The Zhentarim have according to the 5th Edition Dungeon Master's Guide (p. 22, chapter Factions and Organisations > Renown) the following ranks:

  • “Fang (rank 1)” — Like the tooth
  • “Wolf (rank 2)” — Like 'Canis lupus'
  • “Viper (rank 3)” — Like the poisonous snake
  • “Ardragon (rank 4)” — Something with a Dragon?
  • “Dread Lord (rank 5)” — Like a high ranking person, which spreads fear

What is an “Ardragon”? At first, I thought it meant “Archdragon”, but this would sound way more intimidating than “Dread Lord”. FR Lore from any edition is acceptable.

  • 8
    \$\begingroup\$ It's fine if this may be difficult to answer or if the answer may be quite obscure. It is fine for questions to remain unanswered until such time someone has an answer. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 25, 2018 at 15:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ After some searching I think I have a possible answer, but this is a mix of conjecture and extrapolation at best and a combination of guesswork and an absolute shot in the dark at worst: would this be an acceptable answer? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 25, 2018 at 16:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast sure! I don't think that the meaning changed with the editions. \$\endgroup\$
    – Thyzer
    Feb 25, 2018 at 16:44

2 Answers 2


Following Thomas Jacobs' excellently researched answer which traced the term to Ed Greenwood in a Dragon magazine article and in the Powers of Faerûn book , I took the matter to Ed Greenwood himself, who is active on twitter, and asked him for the origin of the term.

My tweet:

@TheEdVerse Hey there. A question has arisen in the RPG Stackexchange site about the origin of the "Ardragon" rank for Zhentarim agents. Investigation has traced the source to a book and an article you wrote a while back. Could you tell us more about that?

Ed Greenwood's 2-part reply here and here:

Sure! Happy to! "Ardragon" is a corruption (over centuries of usage) of "Irondragon," which began as a praising description of a hardy, veteran, experienced, calm-in-crisis warrior, in use around the Sea of Fallen Stars. Gradually, in the early Moonsea settlements, it became a rank/title, and was in use (as "ardragon") in Zhentil Keep before the rise of the Zhentarim, who adopted it as they took over command of the city's existing military (in existence to defend the city against raids from ogres, flind, orcs, hobgoblins, gnolls, and rival cities).

Now, I don't know if this etymology has always been in his notebooks when designing the Zhentarim and the other cultures around the Sea of Fallen Stars, or whether he whipped it up for our edification when I asked, but as far as I'm concerned, this is Word of God, and answers the question. Hurrah for Twitter and hurrah for Ed Greenwood, and his cheerful accessibility.


An Ardragon refers to one of two things:

  • A rank within the Zhentilar, the former standing army of Zhentil Keep, the primary base of operations of the Zhentarim. An Ardragon was a rank on the level of Colonel, rank 6 when using the rules for mass battles described in the 3.5e book Power of Faerûn (p. 29). Incidentally, none of the other ranks mentioned in the 5e DMG appear in this list.
  • The article Crimmor: City of Caravans in Dragon Magazine #334 makes a reference to the following, which the above is likely named after:

    Crimmor is a city of stone - dirty stone. Road-dirt coats the lowest story of its tall, narrow stone buildings [...], the cobbled streets are well-worn with wagon-ruts, and not a hand-span of land is "wasted" on gardens, parks, or greenery [...]. Most buildings rise four to six stories tall, above a single level of low-ceilinged cellar, broken up by massive stone supports. They have ornately-carved stone fronts (adorned with gargoyles and fanciful "ardragons"), tall and narrow windows [...] with vertically overlapping sliding panes of blown, bubble-studded Amn glass [...], and steeply-pitched tile roofs with corner downspouts.

    Going by this description ardragons are possibly a kind of grotesque, an architectural decoration based on a fantastical creature which in this case is likely a dragon. As such, an ardragon is not a creature but rather a stone decoration. And as far as I can find there is no creature equivalent to ardragons like with gargoyles.

Incidentally, both of these sources were written by Ed Greenwood himself, the books released only a few months between each other (August 2005 for Dragon #334, March 2006 for Power of Faerûn). I don't know how the word came to be used within the context of the Zhentarim of 5e.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice research. :) \$\endgroup\$ Feb 25, 2018 at 21:09
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Ed Greenwood is on Twitter at @TheEdVerse. If he's the source, you could ask him. \$\endgroup\$
    – lisardggY
    Feb 26, 2018 at 7:09
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @lisardggY An alternative would be to ask Mike Mearls (@mikemearls) or Jeremy Crawford (@JeremyECrawford), who wrote the 5th edition DMG and will know why they included the name for the rank. However, I'd consider Ed Greenwood the authority on what an Ardragon actually is. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 26, 2018 at 18:03

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .