|A Greyhawk dragon, as depicted in Dragon #339 (2006). Art by Steve Ellis.|
|Alignment||Lawful neutral (good tendencies)|
|First appearance||Greyhawk Adventures (1988)|
Greyhawk dragons, are a race of dragon in the World of Greyhawk campaign setting. The creatures are known to have made journeys into other material planes where they have come to be called steel dragons.
Greyhawk dragons are at the top of their food chains, with no natural enemies. However, finding food is their biggest problem. While they often take on human or demihuman form, they must still eat as much as a dragon. Consequently, they disappear every two weeks or so to hunt. Greyhawk dragons are omnivores, but prefer fresh meat. They prey on wild animals, avoiding domesticated beasts whose slaughter might be remarked upon.
Greyhawk dragons typically dwell make their homes in large cities, such as the Free City of Greyhawk, where they live as, and among, humans and other humanoid creatures. Even the largest cities will generally have no more than one or two living secretly within, although it is believed that the City of Greyhawk has no less than five.
A Greyhawk dragon seeks a mate every twelve years, often traveling to another city to do so. The couple retires to the wilderness and raise their single offspring. After about 24 months (the Dragon Annual #3 says a decade), the hatchling is old enough to fend for itself, and the parents separate and return to their other lives. Greyhawk dragons rarely mate with the same Greyhawk dragon twice.
Steel dragons may also mate with humanoids when in humanoid form. Any children produced from these unions are completely of their adopted race, not half-dragons.
Typical physical characteristics
Steel dragons are much like the other races of metallic dragon with one primary exception: they prefer to maintain the form of a human (or other sentient race) in order to mingle with, infiltrate and study the cultures of men and their ilk. Because of this, few people know when they are interacting with a steel dragon.
When in humanoid form, steel dragons will always have a feature which betrays their nature, though it may be carefully concealed. This may be a shock of steel-gray hair, or an eye that appears silvered over with age, or any other feature that resembles their natural complexion. They are able to alter their humanoid forms subtly over time, simulating natural aging.
In dragon form, a steel dragon has hair-like spines around its head and a cat-like body with a vaguely human-like face. Its scales resemble steel armor, darkening to a gunmetal-like hue on its belly and toward its tail. Its wing membranes are like fine silk.
Steel dragons are neutral, caring little for good or evil. The same dragon may act as a great tyrant for the span of a human lifetime and be a noble hero the next. They seek in this way to experience the totality of humanoid existence. They tend to be orderly in nature, however, and tend toward goodness slightly more than evil. Steel dragons cannot bear to harm other dragons, regardless of that dragon's color or alignment, unless in dragon form themselves.
Greyhawk dragons are solitary creatures. Greyhawk dragons in the same city are usually cordial to one another, but they do not actively seek out one another's company.
Steel dragons are sometimes the centers of artistic and intellectual gatherings, and they may be patrons of philosophy and the arts, keeping their true nature secret. Most, however, are somewhat less outgoing, limiting themselves to a small group of friends and acquaintances, usually selected based on their access to interesting and hard-to-maintain information and intelligences. Greyhawk dragons rarely work as artisans, preferring to act as information brokers and collectors.
Because steel dragons live so much longer than the races they live among, they create what they call the Chain of Lives, a series of identities they adopt as they pass the natural age limit of their previous guises. After each "lifetime," they retreat into a meditative state in which they "store away" their previous memories, keeping them accessible but hazy, as if they belonged to someone else. In this way they are able to begin their new lives unencumbered by prejudices and lessons learned in their previous existences. They call this the Vaulting.
When raising their draconic offspring, mated dragons alternate between dragon and humanoid forms in order to teach their offspring about both aspects of their coming lives. They try to install in them a respect and curiosity for humanoids, moving frequently to expose them to different people. In their final lesson, they teach their offspring to Vault their memories of their parents, and never see them again.
Most of a steel dragon's relationships are abandoned when they enter a new life, but they maintain a group of friends that they call "agelinks." Using a special spell, they can "dreamlink" these individuals, gaining visions of their lives while the dragon Vaults. In this way they catch up on the changes that have occurred in the world while the dragons were busy being someone else.
Eventually, the steel dragon will choose a Soulbond, an individual more important than other agelinks, spouses, mates, or children. A steel dragon's feelings for their links are normally lost after the Vaulting, but the Soulbond, who is aware of the dragon's true form, remains a companion from life to life. They are telepathically linked to their draconic companions and may communicate up to any distance as long as both remain on the same plane of existence. The Soulbond also gains something of a steel dragon's ability to change form, although only within the limits of their own species. A Soulbonded elf cannot change into a human or a dragon, but she can change into a male elf, or an elf of a different subrace. Some steel dragons prefer to Soulbond with creatures from long-lived races such as elves or dwarves, so that they can remain companions for longer, but this is not always true. The Soulbond is a combination of servant, friend, and companion, helping the dragon live and adapt to different lives, while the dragon defends and cares for the Soulbond in return.
At the ends of their long lives, steel dragons enter a period they call Reflection. During this time they lie in slumber, vividly recalling every memory they have ever Vaulted as if they are experiencing them again. After perhaps centuries of this, they are ready to die. They contact their Soulbond and ask for one last favor: to collect their Composition, their hoard of writings and works of art (mostly magical) that comprise all they have learned in each life, and spread it among all the races the dragon once lived among, so that they too might benefit from all of those experiences.
Greyhawk dragons speak Draconic, as well as all commonly used human and demihuman languages. They have the ability to communicate with any intelligent creature and are able to accurately mimic speech patterns and accents. They love to learn new languages, and research the languages and customs of the cultures in which they are about to immerse themselves before they arrive.
Legend among the steel dragons has it that their god, Io, created them specifically that they might record their experiences among the other races, so that these races may learn from the dragons' observations of them.
Steel dragons believe that when they pass on to the next world, Io himself arrives to escort them into the afterlife. Io presents them with a test to determine if they have gained sufficient wisdom in their many lives. If they pass, they become one with Io's divine essence. If they fail, they are reincarnated to begin the whole process again.
Notable Greyhawk dragons
The number of Greyhawk dragons make their homes in settlements across the Flanaess, though a Greyhawk dragon's true nature is usually a closely-guarded secret. Greyhawk dragons appearing in Greyhawk products include:
Non-canonical Greyhawk dragons
- An unnamed Greyhawk dragon appears in Robin Wayne Baily's Nightwatch.
- Oerth Journal #8, in an article by Eric L. Boyd, mentions a steel dragon of Dyvers known as Cervus Ironblood.
- Baker, Richard, Ari Marmell, David Noonan, Robert J. Schwalb, Andy Collins, Skip Williams, and James Wyatt. Draconomicon 2: Metallic Dragons. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2009.
- Boucher, Grant, et al. Monstrous Compendium Greyhawk Adventures Appendix. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1990.
- Boyd, Eric L. "The Dyverse Dragon." Oerth Journal #8. Council of Greyhawk, 1998. Available online:
- Brown, Richard W., and Anne Brown. Falcon's Revenge. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1990.
- -----. Falconmaster. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1990.
- -----. Flames of the Falcon. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1990.
- Knioum, Jay. "The Ecology of the Steel Dragon: Soulbond." Dragon Annual #3. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 1998.
- Moore, Roger E. Greyhawk: The Adventure Begins. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 1998.
- -----. Return of the Eight. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 1998.
- Reynolds, Sean K. "Creature Catalog IV: Campaign Classics." Dragon #339. Bellevue, WA: Paizo Publishing, 2006.
- -----. "Enchiridion of the Fiend Sage." Living Greyhawk Journal #1. Bellevue, WA: Paizo Publishing, 2000.
- Sean K. Reynolds, and Skip Williams. "Steel Dragon (conversion for 3.5 edition D&D)". Wizards of the Coast. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2004.