How do you run Dragons?


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Put a gold coin infront of it.

*ba dum tssk*

Ok bad joke...

Anyway.

So simple question since im curious. How do you or your GM run dragons? Ive noticed there is a wide variety in ways GMs run how dragons act/fight .

Do you run them big monsters? May ypu run them as harsh add off they were your PC. What do guys do?

Oh and side question, what is your favorite dragons?

Me, I'm brutal with my dragons. But my favorite "normal" Dragon is a blue so i love political stuff lol. My FAVORITE Dragon is a fairy though


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Dragons in my campaigns tend to be mettlesome. They tend towards influencing events from afar through various minions, or involving themselves in the events of humanoids in a more acceptable guise. (Often with features hinting at their type).

An often used plot of mine involves a dragon with a high number of half-dragon offspring as minions/subjects. I tend to play my dragons as having an alien psychology. As not being social creatures to the point they don't have any psychological need or desire to be around other creatures, so they tend to have a low level of empathy regardless of alignment and goals.

When it comes to combat, I tend to specialize my dragons. Usually they engage in melee combat against the lesser creatures, but occasionally they are set up to take the role of a powerful enemy sorcerer in a more humanoid form.

I don't think I've ever meshed the two styles, fairly deliberately as I prefer villains that have a specific focus and weakness. Most dragons I play tend to live through their encounters with the party, fleeing and biding their time when they're outmatched.

My favorite dragon is the Time Dragon. So much that earlier versions of it (from nonpathfinder sources) served to inspire one of the Overdeitys who's now a constant touchstone of my games.


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So many dragons, so little time...

Every encounter is different. What do I want the dragon to do? Fight the PCs, give a quest, scare the PCs away, be mysterious and intriguing, etc...

If a dragon is going to be the BBEG of a story arc, then I need that dragon to have motivation. What is it doing? Why is it a BBEG? Etc. Ultimately, it's a smart BBEG so it needs a smart plan, and engame it's working toward, and I would prefer that endgame to be a deep dark secret that is hard to figure out. Layer upon layer of mystery and misdirection.

Once I have that, I'll probably have the dragon be encountered more than once. A first encounter might be the PCs arriving after the dragon has done something terrible. Maybe it came and ate its monthly sacrificial virgin. Maybe it burned down some village. Whatever it did, it's too late for the PCs to prevent; all they can do is react to the aftermath. A second encounter might be similar but the PCs are not too late. They might or might not stop the dragon, but they don't get to kill it. The final encounter is probably in or near the dragon's lair - the final encounter.

Here the dragon is brilliant and well-prepared. It uses its terrain to advantage, coupled with its abilities (dragons who can breathe under water will have watery lairs to slow down invaders, etc.). Traps. Other monsters to guard entrances. Allies. Magic items. Spells. The works.

You wanna kill my dragons in their lair, you better come prepared.


Fly-by-attack with it's large flyspeed it can come in and maul the party and then be out of range of many of them.


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In games of yore, dragons were to be feared and anticipated. PCs loved it when they could get the drop on a dragon in its lair while it slept. Free attack round! But once the dragon woke up, look out! It was breath weapons and dragon fear galore!

These days it is a lot more tactical. It really depends on the age of the dragon and the importance of the dragon in the overall context of the adventure. Are they an encounter or a BBEG?

I like to foreshadow dragons if they are to take on a larger role. That can be with stories heard by the PCs as they travel or take refuge in an inn.

I had PCs in a Pathfinder game team up with a party of NPCs to take on 2 green dragons in their lair. The NPC party lured out and fought one of the dragons (brother and sister) while the PCs took on the other dragon from within its lair. The dragon used the natural terrain to its advantage to bottle up the PCs so its breath weapon would have full effect, its entangle ability slowed them down buying it time to recharge its breath, and it hid in a pool in its lair to confuse the PCs when they emerged out of the tunnel and found the lair empty. That was an epic battle!

I have another black dragon I have been alluding to with lots of rumors from around the campaign area. It has a motivation (part of the larger campaign goal) and a role in the realm. That campaign went on hiatus before we got that far, but that would have been a brutal fight for the PCs given the dragon's lair (underwater) and its traps and defenses.

My favorite evil dragon is still the powerful red. I do have a soft spot for shadow dragons, though. Love me some shadow dragons.


How do you stop a dragon from charging?

A very ridiculous amount of grapple.

I either don't use dragons or go overboard. Did you know that being on top of a giant dragon can make a great place for a final battle? Dragon cults are fun.


Goddity wrote:
Did you know that being on top of a giant dragon can make a great place for a final battle? Dragon cults are fun.

I've used the back of a dragon as a battle location once or twice, and I can second that it's really fun.


Bah. Phooey!

Dragons are for wimpy GMs.

What you need is a good old-fashioned tarrasque. A brilliant, scheming, genius, mastermind tarrasque.

That'll wreck your PCs' day.


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Bah. Newfangled Terrasques? In my day we killed planets! And walked uphill to get there in the snow! And then walked back uphill in the desert!


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I try to think logically for them. Not TOO logically; a lot about them doesn't make any sense. Plus, y'know... magic, dragons, fantasy? Still, some things I try to focus on:

- Longevity and power: dragons are like a fine wine; they only get better with age. I think dragons, like elves and other long-lived races should tend to look past right now. Some however I feel should be obsessed with history since they hoard stuff

- The ultimate hoarders: dragons, really impressive dragons should have tonnage. I'm not just talking money and magic swords. Consider if a human being with a tendency toward... collecting, had centuries ahead of them. Having an entire cave dedicated SOLELY to baseball cards wouldn't be out of the question

- Mating: let's face it; dragons get around. Half-dragons, sorcerers, younger true dragons, potentially kobolds, and then all the lesser dragons like drakes, tatzlwyrms and pseudodragons. These things have to come from SOMEWHERE. If you decide they ARE related to either Chromatic or Metallic dragons then unless they're experts at genetic engineering these creatures are finding SOME way to get it on with anything that isn't food at the moment.

All of this usually leads me to the inevitable conclusion that dragons have TONS of minions, spies and allies. Even the good ones. Think about it: even an egotistical black dragon heady with it's own power has got to admit that it's mortal and can be killed by a band of adventurers. Therefore, looking ahead to the future it's likely got some kind of survival plan and a way to dominate its environment through progeny, controlled reptiles, and piles of stuff in order to insulate itself from potential enemies.

I like to run dragons, even those of lesser intelligence, as schemers and clever manipulators. Take a simple, white dragon. It's not a chess-playing mastermind but it knows that survival is a long-term game and it's environment is resource-constrained. It mates with every herd and sentient creature it can; gross as that sounds it ensures that its own draconic virility affects its offspring and increases long-term replenishment of the altered species it creates. It might then pick out some weaker members of its own offspring; a mutant half-dragon elk or perhaps a sorcerous member of a barbarian tribe. If successful the white dragon can use these beings to bolster its own survival, all the while using it's own superior power, hoard and experience to keep the offspring in check and ultimately slay them to start over with a new batch.

Finally a note on hoards. Other posters on the boards have written about this but I think it's worth repeating: hoards don't need to JUST be money. You draconic villains and allies might hoard other physical things, like snow globes or shipwrecks. They may also hoard information: imagine a dragon with access to the internet. Its name would be Wikipedia. Still others might hoard minions. No two dragons should ever be truly identical.


Goddity wrote:

Bah. Newfangled Terrasques? In my day we killed planets! And walked uphill to get there in the snow! And then walked back uphill in the desert!

I actually did walk uphill both ways one summer, because the train I commuted to work with had departure and arrival platforms at different elevations.

I don't remember there being any terrasques, or evil planets, though.


See the D&D comic In the shadow of dragons ;)


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So...I've been thinking...

Anyone consider switching out the spellcaster abilities of a dragon for kineticist stuff? As in, take their 'cast as an x level caster', and just give it a somewhat equivilant suite of kineticist abiltiies.

I bring this up since it seems interesting- rather than trained craft of a wizard or cleric, what if you give it power that makes it a raw elemental force that comes instinctually? One that can shift the battle field and wipe out wave after wave with its raw power?

It has obvious advantages. The blast could very, very easily be a replacement for breath. You can easily select elements for your preferred flavor.

And you can of course give them all sorts of advantages. Besides the basic assumption that they will ALWAYS have a full tank of buffer, you could give them small but significant advantages. Such as reduced burn cost (since they are just more in tune with elements, and their bodies are way, way tougher; also, so they can always spam extended range infusions for your basic fly by strategies). Just tweaking the total burn cost by a bit, you remove a lot of the limiters. And of course, you are still a huge monster with tons of AC, resistances, skill points, and perfect saves (keeping the typical dichotomy where they are 'casters mixed with tanks')

I just kind of like this idea better than the typical dragon. I prefer them as creatures that are so much beyond humans that they would not deign to use their piddly spellcraft. Of course, in setting, they seem more like wize masters that taught humans the way of spellcraft (...and layed the roots for a lot of dragon blooded sorcerers). But this could be an equally valid flavor.


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I've only run dragons once, with some variations based on age:

1.) the (3) dragons awoke from slumber and 1 pc was there to see it, because of bad decisions and luck he ended up having to fight the youngest. The battle was inside a mansion with the poor rogue using stealth and mobility to outmanouver the arrogant younger dragon. It died from bleed damage just as he was at his ropes end. (very fun battle for the whole group)

(side note: 1 of the dragons is the Elder while the other 2 are very young, and thereby easier to defeat)

2.) the second dragon was an anticlimatic execution: the party brought all their followers and sat out bait for the other young dragon, after making a pile of stealth checks (and the dragon scoring so abysmal that I thought it was unfair to be honest) they filled the lizard with arrows and bolts (everybody had been buffed up and many of the lvl 1 npc followers managed to hit the flat footed dragon as it gorged itself)
They cut it's head off and loaded the corpse on a wagon.

3.)The fight with the Elder dragon was different, it spotted them as they were leaving with the corpse of it's brood. It cast invisbility and snuck up on them, using a major illusions to adress them from the front of the cart (intimidating them and distracting them at the same time) .
It then proceeded to use it's breath weapon on everybody (all the followers died instantly, the cohort lost heart and ran away screaming) having made it's point it grabbed the corpse of it's child and proceeded to leave.
The party then used flight and fireballs to engage it again, so it was forced to put down it's price.
Using it's monumental flight speed (seriosly, these guys are FAST) and flyby attack it bypassed the front liners and killed/maimed everybody in the backline (casters and buffers) before simply turning invisible and leaving.
The magus frontliner arrived back too late to catch up with him and spent his time stabilizing the bard. The group returned to town to lick their wounds and get the alchemist ressurected. They're hoping the cohort returns, but no sign of him yet.
The dragon flew off to bury it's brood and plot revenge, making alliances/subjugating/manipulating several monster tribes to attack the PC's base while it waited patiently for it's time.
As you can tell this story is not over ...


Think Casting Combat Chopper. A fortified flying force filled with all sorts of magical ordinance and utility devices, operated by a genius.

It never lands unless victory is already assured and it seldom stays within a single bow range increment for long.

However it can it will isolate enemy forces to divide and conquer, including harpooning a unit to drag it off to a separate encounter.

It almost always has the support of ground troops [I rather enjoy the link to dragons Kobolds received in 3rd edition so that's the style I tend to go most.]

The exception being if it went out on a raid expecting no serious opposition.

Most importantly, most dragons [and most enemies I run entirely] are absolutely ruthless in their efforts to crush their enemies. While they may or may not personally care if they kill an enemy [depending on the situation], they certainly aim to disable it as quickly and efficiently as possible.


My dragons tend to be egotistical and they take advantage of terrain, especially when the dragon can fly and my players forgot to pack their fly spells. The ol' "strafe with the breath weapon" thing is pretty popular with my dragons. My dragons also tend to be egotistical as hell.

My players usually try to use interaction skills (especially Bluff and Diplomacy) to goad dragons into taking disadvantageous actions. This sometimes works ... and sometimes it just ticks off the dragon.


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Pixie, the Leng Queen wrote:

So simple question since im curious. How do you or your GM run dragons? Ive noticed there is a wide variety in ways GMs run how dragons act/fight .

Do you run them big monsters? May ypu run them as harsh add off they were your PC. What do guys do?

Cunningly & smart.

They use all of their special abilities to the best of their uses. They use magic items from their horde, if they can, instead of letting them just lie around to be looted later.

Rolled an Amulet of natural Armor for the Hoard? You bet it is located on the dragon's neck IF(!) he can identify it.

The attacking humanoid pests have two greataxe-swinging mount-foaming barbarians? -->Circe strafe & breat-weapon, circe-strafe & breat-weapon all day long. Laugh in between, especially when they were too cheap to even buy any bows at all, because "I am not an archer, i just go into melee!"

Get cornerd where their dedicated melee-specialists can really put down a fight? Withdraw, even if you get a few AOOs. Heal up, and when they try to carry off your hoard, follow them, smell them out and start a fight when you have better conditions.

As a DM i once had a White Dragon who used a Hat of Disguise Self to change the colors of his scales to Black when he left his lair to hunt or extort villages. The commoners correctly said: "We are being extorted by a Dragon, and he is black." Noone with a Knowledge Skill to realise that the headform and horns were not fitting to the scale's color.
Thus our valiant wanna-be dragon slayers searched high and low, till they found the icy lair of the Black Dragon of the Negum Hills and entered it. Of course properly buffed with Protection from Energy:Acid and Resist Energy:Acid. When the dragon finally raised its head out of an icy pond deeper into the lair and breathed COLD! in the surprise round, they were flabbergasted. Until the wizard got to act and made his skill roll and noticed that scales and headform didnt match up, they were borderline panicky.
Great situation, and afterwards the players were all very happy for this memorable encounter. Even years later still mentioned fondly, just because the dragon used some stuff from his hoard.


Quote:
especially when they were too cheap to even buy any bows at all, because "I am not an archer, i just go into melee!"

Doesn't even matter, if they don't have flight or ways to see invisibility, etc., bows wouldn't help them, because i can just be invisible, come up, break invisibility with a breath attack, and fly 250 feet away behind a bunch of trees thus getting full concealment before their turn even begins. Almost all day long. Pretty sure they'll run out of hp and not get a single arrow in before i run out of invisibility. I think you pretty much need either casters or some very special other resources like an army to reasonably be assured a chance of success.

edit: I guess they could ready actions, okay. Still. Trading one arrow for one breath attack not a good equation.

Liberty's Edge

Goddity wrote:

How do you stop a dragon from charging?

You take away it's credit card, silly wabbit :)


Crimeo wrote:


edit: I guess they could ready actions, okay. Still. Trading one arrow for one breath attack not a good equation.

If it's the right arrow, they only need one ;)

Liberty's Edge

Juveniles...Reckless..Most likely won't flee to live to be Young

Young...Brave but not dumb..Will flee to live to see Mature..

Mature...Tacticle but not Dumb..Will Use Minions and Flee...in order to live to become old...

Old...Very Tacticle and Very Not Dumb...Will always use Minions..Will fight Dirty in order to live to be Ancient

Ancient..Forget it..Your Dumb and Dead soon you just to dumb to know it yet :)


I've taken to rolling on random mundane loot tables a few times for each dragon to give them some things they're really into. One was an art collector, another was interested in books and finely crafted, comfy chairs, and so on. The older they are the (usually) more willing they are to talk to the PCs before they kill them; they know parties of adventurers can potentially be dangerous, and why risk accidentally destroying the loot when you can get it without a fight (and THEN eat them)?

Younger dragons tend to just want to fight and are too arrogant and prideful to go for diplomacy first. There's a reason there aren't a ton of elder dragons, and you only get there through caution.


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Blindmage wrote:
Crimeo wrote:


edit: I guess they could ready actions, okay. Still. Trading one arrow for one breath attack not a good equation.
If it's the right arrow, they only need one ;)

If we are talking about the same thing, then no, it takes two arrows. One to soften up the weak spot, the second to finish the job.


Mark Hoover wrote:


- The ultimate hoarders: dragons, really impressive dragons should have tonnage. I'm not just talking money and magic swords. Consider if a human being with a tendency toward... collecting, had centuries ahead of them. Having an entire cave dedicated SOLELY to baseball cards wouldn't be out of the question

Reminds me of the dragon from Blue Moon Rising who had the world's largest and most extensive butterfly collection.


I run them as if they live for thousands of years... cause they do.

If you wind up fighting one, it's usually because they have chosen to fight... after you got weakened fighting their minions.

Frankly, the young ones don't get play time in my games, it just doesn't make sense.

They can fly.

They would fly away.


I made up a red dragon for a setting of my own that's the leader of a cult that worships him. His lair is designed to give him an edge in combat. The central chamber is big enough for him to fly around in, has balconies where his followers can rain death upon intruders, actually getting into the lair involves bypassing numerous traps mundane and magical...

He also knows that any group that did its research will come with protection against fire, he has ensured that he's got other options. And of course, should things get bad enough, he can always just cast greater plane shift.

Always remember that dragons are very smart and have probably lived long enough to know what adventurers might do, and plan accordingly.


I tend to like them as being boss level fights, even if they are not the boss. I also don't run them as being overly arrogant unless they are trouncing the party, or the party has not done anything of note.

Dark Archive

The time dragon is awesome, and easy to use if you shift his alignment to evil.

1. Let the players fight a wyrmling time dragon at an early level. Don't forget to let him be defeated, but make sure that he does survive.
2. ???
3. The great wyrm time dragon travels back in time to take his revenge on the heroes who humiliated him. He brings along 7 villains, each with their own futuristic toys.


Have not had the opportunity to DM a dragon yet in PF, but in AD&D 2ndEd, the Dracolich was my favorite of the evil; head of a large evil cult (orcs, half-orcs, humans, orges, giants...) worshipping Orcus.

The Psuedodragon or the Silver were my favorites among good-aligned.


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Dragons are born, right off the bat, with some minor defenses and an Int score between 6-10; about as smart, cunning and powerful as your average 2nd level barbarian. By that reckoning they are born to dominate their immediate wilderness.

You gotta figure that kind of over inflates the ego a tad.

Consider a simple Black Dragon. The creature is born in the midst of a swamp which, sure, has a lot of monster challenges. Even still just emerging from the egg on day one it's rocking a fly and swim speed, breathes underwater, is immune to acid, shoots 2d6 acid and can deliver a Bite +6 (1d4) with a 5' reach despite being a Tiny creature. It also has about the same AC as an average level 1 human PC (18) and nearly 3 times the HP as one (30).

Common animals of Tiny to Small size in a typical swamp are nothing but meat for this monster. It can lie in wait in a scummy pond (DC 31 Stealth when taking a 10) for hours, waiting for meal much like the gators they'll come to dominate later in life. It surges up out the water, hits this thing with a breath weapon and if it doesn't immediately go down the dragon's tough enough to go toe-to-toe with anything up to a CR 2 for at least a round.

This little guy also has an Int score of 8. It's cousin, the lowly tatzlwyrm, is described as being capable of making crude traps with the same intelligence score. If wanted to as a GM you could give a Tiny Black Wyrmling dragon the same ability just with a simple change in skills.

At Tiny size with only an 11 Str these won't be big, massive swinging tree limb traps but they might be deadfalls with piles of rock and branches capable of inflicting say 1d6 when triggered; simple pits; snares that attack with a +5 CMB and, if successful employ the Drag maneuver to pull the quarry under water.

All of this is from the word "go" for a black dragon.

After just 20 years (with a Stealth of 31 it's not much of a stretch to say poachers didn't hunt the thing down all this time) this humble black dragon has evolved into a medium sized juggernaut. A single bite attack from this creature deals 7 damage minimum and averages 10.5; it instantly kills most CR 1/2 creatures right there.

Its got 21 AC, a 19 Str and a 10 Int; it commands the obedience of lesser humanoids than itself with a +11 Intimidate (on a minimum roll it's demoralizing the average level 1 martial type); it swims, flies, and crawls completely unimpeded by any natural obstacle in its domain. Last, but certainly not least it can talk to any reptile in the area and has a Handle Animal skill of a respectable +8; its not inconceivable that the black dragon has trained up plenty of snakes, lizards, giant snapping turtles and what have you.

So bearing all of this in mind, that's how I usually run dragons. They begin already close to the top of the food chain in their immediate ecosystem. In a few years they're dominating. A couple decades and they could conceivably dominate warbands and small hordes.

And last but not least: They are NEVER satisfied.

They always want more. More treasure, more land, more power. Whatever they covet, dragons are never satiated.


Mark Hoover wrote:

Dragons are born, right off the bat, with some minor defenses and an Int score between 6-10; about as smart, cunning and powerful as your average 2nd level barbarian. By that reckoning they are born to dominate their immediate wilderness.

You gotta figure that kind of over inflates the ego a tad.

Consider a simple Black Dragon. The creature is born in the midst of a swamp which, sure, has a lot of monster challenges. Even still just emerging from the egg on day one it's rocking a fly and swim speed, breathes underwater, is immune to acid, shoots 2d6 acid and can deliver a Bite +6 (1d4) with a 5' reach despite being a Tiny creature. It also has about the same AC as an average level 1 human PC (18) and nearly 3 times the HP as one (30).

Common animals of Tiny to Small size in a typical swamp are nothing but meat for this monster. It can lie in wait in a scummy pond (DC 31 Stealth when taking a 10) for hours, waiting for meal much like the gators they'll come to dominate later in life. It surges up out the water, hits this thing with a breath weapon and if it doesn't immediately go down the dragon's tough enough to go toe-to-toe with anything up to a CR 2 for at least a round.

This little guy also has an Int score of 8. It's cousin, the lowly tatzlwyrm, is described as being capable of making crude traps with the same intelligence score. If wanted to as a GM you could give a Tiny Black Wyrmling dragon the same ability just with a simple change in skills.

At Tiny size with only an 11 Str these won't be big, massive swinging tree limb traps but they might be deadfalls with piles of rock and branches capable of inflicting say 1d6 when triggered; simple pits; snares that attack with a +5 CMB and, if successful employ the Drag maneuver to pull the quarry under water.

All of this is from the word "go" for a black dragon.

After just 20 years (with a Stealth of 31 it's not much of a stretch to say poachers didn't hunt the thing down all this time) this humble black dragon has evolved into a...

Useful stuff for if I ever decide to run a dragon-based game.


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Its part of a much larger way of thinking: look at monsters and think: "what if they're not JUST monsters?"

In this thread: dragons

You've got a big, fire-breathing lizard; a simple CR 10 encounter right? Sure, but take a closer look. A young red dragon ripped right off the SRD without any changes has Prestidigitation and Detect Magic whenever it wants; the same goes for Mage Hand, Read Magic and Message. He's also got the Vital Strike feat. Imagine his lair (mind you; he's only 20 years old)

You've fought through the crude, rough-hewn tunnels of the red-scaled kobolds. No mean feat considering their traps and ambushes. Now through a secret door you find a much different lair.

A winding stair of granite expertly carved and fastidiously clean descends through a shaft cut through solid lava rock and obsidian. The deeper you go the more stifling the heat; thankfully your wizard thought to cast Endure Elements on you this morning. With much stealth and guile you alight upon the doorstep: an enormous pillared hall.

You face more kobolds, the elite of the dragon. Cloaked in invisibility AND hidden from you sits Wyrmstongue, the Kobold Adept 8 who serves as the dragon's scrying device. Everything the zealot watches is whispered to the dragon's waiting ears. Meanwhile the dragon prepares. Wyrmstongue's final command by his god when the last of the elite are still standing: "give your life for mine" and so Wyrmstongue at last joins the battle with spells and a sudden raising of the dead to delay the party that much longer.

Now you heroes have finally slain your way through to the doors which you find surprisingly unlocked. Upon opening them however the threshold erupts in flames; these do no harm to anyone thanks to your protections but the dragon took the time to lay in oil and dozens of smokesticks in the channels in which the fires now burn so the room is cloaked in smoke. From somewhere within you hear the tyrant, laughing.

His first strike: With True Strike running and being able to see through the smoke without hindrance the dragon lunges forward instantly striking the wizard his faithful servant had identified moments before. The bite is augmented further by Vital Strike and as it strikes out of the shadows overhead the single bite deals 43 damage to the wizard rendering him unconscious before the party has taken its 7th step.

The battle is hard fought but in the end the party barely emerges, victorious. Finally, after all your struggles and with your wizard revived you use magic to quench the fires and reveal the details of the dragon's den. What you find is not some lava tube or volcanic cavern. Instead you find peerless masonry decorated everywhere with reliefs depicting all the greatness of dragonkind. These very carvings glitter as they are studded with cut opals, polished granite and other semi-precious stones. The dragon's "bed" of coins stands atop a stepped dais and is obsessively shaped to cradle his form. The other treasure is arranged on clean, well-organized shelves and inserted in niches in the walls.

Beyond this main hall are adjoining cysts; you might call them "closets." Each of these contains collections such as magical and mundane reading material or hundreds of skulls from a variety of monsters and humanoids, each boiled, polished and neatly labeled. The most unnerving of these is the smoking chamber; a giant sized meat drying room in which is stored the jerked carcass of many of the creatures whose skulls found their way into the adjoining room.

In final summation it occurs to you that the beast you've been referring to as the Flaming Tyrant was no mere savage but a cultured creature despite its youth as dragons go. This was a creature of modest intellect (Int 12) with clean habits and a desire for neatness. The dragon was an avid reader and many of its tomes, though the writings are mundane, are encrypted with magic script so it could obviously read magic as well as your wizard can. It was strong willed (Iron Will feat, 13 Wisdom) with an intimidating and forceful presence that commanded a horde of kobolds willing to die for him (Intimidate +15, Cha 12). He even knew value in the things it collected (Appraise +15) and it took care to ensure their value remained intact.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Pixie, the Leng Queen wrote:


Do you run them big monsters? May ypu run them as harsh add off they were your PC.

Yes. Some dragons are little more than beasts, and others are master subtle plotters with a spectrum in between.


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Let's look at this from another perspective: loot.

Some GMs have said these creatures are mere beasts, top predators at best. These monsters though always have better than average treasure for their CR. What player do you say "dragon" to doesn't have their eyes glaze over with the prestige and wealth they'll earn dropping one of these things?

Well then how does a beast accumulate such wealth and reputation? They've got to be able to down multiple high value targets and make off with their loot. Now, imagine you're the civilization NEAR something like that.

Suddenly there's this apex predator roaming the wilds, a sure attractor for hunters looking to bag an impressive kill. Add in that stories begin to surface that it has moved to stalking sentient prey and that it TAKES things from its foes... you have a monster with a huge target on its back.

I posit then that the first formative years of this creature are spent as a wandering orphan. Removed from family it scours the land not only for its favored food sources but also for wealth. Over time this traveling death machine accumulates more wealth and power than a single mortal could possibly need in 10 lifetimes. Eventually it founds a secret lair stuffed with this ill-gotten horde and dominates the region nearby to cull guardians for its wealth while away.

Sounds an awful lot like most player characters.

So I say dragons, between Wyrmling to Young age are adventurers. When born they're cast away from their parents, making them orphans born into adversity. They learn by fighting other monsters. A hording instinct takes hold and they not only kill and eat but they take treasure. At this point they begin accumulating enemies and at this young age they aren't quite the mega-threats they may one day become so they learn to flee.

Imagine a campaign region where there's lots of dungeons scattered in the wilderness however many of the smaller ones were cleared out over the last 20 years. Some say there are evil adventurers, others blame a group of kobolds. Whatever the case several signs point to the perpetrators favoring acid.

Secretly a black dragon has been infiltrating evil crypts, small worg dens and other low-level dungeons for years. Slowly he's been destroying the villains in these dungeons and setting up shop for a time. Every time adventurers or NPC monsters have come calling he's acquitted himself well and destroyed his foes, but learned after one of his first encounters that when one group comes and gets killed, more follow.

Over the past 20 years he's slowly accumulated enough skill and power to dominate a cave complex at the heart of a local swamp central to his old stomping grounds. He's also coerced a few kobolds to do his bidding and he's trained a number of reptiles to act as his guards. Now suddenly the smaller dungeons are backfilling with kobolds and their minions.

So the campaign begins at level 1 as the PCs start uncovering the kobold menace. They revisit old dungeons and find most of the treasure gone, a few new trinkets on the kobolds and reptilian villains, and signs of a much older assault. Over and over they see that the dungeons were previously raided.

Then they start hearing rumors. Local orc tribes talk about a black scaled monster that slew a raiding party that came to clear out one of the dungeons. When a second party returned the black lizard flew away, but not before it spat a wave of acid on its foes. Now the Scarred Legion has been hunting their elusive prey for 2 decades. The kobolds worship a black-scaled god; acid burns and claw marks have been seen in several older dungeons. Now the PCs know there's a dragon in the area.

Silver Crusade

I don't like running weak dragons, so I generally don't throw a dragon under "young-adult" out there unless I have a compelling reason. I tend to run dragons as highly intelligent sociopaths (often even the good ones) who are effectively demi-gods at their upper age categories. When my party catches wind of a dragon, I don't want their first response to be "awesome, treasure horde!" I want them to hear rumors of a dragon and consider heading somewhere else. I want an almost Pavlovian fear response associated with the word. I want the idea of facing a dragon to be a pants-crappingly daunting one.


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First rule, the dragon never fights PCs in his lair. He doesn't want to damage his precious treasure. This influences not only his lair design, but also the area surrounding the lair.

Second rule, they will exercise air superiority, attacking from a distance whenever possible, even waiting for their breath weapon to recharge if they see no reason to dive attack. They will only do dive attacks if the PCs possess sufficient firepower to make waiting for his breath weapon to recharge a less attractive option.

Thirdly, they will not just attempt to hit PCs in a dive attack. They will attempt to scoop up particularly troublesome targets so they can drop them from several hundred feet.

Fourth, since they are fighting the dragon in or around his lair, expect that he has countermeasures built into his lair on top of his already impressive abilities. Usually these lair features will play into the dragon's capabilities, such as his massive strength. A dragon might set up a bunch of boulders in such a way that he can trigger an avalanche on intruding player characters.

In conclusion, fighting a dragon in its own layer should require a great deal of planning on the player group's part. It is far more than simply showing up with swords and spells to kill a big winged lizard.

I love dragons.

Silver Crusade

Jabborwacky wrote:

First rule, the dragon never fights PCs in his lair. He doesn't want to damage his precious treasure. This influences not only his lair design, but also the area surrounding the lair.

Second rule, they will exercise air superiority, attacking from a distance whenever possible, even waiting for their breath weapon to recharge if they see no reason to dive attack. They will only do dive attacks if the PCs possess sufficient firepower to make waiting for his breath weapon to recharge a less attractive option.

Thirdly, they will not just attempt to hit PCs in a dive attack. They will attempt to scoop up particularly troublesome targets so they can drop them from several hundred feet.

Fourth, since they are fighting the dragon in or around his lair, expect that he has countermeasures built into his lair on top of his already impressive abilities. Usually these lair features will play into the dragon's capabilities, such as his massive strength. A dragon might set up a bunch of boulders in such a way that he can trigger an avalanche on intruding player characters.

In conclusion, fighting a dragon in its own layer should require a great deal of planning on the player group's part. It is far more than simply showing up with swords and spells to kill a big winged lizard.

I love dragons.

Don't forget that dragons are also effectively sorcerers. They should have all sorts of scrolls and magical accoutrement and whatnot. Think an ancient red dragon is scary? How's about an ancient red dragon with project image or wish or any other horrible surprise?


My favourite is Silver.

I run them how I run any other intelligent and powerful creature.

Lairs are deadly. I mean, seriously deadly, protected at the maximum level available (and reasonable) for a given Dragon, not just a couple of lame traps and hazards that can be overcome with a simple skill check (ask your players what kind of stuff they'd put in their PCs' lairs, if they could build them and had to protect them... you'd never see the dull stuff you see in some published adventures). And since that usually needs too much preparations and potentially leads to PC deaths, I tend to not put Dragon lairs in the PCs' way, unless they are the ones who decide to look for them. And they usually don't.

The Dragon itself uses his abilities thoughtfully, and often studies his adversaries before just charging to death. Dragons can use the environment in many more ways than characters or many other creatures can, and I could list a lot of stuff I did: destroying buildings where PCs are taking cover, snatch one to drop him in fire/water/jagged rocks/other, just reposition someone out of range, behind a hill's crest or into a canyon, and more. Standing in the middle of melee making full attacks while surrounded by enemies is something I don't let happen often, with Dragons above a certain age, after it has estimated enemy strength. Below certain ages may be alright because the Dragon is smaller, has shorter breath, is facing less dangerous enemies that can hardly win in a couple of rounds, has less room to be surrounded and more mobility, and can also be bolder and more prone to physical show-offs (an older and bigger one knows that he doesn't need to show... its mouth already looks like a bladed hell even if it doesn't even move it).
Then add the Dragon's individual abilities due its kind, the different feats and spell choice, and magic equipment.

Mostly, I abhor the "fights to the death" behavior, like the ones you see in published adventures just to keep out an enemy after the "main" encounter with it is done. Yes, someone now and then will do it, depending on personality, motives and situation, but the vast majority will always (try to) flee to fight another day. And once an enemy flees, my players know they have one more enemy plotting revenge. In the case of a Dragon (or any other intelligent and powerful creature), this adds to what makes the players think twice if they want to fight it. Like their characters would actually think, since their life (or more) is at stake.

Also, minions. Particularly, minions immune to the Dragon's associated energy and/or with complementary abilities.


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If it is a Dragon fight...

I am going to get boo'ed by a lot of the "hard core" GMs in here, but...

Hear me out...

Dragons, evil powerful Dragons, (this does NOT apply to the Good ones, and I'll explain why) should generally fight very stupidly.

Okay, again, hear me out...

When they see a group of PCs, small humanoid things, they do NOT pull out all the stops. Why would they pull out all the stops? Why would they fly in the air, tactically open with their breath weapon, and worry about defensive spells to crush the interlopers?

And now... I know what you are thinking... "Well they pull out all the stops because they are Dragons and intelligent and tactically that is the most sound actions they can take."

But... Hear me out...

You are hundreds, if not thousands of years old, you are immensely powerful, you are at the top of the food chain. They are small, and weak, and kind of squishy. You are better than they are. They are beneath you in every sense of the word.

Sure, you could take wing and fly out of their reach. If you want to admit that they are a threat to you. If you want to elevate them to your level. If you think, if you honestly think, that their tiny, insignificant, pitiful weapons can harm you... Then go ahead... Treat them like an equal.

If you want to admit that you, a great and powerful Wyrm, the lord of your lair, the master of that which you seek to claim, are equal with a small, fragile, flesh bag... Then go ahead debase yourself in that manner.

You see Dragons are, very much so, intelligent. They also, however, are arrogant. They have pride, and preconceptions, and history has shown us, time and time again, that pride, preconceptions, and overconfidence has killed many a being.

Good Dragons... They also have pride, and arrogance, but they are more likely to treat interlopers with respect... An evil, powerful, conceited Wyrm though? They aren't going to think these pitiful things pose a threat to them.

So when I do it...

Usually they start on the ground, or, if they are in the air, they start with a single breath weapon... To scare them... Before landing and showing them their full resplendent might.

Its more fun, after all, to feel their wriggling bodies cease their struggle as you crunch down on them in your powerful jaws. You can taste their fear, and you can feel that moment when you break them completely and utterly. Sometimes, just for fun, they can even spit the broken and chewed corpse at their former friend's feet... Its fun to see that look of despair when they realize their end has come at last... When they realize that they can't win...

Then... Sometimes... Sometimes they stay to finish the fight... But sometimes... Just sometimes... They fly away right then and there... Leaving the pitiful so-called adventurers with the knowledge that they could have been snuffed out... But the idea that, in the evenings to come, they will awaken with screams and urine soaked sheets at the memory of their brush with true power... That is the sweetest flavor of all...

Sometimes, though, this overconfidence can be their undoing. Sometimes they run into that rare group that can take the situation. The Dragon gets hurt, maybe, just maybe, the PCs react fast enough to kill it. The Dragon realizes his folly and tries to escape...

That... That my friends... Is when the game gets interesting...

Suddenly this Dragon has a reason to hunt the PCs. The reason to see them as a threat. The reason to pull out all the stops.

Alternatively...

Lets say the PCs kill it. They will no longer fear the Dragon. They will boast about how easy it was. They will jump at the chance to take another one...

Maybe that one isn't as overconfident.

Just my thoughts on how Dragons think... My opinion at least...


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My favorite dragon to date was a very old Red dragon named Stryx. One day before the campaign he was extorting towns and one didn't have anything to give him, so they gave him a pure maiden. Long story short they eventually hit it off, even had a kid. Then the fateful day happened where adventurers bust in to kill the evil red dragon, find out they can't because he's too powerful and kill his wife instead.

Stryx is furious, wants to kill every human on the planet for what they did, but he realizes it wasn't humanity's fault it was these damn adventurers that are running around in the land. So the red dragon now knowing there is good in people as well as bad creates a kingdom, and lets everyone know far and wide that a red dragon has a kingdom. Adventurers start flocking in by the cart full. He wagers to all, your hoard against my kingdom, winner take all. Invests all of his blood money back into the economy, his kingdom is the most well educated and well built. Also has one of the world's largest graveyards.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Like Cats.

Smart, giant, magical cats.


HWalsh wrote:
You are hundreds, if not thousands of years old, you are immensely powerful, you are at the top of the food chain. They are small, and weak, and kind of squishy. You are better than they are. They are beneath you in every sense of the word.

So are bees for a human, but if you take them lightly, thinking you're so much better, you're in for really bad surprises.

Even more with a Dragon vs. anyone else. Yes, it knows it is overall powerful, but it is also non-stupid enough to recognize the threat of "swarms", of magic stings, and everything else.

HWalsh wrote:

Sure, you could take wing and fly out of their reach. If you want to admit that they are a threat to you. If you want to elevate them to your level. If you think, if you honestly think, that their tiny, insignificant, pitiful weapons can harm you... Then go ahead... Treat them like an equal.

If you want to admit that you, a great and powerful Wyrm, the lord of your lair, the master of that which you seek to claim, are equal with a small, fragile, flesh bag... Then go ahead debase yourself in that manner.

You make them creatures of unequaled pride, which means rising their Charisma by about 20 points, but also lowering their Intelligence and Wisdom scores by the same amount.

HWalsh wrote:
You see Dragons are, very much so, intelligent. They also, however, are arrogant. They have pride, and preconceptions, and history has shown us, time and time again, that pride, preconceptions, and overconfidence has killed many a being.

And you think the same history hasn't taught that to beings that are ten times older than you?

Knowing you're strong =/= being unable to recognize actual danger and act totally outside the field of self-preservation.
Besides, they reach such old ages because they do act with self-preservation in mind, otherwise each and every Wyrmling would die at its first encounter and Dragons would be extinct.


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Astral Wanderer wrote:


Knowing you're strong =/= being unable to recognize actual danger and act totally outside the field of self-preservation.
Besides, they reach such old ages because they do act with self-preservation in mind, otherwise each and every Wyrmling would die at its first encounter and Dragons would be extinct.

Not really.

Look at established characters. The captain of the Magnimar Guard, for example...

Is a level 5 Fighter.

One of the best, of the best, of a city is a level 5 Fighter.

There aren't a lot of level 11, 12, 13 characters in the world.

A level 15, for example, is a match for a herald of a God. (James Jacobs pointed that out yesterday actually.)

There are only a handful of characters in the world of that power level.

That also, by logical extension, means that 99% of Dragons have never seen a humanoid that stands a chance.

You can't tell someone's level by their appearance. It's not a DC 15 Perception check to determine level. So we have to assume that unless an enemy knows about the PC they are going to think they are looking at a level 3-7 character.

Also Charisma has nothing to do with arrogance. Dragons are supposed to be Arrogant creatures.


HWalsh wrote:


You are hundreds, if not thousands of years old, you are immensely powerful, you are at the top of the food chain.

You didn't get there by being stupid, overconfident, and arrogant to the point of willfully underestimating every opponent you run into.

A creature that has survived that long is far more likely to be incredibly paranoid and extra careful about any engagement they encounter. They have centuries of experience of nearly being defeated, seeing others of their kind being killed by adventurers, or otherwise having their own mortality made evident to them.

There are old dragons, and there are bold dragons, but there are no old, bold dragons.

Edit; BTW, as a player, I'd love to play dragons run your way. Dragons on easy mode.


Saldiven wrote:
HWalsh wrote:


You are hundreds, if not thousands of years old, you are immensely powerful, you are at the top of the food chain.

You didn't get there by being stupid, overconfident, and arrogant to the point of willfully underestimating every opponent you run into.

A creature that has survived that long is far more likely to be incredibly paranoid and extra careful about any engagement they encounter. They have centuries of experience of nearly being defeated, seeing others of their kind being killed by adventurers, or otherwise having their own mortality made evident to them.

There are old dragons, and there are bold dragons, but there are no old, bold dragons.

As HWalsh points out, that depends on how common powerful humanoids are. If there really are vanishingly few out there capable of taking on a dragon, why would the dragon be that scared of them? He's eaten dozens of would-be hero party come to take his hoard. He's burned towns and villages. None of the puny little two-legs have been a threat. Why would he expect these mayflies to be any different.

OTOH, if you are in a world where high level adventurers are a dime a dozen and powerful dragons are slain or nearly slain all the time, then you're right and he should be more paranoid.

In my mind, the old dragon is more worried about a challenge from another dragon than about puny mortals.


blackbloodtroll wrote:

Like Cats.

Smart, giant, magical cats.

that think you're crunchy and good with ketchup


thejeff wrote:


In my mind, the old dragon is more worried about a challenge from another dragon than about puny mortals.

Oh yeah, another Dragon comes along and the kid gloves come off. The same with powerful demons and such.

Not so much with human McNuggets.

Now bear in mind, if the Dragon actually gets hurt. Like, let's say it has 150 HP and it eats 50 from the PCs in a round, then he would likely fight more tactically but he needs a reason to do so.


People thinking dragons should be arrogant to the point of foolhardiness are ignoring the typical dragon stat block.

Even the lowly White Dragon has an 11 Wisdom when young, and 19 at Ancient. The ever-popular Red starts at 13 at Young, and goes to 21 at Ancient.

Regardless of any level of arrogance a dragon might have, it will never be foolhardy. The CRB defines Wisdom as "a character's willpower, common sense, awareness, and intuition." A being that goes into any/every encounter simply operating under the assumption that nothing they're going to encounter can pose a threat is operating with a complete lack of "common sense, awareness, and intuition."

If a DM is going to play a creature with such a high Wisdom score as being foolish and headstrong, would that DM also considering playing a high strength character as being too weak to swing a sword?

As far as thejeff's wondering of whether a dragon would behave as if being afraid of humanoids, it's not a matter of fear. It's a matter of having both the intelligence and common sense to engage in any and every potentially violent situation with all the cards stacked in the dragon's favor. A dragon's intelligence is just as much a part of what he's arrogant about as anything else, yet some people want their dragons to use a comparable intelligence to a charging rhino in how a dragon engages in combat. A dragon would be just as proud of his incredibly intricate and well laid out plans as he would about his physical might.

Also, as pointed out, playing dragons this way makes them easy to beat, unless the dragon is of a CR significantly higher than normally expected for the party. A moderately well optimized party needs maybe two rounds to kill a CR-appropriate dragon who chooses to engage the party on the ground with little or no intelligent pre-planning of the encounter. This has been the biggest complaint about dragons in Pathfinder for years; they're too easy to kill. The only way to overcome that ease of killing is to not run the dragons like they're dumb jocks picking on the nerdy first year students.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
Blackvial wrote:
blackbloodtroll wrote:

Like Cats.

Smart, giant, magical cats.

that think you're crunchy and good with ketchup

Like a cat?

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