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D&D Starter Campaign (3): First Dragon Encounter

When you play Dungeons & Dragons, you either really want to meet up with a dragon (because you are ignorant) or you eventually will anyway (because the Dungeon Masters are all a little sadistic).

Cally’s first encounter with a dragon was memorable for me, not because I was the DM, but because it surprised her and me.

Have you ever seen a picture of a dragon’s lair with piles of bones, armor, and swords littered around the cavern entrance?

Well rather than tell you any more about what did or did not happen, read the tale from the beginning.  It may make you laugh or at least chuckle whether you are cheering for the party or the dragon!

D&D Starter Campaign (3): First Dragon Encounter

How common are dragons in Dungeons and Dragons?

Cally had her first Dragon encounter during an adventure in the D&D 5e starter set.  She was able to advance her party to 4th level before finding the dragon.

Well, actually the dragon found the party first, which is what made it fun…for the Dungeon Master (Dad).

What kind of party would you build to take on a dragon?

Cally’s party consists of two fighters, a cleric, a rogue, and a wizard.

Jane – Human – Fighter (Champion)

Emma – Human – Fighter (Battle Master)

Doc – Hill Dwarf – Cleric

Greggory – Lightfoot Halfling – Rogue

Oz – High Elf – Wizard

Jane, the young fighter, is prone to critical failures at inopportune moments, while the more experienced fighter, Emma, is a great-axe warrior who fights hard, but often pushes herself past her abilities, ending most battles severely injured and bleeding to death.

Doc, the cleric, is a reliable fighter, but often has no time to swing his warhammer since he is always patching up the group.

Greggory, the rogue, does massive damage for the group, popping in and out of cover, until he eventually stumbles, getting himself clobbered.

Finally, Oz.  The chaotic elf wizard, just over 400 years old, who does sometimes save the day, but for some reason ends up at the vanguard of the party and becomes the number one target due to his location and his bright orange, magical attire!

Why would such low-level characters decide to fight a dragon?

Cally’s party raged through the ruins of the village, killing zombies, spriggans, orcs, and dragon cultists.

She barely slowed down to parley with the cultists before trapping them in their own lair and picking them off one by one.

She systematically wiped out the population of the town, except for the old druid.  He offered to lead the party to the Wave Echo Caverns if they would do one little thing for him…scare off the green dragon who just took up residence in the tower at the top of the hill overlooking the ruins.

When all of the threats of the village were put to rest, the five adventurers made their way carefully up the hill.

On top, there was only the tower with a gaping (dragon sized) hole in the roof, and the adjoining squat brick building.  Finally, conceding that the party was maybe not in the best condition to face a dragon, even an allegedly young dragon, she decided to get into the adjoining building.

To rest.

Next to the tower.

The tower where supposedly the dragon is hiding. 

After fighting below, the wizard was almost out of magic, the cleric had used up all of his healing spells, there was only one healing potion left in the party’s stores, two of them had been brought back from near death, and nobody was much past half of their hit points!

The importance of picking a good place for the party to rest in Dungeons and Dragons.

During the battle below, the wizard used his cloak of command undead to turn a zombie to their side.  The zombie was commanded to follow, and the party went into the building.

The room was about 20 feet square, with not much inside, so the wizard put the zombie’s back against the door leading to the tower.  The party searched the room, then prepared themselves to rest and regain strength and magic.

No sooner had the first watch begun, than disaster struck!

The party in the room next to the tower, about to get blasted by Green Dragon breath!

Dragon Encounter!​

The door to the tower burst open, throwing the zombie across the room, to his second death.

On the other side of the door, a large green dragon opened its maw, bristling with needle sharp fangs, and spewed forth an awful cloud of poisonous gas.

The gas quickly filled the room, knocking out the rogue and one of the fighters, nearly killing the both of them.  The remaining party members rushed for the back door to escape into fresh air, dragging the two bodies with them.

Outside, the party gasped for breath.  A loud and heavy whoosh, whoosh, whoosh from the tower made the party freeze as the dragon’s massive wings began lifting the beast out of the tower.

The druid said it was a young dragon, and it was, but any dragon up close is huge and dangerous and scary.

As the three, still conscious, party members gathered their weapons, the dragon hovered into sight about sixty feet above the party.

The fighter unslung her longbow, readied an arrow.

The wizard, down to only cantrips, prepared a firebolt.

The cleric was just grabbing his warhammer as the dragon dove, like a giant hawk, beating the air into submission before landing in front of them, shrouding the now combat zone in a cloud of dust.

Thinking frantically for a way to survive this ordeal, the wizard sparked a brilliant idea that had a 50% chance of working… either resulting in their escape or death.

The wizard drew his staff of darkness, and a cloud of darkness encased the combat zone, stretching from the building the escaped from to just inside the edge of the woods on the other side of the clearing surrounding the building and tower.

The warrior aimed her bow in the general direction of the dragon and could clearly hear the arrow clatter against nearly impenetrable scales.

The magical darkness didn’t give an ounce of hesitation to the dragon, though blinded, the beast began swiping its massive claws through the darkness and snapping its jaws at unseen targets.  The first attempts were unsuccessful, but eventually the dragon scored a glancing blow with its claws, gouging flesh out of the unlucky dwarf.

The tide turns and the players prevail!

Needing more than just the cover of darkness to escape the dragon attack, the wizard quickly reviewed his available cantrips, sparking an idea.  He cast an auditory illusion of sounds that the ragtag party might make as they were dashing through the darkness, into the neighboring forest, down the hill and off into the distance.

The combination of the darkness and the illusion, were successful in fooling even this intelligent dragon and it flew off over the forest, searching for the party.

This allowed the survivors to gather up the wounded and their gear, and limp down the hill to the hideout of the former dragon cultists.  They holed up there for three days, healing, recovering, studying, and planning, before gathering the courage to go back up the hill for a second try.

But that’s a story for another day!  This one ends with a healthy respect for the dangers of any dragon encounter!

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

  1. Do you think D&D dragon encounters should be more deadly?
  2. Have you ever faced a dragon?  What was the outcome?
  3. Do you think I was too harsh on my daughter?!

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