Exotic… No, Esoteric Draconic Bloodlines

A-Z 2016 "X"‘X Day’ is always difficult in the A-Z Challenge. So few words actually start with ‘X’.

I was going to write about how I was going to add esoteric draconic bloodlines to Draconic Bloodlines, since I deliberately excluded them when I released the book. I even started drafting that post, but when I started examining things more closely I realized my original reasons for excluding them stand.

The esoteric dragons are too different from the other dragon families, and creating bloodlines for them the same way would involve me picking things without enough knowledge to make good decisions. The esoteric dragons often have many spells (in a couple of cases seven or eight), and trimming that down requires me to choose from among them. I’ll have to come back after I’ve had a chance to read more about occult magic and internalize it somewhat.

That said, I now see four ways forward, where previously I’d seen one.

Ways to Include Esoteric Draconic Bloodlines

The primary stumbling block here is that almost all dragons cast spells as sorcerers, except the esoteric dragons. Esoteric dragons cast occult spells as psychics. I present them below, in approximate order of deviation from plan.

Steal From the Psychic Bloodline

The psychic bloodline’s bloodline arcana says

Your sorcerer spells and spell-like abilities count as psychic instead of arcane. You use thought and emotion components instead of verbal and somatic components when casting your spells.

In principle that arcana pretty much solves the “sorcerer magic vs psychic magic” disconnect, but it seems incomplete. I’d probably want to incorporate some of the bonus spells, bonus feats, and bloodline powers (at least one) to make the bloodline ‘more psychic’. I thought I might find sufficient overlap in the dragon special abilities to handle some of the ‘psychic bloodline powers’, but after reading them I don’t think so. There are some nifty abilities, though.

Create a Sorcerer Archetype

This honestly was my first intended approach, and went beyond what I was prepared to do when I considered it. Changing the sorcerer’s spell casting is, after all, a pretty fundamental shift. This would give me the opportunity to tweak more of the class features so things would fit properly. This is probably my favored approach right now, but again I’ll need to do some more research.

Create a Draconic Sorcerer Prestige Class

In discussion online it was suggested that a prestige class could solve the problem. I usually wouldn’t agree, I’m not a big fan of prestige classes to solve mechanical problems (I do like them as campaign elements — actual “prestige” classes), but in this case it could work. If a sorcerer starts with the core draconic bloodline, a prestige class could allow the sorcerer to shift to a more specific draconic bloodline, or even add it altogether. There would probably have to be some kind of additional cost or change to class features… a prestige class like this is something like a late-added archetype, I suppose.

Backup plan, definitely behind the archetype and possibly even behind the psychic bloodline.

Make This a Psychic Discipline

Perhaps I’m going about this the wrong way entirely. Esoteric dragons, unlike the other dragons, cast as psychics rather than sorcerers. Maybe there should instead be a ‘draconic’ psychic discipline that can be specialized.

Right now I’m leaning toward this as my favored approach. I’m not sure if it would be a separate product or not, though.

Closing Comments

I think a large part of my difficulty with esoteric dragons is that they are a poor fit for the sorcerer class altogether. The minimalist approach (pull from the psychic bloodline) seems woefully inadequate. Creating a prestige class to fix it smacks of a band-aid fix, and I don’t like those. A sorcerer archetype is my favored solution from a design standpoint, tweak the class first before adding the psychic dragon stuff.

Ultimately, though, I think keeping them as a psychic class thing and making them psychic disciplines (possibly with a generic ‘draconic’ discipline) is the right way to go. I’ve got some more reading to do.


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