Last Updated on January 22, 2023
It’s no secret that a dragon’s lair is a dangerous place to be. Many adventurers can even speak from personal experience, telling those younger and less wise that the places where such monsters make their homes are some of the most inhospitable places in the world and that your chances of returning from a dragon’s lair to a life of glory and riches are infinitely slimmer than the odds of dying an agonizing, fiery death.
There’s one type of dragon, however, of whom this is infinitely more true than others. Sure, a red dragon might scorch you with fire or drop you in a volcano, a black dragon may melt your flesh with acid, and even a good-aligned silver dragon has the power to turn you into a contest-winning Jack Nicholson cosplayer in a single round of combat if it feels like it.
But they all pale in comparison to the destructive capabilities of what might be a new contender for Dungeons & Dragons 5e’s most dangerous dragon of all: the Solar Dragon.
Released as part of Boo’s Astral Menagerie in the Spelljammer: Adventures in Space collection, solar dragons take the threat of a dangerous lair to its absolute logical extreme, and even if you encounter one out and about, you’d better be ready for the fight of your life. If you want to take on one of these space-dwelling monstrosities, you’ll have to brave the searing heat and blinding light at the heart of a sun to do it.
Welcome to our guide to solar dragons in D&D 5e.
What Is a Solar Dragon in DnD 5e?
Born in the heart of a star, solar dragons (also known as radiant dragons or sun dragons) are space-dwelling, serpentine creatures that hunt across vast tracts of Wildspace, preying on space whales (kindori) and sharks (scavvers), as well as the occasional spelljamming vessel.
Solar Dragons have shimmering multicolored scales, and their wings emit soft lights reminiscent of the light from a nebula. They have no rear legs and therefore more closely resemble a sea serpent or a wyvern than a “true” dragon.
Immune to radiant damage and the blindness imposed by the brightest of lights, adult and ancient solar dragons make their homes inside suns and can lay claim to entire wildspace systems as their territory.
Younger solar dragons may have to settle for an asteroid belt in which to stalk their prey. Even as wyrmlings, however, these creatures are immensely dangerous, as their unique breath weapons are more than capable of reducing a spelljamming ship to splinters in mere moments.
There are four types of solar dragons found in Boo’s Astral Menagerie: the ancient solar dragon, adult solar dragon, young solar dragon, and solar dragon wyrmling. Like all larger draconic creatures, solar dragons grow more powerful with age.
Ancient Solar Dragon
- STR 28 (+9), DEX 15 (+2), CON 26 (+8), INT 17 (+3), WIS 18 (+4), CHA 16 (+3)
- Armor Class: 18 (natural armor)
- Hit Points: 425 (23d20 + 184)
- Speed: 30 ft., fly 120 ft. (hover)
- CR (XP): 21 (33,000 XP)
- Senses/Languages: Darkvision 240 ft., Passive Perception 28
- Proficiency Bonus: +7
- Size: Gargantuan
- Type: Dragon
- Alignment: Typically Neutral
- Damage / Condition Resistance / Immunity: Radiant immunity, blinded immunity
- Skills: Perception +18, Stealth +9
- Saving Throws: Dex +9, Con +15, Wis +11, Cha +10
Flyby. The dragon doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks when it flies out of an enemy’s reach.
Legendary Resistance (3/Day). If the dragon fails a saving throw, it can choose to succeed instead.
Nebulous Thoughts. Magical attempts to read the dragon’s mind or glean its thoughts fail automatically.
Siege Monster. The dragon deals double damage to objects and structures.
Unusual Nature. The dragon doesn’t require air to live.
Multiattack. The dragon makes one Bite attack and one Tail attack.
- Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +16 to hit, reach 20 ft., one target. Hit: 19 (3d6 + 9) piercing damage plus 10 (3d6) radiant damage.
- Tail. Melee Weapon Attack: +16 to hit, reach 20 ft., one target. Hit: 13 (1d8 + 9) bludgeoning damage.
Photonic Breath (Recharge 5–6). The dragon exhales a flashing mote of radiant energy that travels to a point the dragon can see within 240 feet of itself, then blossoms into a 40-foot-radius sphere centered on that point. Each creature in the sphere must make a DC 23 Constitution saving throw, taking 66 (12d10) radiant damage on a failed save or half as much damage on a successful one.
The dragon can perform up to 3 legendary actions per round, which it takes at the end of another creature’s turn. It can only make one legendary action option at a time and regains all its legendary actions at the start of its turn.
- Tail Attack. The dragon makes one Tail attack.
- Blinding Brilliance (Costs 2 Actions). The dragon emits magical light in a 30-foot-radius sphere centered on itself. Each creature in this area must succeed on a DC 23 Wisdom saving throw or be blinded until the end of its next turn.
Adult, Young, and Wyrmling Solar Dragons have similar basic traits, like not requiring air to breathe and total immunity to both radiant damage and the blinded condition from birth (I guess it’s pretty necessary for any creature that’s incubated and born in a literal sun), not to mention their flyby attack.
However, in addition to inflicting less damage with their bite, tail, and photonic breath attacks, Young Solar Dragons and Solar Dragon Wyrmlings also lack the immunity to mind-reading from Nebulous Thoughts (which might be my favorite space pun from the whole book) and don’t deal double damage to structures.
Where Do Solar Dragons Come From?
Solar Dragons don’t belong to any of the three families of “true dragons” and have little in common with the evil-aligned chromatic dragons or the typically good metallic dragons. Also, despite being neutral, they aren’t more than distant cousins of the gem dragons, despite sharing a tendency toward neutral alignment.
If we’re looking for their closest relatives, it makes more sense to lump solar dragons in with what I like to think of as the environmental dragons — a somewhat nebulous category that also contains Moonstone Dragons and Deep Dragons. While the “true” dragons have their nature shaped by their connection to the draconic gods Bahamut and Tiamat, these creatures have evolved away from their true draconic ancestry, taking on new adaptations in order to thrive in specific environments.
Just as the Moonstone Dragons were gem dragons transformed by generations spent hiding out in the Feywild, and Deep Dragons are the result of thousands of years spent living in the crushing blackness of the underdark, solar dragons might (we must imagine) have evolved as the result of dragons learning to make their homes in the depths of wildspace, specifically in the hearts of suns.
Interestingly, the fact that solar dragons are immune to radiant damage and not fire damage actually gives us a weird bit of information about sunlight in the D&D multiverse. The subsequent implication (assuming skin cancer still exists in D&D) that radiant damage is carcinogenic is another bit of weird information I never thought I needed.
Solar dragons lay jet black obsidian eggs, which become translucent when the wyrmling is about to hatch, allowing the dragon’s natural radiance to shine through. A solar dragon that is incubating an egg can become extremely territorial, attacking anyone who strays near its lair, although it’s hard to imagine that a solar dragon has to defend its lair very often, however, as the suns in which they live already make the most formidable defenses a giant space snake could ask for.
Solar Dragon Lairs
As one of the few creatures with immunity to radiant damage in D&D 5e, solar dragons have a unique advantage when choosing a place to live.
In fact, there is an incredibly short list of creatures that can even come within a dozen miles of a solar dragon’s house. If you disregard named NPCs and Critical Role content, there are exactly five creatures other than solar dragons that are immune to radiant damage, and they’re pretty much all super-high-CR dragons themselves (like the crystal greatwyrm and the undead Hollow Dragon).
Therefore, it makes perfect sense that a solar dragon born in a star would choose to stay there and use one as their base or, more accurately, would find its own star once it grew large enough to wrest it from other solar dragons looking to muscle in on its territory.
If you ever do need to venture into a solar dragon’s lair, the dragon itself will be the least of your worries. A solar dragon usually chooses to make its lair inside a star’s radiant core or builds a nest in a gigantic, hollowed-out rock engulfed by the star’s blinding radiance.
A solar dragon’s lair that is located in close proximity to a star has the following properties:
- Blinding Radiance. A creature that is within 10 miles of the star or inside it is blinded by its intense light unless the creature has protective gear to shield its eyes, such as goggles of night or a similar form of eyewear.
- Stellar Incineration. Any creature that enters the star or starts its turn inside it takes 132 (24d10) radiant damage.
So, if you try to fight a solar dragon on its own terms, you not only have to contend with disadvantage on all attacks (while the dragon has advantage on attacks against you) and being unable to cast spells that rely on seeing your target, but you also take (on average) the same amount of damage each round as if you were being hit by the 9th-level spell meteor shower with no saving throw.
Basically, unless you’re bringing the Invulnerability spell or Tasha’s Otherworldly Guise — which are both super-high level and only work for 10 and 1 minutes, respectively, in addition to being concentration based — you’re probably going to be dead before you even get close enough to the solar dragon’s lair for it to blast you with its photonic breath.
Final Thoughts: The Most Dangerous Dragon?
In essence, a solar dragon’s true power lies in its ability to be more at home in an incredibly hostile environment than its predators.
Out in the open reaches of wildspace, a solar dragon (especially a young one) isn’t all that dangerous. They never get triple multiattack thanks to their abject lack of any claws, and neither their bite nor their tail attack hits especially hard — even when used as a legendary action. However, their ability to basically cast delayed fireball as a breath weapon, deal double damage to structures (aka ships — what are you going to do now? Swim home?), and retreat to the safety of their own personal sun whenever things get tricky makes solar dragons incredibly tricky opponents.
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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.