Monday, July 14, 2014

DF Felltower: Dragon Notes

After yesterday's session, naturally folks are curious about my dragons, because a) DF lacks its own line-specific dragon stats, b) I'm known to write pretty good monsters, and c) because dragons are awesome and that's more important than a or b.

I can't reveal much about my dragons, because - honestly - I think I can sell them to SJG as an article or a book. But I will reveal some things here:

- I used the dragons from 3e and from the 3e/4e crossover book Dragons for inspiration. Especially rules for things like splattering (toxic) blood.

- I also took some inspiration from mythological sources, to make them more interesting.

- they aren't purely animals or mundane creatures. They aren't subject to the normal vulnerabilities of a big lizard. Basically because I didn't like the idea you could feint and then one-shot a dragon with an arrow or sword to the eye like it was a big dumb beast.

- some rough ideas of stats - that one yesterday was doing strikes in the 6d+6 to 8d+lots range, and used bite, claw, blunt horn slams, sharp horn stabs, tail swipes, and stomps. It was SM+4 (mostly due to mass, the mini was a bit thin for it), its strikes were parried as 30+ pound weapons, it had a solid Dodge (which is why the PCs were attacking it with -4 to -6 Deceptive Attacks!)

- Its breath weapon was doing moderate damage, but with with armor divisors, large area injury, and with cyclic effects. It did relatively poorly with its breath weapon and still managed to light folks on fire, burn Raggi with corrosion, and severely damage the armor of everyone it got to. And scarred Marc the laborer for life.

- I didn't like the idea that one spell could undo a dragon's main attack, so I gave it a split breath weapon. The one yesterday had either a stream of fire (a cone-shaped burning attack) or could spit globs of flaming corrosive ooze (an area attack with linked burning and corrosive damage). It also had toxic blood which splatters on those near it when it was wounded. So to fully magically seal yourself against its non-mundane attacks you would need at least 3 spells on everyone! The research of the PCs pointed to stories of dragons with poison gas, gets of corrosive acid, lightning, and others. So yeah, I did go with the D&D-inspired approach aped by so many game systems.

- yes, some speak, and some use spells. The one yesterday did neither. The ones that do are really worrisome.

- some of the vulnerabilities of the dragon from yesterday's session were due to Gram and the circumstances of the fight.

- the older they get, the stronger they get, and the more little perks of power they get. The young are just worthy, the older ones boss fights, and the sky is the limit.

- Finally, there are more dragons in the dungeon! Not just because I like to re-use minis, but also because those cheap-o "Alien Force" Chinese-made dragons were like $2, so I got a couple of them. Hurrah for the discount bin!

Basically, the way the dragon was statted yesterday, inside of one second it could reduce a 62-point warrior to automatic death in a second, or light up enough of a group with fire that they'd burn to nearly certain death. Greater heroes would be needed to stand up to it, and no amount of armor or magic or skill would be sufficient to render it truly harmless.

Although the one yesterday didn't kill anything, it wasn't easy, and I think it was about as tough as I was expecting it to be. As much as I generally do fungible monsters, I wanted to ensure the dragon had more impact. I think that it did.

Editing later: Oh yeah, one more amusing thing about yesterday's session. When the PCs arrived, I rolled on my "Where is the dragon now?" table. I came up with "out hunting, back in xDx hours." I rolled, and I came up with 2 hours. So it was amusing when the PCs spent an hour resting after the wizard eye spells, carefully checked the tracks and moved in cautiously, spent 30 minutes dealing with treasure, moved in the dragon hatchlings and spent a good bit of time dealing with them, cutting off bits, and resting . . . and then started to head out very close to the 2 hour mark . . . so I rolled again to see if it came back early or late. Early, just a bit early . . . although it might have been worse for them if it had caught them in the open. As a GM, it was very satisfying. Had I rolled much higher, they may have come and gone without the dragon spotting them, but it would have certainly seen the blood trail from its dismembered young heading out, smelled the humans, and drawn the logical conclusion that the killers came from the town . . .


  1. "Had I rolled much higher, they may have come and gone without the dragon spotting them, but it would have certainly seen the blood trail from its dismembered young heading out, smelled the humans, and drawn the logical conclusion that the killers came from the town . . ."

    Seems like this would bring the fight to town in a painful way. I'd totally see the dragon going all-out Smaug-on-Erebor on Town if it could track them back. Or calling his Big Bad Grandfather Dragon to help. Or maybe he already did that.

    I know it plays against the usual DF tropes that town is Safe, but I would at least warn the PCs - if you haven't already - that they're threatening to break that "fourth wall."

    1. Oh, I wouldn't make town unsafe. Probably either just have it rampage around and become a big news item, or say it attacked and damaged the town and now there is a reward (or the PCs have been tasked with killing it, or else pay for damaged from their wealth), whatever. I don't think that's breaking the whole "town is safe" thing, anymore than saying if you read a cursed scroll you found in the dungeon back in town and you get turned into a newt is breaking the "town is safe" thing.

      The town changes, but it's still a place where you don't get pickpocketed, knifed, etc. . . . not a place where stuff you did in the dungeon can't harm you in some way. It's also a place that gets better when you spend cash, and worse when you lead bad stuff back to it from the dungeon. That may seem like a fuzzy line, but I can't now think of an edge case that straddles it.

    2. The dragon rampages, and flambes the town. All prices - luxury goods prices are depressed, healing magics are hard to find (for a while), staples are much more expensive. :-)

    3. Pretty much. It's just an economic depression with an easily-explainable proximate cause. Penalties to rolls for a while.

      "We want to hire a cleric!"
      "(Roll, roll) Sorry, they all burned up in the fire."

  2. I think it makes sense that a dragon would have dragon-slaying weapons in its horde. After all, wouldn't people trying to kill a dragon bring such weapons. Then when the dragon wins anyway, gets added to the pile.

    1. That's how it got Gram. There was a rumor a while back about some would-be dragonslayer going up to Felltower. Dryst was disappointed that he didn't have more stuff that survived to loot, but maybe if he'd had better armor, etc., he wouldn't have deposited that sword amongst his charred remains.

  3. I am happy to that you consider dragons to be more than mundane animals. I would also like to suggest that you also include other mythical creatures as being more than mundane beasts. Chimerae, gryphons, hydras, harpies, manticores, sphinxes etc. could all be supernatural creatures than can't be killed with one-shots. You shouldn't have to have huge packs, of gryphons to make an encounter interesting, it would give more justice to them if a mated pair of gryphons could go toe to toe with a large party of DF PCs. Maybe even giants should get up-graded to supernatural levels of power because in tales giants were real tough and it seems sad to make them fodder. Anyway, these suggestions are just because I would like to have more monster books and you seem to be interested in writing them.

  4. Accurately calculating effective challenges for250pt DF characters takes a bit of rethinking. Two knights slaughtered a toxic Slorn in an equal number of turns, but a Thief had major difficulty taking down a ghoul; he could hit easily enough, but its DR of 1 and his ST 10 just was just not generating sufficient damage to wipe fodder. The basic lethality of the game is demonstrated any time a 62pt npc with a polearm scores a hit. The effectiveness of average ST characters with combat skills under 15, as found on thieves, wizards, bards, and assorted henchthings is in a whole other class from knights and the like.
    As to safety of town, my megadungeon is built under the town, so I have more overlap than most...


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