Dragonriders are heroic figures with the power to bond with dragons, gaining lifelong steeds, companions and allies. This bond is more than simply a close friendship, it is a mystic connection between dragonrider and dragon, creating a permanent link fueled by the arcane power inherent to all true dragons.
In many societies, dragonriders are members of the lesser nobility much like knights. They are considered peers of the realm, and expected to act with the same dignity and decorum as lords and ladies. In such lands a dragonrider likely spent much of his youth as squire to an older dragonrider or stable hand at a dragon’s stronghold. He learns the care and feeding of hatchlings from the steeds of retired dragonriders, and is taught mounted combat by young riders not yet trusted to be out on their own. These dragonriders are part of a proud and ancient heritage, and must maintain the honor of their caste.
Equally organized are the dragonriders of dark, warlike realms who are seen as the ultimate cavalry. Rather than being treated with respect from veneration, these soldiers are feared and envied. With the might of dragons at their side, they have no need to worry about the petty jealousies of lesser beings, concentrating their efforts on keeping other dragonriders from taking what is rightfully theirs. Often these raider dragonriders form small clans or brotherhoods, usually though not always divided along the color of their steeds.
Some dragonriders are the result of freak circumstance—youths who stumble onto hatching eggs and happen to form a bond deeper than friendship with a newly-born dragon. More than one common farmer’s daughter has been thrust into the role of hero by the sudden and unexpected change of circumstances bonding with a dragon wyrmling brings. These dragonriders often must deal with mistrust and suspicion, for they live in lands where dragonriders are rare, and most view them as servant to a monster, rather than master of a powerful ally.
Dragonriders are almost always either confident to the point of arrogance, or remarkably friendly and approachable. Oddly, alignment has nothing to do with these two attitudes. Evil dragonriders are either megalomaniacs who see their dragons as proof that they are superior to everyone else and should rule the world, or are almost humble, affable foes who cheerfully explain to ally and foe alike that they must raid, loot and destroy to keep their dragons happy. Good aligned dragonriders are similarly divided between those who are convinced it is their duty to save the world, act as a good example, and force others to see the error of their ways, and those who just wish to be among friends (which happens to include a dragon).
Role: Dragonriders are fair combatants, though they tend to stay away from heavy armors as it restricts their ability to cast spells and maximize their skill riding a dragon. Though they cannot match a dedicated fighter’s skill or a barbarian’s fury in battle, a dragonrider often needs only survive long enough for their steed’s fiery breath to end any opposition they face. Dragonriders often focus on ranged combat, both to maximize the mobility they enjoy on dragon back, and to keep them away from the heaviest front-line fighting.
Hit Die: d10.
Starting Wealth: At 1st level a dragonrider begins play with 5d6 x 10 gp.
The dragonrider’s class skills are Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Fly (Dex), Handle Animal (Cha), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (arcana) (Int), Knowledge (geography) (Int), Knowledge (nobility) (Int), Perception (Wis), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), and Spellcraft (Int)
Skill Ranks per Level: 2 + Int modifier.
All of the following are class features of the dragonrider.
A dragonrider is proficient with all simple weapons, plus any one martial melee weapon and one martial ranged weapon. Dragonriders are also proficient with light armor and shields (except tower shields). A dragonrider can cast dragonrider spells while wearing light armor and use a shield without incurring the normal arcane spell failure chance. Like any other arcane spellcaster, a dragonrider wearing medium or heavy armor incurs a chance of arcane spell failure if the spell in question has a somatic component. A multiclass dragonrider still incurs the normal arcane spell failure chance for arcane spells received from other classes.
A dragonrider has a mystic bond with a youthful true dragon, a bond that guarantees the dragons loyalty to the rider (as long as it is treated with respect), and allows the dragonrider to tap into some of the bonded steed’s arcane power. A character that starts as a dragonrider at 1st level is assumed to have already bonded with a dragon of his choice. A character multiclassing into dragonrider is approached by a dragon as a prospective bonded mount within 30 days. The bond causes the dragon to grow slightly in size, and drives it to gain power as its dragonrider gains experience, rather than as it gains age categories. Many of a dragon’s normal powers (spell-like abilities, spellcasting, unlimited breath weapon use) are either suspended or modified as the arcane power that drives them is used to fuel the bond between dragonrider and dragon mount. This bond, once forged, ends only if both rider and steed decide to end it, or if one is killed and not resurrected in a timely fashion.
Most true dragons are unwilling to undergo this bond (though there is always one that will do so able to find each dragonrider without a bonded steed). For good dragons this is often done to aid good-aligned dragonriders in facing the evils of the world. In some cases it is part of ancient pacts dating back centuries that dictate service of a set number of dragons of a given bloodline, or it is forced upon dragons as punishment for some sin (or as the price demanded by a conqueror). Even among neutral and evil dragons however, there are always a few who seek out such bonds willingly.
The reason for this is a desire for power, and an ability to take a long view. A dragon bonded to a dragonrider grows in size and power as the dragonrider gains experience. The payoff comes when the dragonrider dies which almost always occurs long before the dragon steed’s death – even the longest lived dragonrider won’t see his steed reach the very old age category at 600 years, and most dragonriders die in battle long before this. At first the bonded dragon simply must survive as an underpowered dragon, but after a year and a day from its rider’s death if it has no new bonded dragonrider, the dragon begins to gain the full power of a normal dragon of its size (or the oldest category in its size class, to a maximum age category of very old).
Consider a red dragon wyrmling. It is Small, and won’t reach Large size for roughly 20 years. It won’t be Huge for 45 years, and Gargantuan size is at least 4 centuries off. But if that red serves as a dragon steed, it becomes Large immediately, and stands a fair chance to become Gargantuan within a few years. If it survives its dragonrider’s loss, the red dragon will gain the full power of a very old dragon within a few years, jumping its (ubiquitous) plans for world domination ahead 6 centuries. While most red dragons feel the price is too high, there are always a few youngsters willing to serve now (though somewhat grudgingly, see the Focus score in the descriptions of dragon steeds, below) for hundreds of years worth of powers later.
A bonded dragon can carry it’s rider as soon as it is the same size category as its rider, assuming it’s strength is great enough to bear the rider and his gear. Dragons’ carrying capacity is modified for their size as normal creatures, and as bonded dragon steeds they can fly (at full speed) even if heavily encumbered. A dragon can carry two creatures one size smaller than it, four creatures two sizes smaller, and sixteen creatures three or more sizes smaller (all assuming it has the Strength to do so).
The link between dragonrider and dragon grows in strength as the Dragonrider gains levels, allowing them to communicate more easily, feel each other’s location, and even transfer life essence to one another. The abilities the Dragonrider gains with his bonded dragon are listed on Table: Dragonrider.
Should a dragonrider’s bonded steed die and not be returned to life, the dragonrider cannot bond with a new mount for 30 days or until he gains another dragonrider level, whichever comes first. During this 30-day period the dragonrider takes a -1 penalty on attack and weapon damage rolls.
A dragonrider and his bonded dragon steed always know the direction to each other, and are aware of any conditions the other is suffering.
As the bond between dragonrider and dragon strengthens, it eventually grants the dragonrider some of his steeds amazing senses. At 2nd level, the dragonrider gains low-light vision. If the dragonrider already has natural low-light vision, the range of his low-light vision is doubled (allowing him to see four times as far as normal in dim or shadowy conditions).
Starting at 2nd level, the dragonrider may cast a spell with a target of “You” on his dragon steed (as a spell with a range of touch) instead of on himself. A dragonrider may cast spells on his dragon steed even if the spells normally do not affect creatures of the steed’s type (dragon). Spells cast in this way must come from a class that grants a dragon steed. This ability does not allow the steed to share abilities that are not spells, even if they function like spells.
Beginning at 3rd level, a dragonrider gains a natural resistance to damage of the same energy type as the damage of his bonded dragon steed’s breath weapon. This begins at energy resistance 5, and increase by 5 every 5 levels, to a maximum of energy resistance 20 at 18th level. The energy resistance is tied to the dragonrider’s current steed—should he change bonded dragons steed to one with a new type of breath weapon damage, his resistance also changes to the new type.
Once per day, as a full round action, a dragonrider may magically call his steed to his side. This ability is the equivalent of a spell of a level equal to one third the dragonrider’s level. The steed immediately appears adjacent to the dragonrider. A dragonrider can use this ability once per day at 4th level, twice per day at 7th level, and one additional time per day for every 4 levels thereafter, for a total of five times per day at 19th level.
The unique experience and training a dragonrider receives as part of his time with his bonded dragon steed grants him a bonus feat at 5th level. The feat must be selected from the list below, and the dragonrider must meet all the feat’s prerequisites normally. The dragonrider gains an additional feat at 9th, 12th, and 17th level.
Alertness, Animal Affinity, Arcane Armor Mastery, Arcane Armor Training, Arcane Strike, Armor Proficiency (Medium), Blind-Fight, Combat Casting, Combat Expertise, Dazzling Display, Diehard, Endurance, Eschew Materials, Great Fortitude, Improved Great Fortitude, Improved Iron Will, Improved Lightning Reflexes, Intimidating Prowess, Iron Will, Leadership, Lightning Reflexes, Mounted Archery, Mounted Combat, Persuasive, Ride-By Attack, Spirited Charge, Toughness, and Weapon Focus.
Beginning at 5th level, a dragonrider gains the ability to cast a small number of arcane spells drawn from the sorcerer/wizard spell list. He can cast any spell he knows without preparing it ahead of time. To learn or cast a spell, a dragonrider must have a Charisma score equal to at least 10 + the spell level. The Difficulty Class for a saving throw against a dragonrider’s spell is 10 + the spell level + the dragonrider’s Charisma modifier.
Like other spellcasters, a dragonrider can cast only a certain number of spells of each spell level per day. His base daily spell allotment is given on Table: Dragonrider. In addition, he receives bonus spells per day if he has a high Charisma score.
The dragonrider’s selection of spells is extremely limited. A dragonrider begins play knowing four 0 level spells and two 1st level spells of the dragonrider’s choice. At each new dragonrider level, he gains one or more new spells, as indicated on Table: Dragonrider Spells Known. (Unlike spells per day, the number of spells a dragonrider knows is not affected by his Charisma score. The numbers on Table: Dragonrider Spells Known are fixed.)
Upon reaching 8th level, and at every third dragonrider level after that (11th, 14th, and so on), a dragonrider can choose to learn a new spell in place of one he already knows. In effect, the dragonrider “loses” the old spell in exchange for the new one. The new spell’s level must be the same as that of the spell being exchanged, and it must be at least one level lower than the highest level dragonrider spell the dragonrider can cast. A dragonrider may swap only a single spell at any given level and must choose whether or not to swap the spell at the same time that he gains new spells known for the level.
A dragonrider need not prepare his spells in advance. He can cast any spell he knows at any time, assuming he has not yet used up his allotment of spells per day for the spell’s level. Through 4th level a dragonrider has no caster level. At 5th level and higher, his caster level is equal to his dragonrider level –4.
At 6th level, the senses of the dragonrider are again enhanced by his link to his dragon steed, granting him darkvision to a range of 60 feet. If the dragonrider already has natural darkvision, the range of that vision is increased by 60 feet.
At 10th level, the senses of the dragonrider are again enhanced by his link to his dragon steed, granting him the scent ability.
This special quality allows the dragonrider to detect approaching enemies, sniff out hidden foes, and track by sense of smell. The scent ability allows the dragonrider to identify familiar odors just as humans do familiar sights.
The dragonrider can detect opponents within 30 feet by sense of smell. If the opponent is upwind, the range increases to 60 feet; if downwind, it drops to 15 feet. Strong scents, such as smoke or rotting garbage, can be detected at twice the ranges noted above. Overpowering scents, such as skunk musk or troglodyte stench, can be detected at triple normal range.
When the dragonrider detects a scent, the exact location of the source is not revealed—only its presence somewhere within range. The dragonrider can take a move action to note the direction of the scent. When the dragonrider is within 5 feet of the source, he pinpoints the source’s location.
The dragonrider with the scent ability can follow tracks by smell, making a Wisdom (or Survival) check to find or follow a track. The typical DC for a fresh trail is 10 (no matter what kind of surface holds the scent). This DC increases or decreases depending on how strong the quarry’s odor is, the number of creatures, and the age of the trail. For each hour that the trail is cold, the DC increases by 2. The ability otherwise follows the rules for the Survival skill. creatures tracking by scent ignore the effects of surface conditions and poor visibility.
At 14th level, the senses of the dragonrider are again enhanced by his link to his dragon steed, granting him blindsense to a range of 15 feet. If the dragonrider already has natural blindsense, the range of this ability is increased by 15 feet.
Beginning at 16th level a dragonrider gains spell resistance. The SR is equal to 5 + the dragonrider’s level, and is shared by the dragonrider’s bonded dragon steed.
At 20th level the bond between a dragonrider and his dragon is so strong, the dragonrider can actually take the form of a dragon. This ability can be used once per day and acts as the spell form of the dragon III, but the dragonrider may only take the form of the race of dragon that matches his bonded dragon steed.
Instead of receiving an additional skill rank or hit point whenever they gain a level in a Favored Class, some races have the option of choosing from a number of other bonuses, depending upon their Favored Classes. The following options are available to the listed race who have dragonriders as their Favored Class, and unless otherwise stated, the bonus applies each time you select the listed Favored Class reward.
When a character selects a class, he must choose to use the standard class features found or those listed in one of the archetypes presented here. Each alternate class feature replaces a specific class feature from its parent class. For example, the elemental fist class feature of the monk of the four winds replaces the stunning fist class feature of the monk. When an archetype includes multiple class features, a character must take all of them—often blocking the character from ever gaining certain familiar class features, but replacing them with equally powerful options. All of the other class features found in the core class and not mentioned among the alternate class features remain unchanged and are acquired normally when the character reaches the appropriate level (unless noted otherwise). A character who takes an alternate class feature does not count as having the class feature that was replaced when meeting any requirements or prerequisites.
A character can take more than one archetype and garner additional alternate class features, but none of the alternate class features can replace or alter the same class feature from the core class as another alternate class feature. For example, a paladin could not be both a hospitaler and an undead scourge since they both modify the smite evil class feature and both replace the aura of justice class feature. A paladin could, however, be both an undead scourge and a warrior of the holy light, since none of their new class features replace the same core class feature.
Archetypes are a quick and easy way to specialize characters of a given class, adding fun and flavorful new abilities to already established adventurers. Characters may take more than one archetype if they meet the requirements.
A dragonrider character that gains druid, paladin, ranger or wizard levels may opt to give up some of the bonds of those classes to strengthen his bond with a dragon steed. By giving up the divine bond, hunter’s bond or arcane bond class abilities, the multiclass dragonrider can increase his the level of his draconic steed as detailed below.
A dragon steed’s abilities are determined by the dragonrider’s level and its draconic racial traits. Table: Dragon Steed Base Statics prescribes many of the base statistics of the dragon steed. They remain creatures of the dragon type for purposes of determining which spells can affect them.
Class Level: This is the character's dragonrider level.
BAB: This is the dragon steed's base attack bonus. A dragon steed's base attack bonus is the same as that of a dragonrider of a level equal to the animal's HD. Having a high base attack bonus does not grant dragon steeds any additional attacks with their natural weapons.
Skills: This is the number of skill ranks the dragon steed has. A dragon steed with an Intelligence bonus gains additional skill ranks per level equal to the bonus. It's worth noting that dragon steeds have fewer skill ranks than unbonded true dragons. This is because dragon steeds spend considerable effort learning how to work with their bonded riders, which takes up the learning capacity they could otherwise use for additional skills. A dragon steed cannot have more skill ranks than it has Hit Dice.
Dragon steeds can have ranks in any of the following skills: Acrobatics* (Dex), Climb* (Str), Escape Artist (Dex), Fly* (Dex), Intimidate (Cha), Perception* (Wis), Stealth* (Dex), Survival (Wis), and Swim* (Str). All of the skills marked with an (*) are class skills for dragon steeds. Dragon steeds with an Intelligence of 3 or higher can put ranks into any skill.
Feats: This is the total number of feats possessed by a dragon steed. Dragon steeds are free to take any feats other than Armor Proficiency, Shield Proficiency and Weapon Proficiency feats. (A dragon is never comfortable wearing any armor beyond its own scaly hide, and its hands are not designed to hold weapons.) Note that dragon steeds must meet all the normal requirements for the feats they select.
Dragon steeds can select from the following feats: Acrobatic, Agile Maneuvers, Armor Proficiency (light, medium, and heavy), Athletic, Blind-Fight, Combat Reflexes, Diehard, Dodge, Endurance, Great Fortitude, Improved Bull Rush, Improved Initiative, Improved Natural Armor, Improved Natural Attack, Improved Overrun, Intimidating Prowess, Iron Will, Lightning Reflexes, Mobility, Power Attack, Run, Skill Focus, Spring Attack, Stealthy, Toughness, and Weapon Focus. Dragon steeds with an Intelligence of 3 or higher can select any feat they are physically capable of using. GMs might expand this list to include feats from other sources.
Natural Armor Bonus: The number noted here is an improvement to the dragon steed's existing natural armor bonus.
Str/Con Bonus: Add this modifier to the dragon steed's Strength and Constitution scores. Dragon steeds also gain increases to Strength and Constitution (and reductions to Dexterity) as they advance, as listed under ability scores for each dragon steed. Do not also adjust dragon steed's ability scores for size.
Special: This includes a number of abilities gained by dragon steeds as they increase in power. Each of these is described in Dragon Steed Special Ability Descriptions section (below.)
The base breath weapon is listed with each dragon steed, below. Every steed deals one kind of damage, and has either a line or a cone. Each breath weapon allows a Reflex save for half damage, the save DC for a dragon steed's breath weapon is 10 + one-half steed's hit dice + steed's Constitution modifier. A dragon steed may use its breath weapon once every four rounds, not to exceed a total number of uses per day equal to 3 + the steed's Constitution modifier.
A dragonrider and his bonded dragon steed always know the direction to each other, and are aware of any conditions the other is suffering.
Despite the fact they are dragonriders' willing allies, not all dragon steeds manage to seamlessly blend their own actions with those of their riders. Dragons are, instinctively, majestic creatures certain of their own superiority and and ability to make and execute their own battle plans. It goes against a dragon's instinctive nature to work under the direction of a smaller creature sitting on its back. No matter how much a dragon steed wants to obey its rider, it often spends a considerable amount of time making its own plan, beginning to carry it out, realizing it hasn't checked that plan by its dragonrider, then mentally backpedaling so it doesn't take a radical action that would surprise its rider. This can result in the dragon doing very little but fly around, even in a pitched battle. To avoid this, dragonrider and dragon must establish a mental focus. The dragonrider must initiate the focus, which may take as long as a standard action, or may be as easy as a free action.
A dragon steed always goes on the same initiative as its dragonrider—rider and steed effectively move simultaneously. (If for some reason it's crucial to know which acts first, the dragonrider's player decides on the order of each action taken.) Without the dragonrider establishing focus, a dragon steed will only take a single move action (moving as the dragonrider wishes) each round and such free actions (speaking, making attacks of opportunity, and so on) that seem prudent. If a dragonrider is unconscious or incapacitated, his dragon steed moves to be adjacent to the dragonrider as quickly as possible, then attacks any foe that threatens either dragon steed or dragonrider. A dragon steed acts to defend itself if separated from its dragonrider, and can be convinced to stay behind to guard a camp or the dragonrider's stronghold, but does not willingly go on missions or run errands separate from its rider. (A GM should run a dragon steed as efficiently as possible if its rider is not present for an event, but dragon steeds seek to avoid operating without their partners.)
For the dragon to take any other action, the dragonrider must establish a mystic focus. Each dragon steed lists the kind of action required each round for a dragonrider to establish this focus, and focus lasts until the beginning of the dragonrider's next turn. For the most powerful true dragons, it may take a dragonrider a standard action to establish focus. As the dragonrider and his dragon steed gain levels, the amount of time required to establish focus is reduced, going from a standard action to a move action, a move action to a swift action, and a swift action to a free action. These changes occur at 8th and 16th level and the type of action required is listed with each type of dragon steed, below. A dragonrider must be within 30 feet of his steed to establish focus.
Once focus is established, the dragon is free to act however the dragonrider wishes. The dragon steed can use its breath weapon, make double moves, engage in melee attacks, and generally take whatever actions the dragonrider instructs. As the mystic focus establishes a mental bond between the dragonrider and his dragon steed, no vocal communication is required between the two while the mystic focus is in effect.
Starting at 2nd level, the dragonrider may cast a spell with a target of “You” on his dragon steed (as a spell with a range of touch) instead of on himself. A dragonrider may cast spells on his dragon steed even if the spells normally do not affect creatures of the steed's type (dragon). Spells cast in this way must come from a class that grants a dragon steed. This ability does not allow the steed to share abilities that are not spells, even if they function like spells.
At 3rd level the dragon steed gains the Evasion ability. When subjected to an attack that normally allows a Reflex save for half damage, a dragon steed takes no damage if it makes a successful saving throw.
At level 4, 9, 16, and 20, the dragon steed adds +1 to one of its ability scores.
At 11th level, a dragon steed gains Multiattack as a bonus feat.
At 16th level, a dragon steed gains Improved Evasion. When subjected to an attack that allows a Reflex saving throw for half damage, a dragon steed takes no damage if it makes a successful saving throw and only half damage if the saving throw fails.
Any willing true dragon can be a dragonrider's bonded steed, but the bond has a heavy price for a dragon. All spellcasting ability, most spell-like and supernatural abilities, and a considerable amount of other power is stripped from the dragon to power the bond between it and its dragonrider.
Each dragon steed has different starting sizes, speed, attacks, ability scores, breath weapons, and special qualities. Dragon steed attacks add the dragon's Strength modifier to the damage roll. All dragons have special abilities, such as scent. As you gain levels, your dragon steed improves as well, gaining special advancement at 8th level and again at 16th level, in addition to the standard bonuses noted on Table: Dragon Steed Base Statics.
A dragonrider's alignment must be within one step of his dragon steed.
While it is unusual for a dragonrider to take anything other than a metallic or chromatic dragon as a steed, it is not totally unknown. A GM wishing to allow such characters can use the draconic companions from The Genius Guide to the Dracomancer as additional dragon steed choices. Note that a dragonrider who takes such a steed does not gain bonus spells from a cleric domain or a sorcerer bloodline – that power is exclusive to dracomancers, regardless of what dragon a dragonrider may choose as a mount.