My mostly 6th level party just murdered a juvenile green dragon in 3 rounds. They have been complaining that dragons are anticlimactic in Pathfinder and I wish I could have proved them wrong but I didn't.
Play them smart. A dragon wouldn't fight adventurers indoors. If they invade its home to steal its horde, let the dragon flee outside and wait for the advenuters there. When they come out, the dragon sure as buttons won't land, it will fight from the air, circlestrafing and bombarding the party with spells and its breath weapon, picking of the squishy wizard who will probably have most of the means to defeat it first.
Dragons are extremely intelligent creatures, they should be played that way.
http://spoonyexperiment.com/2012/09/11/counter-monkey-circle-strafe/ <-go there for a lengthy rant on the subject.
Environmental hazards...traps....use of magic items...
This green dragon tried to ambush them in the woods because the party druid was herding a colony of spiders out of its woods and it relies on them for food. They noticed the dragon easily with perception so no surprise round. They all beat it on initiative. It got hit with Frost Fall and staggered before it ever got a turn in initiative and when it swooped close enough to breath weapon the druid had a spider hit it with a web that entangled it and brought it out of the sky. When it hit the ground the martials had readied or delayed actions go off to attack it. Everyone saved against it's entangle spell DC, everyone saved against its frightful presence, everyone saved against it's breath weapon. It never even got a full-attack in. Even the cavaliers damn horse was biting it. A horse biting a dragon. WTF?
I feel like I must have done something wrong.
I would Flyby attack them with dragon breath every round when possible and charge ocassionally on solo opponent.
Adding terrain specific to a dragon seems also the way to go. You could add tree's, few rocks, some difficult terrain. Dragon might even have spell-like traps near his cave and such.
I would imagine that green dragon (green= nature?) would have big camouflage or something.
Well, everyone can be a tactical master after the battle is done.
Best advice would be I guess from me, to use some sort of terrain which fully utilizes all of dragons abilities.
I am just looking at his stats now, and yeah, it's rather nonimpressive.
Entangle + breath weapon is what I would use. He has no cooldown on breath weapon as I see, so he could spam it all the way from air, but then again, it depends what kind of group of PCs is it.
Welll, One possibility, is to have the dragon tail the party from the air or tree tops.....if necessary have it fly high....wait till the party camps.....and then snatch the wizard or better yet the cleric/druid when they are alone on watch and gas and eat them.....then return for the marital types and pick them off one by one.
yeah the few times I play a dragon, I make sure the dragon doesn't play fair. If it can shape change so much the better....Perhaps you could give the dragon a day job as a waitress in the local tavern, so it can learn all about the adventureres before they come in to raid its lair....and possibly poison them before hand, maybe give it a two part poison...one part they ingest, and a second part they inhale in the lair....
but it can be tough to get around the "action economy" when an enemy gets to do six things in a round to your one thing.
@Malag: First thing I noticed was that he needs better initiative. So I had him try to ambush them hoping for a surprise round, but they all beat his stealth with perception. Then sure enough he went last.
I did entangle like you said but everyone saved so the only good it did was stop them from having a charge line once they got him down to the ground. The breath weapon was pretty effective, I will say that, but since he got staggered right away by the druids Frost Fall he couldn't fly and breathe.
I should have pre-buffed with Shield but like you said, hindsight...
This! So much this. In my earlier days of GMing I would play dragons bassackwards, and they'd get destroyed. A dragon isn't going to meet adventuring parties where they live. He (or she) is going to use every tactical advantage at his disposal, and more than likely flee if things turn sour. It only took me a couple failed dragon encounters to realize a dragon is never going to play fair, and they're going to let their magic and breath weapons deal damage from afar before they ever try and go toe to toe with any group.
Personally I always apply the Advanced & Giant templates to dragons and never throw a dragon at a party unless it's CR is at least 2-4 higher than the APL.
Also, don't be afraid to fudge the dice a little in the dragon's favor here and there. Players want the fight to be difficult, killing a dragon two turns in to the fight is unsatisfactory for everyone.
Everyone saved against it's entangle spell DC, everyone saved against its frightful presence, everyone saved against it's breath weapon.
That sounds mighty suspicious to me.......
Roughly 20 or so saves, all made. How often do the members of your group fail their saves?
The problem might not have been the encounter.
I start by doubling the dragons health.
So you think the advanced template is worth it for the CR bump? This is one of the things I was wondering.
Well, I just had an APL 7 party slay a young adult green. They also had luck and Plot Twist cards on their side. Still....
0. A dragon should always be an 'Epic' encounter.
From a story point of view of course, you want the party to be scared s***less, but win (or flee). A difficult thing to judge. You don't want to look like you engineered a TPK....
Try to use combat maneuvers. Fly + bulls rush against the wizard/sorcerer/rogue/etc would splite the party (with the really hihg speed of the dragon).
Particulary big dragons could overrun everal partymembers at once.
Also I do not like dragons as casters. There was a template in one of those 3.5 monster manual that replace the spellcasting abilities for always "on" supernatural abilities.
I am planing a encounter against a white dragon i am thinking about removein the spells and add something like
Aura of "frezzing": eveyone that gets close to the dragons have to make a save or become staggered, every 5 point of cold resistance reduces -2 to the DC. Inmunity to cold make the char inmune to the aura.
What I've found with dragons is that a party who *knows* about the dragon (perhaps they're hunting it) and goes in *ready* is pretty much going to make short work of the dragon.
That said, dragons are VERY perceptive, so generally it's unlikely that a party will stumble upon a dragon without it knowing they're there - in other words, the dragon typically should get the jump on an unprepared party.
In the case of a juvenile green dragon which has just learned about adventurers poaching its spider herd, there are a few approaches it might take to gain advantage:
Attack the party at night - the dragon has 120' darkvision, meaning it can see the party when they can't see it. If it waits until they camp, it can get the whole group in its acid cone as a surprise round (and remember, if it observes the camp from 120', the watch has a hefty -12 penalty to hear the dragon out in the woods.
The dragon also likely knows the terrain, so it may know that at some point the party will be crossing a wide river (or lake, or whatever) and it could then attack from underwater: a lower-level party attacked by a green dragon on the water has some big problems (like the dragon getting improved cover by attacking from the water - mage armor, shield and improved cover will give the dragon a 39 AC!)
If it could combine the two - attack the party while it's crossing water AT night... hmmm.
Scenario: a juvenile green dragon, having learned of a group of adventurers interfering with its spider herd, does some nighttime recon. The party doesn't know that they're camping about 100 yards from a wide, sluggish river, but the dragon does. It commands some locals (they fear the dragon) to lure the party to the river, where there is a small barge (perhaps a local dryad is asked to do this, who does so out of fear of the dragon; any charming fey being would do, ideally one who can bluff): adventurers, never saying no to adventure, decamp and set off on a nighttime river crossing. The green dragon, slipping into the water, arises (maintaining improved cover) and opens combat with a cone of acid enveloping the barge (including its hapless accomplice), exposing to party also to its 120' aura of frightful presence (DC 17 will save). Roll initiative...
Dragon uses cover from the water, ability to attack using flybys out of the darkness, and so on, making the party use mostly readied actions to try to combat it, and using its breath weapon from the improved cover of the water whenever it recharges. Prior to attacking, it has cast mage armor and shield, so it's running a AC of 31, 35 if it full attacks with cover from the water (adjacent to the boat) and 39 when it attacks with improved cover from the water (discharging its breath weapon).
It's a dangerous encounter, with the added bonus that at least one character will likely spend actions protecting the dryad (or whatever).
David Haller wrote:
That's it. That's what I did wrong. I didn't factor the penalty for distance into their perception checks. There should have been a surprise round. I knew I did something wrong.
I still have to read through the rest of your post but that jumped right out at me.
First of all, I'm pretty much certain you made a mistake on the perception rules. Did you include the higher difficulty for increased range? It's +1/10ft.
Additionally, did you let the druid roll his handle animal to push the spider to web the dragon? Because once again, it is NOT combat trained and I'd say this is unnatural behaviour for it.
If all of that fails and in the situation you described:
Also, if the forst is dense enough, you should had given a circumstance bonus to the stealth check of the dragon
Just FYI Frightful Presence does not make you run away.Also you can't use a breath weapon every round.
I'm going to have to agree with the OP. Dragons are by far and away the least deadly monsters for their CR in the game. Their physical attacks do little damage, their DR is pointless, they have too few HP's and their spellcasting is weak.
There's a lot of stuff said about how a PC party should never be able to creep up on a Dragon because it is soooo much more intelligent and wise than the PC's. Up until the point that you look at the Wisdom and Intelligence scores and find that the PC's are actually way more intelligent and wise than dragons. Dragons do not get some supernatural ability that allows them to be always prepared for anything. So why do people say they do? If you are basing this super prepared ability on stats on the page then you should also allow players to have supernatural prep abilities because their stats are if anything going to be better than the dragon. In short, Dragons are not Batman, stop pretending they are.
If you compare an ancient Gold to a Balor or Pit Fiend then it's obvious who wins. The Fiends win every time because they are more adaptable, have better defences and better attacks. Plus the Pit Fiend is also more Wise and Intelligent so it too should get the fabled "Dragon Batman" powers too.
Sorry guys, dragons suck...
Great post, I wish I had read this before I ran the encounter.
sorry, FoC, I gotta disagree with the last statement somewhat. Young dragons do suck, but as they get older, even the weakest of their kind can be a very effective opponent.
I do agree that they really are not the end all be all of uber encounters, nor are they "all knowing", but they can be quite deadly, especially when they can take to the air and have not only their breath weapon but spell casting capability as well. Nothing quite like an invisible dragon to put the fear of the gods into a PC.
Grimmy, with this last encounter, you have just laid the foundations for a truly epic future dragon encounter. The next time they encounter a dragon, they will very likely underestimate it's abilities and then watch the realization dawn on the players' faces as it becomes clear they could be in some serious crap ... just give them time to level up a couple times first so you get into the Adult and older age categories for the dragon.
Well, i agree with the dragons defenders and with FallofCamelot.
Many times the characters ARE more intelligent and wise as dragons, but i also agree that dragons should be played like the intelligent creatures they are, like all intelligent creatures in the Bestiary. No super powers, just guile.
Dragons are amongst the beasts that have minions not just to defend their lairs and cult it`s personality. They are there to assess the strengths and weakness of the enemy - like every intelligent creature with minions should do - An intelligent orc lord should have the same idea. But, unlike the orc lord, dragons have many way to prepare denselves for an upcoming battle.
I had never an anticlimatic dragon fight, but so is true to all big bosses i used - if they lead, they are bright.
And when your pcs make a long term home they don't have a super plan ready? Int 14 is high enough especially with all the skills they have.
The dragon can't normally fail his fly skill test to stay flying for moving less than half. it's only dc 10. The web has to be anchored to something to even do that which the monster rule doesn't say it can do (the Dragon auto sees the other mode) It also has a max range of 50'. Bringing a flying creature down is really hard.
Do what my GM in another game did to me a while ago.
Wait some levels and throw another dragon at them, think it through beforehand or even open a thread on the board and then spank those arrogant PCs, it's what they deserve for underestimating dragons ;)
On top of that, you used a juvenile dragon and they killed it. Angry mommy much? Just have the mother of your green youngster show up some time later at their home town, if the have one, and demand the PCs being handed over for justice. Most probably, the townspeople will happily agree if that means the dragon does NOT kill them all.
I've only pitted one dragon against my Pathfinder parties (so far), and it was epic, but because the dragon played smart on its home turf (albeit a v3.5 shadow dragon on the shadow plane, playing hit and run from the shadows). It never landed, strafed with spells and abilities from maximum range, and would use superior size for combat maneuvers rather than trying to hit ACs that may be a challenge. It was patient enough, and smart enough, to wait until shorter lived spells (round per level) wore off before resuming the attack.
Purely for entertainment, this lengthy battle of 16th level characters culminated in a monk scaling a 200' monolith, waiting till he spotted the dragon, making an absurd acrobatic jump, then grappling and punching the dragon in the same spot over its heart until the dragon fell, dragging the monk and him hundreds of feet down into a prismatic sphere. True to the overpowered nature of Pathfinder monks when run by a savvy player and incredible saves, the monk survived the fall damage and all saves through the sphere.
Note, since players got stronger between editions and dragons didn't, I ran the adventure a CR higher than the party level.
I generally do 2 things with what I consider my solo monsters. Multiply the HP's by the number of party members and give them 2 activations, 1 on its iniative and 1 after 1/2 the party has gone.
Basically what 4th edition came up with.
Also, reread what dragons can actually do. About a year ago I was running my Against the Giants campaign and the party (5 lvl 15s at the time) fought 2 Wyrm Whites. They had all kinds of problems with the endless walls of ice cutting the party off from each other and the blizzard condtions that they couldn't see in but the dragons could. The Great Wyrm Red at the end of the campaign was even nastier.
Mmmm I have to admit that I did not read the whole thread.
First, my favorite aerial attack is to drop a dumpster of river cobbles from beyond the party's reach. OK, some are going to miss but a rain of half to 2 killo stones is going to leave a mark. So you kill the spiders, you get the damn horse. I use trebochet damage.
You can do something similar at night, messing with the spell casters getting any sleep so they can't recover spells. Barrels of oil and a forest fire work fine here, especially if the party goes for the high ground.
Second, dragons rarely live without minions, friends, or worshippers nearby. How many modules have the hairy humanoids worshipping a devil, demon, dragon, or even a mage?
So, after the dragon has softened them up with aerial bombardment and artillery fire, the scout infantry close in to constantly harrass the party. Oh, and they smell roasting horse as they eat iron rations. If you really want to rub it in, drop the horse's head on top of the mage for 3d4 damage (medium soft target hitting a soft target) just for show.
When the party decides to leave, the ground infantry has set up ambush points so the dragon can use its chemical weapons.
You get the idea . . . . .
With the dragon's spell likes and spell choices i can only assume it's main tactic is entangle from 800 feet above the party then drop summoned ponies on them.
Less than or equal to 4 HD it is panicked if it fails the save.
Edit: Incidentally one of my groups has strongly considered houseruling the frightful presence: shaken for 1d6 rounds if you make the save, frightened if you don't, panicked if you are 4HD or less and fail the save. We found it very, very strange that an ability called "frightful" presence, at no point actually conferred the frightened condition.
OK splitting hairs here a little. Sure you are panicked if you are less than 4 hit dice but frankly if any creature turned up that was 5 challenge ratings (at least) higher than me I'd be running away anyway. This would have nothing to do with frightful presence.
I want Dragons to be tough, I really do, but honestly there's nothing special about them stats wise. I don't use weaksauce dragons if I can help it. If I feel the need for some scaly activity then that's when I crack out the Linnorms. Now that's a Dragon!
two quick notes and a big suggestion.
Note 1: A dragon should almost NEVER be a solo encounter. I would not use anything less than a Juvenile dragon for a level 6 group. At that level I expect a dragon to still be with its "family" as in a pair of juveniles or have a sub territory in its parent territory. even evil dragons raise their young. If not I would expect the dragon to have some sort of minions, even in the form of drakes, spiders, kobolds or SOMETHING else that the dragon has bent to its will even temporarily.
Note 2: remember to use the environment. Even if its alone it should be able to use its terrain to full advantage. make sure you take advantage of perception rules, maybe change a few feats and give the dragon ambushing the players in its own forest the benefit of fully setting up the encounter.
its not that you want the dragon to TPK the party, you simply want it to be an epic battle where the party feels in fear of its safety, cheating a little to this end is not a bad thing as it increases fun.
I've cut and pasted these two sections to bring them out for more attention. The first bit is from the text from the Entangle spell. In particular note the last sentence. I'd make sure to get a bit creative with this, particularly since this is the dragon's stomping grounds. It'll know where the 'Poison Ivy' grows, for instance or those particularly prickly and thorny bushes. Heck if I'm the dragon I've made sure these plants are growing where they could be put to my advantage. Woodland Stride means as the dragon I'm going to be planted right in the midst of the above extra nasty terrain and/or lure the Party into an ambush amidst this foliage (or both). I'm guessing only the Druid is likely to have a similar ability by lvl 6 (and a Ranger at lvl 7)
Along similar lines it knows the terrain around its lair very very well. Knows where the deep gully is and how to use it to circle around, completely covered and concealed to the party, to pop up behind for a quick BW or other attack. Knows where those nasty patches of plant life above are located. Where the sink holes and quicksand are, where the fire ant nest is, where it could push a large boulder or tree down on the party, where it's too silly thick with brush to ride a horse, etc., etc..
It senses are very acute (not only dark vision but blindsense and 4x normal human senses as well) ... can it hear the party whispering their plans to one and other? If the party is 10 ft apart whispering (and can hear each other) the dragon should be able to hear them from 40ft away I'd think.
Make the unknown work for you. Ghost Sound, Ventriloquism etc., is it a dragon or something(s) else? Most of this isn't about game mechanics it's about presentation and atmosphere.
As folks keep saying it's smart. It thinks its going to die and can't escape, it will negotiate. Make sure to start negotiations or retreat earlier than you think. All too often DM's, myself included, tend to run away too late, run early they can always come back.
It might even start the negotiations right off before the first ambush while it still feels completely superior. Swap a spell known for Message or Whispering Wind and deliver your threats from complete safety. Be sure to lie creatively about your impressive capabilities.
Do you have 6 players or 4?
Go to bestiary p96 and select two young green dragons (not juvenile) for a CR 10 total for the two. Or select the adult green dragon CR12 but expect at least 1-2 casulaties.
Pax Veritas wrote:
It was 4 players with 20 pt buy. Gear is pulling ahead of WBL due to crafting but probably not enough to warrant APL bump I don't think (I have to audit pretty soon to be sure). There were two animal companions (druid and cavalier) and a cohort in the picture. Also because of the scenario there was a [i]herd[/] of giant spiders but they did scatter almost immediately, after hurling a couple of parting webs in the first round.
Could you post the build of the juvenile green dragon? I'm having a hard time believing four players can curb-stomp a CR 9 encounter in three rounds.
Spoony is wrong about a few things about dragons, as far as Pathfinder goes at least, but his main philosophy of playing the dragon smart should come into this; if your dragon didn't think he could win, he should never have engaged.
I would also recommend mixing up the spell selection. Not every green dragon needs silent image and summon monster I; going with vanish and mage armour would have likely given them more pause, and allowed the dragon to beat a retreat (although at his caster level vanish would have lasted only one round).
One other thing is to keep an idea of how much loot even a juvenile dragon is likely to have. "Treasure: triple" is something worth considering; if you were giving the party some loot as a result of this fight, let the dragon use some of it. Let the dragon prebuff with some stuff (protection from arrows and blur are both things it could have on it from scrolls), because letting the dragon go in naked is grounds for reducing the CR in my opinion.
What was the terrain like? Woodland stride and waterbreathing are both advantages that PCs will not typically have. When not flying in the air, being underwater or in dense foliage would be a good defensive measure. The foliage also helps with the dragon's at will entangle, a move which costs the dragon literally nothing to have up all the time. If the PCs were on the ground, they should be dealing at least with difficult terrain.