Ironspine (3.5e Creature Overview)
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 About Ironspines
Ironspine dragons are a magnificent and deadly relative of the true dragon. Their natural behavior is most akin to the big cats, specifically tigers. The hunting styles of these creatures are so similar that ironspines and tigers do not share territories.
Unlike their more magnificent relatives, the ironspines do not have wings. These reptiles are predominantly land predators. They survive in almost any environment, from tropical jungles to arctic tundra. They swim well in water. The younger ironspines are proficient climbers. Ironspines lose their climbing tendencies as they grow, their increased mass making climbing impractical.
Ironspines grow over their entire lifespan. They grow quickest during their first three years, when they grow from hatchling to leopard sized juveniles. For the remainder of their life, they grow slower but steadily into adulthood and beyond. Usually by thirty years of age, an ironspine becomes Large, and by sixty years, becomes Huge.
The intelligence of these creatures is both limited and dynamic. As they age, their brains grow in size. The older that they are, the smarter they become. Hunting an adult or older ironspine is dangerous business, as their natural cunning and rudimentary intelligence is enough to catch even the wary by surprise. Ironspines are known to study their quarry and hunt using tactics to manipulate their quarry.
Ironspines metabolize metals. Their scent ability can detect metals. In the wild, they usually find an iron deposit where they break apart the stones in their massive molars. They can even smell deposits below the ground, using their basic burrowing ability to dig down for a meal. The nature of the ore influences the dragonspine's colors. Iron is their predominant favorite, giving their scale a reddish color. Some dragonspines are known to eat semi-precious stone (such as jade or azurite), while others are known to snack on coal.
Ironspines use their burrowing ability to dig dens for themselves.
Ironspines to do not have breath weapons.
Some giants use ironspines as pets and watchdogs. Fire and frost giants use ironspines as watchdogs and bloodhounds to sniff out ore deposits. Some clip the spines from their pets and use them as mounts.
 Life Cycle
Ironspine eggs are laid in clutches of 40-60. The female protects her eggs and feeds her hatchlings from her gizzard. In the first month, predation and the competition from their siblings for food drops the numbers down to 20-40. During the second through third month, this number drops even more, to 2-12 survivors, as the hungry hatchlings turn on each other. By six months of age, the number of hatchlings is down to 2-4, and these the mother will teach how to hunt. At ten months, the mother will drive the yearlings away from her territory and begin a new clutch.
During their first year, most yearlings stay together with their hatching group. They frequently hunt in teams. This second and third year of their life is critical, for they must find and defend a hunting territory. At three years old, they reach the size of panthers, and a lone survivor or a pair of survivors have killed and eaten their weaker siblings. These siblings will tolerate each other for their entire lifetime, often overlapping territory, and teaming up to defend those territories. Siblings grow increasingly rare as ironspines age.
Ironspines mature slowly. They do not reproduce until they reach fifteen years of age. Males develop their more complicated and elaborate neck and head spines. Certain subspecies develop horns or rams used in mating combats.
Mother ironspines are mediocre mothers. They give some care to their young, but never much. However, they have been known to track poachers that have taken their young for twenty miles. Collecting ironspine eggs and chicks can be an extremely dangerous undertaking, but given a market price of 100 gp per egg and 250 per hatchling, humanoids are sufficiently motivated to risk their lives collecting these eggs.
As an ironspine ages, it slowly develops deeper colors, depending on its diet. No matter the diet, an ironspine develops an increasingly brilliant shade of red along its spikes. These are the legendary and dangerous red crested ironspines. That shade of red warns larger and more dangerous predators (usually dragons) that these creatures are dangerous.
No one knows the true lifespan of an ironspine. Few grow into the Huge category as true dragons make a point of killing their near relatives before they become a menace. The enmity between these species is legendary. Denied an easy victory through flight, the true dragons land and engage their cousins by tooth and claw.
Ironspine Features (Ex): All ironspines have the following features:
Defensive Spines: The spines of an ironspine protect it from flying creatures, making it much harder to attack or seize. Opponents attempting to make a melee touch attack against these creatures must use the creatures non-touch armor class. These spines also prevent any flying creature from using a touch attack against it, even while flat-footed.
Protection from Energy (Ex): The ironspine's tough scales give it energy protection. Juveniles develop Protection from Energy (all) 10, Adults 20, Elders 30, and the Red Crests 40.
Evasion (Ex): All ironspines have evasion as described in the rogue class.
Burrowing (Ex): Ironspines are basic burrowers. Their burrowing may not be fast, but it is fast enough for them to dig out the ore that they crave. All ironspines burrow 5' per round. Ironspines dig their own dens.
Dragon Traits (Ex): Ironspines are dragons and have the following traits:
- Darkvision out to 60 feet and low-light vision.
- Immunity to magic sleep effects and paralysis effects.
- Proficient with its natural weapons only.
- Dragons eat, sleep, and breathe.
Not So Smart (Ex): Ironspines are not as smart as other dragons. They gain only two skill points per hit die.
Hatchling ironspines may be chosen as a familiar. This causes the creature to stop growing. It otherwise provides the same benefits as a lizard familiar.
From about 0-12 months old, ironspines are hatchlings. At 0-3 months old, they are essentially helpless. From 3-12 months old, they grow to the size of a house cat, weighting 8-15 pounds. From there, they are yearlings.
Yearling ironspines are the size of foxes or coyotes, and range from twenty to eighty pounds in weight. They rapidly grow until they reach juvenile status. They are large enough to hunt a wide range of creatures, but not so large as to escape predation. Although some wander off to hunt on their own, siblings often stay together to defend a territory and to defend against larger predators. Yearling ironspines will also move in to take the kill from other predators, or claim carrion from the vultures.
Juvenile ironspines are about 4 feet long and weigh about 120 pounds. They usually hunt at night.
Improved Grab (Ex): To use this ability, an juvenile ironspine must hit with its bite attack. It can then attempt to start a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity. If it wins the grapple check, it establishes a hold and can rake.
Rake (Ex): Attack bonus +6 melee, damage 1d3+1.
Skills: Juvenile ironspines have a +8 racial bonus on Jump checks and a +4 racial bonus on Hide and Move Silently checks. Juvenile ironspines have a +8 racial bonus on Balance and Climb checks. A juvenile ironspine can always choose to take 10 on a Climb check, even if rushed or threatened. *In areas of tall grass or heavy undergrowth, the Hide bonus improves to +8.
Adult ironspines stand more than 3 feet tall at the shoulder and are about 9 feet long. They weigh from 400 to 600 pounds. These are often called black crested ironspines.
Improved Grab (Ex): To use this ability, an adult ironspine must hit with a claw or bite attack. It can then attempt to start a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity. If it wins the grapple check, it establishes a hold and can rake.
Rake (Ex): Attack bonus +9 melee, damage 1d8+3.
Elder ironspines grow to be over 12 feet long and can weigh up to 6,000 pounds.
Elder ironspines attack by running at prey, leaping, and clawing and biting as it rakes with its rear claws.
Improved Grab (Ex): To use this ability, an elder ironspine must hit with its bite attack. It can then attempt to start a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity. If it wins the grapple check, it establishes a hold and can rake.
Rake (Ex): Attack bonus +18 melee, damage 2d4+4.
 See Also:
- SRD:Dragon Type
- Ironspine, Hatchling
- Ironspine, Yearling
- Ironspine, Juvenile
- Ironspine, Adult
- Ironspine, Elder
- Ironspine, Venerable