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What would be some good guards/ minions for a dragon's lair?

Bootlebat

Explorer
I know kobolds are the standard minions for young evil dragons, but what about older ones? I like the idea of an ancient or older white dragon with a tribe of zombified frost giants guarding its lair (since frost giants and white dragons hate eachother I doubt they would work together willingly.)
 

HJFudge

Villager
I know kobolds are the standard minions for young evil dragons, but what about older ones? I like the idea of an ancient or older white dragon with a tribe of zombified frost giants guarding its lair (since frost giants and white dragons hate eachother I doubt they would work together willingly.)
It's situations like these that I kinda miss the preponderance of random tables being used in my games. I've largely gone away from them, preferring a more curated approach to encounter design, but sometimes random generation tools can be a great source of inspiration.

So, here's six ideas for cool older dragons guards I just thought up cause I was bored:

1) A group of Paladins who have deified the dragon and their 'ideals', and have sworn to guard it with their very lives.
2) Golem/Mechano-dragons, the product of engineering and creativity that the elder dragon has been fascinated with its entire life and studied profusely.
3) A local thieves guild who doesn't KNOW they are guarding the lair of a dragon. The guildmaster (the dragon) is only ever seen by it's right hand man (who has been ensorcelled/charmed by said dragon), and a portion of all the thieves treasure goes to increasing the size of the dragons hoard. All the benefit, none of the work!
4) A circle of Warlocks who all draw their power from the Dragon they have made a pact with...in return for it giving them a portion of its abilities, they keep it's lair safe.
5) The Dragon has mastered the art of Undeath, and has enslaved the souls of former heroes that challenged it to having to guard him (kinda like your zombified frost giants idea I guess)
6) There are no guards...the Dragon simply does not trust anyone enough to charge with protection of its lair. So instead, it has created a fiendishly complex labyrinth of mechanical and arcane traps the party must navigate...
 

Richards

Adventurer
I like using the half-dragon template (I play 3.5 - I'm not sure what edition you're playing or if they even have templates in that edition) to create henchmen/trusted lieutenants who guard the dragon's lair. In the past, I've created a group of six half-red dragon lizardfolk (with various levels: a couple of fighters, a couple of barbarians, a sorcerer, and a monk) guarding a red dragon, as well as a black dragon with a half-black dragon water naga and a half-black dragon giant crocodile guarding the entrances to its lair.

Incidentally, these aren't the literal offspring of the dragons they serve (I always felt that concept was kind of hinky) - in my campaigns, some dragons have developed a means of injecting draconic traits in the unborn raised in their lairs (usually involving the eggs/mothers confined within the remains of magically-infused dragon eggshells of the appropriate type). The half-dragons, when born/hatched, thus know the dragon as their protector/master/deity (as per the whims of the dragon) and are thus fiercely loyal to it.

This approach allows a wide variety of dragon lair guardians with a built-in reason for them to be loyal to the dragon they serve. It also allows you to scale the guardians to the level of the PCs; more powerful dragons have more powerful half-dragon guardians, as appropriate to the challenge you want to provide.

Johnathan
 

Dausuul

Legend
The Monster Manual has a bunch of suggestions for this. (It gives rather short shrift to white dragons, but I suppose that makes sense given that they don't even reach human-level Intelligence until ancient.) Black dragons get lizardfolk and plant monsters; blue dragons get elite human minions; green dragons get evil jungle creatures and corrupted/mind-controlled elves; red dragons get chaotic evil humanoids like orcs.

Beyond that... I love the idea of a white dragon using zombified minions, including frost giants, as long as you can handle the inevitable "Game of Thrones" jokes. :) In fact, undead minions in general would fit well for evil dragons. A black dragon could have armies of rotting swamp zombies, or packs of ghouls. A blue dragon might take over an ancient pyramid and seize control of the mummies within. Green dragons, with their love of subtlety and deception, would be a good fit for sneaky undead like wights and vampires. For red dragons, I'd probably go with a handful of powerful undead such as wraiths, death knights, or liches*, who would then have minions of their own.

[size=-2]*A death knight could easily be a willing servant; death knights are all about slaughter and destruction, and red dragons supply that in plenty. A lich might enter the dragon's service with the intent of subtly manipulating its "master," or it might be forced into servitude by a threat to its phylactery. In the latter case, the lich will be a dangerous and treacherous minion who might well provide covert aid to the PCs--but if you beat the dragon with the lich's help, watch out afterward.[/size]
 

jayoungr

Explorer
If your game is set in the Forgotten Realms, you could also have Cult of the Dragon fanatics as minions. If it's not set in the Realms, see [MENTION=6997593]HJFudge[/MENTION]'s suggestion above about paladins.
 

aco175

Explorer
I tend to think dragons want something powerful enough to keep others out, but not enough to challenge themselves. Kobolds should always be present, even if they become like minions and cannon fodder at some point. The dragon can control them and they should not be swayed by the mid-tier monsters. I also like to add flavor to each lair such as having a single monster that works like the dragon's steward and controls the others. A vampire or rakshasha (sp) is rather powerful and can attract their own followers who know or do not know about the dragon. Make up a reason they work with the dragon and bonus points for tying it to a PC story like he is their brother, or father.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
If you have access to Tome of Beasts, the Hoard Golem or the Dragonleaf Tree can be interesting creatures that differs from your usual humanoids.

Other than that, for evil/greedy dragons there's always the Yuggoloth mercenaries or the abishai, but those would be a little high CR for guards or minions.

Other random ideas:

White: Remorhaz to melt new tunnel and rooms for its lair.
Red: Salamanders? Hydra? Lamia
Black: Merrow, young kraken
Green: Fey creatures, hags, ettercap, harpy, ghouls and other elven-lore-related creatures
Blue: Xorn, gargoyls, bulette (bonus points for gem-encrusted carapace)
 

doctorbadwolf

Explorer
I really like to use a guard drakes that match the dragon in color (and are of a variant that are a true breeding draconic species), with a smattering of ambush drakes, and sometimes a small number of a variant drake that has the ability to jump incredible distances and charge up an elemental bite, which are armored, and ridden by exceptional kobolds who raise and train these beasts.

These drakes can use their climb speed to climb upside down or along walls, and the rider is strapped in to avoid falling out (also have advantage against being moved off their mount). The mounts tend to be moderately armored, some with shields and lances, while others have light spears.

Kobolds are scary on mounts, because it means they have advantage on all melee attacks.

Then there are the ambush drakes with light armored kobold archers riding. I add Skulker to rider and mount, and give them shortbows, training in stealth and acrobatics, and a pounce attack.

I've also used large drakes with dragonborn riders.
 
I could easily see dragons keeping giants around. Particularly if the giants were well-cowed. Possibly maimed with reduced speed and/or attack? Beyond that, some ideas: EDIT - Thought you were talking about older white dragons only for some reason. My bad.

* Yeti
* Half-Giants/Goliaths
* Polar bears
* Orcs / Ogres / other savage humanoids; possibly tending a mammoth herd that the dragon occasionally uses for food.
 
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Sabathius42

Villager
How about a very intelligent spellcasting dragon who had previously slaughtered a standard high level adventuring party trying to steal his loots.

He brings them back to life then casts a geas on them that they have to be his guards for as long as they live.

The entrance to the "dragons lair" is actually a nicely appointed set of apartments that the adventurers live in as the dragon know that keeping them happy makes them better guards. He/She is willing to spend some money to keep them as retainers, even if they are also magically compelled because a happy guard is a better guard.

They are kept honest by the very real threat that if they fail "letting the PCs past to actually encounter the dragon" they are dead and going to be replaced with more powerful guards once the dragon kills the newer, more proficient, adventuring party.

This has probably happened quite a few times (changing of the guards) and this would create an interesting living quarters as years and years of keepsakes pile up as guards are killed and replaced.

It also is 100% likely to subvert the players expectations of raiding a dragons lair, but in an interesting way, not a that-movie-you-hate one.

DS
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
I know kobolds are the standard minions for young evil dragons, but what about older ones?
Just one. Feel free to wake him up.

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Or a small gnome clan, whose only purpose is to create and maintain the numerous traps installed on the property. (Love/hate relationship.)
 

ranger69

Explorer
I would try to match creatures to the dragon that are immune to it's type of breathe weapon. Then the Dragon is free to use that regardless of where it's minions are. Not that the Dragons care about the minions as much as it's tiresome overseeing the training of new guards.
 

Draegn

Explorer
In my world only one in twenty dragon eggs will produce a true dragon. All the rest in the clutch will produce miniature dragons ranging mostly from the size of ferrets to something that can be ridden. These smaller dragons do not breath fire and have a low intelligence. They sadly for the mother dragon are a food source for the true baby dragon when game is scarce.

With plenty of game around (or dwarfs after capturing a hoard) the mini draggies could be used as guards. I laugh at the cute mage having her ears bitten off by ferret sized dragons that want her pretty earrings. If she lives perhaps next time she'll pay more attention to those "bats".
 

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