Death by Dragon

My AD&D players came up against an Adult White Dragon on the weekend. They went looking for it, as Rich’s Thief had been aged 40 years by a ghost, and a sage had told them that a remove curse spell cast while eating the heart of an adult dragon would reverse the aging. It sounded good to me at the time!

For my gentle readers who are more experienced with later editions, the statistics for dragons will likely not appear that impressive at first glance. Here is the stat block of an adult white dragon:

Armour Class 3, Move 12″/30″, Hit Dice 6, Hit Points 30, #AT 3, Damage: 1-4/1-4/2-16, SA: Breath Weapon

The armour class descends as it gets better – in new D&D, the dragon would have an AC of 17. Movement is in scale inches – 1″ = 10 feet indoors, and 10 yards outdoors. #AT is a curious entry – it gives the number of attacks it gets, for which the damage is given in the next entry. The Dragon’s attack bonus is not listed, as it is inherent with its Hit Dice. An AD&D DM has charts that are checked when a monster attacks; if you cross-reference the opponent’s Armour Class with the monster’s Hit Dice, you get the number that you need to roll on a twenty-sided die to hit.

For a well-equipped party, they should make short work of that dragon. Only 30 hit points? Jesse’s magic-user, who is level 9, could deal 9d6 damage to it with a fireball spell – which would be more effective than normal as well.

The biggest trouble with the dragon is its breath attack. The first attack a dragon always makes is its breath weapon. In this case, a cone of cold that does damage equal to the hit points of the dragon – thirty points! When the party has wandered into its lair in a group and then fail to win initiative, this is bad. Guess what happened to my party?

At this point, the fighters and thieves rushed forward, a pair taking each a different side of the corridor. For subsequent rounds, there is a 50% chance the dragon will breathe again. It did, and targeted one of the thieves and Jesse’s magic-user. Jesse’s character did not survive the experience. And to think, they’d gone into the cave with resist fire cast on each of them. They hadn’t researched what type of dragon it was beforehand!

(Jesse’s magic-user was raised later in town. It’s been the fourth time, and he hasn’t failed a resurrection survival check yet, although he’s lost 4 points of Constitution!)

It should be said that I wasn’t playing the dragon that intelligently. White dragons aren’t, and this one wasn’t even a spell-caster, though it (at least) was not sleeping when encountered. The rest of the party were able to finish off the dragon subsequently, and Rich was restored to his normal age – he wasn’t killed in the cave.

AD&D 2nd Edition made some tremendous changes to the dragon, and thus made it an extremely difficult opponent. I have a feeling one of those would have destroyed this party…

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