They’re literally the fantasy equivalent of bullies. Difference being that they’re fucking dragons, so they can get away with it. Sort of like real bullies, only a thousand times more awesome.
In terms of pure ‘surprise, bitch!’ factor (which is an important one for a dragon, trust me), the black dragon might be the best one. When traversing a swamp, the last thing the players are thinking is “Man, I hope a dragon doesn’t live here!” Because come on! What kind of dragon would live in a dingy swamp!
SURPRISE, BITCH!! HERE’S A BLACK DRAGON!! AND HE’S FUCKING PISSED!!
Lore: No, You Can’t Be Happy, You’re Weaker Than Me!!
These dragons loathe seeing the weak prosper and revel in the collapse of humanoid kingdoms.
That is an actual guote from the Monster Manual. I’m not making that up. Page 89. And right beneath it, there’s another sentence describing how they like to live in the ruins of those kingdoms (and also swamps, cause why not?)
I think I’ve found the perfect sentence to describe the word ‘asshole’.
While every chromatic dragon is evil, black dragons are the only ones that are truly sadistic. They revel in watching its prey beg for mercy; they enjoy it so much, in fact, that they’ll pretend to let them go, let them get their hopes up, then swing in to finish them off. They don’t play around in a fight; they’ll go straight for their enemy’s weakness. Should they somehow be defeated, they’ll take death over bondage in a heartbeat, for only a black dragon’s pride can overshadow their sadism.
Cooperation is not a word in their vocabulary. Black dragons loathe other dragons, so much that they’ll actually spy on them from afar and search for an opportunity to kill them itself. Should its lair be threatened by a more powerful dragon, a black dragon will abandon its home and riches for survival (so much for pride, I guess).
However, it isn’t without its servants. Evil lizardfolk often inhabit the areas surrounding its lair and will work to bring it treasure and build effigies to it. Not only that, but its evil influence may lead to the creation of shambling mounds that hunt any beings of good that approach its master. And of course: kobolds will stick to them like fleas on a dog, torturing their captives before feeding them to their master.
There is a metric fuckton of stuff you can do with that! Maybe the party stumbles into a swamp inhabited by a black dragon’s minions and have to fight to the beast itself! Or maybe the party works for one of the metallic dragons, which gets attacked by a black dragon in a moment of weakness! The players could get caught in a turf-war between a black dragon and another! All of these stories, and more, practically write themselves!
One-offs? Side quests? Whole campaigns? The black dragon has you covered!
But how good is it at killing you?
Stats: Hey Kid, Ya Like Acid?
Now, technically, there are four varieties of each dragon (ancient, adult, young, and wyrmling). But for the sake of my sanity, I’m going to condense them all into one article. I don’t want to spend the next year talking about dragons. Not even I love them that much.
Wyrmlings are what you want to use for low-level parties who just can’t wait to fight a dragon. They have pretty high AC, but their HP is nothing to write home about. Damage wise, they’re fairly intimidating for a level one to three party; a bite attack that does 7(1d10+2) ain’t bad, but 22(5d8) for acid breath? That’s a bit scary. Luckily, they can only attack once per turn.
Young black dragons, however, can. Not only is their bite attack literally twice as powerful, but they have an extra claw attack that does 11(2d6+4) slashing damage! Oh, and did I mention that the acid breath now does 49(11d8) damage? And that their HP is now in the triple-digit range?
Adult black dragons are even scarier. On top of the bite and claw attacks (same stats), they also have a tail move that does 15(2d8+6) bludgeoning damage. Its acid breath now does 54(12d8) damage, which isn’t much of an upgrade. But when you consider that it has Frightful Presence, three Legendary Actions (including a new wing attack that does 13(2d6+6)) and three Legendary Resistances? With an AC and HP pool just shy of 20 and 200 respectively? You’ve got a proper beast on your hands!
And then there’s the top of the pack: the ancient black dragon. The AC and HP both skyrocket, as do all of its damage numbers. Unfortunately, that’s about all I can say about that. It has the exact same abilities as the adult black dragon, only with bigger numbers.
Which one you use and when ultimately boils down to timing. But in terms of the best fight, I’d have to say it would be the adult. That one has the best balance between absurd numbers and actual killability. Personally, I think that ancient dragons just have too much HP and AC to be much fun; they quickly become tedious, even for high-level parties.
Then again, I guess you’re supposed to try avoiding those for most of the game. But if you can’t kill them eventually, then what’s the point?
Regardless, this does make for a pretty straight-forward fight. But then again, what do you expect? It’s a dragon! They’re the ultimate test of player ability and creativity! They don’t need any gimmick abilities to force the players hand! If the party is fighting a dragon, they already know to bring their A game!
For fuck’s sake, their name is in the title!
This dude is fucking awesome! The dragons are off to an incredibly strong start! The black dragon makes for a fantastic boss, both in terms of narrative and gameplay! It’s wonderful!
With all that in mind, let’s put the black dragons on the Best of the Bestiary!
- Death Tyrant
- Black Dragons <———
- Death Knight
- Bone Devil
- Shadow Demon
- Animated Armor
- Pit Fiend
- Chain Devil
- Bearded Devil
- Barbed Devil
- Spined Devil
- Ice Devil
- Horned Devil
- Shadow Dragon
- Displacer Beast
- Carrion Crawler
- Rug of Smothering
- Bugbear Chief
- Vine Blight
- Twig Blight
- Needle Blight
- Dinosaurs (All six of them)
- Flying Sword
- Crawling Claw
TOP THREE, BITCHES!!
Sure, you can argue that it should be lower because of their designs. After all, you can’t do much with a dragon in terms of creativity. But I argue that you shoulnd’t do much! Don’t try to fix what ain’t broke! It’s a fucking dragon! That in it of itself is an automatic win!
Why are you booing?! I’m right!