I picked up Fizban's Treasury of Dragon and have been reading it cover to cover. This is my review of the book, chapter by chapter. In this post, I discuss Chapter 6: Bestiary.
I say it about almost everything in D&D, from spells to magic items to player options, but I'll say it now about Dragons. You just can't have too many. In my experience, nobody plays D&D just for dungeons. Some people don't play it for dungeons at all, in fact. But everybody loves a dragon. They're quintessential fantasy, and whether you care about fantasy or not, they're majestic creatures. Having Dragons of all sorts means that every player has the opportunity to have an encounter with the kind of Dragon that appeals to them. Having Dragons of all challenge ratings means that players get the flavour of Dragons in their game world from even low-level adventures.
The bestiary is filled with new Dragons. Not just Dragons, but all kinds of Dragon-adjacent creatures. Some are so strange, I daren't spoil them, but I may as well mention a few of my favourites.
Well, they've been hinted at and referenced throughout the book, and they finally appear in the bestiary. Psionic, neutral-aligned, crystalline Dragons, Greatwyrms, and a few surprise offshoot creatures and NPCs I won't spoil. The Gem Dragons are:
While the breath weapons of Chromatic and Metallic dragons are iconic, but for Gem Dragons get inventive. Crystal Dragons, for instance, exhale colourful radiant energy. An Amethyst Dragon can generate a "shining bead of gravitational force" in its mouth, and then emit that energy in a 60-foot cone.
The value of Gem Dragons, for me, is how enigmatic the Neutral alignment can be. I like the moral simplicity of D&D monsters, so I like that my players know that a Chromatic Dragon means trouble and Metallic Dragons are descent. But Gem Dragons are a big question mark. I know that Dungeon Masters have the freedom to create exceptions, and this book reinforces that in the personality trait tables of Chapter 5. But I appreciate the "short hand" of the Alignment System, and so I appreciate the convenient ambiguity of Gem Dragons.
I've been playing with Draconians since 5e was released, having ported them from AD&D myself. But I love seeing Dragonlance monsters officially updated, because the 5e designers obviously know the system a lot better than I do. In the Dragonlance universe, Draconians were the product of Metallic Dragon eggs corrupted by an evil cleric of Takhisis named Wyrllish. When a Metallic Dragon egg was captured, Wyrllish would cause the inhabitants of the eggs to multiply, and then opened a portal to the Abyss to summon Abishai, which inhabited the creatures. This lore isn't explained in this book, but the general idea is still the same, although it expands the potential target of corrupted eggs to those of Gem and even Chromatic Dragons.
The type of Dragon egg corrupted dictates the kind of Draconians produced, and this book provides different names for the different types:
The Draconians are pretty true to the originals in Dragonlance Adventures. The Bozaks lose a few spells (such as burning hands, magic missile, web) but the ones they keep are exactly the same as the originals, and they gain necrotic ray and a trident attack instead. All Draconians had (no spoilers) special abilities that any Dragonlance player or Dungeon Master is very familiar with, and those are happily retained in the new edition.
This subsection of the bestiary makes me irrationally happy. To see this much Dragonlance in the latest edition is exciting, and I love really do love Draconians as a foe. They're essentially Orcs, but with the added backstory of being spawns of corruption. Their souls are those of Abishai, so it's very difficult to make the argument that they can be reasoned with. The Baaz (Footsoldiers) are the dumb brutes, and the Bozaks (Mages) and Auraks (Masterminds) are the high intelligence generals. Perfect enemies for blissfully mindless adventuring, and it's great to have them back in the official game system. I only wish it hadn't taken so long!
There are many many other great creatures in this chapter, and most of them were a surprise to me. In a way, though, the smallest surprise (the size of the surprise in no way reflects the happiness it brings) are the NPCs. There are several stat blocks in the bestiary that contain characters of varying alignment that you can use as NPCs. There's a Dragonborn Champion, a Dragon Blessed, a Dragon Speaker, Dragon Chosen, and more. Some are interesting rarities, and others could easily be used as a hireling stat block, or as an enemy to raise the CR level of combat.
I was pleasantly surprised to see so many high-level CR ratings in the bestiary, but just as pleased when some creatures turned out to be low-level and mid-range. It's the perfect mix, and every single entry is full of draconic flavour.
This chapter is "only" 64 pages, but it alone is easily worth the cover price. Whether you're the owner of Dragonlance and AD&D monster books wanting to see classic creatures in their updated forms, or whether you're new to the D&D multiverse and just want more Dragons, this chapter is one of the most refreshing bestiaries of the 5e releases.
I expected great things from this book, and what I got has far exceeded expectations. The core set of books (PHB, MM, and DMG) is pretty crowded, but I feel like this book very nearly deserves a place among them. At the very least, this should have been the book that got released before Xanathar or Volo or Mordenkainen or Tasha. This is an essential book for 5e, regardless of whether you intend for Dragons to be the central plot, a minor theme, or even just occasional decoration. The lore and character of Dragons is too rich to ignore, and this book together with the Monster Manual contains everything you need.