It's hard to imagine a Dungeons & Dragons campaign that doesn't feature at least one dragon, considering that they are in the name of the game. The less experienced adventuring parties are usually excited to fight a dragon, as they are dreaming about all of the awesome treasure that they will be able to claim from its hoard. A dragon in the hands of an experienced dungeon master will soon show them the error of their ways, as a dragon can utterly destroy a party if it uses smart tactics. There is a good reason why dragons are part of the name of the game and why they have the best treasure, as they are often the most challenging foes of all.
The only reason why most campaign worlds in Dungeons & Dragons haven't been taken over by dragons is due to their lack of a union. Dragons are all about sleeping on piles of coins and trying to rule the world would interfere with their nap time. If an adventuring party is to have any hope of defeating a dragon, then they will need to use some preparation and tactics of their own. A party that just runs in and hopes for the best will soon find themselves on the business end of a breath weapon or a claw the size of an Escalade, and the adventure will end with the party in a dragon's belly.
We are here today to reveal the tactics and tricks that players can use to defeat dragons in Dungeons & Dragons - from the importance of location to relying on one of the cheapest spells in the game.
Here are The 20 Most Effective Tricks For Beating Dragons In Dungeons & Dragons!
20 Control The Environment In Which You Battle The Dragon
An inexperienced dungeon master (or DM) will use a dragon as if it were a rugby player who just runs headfirst at the party. Dragons can fly and can often survive in harsh environments, which a canny DM will use to their advantage when fighting the party. It's vitally important that the party is able to prepare a suitable environment for the final showdown with the dragon to take place, which involves inhibiting or removing its ability to fly.
If the party has to venture into the dragon's lair for the confrontation, then they need to use every magical means of divination available to them to find out what kind of traps that the dragon has in place for them. If a dragon has a horde of minions or rooms that are shrouded in antimagic, then the party needs to know about them beforehand.
19 Work Around The Spell Resistance
Dragons have a natural resistance against magic, which manifested in high spell resistance scores in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Spell resistance acted like an armor class score against magic, which meant that your most powerful magic could fizzle out with a single botched roll.
It's important for spellcasters to prepare spells that can work around spell resistance, such as the elemental orb spells from the Spell Compendium. Spell resistance only offers protection from spells that directly influence the target, which means that summoned monsters and spells that create environmental effects will also be effective against dragons.
18 Forge An Arrow Of Dragon Slaying + Go For The Saving Throws
There is a specific weapon in the third edition Dungeon Master's Guide that is designed for dealing with dragons and it isn't that hard to craft. An arrow of dragon slaying has the ability to destroy a dragon with a single failed saving throw and it only costs a few thousand gold pieces to make.
It would be incredibly risky to rely on a single botched saving throw to win the day, though, as dragons tend to have a high Fortitude score. In order to give the arrow of dragon slaying a decent shot at working, the party would need to use all of their stat debuffing abilities and spells to weaken the dragon's saving throws, as well as removing any negative energy protection effects that it may already have in place.
17 Hire An Army Of (Incredibly Cheap) Archers
There is nothing stopping the party from bringing in additional help when it comes to fighting a dragon, especially when you consider how cheap mercenaries are in the third edition Player's Handbook, where trained hirelings only cost three silver pieces a day.
You can hire lots of archers to repeatedly fire arrows at the dragon during the battle, which means they will rack up damage for all the high numbers they roll. You just need to make sure to use magic to protect them from the dragon's natural fear ability and buff them with spells or provide them with magical ammunition. It might be a tough sell to hire soldiers to fight a dragon, but you could offer a portion of the dragon's hoard as payment, which is something that a lot of mercenaries would find hard to resist.
16 Make Them Waste Their Legendary Resistances
A common trait seen among powerful monsters in the current edition of Dungeons & Dragons is access to three legendary resistances a day, which allows the creature to automatically pass three saving throws that it has failed.
All adult and ancient dragons in the current edition of Dungeons & Dragons have three legendary resistances at their disposal, which means you can't easily disable them with spells like confusion or polymorph. It's vitally important for a party to be able to use debuff effects on a dragon in order for everyone to have a higher chance of survival, which means that they should concentrate on forcing adult and ancient dragons to blow their legendary resistances as quickly as possible by using as many saving throw-inducing moves as they can.
15 Aim For The Dexterity Stat
The most powerful creature in the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons is a Great Wyrm Prismatic Dragon, which has a Challenge Rating of 66, over two-thousand hit points, casts spells like a thirty-eighth level caster and has an Armor Class of one hundred and two.
It also has a Dexterity stat of ten. In fact, all of the true dragons in the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons had a Dexterity of ten. The low Dexterity stat of dragons is their biggest weakness in the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons. If you can find a way to lower their Dex score (using spells like bestow curse) then they won't be able to move their body.
14 Aim For The Wisdom Stat
The third edition dragons had a terrible Dexterity stat, but the fifth edition dragons have a terrible Wisdom stat. The reason why a bad Wisdom stat is so crippling in the current edition of Dungeons & Dragons is due to the fact that stats are now tied to saving throws, which means that the mightiest creatures in the game are now incredibly susceptible to mind-altering spells.
Spells from the school of enchantment have always been some of the most powerful in the game and they have been nerfed somewhat in the current edition of Dungeons & Dragons, but spells like confusion still pack a punch and can easily sway the battle in your favor.
13 Prepare For Anti-Sensory Tactics
An easy way for dragons to protect their treasure is to prevent creatures from other races from being able to function within the boundaries of their lair. Dragons have blindsense and keen senses, which means that they can function without their eyes.
It's important for the spellcasters of the group to prepare for any kind of magical or nonmagical darkness effect, as removing sight will give the dragon an overwhelming advantage. The majority of spells in Dungeons & Dragons require the caster to be able to see and most warriors will suffer a huge disadvantage without their sight, while the dragon will still be able to function as normal.
12 Shell Out For A Bag Of Holding & A Portable Hole
If there is a dragon you really need to dispose of and you have a) a lot of cash and b) an arcane spellcaster who can craft wondrous items, then you can cheese it using one of the oldest tricks in the book. If you place a portable hole in a bag of holding, then it will open a gate to the astral plane and utterly destroy anything in a ten-foot radius.
It's going to cost you around thirty-thousand gold pieces (in the third edition of the game) to craft the items necessary to destroy the dragon. You will also need to create a construct, or summon a creature and have it get close to the dragon, throw the hole in the bag, and destroy it in a single round of combat.
11 Spread Out To Make Its Attacks Less Effective
One of the most basic tactics that an adventuring party needs to consider when facing a dragon is their placement on the battlefield and how they will best be able to operate from there. It is of paramount importance for an adventuring party to spread out and attack a dragon while keeping as much distance between each other as possible.
A dragon's breath attack is the most obvious reason for spreading out, as this will prevent it from being able to strike multiple party members at once. Spreading out will also prevent dragons with spellcasting abilities (like the ones in third edition) from being able to use area of effect spells, and will force dragons with legendary actions (like in the current edition) to have to carefully choose when to use them.
10 Use A Homunculus As A Scout
A dragon will almost certainly fill its lair with traps and those with spellcasting abilities will shield their lair from divination, preventing the players from being able to scry and reveal all of the dragon's defenses. A spellcaster with some gold and experience points to spare can forge the perfect spy in the form of a homunculus, which can share its senses with its a creator from a range of over a thousand feet.
A homunculus can scout a dragon's lair in safety, as its tiny size will make it hard to detect and its nature as a construct will keep it safe from environmental hazards and from mind-altering effects. A spellcaster can use a homunculus to scope out all of the dragon's defenses from the safety of their own home.
9 Coat A Sheep In Ravages & Afflictions And Use It As Bait
The earlier editions of Dungeons & Dragons prevented good-aligned party members from using poison on the enemy, as that was considered an immoral act (while bludgeoning them with a hammer was considered to be appropriate). The third edition of Dungeons & Dragons had the Book of Exalted Deeds listed substances known as ravages and afflictions, which were poisons that were made from good-approved materials and only harmed evil beings.
If your DM is cool with you using the material from Book of Exalted Deeds, then you can break out the mythological trick of baiting a dragon with a goat or sheep and coat them in a ravage or affliction. If the dragon chows down on the poor creature, then they will have ingested the poison and will start taking stat point damage or become too ill to fight.
8 Fight A Proxy Battle Using Air Elementals
Why fight a dragon on your own when you could send in some elemental lackeys to rough it up a bit first? The primary spellcasting classes in the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons have access to both the summon monster and summon nature's ally spells, which allows them to summon elementals.
One of the best tactics you can use when fighting dragons on their home turf is to have the spellcasters send in their most powerful air elementals first, as they will trigger any traps the dragon will have placed and will hopefully force it to use up some of its own abilities and spells before the party can come in. The reason air elementals are the best option is due to their natural ability to fly, which allows them to match the maneuverability of a dragon.
7 Have The Clerics Turn The Dragons
The majority of good-aligned clerics that are used in Dungeons & Dragons will focus on buffing and healing spells, as both will greatly increase a party's chance of survival. Clerics who wield elemental powers can also be beneficial to the survival of a party, with some of them holding sway over the minds of dragons.
Clerics who choose one of the four elemental domains in the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons will gain the ability to turn creatures of the opposite element (or element subtype) as if they were zombies, which applies to a lot of dragons, such as blue dragons being classed as earth creatures and red dragons being classed as fire creatures. You will need to roll high to turn a dragon, but there are lots of feats that can increase your odds of success.
6 Track Them Down Using The Detect Metal And Minerals Spell
The real reason why most adventuring parties will risk their lives fighting a dragon is due to the fact that they always have the best loot, which is a precedent set by Smaug from The Hobbit. A dragon will almost certainly be guarding its hoard if it's not expecting any trouble, which can be helpful in alerting the party to its location.
A cleric can combine the detect metal and minerals spell with meld into stone to scout the perimeter around the dragon's lair without setting off any of its traps or alerting them to your presence, allowing you to track the location of its hoard in safety and giving you a general idea of how far into its lair you will have to go before facing the beast.
5 Spam Earthbind
A dragon's ability to fly gives it a huge mobility advantage over most adventuring parties, as using the fly spell on the party requires a high-level slot in the current edition of Dungeons & Dragons and abilities and items that grant flight can be hard to come by.
The book called Xanathar's Guide to Everything has a spell called earthbind that can help you turn the tide against flying creatures, as the target must succeed on a Strength check or be forced to sink to the ground. Earthbind has a range of three hundred feet and can be concentrated on for a minute, which should give the party plenty of time to deal with the enemy.
4 Take Advantage Of Its Size Using The Creeping Doom Spell
It doesn't matter how large a creature is when it comes to determining the damage from area of effect spells, as only a single part of its body needs to be within the area of effect for it take damage.
The creeping doom spell is one of the few that takes advantage of a creature's large size, as it summons multiple swarms of centipedes that can act over several squares. This means that they can perform multiple attacks each turn and have several attempts at inflicting their poison, which nauseates enemies and prevents them from taking actions. The third edition version of the creeping doom spell is one of the best weapons you can use when fighting dragons, as it doesn't grant a saving throw and ignores spell resistance.
3 Wear It Down With Negative Levels
One of the biggest changes to the current edition of Dungeons & Dragons is the removal of negative levels. In the older editions of Dungeons & Dragons, it was possible for zombie creatures and necromancers to use negative energy to steal the levels from party members, which was one of the most feared tactics used by a DM, as the level loss could be permanent if not dealt with quickly.
The reason why negative levels are effective against dragons is due to the fact that they last for twenty-four hours, meaning that you can wear them down over the course of the day using blitzkrieg tactics and escape before it can counterattack. An evil dragon isn't likely to have access to the restoration spell, so you can gradually make them too weak to defend themselves.
2 Call On Bigby's Hand To Grapple It
There are some character builds in Dungeons & Dragons that are based around performing special maneuvers in combat, such as grappling the foe or repeatedly pushing them to the ground. Characters that are based around special maneuvers can normally only use them on creatures that are roughly the same size as them, which means that you can't beat a massive dragon by trapping it in a Kimura armlock.
The one person who can grapple dragons is Bibgy from Oerth, as his signature Bigby's Hand spell has the capacity to grapple creatures of Huge size or smaller, making it one of the best spells you can use to incapacitate dragons.
1 When All Else Fails... Just Spam Polymorph
There are times when no strategy will work. If you should find yourself in that situation, then you just have to treat the dragon as if it were any other high-level encounter and hit the big red emergency button, by spamming polymorph.
There are several different variations of polymorph that have appeared in the different editions of Dungeons & Dragons and they have all been powerful. The current edition of Dungeons & Dragons has an especially annoying version of polymorph that ensures victory from a single failed saving throw, which means that an adult/ancient dragon will almost certainly use up its legendary resistances to protect itself from the spell. All you need to do is keep hitting the enemy with polymorph spells until it finally sticks and turn the dragon into a mouse, which will give you at least a minute to prepare some kind of horrible fate for the annoying wyrm.
What's your favorite way of taking down dragons in Dungeons & Dragons? Let us know in the comments!