In a game called Dungeons and Dragons, it only makes sense that one of the biggest bads would be a dragon. Of course, just your ordinary everyday dragon wouldn’t cut the mustard.
If we want a dragon that will inspire fear in the hearts of even the bravest adventurers, we need something a bit more. We need Tiamat, the queen of evil dragons.
Today, we’ll be talking all about the most powerful draconic presence in your favorite RPG. From stats to history, cults, and religions to campaigns, we’re diving deep into all of the lore surrounding Tiamat.
Who Is Tiamat in DnD 5e?
In DnD 5e, Tiamat is the dragon goddess of greed and queen of evil dragons. In her true form as a five-headed chromatic dragon, she is one of the most powerful beings in the Forgotten Realms.
Above all else though, she is a greedy, tyrannical being with aims to conquer the entire multiverse.
The stats below are derived from the Rise of Tiamat Campaign.
History of Tiamat
The exact origin and status of the dragon queen is subject of much debate.
Some say she is a god that emerged from the primordial chaos; others think she is just an incredibly powerful mortal dragon that is revered as a god by some.
The most popular account sees her as a child of Io, or Asagoth, the chief and creator deity in the draconic pantheon.
Io spawned twins, Tiamat and Bahamut. Where Tiamat was greed and tyranny incarnate, her brother Bahamut was a symbol of wisdom, justice, and all things good.
Instead of working together as siblings, Tiamat sparked a bitter rivalry with her brother. After killing their older brother in an attempt to frame Bahamut, Tiamat was exiled by her father.
The dragoness vowed to overtake any who opposed her and to one day rule the multiverse.
It is said that she is the mother of all evil dragons (typically chromatic) and that her brother is the father of all good dragons (typically metallic).
After a tumultuous family life, Tiamat proceeded to cause trouble everywhere she went.
You see, in addition to her thirst for power, she had one core belief. Every deity was, by their very nature, tyrannical, and that made them her enemy.
No matter what plane she ended up on and which pantheons she joined, she would always find enemies in her path.
Worship of Tiamat
With all of the chaos and animosity that Tiamat spewed against other gods and religions, it was easy for her to amass a following. Those who rebelled against any religion often found themselves at the service of Tiamat sooner or later.
Perhaps the tenet most sacred to any worshippers of Tiamat is “Avarice for all things.”
In order to push the agenda of their god, it’s necessary to amass as much wealth and power as possible, whether that power be political, magical, or something else entirely.
With that avarice at their core, many worshippers spend their time doing one of two things: stealing from others or seeking out power.
In fact, the clerics of the Church of Tiamat were given two tasks heavily aligned with that avarice: acquire an ever-increasing hoard of wealth and sabotage the faiths of other deities.
We see a lot of this in Tyranny of Dragons, a 5e campaign centered around the Cult of Dragons’ attempt to release Tiamat from her prison in the Nine Hells.
As the cult continuously causes mayhem everywhere they go, it’s up to the adventurers and their allies to put an end to the chaos.
In fact, Tyranny of Dragons gives us some of the best info on how to run the cult as a whole. First off, this is a cult that reveres all of dragonkind, even though they worship Tiamat above all the rest.
Next, while they are incredibly secretive, they’re still a well-known cult throughout Faerun or whatever setting you want to put them in.
It’s like an anonymous program; the whole group is well known, but individual members keep their anonymity.
Because of this anonymity, cultists can infiltrate just about any part of society. Scientists, politicians, schools, even other clergy might have dragon cultists spread throughout their ranks.
Much like Hydra in the MCU, the cultists might have a secret handshake or symbol to make their presence known to their allies.
One example is an outstretched hand with all five fingers spread out to represent the five heads of Tiamat.
You can definitely come up with your own or even come up with distinctions for cultists to immediately recognize rank among their peers.
Which brings us to rank. The Cult of Dragons has a simple hierarchy that works well for a few reasons.
It adds immersion to any encounters adventurers might have with them, but it also makes it easier for DMs to set up encounters, since each rank is going to present a different stat block.
All cultists start as initiates and can have their rank increased by a Wearer of Purple.
The ranks proceed as follows: dragonclaw (first rank), dragonwing (second rank), dragonsoul (third rank), Wearer of Purple (fifth rank), Inner Circle.
Wearers in Purple are those who have proved themselves worthy through some incredible act of greed or tyranny.
They are also members that have shown some proficiency with wyrmspeaking, the ability to talk and negotiate with dragons, and may already have built some relationship with a dragon.
A dragonsoul can only become a Wearer of Purple if they are given the rank by a member of the Inner Circle. This exclusive group is made of a handful of Wearers in Purple who have been chosen by the leader of the cult.
In the Tyranny of Dragons, the cult is only mildly widespread, having just gone through a change in leadership and a revolutionizing of goals. It doesn’t have to play out the same way for you in your campaign though.
You can have a small cult just starting out with a single purple-robed leader and a bunch of low-ranking cultists, or you can create a setting that is all but ruled by the Cult of Dragons with small rebellious factions holding out hope.
A cult like this provides a lot of wiggle room because so many things fall under the categories of “acquire an ever-increasing hoard of wealth and sabotage the faiths of other deities.”
Tiamat is an enormous dragon (Gargantuan in the 5e size chart) with five heads, one for each of the primary colors of chromatic dragons.
The colors of the five heads, white, blue, green, black, and red, all blend to a dark brown when the necks meet the monstrous draconic body of the dragon queen.
Her enormous wings are large enough to carry her at great speeds. Her claws are strong enough to rip anyone in her path to shreds. Even her tail comes to the pointed barb of a wyvern’s tail.
Even the composure of the dragon goddess is a perfect amalgamation of all evil that lurks within dragonkind.
Of course, as with all gods, Tiamat has more than one form to speak of. Her normal avatar is that of the chromatic dragon, the form we’ve already discussed. This avatar is also the form that most aspects of Tiamat take.
Avatar vs. Aspect 5e
While an avatar is a physical form that a god may take to travel the planes, an aspect is a fragment of the god’s life force given physical form.
In this way, an aspect of Tiamat can act separately from Tiamat herself, even though they are still very much part of the same being.
If it helps, think of Voldemort from Harry Potter as a god. He has had many different forms — Tom Riddle, the back of Professor Quirrel’s head, a weird gross baby thing, and the humanoid version we know and love — and we can look at these as different avatars.
On the other hand, the horcruxes that he creates are like aspects. They are small pieces of his soul given form.
Obviously, horcruxes are a bit more complicated than aspects, but the basic premise rings true.
Other avatars of Tiamat include the Dark Lady and the Undying Queen.
The Dark Lady is a humanoid form that Tiamat sometimes takes to gain favor with her cultists or as a way to infiltrate some organization or faith.
She is described as a tall, dark-haired Mulan woman with a penetrating gaze of pupil-less black eyes and a “seductive figure.”
The Undying Queen is probably my favorite, an avatar that is definitely deserving of a 5e stat block sooner or later. It is a dracolich form of the chromatic dragon.
In other words, it’s an undead five-headed dragon with powerful spellcasting abilities. If there’s anything that screams D&D, it’s got to be that vision.
Running Tiamat: DMs Corner
If you want to include the goddess of greed at your table, just know that you’ll probably be waiting a very long time.
Even the somewhat underwhelming stats provided for Tiamat in published 5e works have a CR of 30. Even a party of 20th-level adventurers are going to face a deadly threat if they go up against this dragon queen.
Let’s face it, you’re either staging a Tiamat fight as a one-shot for high-leveled characters or you’re running a longer campaign, in which case it’s going to be a long while before you face off against the goddess of greed.
We can talk about the fight first before we get into all the ways that you can build up to Tiamat in a longer campaign.
Tiamat as a Deadly Encounter
The first part of running Tiamat is understanding that she should be a deadly threat.
Whether you’re facing an aspect or an avatar, this is a god you’re going up against. Without incredible strategy, our adventurers shouldn’t have the ability to conquer such a mighty foe.
Of course, this is a fantasy game; conquering the unconquerable is kind of the point.
So how do we make Tiamat feel like the threat she is without immediately decimating the party with a single charged blast from all her heads?
Well, you could run the standard stat block; that’s why it’s there after all. It’s not that bad of a stat block either as far as imposing creatures go.
Of course, when you boil it down to the basics, you have several dragon-breath attacks that just deal different damage types, a few physical attacks, and a frightening effect that, once saved against, becomes useless.
We can improve this a lot though.
First off, Tiamat is a god, so her breath weapons should be more than just high damage-dealers.
Let’s start buffing up our threat by giving each dragon head a different ability on top of their damage. We can give a couple of the heads abilities that affect the terrain, while the rest can have effects on the characters hit with the weapon.
This should do leaps and bounds for how dynamic the battle will actually feel in real time.
- Black Dragon Head – Acid is known for melting things, so let’s have some sort of melting effect on our characters hit by this weapon. Of course, more damage is just an easy route.
“A creature wearing armor or using magic-based armor (such as mage armor) takes a -1 deficit to AC when hit by this breath weapon. Unarmored creatures cannot regain hit points lost this way.”
Playing with AC isn’t something often used in 5e, so introducing it here creates a new and real problem for our characters.
Of course, if you have no armor slowly being melted by acid, this breath weapon should be that much worse for you to the point of almost disintegrating you.
It’s up to you as the DM to decide what constitutes magic-based armor for your characters. This isn’t a built-in 5e mechanic, but we can put in a little more work to make an incredible fight.
- Blue Dragon Head – Lightning should be pretty shocking; that’s kind of the whole point. Introducing a paralysis effect attached to this weapon makes perfect sense.
“Creatures within 5 feet of this line must make a DC 27 saving throw with advantage. A creature hit by this weapon is paralyzed until the end of their next turn.”
Lightning is also known to leap from target to target, like in the spell Chain Lightning. Since this is a breath weapon though, we can keep the wildness without making it over complicated.
That’s why we increase the range slightly and give creatures in that increased range a better chance to evade.
- Green Dragon Head – Hm, what should poison do? Maybe it could poison creatures? Yeah, this is an obvious one, and one of the reasons why 5e damage types can feel a bit lackluster. We get to change that though, especially when dealing with a monstrous foe like Tiamat.
“Creatures hit by this weapon are poisoned. Creatures poisoned this way have disadvantage on dexterity saving throws. A creature can make a DC 23 constitution saving throw at the beginning of their turn to end this effect.”
We could totally make this a lot worse, like ongoing-damage worse, but this is relevant, and it keeps the combat moving without making it too difficult.
- Red Dragon Head – Our fire breath can and should leave a trail of fire wherever it hits. This really lights up the battlefield and makes it a lot harder for our characters to move around.
“The area affected by this breath weapon bursts into flames. Anything flammable ignites. For the next d6 turns, the area is full of flames. It counts as difficult terrain, and creatures take 3d6 fire damage for every 5 feet they move through the flame. Creatures also take 3d6 fire damage when they start or end their turn in this magical flame.”
Yeah, this is pretty brutal, but a dragon’s fire is its most iconic weapon. Not only should it really hurt, but it should also be the kind of thing that our characters have to plan in advance for.
- White Dragon Head – Ice breath should hold within it all of the perils of an icy tundra.
“Creatures hit with this weapon suffer one level of exhaustion, unless they have protection from cold weather conditions. Additionally, the area affected by this weapon is coated and ice, and becomes difficult terrain. For every 10 feet traveled through the area, creatures must make a DC 20 Dexterity check or fall prone.”
If you want some added threat, you can have a hail attack mixed into the breath weapon.
Something like a 2-in-6 chance of being hit with a dagger of ice that deals 2d8 piercing damage and 1d10 cold damage would be fun, but that’s really just more damage.
The rest of this changes up the battlefield and makes the breath weapon a real threat that matches the element it represents.
If you really want to spice things up, you can make Tiamat an environmental encounter, which we talk about in our Elden Ring 5e article.
The basic premise is that she would act more frequently but telegraph her moves more so that our characters have time to evade.
One last thing I would add, if you want to go all out and make this the most terrifying encounter imaginable, is to use more than one head at once.
Her legendary actions would still work mostly as normal. Each head’s breath weapon costs two legendary actions.
However, you can spend as much as you want in a single legendary action. Normally, this would mean a max of two heads acting at the same time (since she gets 5 legendary actions per turn).
This alone is terrifying, but if you let her legendary actions roll over from round to round, you could charge up for an earth-shattering five-headed attack.
Making Tiamat Killable
Tiamat is a terrifying foe. With an AC of 23 and 615 hit points, it’s going to take a lot to bring down the great dragon queen, and it will be a slog getting there.
By introducing weaknesses to the goddess, we create a puzzle for our players to figure out in the process.
You don’t have to start with anything crazy. You can simply say, “In this combat, you can call your shots,” or even just let players know that she has some weaknesses if they find them.
As for the weaknesses, it seems pretty clear that we would target the heads. If we let our players decapitate Tiamat slowly, we create a way to take her down.
Now, we can give our players a vorpal sword some time before this encounter as a bit of a heads up. Or, we can set a damage threshold on each head.
If a head takes maximum damage from an attack, roll a d6. On a 1, 2, or 3 the head is decapitated. On a 4, 5, or 6 the head can not attack until the end of Tiamat’s next turn.
This is a bit of old-school roleplaying rules thrown into 5e with an x-in-6 chance of a certain result. It also means that maximum damage is always beneficial if our players target the heads.
Let’s also introduce a way to strip Tiamat of her Regeneration ability.
Since Tiamat has likely been summoned to this plane, she’s probably drawing energy from wherever she truly is (likely the Nine Hells).
We can introduce some sort of artifact into the summoning process and say that its destruction turns off her regeneration ability.
If there’s some other component of Tiamat’s stat block, follow this reasoning to create an “off button” for that component.
Flight could be dealt with by some sort of targeted attack against her wings; maybe she can be blinded but only by means of a very specific spell or item.
All of this can be alluded to throughout the players adventures. They might find ancient scrolls speaking of how some group of adventurer’s defeated her or hear rumors from the more skeptical members of the Cult of Dragons.
The more of this we add in naturally throughout the game, the more immersed our players can be in the fight when it’s actually happening.
Using Tiamat’s Cult
Tiamat is the end boss, which means there are a lot of enemies to go up against before we face her. Thankfully, her ranks are well fleshed out with many formidable foes.
This is an article on Tiamat, so I won’t spend an insane amount of time building a campaign for you, but I will outline the types of things to expect in a campaign centered around her.
First off, the Cult of Dragons is undoubtedly going to be making trouble for your players throughout the campaign.
Whether they’re sabotaging faiths, causing mayhem in local towns, or scavenging for lost artifacts, there’s always going to be some way to interact with this villainous group.
Really, you can think of them like Team Rocket — always in the way but maybe not the most competent for a while.
As our adventurers get stronger, we can expect more dragons to make a presence.
Any of the chromatic dragons will do just fine, and each dragon we introduce should have a unique story that goes far beyond “I’ve pledged myself to Tiamat.”
They can easily become memorable characters in their own right.
These dragons, depending on how powerful they are, might even have huge areas of the map under their control.
Kobolds in their service, townspeople paying homage to them — there’s a lot that can be done to build up to even lesser dragons.
Lastly, a campaign centered around Tiamat is probably going to be focused on summoning her to the material plane. This means that we can introduce a bit of a race against the clock.
Both sides can focus on gathering artifacts, and whoever gets more artifacts first will determine the outcome.
Remember, in a campaign centered around summoning Tiamat, that should be an avoidable outcome.
Even if it’s particularly hard to do, we should give our players every chance to stop their rival forces from successfully bringing a god of tyranny and greed to the material plane.
Hopefully, you leave this article knowing a lot more about how to bring the dragon goddess to life at your table.
Remember, she is a powerful force, probably the most powerful force your players will ever have to go up against. If there’s any encounter that should be deadly, it’s this one.
As always, happy adventuring.