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Why do dragons do so little damage?

Flipguarder

First Post
This whole argument seems moot to me. Arguing that an adult large dragon and a dire bear should have equal damage is like saying a honda civic and a semi truck should have the same horsepower. There are other factors in a fight. 400 hp is going to go much farther on a civic than a semi. Likewise a flying, partially controlling creature is going to do much more with less damage then a dire bear who does twice the damage.
 

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keterys

First Post
One thing to consider with solos (and thusly dragons) is you want its damage to compare roughly to a full group of normal enemies.

So, if a normal combat lasts 6 rounds, 1 round against 5 enemies, 2 against 4, 1 against 3, 1 against 2, and 1 against 1 (or 19 attacks equivalent), frex, and a solo fight lasts 9 rounds, 2 of which the solo loses entirely to debuffs of assorted means, then its 7 rounds of attacks need to be roughly equivalent to the 19 from the other.

Breath Weapons, ongoing damage, auras, and reactive attacks all contribute a lot to that, but a dragon's damage should probably still be roughly inline with twice that of a normal creature (note that the dire bear does at least double normal damage).
 

Flipguarder

First Post
I don't understand why you assume the following things

1. There is a average damage per encounter that is supposed to be there.
2. Solo monsters are alone in combat.
3. The number of monsters that "should" be alive per round in a normal encounter.
4. How long each combat is "supposed" to take.
5. That solos should do close to as much damage as a normal encounter on their own.
6. That solos (lvl 11 solo is what we are discussing) automatically lose two rounds to random debuffs.
7. Your last statement just seems to assume that his "utility" doesn't make up for the extra damage without giving any reason why.

In my experience damage per encounter can range extensively without losing the pressure on the pcs. Solos should almost never be alone unless you want to make the fight easy. Combats vary equally extensively to damage due to environmental situations and pc strategy.

I threw a young black dragon at my pcs and they still think it was their most difficult fight. It wasn't about the damage, it was about getting past its wierd defenses.
 

interwyrm

First Post
I don't understand why you assume the following things
1. There is a average damage per encounter that is supposed to be there.
2. Solo monsters are alone in combat.
3. The number of monsters that "should" be alive per round in a normal encounter.
4. How long each combat is "supposed" to take.
5. That solos should do close to as much damage as a normal encounter on their own.
6. That solos (lvl 11 solo is what we are discussing) automatically lose two rounds to random debuffs.
7. Your last statement just seems to assume that his "utility" doesn't make up for the extra damage without giving any reason why.
1. There are guidelines in the DMG for damage that different monster types should do at a given level. The damage output of a monster is part of what contributes to its level.
2. No one is assuming this. What we are assuming is that a solo takes the place of 5 standard monsters of equivalent level.
4. There are guidelines for how long an encounter should take - specifically for the defenses and hp of a monster at a specific level.
5. If a solo is not matching the damage output of 5 standard monsters of the same type and level, then it is not going to be very challenging.
6. I don't think this is an unfair assumption.

As for the black dragon, it seems to me that it plays more like a soldier than a lurker. The reason I say this is that soldiers typically have highly accurate lower damage attacks and higher defenses, leading to a longer fight.

That's fine, but the monster is supposed to be a lurker. Reducing its defenses to compensate for the "always on" aura and giving it a sneak attack would probably go a long way towards making it play more like a lurker appropriate for the level.
 

keterys

First Post
I don't understand why you assume the following things

1. There is a average damage per encounter that is supposed to be there.
2. Solo monsters are alone in combat.
3. The number of monsters that "should" be alive per round in a normal encounter.
4. How long each combat is "supposed" to take.
5. That solos should do close to as much damage as a normal encounter on their own.
6. That solos (lvl 11 solo is what we are discussing) automatically lose two rounds to random debuffs.
7. Your last statement just seems to assume that his "utility" doesn't make up for the extra damage without giving any reason why.
1. You need a certain amount of damage per fight or there is no actual threat. There may be perceived threat, but that doesn't work on a fair number of people (although perceived without actual threat _does_ work on a fair number of people too...)
2. I don't think anyone is assuming that, though by the RAW it should be a possible option.
3. Those were off the cuff numbers, but the important difference between a solo and a regular group of 5 creatures is that you steadily decrease the damage output of the 5 by killing them off. You can't just make a solo have 5x the damage of a normal creature, because it will retain that damage for 100% of the fight, instead of losing it steadily.
4. Combat lengths vary drastically from group to group - for example one group I know with 4 strikers in it tends to average about 3 rounds at heroic tier, while I know at least one poster on these forums who averages over 10.
5. If solos don't do as much damage as a normal encounter, then they're not threatening. There are many who'd actually suspect they should deal more than a normal encounter, but the motive there doesn't seem very mathematically pure.
6. It might lose any number of rounds, but between massive attack penalties, daze, mark, immobilize, knockout, what have you... it's very likely to waste more effective rounds than a group of 5.
7. What 'utility' are we discussing? I assumed that it would survive longer than a normal group of 5 creatures by 3 rounds / 50%, via defensive abilities, heightened defenses, flight, fear, etc...

It's very important to realize that a fight that goes for a long time against a creature that is hard to hurt, but that in turn can't appreciably hurt the group is almost invariably boring, at least to those who can realize it.

I mean 'So, guys, I know it's going to take 10 more rounds to kill this guy, but at the rate he's damaging us, he'll drop the paladin in the 50th round, so... whee' isn't exactly optimal play ;)

I threw a young black dragon at my pcs and they still think it was their most difficult fight. It wasn't about the damage, it was about getting past its wierd defenses.
Black dragons have immense defenses... which leads to long fights with lots of at-wills, but not necessarily any true fear or excitement. It _can_ have those, sure, but it can also have a group that no one has gone bloodied in, no one expects to, too.

I actually really don't like the design of the black dragon, since it's mostly a denial fight.
 

Flipguarder

First Post
I actually really don't like the design of the black dragon, since it's mostly a denial fight.

Thats my whole point, its a really long fight due to such high defense. Ergo, damage per round can be lower for this monster than a dire bear.

It just seems to me everyone is focusing on the 4d8+6 the bear can do and ignoring every other thing that goes into monster balancing.
 

insanogeddon

First Post
full circle

The game sets itself up as BALANCE being its fame claim. Dragons don't fit into is own guide lines. Thats the issue.

Yes you can dodge about the issue with changing the comparison to a black dragon instead of what it began with (this really just shows up another flaw so is self defeating) or we can claim 'the DM should fiddle with things and design encounters so it works' .. but hey thats what every other editions answer was, the same answer (people said they hate) was NOT meant to cut it.

If thats the answer it highlights the original posters point.. poor design on dragons.

Now their just same ole same ole minldly irritating random encounters that need to be balanced the same old ways yet have lost the majesty and magic of the dragons of old: ability to cast arcane AND divine spells, polymorph, spell abilities etc.

Further in 4ed flight and manuverability can be got past by most any class or race combo party as they either have equivocal movement/anti-movement powers/range powers/lock down powers.
 

keterys

First Post
Thats my whole point, its a really long fight due to such high defense. Ergo, damage per round can be lower for this monster than a dire bear.

It just seems to me everyone is focusing on the 4d8+6 the bear can do and ignoring every other thing that goes into monster balancing.
Ah - no, that's why I was talking about the damage needing to spread over the number of rounds and such.

That said, changing a fight from, say, X rounds at Y damage per round to 3X rounds at Y/3 damage per round is not necessarily a recipe for more fun.
 

mshea

First Post
As written, dragons just don't work that well for me. Here are three things that make them work better:

1. Reduce HP to 3/4.

2. Increase damage output by +1/2 level on attacks.

3. Stuns = loss of standard action; daze = loss of minor action; cannot be knocked prone

That should make for a much more fun battle.

As far as the black dragon, the real broken bit is the darkness cloud. I'd just remove the "sustain minor" part. That lets him fly around and get occasional CAs but it won't give him the +5 defenses all the time. That just makes him too annoying.
 

keterys

First Post
I did up a black dragon for an adventure I ran recently who did bursts of blinding darkness as a minor action until bloodied, and once bloodied it added blinding onto its breath weapon. I found it a lot more interesting than the static/sustain darkness myself... if you just took away the sustain, though, and left the existing cloud as a standard, its use would be an awful lot more limited.

Maybe if you gave it some kind of special attack it could only do while in the darkness.
 


Lord Pendragon

First Post
This is an interesting thread. I used a low-level black dragon in a game of mine recently, and found the critter to be quite deadly. It's cloud of darkness really hurt the party's offense, and he managed to get a few breath weapon recharges that really put a hurting on the party.

Then again, maybe it just seems that way to me because they aren't high enough for me to throw a dire bear at them. :p
 

DracoSuave

First Post
I'm going to be honest, I think this is less to do with the fail of black dragons, and more the fail of lurker monsters in the MM1 in general. If it doesn't get Combat Advantage damage, it generally doesn't do a lot of damage at all. I've found Lurkers without CA to be very underwhelming (except the black dragon, which is still a challenge in the right circumstances, even if it doesn't seem it on paper. It's not its damage that parties remember.)
 

Lord Zardoz

First Post
And in 3E, some dragons had magical spells that were not just damage. Invisibility, Shield, Dimension Door.

4E dragons are just another type of brute (not brute role, but brute monster). Nothing special about them. Just another encounter.
I am going to disagree a bit here, (though it starts to reek of a thread jack). I think that 4th Edition Monsters are on the whole, much better than they were in 3rd edition from a straight up utility perspective. I can take a monster I have never read before, look at the statblock and tactics, and run it effectively.

What I am not able to do in 4th edition as easily as I could in 3rd is use a monster statblock for an NPC.

One of the early playtest notes for 4th Edition noted that the spell casting capabilities of Dragons ended up having some less than ideal results.

1) Some spells were nearly always a subpar tactical option in combat, and often forgotten about.
2) It added spells like Mage Armour, or stat buffs that effectively become a pre-calculated stealth stat bump to the dragons
3) It did not fit thematically that the 70 ton lizard with sharp claws and big teeth would be best served to use the same tactics as a 180 pound human mage.

I will grant that outside of combat, it did allow Dragons to be more versatile as NPC's. I dispute that it made them more effective as Monsters.

The Monster Manual in 4th edition does not really provide any monsters at all that are ideal to use as NPC's directly from the page. But one of the philosphies of 4th edition is to try to get away from building monsters the same way you build characters. If you want a given creature to have a particular ability, just give it to him.

Now, if I wanted to enhance a 4th Edition Dragon to make it more serviceable as an NPC, I would probably just add a few things to a given monster entry.

- Ritual casting
- Some skill values for non combat skills like Diplomacy, Insight, and Bluff
- Add some non combat utility powers
- Add or modify a few combat abilities to enhance survivability.

Anyway, getting back on topic, I think that there are more flaws in the monster entires than I would like in 4th edition as far as balance goes. Answering the original question for this thread, the reason that Dragons do less damage is probably because they were developed earlier in the product cycle and did not get revisited before release, which probably meant that later monsters are more likely to have a damage range ideal to their level and role.

If you can get your hands on the Draconomicon book though, it does give plenty of options for customizing the dragons abilities, so you might find something you like there.

END COMMUNICATION
 

eriktheguy

First Post
And the dire bear can't fly, or use a breath weapon, or any other special dragon ability.

Dragons are balanced around their level, not around some metagame idea about how dragon's should be more difficult then their XP value indicates.
Wouldn't basing stats on their level rather than their XP value still be metagame? The point is that dragons should be powerful because they're dragons. In metagame terms that means that they should be able to hold their own against less powerful monsters (elite monsters of the same level).


I think what happened is that 4e was designed to make Elites dangerous by increasing things such as damage, while solos are made to induce long fights (a lot of HP and a variety of attacks to use on the party). Unlike the dire bear, the dragon could easily ignore the fighter/paladins mark and go for the casters, or just take them out with its breath weapon. Opportunity attacks and defenders are much more effective on the stupid, lower hp bear, making it a smaller threat. If solo monsters had the raw damage of elite brutes AND the staying power of a solo, they would probably massacre a party.

EDIT: yes, I realize that dragons have high damage because they are epic creatures. If you want an epic dragon, use one a few levels higher than the party. Even powerful creatures are weak if they are low leveled :p.
 
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SteveC

Adventurer
I'm finding this ongoing discussion very interesting. For me, now that I've done four battles with dragons, I continue to be unimpressed. As I've started to see a larger sample size, the problem is that the solo dragon has that 5x experience awards, which suggests it has the power of 5 normal monsters. That's not the case by so much that it's not even funny. The dragon may have the hit points, but they don't have the attacks and the damage. Further, they don't have resistance to the effects that can cause a creature to lose actions, so in effect that stun or daze effect is 5x as useful.

WotC is starting to address these issues with some of the new creatures getting multiple turns of actions and shrugging off some status effects, so they see what's going on. I'm interested in the direction it's eventually going to go.

--Steve
 

Edwin_Su

First Post
i'm planning to use a dragon is the following a good way to boost damage:

challening encounter:
use dragon 3 levels higer then the players,

use left over XP to put a rider on the dragons back making the rider a warlord npc of the higest lvl the xp allouws

give dragon rider a saddel that lets him save against being pushed of the dragon.

give the warlord a few powers to boost dragons damage and saves when needed, and the at wil that lets an ally make a basic attack

could one of the number crunchers have a look at this ?
 

Turtlejay

First Post
I've fought 2 4e dragons, and one was a black dragon.

Despite being hampered because we caught him in his cave, he was a tough fight that required us to use a lot of our resources. The only thing that even made it doable was our warlord and the slides she gave us (white raven onslaught, i think) so that we could get him to the edge of the darkness. Even with the lack of mobility and tactics like that it was tough. Tougher than 5 dire bears. Why? A few reasons. 5 dire bears would take extra damage from area attacks (tageting more than 1 bear means you are effectively doing damage above that which you would to just 1 solo), they are beasts, so our tactics are more effective. Things like forcing a bottleneck.

The fight against the green was tough too, for different reasons. We were on a boat, and the dragon used his breath weapon on us, nothing we could do since we were clustered, and dragon fear made us leap off the edges of the boat. It was tough, and if we did not have a wizard and a ranged striker I am not sure we would have survived.

With all fights terrain matters. Dragons should be fought in a terrain that matches their epic nature, not an open, featureless grassy field. That is where you fight dire bears. Because this whole thing is in the DM's lap. He should not be calculating average damage per round, he should be setting up a fight to be entertaining and to showcase the abilities of his mobs.

Jay
 

eriktheguy

First Post
In addition to smart dragons using terrain to their advantage here is something I tried out in 3e.
Kobolds. They love dragons, form alliances with them, and sometimes even worship them. Partway through the battle the kobolds can attack, attempting to get sneak attacks and immobilize the players to make them vulnerable to the dragon's area attacks. The kobolds can also use traps, and both the dragons and the kobolds see the kobolds as expendable (the dragon is willing to toast a few of them with his breath if it means hitting the players). This can seriously up the threat/damage of the dragon, and also gives the controller something to do.
Another option is to simply use a higher level dragon. Dragons don't just do massive damage for being dragons, you need to choose a dragon two or more levels higher than the party to be a serious threat. If the encounter is a dragon equal or one above the party's level, this is a standard encounter and should only "challenge a typical group of characters, but not overwhelm them" (DMG, 56).
In any case, if you want a truly epic battle, always make it at least 2 levels higher than the party.
 

Elric

First Post
I've fought 2 4e dragons, and one was a black dragon.

Despite being hampered because we caught him in his cave, he was a tough fight that required us to use a lot of our resources. The only thing that even made it doable was our warlord and the slides she gave us (white raven onslaught, i think) so that we could get him to the edge of the darkness. Even with the lack of mobility and tactics like that it was tough. Tougher than 5 dire bears. Why? A few reasons. 5 dire bears would take extra damage from area attacks (tageting more than 1 bear means you are effectively doing damage above that which you would to just 1 solo), they are beasts, so our tactics are more effective. Things like forcing a bottleneck.
This seems unlikely, if you are talking about the level 11 Black Dragon. Dire Bears are a level 11 Elite Brute, so five of them would be a level 15 encounter.
 

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