Dragons are dangerous.
What a start to a post, eh? Probably not much of a surprise. What might be a surprise is that they used to be much more versatile than they are today. For one, dragons used to have 12 age categories, whereas they now have 3 or 4 depending on your system. But it is still possible to use them, with a little bit of math.
Calculating the stats for each dragon at each of the 12 age categories for 2 different systems would be a lot of work for a single blog post, so we're not going to do that. What we'll do instead is to provide you with the calculated Challenge Ratings / Levels for 5e and Pathfinder 2, as well as a comparison chart to show which age categories exist currently, and which of the 12 are missing from current depictions within those systems.
You'll find all of these at the bottom of this blog post.
However, there is one more important thing that we'd want to talk about today and that is the introduction of spellcasting variants, a property in both 5e and Pathfinder 2. My case here is that they should be the STANDARD and NOT the variants.
Whenever we look at fiction, dragons are usually (though not always) depicted as large and smart, and capable of manipulating the world and events around them, even without resorting to their powerful physical attributes. And this is where the spellcasting comes in, as that allows these wyrms to do more, and become more than just another "large beast" that the heroes must conquer. The spells allow the dragons to be more insidious, or even just more versatile in direct combat and make them ascend to the terribly dangerous heights that they're supposed to. In effect, I believe that a dragon should sit at the pinnacle of each Challenge Rating or Level "band".
So for example, using the chart below, a Young White Dragon is CR 6 in 5e, but so is a Wyvern. And within those CRs, I think that the White Dragon should outclass the Wyvern. Not by much, but the Dragon should be the Apex Predator within that Challenge Rating "band", especially as that also includes things like the Medusa. Of course, more than one dragon might have that Challenge Rating, and you might argue that another dragon should be at the head of the Challenge Rating, and you'd be right to do so. But then it becomes a matter of WHICH dragon, not whether it is a dragon or not.
(It should be noted that this particular example might not be entirely fair, as the Young White Dragon would likely wipe the floor with the Wyvern due to the difference in Armor Class and Saving Throws, but it illustrates the point).
The magic helps in that regard, making them stand out. If we were to give the white dragon spells, it would have more options than otherwise. It IS worth noting though that while 5e makes it an option, it requires more work from the GM to assign the spells, as all you get is a sidebox telling you about the possibility and what the calculations for them are, whereas Pathfinder 2 actually gives you a statblock for it at least - in that regard PF2 makes it easier for you to implement, but still doesn't assume that it's the norm.
And before anyone asks, yes, after having done all of this, we ARE considering putting out a book of all the dragons with all the CRs covered, and with sample ones for each type of dragon, akin to last week's blog post. :)
And here are the promised tables. Please note that for PF2, we've assumed that the youngest type of dragon is actually a Category 2, rather than a category 1, due to how it is described and the size of the dragons at that age, in comparison with previous editions.