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


(Yes, I am going to write a separate article for every single dragon in the Monster Manual.)


Combat rating 8


1 Young black dragon (CR 7)

3 Ogres (CR 2)


Combat rating 10


1 Young black dragon (CR 7)

4 Ghasts (CR 2)

1 Wraith (CR 4)


Combat rating 12


1 Young black dragon (CR 7)

2 Ghosts (CR 4)

5 Wights (CR 3)


Combat rating 14


1 Young black dragon (CR 7)

2 Bulettes (CR 5)

1 Oni (CR 7)

2 Ochre Jellies (CR 2)

2 Water weirds (CR 3)

For the first time ever, I am letting myself change the order of the monsters in the Monster Manual slightly. I see the young dragon of each type as the dragon’s most basic, the adult with its extra size, strength, and new abilities as an advanced version, and the ancient, with its experience and its power placing it at the top of the CR food chain, as being the apex, and I want to write my articles in that order.

(The wyrmling is too weak, and isn’t so much part of that progression as it is a creature not yet ready to begin that progression. I prefer to treat it as its own monster. [Actually, I prefer not to use it at all. More on that when we reach the black dragon wyrmling.] As such, it will keep its spot at the end of each dragon.)

I haven’t forgotten the dracolich and the shadow dragon either, by the way. Being more complex forms of the basic dragons, I’m putting their articles at the end of the chromatic dragon articles.

With that introduction out of the way, let me say: Welcome to the dragon encounters.

Combat Encounters (Difficulty 8)

(The combat encounters of the young dragons are going to show how they can use their terrain, and their natural tendencies, in a tactical manner. Done properly, this will make life pretty exciting for your players.)

One of the black dragon’s most natural strategies is to take advantage of the swamp. He’ll dive underwater, where he is not just protected from many/most attacks and spells, he’s also hard to spot due to the muddiness of the waters. He’ll pop up on his turn to spray acid.

When his acid breath is on recharge, he can choose between waiting for it to recharge and popping up from any area of the swamp, hopefully taking the PC by surprise. [Although mechanically, I wouldn’t give the dragon surprise. Your players will object, and with good reason.]

I would argue that taking 1-2 opportunity attacks to retreat isn’t so expensive, although I wouldn’t have the dragon attack and retreat on the same turn, because that doesn’t fit the image of dragon, in my eyes.

The fact of it being a swamp will mean that it consists of small islands/sandbars, and the rest is swamp. The dragon can go through the swamp, but the PCs are restricted to the islands. This means that it will be hard for them to surround the dragon, especially if it plays smart about where it surfaces. Since most of its body will be inside the swamp, there is good argument to be made that the melee will be in the way of the ranged. (Treat it as partial cover, giving the dragon + 2 AC.)

Another strategy that the black dragon will use is to look as though it’s standing on a surface, thereby making it seem as though the surface is solid, safe. In reality, the dragon will be putting almost all its weight on its other limbs, touching the surface only lightly.

The easiest way to play this would probably be to have it greeting them with its front legs resting on a boulder and its back legs disappearing behind it into the water. There is no other surface around the dragon where it can be reached with a melee weapon. Chances are, one of the melee fighters will jump onto the boulder, which will give way under them, rolling over and immersing the PC in the swamp.

Once a PC falls prone in a swamp, it should be almost impossible for them to regain their footing without another PC throwing them a rope or using magic. The dragon will have a very easy time tearing into anybody that is stuck in the swamp, to the extent that using its turn to push someone into the swamp (and then diving after them the same turn) might well be worth it.

The dragon might also dig away at the sand dune that they’re on, under their feet. Since the dragon doesn’t have to emerge from the water for this, the tactic is entirely safe, and even if it doesn’t cause them to fall in it might cut off their retreat, or cut them off from each other.

The black dragon is the biggest coward of the different dragons, and it won’t mind fleeing if it feels that the PCs have the upper hand. It can use this to lure them into areas of the swamp where the terrain is more advantageous to itself, and to lead them toward its allies/servants. Preferred terrain of the black dragon is terrain with a smaller number of islands, and to have that ground in the shape of a line, where the acid can hit more of them. It will also retreat to lead them to its minions.

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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.