Pics vs. Description

As part of my project to convert as much Greyhawk material as I can into 5th Edition D&D stats, I’ve come across a weird anomaly. Two creatures – the Greyhawk Dragon and the Dragonnel – have descriptions that diverge from their images in some sources.

Normally, that might be a minor glitch, not making too much of a difference. But in this case, the discrepancy is actually meaningful, because it will determine whether or not those creatures get claw attacks.

Behold, if you will, the Greyhawk Dragon as it is depicted in the Greyhawk Appendix of the Monstrous Compendium, for 2nd edition AD&D (1990):

You’ll note the absence of forelegs in the illustration. But nowhere in the description of the beast is there any sort of recognition of this fact, and their attack stats clearly indicate they have a bite and two claw attacks. That’s not consistent with the illustration.

Fast forward, and we see several other illustrations of Greyhawk Dragons that have their forelegs restored:

So I’m left to wonder why either Thomas Baxa or Mark Nelson (who are credited with the interior art, and no indication is given as to which of them did which individual pieces) thought the Greyhawk dragon should look like a wyvern rather than a dragon. Maybe it’s just a fluke.

But no, the artist does exactly the same thing with the dragonnel (a beastie that’s common to the Pomarj)!

In this case, the accompanying text even explicitly says the creature should have forelegs: “Their four legs, huge wings, and long tails give them a dragon-like appearance, and from a distance it is easy to mistake a dragonnel for one of its more fearsome cousins.”

That the dragonnel should have four legs rather than two is confirmed by the fact that the old Minifigs line had dragonnels, including this “magnus dragonnel” (or “great dragonnel”), which will also be included in my own 5E conversion (the regular dragonnels in the line also have four legs, but this was the clearest picture I could find):

The trouble with this is that a lot of people wouldn’t read through the text thoroughly and realize that the picture was in error. They’d just go with whatever the picture in the Monstrous Compendium showed them.

Anyway, I had to dig through this as part of my own 5th Edition Greyhawk conversions, so I thought I’d share.

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.