So about weaksauce Dragons...


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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If the dragon is losing and it's an evil dragon, maybe have it escape if possible. In retaliation, burn down the villages in the area to spite the heroes. Make sure they know it is their fault it happened because hey maybe the dragon was minding its own business and here come these guys barging into its home, killing its friends, and stealing its property. Play it smart. If you wanna be extra cruel, the dragon burns down the inn they are sleeping at during the night. Break out those suffocation rules due to smoke inhalation as they try to escape the building.


FallofCamelot wrote:

For reference I run AP's. And tactics? That would require the dragon to last more than one round.

And do you run your players on 15 pt buy?


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Dragons are Sorcerers with d10 HD (and tons of 'em), full BaB, a ton of natural attacks, a built-in AoE, Fly-By Attack (which can be used with spells BTW), and a 200 foot move speed.

If you can't make that work, you can't make anything work.

Run a dragon like you would any other arcane spellcaster. Hit the party with spells that will make them cry.


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Give the dragon full plate, and choose spells without somatic components or even just give them woad paint. now the dragon which normally would have a difficult to hit ac is even harder to hit, and its spell casting is not really hindered.


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Typically my dragons in APs tend to give the party a sound thrashing. In the case of "Chapter 6 KM's dragon", it claimed 2 characters in short order.

AP-dragons, for me, tend to gack at least 1 PC a pop. 'course, that's because I'm happily taking advantage of said dragon having Quicken Spell and knowing dispel magic to get rid of pesky PC spells such as shield other and the usual assortment of abjurations.

Ramping up the AC by 8 via mage armor and shield is the simplest solution. Dragons do tend to have quite respectable natural ACs. Don't forget blindsense - the range alone for dragons is far enough that sneak attack based characters have to maneuver for a round or two and be packing sniper's goggles to make their shtick work.

Swapping out the known spells is also a borderline must in most APs, although to be fair the authors are pretty good about thinking through that spell list.

The two things that've always bugged me about Pathfinder dragons is that (a) their Dex tanks into the sewer when the hit a certain threshold; and (b) they lost almost any ability to magically heal themselves until they attain the lofty ability to cast limited wish. Ouch.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Don't forget dragon fear.

In our groups, usually one person fails their will save (even if by rolling a 1) and flees - making the scenario easier for the dragon. Back in the 3.5 days, I had a PC make the will save, while the rest of the party didn't and fled. Wisely, I decided that making a will save doesn't mean I have to stand my ground alone and joined the rest of the party in running away.

Another point is that a dragon hoard has items the dragon may find useful to use. Healing potions, wands, and even modified magic items could be used by the dragon.


Unless you're less than 5th level, dragon fear doesn't cause you to flee.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Why 5th level? Frightful presence should work on most that fail a will save as long as the dragon has 4 more HD than the party members (or if the party has a means of countering the fear effect).

Silver Crusade

KestrelZ wrote:
Why 5th level? Frightful presence should work on most that fail a will save as long as the dragon has 4 more HD than the party members (or if the party has a means of countering the fear effect).
Universal Monster Rules wrote:
Frightful Presence (Ex) This special quality makes a creature's very presence unsettling to foes. Activating this ability is a free action that is usually part of an attack or charge. Opponents within range who witness the action may become frightened or shaken. The range is usually 30 feet, and the duration is usually 5d6 rounds. This ability affects only opponents with fewer Hit Dice or levels than the creature has. An affected opponent can resist the effects with a successful Will save (DC 10 + 1/2 frightful creature's racial HD + frightful creature's Cha modifier; the exact DC is given in the creature's descriptive text). An opponent that succeeds on the saving throw is immune to that same creature's frightful presence for 24 hours. On a failed save, the opponent is shaken, or panicked if 4 HD or fewer. Frightful presence is a mind-affecting fear effect.

You won't be panicked if you have 5 or more HD


I ran an AP's dragon against level 7. It wasn't too clever and had no spells, but it wasn't stupid either. It was hunting when it met the party, so no lair. As it noticed the party following it, it led them to an area it knew where the group triggered some old undeads. That got them busy. When the undeads were dispatched, the dragon flew directly at them, which triggered the usual buffing from the group, but then the dragon turned before getting too close and fled.

It waited two hours before attacking again, now pretty sure most of the buffs were spent.

Still, they dispatched him quite fast...

I would agree that spells meant to cut line of sight are probably among the greatest for dragons.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Hmmm, always read Frightful presence as being panicked if you have 4HD less than the opponent. Seems I was wrong for skimming it. Ah well, just house rule the frightful presence and it might solve the problem. Maybe invent a monster feat for "greater fear presence" or something.


That's a bad idea.

Panicked is a hellish condition (potentially putting you in Coup de Grace territory), and way too good to work against PCs as a Free action in a 100+ foot radius.


Panicked doesn't make you coup de grace'able, cowering might, maybe. Frightened is the happy medium though.

Maybe scaling. 4 HD or less become panicked or cower. 5 - (dragon's HD) become frightened if they fail, shaken with success. Greater than (dragon's HD) are shaken if they fail, don't care if they succeed.

1 save that is shut down by a 1st level cleric spell even when they fail it? Nah. S'long as the dragon can't keep firing that aura off every round, it reinforces draconic badassery.


Panicked leads into Cowering if you corner them. Depending on your interpretation.


My memory is quite fuzzy on cowering - the last time I saw it in play was by way of Turn Undead.

Silver Crusade

Paizo SRD wrote:
Cowering: The character is frozen in fear and can take no actions. A cowering character takes a –2 penalty to Armor Class and loses his Dexterity bonus (if any).
Paizo SRD wrote:
Panicked: A panicked creature must drop anything it holds and flee at top speed from the source of its fear, as well as any other dangers it encounters, along a random path. It can't take any other actions. In addition, the creature takes a –2 penalty on all saving throws, skill checks, and ability checks. If cornered, a panicked creature cowers and does not attack, typically using the total defense action in combat. A panicked creature can use special abilities, including spells, to flee; indeed, the creature must use such means if they are the only way to escape.
Paizo SRD wrote:
Helpless: A helpless character is paralyzed, held, bound, sleeping, unconscious, or otherwise completely at an opponent's mercy. A helpless target is treated as having a Dexterity of 0 (–5 modifier). Melee attacks against a helpless target get a +4 bonus (equivalent to attacking a prone target). Ranged attacks get no special bonus against helpless targets. Rogues can sneak attack helpless targets.

As I read it, cowering doesn't allow for coup de grace, because cowering isn't helpless. I could be wrong, though.

Grand Lodge

Well, there's always the option of some good old scry&fry. If a dragon waits for the party to split up (someone answers a call of nature), you can have a player be a star of a "fair" duel with a dragon! It's also fun to do with Pit Fiends (doesn't have to turn into a fight, so you can use it at any level)...

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber
Isonaroc wrote:
As I read it, cowering doesn't allow for coup de grace, because cowering isn't helpless. I could be wrong, though.

Well, if you really want to...

Sovereign Court

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Kalindlara wrote:
Isonaroc wrote:
As I read it, cowering doesn't allow for coup de grace, because cowering isn't helpless. I could be wrong, though.
Well, if you really want to...

That would actually be pretty sweet with a Sensei monk in the party.


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Dex Damage on older dragons is just hilarious, but that takes a specific kind of mid-to-high level caster.

For the most part, strafing with breath weapon and being a full caster makes an open engagement a challenge no matter what. It's when the party knows they're going to fight a dragon and they get the drop on it that the weaknesses really start to show.

Silver Crusade

Kalindlara wrote:
Isonaroc wrote:
As I read it, cowering doesn't allow for coup de grace, because cowering isn't helpless. I could be wrong, though.
Well, if you really want to...

Which would require giving the dragon 9 levels of rogue. Which seems...excessive

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber
Isonaroc wrote:
Kalindlara wrote:
Isonaroc wrote:
As I read it, cowering doesn't allow for coup de grace, because cowering isn't helpless. I could be wrong, though.
Well, if you really want to...
Which would require giving the dragon 9 levels of rogue. Which seems...excessive

Like I said... if you really want to.

A dragon with a powerful rogue that acts as his minion/assassin, though? ^_^

Silver Crusade

Mmmmm...fair enough


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Only a +4 to the CR for the dragon. ;)


FallofCamelot wrote:
Every time I run a fight with a Dragon it's always a cake walk for my players. The problem is that Dragons are usually presented as solitary creatures

So don't make them solitary creatures. Problem solved.


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Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

There are no weak dragons, only weak DMs.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I haven't used color-coded dragons since May of '76, but I have used the same Stats and such, just without the convenient visual clues. The last such I ran as RAW was a Black, except for his Breath-Green Gas, and inflicted a TPK at even Apl/CR. I just used the Swim speed and Stealth skill unmercifully. And three levels of Rogue were more than enough.

Once they got well into the swamp, but I really just went into a swimming guerrilla warfare mode and alternated between general assaults with the gas breath and specific SAs with a bite until the party panicked and tried to escape. Devil takes the hindmost. Swooping attacks finished off all but the Barbarian. She had raged and died in good ol' 3.5 fashion.

Their real flaw in tactics was in not using time the dragon gave them while setting up her next attack to plan or prepare any countermeasures. She outlasted most of their buffs and did her best to keep them from getting full attacks on her. I think she only suffered one round of two getting in melee attacks on her.

Liberty's Edge

You know, if you really are having trouble with just the regular dragons, up the age category you're using or... Use a Dracolich... change out their spells too, sometimes they do have some really ridiculous choices when they can cast far better ones of the same level and school.


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If one dragon isn't enough, throw in two.

Then run them like very intelligent territorial birds that have had centuries to consider how best to guard their nest... with magic.


Zhayne wrote:
FallofCamelot wrote:
Every time I run a fight with a Dragon it's always a cake walk for my players. The problem is that Dragons are usually presented as solitary creatures
So don't make them solitary creatures. Problem solved.

Yes, and if he gives the dragon a bodyguard of barbarian dragon-worshipping fanatics, the challenge will be well and truly on.


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Putting a single level on sorcerer on a dragon is also an option, if you want to focus on its' spell power. As they have uneven caster levels by default, adding one level (and 1 CR) means increasing their highest spell level by 1, as well as providing the benefits of a bloodline arcana (for example destined or fey).


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When the group deals too much damage have them be charged by a group of kobolds lead by a dragon herald bard. The little buggers can throw tanglefootbags, use alchemical coal breaths and engage casters and ranged guys in melee.
Not a big threat normally but perhaps enough to disrupt the group a little.


Engaging a dragon in a den of illusions is also good. So throw in an illusionist backing his dragon buddy up.

Of course the illusions will also be concealing traps which will go off mid-combat. Wouldn't want to make it too easy for the party.


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More of the above I guess - minions, and movement.

My encounter plan for a red dragon (mature, half-fiend template [his mother gave him an extraplanar upbringing to keep him safe from dragonslayers until he was big enough and ugly enough to look after himself, plus dragons benefit massively from half-fiend resistances/SLAs])

The dragons lair is a ruined castle - the walls are intact, but the inner court, garrisons, most of the secondary fortifications are destroyed. Its basically a stone bowl with no cover that's open to the sky. The ground is lined with flammable material - mundane fires may not damage high-level PCs much, but the smokescreen will protect against the ranged or ranged touch attacks. The dragon is itinerant, and leaves the lair to attend to other business, and the party knows this. If they enter the lair when he's not there, they have to wade through a small army of kobolds and mountain orcs, including his kobold Dragon Disciple, who is equipped closer to PC WBL than NPC, as befits a boss-type elite cohort, and a zombie lord silver dragon.
(Zombie Lords are more vulnerable than dragons, with poorer saves and Hit Dice, but keep an appreciable fraction of the original dragon's power. Just be aware that Zombie Lord dragons deal damage above their CR, and have massive flat-footed armour.)

Either the Dragon Disciple or the ZL silver dragon dying counts as an alert condition for the red dragon, who doesn't just return home, but returns to an overlooking position to summon his Half-Fiend SLA Nalfeshnee. By the time the party fights him, even if they fight him solo rather than as a reinforcement wave halfway through an existing group encounter, there has been considerable drain on their daily resources. He can use the castle terrain to stay outside the walls and buff up, and can constantly retreat out of sight even after engaging. Also, because a red dragon looks pretty hellish to start with, the party doesn't know about his half-fiend status in advance without putting extra effort into pre-battle research or divination.

Also, for making dragons fight more interestingly, customising their feats helps - especially using some nice monster feats (things like Shape Breath Weapon, Slow Exhalation, or Frightful Suggestion, which I think are in an SGG third-party product) or feats like Improved Natural attack and Vital Strike so the dragon can make devastating flyby attacks rather than being limited to their breath weapon or having to land and make full-round attacks.


Idle Champion wrote:
Also, for making dragons fight more interestingly, customising their feats helps - especially using some nice monster feats (things like Shape Breath Weapon, Slow Exhalation, or Frightful Suggestion, which I think are in an SGG third-party product) or feats like Improved Natural attack and Vital Strike so the dragon can make devastating flyby attacks rather than being limited to their breath weapon or having to land and make full-round attacks.

The ancient white, red and black have greater vital strike. Just give him snatch and you're good to go. Flyby attack with greater vital strike and snatch. Next round either use the breath weapon with the guy in the maw (no ref save for him) or make a run action moving up half of the speed, drop the guy as free action, move down again.


Just a Guess wrote:
use the breath weapon with the guy in the maw (no ref save for him)

By RAW you always get a reflex save, so don't be surprised if the player complains about that.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

This may be of interest, though.


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snatch wrote:

Prerequisite: Size Huge or larger.

Benefits: The creature can start a grapple when it hits with a claw or bite attack, as though it had the grab ability. If it grapples a creature three or more sizes smaller, it squeezes each round for automatic bite or claw damage with a successful grapple check. A snatched opponent held in the creature's mouth is not allowed a Reflex save against the creature's breath weapon, if it has one.

The creature can drop a creature it has snatched as a free action or use a standard action to fling it aside. A flung creature travels 1d6 × 10 feet, and takes 1d6 points of damage per 10 feet traveled. If the creature flings a snatched opponent while flying, the opponent takes this amount or falling damage, whichever is greater.

The snatch feat disagrees with you always getting a reflex save. And I was referring to that feat earlier.


If in a winter setting and an old white dragon is too weak for them, have an avalanche occur mid-fight. Should cool down their cockiness.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Lunched today with some GMs and this kinda came up. After negative action economy, DPR, size modifiers and such were well BSed, the unanimous consensus was that a few key Class levels were the best, followed by truly wicked templates.


Bwang wrote:
Lunched today with some GMs and this kinda came up. After negative action economy, DPR, size modifiers and such were well BSed, the unanimous consensus was that a few key Class levels were the best, followed by truly wicked templates.

I'm running Strange Aeons (I changed the campaign to Mythic, 25 point buy) so that I could sort of go crazy with GM-monsters. Anyway, our heroes fight an old Ice dragon (lv 10/MR 3). I gave the dragon a fighter template and because the white dragons are 'the most feral' I had him forego many beneficial buffs prior to player engagement. But, I think him hitting for over 150/round on full melee attack was plenty to keep players very, very busy (I did make a oracle whose job is to keep the party alive, whom I play). Something I struggle with, is how does a dragon have the dexterity to fiddle with an itty bitty scroll of wand to use their fantastic UMD? I chose some of the things that the dragon did poorly, such as wind wall though. After reading this post, I have some very nasty ideas (I did deliberately make the terrain all snow, but I forgot that the dragon gets partial concealment during a snowstorm. There was originally a fleet of undead to assist the dragon (including a psychic lich and a gadaskurado), but I didn't feel like killing the players, so instead they had time to heal, and the undead attacked then. In hindsight, I should've sent the undead in by round 2. I never let the dragon land, and I more or less changed the dragon's DR to epic. I also thought about the dragon's breath weapon also slowing the players (or given the snow, ice entanglement) but I decided against that also. I definitely won't make that mistake again, but I would like some feedback on mechanically how does a dragon have the dexterity to UMD?


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Too many damn up-and-coming Necromancers these days...it's the fifth Necroing this week.

They're starting to become even worse than Ninjas...

Dark Archive

Thanael wrote:
FallofCamelot wrote:

For reference I run AP's. And tactics? That would require the dragon to last more than one round.

And do you run your players on 15 pt buy?

And how big is your party?

One thing I see is that people forget about rules. It's easy to forget about spell resistance or damage reduction for a round. Pathfinder is a bit rules heavy and you have to think of a lot of things at the same time.

It's a whole different thing to forget about the environment. A young adult white dragon could easily build her own lair out of ice by using her ice shape ability. The entrance of the lair would be underwater as a white dragon has a swim speed. The temperature of the water would be near freezing point.
She can easily move around her frozen lair with her icewalking ability. The PCs have to deal with an inclined slippery surface by rolling acrobatics checks every time they move. DC 10 let's them move at half speed, DC 15 let's them move at full speed.
You get bonus points if you cover the hoard by a thick layer of clear ice.

An old white dragon will probably cast resist energy (fire) on herself before combat. She might actually make use of a few magic items she has.


the David wrote:
Thanael wrote:
FallofCamelot wrote:

For reference I run AP's. And tactics? That would require the dragon to last more than one round.

And do you run your players on 15 pt buy?
And how big is your party?

Do you realize you're addressing a person from 5 years ago?

This is why we don't necro, we get people addressing posts that aren't relevant.


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Dragon #284, 25th Anniversary Special, p. 41 wrote:

A WELL-PLAYED DRAGON

Always . . . looks out for number on. Never . . . loses a game of chess.
Always . . . uses the home field advantage Never . . . knowingly shows weakness.
Always . . . acts like royalty. Never . . . wastes its breath weapon.
Always . . . has an ace up its sleeve. Never . . . makes stupid decisions.
Always . . . speaks many languages. Never . . . trusts anyone.
Always . . . uses its wings. Never . . . forgets a slight.
Always . . . looks for the hidden meaning. Never . . . acts predictably.
Always . . . overestimates itself. Never . . . fears a human threat.
Always . . . has an escape route. Never . . . takes meaningless risks.
Always . . . is awesome to behold. Never . . . acts on a whim.


I'm going to start a new thread under Advice rather than General Discussion so we can get an up to date discussion going, rather than rehashing of years old material.

I think this is an interesting topic that many GMs, especially newer ones, encounter during their time running games.


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So my players make pretty robust characters, meaning I tend to sic pretty powerful opponents on them or very difficult situations. In the last campaign I ran, I allowed a player to use the Dread Necromancer 3.5 class, and so having only necromancy spells, she took the option to ramp her save DCs up as high as humanly possible, which was totally fine. Buuuut I want to be able to use giant scary monsters in big epic spectacle battles once in awhile without having to have a bunch of minions around for them, which created a bit of a problem: Most saves are just pass/fail, so if I ramped up a dragon's saves to compensate, it made my giant monster fights less fun for the necromancer, but if I didn't, she would win as soon as she got a spell off.

My solution was to break certain huge-or-larger monsters up into multiple pieces that all acted as separate monsters (while having to stay within the monster's reach, in places that made sense) at -2 size categories from the base creature. A dragon would become the main body, 2 foreclaws, 2 hindclaws, two wings, and a tail. All claws were able to make two claw attacks each, while the foreclaws and main body could all make use of the dragon's spell-like abilities. If the main body failed certain saves (generally my rule was anything-that-ends-the-fight), it could shunt the effect to a limb that was on the same facing the effect came from, so for instance while no save DC will allow your mage to just instantly mind control a dragon, they can start fighting it for control and make it punch itself in the face or something. I used the same rule for any attack that would reduce the main body to 0 or fewer HP; it would automatically "kill" a limb instead. In terms of HP, I generally gave each "part" around a quarter the HP total of the base creature, except for the body, which would have 100%.

There were a few other rules and special effects I did, but that was the bare bones of it. My players really enjoyed this, and it made fights with those creatures a lot more interesting, and it made it so that characters who wouldn't have had very interesting jobs in one of those fights now had a lot to do. The only annoying part was keeping tokens for all the parts in the right context with the main body when one would move around.

It was nice for me as a GM too, because it meant that I could grab a given dragon right out of the book and have it be threatening again.

Silver Crusade

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Yeah, if you run it right the "gargantuan creature with multiple individual parts" thing can work pretty well. I've done that with krakens and the Armageddon Engine before and it was fun. Single monster battles, iconic as they are, are nearly impossible to run effectively otherwise unless there's some sort of puzzle mechanic at work too. The action economy is too one sided, and if you bump up the monster to compensate they get too deadly too fast.

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