Article: Dragons Revisited

Posted on July 8, 2011

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Just to note there will be a second component to this (Dragon stats) when I get enough time to finish them (hopefully a day or two).

A few topics ago, I mentioned that Dragons in 4th Edition were not proper Epic Tier monsters. So this article seeks to address why that is and offer some alternatives.

Just Not Epic Enough…

The dragons in the game cover the whole spectrum of levels but the dragons of the later age categories are not really any more powerful other than basic statistical changes. Now you could say that its statistically better – therefore its better. But in terms of a threat to a large area (say a country) an ancient dragon isn’t that much more destructive than a mere adult dragon.

If It Ain’t Broke, Why Fix It?

The dragons in the books work perfectly well, so why even bother messing with them? If a house doesn’t have solid foundations, then building another storey (or tier shall we say) is likely to be a ramshackle affair and fall down on your face. Basically dragons in 4E at the epic tier are simply not daunting opponents. They are not monsters that can threaten an empire or world and without ‘fixing’ them we cannot really begin to build ‘proper’ epic tier dragons.

So my proposal is that to make your game epic the existing dragons in 4E  need to be brought down a peg or two as follows.

  • Gargantuan Dragons = 16-20 Solo (White 16, Black 17, Green 18, Blue 19, Red 20 etc.)
  • Huge  Dragon = 11-15 Solo
  • Large Dragon = 6-10 solo
  • Medium Dragon = 1-5 Solo
  • Small Dragon = 1-5 Elite

The benefits of this approach are that you can easily slide ranks up and down to better create a Dragons Lair, for instance.

Late Paragon Tier: Dragon’s Lair (Ancient Red Dragon)

  • Gargantuan Red Dragon Mother = Level 20 Solo Soldier
  • Huge Red Dragon’s Mate = Level 20 Elite Soldier
  • Large Red Dragon’s Offspring (those about to leave the lair and start their own families) = Level 19 Standard Soldiers
  • Medium Red Dragon’s Children = Level 22 Minion Soldiers
  • Small Red Dragon’s Babies = Level 15 Standard Soldier (Swarms)

As you can see above, reducing the gaps between age categories/sizes to 5 levels better enables each age category to interact with one another (by reducing the level spread).

Late Paragon Tier: The Darksword Knights

One bunch of recurring foes fought in Simon’s early campaign were the Darksword Knights. A bunch of Lawful Evil, Druaga worshipping warriors who also had a pact with Tiamat that supplied them with dragon eggs which they then raised into maturity and used for steeds. Anyway, I was thinking (in what I think is a deviation) that each chapter of the order (of which there are 5) would have its own master and they would reside in a different location/climate and be restricted to raising Dragons of a single type. Collectively the Darksword Knights would fall under the eadership of the most powerful chapter (possibly the Red Dragon chapter).

  • Grandmaster of the Darksword Knights = Level 20 Elite Soldier…rides a Huge Dragon
  • Masters of the Darksword Knights = Levels 16-19 Elites (mainly Soldiers)…ride Huge Dragons
  • Darksword Knight = Level 16-20 Soldiers…ride Large Dragons
  • Darksword Warrior = Level 16-20 Minion Soldiers
  • Darksword Marauder = Level 17-21 Mobs

Early Epic Tier: Dragonflight

One of the suggestions I made in the Ten Commandments of Epic article was that epic characters should be fighting against whole squadrons of dragons. Making the above level changes lets drop everything down a rank and see what happens:

  • Gargantuan Red Dragon = Level 25 Elite Soldier
  • Huge Red Dragon = Level 24 Soldier
  • Large Red Dragon = Level 27 Minion Soldiers

Again the level spread is kept fairly tight and you could easily introduce a large force of dragons (possibly with riders) to threaten a nation and its heroes.

But What About Epic Dragons Then?

Making the above changes opens up the entire Epic Tier (and beyond). So what do we do to fill that gap? In 3rd Edition dragons more powerful than the regular breeds were refered to as Epic Dragons (which were basically Divine Dragons). I later added to that Cosmic (Space Dragons) and Nehaschimic (Interdimensional Dragons). Others then proposed Muhlatimic for those living outside our universe. So simply to take advantage of the different tiers in 4E I suggest the following:

  • Epic (Divine) Dragons = +10 Levels (Mega-sized…like Godzilla)
  • Cosmic (Space) Dragons = +20 Levels (Giga-sized…about the size of a mountain)
  • Eschatolic (Doomsday) Dragons = +30 Levels (Tera-sized…about the size of a planet)
  • still pondering over the rest for now.

Now you might think, well at +30 levels no one will ever need Eschatolic Dragons but here’s the clever bit. Sizes bigger than Gargantuan (such as Mega, Giga, Tera etc.) all use the super-solo rules.

Super-Solo Rules?

Okay, I was planning to post up the Super-Solo rules here after the Vampire Bestiary is released (and thats still the plan). But I suppose it won’t hurt to give people a sense of the basic mechanic. Super-solo monster’s have multiple stat-blocks. Nothing new there of course, Lolth in Monster Manual 3 has two stat-blocks for instance. The difference here is that they have multiple FULL SOLO stat-blocks. Each new stat-block also drops the monster down 5 Levels.

So lets say Tiamat (an Ancient Epic Dragon) was a Level 30 Solo Monster. But because she is Mega-sized she gains an extra stat-block and her level drops by 5. So she would be a Level 25 Mega-solo Monster. So fighting Tiamat would be akin to battling TWO Solo monsters back to back.

If we assume Typhon is an Ancient Cosmic Dragon was a Level 36 Solo Monster, then because he was Giga-sized he would gain TWO extra stat-blocks but his level would drop by 10. So Typhon would be a Level 26 Giga-solo  Monster. So Typhon would be like fighting THREE Solo monsters end to end.

Of course the above is just the basic mechanic for setting the level. Not the full rules for running Super-solo’s. But I think they give a clear idea of how powerful monsters can be at the Epic and subsequent Immortal Tier.

The main problem with Super-solo monsters is of course the same problems that affect solo monsters in general..only amplified. So you need to take extra care to craft super-solo monsters into challenging and exciting opponents who can hold the interest of a party.

Collateral Damage

When we create epic or immortal tier dragons one of the things we need to implement is how they affect the geography of a location. If we look at say, a Godzilla movie, what we notice is that a full city would just get devastated in a matter of minutes through a combination of Godzilla either simply stomping about, attacking buildings physically or using other powers like his atomic breath. So most mega-size creatures would cause earthquakes (stomping), hurricanes (flying) or tidal waves (swimming) simply by their movements.

  • Mega sized: Destroy a city inside a few minutes, destroy a building in one round.
  • Giga-sized: Destroy a country inside a few minutes, destroy a city in one round.
  • Tera-sized: destroy a planet inside a few minutes, destroy a country in one round.

Another aspect of monsters of this magnitude is that they leave behind a lot of devastation in their wake. So they’ll create zones that will last until the end of the encounter (at least): flooded areas, falling masonry, difficult terrain etc.

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