Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Dragons: smaller than you think?

Before the discovery of the existance of dinosaurs and the rise of atomic monster movies dragons were a lot smaller. Dig ol' St. George here:

By our modern standards, that lizard is positively puny. Yet that dude got sainted for killing it. Looking at that picture, I think one of the things the 3e designers got right was spreading dragons over a large range of sizes. Slaying a puny drake like that depicted above could be enough to make your rep on a backwater medieval island, but you need a bigger wyrm to mobilize a whole team of uber-adventurers against you.

Not to knock the Vision's strategy here, but I'd probably send in the God of Thunder and the dude with the supertech platemail.
3e breaks size down along age lines, but earlier editions gave a 3 hit die range as a separate variable. For example, red dragons are from 9 to 11 hit dice, with the 11HD variety normally referred to as a 'large red dragon'. I used to think of the three dragon size categories as basically big, bigger, and biggest. But looking at St. George's foe up there (and lots of other medieval illos like it), I start to wonder if maybe that's a mistake. Maybe dragons should simply operate under the same size rules as everyone else in AD&D: an 11 hit die dragon is larger than man-sized, a 10 hit die version is roughly man-sized (like St. George's nemesis), and the 9 hit die red dragon would actually be smaller than a man. The prospect of a teeny-tiny dragon that is nearly as destructive as it's gigantic 11HD kin amuses me.


  1. Even as a kid I always included regular (medieval-scaled) dragons in my D&D games. I think it was because I was never into dinosaurs, so the "dragons have to be city-crushingly big" thing never really clicked with me. If I wanted the PCs to fight Godzilla, I just used Godzilla (and I did) :)

  2. (I think the other thing was that I've never to this day bought into the "Dragons Should Be The Ultimate Foe" fetish ... I always mentally place them somewhere in the middle, at the upper-range of animal-beastie-monsters encountered in the woods and mountains, but nowhere near the league of hyper-magical creatures, much less powerful demons and devils, etc).

    Over the years, the Dragons-Should-Be-Ultimate fetish seems to have gained more and more footing, and while I have nothing actually _against_ the idea, I've never bought in. To me, a dragon (singular) is a beast that can be slain by a sufficiently masterful knight (singular).

  3. Yeah, somewhere along the way people decided that because dragons were the most iconic of D&D monsters that they also had to be the baddest mofos. Which leads to situations like my last Greyhawk campaign, where I added the half-dragon template to a tarrasque just to create a bad enough lizard for the 20+ PCs in my group. I'd much rather the case be that high level characters are riding dragons as steeds or something cool like that.

  4. Anonymous11:31 PM

    One word can explain the whole giant dinosaur dragon thing: