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The heat metal spell can target "a manufactured metal object", including "a suit of heavy or medium metal armor".

A suit of Dragon Scale Mail is clearly a manufactured object, but if it's made from metallic dragon scales, is it metal, and thus a valid target? Are bronze dragon scales actually made of bronze, or are they just colored like that?

I'm just assuming chromatic dragon scales are inarguably organic.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ related rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/105486 \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Oct 13 at 20:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you have some previous-edition lore that might shed light (I'm guessing from one of the Draconomicons), I won't object, provided it's marked as such. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Oct 13 at 20:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Well the question is about the mechanical relationship between a 5th edition spell and a 5th edition item. Lore might be useful in providing context or guiding a DM to a ruling, but the question is not about lore as such. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Oct 13 at 21:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ One spell that uses the dragon scale as a component is Aganazzars Scorcher. It uses a red-dragons scale to make a fire-attack. According to this link, the spell was used to make ring of fire. forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Aganazzar%27s_scorcher These are the material-component uses I have found for dragon scale in spells. \$\endgroup\$ – EngrStudent Oct 14 at 0:15
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Probably not.

There is no strong reason to believe that metallic dragon scales are actually made of metal rather than just colored that way. In the absence of a specific statement that dragon scales are in fact made out of the metals they resemble, the default position should be that they're no more metal than red or white dragon scales are.

Metallic coloration is relatively common in real-life fish, insects, and even some reptiles*; and the Monster Manual sections for the different metallic dragons often talk about how the dragon's scales start out dull as a wyrmling and only develop a metallic sheen after many decades or centuries of life. This slow change suggests it's mere coloration.

In terms of older editions, the Draconomicon from D&D 3.5 is explicit about what dragon scales are made of:

Unlike a crocodile, however, a dragon has hundreds of hard, durable scales covering its body. A dragon's scales are keratinous, like its spines. [...] The scales are much harder and less flexible than the spines, with a resistance to blows that exceeds that of steel. - (Draconomicon, p.7)

(Note that 'spines' here is referring to pointed projections or spikes, not the dragon's vertebra.)

Keratins are a class of tough, flexible proteins that make up hair, fingernails, claws, beaks, horns, hooves, and turtle shells -- pretty much any hard surface on an animal that isn't teeth or bones. No mention is made of metals being part of a dragon's scales, whether chromatic or metallic.

*The silvery color associated with fish scales and some insects is actually crystals of the amino acid guanine, a completely non-metallic substance!

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    \$\begingroup\$ There is an argument to be made that the immunity of the dragon is a property of the scale. Organics are poor for heat resistance and they also tend to be poor conductors. Ceramics are good for heat resistance, but poor for conductivity. Metals are good for electrical and thermal conductivity. Metals don't easily melt, compared to organics. If you can conduct around, there isn't internal damage (aka the Faraday cage effect). Ceramics don't do the Faraday thing. Dragons that are resistant to lightning might have metal-rich scales. \$\endgroup\$ – EngrStudent Oct 13 at 23:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @EngrStudent so... blue dragon scales may be metallic, but gold/copper/brass may not be? \$\endgroup\$ – Adeptus Oct 14 at 7:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer is correct. If we can quote the old draconomicon (simply because not much has changed about dragons from 3e to 5e), then we know that a dragon's scales, even if it's a "metallic" dragon, are keratinous just like its spine, and "with a resistance to blows that exceeds that of steel". If an old source is not optimal for 5e, then consider that dragons are not all that weird and are, despite being dragons, living beings that do not grow actual metal on their body. \$\endgroup\$ – Kogarashi Kaito Oct 14 at 8:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Dragons are mythical, magical beasties. So there is also "... because magic". It could be argued that they lay on and swim-in their horde, so there should be a decent level of gold impregnating the scales from all the rubbing, pressure, and time. It makes one wonder if they are attracted to gold like cats are to catnip, like a drug. \$\endgroup\$ – EngrStudent Oct 14 at 12:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @EngrStudent Real world physics are true, but remember that in fantasy "because magic" is a more than reasonable explanation for anything. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Oct 14 at 12:58
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The supplement "Draconomicon 2 Metallic Dragons" seems to indicate no.

On page 10, it sates that "When a scale is lost ... the metallic content solidifies and ... leaves a scale with fine veins of the pure metal" and that a large scale can be smelted to yield traces of the pure metal.

This means that while there's metal in the scales, it actually isn't very much. So that's evidence to suggest that much like studded leather armor, it shouldn't be considered as metallic.

Note that this references a 4e supplement published in 2009, but it might be the most recent publication on the subject.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice ref, since 5e hasn't got a supplement like that. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 15 at 13:51

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