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.
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
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
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
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.
Assume a group of four lvl11 PCs
AC: 15 (...)
A lvl11 fighter or rogue, with 18 attack score, buffed with prayer
(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
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...