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Old 05-05-2021, 08:44 AM   #1
phiwum
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Default Dragon hunts and nesting habits

Here's what I think I know about dragons.

They like to live in caves and venture forth to feed and gather gold (though how they carry gold back to the lair is a bit of a mystery -- perhaps their foreclaws are nimble enough to grab pouches). They spend most of their time in the cave. While large dragons may get jollies laying waste to villages, smaller dragons must look for weak parties which can be attacked from the air. With -4DX for their fire breath, which is thrown and not missile, any hits from the air are pretty lucky, however, so it's not clear that this is a viable strategy. Landing on top of a party seems a better bet, followed by a quick disengagement if necessary. (Fire breath has no -4DX penalty per ITL 133.)

This means that the cave entrance has to be fairly large. Inside the cave, they lose the flight ability and have slow movement. Their lair is in some ways a weak point to receive an attack, so it would be best to have the lair adjacent to the cave entrance. If possible, take the fight outside where they are mobile.

Or one could have a lair deeper in a cave filled with other dangerous denizens, who form the first layer of defense. The dragon could leave them alone because they serve a purpose, while they leave the dragon alone because it's a dragon. It would have to be quite a large cave, with tunnels big enough to accommodate a dragon from lair to entrance.

Would a respectable dragon have a lair outdoors, say on the top of a tall tower? He'd have the advantage of flight in his domain and could see parties approaching. Exposure to the elements doesn't seem dignified, however.

Any other tips to prepare for players interested in a dragon hunt? In your experience, what size dragon is an appropriate challenge for four characters around 36 or so attribute points? I'm sure the setting matters, so details please.

Thanks.

Last edited by phiwum; 05-05-2021 at 10:25 AM.
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Old 05-05-2021, 09:54 AM   #2
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Default Re: Dragon hunts and nesting habits

For dens, I think dragons would be more likely to favor caves with narrow entrances, to limit the number of assailants they might have to deal with at once, to line them all up for their breath attack, and to prevent them from outflanking it. I'd consider letting dragons up to 7-hexes in size squeeze through 1-hex wide tunnels at a movement penalty (we could really use an articulated wrym counter). I also allow them to strike with claws at opponents in their side hexes. Consider give your dragons talents like Thrown Weapons to help make their innate breath attack more accurate, or, occasionally give them Glaurung-inspired abilities like Curse or Stop spells.

I'd think flying dragons would want lairs in high locations like cliffs or barren mountainsides. A castle tower? Why not? Flightless wyrms might have lairs in caves anywhere from lakes to deep forests or deserts.

Four 36-point characters could probably take on a 7-hex dragon if they play it smart, though it depends on the tactical situation (see above). Do they get to choose where the fight will take place? Will either side have the benefit of any cover? Will any of the characters be wizards? A single Fireproofing spell could decide the battle.
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Old 05-05-2021, 10:24 AM   #3
phiwum
 
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Default Re: Dragon hunts and nesting habits

Excellent suggestions, Shostak, thanks.

I guess I never thought about fudging the rules for squeezing through a narrow tunnel. That would make an easy way to defend a lair. I also never thought of giving a dragon Thrown Weapons, but that's certainly an idea.

I also just assumed that dragons (flying, since I never considered a flightless alternative) tend to cave lairs because that's the kind of myth I'm used to, but a tower or cliff is an alternative that would give them the advantage of mobility. A cliff is difficult to attack, since one would either have to climb or follow the convenient narrow path up the mountainside, which would restrict movement almost as well as a cave wall.

My players have undervalued missile weapons, so a flying dragon could pose a real threat. The setting of the attack matters a lot. Out in the open, a four-hex dragon could do some damage.

I just noticed that on ITL 133, the dragon fire has no DX penalty while flying. I'll edit my OP to reflect that. That's a big difference. There's a DX penalty for altitude, perhaps as little as one or two (DX -1 per 10 feet of altitude).
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Old 05-05-2021, 10:30 AM   #4
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Default Re: Dragon hunts and nesting habits

Shostak, when you speak of lining up the targets for breath attacks, I assume you're not treating it as strictly a thrown weapon attack as RAW says? Makes sense, of course, as a house rule.
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Old 05-05-2021, 10:41 AM   #5
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Default Re: Dragon hunts and nesting habits

If they miss the target in front, they might hit someone standing in line behind them, as per Thrown Weapons. Chances are they won't, but some chance is better than none!
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Old 05-05-2021, 11:52 AM   #6
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Default Re: Dragon hunts and nesting habits

Dragons hoard for social reasons. So they need a place to store their stuff either in expectation of getting a mate or to increase the social factors of their atomic families. (Don't tell the player that atomic power is the source of dragon breath. Let them figure that out on their own.)

Hence lair location needs to balance security with scenery, food availability, and rich raid targets.
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Old 05-05-2021, 12:58 PM   #7
phiwum
 
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Default Re: Dragon hunts and nesting habits

Even if we ignore the story about social value of hoarding (which would probably explain it for one gender only), the point about security, food sources and hoarding opportunities is apt.

Dragons are intelligent, so while instinct or learned social norms will play a role in their hoarding, different dragons should have distinct personalities. In game play, I reckon players will seldom learn the different personalities, but I'll try to have an idea of the character of a dragon. (George, a low achieving dragon, has learned that a hoard can look almost as impressive if you focus on copper instead of gold. Others wonder what went wrong with him and look on his parents with pity.)

I once played a solo adventure with a dragon in it and using my subtle GM techniques gave him a full-fledged personality. You don't see many pacifist dragons, but there are some, it turns out.
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Old 05-11-2021, 08:39 PM   #8
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Default Re: Dragon hunts and nesting habits

Dragons have to leave the lair occasionally to hunt and terrorize the locals. What prevents a party from watching the lair and stealing in to make off with the hoard at that time? Do dragons rely on guards of some sort?
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Old 05-12-2021, 07:33 AM   #9
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Default Re: Dragon hunts and nesting habits

What kind of slime eats dragon poo?
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Old 05-12-2021, 08:36 AM   #10
Skarg
 
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Default Re: Dragon hunts and nesting habits

Quote:
Originally Posted by phiwum View Post
Dragons have to leave the lair occasionally to hunt and terrorize the locals. What prevents a party from watching the lair and stealing in to make off with the hoard at that time? Do dragons rely on guards of some sort?
In my campaigns, dragons tend to be smart enough to devise their own individual strategies for this, since they well-realize that humanoids may try such things, and have discussed the subject with each other for a long time.

This may have something to do with why the only PCs who have tried to go dragon hunting (or hoard stealing) in my campaigns, have been PCs made for such an attempt, not the PCs who have survived years of play, who all have never chosen to go hunting for dragons.

But dragons are a lot faster than humanoids, and flying tends to let them get a bird's eye view of who might be coming to visit, and to put their hoards in places it may be hard for humanoids to get to quickly. And yes, some of them may have wyverns or other guards or allies to watch. Not to mention that once a thief takes some treasure from a dragon hoard, if the dragon or their allies are still alive, they may look for the thieves.
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