Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Dragon hunting part 2

By David Revoy / Blender Foundation - Own work, CC BY 3.0,
"Look at this dragon. No previous job experience. No wizardry, no dragon fear... by Nyarlahotep's teats, it doesn't even spit acid, just fire. Fire is like, day one basic."
"So? It's the only dragon that applied for the job."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that no serious, self-respecting great wyrm is willing to risk its hide and hoard on your experiment, Kovath."
"That's rubbish. And this is a rubbish dragon."
"Sure, but the rubbish dragon is hired anyway."
I've done some basic testing with 2 parties now and I'm increasingly convinced that CER isn't broken on dragons, instead, my party didn't come prepared for the dungeon. What's more, I've come to a few conclusions about DFRPG dragons.
  1. If the dragon is a boss, consider the dragon as statted in Monsters a racial template.  Give them some neat tricks, without things like terror, spells or some other tools (some speculation in my group about giving a dragon martial artist abilities looked pretty cool), it's just not scary enough. 
  2. Parries are painful. When we gamed this out, the dragon was in a rough spot because swinging at the party just meant the damage kept piling on.  This even makes flyby attacks less viable since the dragon's swipes open it up to damage.  Seriously consider taking full advantage of the box on Monsters p.39 and call your whole dragon a weapon.
  3. When you know what's coming, resist fire or cold spells make a difference, but the breath weapons are totally dodgeable.  Acid is far more dangerous without appropriate resistances and is tough to dodge. Poison won't do a lot of damage, but is very consistent in at least doing some damage, in a world where 2 turns of poison damage could drop you into reduced dodge territory, that is a big deal. 
  4. Their CER isn't wildly out of whack provided you bring a party that is properly equipped to deal with a variety of threats.  If my large party hadn't entirely chosen to focus on hitting soft spots, a single large dragon would have been a tough but far from unbeatable challenge, the 5 person party my dragon hunters test group fielded could probably have handled 2, or as many as 3 if I'd had a dungeon large enough. Next time the generator rolls up a 3 dragon encounter, the party had better be prepared.
  5. Dragon skill isn't all that high, so, they lack tools to deal with solid active defenses.  Extra skill to allow for some deceptive attacks might help.  I'd also consider statting up a wind buffet type attack for knock back.  If you can knock over a delver or 2 with one such wind buffet and land a solid claw hit while they are down, you might make the party panic a little bit and add some real drama to the fight.
  6. An optimized party for cracking tough nuts like dragons might well need to see a dragon with injury reduction.  That would bump up it's CER as well (10 points or so), making one alone a more solid challenge.
  7. That $5k in treasure I mentioned that assumed a boss fight *is* small, but I think it's also appropriate to the difficulty of the boss as it stands now. If we pile on some more tools in it's toolbox, CER increases, but, almost certainly not enough to be in line with the vast vaults we see in fiction. I'm not sure how to balance this over the long haul.  Dragons almost certainly need to be rarer in our generator and kick out better loot.  When we get to the point where putting bosses at the back of a dungeon becomes technically possible (it's on our list of goal features... one day), I'd be open to changing generated treasure to as much as 5 times that, maybe more since I could count on a dungeon to wear down party resources.  I also figure a mage dragon could have some sword golems in his treasure vault to keep an eye on things while it hunts for food, adding other critters to a dragon encounter would adjust the math as well. All of that said, there is such a thing as too much treasure, and I'm not sure where that line goes for DFRPG yet.  I suspect I'll find out as we test these dungeons more.
I'm excitedly looking forward to the day (a ways off yet) that we can look at adding templates and spell lists to monsters the dungeon spits out.  My liches and dragons are begging for spell lists.  A medium dragon (or even better, a large) with Karate, unarmed master, Kiai, push and throwing art could probably rock a party's world.


  1. Something you can try that didn't make the cut: Don't treat the tail or wings as weapons, but instead change their effective weight from ST/10 (as for a claw or bite) to ST (as for a slam, overrun, or trample) . . . because a tail is honkin' huge and wings are strong enough to lift the dragon off the ground. Doing this will mean, for instance, that ST 50 dragons are likely to break parrying weapons that weigh 16.7 lbs. or less and are guaranteed to destroy weapons that weigh 7.1 lbs. or less.

    1. I've done something like this for full-body and large-limb attacks by big critters albeit based on BL instead of ST. Even the parry monsters of the group don't bother to parry, they don't want to find out the hard way it's not going to work.

  2. That would make a big difference against the parry monsters of the group to be sure.

  3. "All of that said, there is such a thing as too much treasure, and I'm not sure where that line goes for DFRPG yet."

    I'm really curious to see you expand on this. With such a limited supply of purchasable magic items, treasure seems like it'll pretty much be better mundane weapons, better mundane armor (and armor is highly pricey), potions, and healing. Even with pre-DFRPG pricing, which was lower, I had to dramatically increase the treasure in my dungeons just to keep pace. So I'm wondering where you see this line being, and when treasure becomes too much.

    1. Part of the concern will be arriving too quickly at "well I bought everything my character could reasonably use... Guess I'm done"

    2. I'll write something on it soon though for discussion purposes.

  4. Does the $5k in treasure include the double value of the the body parts or is that seperate?

    1. It's separate. Still probably not impressive enough for a dragon imo.