If you have come to the museum recently, you may have noticed a new friend—or foe—outside. She is breathing fire and mist, with five different colored heads roaring as you press the 20-sided dice (d20) before her, and her name is Tiamat! An infamous monster from the tabletop role-play game Dungeons & Dragons, the Dragon Queen is now at The Strong National Museum of Play in the Hasbro Game Park. I thought it would be nice to formally introduce her to everyone, as Tiamat has been in Dungeons & Dragons since its first supplement, so we should learn a little about who she is.
Tiamat is from the Forgotten Realms setting of Dungeons & Dragons. The first mention of her in the tabletop role-play game was in 1975 in the first supplement to Dungeons & Dragons: Greyhawk. This supplement, however, referred to her as simply “The Dragon Queen” or “the Chromatic Dragon.” There she is described, not too differently from what you see in the game park: “a huge creature with five heads, one of each color of the five Chaotic Dragons. Her body is striped in these same colors, and her tail is that of a Wyvern. She can employ all heads at once, either to breath or cast spells… her major aim is to spread evil.” Quite the foe for adventurers to face! But one major difference I noticed in reading this description was the location of her home; in Greyhawk, it only says her “abode is a stupendous cavern far beneath the earth.” If you jump forward to the next book that featured Tiamat, the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual from 1977, there is a shift in her descriptions. For starters now she is the “Chromatic Dragon (Tiamat)” in the manual, giving her a name. But it mentions she “rules the first plane of the Nine Hells where she spawns all of evil dragonkind… she is seldom (10%) outside her lair, but occasionally she comes to earth to place a new dragon or to seek more treasure. She can travel astrally or ethereally.” This description then sets into place Tiamat living not within the earth, but within the Nine Hells instead, where she stays all the way to 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, the version most players are familiar with today. In the manual we also find out more about her powers: each head has distinct types of attacks and deals different damages, her breath weapon—a feature dragon monsters have—corresponds to the color head that is in use, hence our friend in Hasbro Game Park who doesn’t just breathe fire.
While Tiamat does appear in more publications, next I looked to the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition rules supplement: Monster Mythology from 1992. Now she is described as a deity, not just an evil dragon, which then gives rise to her cult later in the lore. In the Manual of the Planes her stat block is quite a sight compared to her original stat block from Greyhawk. Now her abilities fill an entire page as we get more details on her breath weapons:
- The white head deals a cone of cold damage
- The black head deals a line of acid damage
- The green head breathes corrosive gas
- The blue produces lightning
- The red breathes fire
She also has features that allow her to see invisibility, mimic sounds and voices of others, and she has the spells of a 20th level sorcerer and 20th level cleric—a big bad evil guy (BBEG) that will have the members of your party on their toes.
Skipping ahead to the now in use 5th edition, Tiamat is featured as the main villain in one of the first adventures for the edition: the two-part Tyranny of Dragons. In this adventure players work to stop the “Cult of the Dragon and the Red Wizards of Thay as they try to free Tiamat from her prison in the Nine Hells”. The Tyranny of Dragons adventure ends with an epic battle. Should adventurers struggle to stop the ritual to free Tiamat, the adventure text tells the Dungeon Master (DM) to start describing Tiamat’s heads starting to appear and to emphasize “this is no mere monster they face… Tiamat is a god.” Considering she is seen by many to be the most fearsome dragon in Dungeons & Dragonshistory, with her challenge rating (CR) standing at 30, it is no wonder the book warns that while a fight with Tiamat at her full strength would be pretty epic, for the finale of the adventure “the [player] characters might not survive as anything more than mere memories.” Looking at her stat block now, we see the five heads have kept the same abilities, but now Tiamat has a list of resistances and legendary actions that are sure to make players need to get creative to stop her. How your adventuring party goes about solving the puzzle of stopping the Dragon Queen and her cult is completely up to them and the roll of their dice.
So, when you visit The Strong National Museum of Play and see the Hasbro Game Park, be sure to try your own luck with the d20 that stands before the famous Chromatic Dragon. Give her some love as she has come far in the history of Dungeons & Dragons, from just a small mention in a supplement, to having her own adventure in 5th Edition, to now standing tall and proud in Rochester, New York!