Although frequently mistaken on first sighting for a young red dragon, the firedrake is neither as intelligent nor as powerful as its dragon cousin. It responds with flame to any stimulus.
This small dragonet—4' long, and a bit over 2' in height—has the features and proportions of a miniature red dragon, but its scaly hide is thinner and more translucent than that of even the youngest of true dragons. The hide of the dragonet twitches and quivers almost imperceptibly, and is somewhat mottled in color, with mauve and burgundy splotches over the red undercolor. The wings beat slowly, even when the dragonet is on the ground. In this manner the firedrake provides air flow to itself, and wards off pesky insects. A shimmer of heat rises off of the dragonet at all times.
If a firedrake is disturbed, there is a 50% chance it will attack. Its primary attack is its breath weapon (fire), which it can use up to five times daily. The fire forms a cone from the snout of the dragonet to a 10' diameter circle at the extreme end of its 60' range, and causes 2-16 points on all affected (save vs. breath weapon for half damage). The firedrake's claws are not used in combat, but its bite will cause 2-8 points of damage.
The dragonet's blood burns fiercely in air, as there is a high phosphorous content to the blood. In fact, the fire-breathing of these creatures is actually the voluntary expelling of a jet of its pyrophoric blood. Because of the flammability of the dragon's blood, blunt weapons such as staves or clubs are less dangerous than those which cause blood loss. Any creature making a successful slashing or piercing attack on a firedrake must save vs. breath weapon, or take 1-2 points of fire damage.
In aerial combat, the firedrake is particularly fond of attacking airborne creatures from below and behind. The heat from the firedrake and its breath attack naturally radiates upwards, sometimes disrupting the maneuvers of creatures that depend on relatively smooth air currents for flying or gliding. The firedrake will sometimes simply ram smaller opponents in their soft underbelly in the hope of stunning them and causing them to plummet to their deaths.
Firedrakes are familial creatures, with a mated male and female taking up residence in a lair, which is generally a small cavelet or rocky shelf under a ledge or outcropping. Usually six to eight eggs are laid and tended by the pair, being kept warm by the ample heat of the bodies of the parents. The eggs, laid in early summer, take about 60 days to hatch. The young firedrakes learn to breathe fire even before they learn to fly, and are even more nervous than the adults, spouting flames several times a day in the lair or nearby during this period. Flight first occurs about 60 days after hatching.
The parents are very protective of their lair because of the young. Although firedrakes normally only range 1–2 miles from their lair, they may patrol up to twice that distance during the times at which their young are most vulnerable to attack.
Firedrakes leave the family lair early in the spring following their hatching, flying sometimes scores of miles before encountering a firedrake of the opposite sex willing to mate for life and establish a new lair. The rare mating fights that do occur are spectacularly fiery, although one male usually concedes and retreats before the battle becomes lethal.
Firedrakes gather no treasure, although they take no special care to remove the bones or effects of any that they defeat.
Firedrakes have a short lifespan compared with their larger cousins, the dragons, usually living only 75 to 100 years.
Firedrake blood can be kept, in its liquid state, in a sealed and airtight container, or under water or some other inert liquid. It can then be used as a firebomb, equivalent to a torched flask of oil, or used to create flaming weapons. For instance, swords dipped in the blood immediately become flaming swords for 3-6 melee rounds, although the sudden, intense heat upon the blade creates a 2% cumulative chance per round of the sword breaking upon impact with each blow struck during the period in which flame engulfs it. After the flame ends, the sword is otherwise unaffected.
The blood of the firedrake actually burns within its veins, creating the shimmer of heat that always rises from these creatures. The burning of the blood also requires a high level of oxygen, hence the constant slow beating of the dragonet's wings, even at rest. If deprived of air, it will die of suffocation in about half the time of a similarly sized creature.