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5E Is Neil Gaiman Wrong?

MytosBR

Explorer
Can dragons be defeated?

Sure they can, but is it plausible? I know, I know, plausibility, is something subjective when we are talking about a magical fantasy world, so let me better explain where I am coming from and where am I going.

I have a player that totally despise the idea of beings from the size of a dragon's toe facing a Gargantuan Magical Intelligent beast. He can't concede on that. There is no argument, no magic weapon, no number of warriors, nothing. In his words "We would need an army, all fully equipped with very powerful weapons, and a lot of luck to get a small chance to survive. There is no such thing as a dragon hunt."

Neil Gaiman said that one of the reasons why he wrote Coraline was because he wanted to tell his kids that dragons could be defeated. He even quoted GK Chesterton on it.
So, how do you cope with that?
How do you make you dragon quests plausible and interesting?
Is my player right? Or Gaiman/Chesterton are ?
What do you think?
 

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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Dragons are just symbolic representations of our fears. It's chaos that needs to be brought brought back into balance with order.

But in a physical sense, I see nothing but opportunity in your player's desire to raise an army equipped with powerful weapons to face the dragon. Pulling together enough people to risk their lives against this force of nature and finding the ancient weapons that will strike the final blow could fill many a session with exciting, memorable adventure.
 




Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Depends on the dragons, I suppose. Game of Thrones had dragons injured quite easily. The Hobbit takes the opposite approach (but gives Smaug one weak spot). In most fiction, people aren't the size of a dragon's toe -- that's much larger than dragons tend to be.

Here's a GoT dragon. Nasty breath weapon, but arrows and spears injure it and it has to retreat.

 

Gargantuan dragons are pretty rare. Most of the dragons that PCs fight will be crocodile to elephant-sized.

Even so, that still sounds unlikely for a normal person to be able to realistically fight one.
However a high-level martial character is way beyond "normal". They're at the same power level as people who can manifest wishes, raise the dead, and transform into dragons themselves.
Think about mythic heroes or demigods fighting dragons or similar beasts in legends rather than trying to compare with what a low-level real-life human could do.
 

We likely couldnt kill a dragon with a pointy stick.

Pretty much every member of the Avengers could.

DnD PC's are not equal to real life warriors and heroes; they're literal superheroes. You can throw an 11th level unarmed and unarmoured fighter into a bear pit with half a dozen Grizzly bears, and he wins.

If he happened to be a Monk (or armed with a sword) you could toss a dozen or more in there and he wins.

Dont judge your fantasy heroes according to the standards of real life people. These are beings that from mid level onwards control epic reality altering magic, or routinely do superhuman things; consorting with Demon Lords and Gods, travelling the planes of reality, dealing with Psionic creatures, dinosaurs, undead monsters, creatures that can literally hurl blasts of flame or project forcefields and fly, teleporting, carting around artifacts of legend etc.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
If gargantuan dragons walked the earth, we humans would not be where we currently stand in terms of learning and technology. Our societies would have been molded around having to try and survive when these massive flying creatures existed.

I mean, when did "humans" start gaining traction as a species? Only after the dinosaurs went extinct. Those massive carnivorous creatures that could destroy our crops, break our homes, maul us indiscriminently and resist our weapons would not have allowed us to advance in the same way we did had we had to exist together this entire time.
 

Mort

Hero
Supporter
We likely couldnt kill a dragon with a pointy stick.

Pretty much every member of the Avengers could.

DnD PC's are not equal to real life warriors and heroes; they're literal superheroes. You can throw an 11th level unarmed and unarmoured fighter into a bear pit with half a dozen Grizzly bears, and he wins.

If he happened to be a Monk (or armed with a sword) you could toss a dozen or more in there and he wins.

Dont judge your fantasy heroes according to the standards of real life people. These are beings that from mid level onwards control epic reality altering magic, or routinely do superhuman things; consorting with Demon Lords and Gods, travelling the planes of reality, dealing with Psionic creatures, dinosaurs, undead monsters, creatures that can literally hurl blasts of flame or project forcefields and fly, teleporting, carting around artifacts of legend etc.
Yes, I think this is on point - and if you don't want to think of D&D characters as superheroes, think of them instead as mythic heroes. There are plenty of examples of heroes in myth and story besting dragons:

Gilgamesh did it;

Perseus did it;

Jason (of Jason and the Argonauts) overcame a dragon;

Bard killed Smaug

Etc.
 

If gargantuan dragons walked the earth, we humans would not be where we currently stand in terms of learning and technology. Our societies would have been molded around having to try and survive when these massive flying creatures existed.

I mean, when did "humans" start gaining traction as a species? Only after the dinosaurs went extinct. Those massive carnivorous creatures that could destroy our crops, break our homes, maul us indiscriminently and resist our weapons would not have allowed us to advance in the same way we did had we had to exist together this entire time.
But dinosaurs wouldn't have been smart enough to let enough of us thrive to mine, smelt, and craft beautiful objects for them to take.
 

Bard killed Smaug
Coincidentally (or not) I really like how The One Ring models hard-to-kill adversaries: instead of just piling on ever more HP, it takes a fair amount of dice luck, from a pretty advanced character (preferably with really good weapons), to finish one off. And that's after their HP reach zero.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Sir Fang's Dentist
Yes, I think this is on point - and if you don't want to think of D&D characters as superheroes, think of them instead as mythic heroes. There are plenty of examples of heroes in myth and story besting dragons:

Gilgamesh did it;

Perseus did it;

Jason (of Jason and the Argonauts) overcame a dragon;

Bard killed Smaug

Etc.
But what if we just don't agree with either premise?

Many people are aware that there are already superhero RPGs out there, and if they wanted to play the Avengers, they would play one of those RPGs, not D&D.

And there are, in fact, quite a few people who aren't playing "mythic heroes." At the very least, I have no idea if any particular character is going to be "mythic" or not when I start- that's revealed through play, and choices, and all sorts of factors.

If I know going in that it's already set up to be a mythic hero, that kind of takes the fun out of playing. Might as well just read some book about a mythic hero.
 
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jaelis

Oh this is where the title goes?
I personally would say that sure, in dnd a high level party can kill a dragon because that's how the dnd rules are set up. It seems straightforward to me.

But if I try to speak for those who think that a 200-hp character who jumps off a cliff will die, regardless of falling damage rules, I think the idea would be that it isn't possible in a straightforward way, and that what's happening when the players do win the fight is a lot of luck, divine favor, and other circumstances that make it possible. Think of Bard killing Smaug. There's no sense where Bard could go toe-to-toe with the dragon, but he had the skill, knowledge, equipment and luck to pull it off.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
If you're talking gargantuan dragons you're talking about ancient ones. They're over 800 years old.

So most will have been around for over a thousand years, give or take. That means that it's extremely unlikely that during any human's lifetime they will ever witness an ancient dragon's death. So in a sense, I agree with your player. Ancient dragons are extremely difficult to kill.

Probably the biggest threat to an ancient dragon is other dragons, which is why (in my world anyway) they are extremely rare. There's not much room at the top, and dragons will take out the competition before they become a real threat - or better yet throw idiot adventurers at those adult dragons that are getting uppity.

As far as being able to kill dragons, to quote Arnold from the Predator movie "If it bleeds we can kill it."
 

Mort

Hero
Supporter
But what if we just don't agree with either premise?

Many people are aware that there are already superhero RPGs out there, and if they wanted to play the Avengers, they would play one of those RPGs, not D&D.]

And there are, in fact, quite a few people who aren't playing "mythic heroes." At the very lease, I have no idea if any particular character is going to be "mythic" or not when I start- that's revealed through play, and choices, and all sorts of factors.

If I know going in that it's already set up to be a mythic hero, that kind of takes the fun out of playing. Might as well just read some book about a mythic hero.
But the potential is there - certainly in D&D.

You don't know your character will be a mythic hero, not all, or even many make it. But my point was - some do, and they can take on a dragon head on. Are you saying D&D doesn't or shouldn't allow for that?

But Even in a non mythic scenario - maybe the point is to outsmart, trick or even just survive the dragon.

It's pretty boring to just go "well, it's a dragon, guess we're hosed - moving on"
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Sir Fang's Dentist
But the potential is there - certainly in D&D.

You don't know your character will be a mythic hero, not all, or even many make it. But my point was - some do, and they can take on a dragon head on. Are you saying D&D doesn't or shouldn't allow for that?

But Even in a non mythic scenario - maybe the point is to outsmart, trick or even just survive the dragon.

It's pretty boring to just go "well, it's a dragon, guess we're hosed - moving on"
The thing with D&D that you can trace all the way back (see Gods, Demigods & Heroes, Deities and Demigods) is that if you give something hit points, someone is going to want to kill it.

But no, an enemy that cannot be defeated (but may have to be tricked, bypassed, or merely survived) is not boring. Far from it.

What is boring to me is the idea that everything must be defeated, that every character must be the mythic hero, the Avenger slaying Thanos.

Some things are unwinnable; at the very least, sometimes you just have to change the victory conditions.
 

The dragon is designed as the definitive challenge for the monster-hunter heroe, but they are not unstoppable. If a giant crossbow could kill an elephant then a dragon can be injured. The wings are weak points. A hit while it's flying and it falls to the ground. A squad of trained archers could cause a great damage against the wings. With enough luck it could be blinded with accurate shots in the eyes. Only a injure could be fatal if this becomes infected, or too much blood is lost. The arrows could be poisoned. Could create explosive arrows with Valryan fire?

Other option would be trick it with easy preys what are poisoned.

And the dragon will not like the cold. Teorically the dragons aren't cold blood but more like warm-blood reptomammals.
 

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