On What to Do With a Dragon Corpse

I am a terrible dungeon master. 

Spoilers for Phandelver follow.

So, my players were about to leave Thundertree, when they decided to look around to find a certain missing amulet. While they found the amulet, they also found a strangely attired group of humanoids.

Failing their stealth roll, they were invited in for tea and a strongly worded offer.

Thull explained how the dragon cult helped his sick grandmother out and provided for his every need. He explained that they quite successfully recruited dragons, he himself having never heard of a dragon refusing an offer of the dragon cult. And he strongly suggested that the players that had been spotted and invited in join, because he'd much rather be their friends than have to offer them to the dragon also.

This plan lasted about as long as you would expect. The players agreed and the cultists got to walk outside of the door before the rest of the party attacked.

The bard put dissonant whispers in the mind of the leader, who fled screaming.

Obviously the murder of several dozen cultists is not the quietest activity, especially not when one of them has taken psychic damage and is screaming as loudly as he can in draconic, (which iirc, no one in the party can speak).

Shortly, the ground shakes as Venomfang roars, quite upset about having being woken from his slumber.

The raging reckless frenzied barbarian, tired of the shrieking madness of the cult leader, runs up to him and splits him in twain.

The Dragon climbs to the top of the tower and flies towards the party, landing right in front of the dead cult leader and the barbarian standing over his corpse.

It is the secret quest of the raging reckless frenzied barbarian to slay Venomfang.


The bard, being the bard, attempts to talk Venomfang down. She says "Oh, great and mighty dragon, we come only to bask in awe of your mighty form." Using the updated 5th edition modifications to the "On the Non-Player Character" social system, she rolls for the Honor action and gets a 26, changing his mood from hostile to neutral.

Then it is the raging reckless frenzied barbarian's turn to act. She, of course, attacks twice. Combat is joined.

So the thing is, it doesn't matter how powerful your dragon is. When you lose initiative against six players, you're going to have a bad time.

By the time I actually got to act, I had already lost nearly 100 hit points. The dragon took flight, and breathed on as many targets as he could. At this point, only being the barbarian and the 1/2 orc monk. I did 56 points of damage. You'd think this would be deadly to a 1st level monk and a 3rd level barbarian. They both save. 28 hit points leaves the barbarian with 10, and the monk, being a half-orc, is not killed outright, so remains standing with 1 hit point.

How upset is Venomfang at this point?

Not nearly as upset as he is as he fails his saving throw against Tasha's Hideous Laughter when he's 30 feet in the air.

So, the point of todays post is, 

What can you do with a dragon corpse.


There is very little value in fighting monsters, except for the value of the monster itself. ACKS using something similar to value monsters called "Monster parts" that's defined as having a value in gold equal to the experience point value of the monster, arbitrarily assigning each unit a weight of 5 stone for 300 gold.

Essences are simpler in that you can acquire 1 per hit die of the creature you kill. They are worth 100 gold towards crafting a relevant item or spell research, or may be sold for half price to recoup some value. In a system that is essentially on a silver standard such as Lamentations of the Flame Princes or 5th edition, then this value is reduced to 100 silver.

This is what I use, and it is awesome.

Dragons, being magical creatures, can provide up to 3 times the normal essence as a more mundane creature. That means a 16 hit die creature like Venomfang can produce up to 48 essences. You may extract essence from the blood, the flesh, and the brain. Note that this is an all or nothing affair. You can either have the corpse, or you can reduce it to essence. Turn the flesh into essence, no dragon armor for you.

This means totally breaking down the dragons corpse grants 480 gold, which is just in line for the amount of treasure handed out in Phandlever and Hoard of the Dragon Queen.


Dragon Hide makes excellent scale mail armor. It can also be used to craft a shield. It cannot be used to make other kinds of armor, select the rationale for such a decisions from the following list: verisimilitude, balance, simplicity.

A medium dragon produces 1 hide-unit of armor. A large dragon produces 3 hide-units of armor. A huge dragon produces 5 hide-units of armor. A unit of armor produces a medium sized shield, helm, or mantle (cloak). Two hide-units produce a medium sized suit of scale mail armor.

This is assuming the dragon was slain in normal melee combat. If the party takes care to do as little damage to the hide as possible (blunt weapons, sleep spells), then add 1 hide unit to a medium dragon, 2 to a large, and 3 to a huge dragon. If the party is particularly vicious in their attack on the dragon (arrows, many sword blows, violent spells), feel free to reduce the hide-unit values appropriately.

Dragon hide armor is resistant to the element the dragon breathes, and is easily enchantable. This can work however your rules system manages, but generally I reduce the costs to enchant dragon hide armor, helms, shields and cloaks, by half.

Dragon hide is consumed if the flesh of the dragon is converted into essence.

Note that good or evil, no dragon looks favorably upon someone wearing their skin.


The blood is a deadly poison if ingested, causing death if eaten or swallowed on a failed saving throw versus poison at -4, (or a DC 15 Constitution save, or DC 18 Fortitude save, depending on your system.) It has no poison effect via contact, inhaled or injury, although it is strongly corrosive against most metals and rocks, causing them to become brittle and prone to breakage over time (weeks).
If you bathe in the blood (requiring 40 gallons for a medium creature, half that for a small creature) you are cured of any diseases, any poisons are neutralized, and you gain 1d12 years of life, as a potion of longevity. After a single bath, the blood is useless for any other purpose.
There are 2 gallons of blood in a medium dragon, 10 gallons in a large dragon, and 500 gallons in a huge dragon.
Blood sells for the same price it breaks down into if transmuted into essence, 50 gold pieces per hit die. The Dragon blood is consumed if the dragon blood is broken down into essence.


Dragon bones, horns, teeth, and claws, can be used to create staves, wands, rods, weapons and trinkets. A medium dragon produces 4 bone-units, a large dragon produces 16 bone-units, and a huge dragon produces 256 bone-units.

Why don't I include stats for a gargantuan dragon? Because get out of here. If you're killing a CR 24 gargantuan dragon, you don't need to be scavenging it for parts, leave that for the mortals.

As with other dragon parts, these reduce the cost of enchantment of items by half.
A wand or trinket (amulet, etc.) or small weapon costs 1 bone unit.
A rod or medium weapon costs 2 bone units.
A staff or large weapon costs 4 bone units.
A single bone unit can produce 10 arrows or bolts.

The dragon bones are consumed if the dragon bones are broken down into essences.


It is possible to consume a dragon brain to gain great power. It is also possible to die horribly. Make a saving throw versus poison when eating the brain or regurgitate the brain, ruining it and losing all benefit. (Constitution DC 10 save for medium, DC 15 save for large, DC 20 save for huge, or DC 10 + Dragon's hit die Fortitude save).
On a success, violent changes occur inside your body. Make a system shock roll or die. (Constitution DC 3 for medium, DC 5 for large, or DC 10 for huge, or DC 2 + 1/2 dragons hit die Fortitude save). If you live roll 2d8 on the following table:
2 You believe you are the dead dragon. Act accordingly.
3 You gain 1 hit point per hit die permanently.
4 You gain 1 point of Strength and Constitution. This can exceed your normal maximum.
5 You gain the ability to smell gold (As Treasure Finding, once a day)
6 You gain magic/spell resistance of 10% (SR of 5 + Character level, or advantage on all saves versus spells)
7 You gain 1,000 experience points times your level.
8 Gain 1 point of intelligence and 1 point of wisdom. This can exceed your normal maximum.
9 Gain 1-4 points of intelligence. This can exceed your normal maximum.
10 Gain 2 points of wisdom. This can exceed your normal maximum.
11 You gain 1d10 x 500 experience points.
12 You gain the ability to cast charm person 3 times a day.
13 You gain 1 point of Dexterity and Constitution. This can exceed your normal maximum.
14 Your eyes glow red, and you gain a 10 foot aura of dragon fear activatable at will.
15 Your skin becomes tough and resilient to damage. Gain a +2 bonus to armor class (+2 natural armor).
16 Gain immunity to the dragons breath weapon type.

The dragon's brain is consumed if the dragon's flesh is broken down into essence.


The dragons eyes may be swallowed. This follows the same procedure for swallowing the brain above.  If successful, the eyes replace (painfully) the eaters natural eyes, granting them dragon sight. This has several effects.

The eyes bulge unnaturally, extruding from the face. The orbs are the color of the dragon with vertical pupils. You gain Blindsight out to 15 feet, and darkvision out to 30 feet per size of the dragon, i.e. Medium is 15/30, Large is 30/60, and Huge is 45/90. Also, roll percentiles:
01-10 see into ethereal plane
11-30 see invisibility
31-70 no additional effect
71-90 detect magic
91-00 true seeing

The dragon's eyes are consumed if the dragon's flesh is broken down into essence.


There is a chance that a dragon has magical stones in it's kidneys, gall bladder, or gut. 1d4+1 stones may be found. There is a 40% chance of a medium dragon, an 80% chance for a large dragon, and a 20% for a huge dragon to have 2d4+2 (huge dragons always have 1d4+1 stones). These are Ioun stones and their effects are generated randomly.

The dragon's stones are consumed if the dragon's blood is broken down into essence.


Eating the heart of a dragon has different effects depending on the size of the dragon.

Eating the heart of a medium dragon affects the eater as if they were  under the effects of a haste spell. There are two servings of the heart.

Eating the heart of a large dragon affects the eater as if they were under the effects of a haste spell and a heroism potion (of the appropriate class). There are 4 servings of the heart.

Eating the heart of a huge dragon affects the eater as if they were under the effects of a haste spell, a super-heroism potion, and and the spell aid cast by a 15th level cleric. There are 8 servings of this heart.

In any case a system shock roll (Constitution DC 3 for medium, DC 5 for large, or DC 10 for huge, or DC 2 + 1/2 dragons hit die Fortitude save) must be made after the effect ends to avoid dying.

The dragon's heart is consumed if the dragon's blood is broken down into essence.


A character may sever their own tongue, and attach a dead dragon's tongue in it's place. This process is dangerous due to the bleeding risk, but rarely fatal. The person attaching the tongue must succeed at a DC 7 Healing check (DC 20 Medicine check, DC 25 Heal check) on a success, roll on the following table:
1 Saving throw difficulty of your spells increased by 1.
2 Blindsight 10 foot radius.
3 ability to detect poison in a 5 foot radius.
4 verbal charisma based skills (persuasion, charisma, bluff) increased by 2 points.

On a failed healing/medicine check, the attachment was botched, and you speak with a lisp or slur. This causes you to fail casting spells with a verbal component 1 in 5 times (20% spell failure chance).

The dragon's tongue is consumed if the dragon's flesh is broken down into essence.

This conversion and these rules are heavily inspired by Hackmaster 4th edition, which just goes to show you what you've been missing.

Hack & Slash 
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  1. Agreed, this is an outstanding article for those playing Hoard of the Dragon Queen as well!

  2. Have you released those updated modifications for 5e on your NPC Social rules?

    1. Right here:

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I endorse what Michael Prescott said in endorsing this article. This is perfect and could not come at a better time! This also hearkens back to a time when a polymorphed dragon (Wayyy back in 1ed) was slain in a small hallway. The DM had the dragon revert to form.. and things got bit.. mushed. Thank you for this article!

  5. I fully endorse those endorsing the endorsement of this.

  6. There is approximately 1.2 gallons to 1.5 gallons of blood in a human between 150 and 180 pounds. An adult male African elephant has 450 liters of blood, which is almost 119 gallons. All according to what I found via Google searches.

    So a medium dragon has the approximate mass of 2 humans, a large dragon about 10 humans, and a huge dragon about 500 humans, or almost five African elephants.

    I love number two on the brain table!

  7. Thank you for posting this! It's very useful for our campaign.


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