Dragons in Echelon, Part 3: Comparing RSRD to Pathfinder

I was originally using the Revised System Reference Document (“D&D 3.x”) as my base, but as I described in Finding a New Path, Pathfinder is richer and more accessible, and gives me more options.

This is a case in point. The RSRD red dragon description is quite boring.  Apart from the fluff (which is okay):

The small scales of a wyrmling red dragon are a bright glossy scarlet, making the dragon easily spotted by predators and hunters, so it stays underground and does not venture outside until it is more able to take care of itself. Toward the end of young age, the scales turn a deeper red, and the glossy texture is replaced by a smooth, dull finish. As the dragon grows older, the scales become large, thick, and as strong as metal. The neck frill and wings are an ash blue or purple-gray toward the edges, becoming darker with age. The pupils of a red dragon fade as it ages; the oldest red dragons have eyes that resemble molten lava orbs.

the description consists primarily of two tables with lots of numbers (abilities scores, Hit Dice, base attack bonus, saves, breath weapon, Armor Class… things all dragons have, and in fact that most creatures have). The only thing that is species-specific are the special abilities:

  • Wyrmling: immunity to fire, vulnerability to cold
  • Very Young: nothing
  • Young: Sorcerer 1 casting
  • Juvenile: locate object, Sorcerer 3 casting
  • Young Adult: DR 5/magic, frightful presence, spell resistance, Sorcerer 5 casting
  • Adult: Sorcerer 7 casting
  • Mature Adult: DR 10/magic, Sorcerer 9 casting
  • Old: suggestion, Sorcerer 11 casting
  • Very Old: DR 15/magic, Sorcerer 13 casting
  • Ancient: find the path, Sorcerer 15 casting
  • Wyrm: DR 20/magic, Sorcerer 17 casting
  • Great Wyrm: Sorcerer 19 casting

Apart from the fiery breath, immunity to fire, and vulnerability to cold, I see nothing here that looks like it is specific to red dragons. The casting ability comes at a lower age category (and Challenge Rating – Young age category is CR 7, while Blue and Green get casting starting at their Juvenile age category (CR 8), Black at Young Adult (CR 9), and White at Adult (CR 10)) but it otherwise is not particularly different from color to color. Spell Resistance and Frightful Presence are common to dragons,  as is Damage Reduction, so if we remove those we are left with

  • Wyrmling: immunity to fire, vulnerability to cold
  • Very Young: nothing
  • Young: nothing
  • Juvenile: locate object 1/day per age category
  • Young Adult: nothing
  • Adult: nothing
  • Mature Adult: nothing
  • Old: suggestion 3/day
  • Very Old: nothing
  • Ancient: find the path 1/day
  • Wyrm: nothing
  • Great Wyrm: discern location 1/day

Pathfinder, on the other hand, has all the numbers, the caster level shows the same progression, but the special abilities are somewhat more interesting.

  • Wyrmling: Fire subtype (immunity to fire, vulnerability to cold — but common definition)
  • Very Young: Smoke vision (can see perfectly in smoky conditions)
  • Young: detect magic, Sorcerer 1 casting
  • Juvenile: Frightful presence, pyrotechnics, Sorcerer 3 casting
  • Young Adult: DR 5/magic, spell resistance, Sorcerer 5 casting
  • Adult: Fire Aura, suggestion, Sorcerer 7 casting
  • Mature Adult: DR 10/magic, Sorcerer 9 casting
  • Old: Manipulate flames, wall of fire, Sorcerer 11 casting
  • Very Old: DR 15/magic, Sorcerer 13 casting
  • Ancient: Melt stone, find the path, Sorcerer 15 casting
  • Wyrm: DR 20/magic, Sorcerer 17 casting
  • Great Wyrm: Incinerate, discern location, Sorcerer 19 casting

Removing the common elements leaves the following.

  • Wyrmling: Fire subtype
  • Very Young: Smoke vision
  • Young: detect magic at will
  • Juvenile: pyrotechnics at will
  • Young Adult: nothing
  • Adult: Fire aura (1d6, 5′), suggestion at will
  • Mature Adult: nothing
  • Old: Fire aura (1d6, 10′), manipulate flames, wall of fire at will
  • Very Old: nothing
  • Ancient: Fire aura (2d6, 10′), melt stone (wicked fun!), find the path at will
  • Wyrm: nothing
  • Great Wyrm: Incinerate, discern location at will

This gives me a lot more to work with. That every other age category after Juvenile is ‘empty’ actually works well for me because two age categories align with a single tier. The stuff that was in the ‘empty’ age categories was common to all dragons, so I can easily move that to the ‘Dragon’ cornerstone or to common talents, while these are specific to the type of dragon and can be installed directly into talents directly appropriate for the type of dragon.

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