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

PTERANODON: Watch Your Balance


Combat rating 1/2


1 Pteranodon* (CR 1/4)

3 Myconid sprouts (CR 0)


* [beguiled by an adult/sovereign, and set as a protecter]

Combat rating 1


1-2 Pteranodons (CR 1/4)

3 Violet funguses (CR 1/4)


Combat rating 2


3 Pteranodons (CR 1/4)

2 Crocodiles (CR 1/2)


Combat rating 2


2 Pteranodons (CR 1/4)

1 Lizardfolk shaman (CR 2)

How to Use

When using monsters whose skillset leads to them being hard to pin down on a battlefield, [in this case flyby,] I tend to recommend that the goal of the encounter not be taking out the monsters. In addition to being unfair to the melee classes, the nature of these monsters means that there is not much any class can do in terms of strategy. Whether in regards to positioning themselves, or to using spells to control the monster’s movement, it just doesn’t seem to work. Fighting then becomes just a matter of attrition, and luck regarding the dice rolls.

Also, they can flee whenever they want, so you get to choose between being unrealistic and reminding your players to watch their language.

(I suppose they can be trained Pteranodons, who are forming part of a villain’s troops, but it still seems boring. They’ll end all their turns out of reach, and the players can choose between ignoring them and shooting them down. Also, whether they cluster close enough together to be worth that an area-of-effect spell can take them down is entirely up to the DM. As something to flesh out your enemy’s troops, they’re okay, but nothing beyond that.)

Combat encounters – Watching Your Step While… (difficulty 2-4)

1. While Collecting Plants

What can we do with them? Having to attempt any form of careful movement [anything requiring acrobatics, or other DEX rolls] while dealing with them is possibility.

In the ankylosaur post, I suggested that the players should need to collect flowers to brew a special potion. If you went with that, you could have another ingredient be some kind of flower, or fruit, from the very tops of some of the trees. Unfortunately, going above the tree line exposes them to the Pteranodons, and taking damage from them can cause a PC to lose his balance and come crashing down. [I’d use a concentration save to see if he falls or not, as tree climbing also takes a certain amount of concentration.]

Alternatively, have the flower grow at the very edge of the river, where the ground is loose or slippery, and they have to avoid falling in. In addition, picking the flower would seem to require bending over, which should logically leave them very exposed to the Pteranodon.

With both of these scenarios, they’ll need to venture into the problem area multiple times, if they’re to collect all the necessary flowers or fruit. This meant that you don’t need to use a huge swarm of Pteranodons, you could simply have one or two of them be causing trouble.

Possible solutions include distracting them, or having one PC expose himself just enough to draw them out, so that the others players can shoot down that Pteranodon. Or they could give it other food, such as fish they caught in the river. (Of course, if dinosaurs are anything like modern animals, it will then follow them around begging for food all the time. That said, it shouldn’t take too much to keep it fed, and it might end up as sort of an in-game pet. Assuming they don’t attract any more of them, that is.)

Once they manage to deal with the Pteranodon, you should probably not throw another Pteranodon at them unless you can manage to make it new somehow. Otherwise, just narrate that they deal with the other Pteranodons the same way, and don’t make them waste time repeating themselves and rolling dice.

If you want to make it new, you can add an additional monster, either one that saw them and is attacking or one that’s just lying there, but that they might waken if they make too much noise or if they accidently step on it. In the case of the treetops, you could also add a beehive that they have to avoid [full of poisonous killer bees, so that they don’t just decide to endure the bee stings] or have a branch break off from under them, leaving them stranded.

2. While Crossing Tricky Terrain

You could also choose a place where the entire party needs to travel through, and that requires careful DEX handling. Slippery stepping stones across a river, or getting up a steep cliff face, for example.

In this scenario, since they’re only going to go through here once, you might consider increasing the amount of Pteranodons. Have a cluster of them that settled into the area, for whatever reason, and are going to attack the PCs en masse once they enter.

Suggestions for how the players can deal with this include: Finding a way to distract the Pteranodons, using some kind of bait to get them to cluster in one area where they can be taken out at once, picking them off with ranged attacks beforehand (although they won’t remain in one place once the players begin shooting at them. They’ll either attack or retreat. This strategy also requires that the players find a way to bring them together.)

3.  While Already Mid-crossing

Another variation is that the Pteranodons aren’t around to come after the PCs until the PCs are already halfway up the mountain or across the river. Perhaps they came close to their nest, and that aroused them.

In this scenario, I might have the players be close to the top, or the other side. They’ll have to choose between spending a round or two pushing for a safer position to fight from, or fighting where they are, and risking the force of the Pteranodons attacks causing them to slip and fall. They might also send the melee forward to attack the nests (if you decide to use nests, and let them realize that there are nests there.) Having an attack on the nests might well cause the Pteranodons to focus all their attentions and the PCs responsible.

You could also have an area that is especially difficult to cross. Perhaps the players will choose to play it safe and tie themselves together with ropes. [Although the Pteranodons might accidently break some of the ropes.]

On a mountain, an especially difficult part could be a section without good handholds, or with loose rubble, or where an outcropping forces them to climb upside down. Solutions could be to carve handholds, to clear away the rubble, or to try to smash away the overhang. [Although that will cause it to fall toward them.]

When crossing a river, an especially difficult part could be a rock covered in slippery lichen, or a rock that isn’t firmly fastened and wobbles when stepped on, or an area where the rocks are too far apart, and they’ll need to jump. Solutions, would be shooting a rope into the trees ahead, so they have something to hold [assuming one PC at the back holds it steady]; they could also send the PC with the best DEX ahead to faster the rope to one end.

With both the mountain and the river, there can be places where the way forward is narrow, and it is hard to change positions, to choose who is in front.

Another way the players might help each other is to find a way to use arrows or spells or such to keep the Pteranodons away from the PC crossing the difficult area. That PC will be especially vulnerable to slipping due to distraction if they don’t. [If using a concentration check, I’d suggest the normal DC plus five. Alternatively, give them disadvantage on the acrobatics check that they need to make to get across.]

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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.