You call these lizards, dragons?

Pathetic.

Most people expect more than a one-word feedback, so I'll elaborate a bit.
Most dragons are worth between 8k and 23k xp, which means the white dragon (8,750 xp) is considered a touch encounter for a group of 4 lvl8 PCs, and a red dragon (23,380 xp) is considered a tough encounter for a group of 4 lvl11 or lvl12 PCs (closer to lvl12, but not quite).
Let's compare the white and the red.

White first.
AC: 15, as an expected lvl8 encounter. Seriously?
Assume a lvl8 fighter or rogue with an 18 in their attack score: +6 atk. Factor in a bless or prayer effect and we are at +7 (I'm not considering a magical weapon, since these are no longer required, or any other feat/spell effect like haste). 65% chance to hit.

Average fighter/rogue damage (assume a 1d8 one-handed weapon): 4.5 (d8) + 4*3.5 (4d6 martial dice) + 4 (ability) + 5 (martial damage bonus) = 27.5 (28.5 if we have prayer instead of bless), 45.5 on a critical. 27.5*0.60 + 45.5*0.05 = 18.775 average dpr.

Add to that 9.6 more from lance of faith (14*0.6 + 24*0.05, assuming an equal atk bonus), and ignore the wizard since his at-will (ray of frost) is useless. We get a sustained 18.775 (ftr) + 18.775 (rog) + 9.6 (clr) = 47.15 damage each round, which should be considered a minimum. Since this is expected to be a boss fight, we should assume that the wizard will opt to cast one of his daily spells (not just cantrips). A lvl3 magic missile is worth <6d4+12> = 27 damage, total per round = 47.15 + 27 = 64.15 damage.

So the bossey white dragon apparently goes down in two rounds, as the above extremely conservative calculations seem to indicate. Marvelous, as Inspector Callahan would say. By comparison, how much damage does the dragon deal during a round?

- Against the AC 18 fighter (shield + some armor): The dragon is listed as having a +7 atk bonus, so its a 50% to hit. Assuming a claw-claw-bite multiattack, we have bite: 0.45*20 + 0.05*30 = 10.5, claw: 0.45*10.5 + 0.05*14 = 5.425, multiattack total = 2*5.425 + 10.5 = 21.35

Now it can be higher against characters with an AC of less than 18 (wizard), but still is less than half of what the party (sans wizard) will deal the dragon. Frightful presence is a factor that can influence the fight in favor of the dragon heavily, so much so in fact, that in can be described as a save-or-die effect. A prepared party shouldn't have much difficulty dealing with it, but it can still be a problem.
The breath weapon is a joke. 33% recharge, for a single-action attack dealing 18 damage on average (and the rogue already has uncanny dodge and evasion). The cone makes it slightly more appealing, but still, seems inadequate.

Red time
Assume a group of four lvl11 PCs
AC: 15 (...)
A lvl11 fighter or rogue, with 18 attack score, buffed with prayer and haste (this is lvl11): +7 to-hit (65%), 1d8 + 5 (avg 9.5, crit 13, avg per attack 0.6*9.5 + 0.05*13 = 6.35).
The fighter used combat surge, to double his 6d6 martial dice.
Average damage for the first round for the fighter: 6.35 [1st attack] + 6.35 [hasted attack] + 6.35 [combat surge attack] = 19.05
Now we need to figure martial dice and martial damage bonus. Obviously, the player will spend them on the first attack that hits, so their chance of being applied is equal to the chance to score at least one success when making three trials and each one has a p = 0.65 chance of success (Bernoulli trials), which equates to 95.7125% This means that the contribution to the total damage for the round is 0.957125*(12*3.5 + 10) = 49.7705.
Total fighter damage = 68.8205.

The rogue gets only a single attack (not hasted), so we have 4.5 (d8)+5+6*3.5 (6d6)+10 (bonus) = 40.5 normal, 63.5 crit.
Thus, the rogue's damage is 0.6*40.5 + 0.05*63.5 = 27.475.

The cleric casts inflict critical wounds. Assume his magic attack bonus is also +7. The spell's damage is 0.6*31.5 (normal hit, average of 7d8) + 0.35*0.5*31.5 (miss, half damage) + 0.05*56 (crit) = 27.2125.

Wizard: lvl6 magic missile beats all. <12d4 24=""> = 54.

Sum of average expected party damage for one round: 68.8205 + 27.475 + 27.2125 + 54 = 177.508. Dead red dragon.

OK, so again frightful presence was not accounted for. Dragon damage against an AC 19 fighter is (again assuming claw-claw-bite multiattack) as follows:
At +7 to-hit, the dragon has a 45% chance of success. A claw deals 0.4*20.5 + 0.05*31 = 9.75 on average, while the bite deals 0.4*33 + 0.05*55 = 15.95. Grand total per multiattack = 2*9.75 + 15.95 = 35.45.

The dragon's breath weapon deals 29.5 damage on average on a failed save.

OK, let's review and summarize.
Damage-wise, a dragon is hardly a nuisance for a party for which it is supposed to be a tough encounter. Of course, the dragon's frightful presence cannot be reliably and easily factored in, as there are too many parameters involved here (how many party members will initially fail the save? How many will make their saves in the second or subsequent rounds? Will the dragon have time to kill party members one by one before the group recovers? What is the chance for each individual party member to succeed on their saves?)
To accurately model frightful presence requires a Monte Carlo simulation, which should be embedded in a simulation of the entire combat.
Breath weapons are next to useless. They recharge on average as fast as they did in 3.5E, will be used against PCs having on average about as many hit points as they had in 3.5E, yet the breath weapons deal about one-third of the damage they dealt in 3.5E. Dragons are famous for their intelligence and cunning. Why would a dragon ever use its (sub-optimal) breath weapon in combat? Cone-shaped breath weapons would be useful against a tight group, but line-shaped ones are now much harder to employ effectively and justify spending the dragon's action on that.

Also, the above calculations are extremely conservative of party resources employed. I did not include additional spell buffs (which would be the normal if a group was knowingly marching against a dragon), magic weapons (almost certainly to be possessed by party members, especially at the lvl11 encounter), use of more powerful damaging spells, feats, or maneuvers. I also did not include a dragon's custom options. The red's Dominate can make a huge difference (especially since the intelligent red will attempt to dominate the fighter), the white's freezing fog not so. The other dragons' abilities fall somewhere in between.

I can understand the need to keep even the most legendary of all monsters simple. However, sometimes both party and DM expect an epic encounter, and are willing to go the extra mile to prepare or read through a lot of abilities. As it stands, a low-level dragon encounter might be acceptable, but even the most powerful dragon (red) pales against PCs after 15th level.

Personally, I'd go the class route to somewhat alleviate the issue. Have each dragon gain a few class levels. Wizard seems the obvious choice, although personally I'd prefer the sorcerer (let's see it released first, though). Fighter is the next best, and rogue follows after. Even two or three levels up the dragon's threat significantly. A shield or mage armor spell effectively solves the low AC issue, and color spray is far better than any breath weapon. Mirror image makes the players think twice before going up against a dragon again, and phantasmal force or web are sound tactical options.
Likewise, the ability to parry attacks, or have a maneuver or two and some martial damage dice are very handy options. I still have no working solution as to how a monster's xp valu scales when it acquires class levels...
In the long run however, breath weapons need to have their damage increased. Dragons also need more hit points imo, or perhaps give them the ability to reduce all weapon damage by some amount (kinda like a passive parry due to their thick hides and hard scales). Additional rolls do slow the game down, but resistance seems like too much.
Mental stats on dragons need a review. I assume the dragons listed in Bestiary are at least adults. Int and Wis are low across the board, Cha only marginally better. 20's the cap, I get it, but Int 07 for an adult white? Int/Wis 11 for an adult (perhaps older) red? The most legendary schemers, with plans spanning decades, an extensive network of associates, allies, and agents, has an Int of 11?? And speaks only two languages???

Errata found in the process:
The white's breath damage is listed as 25 (4d6+4). The average of 4d6+4 is 18, where does the 25 come from?
The red's atk bonus equals its Str modifier. The white's equals its Str modifier +1. The black's equals its Str modifier +3. I guess consistency was thrown out somewhere along the way?

Request to Devs: Plz break down monster stats as analytically as possible, e.g. AC 15 (+2 Dex, +1 shield, 12 scale armor).
Request to Devs #2: Dragons need more damaging breath weapons and higher mental stats - and AC.
Request to Devs #3: All monsters should have a skill die and training in some skills. Since it's no longer necessary to track a different gauge for each skill, listing a few skills to which each monster is trained or adept, should not be a hard task. (Nonintelligent or mindless monsters are exempt, of course).

And after the wall of text, I await comments... Cool
Your breakdown is a bit unfair, as are all of these thought-out and the math done but not played-out types of examples always are - no consideration for party composition other than the "one of each big-four classes" evident in your inclusion of bless or prayer, and no consideration of terrain, mobility, or tactics.

Sure, the DPR math says one thing - but the DPR math is not all there is to the game and the way a fight with a dragon plays out.

Your request #1: There is next to no purpose to spelling out every little detail that factors into a monster's stats unless those factors are not already listed in the monster description - waste of words, waste of space, and clutter that some of us would rather not have getting in our way.

Your request #2: Dragon breath in some of the older editions (including 3.5) was off the rails dangerous, and needed to be scaled back. The damage of the breath weapon of the white (18 average, 28 max) compared to the HP a wizard or thief would have (34 +those gained from constitution) is actually pretty seriously scary... right where it should be in my opinion, rather than so high as to kill any character that didn't save as it once was.

As for mental stats and AC - I disagree, but acknowledge that is just a matter of preference that not every dragon need have a hide so tough as to make steel seem frail nor superior in intellect to the average human (which, oddly enough most still are).

Your request #3: Monsters should not have skills by default because skills should be an optional rule - there for those that want it, but absent by default for those that don't so that an adventure module never assumes you are using it. It is a lot easier to add skills to monsters than it is for me to forcibly omit them and get all that word count space back for the devs to spend on either more monsters in the book or a lower price point through a lower page count.

ATTENTION:  If while reading my post you find yourself thinking "Either this guy is being sarcastic, or he is an idiot," do please assume that I am an idiot. It makes reading your replies more entertaining. If, however, you find yourself hoping that I am not being even remotely serious then you are very likely correct as I find irreverence and being ridiculous to be relaxing.

Dragon breath in some of the older editions (including 3.5) was off the rails dangerous, and needed to be scaled back. The damage of the breath weapon of the white (18 average, 28 max) compared to the HP a wizard or thief would have (34 +those gained from constitution) is actually pretty seriously scary... right where it should be in my opinion, rather than so high as to kill any character that didn't save as it once was.


Many considered that a feature, not a bug. I would want the breath weapon damage of a 10th level dragon to be 10d6, because that's enought to potentially kill a character who failed the saving throw (depending on the HP rolls and Damage rolls). Clerics and Fighters would have slightly higher survivablity, but not much. As it is, a dragon would have to breath twice, getting high rolls on both, and with the character failing the save on both, for it to actually threaten to kill anyone. Considering that the Breath Weapon will be used realistically only once, maybe twice, per combat, it needs to be more lethal.

All of the above assumes you want Dragons to be the iconic badass the game is named after.
No thanks. I don't want to have a creature that kills you 50% of the time with one attack, assuming you have a +4 bonus to your save, and can potentially hit the entire group with that ability. I like them more as is, thanks...

They might go down a bit too quick. I have not decided. It depends on how frightful presence plays out in practice. But their abilities are exactly where they should be.  
I don't think most of the stuff suggested in the OP is a good idea, but that is a surprisingly short period of time for something to go down when it is supposed to be a "tough" encounter (for the white dragon anyway; the red dragon has dominate and that is going to massively change the layout of the fight compared to what was put forward in the OP).

The short fight length might be OK, but if that's intended I think it might be a good idea to re-examine the values on recharge dice.  They look to be about the same as they were in 4e, but a typical encounter in 4e lasted a longer number of rounds.  I don't really want to see the damage per hit of things go up to the point where they're one-shotting things (especially if they're attacks with range), but I think possibly shifting things to recharge 3 or 4 rather than 5 or 6 might make sense if encounter are only two or three rounds long.
Many considered that a feature, not a bug.

Show me anyone that felt that it was a feature of D&D that a dragon with 136 HP did 136 damage with its breath weapon or half on a save when a 15th level fighter had only around 60 HP on average, which is how things worked in BECMI D&D.

Dragon breathes, party dies - end of sentence.

Not a very enjoyable encounter to play out on either side of the screen in my opinion.


Considering that the Breath Weapon will be used realistically only once, maybe twice, per combat, it needs to be more lethal.

I prefer to have a dragon actually fight the party, not just breath once and have destroyed the party.

All of the above assumes you want Dragons to be the iconic badass the game is named after.

I do want dragons to be the iconic monsters the game is named after - I do not want it to be impossible to defeat one unless you catch it in a moment of tactical stupidity and beat it on initiative so you can escape its death-breath.

The iconic image is of a stout warrior gritting his teeth as he holds his shield between himself and the dragon's mouth, fire roiling around him - not of a warrior getting melted like a tin soldier on a hot stove.

ATTENTION:  If while reading my post you find yourself thinking "Either this guy is being sarcastic, or he is an idiot," do please assume that I am an idiot. It makes reading your replies more entertaining. If, however, you find yourself hoping that I am not being even remotely serious then you are very likely correct as I find irreverence and being ridiculous to be relaxing.

I do want dragons to be the iconic monsters the game is named after - I do not want it to be impossible to defeat one unless you catch it in a moment of tactical stupidity and beat it on initiative so you can escape its death-breath.

Or, you know, the DM sees the suggested CR and mentally adds about 5.

Many considered that a feature, not a bug.

Show me anyone that felt that it was a feature of D&D that a dragon with 136 HP did 136 damage with its breath weapon or half on a save when a 15th level fighter had only around 60 HP on average, which is how things worked in BECMI D&D.


Umm.... Me? I wouldn't have said it if I didn't belive it.

Dragon breathes, party dies - end of sentence.

Not a very enjoyable encounter to play out on either side of the screen in my opinion.


Enjoyment is subjective... I have enjoyed tough dragons as both a player and DM, and know several others who feel likewise.

Oh, and dragons dealing their HP in damage with their breath weapon was always tweaky. If the dragon lost initative, the dragon often died without causing any real damage. I liked the 2E breath weapon damage dice.

Your breakdown is a bit unfair, as are all of these thought-out and the math done but not played-out types of examples always are - no consideration for party composition other than the "one of each big-four classes" evident in your inclusion of bless or prayer, and no consideration of terrain, mobility, or tactics.


I have last sunday's transcript somewhere, just can't find it (I cleaned up the house yesterday, need to do some looking). If I find it, I'll copy it here, you'll see how it plays out.
Of course I used average numbers, not what happened in a single battle (especially since I can't find the transcript, lol). Average numbers represent statistical objectivity, I'm not so sure about my dice. However, last Sunday's outcome did come out about the same as the average results.
The above simplistic approach to a battle with a (current version of a) dragon of course does not represent reality. One would have to figure in a lot more parameters. The average damage dealt represents the average possible outcome over say a thousand such battles. Sometimes, the dragon dominates or its frightful presence rules the day, or the PCs miss, or damage is above or below average, or the PCs use another option, or did not buff, or... or... The line has to be drawn somewhere, or else even non-linear dynamics and chaos theory will be inadequate to describe the system.

Your request #1: There is next to no purpose to spelling out every little detail that factors into a monster's stats unless those factors are not already listed in the monster description - waste of words, waste of space, and clutter that some of us would rather not have getting in our way.


If you're not interested in details, don't read them. I did say they should also provide the total result. I want to add class levels to a monster, gear it with magic equipment, and give it feats. Am I not entitled to know what stacks with that, simply because some other DM is bored to read through a few more numbers?

Your request #2: Dragon breath in some of the older editions (including 3.5) was off the rails dangerous, and needed to be scaled back. The damage of the breath weapon of the white (18 average, 28 max) compared to the HP a wizard or thief would have (34 +those gained from constitution) is actually pretty seriously scary... right where it should be in my opinion, rather than so high as to kill any character that didn't save as it once was.


It's a DRAGON we're talking about, not some random encounter in the woods. If the group walks into a fight with a DRAGON unprepared, someone should very well die from the breath weapon, most likely everyone will. Mistakes are punishable, and in an adventurer's line of work, they should be punishable by death - especially when they are so outrageously grave as attempting to fight a dragon unprepared.
A PC that fails his save against a dragon's breath should suffer a final maximum damage of about 3 hit points per character level - enough to scare even the lowly, d4-HD wizard. Final damage in this case implies halved due to successful save or appropriate resistance (through proper spell buff, potion, magic item, or what have you). So max breath weapon damage should be about 6 hp/character level, and assuming a dragon has 50% more HD than the average party level, breath weapon damage should be about 1d4 or 2.5 (or equivalent) per dragon HD.
So average breath damage should be: black 30, blue 35, green 30, red 37.5, white 27.5. All curently fall short.

Edit: I just noticed there is no resist energy/protection from energy spell yet.
Edit 2: One of the guys from my gaming group just reminded me that wizards now get a d6 HD (...). This means final breath damage should be 4 points per character level, not 3, or 1 - 5.2 per dragon HD (3.1 average). Scale above listed values for average breath damage by +24% plz.

Your request #3: Monsters should not have skills by default because skills should be an optional rule - there for those that want it, but absent by default for those that don't so that an adventure module never assumes you are using it. It is a lot easier to add skills to monsters than it is for me to forcibly omit them and get all that word count space back for the devs to spend on either more monsters in the book or a lower price point through a lower page count.


Skills are obligatory. Backgrounds are optional. There is a HUGE difference.
I want monsters as detailed as the PCs. I like to roleplay my monsters, not just roll their combat dice. Sometimes, PCs can parley with monsters, ask information, or even cooperate with them... This is a role-playing game after all... or is it? (4E managed to convince me of the opposite).

In short: A random fight with a dragon of an appropriate level (i.e. one classified as a tough encounter) should result in a TPK. Always. If the PCs want to fight a dragon, they had better get themselves really, really prepared. If this ends up not being the case, they should rename the game...


Yea, I don't think that the iconic creature that the game is named after should always result in a TPK. If that is the case, when I DM, this game will never have battles against the iconic creature that the game is named after. I don't play this game to TPK my group, A TPK should be a possibility, not a probability.

If you're not interested in details, don't read them.

I am interested in the details - once.

It lists the monster's Ability scores, so you can see how much those would be adding, and in the case of equipment using monsters it lists their armor worn and their weapons used.

All the stuff you want is already there in plain view in the monster stats - what you are asking for is it all being written a second time in the breakdown of each little piece of the monster, and that's a waste of space that, over the course of a book of monsters, adds up to taking away a number of monsters greater than 0 or increasing the page count by a number of pages greater than 0.

It's not about me being bored to read a few more numbers - its about monsters being harder to use quickly because their stat block is a wall of useless text instead of a streamlined set of numbers that only show things once.

ATTENTION:  If while reading my post you find yourself thinking "Either this guy is being sarcastic, or he is an idiot," do please assume that I am an idiot. It makes reading your replies more entertaining. If, however, you find yourself hoping that I am not being even remotely serious then you are very likely correct as I find irreverence and being ridiculous to be relaxing.

Watched the Hobbit last week.  Smaug wiped out a human town and the dwarven city.  An army of elves fled rather than fight him.  He seemed pretty invincible until Bilbo found his single weak spot and a special arrow downed him.

How many commoners would it take to kill a red dragon?
Red Dragon 60' cone.  AC15  HP 172

Assuming its breath 60' cone of fire can kill commoners with a single shot and it can avoid the rocks between recharging breaths by flying out of range.
Commoners have +3 to attack and do 2 dmg per hit with a range of 80' with disadvantage
1 commoner would average 0.4 hp damage per thrown rock.
It would therefore take 430 stones to kill a red dragon. 
430 commoners needed to kill a red dragon if it can kill every commoners after they threw a rock.

Human Warrior (heavy crossbows) attack +4, dmg 1d8+2
1 warrior would average 3 hp damage per quarrel.
58 warriors need to kill a red dragon.

1st level human fighters (longbow), dex 18, attack +5, longbow 1d8+4+1d6 martial damage
6.5 hp damage per arrow fired.
26 1st level fighters could kill a red dragon.

Dragons need damage reduction.  They also need a higher armor class.  Dragon scales should at least be equivalent to plate armor.

Fear might change this slightly but fear is a DC14 save and a creature becomes immune after 1 save is made.  If a dragon flies to meet them and attacks a village in broad daylight most peasants would have developed 24 hour immunity before the dragon arrived unless it tried to sneak up on them.

In a mock battle, a single 12th level optimized monk made short work of a red dragon by stunning it.
I have a humble opinion to interject into this if I may.

I tend to view dragons as intelligent creatures that would only attack if they had the upper hand in a fight.  Like, I think a dragon would prefer to fight the adventurers in its lair rather than the open plains.  I tend to think if a dragon is flying around, Skyrim-style, attack random passersby, then it kinda deserves a good waffle-stomping.

One of the more memorable dragon fights I had was in 3.0e against a white dragon.  Our group entered its lair and saw the treasure on the opposite side of a huge room with thick ice covering the floor.  The white dragon we were hunting wasn't in sight.  Those of us who couldn't fly (*grumble*) began balancing our way across (hilariously watching the paladin play slip and slide). About half way across, the ice breaks and we all fall in the water.  The dragon was in the water waiting for us.  It had a couple ioun stones and spells up allowing it to proceed beating us mercilessly.  We all managed to swim to the land the treasure was sitting on and proceeded to recover and defeat the dragon.  I died, but not before putting a good full attack, two-weapon fighting, sneak attack, hurting on it (I was later resurrected). 

But that, to me, is what a dragon fight should be.  Not just trading blows, but the players overcoming the traps, minions, unique terrain that gives the dragon an advantage, and unique abilities that a dragon may have.  In fact, most DMs I've played with have had to beef up dragons from the Bestiaries of previous editions just to deal with the group.
 
All of that said, it does sound like the longevity of these dragons should be revisited in an effort to make the dragons a bit more...robust.  I like the suggestion of damage reduction.  Higher AC might be too much of a bummer, though.  I would rather do reduced damage than miss completely.

Personally, I would even like to see age categories for the dragons make a comeback.  That white dragon strikes me as being more of a juvenile =).
Watched the Hobbit last week.  Smaug wiped out a human town and the dwarven city.  An army of elves fled rather than fight him.  He seemed pretty invincible until Bilbo found his single weak spot and a special arrow downed him.


Haven't had time to go to the movies yet. I hope it was enjoyable?

Dragons need damage reduction.  They also need a higher armor class.  Dragon scales should at least be equivalent to plate armor.


I thought about DR as a (partial) solution, but iirc the devs have mentioned that they do not want to introduce this mechanic to DDN. Resistance might be an option, though. Definitely in favor of an increased AC.


Fear might change this slightly but fear is a DC14 save and a creature becomes immune after 1 save is made.  If a dragon flies to meet them and attacks a village in broad daylight most peasants would have developed 24 hour immunity before the dragon arrived unless it tried to sneak up on them.


I think such a (hilarious) picture would qualify as a scene for a Gamers 3 movie


In a mock battle, a single 12th level optimized monk made short work of a red dragon by stunning it.


Well, we could cry all over the forums for devs to nerf monks. (That might actually be a good idea...) However, iirc, 3.5E dragons were immune to stunning. Even in 2E, where dragons were by comparison much flimsier (fewer hit points due to no Constitution bonus, no form of resistance or DR), they had an amazing AC, spellcasting capability, a breath weapon that in some varieties could potentially kill the dragon itself (!), a flat damage bonus due to age category, and magic resistance that could pontentially render them immune to spells. Oh, and old or older dragons were immune to normal missiles, and they got more than one signature spell-like ability as they aged.
All of the above are missing from a DDN dragon. Except perhaps the hit points. I'm not saying a dragon needs to deal more melee damage (though I'd prefer a more dangerous breath), or have overall higher stats. A dragon needs options that can potentially increase, above all, its staying power.

How about at the very least, some spellcasting capability? It could use the Wizard spells per day and magic bonus, but be based off Charisma. Also, whereas the Wizard prepares 1+level spells per day, the dragon knows 1+effective Wizard level total spells, plus Int modifier cantrips. Effective Wizard level could be equal to the dragon's HD - 10. (If it's too low, we can calculate another value instead of -10).

Landale3, +1 from me to the return of age categories.

(I'm guessing no change will be implemented after all, and dragons with class levels in Wizard and/or fighter will end up a de facto necessity...)

Agreed that Smaug is what a high-level dragon should be - invulnerable as to defeat a dwarven kingdom and drive off an elven army alone. In the spirit of inclusiveness, there should be a place in the game for lower-level dragons without a huge suite of abilities, killable by mid-level characters without a significantly higher risk of death than, say, several giants or a tribe of ogres, because that's what some DMs look for. This is where age categories come in.
But yes, on the higher-difficulty dragons, a higher AC and DR are a must. Maybe some low-level spellcasting too.
1) Played intelligently, one of the existing dragons could easily destroy a human village filled with commoners. 

2) Smaug may have been higher level than the existing dragons.

3) Lets keep in mind, Smaug was killed by one shot from an arrow.

4) When you want to run a quest where a creature cannot be beaten until the adventurers take the time to discover some fact/weakness about the creature, the best bet is to code the creature by giving it invulnerability to all damage unless X, where X is the thing you want the group to do before they can beat the creature. Any of the existing dragons could be given that trait. Any of the existing dragons would play like Smaug if they were given that trait. That does not mean, however, that all dragons should play that way... 
 
4) When you want to run a quest where a creature cannot be beaten until the adventurers take the time to discover some fact/weakness about the creature, the best bet is to code the creature by giving it invulnerability to all damage unless X, where X is the thing you want the group to do before they can beat the creature. Any of the existing dragons could be given that trait. Any of the existing dragons would play like Smaug if they were given that trait. That does not mean, however, that all dragons should play that way... 
 



Exactly this.  Smaug had special DM fiat plot armor.  You don't just give that to things in the bestiary for general use.  Can you imagine if the red dragon entry said "immune to weapon damage unless the character has talked to a thrush recently"?

Breath weapons are next to useless. They recharge on average as fast as they did in 3.5E, will be used against PCs having on average about as many hit points as they had in 3.5E, yet the breath weapons deal about one-third of the damage they dealt in 3.5E. Dragons are famous for their intelligence and cunning. Why would a dragon ever use its (sub-optimal) breath weapon in combat? Cone-shaped breath weapons would be useful against a tight group, but line-shaped ones are now much harder to employ effectively and justify spending the dragon's action on that.



Wait, you expect an intelligent dragon to be on the ground, doing 2 claws and a bite using multi-attack, when it has the option to move out of range, swoop in with a breath weapon, and then leave range until it can use it again?  We're talking about a weapon that it can use every few rounds to do a great deal of harm to a party, with no other help.

You're right, played as a melee combatant, the dragons are boned.  So doesn't that just mean we should stop expecting them to be primary melee?

You're right, played as a melee combatant, the dragons are boned.  So doesn't that just mean we should stop expecting them to be primary melee?


Agreed. What are my non-melee options as a dragon? A breath weapon usable at best once every 3 rounds... Acceptable. Dull, but acceptable.
During those three rounds that I attempt to minimize my exposure to enemy fire (read: cleric's lance of faith, wizard's ray of frost [lucky white dragon here], fighter's bow, axe, etc.), what else do my enemies do? My guess is they heal the damage sustained by my breath. I, on the other hand, seem to have no ability to heal any wounds I've sustained.
I also have a spell-like ability of dubious usefulness (some are amazing, others not so). Still better than nothing.

Scenarios like the above can quickly degenerate to a fight of attrition. The dragon swoops in, breathes, flies away, more than likely sustains some damage in the process, then waits for its breath weapon to recharge before coming in again. The party has some healing capability, the dragon does not. A party without a cleric might find such a fight hard, a party equipped with a mobile hospital will not.
Right, let's open the can of tactical geniusness (serious pun intended). The principles of war and rules of offence (which are basically nothing more than common sense rephrased) dictate that I (the dragon) should swoop in, breathe, then either land or come around and attempt to snatch the healer, carry him away from the rest of the party, and finish him off, all the while looking for the best opportunity to use my spell-like ability. As soon as my breath weapon recharges (or when the cleric dies), I come around, breathe again, then go for the weakest enemy (most likely the wizard). It's downhill towards the TPK after this point.
A couple of issues:
a) How guaranteed is it that I'll be able to tell the healer, or just the best target choice? (white dragon: Int 07... not very likely). If I snatch the wrong party member, he's still most likely dead, but the rest of the party will be healed when I come around to breathe again, while I will sustain additional damage, with no (by the book) ability to heal.
b) Why should my enemies stick around and just watch me pull this maneuver off? This is supposed to be a crucial fight, we can safely assume the PCs will pull all the stoppers. Not to mention that a fight in the dragon's lair pretty much invalidates the flyby attack maneuver.
If I want to win, I should prepare special traps in the combat zone, like landslides, camouflaged pit traps filled with punji sticks, mimics in rock form, etc. Perhaps I should also use a couple magic items from my hoard...

Personally I can go to all that trouble as a DM, and even beyond. I've DM'ed lvl45 Epic adventures in 3.5E (with a plot, multiverse-spanning threat, a damsel in need of rescue, etc. etc.), having a dragon act like an S.A.S. commando in a jungle operation is easy. I just think not everyone is going to, and a couple more abilities in the default dragon entry could help a lot.

So far, everyone seems to agree that a few more points in AC are a step in the right direction. Someone (and me) also mentioned low-level spellcasting. I propose that a dragon's spellcasting ability be Charisma.
Age categories are useful (essentially for having a dragon be a viable encounter over a range of PC levels), but their implementation takes up a lot of space in a book, and frankly, I can agree for them to be the last thing that needs to be playtested before DDN goes live.


With the exception of the red dragons of old, any other dragons (white, black, green, etc.) I've fought have almost needed spells to be a serious threat (i.e. to give a real sense that one or more PCs will likely die in this if not played correctly).  They would typically buff themselves with barkskin, stoneskin, or even haste (...or all three *shudder*).  Some would even setup a couple alarm spells, glyphs, and other nasty things around for the PCs to contend with during the fight.  I even encountered one that summoned an extra planar ally to help.

I think giving the dragons spellcasting would be a great thing, and it stays in line with what dragons of previous editions were able to do.  The tactical possibilities of adding spells as a default feature would provide the DMs a tool for making the fights more challenging.

Sometimes it can have hilarious results though.  One time, we set off an alarm outside a room and stood around debating of whether we should go in now that it knew we were coming.  The creature had buffed itself upon hearing the alarm to prepare for the attack, and by the time we finally decided to go in, most of the buffs had worn off =).

Edit: clarity =). 
If 'Dragon Scales' need Damage Reduction, so does Armour.  Do NOT add a new mechanic that applies only to the monsters, otherwise you'll end up breaking the system even further.
How, I wonder, do things turn out when you use a mated pair of dragons as an encounter rather than just one dragon?

I mean, back in the day there were plenty of encounters in modules that were multiple dragons of less than wyrm age (adults looking to make a clutch of hatchlings, siblings that raid together, etc.) - so how does that play out?

I'll be honest, if we give up on dragon singular for dragon plural, especially in a way that allows a high level party the ability to battle a dozen adult dragons assaulting a city I will be happy.

I mean, it's dungeons & dragons - not dungeons & dragon.

ATTENTION:  If while reading my post you find yourself thinking "Either this guy is being sarcastic, or he is an idiot," do please assume that I am an idiot. It makes reading your replies more entertaining. If, however, you find yourself hoping that I am not being even remotely serious then you are very likely correct as I find irreverence and being ridiculous to be relaxing.

Giving dragons spells, or even a couple of spell-like abilities, would probably raise the degree of difficulty significantly.  I think the best thing to do in addition to that is to increase their attack bonus by a point or two, and their armor class by a point or two as well.

For example, black dragons have the Darkness spell listed under customization.  The red dragon has Dominate listed.  Add a couple of other things to each of these lists, for maybe a total of 5 spells, and dragons are a whole new ballgame.

Also, I think that the blue dragon's Lightening Blood should be translated as a general feature of dragons, giving each dragon a different type of damage dealt for wounding them after they drop to half.
I think the simplest solution (that I see at least) is buffing up the dragon's health. AC doesn't have to be much higher, if at all (especially when taking the desired bounded acuracy system into concern). Once you buff up the health, the fight is going to take a lot longer. And even if the dragon cannot do tons of damage in a turn or two, after 5 or 6 rounds the party is going to be pretty worn out. I would like to see a mention of the maturity of the dragons in the Bestiary. Because it would be fine if this sort dragon was a young or mid ages dragon. But once you have an ancient dragon on your hands, you really should be **** in your pants. I always liked when campaigns approached dragons in such a way that there may be a somewhat healthy population of "average" dragons with a few truely terrifying behemothic dragons.

Also, environment and personality are big factors. If you look at the 4th edition lore of blue dragons, they approach combat in the long term and often from a distance. A stationary dragon might not be the most terrifying thing for a party (if we look at OP's simulation), but if you are facing a dragon that is doing hit and run tactics, blasting you at a range with its breath weapon and maybe disappearing for minutes or hours, waiting to strike, then you're going to want to worry.

I have a humble opinion to interject into this if I may.

I tend to view dragons as intelligent creatures that would only attack if they had the upper hand in a fight.  Like, I think a dragon would prefer to fight the adventurers in its lair rather than the open plains.  I tend to think if a dragon is flying around, Skyrim-style, attack random passersby, then it kinda deserves a good waffle-stomping.

One of the more memorable dragon fights I had was in 3.0e against a white dragon.  Our group entered its lair and saw the treasure on the opposite side of a huge room with thick ice covering the floor.  The white dragon we were hunting wasn't in sight.  Those of us who couldn't fly (*grumble*) began balancing our way across (hilariously watching the paladin play slip and slide). About half way across, the ice breaks and we all fall in the water.  The dragon was in the water waiting for us.  It had a couple ioun stones and spells up allowing it to proceed beating us mercilessly.  We all managed to swim to the land the treasure was sitting on and proceeded to recover and defeat the dragon.  I died, but not before putting a good full attack, two-weapon fighting, sneak attack, hurting on it (I was later resurrected). 

But that, to me, is what a dragon fight should be.  Not just trading blows, but the players overcoming the traps, minions, unique terrain that gives the dragon an advantage, and unique abilities that a dragon may have.  In fact, most DMs I've played with have had to beef up dragons from the Bestiaries of previous editions just to deal with the group.
 
All of that said, it does sound like the longevity of these dragons should be revisited in an effort to make the dragons a bit more...robust.  I like the suggestion of damage reduction.  Higher AC might be too much of a bummer, though.  I would rather do reduced damage than miss completely.

Personally, I would even like to see age categories for the dragons make a comeback.  That white dragon strikes me as being more of a juvenile =).

Actually it's quite the opposite. Dragons are at their most vulnerable in their lairs because they don't have room to fly in them and can get pummeled by martial characters. Outside the dragon can simply fly and breathe on the party while taking arrow and spell damage at the most.
I have a humble opinion to interject into this if I may.

I tend to view dragons as intelligent creatures that would only attack if they had the upper hand in a fight.  Like, I think a dragon would prefer to fight the adventurers in its lair rather than the open plains.  I tend to think if a dragon is flying around, Skyrim-style, attack random passersby, then it kinda deserves a good waffle-stomping.

One of the more memorable dragon fights I had was in 3.0e against a white dragon.  Our group entered its lair and saw the treasure on the opposite side of a huge room with thick ice covering the floor.  The white dragon we were hunting wasn't in sight.  Those of us who couldn't fly (*grumble*) began balancing our way across (hilariously watching the paladin play slip and slide). About half way across, the ice breaks and we all fall in the water.  The dragon was in the water waiting for us.  It had a couple ioun stones and spells up allowing it to proceed beating us mercilessly.  We all managed to swim to the land the treasure was sitting on and proceeded to recover and defeat the dragon.  I died, but not before putting a good full attack, two-weapon fighting, sneak attack, hurting on it (I was later resurrected). 

But that, to me, is what a dragon fight should be.  Not just trading blows, but the players overcoming the traps, minions, unique terrain that gives the dragon an advantage, and unique abilities that a dragon may have.  In fact, most DMs I've played with have had to beef up dragons from the Bestiaries of previous editions just to deal with the group.
 
All of that said, it does sound like the longevity of these dragons should be revisited in an effort to make the dragons a bit more...robust.  I like the suggestion of damage reduction.  Higher AC might be too much of a bummer, though.  I would rather do reduced damage than miss completely.

Personally, I would even like to see age categories for the dragons make a comeback.  That white dragon strikes me as being more of a juvenile =).

Actually it's quite the opposite. Dragons are at their most vulnerable in their lairs because they don't have room to fly in them and can get pummeled by martial characters. Outside the dragon can simply fly and breathe on the party while taking arrow and spell damage at the most.



Another thing to consider is the different personality types of dragons. I'm going to go with the 4e Draconomicon descriptions for this example. A red dragon is actually quite likely to jump right down into melee with an adventuring group because it wants to boast its superior strength. However a blue dragon thinks about combat in the long term and is also a long distance combatant. It will fly around shooting at long range and might disapear for hours before seeing a good moment to strike. Green dragons will likely have many minions under its command that can fight with it, if not entirely for it. Black dragons use their environment (swamps and forests commonly) to blend in. It might strike and suddenly disappear within a few seconds. That's a whole different ballgame than just exchanging blows. Oh and age categories are definitely needed. A collossal ancient dragon should be pretty ****ing terrifying and should dominate you if you're just exchanging blows.
How, I wonder, do things turn out when you use a mated pair of dragons as an encounter rather than just one dragon?

I mean, back in the day there were plenty of encounters in modules that were multiple dragons of less than wyrm age (adults looking to make a clutch of hatchlings, siblings that raid together, etc.) - so how does that play out?

I'll be honest, if we give up on dragon singular for dragon plural, especially in a way that allows a high level party the ability to battle a dozen adult dragons assaulting a city I will be happy.

I mean, it's dungeons & dragons - not dungeons & dragon.


I like that. I remember back in 2E an adventure from Dungeon (called "Steelheart" I think) that featured dragon encounters with multiple dragons, A pair of mated reds, a group of young dragons, and some other mated pairs, don't remember much. The threat factor is definitely higher.

On a side note, I found the transcript. I'll post it tomorrow, too tired now... (0200 in Athens)
OK, finally found the time to sit down and copy the combat transcript.

Setup: 6 × Lvl5 PCs vs White dragon in lair.
PCs are: a High Elf Wizard [Battle Mage] (Wiz1),
a human Wizard [Illusionist] (Wiz2),
a halfling Monk (Mnk),
A human Cleric [the Warbringer] (Clr),
a Wood Elf Fighter [Archer setup] (Archer), and
a Mountain Dwarf Fighter [Protector setup] (Dwarf).

The dragon's lair is a 23 × 16 squares cave (an A2-sized battle mat), 30 feet high, with a single opening. I'm not interested in whether the dragon could escape or not, just to see how the fight worked out. Of course, if it were an actual part of a plot, the dragon would have an escape route.

Magic Items in the party: 2 × warhammer +1 (Clr, Dwrf), a wand of enemy detection (Wiz1). Some potions of healing, which were never used anyway.

I assumed the dragon was aware of the PCs approaching, and allowed 2 rounds of preparation for each side.

Preparation: Clr casts prayer, Wiz1 casts haste on Archer. Dragon casts freezing fog in the middle of its lair, moves to the back, and waits (nothing else to use).

Party enters lair, both sides roll initiative. Wiz1 used a charge from his wand of enemy detection. Archer and Mnk had Improved Initiative. Final Initiative rolls are as follows:

Dragon 01 (natural 1)
Mnk 24
Wiz1 31
Wiz2 21
Archer 19
Clr 20
Dwarf 07

Not much to say here. Obviously a bad start (natural 1...), but even if it had rolled a natural 20, the only one it would have played before would be the Dwarf, as the Clr had a Dex of 14.

Round 1:
Wiz1: Fails save against frightful presence, chooses to cast maximized fireball instead of using action to reroll save. [The player was actually hoping the dragon had vulnerability to fire.] Dragon saves, takes 18 damage. Wiz1 moves away from dragon and out of the battle mat.
Mnk: Fails save against frightful presence, uses action to reroll save, succeeds, and moves closer. Does not get in area of freezing fog.
Wiz2: Succeeds on save against frightful presence, casts inivisibility on herself, moves away from rest of group.
Clr: Succeeds on save against frightful presence, casts protection from evil on himself, moves away from rest of group.
Archer: Succeeds on save against frightful presence, makes two attacks with longbow, both with advantage due to his First Strike feat. first attack succeeds (19 damage), second misses.
Dwarf: Succeeds on save against frightful presence, approaches dragon, gets in area of freezing fog, not enough movement to get within melee range of dragon.
Dragon: Moves within freezing fog area, (best position for breath), breathes, catches Clr, Dwarf, and Archer, rolls 16 damage on breath. Only Archer succeeds on Dex save.

Comments: Clearly, the party failed to understand they had two rounds to prepare, and spent actions casting more buffs. Otherwise, damage to the dragon would probably have been higher. Frightful presence also helped, because the Mnk essentially lost the first round. Even so, the dragon is already at -37, (slightly) more than one-third of total hit points.

Round 2:
Wiz1: Uses action to reroll save against frightful presence, fails.
Mnk: Uses Step of the Wind and action to move far enough to get into melee with dragon. Activates Iron Root Defense (rolls -5 damage against all melee attacks).
Wiz2: Uses crow familiar to deliver shocking grasp, misses. Crow stays adjacent to dragon to avoid Attack of Opportunity.
Clr: Approaches the dragon, stops at the edge of freezing fog, attacks with lance of faith, hits for 7 damage.
Archer: Same as in round 1, makes two attacks, no advantage this time, but both hit for 28 and 10 damage (used martial dice on the first attack).
Dwarf: Moves to within melee range, attacks dragon, hits (precicely AC 15) for 14 damage, saves one MDD for parry.
Dragon: Fails to recharge breath (rolled a 3). Uses multiattack to make bite and tail attacks. Bites Mnk, hits for 26 damage. Mnk uses his Deflect feat to halve the damage to 13, reduced to a final 8 by Iron Root Defense. Tail slaps dwarf, hits for 7 damage, but Dwarf uses his reaction to parry with 1d6 + skill die for a total of (5+6) 11 damage, thus negates attack.

Comments: Wiz1 still out of the fight, Mnk still has not attacked, Wiz2 missed, and despite all that, the dragon sustained a further 59 damage, and is at -98. The dragon used its tail against the Dwarf, intent on pushing it 20 feet away, which would mean that the Dwarf (moving at 20 feet in armor, 10 effectively in freezing fog) would be unable to attack again next round (would either have to use action and move to get back into melee, or stop out of melee range). Since the parry turned the hit into a miss, the push never happened. Still, the dragon hit on all attacks.

Round 3:
Wiz1: Finally makes the save against Frightful Presence, begins to return, but is too far away yet.
Mnk: Attacks the dragon, hits for 10 damage, uses Grasp of Stone, dragon fails its saving throw (...). Mnk follows with Flurry of Blows, which auto-hits and deals 7 more, then spends two MDD on Iron Root Defense (-8 all damage).

At this point, the dragon dies (-115 hit points, down to zero hit points).

Comments Overall
Overall party resources expended: One fireball and haste (both 3rd-level slots of Wiz1), one prayer (single 3rd-level slot of Clr), one protection from evil (one 1st-level Clr slot), one invisibility (one 2nd-level Wiz2 slot). Wiz2 was low on hit points, would probably have dropped if hit by another breath attack, but he didn't contribute to damage anyway. Even though a combination of failed Frightful Presence saves and attack rolls, as well as choice of wrong actions meant the party dealt below average damage, the dragon still died in three rounds.

The Monk as a class is horribly overpowered and requires a good swing with the nerfbat. Deflect combined with Iron Root Defense is plainly absurd for a guy wearing no armor and carrying no weapons. Basically, Iron Root Defense is absurd on its own - a flat damage resuction against all attacks and effects with no reaction required, when the fighter's parry (a class ability of a class supposedly better than the Monk in armed combat) requires a reaction, hence defends only against a single attack. Someone over at the dev lair needs to get serious and limit Iron Root Defense to a single MDD.

The dragon has unacceptably few options and defenses. Its AC proved barely adequate for lvl5 PCs, obviously is inadequate for lvl8 ones. AC 16 or 17 is more appropriate. An AC of 16 would have made the Dwarf's 14-point hit into a miss. I don't know how much difference that would have made, since in round 3 there were 4 more PCs left to act before the dragon (Wiz2, Clr, Archer, Dwarf), but one can only hope...
Breath weapon damage is way too low. I don't think a faster recharge would help, but it really needs to be higher. Maybe a 50% increase would help some (say, 6d6+6), and likewise for the other dragons. DC seems fine.

Obviously, this is just a single test, and against a party 50% more powerful than normal (6 PCs), so statistically it does not carry much significance. However, assuming that the dragon could statistically defeat the group, what are the chances of getting a completely different result on a single test?
The above scenario is a great example of why dragons are currently far too easy. If the dragon had higher hitpoints (I would say double or even triple) then the threat level would increase significantly. But not nearly enough to make a fight rediculous. I'd like to see a scenario run where the dragon had a 200-300% health increase, a +1-3 AC increase and a +50% damage increase. That's a real fight you have on your hands then.
If it's too easy, then the CR is wrong.
A fighter, highest accuracy with weapons, at even level has a 65% chance to hit? Sounds about right to me. Remember damage is how the game scales, not accuracy. I see no reason that a fighter should be useful less than 65% of the time :P

Now if a wizard, no accuracy bonus, had a 65% chance to hit, then maybe we would have a problem.
My two copper.
A fighter, highest accuracy with weapons, at even level has a 65% chance to hit? Sounds about right to me. Remember damage is how the game scales, not accuracy. I see no reason that a fighter should be useful less than 65% of the time :P

Now if a wizard, no accuracy bonus, had a 65% chance to hit, then maybe we would have a problem.



Even if the AC is not modified (though I do think it should be raised by 2 or even 3), the health and damage is still low. Even if it's just theoretical number crunching, an average round of combat should not be enough to outright kill a dragon. Even if a dragon only has an AC of about 16 they should still have the hitpoints and damage that would present a challenge. A dragon attack should not be seen as a minor inconvenience to an average party. When you see a dragon coming toward it should be "oh god. Oh god run. Oh ****. Oh ****. Run. Just run." unless you are well prepared. The dragons' low damage and low health compared with the insane standard damage of medium leveled PCs is VERY unbalanced.
@Jenks: If the classes had different accuracy bonuses with their primary attack forms, I'd agree. Problem is, they don't.
The Fighter's, Rogue's, and Monk's weapon attack bonus is identical, and the same as the Cleric's and Wizard's spellcasting bonus. So assuming each class has the same score in their primary offensive ability, all classes have the same chance to hit.

I agree, weapon-wise the Fighter should be more accurate than the Rogue (let's assume the Monk is just as adept as the Fighter). Spell-wise, a Wizard or Cleric should be (ignoring Deity/Tradition benefits) less accurate overall than the fighter. I can agree that specific deity and tradition choices could boost them to an equal level of accuracy. Perhaps in a future playtest things will change...

On the subject at hand, most dragons appearing in literature and mythology are fought alone. Each one's legend portrays it as a more or less unique creature of extraordinary power. Now I agree, DDN is in no way obliged to follow stories and myths accurately, but it should bear some similarity. Why should the DM have to go out of his way to enrich every dragon encounter with minions, traps, and other nasty surprises, just to be interesting?

I got a test system for dragons that I wanna try in our group's next session (which, unfortunately, is in 10 days). If it looks good, I'll upload it here for all to see/review/cry against Smile
We ran an encounter with the Black Dragon last night - against a party of five level six characters.  And they shredded it.  It was roughly an average difficulty encounter for them - I think I almost got one character to 0 hp - no one else was even close.

Even my players thought its AC was too low and it had too few hit points.

At a minimum it needs two fixes. 

The AC is too low.  It dropped from AC 18 in the last packet to 15 in this packet.  This needs to go back up.   Alternately it needs a (roughly) 30% increase in hit points.   As a start.

The breath weapon sucks. 4d6+5 damage, half on a save.  For a dragon?   For a LEVEL 13 dragon?  For a creature designed to fight characters with fourth and fifth level spells, and 50+ hit points in many cases - and it's breath weapon does less than 20 average damage on a failed save?  The breath weapon needs to do enough damage to threaten a level-appropriate character on a failed save.  That means at least 30-40 damage as an average.  Or else it needs ongoing damage and blindness.  Something to make it a threat.   Players should be afraid of the breath and looking for ways to avoid it (spreading out, resistances, etc.) - not laughing at its trivial damage (the fact that a line is the weakest of shapes is a minor issue).


Granted it's just one more step in the gradual weakening of Dragons that has happened in every edition since the AD&D.  Dragons are going from the apex predator that players aspire towards fighting to 'just another monster' for the players to roll over.  And not a particularly tough one at that.  And I think that cheapens them - they should be special because the game is Dungeons and Dragons.

Carl
Dragons...

Adult Blue Dragon

2nd edition : HD 18 (18D8 Good), AC -4 (tough but not impossible), breath weapon 16D8+8 lightning = great for taking out a town, which it should be able too, but pretty darn nasty vs a party.

3.5 : AC 28 (tough but not impossible),  Breath weapon 12D8 lightning = great for taking out a town, which it should be able too, but pretty darn nasty vs a party.

DDN : HP 161 (good), AC 16 (moderate, possible for all classes) Breath weapon 100ft line (3d10+5 damage-lightning) = respectable, can still take out a town of decent chunks of one.

- I think outright Damage resistance is not required, resistance to slashing could be good for older dragons, say the top third of the age catagories.
- they already have Advantage against magical spells and affects-this will cut back alot of spells, this already makes them tough.
- Dragons using spells seems like a no brainer to me, anything that lives that long has got to take up magic of some kind.
- for breath perhaps they can change the stream to a cone or cloud etc?

Remember dragons are long lived, intelligent foes. So like Vampires, Liches, Mind Flayers etc, they will have minions, lairs, traps, plans, backup lairs and backup plans. All designed to keep them alive and help them forward their goals.

Sure some are greedy or egotistically so you can kite them into attacking you, but once they start to feel the pain they can flee and return.

Key things for D&D - Where is the character from and why do they do what they do? / Recurring NPCs - allies and enemies / Plot, World and Personal Events.

OK, finally found the time to sit down and copy the combat transcript.

Setup: 6 × Lvl5 PCs vs White dragon in lair.
PCs are: a High Elf Wizard [Battle Mage] (Wiz1),
a human Wizard [Illusionist] (Wiz2),
a halfling Monk (Mnk),
A human Cleric [the Warbringer] (Clr),
a Wood Elf Fighter [Archer setup] (Archer), and
a Mountain Dwarf Fighter [Protector setup] (Dwarf).

The dragon's lair is a 23 × 16 squares cave (an A2-sized battle mat), 30 feet high, with a single opening. I'm not interested in whether the dragon could escape or not, just to see how the fight worked out. Of course, if it were an actual part of a plot, the dragon would have an escape route.

Magic Items in the party: 2 × warhammer +1 (Clr, Dwrf), a wand of enemy detection (Wiz1). Some potions of healing, which were never used anyway.

I assumed the dragon was aware of the PCs approaching, and allowed 2 rounds of preparation for each side.

Preparation: Clr casts prayer, Wiz1 casts haste on Archer. Dragon casts freezing fog in the middle of its lair, moves to the back, and waits (nothing else to use).

Party enters lair, both sides roll initiative. Wiz1 used a charge from his wand of enemy detection. Archer and Mnk had Improved Initiative. Final Initiative rolls are as follows:

Dragon 01 (natural 1)
Mnk 24
Wiz1 31
Wiz2 21
Archer 19
Clr 20
Dwarf 07

Not much to say here. Obviously a bad start (natural 1...), but even if it had rolled a natural 20, the only one it would have played before would be the Dwarf, as the Clr had a Dex of 14.

Round 1:
Wiz1: Fails save against frightful presence, chooses to cast maximized fireball instead of using action to reroll save. [The player was actually hoping the dragon had vulnerability to fire.] Dragon saves, takes 18 damage. Wiz1 moves away from dragon and out of the battle mat.
Mnk: Fails save against frightful presence, uses action to reroll save, succeeds, and moves closer. Does not get in area of freezing fog.
Wiz2: Succeeds on save against frightful presence, casts inivisibility on herself, moves away from rest of group.
Clr: Succeeds on save against frightful presence, casts protection from evil on himself, moves away from rest of group.
Archer: Succeeds on save against frightful presence, makes two attacks with longbow, both with advantage due to his First Strike feat. first attack succeeds (19 damage), second misses.
Dwarf: Succeeds on save against frightful presence, approaches dragon, gets in area of freezing fog, not enough movement to get within melee range of dragon.
Dragon: Moves within freezing fog area, (best position for breath), breathes, catches Clr, Dwarf, and Archer, rolls 16 damage on breath. Only Archer succeeds on Dex save.

Comments: Clearly, the party failed to understand they had two rounds to prepare, and spent actions casting more buffs. Otherwise, damage to the dragon would probably have been higher. Frightful presence also helped, because the Mnk essentially lost the first round. Even so, the dragon is already at -37, (slightly) more than one-third of total hit points.

Round 2:
Wiz1: Uses action to reroll save against frightful presence, fails.
Mnk: Uses Step of the Wind and action to move far enough to get into melee with dragon. Activates Iron Root Defense (rolls -5 damage against all melee attacks).
Wiz2: Uses crow familiar to deliver shocking grasp, misses. Crow stays adjacent to dragon to avoid Attack of Opportunity.
Clr: Approaches the dragon, stops at the edge of freezing fog, attacks with lance of faith, hits for 7 damage.
Archer: Same as in round 1, makes two attacks, no advantage this time, but both hit for 28 and 10 damage (used martial dice on the first attack).
Dwarf: Moves to within melee range, attacks dragon, hits (precicely AC 15) for 14 damage, saves one MDD for parry.
Dragon: Fails to recharge breath (rolled a 3). Uses multiattack to make bite and tail attacks. Bites Mnk, hits for 26 damage. Mnk uses his Deflect feat to halve the damage to 13, reduced to a final 8 by Iron Root Defense. Tail slaps dwarf, hits for 7 damage, but Dwarf uses his reaction to parry with 1d6 + skill die for a total of (5+6) 11 damage, thus negates attack.

Comments: Wiz1 still out of the fight, Mnk still has not attacked, Wiz2 missed, and despite all that, the dragon sustained a further 59 damage, and is at -98. The dragon used its tail against the Dwarf, intent on pushing it 20 feet away, which would mean that the Dwarf (moving at 20 feet in armor, 10 effectively in freezing fog) would be unable to attack again next round (would either have to use action and move to get back into melee, or stop out of melee range). Since the parry turned the hit into a miss, the push never happened. Still, the dragon hit on all attacks.

Round 3:
Wiz1: Finally makes the save against Frightful Presence, begins to return, but is too far away yet.
Mnk: Attacks the dragon, hits for 10 damage, uses Grasp of Stone, dragon fails its saving throw (...). Mnk follows with Flurry of Blows, which auto-hits and deals 7 more, then spends two MDD on Iron Root Defense (-8 all damage).

At this point, the dragon dies (-115 hit points, down to zero hit points).

Comments Overall
Overall party resources expended: One fireball and haste (both 3rd-level slots of Wiz1), one prayer (single 3rd-level slot of Clr), one protection from evil (one 1st-level Clr slot), one invisibility (one 2nd-level Wiz2 slot). Wiz2 was low on hit points, would probably have dropped if hit by another breath attack, but he didn't contribute to damage anyway. Even though a combination of failed Frightful Presence saves and attack rolls, as well as choice of wrong actions meant the party dealt below average damage, the dragon still died in three rounds.

The Monk as a class is horribly overpowered and requires a good swing with the nerfbat. Deflect combined with Iron Root Defense is plainly absurd for a guy wearing no armor and carrying no weapons. Basically, Iron Root Defense is absurd on its own - a flat damage resuction against all attacks and effects with no reaction required, when the fighter's parry (a class ability of a class supposedly better than the Monk in armed combat) requires a reaction, hence defends only against a single attack. Someone over at the dev lair needs to get serious and limit Iron Root Defense to a single MDD.

The dragon has unacceptably few options and defenses. Its AC proved barely adequate for lvl5 PCs, obviously is inadequate for lvl8 ones. AC 16 or 17 is more appropriate. An AC of 16 would have made the Dwarf's 14-point hit into a miss. I don't know how much difference that would have made, since in round 3 there were 4 more PCs left to act before the dragon (Wiz2, Clr, Archer, Dwarf), but one can only hope...
Breath weapon damage is way too low. I don't think a faster recharge would help, but it really needs to be higher. Maybe a 50% increase would help some (say, 6d6+6), and likewise for the other dragons. DC seems fine.

Obviously, this is just a single test, and against a party 50% more powerful than normal (6 PCs), so statistically it does not carry much significance. However, assuming that the dragon could statistically defeat the group, what are the chances of getting a completely different result on a single test?

Your battle is laughably flawed, but good effort.
Dragons...

Adult Blue Dragon

2nd edition : HD 18 (18D8 Good), AC -4 (tough but not impossible), breath weapon 16D8+8 lightning = great for taking out a town, which it should be able too, but pretty darn nasty vs a party.

3.5 : AC 28 (tough but not impossible),  Breath weapon 12D8 lightning = great for taking out a town, which it should be able too, but pretty darn nasty vs a party.

DDN : HP 161 (good), AC 16 (moderate, possible for all classes) Breath weapon 100ft line (3d10+5 damage-lightning) = respectable, can still take out a town of decent chunks of one.

- I think outright Damage resistance is not required, resistance to slashing could be good for older dragons, say the top third of the age catagories.
- they already have Advantage against magical spells and affects-this will cut back alot of spells, this already makes them tough.
- Dragons using spells seems like a no brainer to me, anything that lives that long has got to take up magic of some kind.
- for breath perhaps they can change the stream to a cone or cloud etc?

Remember dragons are long lived, intelligent foes. So like Vampires, Liches, Mind Flayers etc, they will have minions, lairs, traps, plans, backup lairs and backup plans. All designed to keep them alive and help them forward their goals.

Sure some are greedy or egotistically so you can kite them into attacking you, but once they start to feel the pain they can flee and return.

Except that dragons have varying personalities. A green dragon is a scheming dragon who will have a wide connection of underlings if strong enough and prefers not to engage in direct combat. But most other dragons will very rarely have underlings. White dragons would never have any because of how primal their actions are. Red dragons usually care very little and they'd prefer to be the ones who go and fight in the first place to show their strength. Blue dragons are probably the most annoying to deal with because they might consider combat with you to last a year or more.
I think Spoony described dragon combat the best; No decent, intelligent dragon would EVER fight in melee if they saw a fighter with a huge sword, maul-wielding clerics and a stabby rogue. Dragons have wings for a reason, and a 100ft distance breath weapon for an even better reason; for aerial ranged combat.

To relay what he has said, and for what I have been doing for years, is this; First round you (The dragon) would make their way out of its own lair despite possibly provoking oppurtunity attacks; why would a dragon fight in its own lair where it could potentially damage or destroy its own hoard? Also, a little bit of damage doesn't go too far especially when making this setup. 

No providing the lair is small enough the dragon should be able to get out and take flight this round, if not then on the next round. Now what does the dragon do now? Simple; it flies a distance equal to its breath weapon's reach (Black Dragon's BW is 80ft). Unfortunately it's a line attack but some dragons have a cone at a shorter distance however. Take into consideration the distance; all Melee characters are now useless, the wizard and spellcasters are useless if they do not have any spells that can reach the dragon, and a ranger will only be able to hit from range should they be able to hit with the penalty to their range rolls for "long distance" shots. If you have no ranger, the entire party is screwed. So the dragon now spams its breath weapon over and over, waiting to recharge if needed. A dragon will happily wait its time because, for a dragon, time can take however it wants considering how long they can live for.

So for the record; dragons don't fight fair. They don't need to, or even have to. Dragons are also relentless based on their own personalities; red dragons are the most horrifying creatures you will find; if you do something to tick him off, he'll find you. You've hid in a forest? No problem, it'll burn it down. Gonna go hide in a village? No problem, he'll burn that down, too. There have been many-a-time I have caused a TPK to groups because they thought that they could take on a dragon because they picked up a new +3 Greatsword or similar.

Point is, don't judge creatures based on their AC, HP and Damage; think about how they play, how they would react, what sort of tactics they would use. I nearly scored a TPK with goblins against a 5 man Level 3 party because the Goblins used a combination of oil and wall torches to do mass AoE fire damage on reflex saves. Remember, play by the mind and not by the numbers.
Dragons normally don't use Breath Weapon unless hard pressed as they prefer their meats fresh!  Also an Ancient Red Dragon's Breath Weapon should melt stone or destroy some magic items or artifacts.  Just seems right at our game table, no one wants to stand in that.  Dragons also don't want to mess up their horde or miss out on any great treasures foolish adventurers bring to them and where do all the bones and legends come from if they do not truly challenge and threaten a party of adventurers with TPK.  Even a Dragon Hunter knows to tread carefully for they lose members all the time.  Just my two bits about Dragons and 34 years of the game and novels.  Dragons should threathen Players with Death and Match Player Characters when dealing it.  They should be a problem through to Epic Campaigns where there could be many dragons to deal with.  They are important and should not seem like a cake walk all of the time.
Dragons being easy kills reminds me of this guy who wrote to Gary Gygax, back in the 80s, asking for new gods as he had (allegedly killed the whole pantheon). In fact it was due to a DM who played gods just like regular characters. For them players it was like fighting tough orcs, nothing more.
I think Spoony described dragon combat the best; No decent, intelligent dragon would EVER fight in melee if they saw a fighter with a huge sword, maul-wielding clerics and a stabby rogue. Dragons have wings for a reason, and a 100ft distance breath weapon for an even better reason; for aerial ranged combat.

To relay what he has said, and for what I have been doing for years, is this; First round you (The dragon) would make their way out of its own lair despite possibly provoking oppurtunity attacks; why would a dragon fight in its own lair where it could potentially damage or destroy its own hoard? Also, a little bit of damage doesn't go too far especially when making this setup. 

No providing the lair is small enough the dragon should be able to get out and take flight this round, if not then on the next round. Now what does the dragon do now? Simple; it flies a distance equal to its breath weapon's reach (Black Dragon's BW is 80ft). Unfortunately it's a line attack but some dragons have a cone at a shorter distance however. Take into consideration the distance; all Melee characters are now useless, the wizard and spellcasters are useless if they do not have any spells that can reach the dragon, and a ranger will only be able to hit from range should they be able to hit with the penalty to their range rolls for "long distance" shots. If you have no ranger, the entire party is screwed. So the dragon now spams its breath weapon over and over, waiting to recharge if needed. A dragon will happily wait its time because, for a dragon, time can take however it wants considering how long they can live for.

So for the record; dragons don't fight fair. They don't need to, or even have to. Dragons are also relentless based on their own personalities; red dragons are the most horrifying creatures you will find; if you do something to tick him off, he'll find you. You've hid in a forest? No problem, it'll burn it down. Gonna go hide in a village? No problem, he'll burn that down, too. There have been many-a-time I have caused a TPK to groups because they thought that they could take on a dragon because they picked up a new +3 Greatsword or similar.

Point is, don't judge creatures based on their AC, HP and Damage; think about how they play, how they would react, what sort of tactics they would use. I nearly scored a TPK with goblins against a 5 man Level 3 party because the Goblins used a combination of oil and wall torches to do mass AoE fire damage on reflex saves. Remember, play by the mind and not by the numbers.



This is definitly how I envisioned dealing with dragons (having also watched Spoony's videos). Though I think this description doesn't apply to all dragons. I've probably said it once or twice already in this thread, but the draconomicon in 4e did dragons in a brilliant way that I hope they come back to. The way you (or spoony really) described dragon describes blue dragons perfectly. They'll harass you for weeks or more if they have to. Staying out of range and just blasting away. But when you deal with other chromatics (according to 4E) they will approach combat in various ways, depending on their environment and personality (i.e. a black dragon will often attempt to disappear from sight using murky waters, swamp vegetation and darkness spells).

However I think the problem still remains. Fighting a dragon in an open field? Hah! Good luck! Your wizard either gets some lucky rolls or you're toast. Fighting in a dragon's cave or something similar where it may not be able to escape? The dragon should be much easier, but still a challenge. As it is now, even if it's just number crunching theory, an average party should not be able to kill a dragon in 1-3 turns. Fighting a dragon should not be looked as an inconveniece on the way to bigger and better things. Players should look at dragonslaying as a monumental task ahead of them. Perhaps with a questline simply to locate the proper weaponry required to deal with such a task (like the arrows of dragonslaying). Though one somewhat easy fix is to bring back age brackets for dragons. The current dragon stats seem to be what a young dragon would have. An ancient dragon should be the stuff of nightmares.