Sunday, October 31, 2010

AD&D Monster Manual part 11

Dragons: I have to be honest here: I’ve been dreading this entry. It’s big. Part of what makes writing this blog so easy is that I can tackle it in fairly manageable chunks, but this entry is a daunting sucker. I’m going to try and get it out of the way in one go, but don’t be surprised if I bomb out halfway through.

There are still ten varieties of dragon: White, Black, Blue, Green, Red, Gold (all of which debuted in OD&D), Bronze, Brass, Copper and Silver (which first appeared in Supplement I). Tiamat and Bahamut are included as well.

A dragon’s Hit Dice is still linked to its size, which is determined randomly. In OD&D a dragon had a 20% chance of being small, and the same chance to be large. In AD&D the chance is 2-in-8 to be small, and 1-in-8 to be large.

Two new age categories have been introduced as a matter of necessity. In OD&D, the number of hit points a dragon had per hit dice was determined by its age category. Since OD&D used six-sided dice for hit points, there were six categories. Now that the default dice for hit points is eight-sided (and has been since Supplement I), there needs to be eight categories. They are: Very Young, Young, Sub-Adult, Young Adult, Adult, Old, Very Old, and Ancient. Young Adult and Ancient are the two new categories. Note that dragons also have longer life spans now, with the categories from Adult onwards each spanning a greater number of years than they did before.

Dragons have now been explicitly given the ability to detect hidden and invisible creatures due to their keen senses. This was an ability they had from Chainmail that was not mentioned in the D&D rules.

Likewise, the dragon’s fear aura described here is something they had in Chainmail. Any dragon of Adult age or older will cause weaker creatures to flee or be otherwise shaken, with saving throws granted to those of 1 hit dice or above. Creatures over 6 hit dice are immune.

Sleeping dragons are briefly described. They’re always in their lair, will awaken if attacked or if there is a loud noise, and have a 1-in-6 chance to wake up besides that. It seems to me like a party has one round to get their licks in before the dragon wakes up and retaliates, so they’d better make it count.

The chart that lists the resistances of various dragons to certain attack methods is still present, and mostly unchanged. The only difference is that earth-based attacks now get a +1 bonus against Red Dragons instead of a -1 penalty. It’s possible the original was a typo, I guess (or a bad scan on my PDF). Air attacks have been expanded to include attacks from Aerial Servants and Invisible Stalker. Earth now includes Xorn and Umber Hulks. Fire now includes Salamanders. And Water now includes Tritons and Water Elementals.

Dragons still can only use their breath weapon three times a day, but the random chance they will do so has slightly decreased. In OD&D dragons breathed on a roll of 7 or better on 2d6, but now it’s flat 50/50 chance.

Subduing dragons is still a viable tactic. Gary gets on my wrong side almost instantly, though, by saying that silver and gold dragons can’t be subdued. Curse your bias towards good! You also can’t subdue if your intelligence is less than average. I wonder if this applies to PCs as well? I guess it’s rare that a party will be made up completely of characters of Int 8 or less, but you never know.

In OD&D, not more than eight people could attack a dragon at any time, but now that number is based on the dragon’s size, so it could be less or (more probably) greater.  It looks as though the average value of a subdued dragon has gone down. In OD&D they were fetching from 500 to 1,000 gold pieces per hit point, but now they go for 100 to 800 per hit point.

Dragons encountered in multiples are now handled differently based on whether they’re in their lair or not. The make-up is still usually a mated pair of Adults with some Very Young dragons, or eggs if in the lair. The biggest change here is that dragons get a ferocity bonus to hit and damage if defending their mate. In OD&D, they attacked at double value. If the Aerial Servant entry I talked about earlier is anything to go by, this meant that they fought with double hit dice and damage, which is just nasty. The new rule is much more lenient for those fighting multiple dragons, for sure.

In OD&D, there were some vague guidelines about altering the amount of treasure a dragon has based on its age (with younger dragons having less and older ones having more). Those guidelines have now been given concrete values.

There’s a brief bit about dragon weaknesses. They’re generally cowardly (as shown by the subdual rules), egotistical, and greedy. Except for 40% of silver dragons and 80% of gold, who aren’t at all greedy despite the shit-tons of treasure they’re likely to be sleeping on.

Dragon saving throws are weird. Or more accurately, Gary’s wording is a little hard to decipher. If I’m interpreting this correctly, Adult dragons and older (those with 5 or more hit points per hit die) have better than usual saving throws. They divide their total hit points by 4, and that gives the level they save at. So an Adult Black Dragon with 8 hit dice, and thus 40 hit points, would save as if he had 10 hit dice. Sounds reasonable. An Ancient Red Dragon with 11 hit dice, and thus 88 hit points, would save as if he had 22 hit dice. That’s powerful, but not inappropriate for something of that level. Good rule, Gary!

Black Dragon: They’re still swamp-dwellers with an acidic breath weapon. Their Armour Class has lessened from 2 to 3, but their movement rate on land has increased from 9 to 12. There’s only half the chance now that you’ll find one in its lair. Their alignment has changed from Chaotic to Chaotic Evil, but there’s an intriguing note that says they tend towards the mid-point between Chaos and Law – an early indication of the Neutral Evil alignment that will appear when Gary creates the nine-point alignment system. They now have a slightly smaller chance to be able to speak, but a slightly higher chance of being able to cast spells. Spell casting for dragons is clarified, in that it is said to only require the spoken components. Black Dragons can still only cast first level spells, but they now get one for each stage of maturity, rolled randomly, and they can only cast a given spell once per day.

The only other bit of info we get about them is the name Draco Causticus Sputem. The Red Dragon was the only one who got a latin-style name in OD&D, but now all the dragon types get one.

Blue Dragon: They still live in deserts and breathe lightning, and are now identified as Draco Electricus. They’re slightly less likely to be caught in their lair, but they now get more treasure. Their melee damage output has slightly increased, from 1-4/1-4/2-24 to 1-6/1-6/3-24. Neutral or Chaotic in OD&D, they are now Lawful Evil. They have a slightly smaller chance to be able to speak, but a greater chance to be able to cast spells. Previously limited to 1st or 2nd level spells, they can now cast 3rd level spells at the highest age categories.

Brass Dragon: All we know about Brass Dragons from OD&D is that they live in the desert. Here they are described as being quite forward and officious, with a love of conversation. They are selfish, though, which explains their alignment a little bit. Their land speed has increased from 9 to 12. In OD&D they were either Lawful or Neutral, but now they are Chaotic Good with Neutral tendencies. There’s less chance you’re going to find one asleep. Their chances of being able to speak have slightly decreased, but they have more chance to be able to cast spells. They still have two breath weapons: a cone of sleep gas and a cloud of fear gas. It’s now easier to save against the breath weapons of small brass dragons, and harder against the large kinds.

Aaaaand I’m out. I should be able to tackle the rest in my next post, then it’s one more and I’m done with the letter D. It’s all smooth sailing from there!


  1. What's up with good dragons anyway? How is that even possible? What was the inspiration for that?

  2. Anonymous4:13 PM PST

    Afaik the main idea of good dragons came from Chinese dragons. [Note that gold dragons are wingless, and very Chinese-y.]

  3. looks like gary had his dragon varieties and latin-ish names rolling around in his mind as far back as 1969