D&D 5E What Level To Hunt A Great Wyrm?


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ECMO3

Hero
I haven't tried 5E at that level, but I'd very disappointed with D&D if a "typical" party of 4 at 13th level can crush a CR 24 wyrm.

Crush is a harsh word but dice matter. We had a party of 6 PCs that beat Orcus (CR26) at 8th level. It was the campaign finale and it was supposed to be a situation where we encountered him at the end and had to fight for 2 rounds before the portal closed, but we were doing so good the DM decided to play it out and we won. Punching above our weight, being very lucky and spamming Healing Word all had a part in it.

We also had a party of 5 3rd level characters with an allied NPC to boot get TPKed by a single CR2.
 

Crush is a harsh word but dice matter. We had a party of 6 PCs that beat Orcus (CR26) at 8th level. It was the campaign finale and it was supposed to be a situation where we encountered him at the end and had to fight for 2 rounds before the portal closed, but we were doing so good the DM decided to play it out and we won. Punching above our weight, being very lucky and spamming Healing Word all had a part in it.

We also had a party of 5 3rd level characters with an allied NPC to boot get TPKed by a single CR2.
I wonder how that could happen. Orcus is very powerful. Unless he was just standing still and attacking I can't really see that happening.
 

Oofta

Legend
I wonder how that could happen. Orcus is very powerful. Unless he was just standing still and attacking I can't really see that happening.
A lot of people will run monsters like this as stupid brutes. That, and especially if you have more than 4 PCs, solos just don't work very well.

Lair actions and legendary actions can help. I wouldn't run a solo alone outside of their lair and I up the number of lair and legendary actions based on number of PCs.

But the Orcus fight? The DM probably ignored things like time stop, get into a better position and summon a horde of undead while staying in melee.
 

Using A5E's rules, a CR 24 great wyrm green dragon would b a deadly encounter for five 16th level characters. The dragon's primary damage is poison, which is relatively easy to counter. Proficiency bonus is +5 and they have had their 4th ASI, so AC 22 or DC 22 saves are essentially trivial. Casters have access to 8th level spells, which includes spells like dominate monster and maze. The dragon does close to 100 points of melee damage per round, and its breath does 69. PCs are going to have somewhere between 90 and 150 HP, depending on class and Con. The dragon has 840 HP.

I honestly don't see this being particular deadly for five 16th level PCs.
Good, because it isn't. I'm telling you, 14th level is the minimum. Its where most classes get their last subclass feature, which is usually the strongest, and they may have Forcecage, which many high CR monsters cannot counter, amongst all their other spells. It'll be very tough but is doable.
 

Crush is a harsh word but dice matter. We had a party of 6 PCs that beat Orcus (CR26) at 8th level. It was the campaign finale and it was supposed to be a situation where we encountered him at the end and had to fight for 2 rounds before the portal closed, but we were doing so good the DM decided to play it out and we won. Punching above our weight, being very lucky and spamming Healing Word all had a part in it.

We also had a party of 5 3rd level characters with an allied NPC to boot get TPKed by a single CR2.
I would love to read a write-up of this fight!! This kind of stuff is what I like. 5E shines the most when you put the players into seemingly impossible situations and see them get out.
 

Oofta

Legend
One thing on lair design. Go big. This is a gargantuan dragon, it is not going to be squeezing into a cubby hole. The largest natural cavern Hang Son Doong is 500 feet wide and 600 feet tall. I've been in Carlsbad Cavern, the biggest in the US and it's 4,000 feet long 625 feet wide and 255 feet tall. If natural caves can get that big, a dragon that has had hundreds of years to shape their fortress could have multiple huge interconnected chambers.

I don't have A5E so I can't speak to their elite dragon, but I can say that I would run this dragon with hit-and-run tactics playing cat and mouse with the group. Use lair actions to split the party, have massive tunnels in the ceiling that it could fly through to attack from unexpected directions and so on.

Last time I did this though I added several levels of sorcerer and beefed up it's lair actions (and gave him 2 per round) just so I could play other games and make the dragon more interesting. Sadly, the PCs decided to negotiate since they did have a common enemy. :cry: One of these years that dragon will probably be a main antagonist for a new campaign.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
Just for sake of argument, let's assume 15th level characters. I want to spitball ideas on what the adventure looks like in the lead up.

Background
The Realm where the adventure takes place is a remote, small kingdom nestled in some mountains far enough away from the Center of Civilization that it has relatively rare contact but not so remost or small that no one knows about it. As stated in the OP, a dragon in the region recently awoke and set to burning fields, eating livestock and terrorizing peasants. The dragon was an Ancient that has been slumbering for centuries as it became a Great Wyrm. The kingdom is young enough that no one even knew the dragon existed -- except the xenophobic wood elves living in some of the forest lands on the edge of the Realm. The King rides out with a retinue intent upon destroying the dragon but is not up to the task and ends up killed and eaten, with his armor, weapons, crown and scepter all added to the dragon's hoard. Since then, the dragon has been attacking even more often, including emptying the tombs of the former kings of the Realm and the barrows of the people that lived here before, amassing an even greater hoard. The Queen and the Heir realize that the whole Realm will fall if someone does not stop the dragon, so she puts out a plea for aid and the PCs are the group that answers the call.

Outline
The PCs arrive and go see the Queen and Heir and get the whole story. The rest is literally up to them, regarding how they find the dragon and its lair.
Knowing where and when various attacks have taken place will get the PCs close -- within a few dozen square miles. There are no witnesses that can lead them all the back to the alir though. The lair is a remote mountaintop cave, inaccessible except by flight.
The PCs can get more precise information by visiting the Wood Elves. The wood elves are no friends of the Realm and aren't terribly sad it is being destroyed, but they also aren't allies of the dragon and expect they could ultimately end up its victims. i like the idea that the elves are the remnants of an ancient elven civilization like Rivendell that the dragon destroyed centuries ago and the elves have resorted to a more naturalistic lifestyle to avoid notice of the dragon.
There are a few villages and tombs/barrows that have not yet been attacked, and the dragon attacks around once a week. They could make an informed decision about one to wait in, and then when the dragon attacks attempt to kill it or maybe just track it from there to its lair.

Thinking About PC Abilities
All that said, 15th level characters will have lots of tools up their sleeve. I am sure there is plenty of magic that could potentially be used to locate the dragon and bamf into its lair, and I would like to make that harder. The dragon slept for half a millenia and had to be secure from dragon slayers and (more importantly) other dragons hoping to take its lair and hoard for their own. So the lair should be protected against scrying at least, if not also teleportation.
I think Legend Lore would really only provide the same information the elves could give, because it has to be lore someone knew at some time. Players would argue that it should reveal the location of the lair, which it might. It couldn't be used to tell where the dragon would strike next, though. That is future knowledge, not lore. I don't think they could use Find the Path to locate the lair because you have to already be familiar with the location. Locate Creature or Object doesn't seem to be a big concern because they have to get within 1000 feet to use it. Those would be more like final confirmation and triangulation spells.
What am I forgetting about?
 

One thing on lair design. Go big. This is a gargantuan dragon, it is not going to be squeezing into a cubby hole. .

Not sure if this is visible to all or because a friend shared it on DDB, but Draconomicon has an adult/ancient red dragon lair and it is a volcanic caldera several hundred feet across, probably a hundred feet deep, with a number lava pools and caverns carved into the pumice. I would say more than half the area is lava, which makes sense as, fun fact, red dragons can comfortably swim in lava*. Probably not true for PCs.

*Replace with acid, poison, liquid nitrogen or other suitably horrible materials for other dragons

Link: https://www.dndbeyond.com/sources/ftod/draconomicon-continued#Map511reddragonlair
 

Just for sake of argument, let's assume 15th level characters. I want to spitball ideas on what the adventure looks like in the lead up.

Background
The Realm where the adventure takes place is a remote, small kingdom nestled in some mountains far enough away from the Center of Civilization that it has relatively rare contact but not so remost or small that no one knows about it. As stated in the OP, a dragon in the region recently awoke and set to burning fields, eating livestock and terrorizing peasants. The dragon was an Ancient that has been slumbering for centuries as it became a Great Wyrm. The kingdom is young enough that no one even knew the dragon existed -- except the xenophobic wood elves living in some of the forest lands on the edge of the Realm. The King rides out with a retinue intent upon destroying the dragon but is not up to the task and ends up killed and eaten, with his armor, weapons, crown and scepter all added to the dragon's hoard. Since then, the dragon has been attacking even more often, including emptying the tombs of the former kings of the Realm and the barrows of the people that lived here before, amassing an even greater hoard. The Queen and the Heir realize that the whole Realm will fall if someone does not stop the dragon, so she puts out a plea for aid and the PCs are the group that answers the call.

Outline
The PCs arrive and go see the Queen and Heir and get the whole story. The rest is literally up to them, regarding how they find the dragon and its lair.
Knowing where and when various attacks have taken place will get the PCs close -- within a few dozen square miles. There are no witnesses that can lead them all the back to the alir though. The lair is a remote mountaintop cave, inaccessible except by flight.
The PCs can get more precise information by visiting the Wood Elves. The wood elves are no friends of the Realm and aren't terribly sad it is being destroyed, but they also aren't allies of the dragon and expect they could ultimately end up its victims. i like the idea that the elves are the remnants of an ancient elven civilization like Rivendell that the dragon destroyed centuries ago and the elves have resorted to a more naturalistic lifestyle to avoid notice of the dragon.
There are a few villages and tombs/barrows that have not yet been attacked, and the dragon attacks around once a week. They could make an informed decision about one to wait in, and then when the dragon attacks attempt to kill it or maybe just track it from there to its lair.

Thinking About PC Abilities
All that said, 15th level characters will have lots of tools up their sleeve. I am sure there is plenty of magic that could potentially be used to locate the dragon and bamf into its lair, and I would like to make that harder. The dragon slept for half a millenia and had to be secure from dragon slayers and (more importantly) other dragons hoping to take its lair and hoard for their own. So the lair should be protected against scrying at least, if not also teleportation.
I think Legend Lore would really only provide the same information the elves could give, because it has to be lore someone knew at some time. Players would argue that it should reveal the location of the lair, which it might. It couldn't be used to tell where the dragon would strike next, though. That is future knowledge, not lore. I don't think they could use Find the Path to locate the lair because you have to already be familiar with the location. Locate Creature or Object doesn't seem to be a big concern because they have to get within 1000 feet to use it. Those would be more like final confirmation and triangulation spells.
What am I forgetting about?
What magic items are you giving them? I personally think each PC should have a legendary item or two very rare items.

I also don't really need to think about predicting abilities -- I think that is a trap in running higher level games. Instead, create a book of strategies your creature relies on for more generic threats. This lets the players surprise you with their approach THEN think about how the dragon might answer. You'd want to answer these questions:

  • Does it move locations?
  • Does it send forces?
  • Do it use a ritual to cast spells upon them from afar?
  • Does it trigger hazards and traps?
  • Does it call for help?
  • Does it try to bargain with them from afar?
  • Does it stand and fight or lure them into trouble?
  • Does it try to flee when badly hurt or rely on one of the above strategies when near death?

These things are comprehensive; all you have to do is have two to three versions of each answer, which creates a book of strategies that you can draw from and then mold to fit the situation at hand. This saves you the work of having to guess PC abilities from the literally hundreds of spells, features, and magic items they can together draw upon, and gives you a foundation so you aren't just pulling everything out of your bum.
 

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