The Dragonbound Core Class
Land became sky.
The world twisted upside down as Pellar kicked his dragon into a tight loop. The young knight screamed with mingled fear, excitement and pain as he forced himself not to black out. And the relentless line of flame, the hate-fed fire that would have killed both him and his dragon- his only friend, his other self- brushed by close enough to singe his scraggly beard. Pellar felt his dragon's mingled triumph/fear/dominance urge come through the empathic link, clear and bright as the blue sky the pair flew through.
Pellar barely touched his reigns and his mount wheeled and recovered, reversing her flight path so quickly that even the young knight in the saddle could barely track the motion. The human smiled with pride, and feeling her master's joy, the dragon bellowed a roar like a granary explosion. And than, without even needing to be told, Pellar's ice-white dragon opened her great maw wide, and the blizzard inside her body leapt outward. Halfway across the sky, Pellar's rival knight tried her best to pull her dragon out of its dive, to come up under the river of ice crossing space towards the pair. Too late! The ice river hit hard, knocking the red dragon and its female rider from the sky, killing them even as it wrapped them in gleaming planes of frozen crystal....
Pellar's dragon roared again, and this time, Pellar added his own trembling voice to the chorus.....
Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series remains one of fantasy's most enduring franchises, and the recent PS3 video game Lair allows the hero to take control of a mighty dragon steed. Young adult works like Eragon and How to Train Your Dragon follow young heroes as they bond with incredible beasts. Despite the popularity and sheer appeal of dragon-riding heroes, traditional fantasy gaming has never really supported the trope.
It's easy to see why: giving a player character a bonded dragon at first level is equivalent to giving that hero a fully armed tank, while everybody else in the party makes do with swords and bows. A veteran hero, riding an adult dragon... the metaphor of a tank gives way to an even more alarming one: the metaphor a fully armed stealth bomber with a nuclear payload. Dragons are overwhelmingly powerful, and having one in your corner, loyal only to you... that's a class feature that certainly outdoes Weapon Specialization and Barbarian Rage.
This sourcebook presents a new 20 level core class: the Dragonbound, a unique breed of knight who is defined by his empathic bond with a great dragon steed. The Dragonbound is an intentionally unbalanced campaign option; in terms of sheer damage dealing potential (as well as mobility and endurance), the Dragonbound certainly outclasses the Fighter and Barbarian. Character classes that depend on a mystical mount or animal companion, such as Paladin and the Ranger are similarly outclassed. Since the Dragonbound's core concept resolves around a partnership with a dragon, and mounts and animal companions are tangentially related to the concept of what a Paladin or Ranger is, the Dragonbound's companion beast is naturally more impressive.
From the moment the ritual of binding is complete, the dragon hatchling and the young knight who will one day ride it into battle are one being. Spiritually and emotionally, the two creatures are linked. When one is wounded, the other bleeds. When one is tired or afraid, the other weakens, but when one side of the partnership is happy and content, they both thrive. In every culture that produces Dragonbound warriors, the relationship between dragon and rider is a scared bond. Even the most evil Dragonbound refuse to mistreat their dragon steed, because doing so is more akin to self mutilation than rage. The love between Dragonbound riders and their mounts runs deep, all the more so because the two die together. Once bound, a dragon cannot survive long without its rider, and vice versa.
This twenty-level core class includes everything needed to include Dragonbound in your campaign; from customizing your dragon to the various factions of Dragonbound, iconic dragon-breeds, new Dragonbound gods, feats, and magic items.