The dragonborn are a race of humanoids whose form resembles that of a dragon, having a scaled hide and a dragonlike head. They are proud and brave, with strong ties to clan, tradition, and family.
- 1 Appearance
- 2 Personality and alignment
- 3 Abilities and traits
- 4 Ecology
- 5 History
- 6 Culture
- 7 Notable dragonborn
- 8 Related species
- 9 Publication history
- 10 Creative origins
- 11 Reception and influence
- 12 References
Dragonborn are bipedal creatures, resembling a dragon in humanoid form. They typically stand almost 6½ feet tall and are strongly built, weighing over 300 pounds. Unlike true dragons, they do not have wings or a tail, although there are individual exceptions to this.
A dragonborn's skin is covered in fine scales, giving it a leathery texture. Larger scales appear on the forearms, lower legs, feet, thighs, and shoulders. The color of a dragonborn's scales varies, but commonly a dull metallic shade, such as scarlet, gold, rust, ochre, bronze, brown, or copper-green. Brass and bronze are the most common shades. A few clans have brightly-colored scales matching a pure bloodline of one of the ten chromatic or metallic true dragons: red, green, blue, white, black, gold, silver, copper, or bronze. The first dragonborn bred were of these pure bloodlines, but common dragonborn have accumulated their current shades through generations of interbreeding between clans.
A dragonborn's head resembles that of a dragon, though placed on a humanoid torso rather than the long neck of a true dragon. The head has a blunt snout, a strong brow, and frills at the ear and cheek, with a crest of hornlike scales resembling thick locks hair behind the brow.
Dragonborn eyes are various shades of red or gold. They have strong hands and feet, with three fingers and a thumb on each hand. Both hands and feet end in talonlike claws.
Dragonborn are well-groomed and pay attention to their appearance. They avoid tattoos or similar embellishments.
Personality and alignment
Both good and evil dragonborn exist, but neutrality is less common. It is in the dragonborn's nature to pick a side. Decisiveness is seen as a positive trait in dragonborn society.
Dragonborn are more commonly good than evil.
A few philosophically minded dragonborn reject this tradition, becoming neutral instead. The Temple of Io's Children is a religion which follows this belief.
Attitude and psychology
A dragonborn's honor is more important than their own life. Dragonborn are expected to act chivalrously on the battlefield, and show the proper respect even to enemies. Cowardice and oathbreaking are the most egregious sins a dragonborn can commit. Honor requires that they take responsibility for their actions, speak honestly, and honor their commitments.
Dragonborn are serious and driven, and readily dedicate themselves to the pursuit of excellence. They are perfectionists, who distain giving up and refuse to accept failure. Dragonborn can be counted on in difficult times. They often enter the mercenary career to test their mettle. Some instead dedicate themselves to a cause they believe in.
Many dragonborn seek death if they have been greatly dishonored. Others will seek a path to regain their honor. One legend who made the latter choice was Dhuryan Flamebrow, a disgraced nobleman's son who entered military service and rose to become a legendary general.
Most dragonborn place great significance on their innate connection to the powerful true dragons. This affects their mindset, and many dragonborn possess iconic dragon traits like confidence, strong will, or fearlessness. Patience is also virtuous.
Dragonborn have strong clan ties. They integrate easily into human and other societies where their skills and honorable attitude are valued. The first dragonborn created to serve Bahamut had strong ties to each other and a sense of direction and purpose, and this seems to be reflected in the species as a whole.
Dragonborn hold great respect for those non-dragonborn who share their traditional values, especially those who dedicate themselves to the pursuit of excellence in any field. They hold no particular grudge against ancient enemies, such as the dragonborn descended from the empire of Arkhosia, destroyed long ago by the tieflings of Bael Turath.
Powerful dragonborn sometimes accompany a true dragon as allies, such as the principled silver dragons. They make particularly strong allies due to the dragonborn's tendency to place ideals before profit. Dragonborn are particularly known to ride blue dragons as flying mounts. As mercenaries, powerful dragonborn bodyguards are widely employed by various creatures.
Abilities and traits
They have the ability to breathe destructive energy at opponents, an ability known as a breath weapon. Its type depends on the its draconic bloodline, and is commonly a cone or line or acid, cold, fire, poison, or lightning.
Dragonborn also have the ability to resist injury from the same type of energy as their breath weapon.
Some dragonborn possess other abilities their draconic ability, such as exceptionally strong scales which serve as a form of natural armor. They may also possess retractable claws.
Some radiate an aura of menace when angered, and can roar powerfully enough to frighten opponents.
Humans who became dragonborn by undergoing the Rite of Rebirth have exceptional physical constitution relative to their original forms. Such individuals can live hundreds of years, though this is not common among dragonborn. They are also exceptionally well protected against attacks of dragons and its frightful dragons. Bahamut blesses these dragonborn with additional abilities, such as enhanced senses or wings.
Dragonborn hatch from eggs. Ruins of ancient dragonborn civilizations feature specialized chambers for egg incubation. A dragonborn's family places significance on the egg's appearance and the manner in which it hatches; a burnished golden coating, a pattern resembling a symbol, or an egg which splits cleanly in two are considered particularly auspicious.
Dragonborn are able to walk within hours of hatching. They reach the equivalent development of a human ten year old by age 5, and adulthood by 15.
Some dragonborn began their lives as humanoids of other species, transformed by a ritual known as the Rite of Rebirth. Such individuals enter an egg and are reborn as an adult dragonborn.
A dragonborn typically lives to around the age of 80. However, only few individuals live to see that age, as most dragonborn prefer an honorable death in combat than to die of old age, and seek out such end when they became too old or infirm.
The dragonborn that are "born" through the Rite of Rebirth have longer lifespan than other dragonborn, living up to be around 400 years old. However, as they live dangerous lives fighting against the minions of Tiamat, most of them die young.
Dragonborn do not appear to have any special dietary requirements which differ from other humanoids. They like to eat more meat than other edibles.
The vicious hordelands of various worlds include dragonborn tribes. Dragonborn have occupied Q'barra in Eberron, and dragonborn city-states, ruled by dragons, are speculated to exist on the distant draconic continent of Argonessen.
Dragonborn were first created by dragon gods and other powerful dragons, who melded the traits of humanoid races with the power of dragons. The creation of the dragonborn appears to have occurred independently and on multiple occasions in different worlds, and by different methods.
Tiamat, the five-headed goddess of evil dragons, bred twisted dragonblooded monsters to serve her war against Bahamut, deity of good dragons. Bahamut refused to stoop to this level, but recognized the need for draconic agents of his own. He began recruiting volunteers from among the humanoid races to undergo the Rite of Rebirth, a ritual which transformed them into sons and daughters of Bahamut.
In Faerûn, Bahamut unleashed the Call of Bahamut in the year 1359 DR, resulting in an increase in his divine rank in that world. These were not the first dragonborn ever to walk Toril, but the existence of ancient dragonborn had long faded by history by this point.
In the desert world of Athas, the powerful sorcerer-king Dregoth of Giustenal, who assumed draconic form as a stepping-stone to godhood, created the dragonborn over two thousand years ago to serve him as a race of strong sorcerer-mercenaries. When that city was destroyed, the surviving dragonborn became wanderers and slavers, who call themselves the Dray.
Several other creation myths exist. One says that the dragon progenitor god Io created the dragonborn at the same time he created the greater dragons, so that they might have a servitor race. Another says that the dragonborn arose from drops of Io's blood when that god was cleaved in two, with the halves forming the gods Bahamut and Tiamat. A third says that the dragonborn pre-date the "true" dragons, and that Io only later created the dragons as weapons at the beginning of the Dawn War.
Dragonborn rarely exist in great enough number to form empires of their own. One exception is the dragonborn empire of Arkhosia.
Arkhosia was ruled by dragons, whose dragonborn warriors conquered a vast empire. It built great cities around grand structures carved into the solid rock of mountains and cliffsides, and decorated with draconic imagery. Within those mountainsides lived great dragons and their dragonborn citizens. Its greatest creation was the Serpentus Rift, a glittering city built within a deep canyon, with passageways stretching nearly a full mile underground.
Arkosia crushed numerous less powerful kingdoms and organizations, including the thri-kreen empire of Val-Karri and the star pact warlocks, before eventually falling itself after a series of devastating wars with the tiefling kingdom of Bael Turath. Several clans were enslaved and suffered harsh treatment, including magical experimentation, and the physical and psychological effect of this remains in their ancestors to this day.
An ancient empire of dragonborn also existed on the continent of Khorvaire in the world of Eberron, some 15,000 years ago during the Age of Monsters. Little is known about them today, except that a few ruins of their civilization are believed to exist in the jungles of Q'barra, where many lizardfolk and dragonborns still live.
After the fall of Arkhosia, many dragonborn were killed in bloody attempts to re-establish their empire or conquer new land. Many of the suriving dragonborn integrated into the relatively cosmopolitan human empire of Nerath, but suffered under laws forbidding the gathering of large groups, which ultimately limited the ability of dragonborn society to pass on their cultural heritage.
Other dragonborn retreated into the deserts, with refugee camps developing into permanent nomadic communities.
Dragonborn are uncommon in most worlds, and usually integrate into other societies. However, dragonborn have close ties to others of their ancestral clans, and each clan strongly values its particular traditions. The deeds of an individual are believed to reflect on their clan, and bring honor or dishonor to all of its members.
Members of an honorable clan find themselves having to live up to a high reputation. Honored ancestors include war heroes, benevolent rulers, artisans and diplomats. Dragonborn of dishonored clans may hide or denounce their membership. Dishonorable ancestors include traitors, deserters, and those who brought ruin on their people by magical accident. Such honor and dishonor can last for centuries.
Dragonborn enjoy games and contests, both physical contests and mental. These include violent sports such as forms of fighting and wrestling, but also more thoughtful challenges such as board games, riddle contests, and improvised storytelling. Games with a single clear winner are favored, rather than team sports.
Many dragonborn follow Bahamut, the Platinum Dragon, deity of good-aligned metallic true dragons. The most dedicated paladins and clerics of Bahamut take him as an ideal of truth, justice, mercy, and light in the darkness. Rarely, an individual is born with platinum-colored scales, a symbol of Bahamut's favor and often taken as a sign that one is destined to serve the Platinum Dragon.
Evil dragonborn often worship Tiamat, goddess of chromatic dragons. They are highly valued among the cults of the Red Hand, and serve in Tiamat's armies. Some serve Tiamat out of fear, rather than loyalty, or find themselves indoctrinated into her cult only to leave later.
Dragonborn tend to pick one side or the other in any moral cause. A rare exception is the Temple of Io's Children, a dragonborn religion of neutrality which argues that Bahamut and Tiamat are two aspects of the same original deity. A few rare individual clerics wield a mote of Io's original divine spark.
Some dragonborn worship a common deity in an unusual, even heretical aspect which does not match mainstream teachings. For example, the dragonborn of Q'barra in Eberron worship the Sovereign Host, though they represent these gods in draconic forms.
In the wilderness, dragonborn often follow animistic religions which worship nature spirits, particularly ancient dragon spirits. Some clans in civilized realms still practice this tradition.
For many dragonborn, religion is highly personal. Rituals such as marriage ceremonies are conducted by clan elders in a largely secular fashion, although the names of gods are sometimes invoked.
Dragonborn art combines functionality with beauty. Like the dwarven craftsmen, it is rare for dragonborn to create paintings or other decorative works, although they do prize jewelry, gold, and gemstone adornments, which are worn in a reserved and tasteful manner. Their tools, weapons, and other items are always made with great care and skill.
Dragonborn works tend to use bold colors and make use of precious metals and gemstones. Common motifs include dragons, elements, and scales. Their art lacks the standards of ornate detail found in dwarven work, but dragonborn craftsmen nonetheless place great importance on quality, believing that a work reflects its creator.
The ancient cities of dragonborn contained elaborate, grand stone structures carved from solid rock cliffs and mountains, and engraved with unmistakable draconic imagery. An example is the lost city of Io'vanthor, where invididual clans mark distinctive sigils of fangs, claws, scales and so on to mark individual clan communities.
In many lands, dragonborn are wanderers descended from ancestral empires which fell centuries ago. Such individuals often become mercenaries or adventurers, and are disproportionately likely to take up the adventuring lifestyle. Dragonborn value the challenge of adventure, the ability to hone their skills through practice, and the opportunity to earn glory and reknown.
Some dragonborn become adventurers when the elders of their clan choose them for an important mission. Others are born to no clan, and make it their goal to found or join a worthy group.
Dragonborn make strong party leaders. They can excel at a variety of fields, including as sorcerers, fighters, swordmages, and bards. Wizards are uncommon, though tend to have adeptness with illusion magic. Some Dragonborn become dragon shamans.
Many dragonborn find that the power of sorcery comes readily to them. Some have difficulty controlling this power safely; for others, mastery of their ability is easy. Naturally, most dragonborn sorcerers draw their power from their draconic bloodline, and their magic often takes an audible or visual form reminiscent of dragons. A few dragonborn still practice the ancient monastic ways of the Order of the Ninefold Path.
Dragonborn gladiators are prepared to fight to the death. When outnumbered, they focus on the most wounded opponent to kill them first. This tactic is not specific to all dragonborn, although they favor melee combat in general.
Psionics is a rare art among the dragonborn. Dragonborn with psychic ability often perceive the thoughts of others as voices in their head, and many dragonborn clans interpret psionic ability as a form of madness.
Dragonborn have a long and proud military tradition. They prefer strong, direct attacks.
Dragonborn speak Draconic.
Equipment and clothing
Dragonborn favor simple and elegant clothing made of superior materials such as combed coton, soft wool, crisp linen or fine silk. They avoid overly flamboyant clothing, but prefer clothing which is both practical and beautiful.
Dragonborn do not wear dragon clothing or armor, nor do they carry items made from dragons. These are as distasteful to the dragonborn as an item made of skin is to a human. They are unfriendly toward anyone who wears dragonhide. However, dragonborn in ancient times invented wyrmscale armor, an advanced metal armor which mimics the overlapping pattern of a dragon's scales, and the even tougher legendary elderscale armor.
The dragonborn have a long tradition of craftsmanship, similar to the dwarves. Dragonborn believe that the smith who craft's a heros armor shares in part of the honor for his deeds, while the smith who produces inferior equipment shames both himself and the warrior who carries it.
Dragonborn weapons traditionally incorporate bone or rock into their construction. They are unusually large and often feature fearsome serrated blades. Long ago, they crafted legendary vorpal weapons. Dragonborn are almost exclusively the smiths behind certain magical weapons, such as the bloodletting, frightful, gutting, knockback, and whirlwind weapons.
Both dragonborn and dwarves claim to have first invented the battleforged armor, a magical armor enchantment which helps the wearer to recover more quickly when wounded in battle. Dragonborn also first crafted fortification armor, which protects against lethal strikes; the tratnyr, or wingspear; the ring of the dragonborn emperor, which empowered dragon breath; the bracers of infinite blades; the periapt of wound closure; and the legendary heirlooms of Mazgorax. They are also known for the silver dragon regalia, a set of five powerful items carried into war by powerful soldiers of old.
Dragonborn have disdain for items which encourage cowardice, such as the cloak of the cautious, which they refer to as the "cloak of the craven". They prefer items like the powerful wyrmtouched amulet, which allows a dragonborn to resist elemental attack and use their breath weapon when injured; and the blood fury weapon, which becomes more powerful when the wielder is injured.
Dragonborn commonly have their own names used among their race. Dragonborn are given a personal name at birth, placing their clan name first as a symbol of honor. They may also have a childhood name, a descriptive nickname given in their youth and used as a term of endearment among family.
Among the dragonborn descended from Arkhosia, traditional male names include Arjhan, Balasar, Bharash, Donaar, Ghesh, Heskan, Kriv, Medrash, Nadarr, Patrin, Rhogar, Shamash, Shedinn, and Torinn. Others include Mehen, Pandjed, and Taruhun.
Major dragonborn clans include Clethtinthiallor, Daardendrian, Delmirev, Drachedandion, Fenkenkabradon, Kepeshkmolik, Kerrhylon, Kimbatuul, Linxakasendalor, Myastan, Nemmonis, Norixius, Ophinshtalajiir, Prexijandilin, Shestendeliath, Turnuroth, Verthisathurgiesh, and Yarjerit. These clan names are often derived from the personal names of ancient former dragon lords, or some more recent guild or order to which the dragonborn's family traditionally belongs.
Some dragonborn translate their clan name into the common tongue. These names include Bloodbane, Drakerider, Flamebrow, Hammerwing, Loremark, Moonscale, Peaceblade, Redmark, Silverspear, Spellscale, and Warbringer.
Dragonborn may also have a family name, which is kept private except among close friends; a dragonborn usually goes by their clan name. These family names are in the draconic language and represent a direct bloodline rather than a wider clan. Such names may refer to an ancestor's ancient deeds, or a mixture of multiple ancestors' names. Known dragonborn family names include Alreja, Bhergav, Duggal, Garodya, Iyotar, Letrah, Mulhotra, Odeyar, Pradhu, Reddyar, Samanga, Tyagi, Ulharej, Vadula, Yadav, and Zaveri.
Finally, a dragonborn may also have a childhood name, a nickname given in youth and rarely used in adulthood. It may reflect a number of things connected to the dragonborn: a notable event, a habit, a term of encouragement, a treasured toy or item, an ancestor, and so on. Using a childhood name is only acceptable by one's elders, and even then it is only used in adulthood to indicate disapproval. Known childhood names include Climber, Earbender, Leaper, Pious, Little Kriv, Shieldbiter, and Zealous.
Some dragonborn became members of that race by divine ritual in the name of Bahamut, rather than birth. Such individuals have no clan. They take new draconic names, appending their old names with the prefix "tibur", meaning "born as". For example, if Meepo became a dragonborn and took the name Donaar, his new name would be Donaar tibur Meepo. They may also add great achievements or the names of slain dragons of to their name; e.g. Korinn tibur Dydd fintir Ashardalon.
Full list: Category:Dragonborn
- Arkhan the Cruel, servant of Tiamat who wielded the Hand of Vecna
- Dhuryan Flamebrow, legendary general and author of Flamebrow
- Donaar Blit'zen, a warrior with a tail
- Mafoun, scarred seer of the world of Athas
- Mazgorax, legendary dragonborn artificer of Arhkoshia
- Randaha Mohir, leader of the Golden Rope adventurer's guild
The half-dragon is a similar creature created as the offspring of a true dragon and another creature, often humanoid.
An aquatic race of dragonborn inhabit Highcliff in Mount Celestia, where they worship a dead primordial being.
D&D 3rd edition
Though popularized by Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition, dragonborn first appeared in several Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 sourcebooks in 2006, beginning with Races of the Dragon (2006). Dragonborn were originally normal humanoid races who have been transformed by a ritual in dedication to Bahamut, the Platinum Dragon. In this book, they have +2 Constitution and -2 Dexterity, unlike later editions.
D&D 4th edition
Dragonborn became a core race in D&D 4th edition, appearing in the Player's Handbook (4e) (2008) and on the front cover of that book. Early previews of this appeared in December 2007, with Wizards Presents: Races and Classes (2007) and Dragon #361 (Nov 2007).
The sourcebook Player's Handbook Races: Dragonborn (2010) was dedicated to this race. It incorporated much information from the article Ecology of the Dragonborn, Dragon #365 (Jul 2008), p.25-34. Further information appeared in Power of Dragons, Dragon #385 (Mar 2010), p.5-10, Dragon #388 (Jun 2010), and You Say Dragonborn, I Say Draconian, Dragon #421 (Mar 2013), p.22.
D&D 5th edition
The dragonborn appears as an uncommon core playable race in the Player's Handbook (5e) (2014), p.32. The art used there to depict the dragonborn is drawn by Chris Seaman, and previously appeared in the 4th edition book Player's Handbook Races: Dragonborn on page 28 and the back cover. Based on the magic items appearing in the same section, it's possible that the dragonborn's blue overcoat is a silver sky tabard, which grants resilience against ongoing damage, while the short rod may be the Arkhosian scepter, which empowers dragon breath.
A large number of dragonborn male, female, and clan names appear in Xanathar's Guide to Everything (2017), p.175-176.
Earlier dragon humanoids
The notion of dragonlike humanoids in D&D pre-dates the dragonborn.
In AD&D 1st edition, certain good-aligned dragons could assume human form. This ability was later added to certain non-good dragons.
During the same era, the draconians were introduced for the Dragonlance setting in the novel Dragons of Autumn Twilight and the adventure module DL1 Dragons of Despair (1984). They are described in the AD&D 2nd edition sourcebook MC4 Monstrous Compendium: Dragonlance Appendix (1990), where they are born of dragon eggs corrupted by human magic. D&D 5th edition's Player's Handbook would retcon that draconians are a type of dragonborn, an option which had been presented in the D&D 4th edition Dragon #421 (Mar 2013).
Other dragonlike humanoids appeared in AD&D 1st and 2nd edition, including the krolli, in Dragon #36 (Apr 1980); the dragonkin of the Forgotten Realms; and the weredragon in Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume Three (1996)..
Council of Wyrms (1994), p.29 introduced the half-dragon, the offspring of gold, silver, or bronze dragons with humanoids. Half-dragons resembled normal humanoids until the Monster Manual (3.0) (2000), p.214, where they are described as having scales and reptilian eyes. By the Monster Manual (3.5) (2003), p.147, artwork depicts half-dragons as dragon humanoids similar to the later dragonborn, a depiction which would carry on to the Monster Manual (5e) (2014).
The half-dragon was popular as a player character race among players of D&D 3.5 due to its power, but the level adjustment penalty made this impractical for spellcasters or non-warrior classes. Races of the Dragon (2006) introduced the dragonborn, which allowed players to assume this dragonlike humanoid form at a lower power level equal to other player character races, and allows them to transform an existing characters into dragonborn.
In Wizards Presents: Races and Classes (2007), p.17, Richard Baker describes the decision to include dragonborn as a core race in D&D 4th edition. The design team threw out an early suggestion to include the common fantasy trope of an intelligent animal race, but noted that D&D lore contained various dragon humanoids, and decided to combine these concepts into the 4e version of the dragonborn.
The development team felt that the modern trend in fantasy fiction was to move further away from traditional tropes of European medieval fantasy, and the dragonborn fit this trend.
Writer Gwendolyn Kestrel states that the appeal of playing a dragon character is simply that they're cool, and capture the majesty of dragons. Stacy Longstreet describes the challenge of blending humanoid and draconic features, eventually settling on a strongly draconic head shape rather than some mixture of the two. The decision was also made to have female dragonborn be more slender and curvier so that they would be recognizable to the reader as female.
According to Ecology of the Dragonborn, Dragon #365 (Jul 2008), p.25-34, an earlier name for the D&D 4e dragonborn race during development was dragonblood. The final version of the rules went with dragonborn, a name which was in place by the release of Wizards Presents: Races and Classes in December 2007. D&D 3rd edition's Races of the Dragon (2006) had previously used the name "dragonblood" to refer to a subtype including all creatures with draconic affinity, which included true dragons, dragonborn, and kobolds, among others.
Reception and influence
In 2021, Tim Kask, who worked on early editions of Dungeons & Dragons the 1970s, expressed a dislike of the dragonborn as a player character option. "As soon as I saw it, I thought dragonborn was a joke. Again, my opinion is, in view of the original sense and intent of the game, that all these aberrant weird types are just min-maxing."
In Rules Compendium (3e) (2007), p.22, writer Gwendolyn Kestrel described her favorite character as a warforged dragonborn named Aryte ux Bahamuti tibur Aryte. This name means that the character was originally named Aryte before they transformed into a dragonborn, but kept the same name.
The name dragonborn is used to refer to the protagonist of the 2011 video game Skyrim, who is also called the dovahkiin. However, this is unrelated to the dragonborn race of D&D.
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- Curmudgeon in the Cellar 190 (Sept 19, 2021). 23m53s. Tim Kask, YouTube.