Dragon Encounters

Making dnd combat fun, finding monsters that fit together, monster tactics and strategies, and other ways of using the monsters of dungeons and dragons

ANKLYOSAURUS: Using an Adversary That Just Wants to be Left Alone


Combat rating 4


1 Ankylosaurus (CR 3)

2 Cockatrices (CR 1/2)

1 Dryad (CR 1)


Combat rating 4


1 Ankylosaurus (CR 3)

3 Vine blights (CR 1/2)


Combat rating 6


1 Ankylosauruses (CR 3)

1 Basilisk (CR 3)


(I’m going with an instinct that several wild animals in real life have. They don’t attack each other, knowing that by doing so the other will help protect them.)

rating 7


Ankylosauruses (CR 3)

Lizardfolk (CR 1/2)

Lizardfolk shaman (CR 2)

Saber-toothed tiger (CR 2)

How to Use 

The ankylosaurus is that rare D&D monster that will not set out to attack the PCs. If you want it to, you could decide that it’s injured, or suffered a scare, or the loss of its young. A panicked or angry animal will sometimes attack randomly. Of course, if you’re using it as part of an encounter with enemies, you can say that they trained it to attack, or that they’re controlling it with magic or with spurs. But my favorite way to use this dinosaur is as an obstacle, willing to attack anyone that comes near, but not seeking to take down the PCs otherwise. 

That said, with a 10-foot reach on its attack, its definition of “Comes near” starts at 10 feet in every direction. If you need to make it larger, simply decide that it will move 5-10 additional feet to wallop someone who comes near. Nor will it ignore someone standing out of range and shooting at it, whether with weapons or with magic. If they do that, then it will charge, and act like a normal attacker.

Combat Encounters

The basic idea of this monster is that they need to get past it. A different variation would be to require them to obtain flowers or some other plant, probably as ingredients for some potion that they need to make. (Although you could also simply tell them that the flowers have value to sell, and let them decide that they want the money. If they don’t want the money, you probably didn’t offer enough.) 

For added difficulty: Place the ankylosaurus at the top of a steep hill. Being knocked prone by the tail can send them tumbling downhill, and climbing the hill requires an action. 

(Variations, choose any you like: 1a): A successful athletics check means they managed to climb the hill without needing to spend an action. 1b) A failed athletics check not only costs an action, but leaves them at the bottom of the hill. Try at your own risk. 2) Climbing the hill costs both an athletics check and an action, or two actions. A failed athletics check counts as one of the actions.) 

To complete this challenge, add an enemy at the bottom of the hill, such as the allosauruses from the last article. Or place a river at the bottom of the hill, and being knocked down can result in them getting swept away downstream, and being smashed up by the rapids if they don’t escape the river fast enough.

More variations: Instead of the hill, place an enemy at their back, such as the allosauruses. They need to get past the ankylosaurus to escape. Have soil erosion be causing the ground behind them to collapse. The only safe area is where the ankylosaurus is standing and beyond it. Or have enemy archers be taking advantage of the ankylosaurus’ presence to shoot at them. They can shoot back, but the enemies are behind cover.

You can always use more than one ankylosaurus if you need to increase the difficulty. Just because they’re not comfortable with the PCs presence doesn’t mean they’re scared of each other. Also, they might be a mated pair, in which case hurting one will definitely cause the other to attack.

If you like, you could also challenge them to achieve their goal without hurting the ankylosaurus. It’s an innocent animal, after all, and only hurting them in perceived self-defense. [While this is obviously a paladin goal, it might work for a cleric, a druid, and/or a ranger as well.] 

I would not require them to avoid hurting it. Most players hate being told that they have to do something, and you’ll be accused of railroading. What you can do is remind them of the fact that the ankylosaur is innocent, and let them decide how to act. 

You can also give the ankylosaur hatchlings, which will arouse the players’ sympathies [and make even small amounts of damage that might hit the babies problematic.] Be aware that some enchantment spells might end up causing the ankylosaur to accidentally hurt its babies. I’m thinking of Tasha’s hideous lau\ghter, and Confusion. If the players are being chase by enemies [allosauruses], even a spell that will temporarily incapacitate the parent [Hypnotic Pattern] or risky, as they’ll leave the hatchlings vulnerable.   

If they do exert themselves to protect the babies, you might want to give them some type of reward. Perhaps their patron rewards them, or the increased connection with nature they have with nature as a result gives them some new ability, or just karma. You could also let them know that they’ll get a reward if they don’t harm the ankylosaurus, as a means of motivation. Regardless, I would not do the opposite, and punish them for harming the ankylosaurus. It will seem as though you’re penalizing them for their choice of class, and it will be resented.

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About Me

I have been a DM for several years, and I was designing home RPG games since my young childhood. I have been a fan of many different types of games (computer, board, RPG, and more) and have designed several for my own entertainment. This is my first attempt to produce game content for a wider audience.