On the Ecology of the Wyvern

"I have it on good authority from the duke of the Puttenbergen's vizier, Jochrim ibn Oberwaldski, that the wyvern is the protean and horrendous manifestation of dwarvish gold-lust also known as the dwarrowwife." - Lujek, starter of the final wyvernwife wars

Nomenclature: Wyvern, Wyrmspawn, Dragon-birds, Whyverns, Wiverns, Scorpion dragons

Description: A bipedial winged reptile with a poisonous tail sting.

Things that are known:

  • They can fly
  • Their tails contain a poison sting
  • They are related to dragons

Rumors and other whispers in the dark:

Monster Manual Illustration

  • It's pronounced wai-vern
  • It's actually pronounced wii-vern
  • No, it's derived from the latin for viper and the "Wy" has a long 'i' sound
  • Wyvern ecologies are only written by sages who are jerks
  • Wyverns are the physical manifestations of poison, being from the elemental plane of poison, which is filled with roiling clouds and bright candy like surfaces
  • Wyverns are part of a family of creatures known as xyverns, yyverns, and zyverns organized in a complex hierarchical structure, each serving a different purpose
    • A Xyvern is almost like a wyvern, but with pteranodon wings and a confusion venom
  • Wyverns are rainbow colored monsters that emit a sonic attack that causes ecstasy. The sound is a high pitched wheezing
  • The wyvern is a chimeric creature, combined parts of a turkey, fruit bat, gecko, and scorpion. There are some who say it also possesses the forearms of a snake.
  • That's inaccurate, wyvern is a term for a giant turkey
  • Wyverns are drawn to small enclosed spaces, much like cats are drawn to baskets and boxes.
  • Wyvern tails are actually their heads, being that's where the venom is stored, and what looks like the head is just mimicry designed to fool and confuse predators.
  • Wyverns are the natural animal competitors to dragons, resistant to both breath and dragon magic. Now, however they either subsist in dragon free environments or are used as servants by those same dragons
    • Attempts to breed versions that are magically resistant so far have been a failure, but have produced a number of interesting wyvern variants
  • Wyverns are flying lions with bat wings, but have no tail, no sting, and no poison. It is a legend based on the Siege and fall of Castle Juniper in the Moon Mountains. Goblins rode wyverns flinging poison spears
  • Wyverns are inbred dragons
  • Wyverns are the cursed remains of a bird race, who must kill a certain number of sentient beings before the curse is lifted. Every wyvern carries their total secretly, hoping for the day to become free once more
  • Wyverns are the homunculi of dragon arch-wizards
  • Wyverns are the result of fairies dreaming of dragons. In their ignorance, they come out a lot like wyverns
  • Wyvern testicles and ovaries are powerful magical components. Wyvern know this and mistrust wizards
  • Wyverns are excellent mounts. If they won't cooperate when they are alive, they make excellent mounts as undead creatures also 
  • Wyverns reproduce by stealing the stings of scorpion men. This infuriates them. Many forge replacements of brass and steel and devote their lives to hunting wyverns.
  • The Wyvern is the heraldic symbol of the black hobbits of Overhill. Nobody has ever seen a wyvern in or around Overhill, but the black hobbits speak of the Wyvern in a reverent voice. "When the end times come", they say, "the winged lord will send the Wyvern to swoop us away, and Overhill will be no more."
  • Wyverns grow from the fetus of a bat magically implanted into a scorpion egg, ensconced in the egg of a snake, ensconced in the egg of a turkey, and hatched in a nest of poison ivy
  • The wyvern is the adult form of a cockatrice
  • Wyverns are actually a term locals use for agile dinosaurs
  • Wyvern eggs can feed twenty men for a day. Or ten hobbits
  • Wyvern eggs can be used to poison two hundred men. Or five greedy hobbits
  • A wyvern is not bipedal, it is actually tripodal. The third leg is presumed to be a powerful aphrodisiac
    • Wyvern poison causes death by priapism. This causes males to save versus the poison at a penalty
  • Wyverns are color blind
    • Only because wyverns have no eyes

  • In the souks of Salahalabarbalhalas, the powered purple 'juice' of a wyvern is sold as a powerful cure all, antidote, and aphrodisiac. It can be snorted for a powerful high with a side effect of complete poison immunity, assuming it doesn't kill you
    • Sadly, 'wyvern juice' is made from hobbit urine and agave syrup, a horrible tasting mixture that may not do what it says on the tin
    • Actually, real 'wyvern juice' is collected by cooling the head of a wyvern to the freezing point of rock oil, and chiseling out the venom glands, producing 300 gold worth of juice. 330 gold if milked by a hobbit maiden
    • only males produce wyvern juice
  • Wyvern wings are cyclically considered the height of fashion, most recently because the queen wore one during the funeral of her husband
  • They eat their victims whole, but bones and metal aren't digested. After a kill these are vomited up near the wyvern nest
  • All wyverns are hermaphroditic
  • Wyverns are actually giant mutant mollusks, gastropods. Their shells are contained in their stomachs.
  • Unsurprisingly they taste like chicken
  • They are helpful natural creatures, feeding only on poisonous vermin. Slaying a wyvern does irreparable harm to local communities
  • Wyverns are temporal tesseract creatures. i.e., there is only one Wyvern but instead of being distributed amongst the manifold universes, they manifest everywhere. Part of the reason of their chimeric appearance is that changes in physical representation also bleed across the manifolds. If you manage to find the ur-Wyvern and kill it in all the universes at the same time, you will get rid of wyverns. Otherwise they will continue to spring into existence evermore. Don't be surprised if a wyvern remembers you the first time you meet it.
  • Wyverns are endangered creatures that are too ugly to live. They are so ugly, that if a wyvern sees its reflection in a mirror, it will flee
    • This information comes from Aphandor, the famous explorer, who was killed by a wyvern and eaten while wearing four-mirror armor
  • Wyverns are a cross between magpies and turkeys, a terrifying bird without fear, that likes mirrors, shiny objects, and gems
  • Wyverns have no soul
    • Five souls. Wyverns have five souls. They are twisted, suffering, and blinded souls, but for every one banished, the wyvern will lose the properties of that soul
    • This means undead wyverns are practically unturnable, being that they count as five undead. Luckily it's five times as hard to created undead wyverns
  • When wyvern wives whisper wonderful whimsical wild-tales witches wish warlocks would woo them
  • When a witch and warlock mate, a duck will give birth to a wyvern
  • People stung by a wyvern and resurrected have said that they died in bliss
  • Using wyvern dung instead of bat guano for a fireball instead created an exploding acidic sphere
    • Wyvern guano in general is a useful ingredient for incendiaries, acid vials, and cart bombs
  • Wyverns are the angels of the goddess of Pleasure and Poison, Whyt. Wyvern venom is one of the most pleasurable experiences imaginable and many an adventurer is a secret YV addict. Actual deaths from wyvern venom are caused by the overdose burning out all the nerve endings, resulting in a comatose, hebephrenic husk of a being
    • Priests of Whyt turn into wyverns over time by replacing their body parts with animal grafts. The wyvern's brain as such is human in nature, but beyond the acuity of actually spell casting
  • In cyrilics a wyvern is written as уивэрэн and is believed to be the forerunner of the hut of Baba Jaga
  • The city of Nrevyw (Nur-ay-vee, rhymes with gravy)is very adamant in it's claim that the name being reverse for Wyvern is nothing but a coincidence, but since the scroll of independence from the king's rule spells out the city's name like that there is a strong reluctance to change the name and lose said independence
    • It doesn't  help that the city walls are home to a nest of 144 wyverns that never attack the city itself though. In fact, nobody ever saw the wyverns do anything other than fly around as long as they're unprovoked
    • The Wyte Guard of Nrevyw wears wyvern-wing cloaks
  • A wyvern transplant is never rejected by the host body, and always naturally grafts to any creature to which it is attached.

  • Wyvern bile and cerebrospinal fluid stop troll regeneration
  • Repeatedly asking a wyvern "why?" will cause it to storm off in disgust
  • Wyvern poison is used as bitters in dwarven cocktails (like stormy stout)
  • At night, wyverns transform into beautiful dwarven maidens
    • Well, not exactly. Wyverns are dwarven females, and the dwarves greatest shame. They are never encountered because they are kept hidden away. The dwarves of Kamolovarupa keep them chained and massaged by drone dwarves to continually produce new little dwarves
    • Mating with wyverns is unpleasant, which is why dwarves drink so much, and why the sting causes priapism and arousal
    • Mentioning this fact is a good way to have a dwarf kingdom go to war with you
    • Wyverns are always hidden behind elaborate stone walls and floorboards
  • Wyverns shed their wings annual, growing a more elaborate pair every year
  • You can determine the age of a wyvern by counting scale segments
  • A wyvern has three cloacas. One for solids, one for liquids, and one for gasses
  • Wyvern gas has a weakening effect, used as an experimental sedative at the Barovia Strahd Asylum
  • Very old wyverns are very large and can no longer fly, making them popular sport for hobbits
  • A wyvern is heraldry come to rampant and perilous life. It manifests as a vast winged shadow, with talons and stings and filled with fear of open spaces. It is a protean creature of shifting parts
  • In its youth, a wyvern is quite intelligent. They can be bargained with and sometimes even made to keep their word, but with the insane pain from molting and growing new wings, their sanity wanes
  • A wyvern is a cognate of viper, an insane poisonous snake grown beyond all reckoning.
  • A wyvern is the promise of an unknown monster, constantly morphing and changing forms. Its chimeric form is just a metaphor
  • The Keeper of the Seven Seals keeps Seventeen Sea-wyverns in his ornamental Oy!-pond
    • An oy pond is a more dangerous version of a koi pond
  • Wyverns steal limbs from Heraldic Dragons for their adolescents' grafting experiments. Thus the legless Amphiptere, the wingless Wyrm
  • Wyverns are trying to turn themselves into pompous four-legged dragons
  • Wyverns are building some gigantic ur-horror composed only of claws, horns and leathery wings
  • Dragons are mutable creatures and obsessed with eugenics. They curse all their not-quite-dragon spawn with distinctive, baleful powers and weaknesses to insure they are not classified as true dragons. They bane of wyvernage is saved for the worst: Those that talk back and won't eat their villagers 
  • Wyverns were once sea serpents. When the triton community undertook major prayer, fasting, and sacrifice, their plea culminated with a quest. Their goddess took pity on them and cursed wyverns with wings, so they could only haunt the world above the waves from then on. This was cause for feuding between the coastal kingdom and their undersea neighbors
  • Wyvern were first created as draconic bonsai; an academy of powerful wizards had a tithe of dragon eggs come to them every decade from subdued dragons, and they had competitions to see who could make the most interesting protodraconic form. They have a LOT to answer for, in the draconic-monster-infested world
  • Wyverns first arrived as parasites on the hides of vast space whales
  • Wyverns are battle suits for small translucent rodents like hamsters. One eye pushes back, and they follow the corridor to the skull "bridge." An orc warlord came to know this secret, and nearly conquered the world before being burned down; so far, no one else knows the secret, but they DO know that old Scraglatchiar the Conqueror left the secret of his success carved on a wyvern skull hidden with his treasure, and orcs have never stopped looking for it 
  • When the world was still cooling, the King of the Faerie gambled with one of the first dragons. The dragon lost his arms, his magic, his cleverness, and his magnificent breath; the Queen interrupted the game, and spotted the dragon a poison tail loaded with fey-killing venom. The King of the Faerie lost interest in the game (and the inevitable revelation he was cheating) and the crippled dragon (named wyvern) re-entered the world in shame
  • They all come from a cursed mirror being broken in the grove of a mad druid. The results of removing this curse from an individual wyvern are unknown. Would it become broken glass? Or several other monstrous creatures and elementals
  • Wyverns are the keepers of all knowledge, the words of lore written upon their scales in the ancient language of serpents (h/t to Zak)
  • Wyverns do not breath, nor do they have lungs. They absorb air their their membranous wings, spending most of their time high in the jet stream
  • The wyvern has no legs, only arms and wings
  • They are the flip side to a stirge, a beast created to extract. Wyverns were made to inject
  • They compete in the ecological niche of eagles, but being featherless are immune to the parasites that plague those large birds
  • Wyverns try to bite off each others tails before mating, their eggs will hatch before the tail grows back
  • Corkmelon is used to disable the sting of a wyvern, making it safer to trap them in nets. Slashing their wings helps also

Combat Techniques

Roar, get out the way! (WotC Miniature)
The Tail Spear: A wyvern can grapple an opponent with it's mouth, doing normal bite damage, and then fling that opponent up in the air. Once airborn, they then strike impaling the creature on their tail. If they successfully bite, grapple, and then throw (bull-rush) their opponent, their tail strikes with a +4 to hit and the target saves versus poison at -2. This exposes the wyvern to a variet of attacks, and all opponents get a +4 to hit the wyvern for 1 round.
The Flying Strike: Wyverns fly down to their opponent, stabbing them with their tail, and then trampling them on the ground. They must charge their opponents with an Arial dive. Once in range they attempt to strike with their tails. Hit or miss, they then attempt to over-run their opponent. On a successful overrun the opponent is trampled and takes 1d4 hit points of damage per hit die of the dragon.
The Wing Buffet: A single target standing on the flank of an enraged wyvern can be buffeted with a wing. If hit, they take 1d4 damage and must make a save versus paralyzation (Fortitude or Reflex, DC 18 (10 + 1/2 Wyverns Hit Die + Strength Modifier)) or be knocked prone. It may do this in addition to it's normal attack

Wyvern variations

Two-tail pygmy wyvern has a poison, which if survived will cure any ill. This permanently makes you less healthy, but can be used to save your life. The problem is, a single sting can kill, and they generally attempt to stab you with both tails
Undead wyverns (skeletal and zombie) are easy to create, considering the number of creatures souls used in their formation
Great wyverns have grown to the proportions of the largest dragons. No longer able to fly, they can spit the acidic poison from their mouths

What is the difference between a dragon, drake, wyrm, and wyvern?

Whatever you want it to be. Traditionally however, dragons are organized via color. Chromatics for evil dragons, metallics for good dragons, and gemstones for neutral dragons. Most terrain oriented dragons (shadow, lava, etc.) are closer to monstrous drakes, though may usually be assumed to be evil. Drakes are very similar to dragons, though usually bestial, not being able to speak, cast spells, or reason. Wyverns have only four limbs (two wings and two legs) and have poison stings. Wyrms are reptilian beasts that have non-functioning, absent, or vestigial wings. Linnorms are a specific type of wyrm that can fly in spite of not having wings, related to dragons, being a much more primitive, aggressive, barbaric, and greedy version. They have a venomous bite.

In the end, they are all just words for the same thing

The ecology series is a crowdsourced series of articles, and contributors can be found on google+ under the hashtag #crowdecology. They are limited posts, but following me on G+ will allow you to see them. All artwork is credited where the artist could be found. Classic ecology articles from Dragon magazine are used both for reference and inspiration; the whole impetus of the idea was to create 'classic' ecology articles that are actually useful. Let's Read the Monster Manual by Noisms is also a source of inspiration.  If you're curious how to make effective use of these articles, read On the Use of Ecology.

Hack & Slash


  1. https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=fr&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Ffr.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FVouivre&edit-text=&act=url

    The french wikipedia article on Wyverns also has some interesting stuff to draw from.

    (Btw, did you know that four-legged, "true dragon" style artwork of dragons was rare in midieval manuscripts until around the the 13th century? http://dragonscorner.wordpress.com/2012/01/31/peraults-dragon/ )

  2. https://plus.google.com/u/0/+CourtneyCampbell/posts/LLbL36drgZP


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