What’s the Crock Pot? Just a simmering bowl of lentils and herbs, with a dash of GMing observations. Don’t be afraid to dip in your ladle and stir, or throw in something from your own spice rack.
Nothing ups the ante in a fantasy roleplaying game like having the party confront a dragon. After all, dragons are the baddest actors in the realm — or at least, they think they are.
If it’s your New Year’s gaming resolution to do a better job portraying dragons to your players, then follow these suggestions and make your confrontations with these terrible creatures one of the highlights of your gaming year:
Bring your ‘A’ game
In most fantasy games — the various editions of D&D being the most obvious — dragons are monsters designed with a raft of special abilities, from breath weapons to spells. Sometimes their appearance can strike fear into the hearts of even the stoutest warriors. They also fly exceptionally well. (And don’t forget, their spiked tails also pack a wallop).
Dragons have an impressive arsenal. In accord with your game’s rules, review it thoroughly. Then come up with a list of tactics. Plan, so you have an answer to every attack the player characters might throw your way.
Defend your lair
Until proven otherwise, a dragon considers every adventuring party as nothing but trespassers and a gang of thieves. Deal with them as such.
Create a defensive perimeter around your treasure pile. Every entrance and exit should contain traps both magical and mundane. (It’s good to soften up intruders. Tenderizer, you know).
Observe the niceties
Dragons, even the most vile, are polite. They love a good conversation (especially before a meal). Observing every courtesy and exhibiting good manners is how a dragon flatters itself. A dragon doesn’t consider itself a monster, just the noblest creature around.
Magpies with scales
Nothing diverts a dragon’s attention like something bright and shiny. A dragon is always willing to negotiate to gain new treasure (because even if the negotiation fails, it can fall back to all its awesome abilities to take what it wants).
Just remember, a dragon is smart and wise enough to bargain to its advantage, or at least, to the two parties’ mutual advantage.
Dragons are arrogant
Yes, a dragon lives on top of the food chain. It thinks and acts accordingly. Remember the politeness stuff. That makes it’s arrogance all the more insufferable.
Dragons are vain
Here is another failing of a dragon’s personality that adventurers may try to exploit. Just remember, fawning attention from adventurers can’t possibly be a ploy. From the dragon’s perspective, flattery is expected. A dragon deserves no less. Preen with pride.
Dragons are whimsical
Despite all their terrible advantages, dragons remain magical creatures at heart. Even the most black-hearted may decide to have a tea party on the spot, or if amused, allow prisoners or interlopers to go their merry way after exacting a promise or receiving an entertaining gesture.
In some ways, this part of a dragon’s arrogance and vanity, just given a bigger opportunity to bloom in full.
Dragons are long-lived
Lastly, don’t forget how long-lived dragons can be. This presents the GM with an option. You must decide what each dragon loves more, his life or his treasure. It will determine how far each dragon will go to defend its lair.
Some will fight to the death. But others, knowing they can retreat and plan their revenge, can set aside their pride to look at the big picture. If they live, they can find a new lair and acquire more treasure (so long as the word doesn’t get out that they fled out of fear).
Just make a notation about each dragon’s intention, and roleplay accordingly.
Above all, have a blast
Portraying dragons can be a challenge. It’s a big deal for player characters to meet one. Do your best to make it a memorable event — breath weapons and all!
And don’t hold back. (Your players won’t).