Could a party of 5 lvl 3 or 4 beat a cr8ish Black Dragon?


Advice


I'm a newer GM running ROTRL. However, we played the Beginners Box and the dragon flew away. The party has been trying to pursue dragon (with me using clever ways to get them back on the ROTRL track) and I'm building a side adventure to get to that point next session and give them a chance to continue to the dragon.

I'm unsure of what cr to make a black dragon. Is CR7 (young black dragon) from the bestiary too high for a challenging fight for 5 level 3 or 4's? The beginners box also has a build thats cr8, but isn't much different from the Bestiary cr7 and a template that doesn't specify a cr (from the initial encounter), but seems closer to 5 or 6 judging by how gimped it seems (IE 3d6 breath instead of 6d6).

Scarab Sages

How experianced are your players? An optimized party with that many could take the dragon, though probably not without some casualties if you play the dragon in a certain way.


2 are really experienced (bard, sorc), 1 is experienced (cleric) but hasn't played in like 10 years, although I'm starting to think is pretty min/max'd, and 2 are brand new to tabletop RPG's (barb and thief).

Also, please note I edited the OP, I put a party of 6 accidentally. It's 5 players, 1 gm.


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I could be bad depending on party composition.

If the party forms a line, the dragon will use it's breath weapon and deal 21 points of damage, save for half. ON a failed save, this could actually knock some characters unconscious at level 3. It can do so at up to 60ft away. And has a 60ft fly speed.

If your party is melee heavy the dragon (rightly) refuses to engage in melee and simply flies by using its breath weapon to harass the party to death.

If there are archers or spell casters the dragon will likely target them first will keep its distance otherwise.

So yeah...this could definitely be a tough battle if they haven't wisely prepared for it.

If you make the dragon stupid (and you shouldn't) and have it get into melee range then it is likely toast, but people will probably still get banged up.


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I would say it is possible under certain conditions

1. No minions or a few very small ones
2. They know they are going to fight a black dragon and prepare appropriately. IE: cleric preps resist energy
3. They do not group up to be AOE breath weaponed
4. They need at least full hp. Full spells would be nice but probably not going to happen

Those conditions would result in full party survival with a good probability. Each condition not met above drops their survival by a lot simply because of a dragon's dpr is higher than many lv3 char hp


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Yes, they can do it, but they will need tactics, preparation, and a bit of luck.

Assuming an APl of 3, this is a CR=APL+4 fight, which is, by the book, an exactly balanced "fair" fight with both sides having an equal chance of winning. Of course, CR is a very crude measure, partly because there are lots and lots of things that can affect the outcome of a fight that cannot be captured within the CR framework.

So let's start with the basics. Don't fight fair.

* Knowledge. If the party knows that they will be facing a specific monster at a given time and a given location, they can prepare. In the case of a dragon, the most obvious preparation would be resist energy (acid), which would reduce the damage from the breath weapon by roughly 50% (per person, per attack. If they make their saves, they've a good chance of being untouched by the breath weapon). Similarly, spells like mirror image can be pre-cast to reduce the likelihood of being hit by direct attacks.

On the other hand, if they just roll in, all fat and happy, with their eyes wide shut, they'll get clobbered.

* Tactics. Related to this, they should have a pretty good idea of the dragon's strengths and weaknesses. Don't bother with darkness as dragons have darkvision, but invisibility might work. Dragons have awesome saves, but this particular dragon does not have spell resistance, and so a whole bunch of save-or-cry spells targeting Will might weaken it enough to make it defeatable. More importantly, the party should know what they're going to do [have a plan] before they go in.

* Environment. In its "home turf," the dragon will annihilate them. Black dragons, for example, usually have underwater lairs, and are superior underwater combatants. Try to fight it on dry land, and try not to let it use its flying ability and superior speed.

* Consumables. Expect to need buffs and expect casualties. If you can get resist energy (acid) from a potion, that's five more spells the cleric can cast. Oil of magic weapon is only 50 gp each and can be smeared on weapons just before the game begins.

So,... yes, it can be done, but feel free to let them work out how.


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APL+3 is Epic, APL+4 is "I want some, if not all of you dead (dead dead)"

But in this case the party is asking for it, so it's fine.

On the other hand, if they prepare for it, and are going to invest in the appropriate consumables (potions of resist energy and stuff like that, as suggested) they might actually make it with a bit of luck on their side.

Of course, the dragon can just let them waste their potions and spells and come back about an hour later and slaughter them, but well... nobody said the plan was perfect!


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Chances are no. The dragon can fly around and breathe acid, focusing on ranged attackers but otherwise hitting multiple PCs, then possibly land and finish of the last one or two, possibly just continue flying and breathing.

The PCs would have to be experience, prepared, and lucky.

Remember to RP the dragon's intelligence, and that dragons usually feel superior to other creatures. There would rarely be reason for it to "fight fair" when it can use its natural abilities to minimize risk to itself.


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Any suggestions for a less-cheesy way to bring the party back than just handwaving them back alive if they get destroyed?


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Orfamay Quest wrote:
On the other hand, if they just roll in, all fat and happy, with their eyes wide shut, they'll get clobbered.

All fat and happy XD


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bonebrah wrote:
Any suggestions for a less-cheesy way to bring the party back than just handwaving them back alive if they get destroyed?

Make prior arrangements with the local temple of YouDunEffedUpDood, God of Second Chances, to come find their bodies tomorrow and cast raise dead on them. Basically insurance, payable in advance.


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Dragons are spellcasters. Animate dead is a spell. Undead party :) Welcome to the great game(Dragonchess)


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Dastis wrote:
Dragons are spellcasters.

Young black dragons aren't spellcasters, so that's one fewer thing to worry about.


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I added an over CR dragon fight to my Giantslayer campaign to help advance a side story I'd been working for one of the PCs who wants to be a dragon disciple. Had they gone head to head with it, it'd probably have wiped them, but I had it jump into the midst of another battle where there were other opponents to distract it. The party still took a direct breath weapon hit that did some heavy damage, but they actually took it down.

CR7 is only 3-4 over the APL. That should be a very challenging encounter for them, maybe less so if they prep well as others note. Definitely don't throw that at them at the end of the adventuring day, but it shouldn't be an insta-gib if you add some situational stuff to mitigate some of the dragon's strength.


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Bard, Sorcerer, Bard, Cleric, Rogue at level 3...lets assume 18 in primary stats so that is +6 to hit. Probably more like +7 with masterwork weapons, +8 with Bardic Performance, +9 with Bless.

The Dragon has an AC of 21 so they hit it on a 12 if the Dragon Engages them in melee. It might try to avoid that, but the cleric can cast 2x resist energy which will block out about half of the Dragon's Breath attack but that still leaves 3 of the party exposed unless they buy some potions of resist energy.

If the dragon uses hit and run, then you can expect most PCs to have a max of +7 or +6 to hit on their ranged attacks which means they need 14-15 to hit. Additionally, even if the PCs get close enough to the dragon on the initial round to melee it, the dragon can withdraw 60ft and then take off to move about 150ft away from the PCs. Maybe less depending on the terrain, but 30ft off the ground should be enough to avoid most terrain.

From their, the PCs get caught in the Hit and Run chase of the Dragon...and do not forget that since the dragon is flying it does not need a lot of space to make the PCs chase it. As long as the beast has 150ft or to move it can just keep doing strafing runs on the PCs until their Resist Energy potions run out.

Of course that requires the dragon to be smart, but it has 10 Int so it is smart enough to realize that it doesn't want to be in melee since (if trapped in melee, like say if the PCs catch it sleeping in a cave) it will probably die. 76HP isn't that much, especially when the PCs have about 40% chance to hit the dragon. At that point a pair of lucky crits will have it dead. Which would be terribly anti-climatic and would be how I would expect things to go.

After all, that is how all of my boss fights go. Last boss I had went 1v1 verses a player's Eidolon and was 4 Antipaladin levels above them with PC level gear. He got crit 3x in a row and died, after critting the eidolon once itself and missing once on a natural 1. The Eidolon survived on 3 HP. Not only was that five 5% chances happening in a row, but the damage dice needed to come out in his favor. He rolled nearly max damage, the Antipaladin rolled below average. I did the math afterwards and it was something like a .00003 chance. I was simultaneously amazed and sad.


With a daze based build from cleric or sorcerer, either could daze lock the dragon and win easy but I'm guessing they don't have that. The problem is the AoE and the groups minimal health compared to the dragon. If you are nice and don't go after the squishy members they can do it with preperation and good spea choices, but this is a gamble in my opinion. Probably not a TPK but someone not dying is FAR from certain.

Sovereign Court

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With a black dragon? Difficult. They're some of the meanest, most vengeful critters out there.

Really, the molten-in-acid corpses everywhere as they close in on its lair should be a warning to get out as fast as they can.

As for the fight: should be a slaughter. A CR 8 (juvenile) black dragon has a 8d6 breath weapon (DC 19 reflex halves). It's primary natural attacks have a +15/16 to hit, it's AC of 24 is going to be tricky to hit for the PCs, it's weakest save is at +9, and with 103 HP it has close to the HP total of the PCs combined. With a +21 stealth there's a chance it also takes the party by surprise, but with blindsight and Perception 17 it won't be easy for party members to sneak up on it. And it's still got a free feat, which it probably spends on something really awful like Power Attack or Flyby Attack.

And that's not factoring in clever use of the environment. Swamps tend to have enormous difficult terrain penalties, all of which the dragon is immune to. It's got above-10 mental stats, it may be vicious but it's not dumb.


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Thanks for all the suggestions everybody, I think I can bring something together to make for an enjoyable encounter. Hopefully tough, but not too tough.

ShroudedInLight wrote:
After all, that is how all of my boss fights go. Last boss I had went 1v1 verses a player's Eidolon and was 4 Antipaladin levels above them with PC level gear. He got crit 3x in a row and died, after critting the eidolon once itself and missing once on a natural 1. The Eidolon survived on 3 HP. Not only was that...

So far this is how all of mine have been as well. I've had to just throw tons of extra on top of the ROTRL encounters because most things (goblins, skeletons) are just getting wrecked in a round or two. The worst that has happened was the thief got knocked out and the sorc got grappled/mauled by a bear in the woods (improv'd scenario from aldern foxglove boar hunt, they wandered into a "boar" cave) and that was just poor PC decision making, otherwise easy fight. Everything else has been cake for them and I want them to fight the dragon to bring them down to earth a bit.


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Ascalaphus wrote:
As for the fight: should be a slaughter. A CR 8 (juvenile) black dragon has a 8d6 breath weapon (DC 19 reflex halves). It's primary natural attacks have a +15/16 to hit, it's AC of 24 is going to be tricky to hit for the PCs, it's weakest save is at +9, and with 103 HP it has close to the HP total of the PCs combined. With a +21 stealth there's a chance it also takes the party by surprise, but with blindsight and Perception 17 it won't be easy for party members to sneak up on it. And it's still got a free feat, which it probably spends on something really awful like Power Attack or Flyby Attack.

Well, fortunately, the OP specified the CR 7 "young" dragon, not the CR 8 "juvenile" dragon, which cuts the pain down a bit. "Only" 6d6 breath weapons, which saves about 7hp per hit, and blindsight doesn't seem to be a thing. Stealth +16 makes it less likely to surprise the party,....

... but, really, the party should have a plan in-hand to get tactical advantage on the dragon, and not the other way around. They're the ones tracking the dragon, and they're the ones picking the time and place for the encounter. That's a MAJOR advantage, and the party should take advantage of it. If they piss that away by allowing themselves to get ambushed, they deserve to die and probably will.


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I actually ran young black dragon as toughest thing my party has yet faced. I gave it Flyby attack to teach my players how to ready actions.

Round 1: character throws tanglefoot bag. Easy touch hit, 1 on save, dragon takes 2d6 falling damage.

My party always has tanglebags now.

Dark Archive

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An optimized party can down it in a round. Your party probably cant. The dragon can just flyby and leave them half dead and come back and do it again.

Now lets take the cleric and see if he can turn this around. Clerics have acess to the entire cleric spell list. Direct him towards the srd and he cam find a spell to do it. You dont have to becauase i have done it for you.

One spell can help bring the dragon down.
Admonishing ray.

At your level it is 4d6 nonlethal no save ray. Spell reistance applies unfortanately. Oh wait young dragons dont have spell reistance.

Now touch attacks only need a 12 to hit a young dragon.

Now the range is close. So we need to bring that dragon down.

Give everyone a longbow. Should already have it but hey they might not. Get everyone some tangelshot arrows. They have a 10 save for gluing to the ground but the save for knocking them out of the air is the same 15.

The dragons get +8 to reflex saves so have the whole party shoot at him. They need only a 12 so even shooting beyong range should be fine.

So we got the dragon down preferably out of out of its breath range and you could just shoot it to death. If not you can admonishing ray it to death.

Get everyone some bleeding arrows. Dragon doesnt have healing and this makes it so it cant do flybys without bleeding to death.

The party can ready actions to fire the tanglefoot arrows to bring it down. The party has min five attack maybe more if anyone has rapidshot. The dragon wont make every dc 15 save. Now it is reduced to half speed for 2d4 rounds and is on the ground hurt. Pepper it with bleeding arrows until it dies. You can back up faster then it can close and if it closes the cleric can beat it down with admonshing ray.

The only thing the party needs is to buy some special arrows and have longbows. They can do it. They just need a little time to prepare.


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Someone on these boards pointed me to the following doc, which I've come to swear by: The GM's Guide to Creating Challenging Encounters. When I plug in 3 3rds & 2 4ths (whether through leveling up some (?) characters, or to account for optimization in some cases), I get a CR-7 fight as APL+3. In theory, tough but winnable -- provided that it's the only fight of the day.

I also want to ask you what mitigating factors you use. Do you use Hero Points from the APG, in particular? Are your players prone to hoarding their HP so they can make saves when needed, or do they spend them quickly on attacks? I love HP as a way to keep PCs alive while still challenging them! But it doesn't work with some players.

And are you willing to report false results on the dice you roll? Some people (based on another thread) call it "cheating," but if you're willing to do it to keep your party alive to fight another day, I call it telling a good story, myself. What about you?

Sovereign Court

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Orfamay Quest wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:
As for the fight: should be a slaughter. A CR 8 (juvenile) black dragon has a 8d6 breath weapon (DC 19 reflex halves). It's primary natural attacks have a +15/16 to hit, it's AC of 24 is going to be tricky to hit for the PCs, it's weakest save is at +9, and with 103 HP it has close to the HP total of the PCs combined. With a +21 stealth there's a chance it also takes the party by surprise, but with blindsight and Perception 17 it won't be easy for party members to sneak up on it. And it's still got a free feat, which it probably spends on something really awful like Power Attack or Flyby Attack.

Well, fortunately, the OP specified the CR 7 "young" dragon, not the CR 8 "juvenile" dragon, which cuts the pain down a bit. "Only" 6d6 breath weapons, which saves about 7hp per hit, and blindsight doesn't seem to be a thing. Stealth +16 makes it less likely to surprise the party,....

... but, really, the party should have a plan in-hand to get tactical advantage on the dragon, and not the other way around. They're the ones tracking the dragon, and they're the ones picking the time and place for the encounter. That's a MAJOR advantage, and the party should take advantage of it. If they piss that away by allowing themselves to get ambushed, they deserve to die and probably will.

Ah, right, I zeroed in on the "CR8ish" in the thread title.

Sovereign Court

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Halek wrote:
Give everyone a longbow. Should already have it but hey they might not. Get everyone some tangelshot arrows. They have a 10 save for gluing to the ground but the save for knocking them out of the air is the same 15.

I'm not so sure about that. A tangleshot arrow says:

Quote:
This arrow is tipped with a tiny vial of tanglefoot goo. Firing a tangleshot arrow is a ranged touch attack; the arrow deals no damage when it hits, but the target is splashed with the alchemical adhesive. This effect is similar to that of a tanglefoot bag, but with the following adjustments: Reflex DC 10, Strength DC 12 to break, 10 points of slashing damage to cut through, concentration DC 10 to cast spells. A tangleshot arrow imposes a –1 penalty on attack rolls because of its weight.

I'd say that it sets both possible reflex saves (both originally 15) to 10. Which is not that hard for the dragon to make.

Also, keep in mind that scraping off the good isn't that hard for the dragon, dealing 15 slashing damage is quite trivial with that many natural attacks.


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bonebrah wrote:

2 are really experienced (bard, sorc), 1 is experienced (cleric) but hasn't played in like 10 years, although I'm starting to think is pretty min/max'd, and 2 are brand new to tabletop RPG's (barb and thief).

Also, please note I edited the OP, I put a party of 6 accidentally. It's 5 players, 1 gm.

The Bard and Sorcerer are going to be the bread and butter of the encounter, between their buffs, debuffs, and utility casting. Appropriate blasting is also a possibility.

The Cleric will be useful for maintaining party health and tertiary buffing. Quite frankly, without him, each party member (besides maybe the Barbarian) would get one-rounded with no recourse.

The Barbarian can be buffed into a naturally powerful beatstick, can take a beating, and can go toe to toe with the Dragon, but can be easily outgunned without proper buffing or tactics (i.e. no Fly spell = Barbarian becomes a sitting duck).

That poor rogue is going to be dead weight though. No flight, no ranged capability, sneak attack becomes useless (since Dragons have amazing senses, like Blindsight), and at best he's going to be doing 1D6+1 per swing, whereas that Dragon will have upwards of 4 natural attacks, each doing equal or higher damage dice (D8+), add full Strength or higher (which is ~+8 for a typical dragon), and suffers no BAB reductions. Meaning, if the Rogue attempts to melee it, it will get fileted in a single round.

My suggestion is you give them the element of surprise, and basically flat-out tell them that the Black Dragon is nearby, so they can plan and gear up accordingly. Otherwise, that Dragon is going to turn your "back-on-track" into a TPK.


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bitter lily wrote:


And are you willing to report false results on the dice you roll? Some people (based on another thread) call it "cheating," but if you're willing to do it to keep your party alive to fight another day, I call it telling a good story, myself. What about you?

I'm afraid I call it "cheating," myself. Basically, it means that you dug yourself into a bad hole with the encounter design and are trying hard to make stuff up mechanistically to make the encounter work.

I also find it goes hand in glove with a GM who doesn't actually like player agency, because they're all too often willing to misread the dice to make sure that the players' cunning plan doesn't work. Halek, for example, has a pretty good formula going for how to beat the dragon, and the party could easily be forcing 5 DC 15 Reflex saves a round (that the dragon will need to roll an 8+ to make). Simple math says that the chance of a dragon making all five of those saves is about 10%, or about 1% over two rounds. If the dragon is simply invulnerable to tanglefoot bags because otherwise the combat would be anticlimactic,.... well, at that point, why are the other five players bothering to be at the table? Write the combat how you want it to come out, and then tell me when you want to GM a scene where Halek can actually make decisions that have consequences.

If you want the party to have a fighting chance at the monster, make sure that they have a plan that gives them a fighting chance at the monster. Work with them to develop such a plan, and if they can't produce them, perhaps the wizened NPC at the local watering hole can suggest that dragon-hunting isn't a good idea at all.


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Well they have been asking the local sheriff regarding sightings of the dragon and this next session, since i'll have everything ready to go (a follow up narrative, dungeon, encounters etc) I'll make sure the sheriff is insistent that the dragon will be a difficult encounter and caution should be taken.


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bonebrah wrote:
Well they have been asking the local sheriff regarding sightings of the dragon and this next session, since i'll have everything ready to go (a follow up narrative, dungeon, encounters etc) I'll make sure the sheriff is insistent that the dragon will be a difficult encounter and caution should be taken.

Just wanted to touch this point a bit.

Black dragons don't generally play nicely with others. They're chaotic evil, and they tend to live in places that other people, even monsters, don't find agreeable. They're also not exactly the smartest knives in the drawer, especially at low age levels.

I'd advise making the "dungeon" fairly lightweight. The CR calculations above assume a party with full spell loads, equipment, hit points, and so forth. (Indeed, the purpose of a CR=APL encounter, from a design standpoint, is not to put the party at serious risk, but to deplete their spell loads, equipment, hit points, and so forth so that they are at reduced capacity for later encounters.)

If the party had to fight its way past a nest of assassin vines, a couple of giant dragonfly nymphs, and a moss troll to get to the dragon's lair, and then skirt several Indiana Jones rolling boulder traps, spiked pits, and swinging logs to get to the dragon itself, they're unlikely to be at full strength, and a TPK becomes that much more likely. Indeed, even if the "dungeon" is just a maze, the longer they stay in there, the more likely someone will botch a stealth roll or something like that and alert the dragon. Remember, the dragon only has to get lucky on his Perception roll once, but the party needs to be lucky every time.

So there's both adventure-design reasons but also verisimilitude reasons to make the dragon's lair less than the impenetrable fortress he no doubt believes it to be.


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Orfamay Quest wrote:


So there's both adventure-design reasons but also verisimilitude reasons to make the dragon's lair less than the impenetrable fortress he no doubt believes it to be.

Hrm, I'm not sure about this interpretation, unless you're just advocating going easy on the party.

A young black dragon has average human intelligence (10) and above average human wisdom (13). To me, this reads as something more cunning (lots of "street smarts," as it were) rather than something really "smart."

Then, there's the description of the black dragon from the bestiary:

"Lording over the darkest swamps and marshes, black dragons are the undisputed masters of their domain, ruling through cruelty and intimidation. Those who dwell within a black dragon's reach live in fear. Black dragons tend to make their lairs in remote parts of the swamp, preferably in caves at the bottom of dark and fetid pools. Inside, they pile up their filthy treasure and sleep amid the roots and muck. Black dragons prefer their food a bit rotten and will often allow a meal to sit in a pool for days before consuming it. Black dragons prefer treasures that do not rot or decay, making their hoard, full of coins, gemstones, jewelry, and other objects made from stone or metal."

The young black dragon has constant water breathing. There is no reason for such a dragon to have it's lair anyplace other than a fully submerged location; that fits with its intelligence level and it's ecology. It is smart enough to know that such a location makes its lair harder to find and more difficult for it's most dangerous predators (adventurers) to attack it. It's also smart enough to not make it's lair a place with only one entrance.

It has a decent Intimidate skill, and is a large creature (easier to intimidate medium and smaller creatures), has a constant ability to speak with reptiles, and has a not terrible Handle Animal skill. It is more than reasonable for there to be a variety of reptilian creatures (animal or intelligent) that have been coerced/trained into being around the area to provide a defensive screen and early warning system for the black dragon.

The point I'm trying to make is that there is no reason to make a completely overboard "dungeon" out of this encounter, but there is also no reason to not make reasonable use of those abilities that a more-cunning-than-average human would make if it had the same abilities.


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Saldiven wrote:

There is also no reason to not make reasonable use of those abilities that a more-cunning-than-average human would make if it had the same abilities.

Shrug. I submit there are at least two reasons. First, you may have more respect for the average human than I have, but I remind you of George Carlin's immortal line: "Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that."

Secondly, you'll kill the party, which is Bad Gaming Mojo. Seriously. The party has, by the CR math, roughly a 50/50 chance of survival if it encounters the dragon in neutral territory while at full strength. If the territory is tailored to be an advantage for the dragon, or if the the party is reduced in spells, equipment, and hit points, the chances of survival go down to about diddly-/squat.


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I started with beginners box and worked right into rotrl and the dragon escaped. What Ii did was replaced the red dragon with the black dragon.


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To clarify, the beginners box gives a setup to go to the ruins of ravenwatch to encounter Thassilkar (sp?) the evil lamasthu worshiping cleric who is brewing potions to make black fang stronger. The idea for the follow up is to confront Thassilkar and at the conclusion of that ruins of ravenwatch dungeon to find something the indicates the location of the dragon.

Essentially, I was going to forego building the entire ravenwatch ruins dungeon on my own, supplant Master of the Fallen Tower module (a very straightforward dungeon), adjust the encounters to include higher cr -given party size and level- swap out kobolds (i think) for goblins and swap out the boss kobold for the Thassilkar cleric. In the room, there will be something that reveals where the dragon is actually located, which I'm making the Mushfens.

Disclaimer: I know lore says black dragons wouldn't ever return to the mushfens, but it's reasonably close enough to sandpoint and i really dont care, my party wants a dragon, I shall give them a dragon so we can move on with the campaign without me having to hand wave away their attempts at pursuing the dragon because I simply haven't built anything for it yet.

So, to be clear the dungeon is to confront the evil cleric which will lead them to the dragon, not actually encounter the dragon after a dungeon crawl.


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I didn't read all the posts here so forgive me if this has been stated already.

A few other options include:
- Give the dragon a disability of some kind: near-sightedness (30' vis), lame (hampered movement), clipped wing (poor flight), slow breath weapon recovery (1d6+2 rounds), etc.
- Have them fight where the dragon can't just stay submerged, popping its head above water and retreating, nor can it do fly-bys
- Have the party come upon the dragon just as it is finishing off some other encounter (another beast, maybe a rival dragon, adventurer(s), goblin raiding party in mushfens, etc.). Give it a reason to start off already weakened.


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Orfamay Quest wrote:
bitter lily wrote:


And are you willing to report false results on the dice you roll? Some people (based on another thread) call it "cheating," but if you're willing to do it to keep your party alive to fight another day, I call it telling a good story, myself. What about you?

I'm afraid I call it "cheating," myself. Basically, it means that you dug yourself into a bad hole with the encounter design and are trying hard to make stuff up mechanistically to make the encounter work.

I also find it goes hand in glove with a GM who doesn't actually like player agency, because they're all too often willing to misread the dice to make sure that the players' cunning plan doesn't work. Halek, for example, has a pretty good formula going for how to beat the dragon, and the party could easily be forcing 5 DC 15 Reflex saves a round (that the dragon will need to roll an 8+ to make). Simple math says that the chance of a dragon making all five of those saves is about 10%, or about 1% over two rounds. If the dragon is simply invulnerable to tanglefoot bags because otherwise the combat would be anticlimactic,.... well, at that point, why are the other five players bothering to be at the table? Write the combat how you want it to come out, and then tell me when you want to GM a scene where Halek can actually make decisions that have consequences.

If you want the party to have a fighting chance at the monster, make sure that they have a plan that gives them a fighting chance at the monster. Work with them to develop such a plan, and if they can't produce them, perhaps the wizened NPC at the local watering hole can suggest that dragon-hunting isn't a good idea at all.

And "Make sure they have..." isn't writing the story yourself? "Giving" them all bows & tanglefoot arrows?

For the record, what I was talking about is adjusting the third "1" in a row for how often the dragon can use his breath weapon, or a "35" on the 6d6 damage roll. <shrug> To each their own. There evidently are lots of GMs here who are willing to curb excessive dice rolls in their players' favor, and one of them will be less likely to TPK the entire party in a single breath attack than you would be. If the OP agrees with you, he'd best be more careful about setting up the encounter.

Similarly, a GM using Hero Points has a lot more latitude than one who isn't.

~~~~~

To the OP: is there any chance that your players would be satisfied with a Mist Drake at this stage in their career? It's large and a dragon type found in marshes, but only CR 5.


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Quote:
To the OP: is there any chance that your players would be satisfied with a Mist Drake at this stage in their career? It's large and a dragon type found in marshes, but only CR 5.

If I call it a black dragon but use the Mist Drake stats, I don't see why not. Although, at that point I don't know why I couldn't just adjust the encounter to use very young/young black dragon stats for a cr 5 or 6 encounter.


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Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

My advice would be to have an algorithm to how the black dragon will fight. E.g. he starts by doing this, then does this, then attacks a person if they do this, then lands if they do this. This does a few things:
1) This takes away your need to decide between being "nice" and being "mean" every single round.
2) If done right, the players may notice a pattern and attempt to use it to engineer a win.
3) It gives you an opportunity and excuse to put some character into the dragon and the fight. Having a BBEG just do the same thing every turn is boring. They're supposed to be maniacal villains.

Also, just find a way to make sure the party preps with buff spells. If they don't, just tell them flat out "Hey, you guys realize this is a dragon, and your characters know that only turning everything up to 11 are going to win this."

Also - as suggested above, give the dragon a severe disability, either through the environment or just make something up like an injured wing or whatever.

Scarab Sages

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Just a worm hit on a good point, you could have the party run across say a couple of dead acid burned hill giants or ogres or something near the dragons lair freshly slain, which could do two things.

1). Make them rethink their plan I mean after all if it killed those. . .

2). Gives you an excuse to run them against a slightly less powerful than it could be black dragon to make the fight at least somewhat winnable.

Also If you are afraid finding the dragons treasure might throw your WBL out of whack, take some of it away, after all maybe the dragon after having discovered whatever monsters left slain outside its lair decided to move its horde to a new hideout and they have only half there or the like.


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Skipped a bit, but one trick I like for if they die is a devil making a deal.

I like that plot hook a lot.

If you force the dragon into a tight confined space, then they will be at a disadvantage. Maybe some macguffin is in an ancient temple or something.


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bonebrah wrote:
Any suggestions for a less-cheesy way to bring the party back than just handwaving them back alive if they get destroyed?

If they all die, you can have them wake up in an afterlife. A wry, sarcastic nosoi psychopomp informs them that they were predicted to have become great heroes--but since that whole Aroden fiasco, the Prophecy Division of Pharasmaco has been underperforming. They'll get one chance to claw their way back to the world of the living...

At that point you give them a strange custom mini-adventure that leads them ultimately back to life. They wake up in the dragon's lair while he's out, having just enough time to gather up their melted gear and run for the hills.


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On the suggestion of how to beat a CR 8 dragon, if they have time to prepare, point out to them that any caster can attempt to use a scroll of a spell on their spell list, with a very easy caster level check (1+CL of scroll). Have them do some research. They might be level 3 or 4, but if they can afford a scroll or three of 6-7th level spells, that could provide a good edge.

"If you can throw money at the problem, what you have is not a problem. It's an expense."


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quibblemuch wrote:

On the suggestion of how to beat a CR 8 dragon, if they have time to prepare, point out to them that any caster can attempt to use a scroll of a spell on their spell list, with a very easy caster level check (1+CL of scroll). Have them do some research. They might be level 3 or 4, but if they can afford a scroll or three of 6-7th level spells, that could provide a good edge.

"If you can throw money at the problem, what you have is not a problem. It's an expense."

And, incidentally, partially deals with the over WBL problem as well.

I like it!

Sovereign Court

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I think if you only have a shot at the monster after selecting exact gear and actions for everyone after carefully studying the monster's statblock OOC... that you're not ready.

What Orfamay said earlier about an "even fight" is a bit of a misnomer. It stems from the idea that a party fighting a duplicate of itself is a CR +4 encounter. It's "even" in the sense that they're facing an equal enemy, but that also means you expect about 50% of the PCs to perish, or that there's a 50% chance that the party just completely loses the fight. It's an "even chance of catastrophe".


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One last suggestion: if you decide to encourage them towards prudence, but need things for them to do so they can gain a level or two before they confront the dragon... the 1st volume of the Jade Regent AP has a lot of things to do in the Brinestump & environs.


3 x level 5 yes!

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