I was playing in a friend's in a 5e session a few weeks ago, and we encountered a young green dragon, I was absolutely convinced it would do fire damage, but I was very much mistaken to find it was poison.

Has there ever been a time when green dragons do fire damage or have I just not been getting enough sleep recently?


Green dragons have never breathed fire in D&D

Various fantasy artwork, both old and recent, has depicted a green dragon who breathes fire. This is generally because in some myths, including those which inspired D&D's conception of the creature, dragons are imagined as reptilian, who are often green; and in some myths and stories, including The Hobbit, dragons breathe fire. More recently, Tohru, the green dragon in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid (and, it is implied, who is named after Tolkien), breathes fire.

However, in D&D, the green dragon has always breathed poison gas (or corrosive acid gas, in later editions), but never fire. This is been true since the original D&D (1974).

D&D creator Gary Gygax describes the story how he invented D&D's dragons in The Slayer's Guide to Dragons. First, there was what we now call the red dragon, which breathes fire as per The Hobbit. (Gygax does not specifically credit The Hobbit for this in D&D, though it is noted as such in D&D's precursor Chainmail, which is now known to have taken many of its fantasy elements from a 1970 fan-made Middle Earth wargame by Leonard Patt, and the fire-breathing dragon in that is inspired by the dragon in The Hobbit.)

Next, looking to the original Norse myth that inspired The Hobbit (perhaps to fend off claims of plagiarasing Tolkien), Gygax noticed the dragon Fafnir in the Saga of the Volsungs, who breathes or exudes poison, rather than fire. In the original Dungeons & Dragons, this inspired the green dragon, who breathes a 5" by 4" cloud of chlorine gas.

Gygax actually says he invented the new chromatic dragon types to create more variety for his players, who could otherwise reliably outfit themselves with fire-proofing before any dragon fight. In other words, not only were you surprised that a green dragon did not breathe fire, but so was the first gaming group to ever fight a green dragon in D&D.

It's entirely plausible that somewhere in the myriad of official and third-party D&D books there's a spell or variant that lets a dragon use another dragon's breath weapon. A potion of dragonbreath which lets a player character breathe fire could be used by a green dragon, for example.

I faintly recall an old Nodwick comic where a village asks the heroes to fight a green dragon, so they show up equipped with a Green Orb of Dragonkind. One unfortunate encounter later, they learn that it was actually a red dragon, and a rare genetic trait causes everyone in that village to be red-green colour-blind.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I remember being a little shocked when, in 1978, I first encountered a dragon that didn't breathe fire -- a black dragon in a swamp, which spit acid. \$\endgroup\$ – Zeiss Ikon Jul 3 '18 at 11:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ In 3.5 green dragons breathed corrosive gas. That means acid, not poison. \$\endgroup\$ – MrHiTech Jul 3 '18 at 21:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MrHiTech -- In technical terms, yes. Non-technically, caustic clouds are also corrosive. -- Poison is also an equivocal term (are snake bites poisonous or venomous?), so you might go a little easier on this excellent answer. -- At any rate, in earlier editions of the game the breath weapon was described as chlorine gas; which is an oxidizer. And what does an oxidizer do? Cause fires of course. However, chlorine gas produces acid when it reacts with mucus membranes... and round we go. Ha! :) \$\endgroup\$ – user23715 Jul 4 '18 at 4:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ To add citations, the earliest sources were explicit about the poison-status. Chainmail p. 35: "Green Dragons waft poisonous vapors -- chlorine -- at their opponents". AD&D Monster Manual p. 33: "A green dragon can attack... by breathing a cloud of poisonous chlorine gas." \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel R. Collins Jul 4 '18 at 15:47

Just in D&D, or in general?

Official D&D breath weapons: No

I remember first edition green dragons spitting chlorine gas (i.e. poison). That's the norm in D&D: Each dragon color gets an element associated with it, and green's element happens to be poison. Their breath weapon is poison.

You asked whether green dragons have ever dealt fire damage, though, and you didn't restrict it to D&D.

Official D&D: Yes

D&D dragons can use magic. 5e lists this as an optional variant; see "Variant: Dragons as Innate Spellcasters", Monster Manual p. 88. Bottom line: Green Dragons are perfectly capable of dealing fire damage by casting Fireball, Scorching Ray, etc.

Homebrew D&D breath weapons: Maybe

A DM can make up whatever monster he or she likes. Maybe your DM is fed up with players who have read the Monster Manual and wants to keep you on your toes, or maybe they just like the flavor of firebreathing green dragons. You might have met a homebrew firebreathing green dragon.

Non-D&D: Yes

Outside of D&D, but still within the realm of fiction, firebreathing green dragons are absolutely a thing. For example, "Pete's Dragon" (1977) was released the same year as the first edition Monster Manual and features a green-scaled, pink-haired, firebreathing dragon.

Nonfiction: No

In the realm of nonfiction, the answer is no. There's no evidence showing that green dragons are real, let alone that one of them has ever caused fire damage.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Well some monitor lizards look a little green. \$\endgroup\$ – Joshua Jul 3 '18 at 21:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Green dragons exist, just not living ones. The dragons in tapestries and paintings are real (being made of glass or paint), but they are 2d. \$\endgroup\$ – MrHiTech Jul 3 '18 at 21:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Even if Monitor Lizards could be considered "Green Dragons", I don't recall any instance of one dealing fire damage. \$\endgroup\$ – Taxi4Dave Jul 3 '18 at 23:23

If I understand your question correctly, you are asking whether, as a matter of D&D canon, green dragons have ever dealt fire rather than poison damage with their breath weapons.

No, not with their breath weapons...

Strictly speaking, before 3e, the rules did not really include typed energy damage, i.e., "poison damage" versus "fire damage," "lightning damage," etc. There was simply damage, and the in-narrative source of the damage might sometimes permit game-mechanical differences in how the damage interacted with the world. For example, the 2e Monstrous Manual merely described a green dragon's breath weapon as "a cloud of poisonous chlorine gas." Its damage was listed separately in a table. (For comparison, the 2e Player's Handbook described the fireball spell as dealing "damage," not "fire damage.")

With 3e's introduction of typed damage, green dragons dealt "poison damage" with their breath weapons. That has remained true through 5e.

...But they have done so in other ways.

Even in older editions, dragons were spellcasters. In the 2e Monstrous Manual, the DM was instructed to "randomly determine which spells any particular dragon knows" -- which could and not infrequently did mean a green dragon ended up knowing fire-based spells like fireball.

Finally, in the 5e Adventurer's League epic module Reclamation of Phlan, it turns out that the green dragon Vorgansharax

has been possessed by Tyranthraxus, an evil spirit and infamous Forgotten Realms villain, also known as "the Flamed One." When Tyranthraxus manifests in combat with the PCs, Vorgansharax can use a legendary action to wreath himself in flames that deal fire damage to anyone within a 15 feet of him.

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    \$\begingroup\$ the rules did not really include typed energy damage That is incorrect. Reference OD&D, Monsters and Treasure, TSR 1974, breath weapons for dragons on page 11 (in order) is cold, acid, Chlorine Gas, Lightning, Fire, and Fire or Gas for White, Black, Green, Blue, Red and Golden dragons respectively. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 3 '18 at 13:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ I disagree; we are not saying different things. I noted that dragons in older editions dealt breath-weapon damage that was described for narrative purposes as taking a certain form -- chlorine gas for green dragons, etc. My point was that typed damage as a game mechanic, with codified rules, etc., was not really implemented until 3e. \$\endgroup\$ – screamline Jul 3 '18 at 17:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ In AD&D 1e, 3rd level druid spell "protection from fire" confers complete invulnerability to normal fires and to exposure to magical fires (lists many, to include "fiery dragon breath, fire ball" and more until an accumulation of 12 hit points of potential damage per level of experience of the druid has been absorbed by the protection from fire spell, at which time thes pell is negated ... cast upon another creature, it gives invulnerability to normal fire, gives a bonus of +4 on saving throw die rolls made versus fire attacks, and reduces damage sustained from magical fires by 50% \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 3 '18 at 17:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ The above spell would do nothing against cold or lightning breath, for example. That means that you aren't quite right about your observation about "previous to 3e" point so my suggestion is to get rid of that and rewrite that opener to that paragraph. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 3 '18 at 17:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ I appreciate your position, but I disagree. The question referenced the asker's expectation that a green dragon "would do fire damage," without specifying whether he meant the game mechanic "fire damage" or simply any damage that happens to be described narratively as fire. My answer addressed the former. And I understand how protection from fire worked in 2e (which was not substantially different from 1e); I was looking at it when I wrote my answer. In 2e, the only thing that even came close to a game mechanic concerning fire was a distinction between "normal fire" and "magical fire." \$\endgroup\$ – screamline Jul 3 '18 at 17:59

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