
Think about a world in which killing a dragon (or consuming its heart or other vital organs if you want to homebrew things a bit) gives you a Draconic Gift.
I think that any brutal ruler or ambitious warlord could quickly fall into an obsession with slaughtering and consuming as many dragons as possible, perhaps in their deranged quest to become a dragon themselves.
Have the player roll a d6 upon killing a dragon to determine if they get a Draconic Gift. If they roll equal to or under their proficiency bonus, they get a gift. Consuming the dragon’s organs, or using them in dark rituals, would allow for rerolls – probably with some troubling side effects.
Then, the DM rolls for the gift’s rarity (1-10 is uncommon; 11-15 is rare; 16-19 is very rare; and 20+ is legendary) and give the result a bonus equal to either the character’s level divided by 4 (minimum of 1) or determined by the dragon’s age (wyrmling +0; young +2; adult +5; ancient +7).
I would also switch up the gifts depending on whether the dragon gives it willingly or the player takes it by killing the dragon.
Marked by Dragons
Sometimes, a Draconic Gift is accompanied by a physical change in the recipient’s appearance, as their body is subtly (or not so subtly) warped by the draconic power that now courses through their veins.
Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons, which introduces the new rules for Draconic Gifts, suggests four potential ways a Draconic Gift could manifest in an adventurer’s physical appearance.
|1||One or both of the character’s eyes change color to resemble the dragon’s eyes or scales.|
|2||The character’s hair (or a streak of it) changes color to match the color of the dragon’s scales.|
|3||A mark like a stylized dragon eye or claw appears on the body.|
|4||Patches of scales appear on the character’s body, typically on the neck, shoulders, or forearms.|
Many such gifts are easily hidden, although many adventurers would likely feel inclined to display such a mark with pride.
As a Dungeon Master, a player whose character bears the mark of a dragon killer provides a wealth of opportunities for narrative complications.
Are Dragons a Scourge Upon Your World?
If so, a hero who bears the mark of a dragonslayer might be revered, welcomed by peasants as a savior of the land; or the locals might decide that the patches of scales covering their skin are a mark of draconic corruption and try to burn them at the stake.
If the fire doesn’t kill them, they’re obviously a dragon and the villagers beat them to death with clubs; if the fire kills them, they weren’t a dragon spy but boy howdy are the villagers glad they double-checked.
Are Dragons Revered In Your Campaign?
If so, the mark of a dragon killer (especially if the character slew a “good” metallic or gem dragon) would be akin to stigmata, likely resulting in the locals breaking out their trusty wooden stake and driest kindling.
Also, woe beside any dragon killer who meets another dragon. Such a character is likely to become the immediate focus of mistrust or outright aggression from any dragon (even ones in disguise) they meet.
The local lord may even put a bounty on your head as a way of appeasing the dead dragon’s kin. Dragon cults may seek to sacrifice you as a way of resurrecting their draconic deity. Kobolds may even start to bring you little offerings – like treasure, or a terrified villager – as a way to prove their loyalty.
You learn to cast the find familiar spell once per long rest as a ritual without using any material components. The familiar is always a pseudodragon.
When you take the attack action, you can forgo one of your own attacks in order to let your pseudodragon familiar attack using its reaction.
I would only give a player this Draconic Gift if the dragon that granted it was a friend. Maybe the familiar is like a draconic force ghost, or perhaps it’s the dragon itself reincarnated – like a scaly version of Baby Groot.
The power of the Draconic Gift literally changes your character’s race to dragonborn. You replace all racial traits with those of the dragonborn (gaining its breath weapon and damage resistance), and you have the option of either keeping any skill proficiencies you gained from your previous race or gaining proficiency in two skills of your choice.
The type of dragonborn you become matches the dragon that bestowed the gift upon you.
Unless you know your party’s into this kind of tomfoolery, I would always give the player the option of whether or not to accept this gift.
You gain the keen senses of the dragon, which always reminds me of this line from Reign of Fire – seriously, it’s some peak Matthew Mcconaughey.
You gain blindsight up to a range of 10ft, and you can see invisible creatures within that range. You also get the dragon’s Keen Senses ability, which gives you advantage on perception checks.
Echo of Dragonsight
In its final moments, the dragon’s death ripples out through the multiverse, binding you to its other selves throughout the material plane. Your awareness begins to extend beyond your own world as your connection to the dead dragon’s echoes strengthens.
You learn to cast the spell contact other plane as a ritual, which puts you in contact with an echo of the now dead dragon. Because it comes from another world within the material plane, the dragon may not be able to tell you anything particularly useful.
Also, because you may have murdered one of its other selves, it may not be, like, super happy with you.
Servant of the One True Greatwyrm
A dragon with Dragonsight can learn to absorb echoes of itself from other worlds, increasing in power until it becomes the mightiest of all dragons: the Greatwyrm.
For metallic and gem dragons, this can be a highly spiritual process – sometimes guided by Bahamut himself. The evil chromatic dragons, on the other hand, have no qualms about murdering other incarnations of themselves in order to accumulate more and more power.
Any player in my game that gains an Echo of Dragonsight from a chromatic dragon would 100% be contacted by one of the dragon’s other selves offering great riches in exchange for hunting down its echoes across the multiverse.
The rest of the campaign is now a multi-part dragon hunt across Greyhawk, Eberron, the Forgotten Realms. Then, at the end of it, the players have to fight a Greatwyrm.
You become infused with a measure of the dragon’s terrible appearance. As an action, you can force each creature you choose within 120ft that can see you to make a DC 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier Wisdom saving throw to avoid becoming frightened of you for 1 minute.
You get to use this ability a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus per long rest.
Only granted by gem dragons (known for their innate psionic abilities), this gift allows you to cast the telekinesis spell once per long rest (or more if you have the requisite 5th level spell slots) using either Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma as your spellcasting modifier.
You also gain resistance to psychic damage.
The dragon’s inherent durability infuses your being, granting you resistance to all piercing and slashing damage – even if it is magical in nature.
This comes very close to making your character into a permanently raging barbarian without any of the drawbacks. I would probably make this gift manifest itself in the form of glittering scales or (if granted by a gem dragon) making the character’s entire body turn to diamond or some other glittering gem.
Tongue of the Dragon
Your mind partially melds with the dragon when you receive this gift. You gain the ability to speak, read, and write Draconic; as a bonus action, you can make your voice audible up to 300 feet away for 1 minute; and you gain advantage on persuasion checks.
Feats as Draconic Gifts
If your game already includes the optional rules for Feats, Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons suggests using existing Feats as Draconic Gifts, reflavoring them to reflect their draconic origin.
- Your heightened senses give you a dragon’s awareness of your surroundings (Alert or Observant).
- Dragon’s blood has made you hardy and resilient (Durable, Resilient, or Tough).
- Exposure to the primal energy of a dragon’s body has given you a magical affinity for one damage type (Elemental Adept).
- You are infused with a dragon’s charismatic gift for inspiration (Inspiring Leader).
- You are imbued with a dragon’s intellect (Keen Mind).
- The dragon’s gift lingers in the form of good luck (Lucky).
- The dragon’s inherent magic has transferred to your own blood (Magic Initiate)
Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons also introduces three new Feats to the game, which make excellent candidates for Draconic Gifts.
Gift of the Chromatic Dragon
You gain a measure of the magical power that resides in all chromatic dragons, which manifests as the following effects:
Chromatic Infusion: Once per long rest, you can touch a weapon as a bonus action, infusing it with a dose of chromatic power. For the next minute, the weapon deals an extra d4 of either acid, cold, fire, lightning, or poison damage.
Reactive Resistance: A number of times per long rest equal to your proficiency bonus, when you take acid, cold, fire, lightning, or poison damage, you can use your reaction to give yourself resistance to that instance of damage.
Gift of the Gem Dragon
This Feat infuses you with some of a gem dragon’s psionic power, which manifest as the following effects:
Ability Score Increase: your Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma score increases by 1, to a maximum of 20.
Telekinetic Reprisal: When a creature within 10ft deals damage to you, you gain the ability to use your reaction to strike back at them with a blast of psionic force.
The creature that attacked you must succeed on a Strength saving throw with a DC equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + the ability modifier of the score increased by this feat. On a failed save, the creature takes 2d8 force damage and is pushed up to 10ft away from you. On a successful saving throw, the creature takes half damage and isn’t pushed.
You can use this feature a number of times per long rest equal to your proficiency bonus.
Gift of the Metallic Dragon
Metallic dragons are the most good-inclined of all the true dragons, and their gifts reflect that. When you take the Gift of the Metallic Dragon Feat, you gain the following benefits:
Draconic Healing: You gain the ability to cast cure wounds without expending a spell slot once per long rest (or more if you also have access to 1st level spell slots) using either Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma as your spellcasting modifier.
Protective Wings: You gain the ability to manifest a pair of protective, spectral dragon wings around yourself and allies within 5ft of you. When you or an ally within range is hit by an attack roll, you can use your wings to grant a bonus to the target’s AC equal to your proficiency bonus using your reaction – similar to the spell shield.
You can do this a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus every long rest.
You can manifest protective wings that can shield you or others. When you or another creature you can see within 5 feet of you is hit by an attack roll, you can use your reaction to manifest spectral wings from your back for a moment.
You grant a bonus to the target’s AC equal to your proficiency bonus against that attack roll, potentially causing it to miss. You can use this reaction a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.
Homebrewing: A Few Final Thoughts
One more thing before we go. Draconic Gifts are an amazing tool in a dungeon master’s arsenal, capable of augmenting (or messing with) player characters, kickstarting new adventures, and creating all manner of interesting effects both narrative and mechanical.
The options presented in Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons are great, but I think that all DMs should look at them as a jumping-off point to flex their homebrewing muscles.
Want to try out the Draconic Rebirth feature but don’t want to absolutely redefine a player’s character? Just give them a breath weapon matching the type of dragon that gave them the gift. Personally, I’m a huge fan of the “non-lethal” breath attacks used by metallic dragons, like the brass dragon’s cloud of sleeping gas.
You could also lean into the psionic powers of a gem dragon. Bam! The level 12 party barbarian now has two extra levels in Aberrant Mind Sorcerer. Have fun with that.
Alternately, the party wizard could awaken the morning after slaying a Topaz dragon to discover that their spellbook is now full of psionic spells. Whether or not these new abilities replace all their existing spells is up to you.
You could take a Draconic Gift more literally and grant the player an item of extraordinary power from the dragon’s hoard. Surprise! It’s a Draconic Shard! And it hates you.
Or, bestow a literal dragon egg upon the party – although I’d have it hatch into a more manageable, eventually rideable Dragonnel. Make it clear to your players that the egg means every warlord, dragon cultist, other dragon, and secret society of exotic gourmands within a thousand miles now have a big red target on the party’s backs.
There’s no end to the narrative and mechanical fun you can have with Draconic Gifts. So, go forth, dungeon masters, and remind your players that the consequences of hunting dragons extend far beyond the climactic confrontation in the beast’s lair.
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I played my first tabletop RPG (Pathfinder 1e, specifically) in college. I rocked up late to the first session with an unread rulebook and a human bard called Nick Jugger. It was a rocky start but I had a blast and now, the better part of a decade later, I play, write, and write about tabletop RPGs (mostly 5e, but also PBtA, Forged in the Dark and OSR) games for a living, which is wild.