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General Memorable dragon encounters

Reynard

Legend
Because the Neil Gaiman thread has flown off the rails...

Let's share some memorable dragon encounters have have run or played through. It doesn't matter if it is an official adventure or home brew, or what edition (although specifying edition is a good idea).

One that spring immediately to mind for me happened in 2E in the middle of what would become my longest running campaign (spanning 20 years and 2 editions of D&D plus another game system entirely). The PCs were working their way to the bottom of the Evermines (a megadungeon) and found themselves in a made of magically dark maze of tunnels. What they did not realize is that it was stalked by a young adult (if I recall) black dragon. The session played out like an extended scene from Alien, with desperate groping in the dark and spontaneously acid breath and attacks from nowhere.

It was while in the Evermines that the PCs accidentally woke The Great Beast of the Earth, the lord of evil dragons and an ancient red the size of a castle. When it finally emerged and called all its progeny to it was a few levels later but this is where it started.
 

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jasper

Rotten DM
Ticked off my players during Forge of Fury 3E. The dragon smacked the party hard and they retreated back to town to heal. They came back to lair empty of the dragon, and half it loot was gone. I forget what note the dragon left for the group said.
 

My players just recently fought a copper dragon inside a watery cave, where it had made its nest on top the wreck of an old ship. The dragon could summon figments of dragonlings. They won in the end, although not without a lot of injuries and missing eyebrows.
 

Monayuris

Adventurer
Ticked off my players during Forge of Fury 3E. The dragon smacked the party hard and they retreated back to town to heal. They came back to lair empty of the dragon, and half it loot was gone. I forget what note the dragon left for the group said.
Ha.

My group had a similar experience in that encounter in 5E (Tales of the Yawning Portal version).

They were in marching order moving around the lake and in perfect line for breath weapon when the dragon appeared.

Two PCs slain, the rest turned and ran. It was pretty brutal.

In my case, the dragon remained (overconfident in itself). The players did manage to return with reinforcements and a better plan and got their revenge.
 

Reynard

Legend
When the Great Beast of the Earth did emerge, the first thing ti did was summon all the lesser dragons in the region. They attacked the town, but for a specific purpose: the PCs found the dragons attacking merchants and banks as the dragons tried to collect (by swallowing) all the gold in the area. It turned out that the gold mines that made up the upper levels of The Evermine WERE the GBotE's hoard.
 

Enrico Poli1

Adventurer
Hall of the Fire Giant King.
Brazzemal the Burning.
When we met the great beast we were already tired, and we knew we were in big trouble.
In the first round we had initiative. The cleric (Anja) could only cast Slay Living and hope. She overcomed the 80% Magic Resistance, then Brazzemal rolled a natural 1 on the Saving Throw. Cheers.
 

Enrico Poli1

Adventurer
Into the Wormcrawl Fissure (Age of Worms AP).
Dragotha.
I was DMing and had advanced Dragotha from Wyrm to Great Wyrm. My PCs were truly overpowered at Lvl 19 (one was an invincible Frenzied Berserker) but I knew Dragotha was so strong that could wipe the floor with them. So I had Lashonna gift the party with a magic orb that could simulate the fight in a "white room" (also, in the simulation Dragotha was alone and without magic items). They were humiliated multiple times (at first they didn't mind fire immunity and were all incinerated in the first round; in the second simulation they were all paralyzed by the Dracolich's gaze and didn't made the second round; the third time they learned that Dragotha had a second breath that could steal their souls...), so they could prepare well. When they finally reached the Tabernacle of Worms and met Dragotha, he was surrounded by powerful allies, mastering strong items, with layers of precast spells; then, the Sorcerer/Paladin (the true mastermind of the party) surprised me starting the fight with a Mordenkainen's Disjunction. It was the first time he used the spell, and the first time the party sacrificed some magic items to overcome a foe.
The fight lasted the entire four-hours session, and in the end the ancient beast had to submit and fall into oblivion.
 

Nebulous

Legend
In 2nd edition I had the party rescue Drizzt and Guenhwyvar from a black dragon. It had them hanging in a cage down in its lair. I used to occasionally drop in popular Faerun characters, but we never followed the canon much. I would't even say it was a GOOD encounter, lol, but it was memorable.

I had a red dragon attack the party about halfway across the Stone Bridge in PotA. That was memorable and fun and scary. They had nowhere to run, but they did so much damage to the thing via ranged magic it had to flee.
 

uzirath

Adventurer
In my early days of AD&D I recall working with a friend to design the lair of a white dragon. The entrance to the lair was a hot spring hidden in a glacial crevasse. The spring wasn't scalding but was hot enough to avoid freezing over and create a dense mist that obscured vision. The dragon would dive into the spring and zip through an underwater tunnel before rising into a large icy cavern. Its nest was on a ledge above and behind the entrance pool. This was one of the first times I really used the environment as a challenge in an adventure. The dragon-hunting PCs had to first traverse the underwater tunnel and then clamber out into a foggy, freezing, slippery ice cavern with the dragon perched above and behind them. It was both brutal and insanely fun. The first set of PCs was nearly wiped out, with only one character barely escaping. This whetted their appetite for revenge. New characters joined the lone survivor and a great deal of planning went into another raid. I don't recall how it all played out in the end, but I remember it being a new level for my developing encounter design skills.

More recently, in a D&D turned GURPS campaign, the party faced a dragon illusionist living in the crater of a dormant volcano. It was extremely fun working out all of the things a dragon could do with subtle magic rather than the more humdrum combat spells.
 

Reynard

Legend
In my early days of AD&D I recall working with a friend to design the lair of a white dragon. The entrance to the lair was a hot spring hidden in a glacial crevasse. The spring wasn't scalding but was hot enough to avoid freezing over and create a dense mist that obscured vision. The dragon would dive into the spring and zip through an underwater tunnel before rising into a large icy cavern. Its nest was on a ledge above and behind the entrance pool. This was one of the first times I really used the environment as a challenge in an adventure. The dragon-hunting PCs had to first traverse the underwater tunnel and then clamber out into a foggy, freezing, slippery ice cavern with the dragon perched above and behind them. It was both brutal and insanely fun. The first set of PCs was nearly wiped out, with only one character barely escaping. This whetted their appetite for revenge. New characters joined the lone survivor and a great deal of planning went into another raid. I don't recall how it all played out in the end, but I remember it being a new level for my developing encounter design skills.
That sounds like great fun!
 

I want a Dragonslaying Trilogy in 4th edition.

The party was recruited to assassinate the heir of a Caliph. It was tradition that the heir had to 'challenge the dragon of the four winds' to prove he was worthy to rule the Caliphate, and the current Caliph had sent out a call for brave dragon slayers to help his son. A rival nation saw a chance to cause chaos in their enemy, so they hired the PCs and gave them some juicy leads on famous dragons they could slay to establish their bona fides. Then during the battle with the dragon of the four winds, they'd have a chance to kill the heir and make it look like an accident.

The three dragons:

Ur-Haku, wyrm of the dead god. A blind, flightless dragon who lives in a pitch black cave. The cave is also the burial place of a primordial/titan/elder horror, whose slumber is disturbed by any light source. Basically, if you are illuminated, you take psychic damage during your turn. The dragon's trick is that he blindsights and tremorsenses his way through a maze of tunnels, and uses his fire breath to set the PCs on fire (so they're both burning and illuminated, then slinks away, only to attack later from another direction. The PCs had to throw light sources across the battlefield so they could see where the dragon was, but actually fight him in the dark.

Wazir Ghul Khota, the leper dragon. A black dragon necromancer who had captured a princess to try to sacrifice her and appease the djinn who had cursed his body to rot away. He laired in a desert canyon near a caustic hot spring, and when the party attacked him he fled downriver. As he took more damage, his body parts tore off but kept fighting as undead - a strangling tail, a crawling claw, and buffeting wings. The climax happened amid spraying acidic geysers.

Lsi Rae Bo, lord of the four winds. The dragon lives atop a mountain shrouded with a perpetual storm, and it guards a rift to the Elemental Chaos. Fighting it there is suicide because of the wild energies, so the PCs lured it out. They took a royal airship - with the Caliph's heir on board - and flew close enough to provoke the dragon, then turned and fled, letting the dragon chase them away from the storm.

The dragon itself had four different main 'wind' powers. The south wind would zap a target and cause that creature to crackle with lightning, hitting anyone around it for a few rounds. The north wind froze and immobilized characters, pinning them to the airship's deck. The east wind roared to invoke fear and panic. And the west wind would shove creatures around, potentially over the edge of the airship.

When he was bloodied, he conjured four small air elementals that began tearing apart the ship's levitationals, forcing the party to chase and kill them or else their ship would fall from the sky. However, the PCs had all geared up with featherfall equipment, and with items to dispel magic, so they let the ship get wrecked and plummet. The heir actually managed to pin the dragon to the deck so it would crash and die, but when he leapt away, the PCs dispelled his featherfall, so he died too.
 

J-H

Explorer
Following because I have one coming up.
Here's something I brewed up to make the bite attack more interesting:

Grab and throw: On a successful bite, the dragon may choose to try to grab its target, with a roll of d20+14 opposed to the target’s Athletics or Acrobatics roll. On a successful roll, the dragon will grab its prey, shake it back and forth, and then open its jaws, flinging the target into the air. The target will travel in a random direction in a straight line (roll 1d8, with 1 as north, circling around to 8 for NW) for 1d6 x 10 feet, stopping early if it hits an obstacle. The thrown target will take 1d6 falling damage per 10’ traveled (rounding down), Acrobatics DC 15 half. If the thrown creature hits another creature, both of them take that amount of falling damage, although the target may make a dexterity save (DC 15) to halve the damage.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I have a tier 2 one-shot that I run called "Fimbulvetr." It's an event-based scenario that takes place on the eve of the realm's destruction in the farthest north village in the arctic, Vikingheim.

In Vikingheim, the jarl has just died and factions are forming behind his scheming adopted daughter Helga (in fact, a bheur hag manipulating events) and his bastard son Tor (who is a great warrior, but a terrible person). In the first event, the PCs are asked to help settle who will take the throne of Vikingheim. They typically do this by convincing the gathered huskarls to back either Helga, Tor, or one of their own while Helga and Tor try to hinder any move against them. Helga or Tor or both don't take losing well and violence ensues.

The next event begins if the PCs prevail in the conflict. Having set someone on the throne, a talking reindeer servant of the village's runepriest asks that the PCs join him in the Temple of Odin to hear dire omens and portents. In this scene, they engage in a hallucinogenic journey that offers them risks and rewards and imparts and foreshadows the coming of Fimbulvetr.

This is cut short, however, by the next event: A pair of frost giants and their winter wolf pets storm the town to find and steal one of its important relics (a horn of Valhalla). The PCs are asked to help protect the horn and save the innocents in the village from the wolves and giants, who are busting into houses and devouring all within.

If they make it through that slaughter, a terrible blizzard settles in, heralding the coming of the Wyrm of Ice and Shadow. They can use this time to steel themselves and make preparations for the coming fight. (Or, of course, flee into the storm and leave Vikingheim to its fate.) Before long, it arrives on the wind, a terrifying white shadow dragon. The blizzard is its lair and the strong wind imparts disadvantage on all ranged weapon attacks. It sets about destroying whole swaths of the town with its necrotic breath weapon, rotting huts collapsing on putrefying flesh. All humanoids that have already died so far rise as draugr (shadows). The battle begins with the dead.

Having run this over 10 times, each group approaches these challenges differently. Some do very well in this fight, others very poorly, but it is always an exciting, memorable challenge. The weather, the lair actions, shadows harassing the PCs while the dragon dishes out the pain plus all the heroic things the PCs do to defeat Fimbulvetr makes for a fun evening indeed.
 

Reynard

Legend
I don't think I have ever run the same adventure more than once in my life -- except "Clean Up in Aisle 13" my go-to zombie apocalypse scenario for pick up games and unscheduled con slots I end up having to fill.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I don't think I have ever run the same adventure more than once in my life -- except "Clean Up in Aisle 13" my go-to zombie apocalypse scenario for pick up games and unscheduled con slots I end up having to fill.
I find watching different groups of players with different party compositions and character builds take on the same scenario provides very good insights into how different people approach the game. Sometimes players will opt to play in these one-shots more than once and try out different characters and strategies to overcome challenges they are know are coming. I have learned so much from running one-shots more than once.
 

In my current 3.5 campaign I've had no less than three dragons (or draconic creatures, in any case - one was a three-headed gorynych) taken out by that wretched Otto's irresistible dance spell. (There's no save, so once you overcome the dragon's spell resistance it's all downhill from there.) But the most memorable draconic encounter of recent adventures was when the PCs imprisoned a planar dragon in a narrow cave tunnel with two wall of force spells and then proceeded to clean out all of its treasure while it stood there watching in impotent fury.

Johnathan
 

MatthewJHanson

Registered Ninja
Publisher
I'm running a campaign where the PCs are dedicated dragonslayers, so there's quite a few stories. My favorite is probably the most recent, when they were attacked in the night by the brothers of the very first dragon they slew. Three young dragons plus mephit minions against level 12 PCs with no armor. Lots of trash talking on both sides. I dropped two PCs to zero (one of them twice), but they still took out all three dragons and got back up afterwards.
 



J-H

Explorer
Oh, I did have an Erinyes pull out a scroll of Illusory Dragon and start flying around a giant room using the breath weapon and pelting the party with arrows.

Then the Arcane Trickster hit her with Tasha's Hideous Laughter, and she failed the save. Boom, incapacitated, Concentration lost, illusionary dragon gone. 8th level spell negated by 1st level spell.

It was great.
 

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters

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