Pretty much just what the title says. Would it just starve and die over time, or would it be able to survive in some way?


  1. I'm assuming a red dragon, and the lair being something in line with

    the description in the MM: "Red dragons lair in high mountains or hills ... Caves with volcanic or geothermal activity..."

    The lair would be something in line with this, a cave in some high mountains.

  2. For this case, I am assuming the standard dragon from the MM: not the spellcasting variant.

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    \$\begingroup\$ What type of dragon are you asking about? I ask because some of their lairs are described as entire regions where full ecosystems exist. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 26, 2020 at 19:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron I think for the purposes of this question, the OP is likely referring to a cave or burrow of some sort where it stashes all of its gold/sleeps. Its lair, as opposed to Its Lair. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 26, 2020 at 19:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you're not interested in the spellcasting variant dragon, then why did you accept an answer that uses rules not meant for NPCs and focuses on the spellcasting variant dragon? You're more likely to get additional answers if you don't accept an answer right away that doesn't really provide the answer you're looking for (side note: it's generally considered good style around here to wait 24 hours before accepting an answer, regardless of how good it seems to be. That way, everyone (regardless of time zone) has a chance to provide an answer) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 27, 2020 at 1:00

2 Answers 2


Fifth Edition has not gone into detail the way previous editions have as to the exact biology of dragonkind. However, I have sitting next to me the AD&D Monster Manual, the AD&D Council of Wyrms Campaign Option, and the 3e Draconomicon. Assuming this old lore holds, dragons can eat anything if they must. Including, explicitly, rocks and dirt. They also need remarkably little water, generally not drinking water at all if they eat living animals with blood.

Red dragons in particular tend to lair in high mountains, so a cave-in will not take them long to clear (we're not talking about miles of caved-in tunnels here), and rain or melted snow should seep through the cave-in eventually.

Red dragons also tend to have servants, who qualify as an emergency sustenance source. Assuming none of those servants could create water, their blood will suffice. The dragon is no real danger from a cave-in, even if it is much younger than adult. An adult red will bash and melt its way out in a matter of hours, tops. Some servants will get eaten, but that's more a rage side-effect than a necessity, and an expected result of serving a red dragon.

A very young red might not have the servants to last a season or the strength to get out on its own. If there's not an older dragon who checks on it periodically (or that period is really long - old dragons might consider a once-per-decade check-in to be timely), the hatchling might die in this case.... its best bet, if it is able, is to go into hibernation. Eat everything edible in the lair, pile everything into the horde, and sleep atop the gold and statues in the hope of waking in a few years, bigger and stronger than before.

I'll also note that traditional true dragons from previous editions (not sure about 4e) have always had spellcasting abilities as a result of dragonkind's intense magical nature. Whether an individual dragon could cast create water was a matter of chance, but the only AD&D or 3e dragons without the ability to cast some kind of magic were gem dragons in the Council of Wyrms setting that chose to become pure psionicists, forsaking their innate magic to enhance their psychic abilities. Metallic and chromatic dragons had the option to forsake their innate magic as well, but only to become pure magi or clerics, so they still had magic of some sort


There are two answers to this question. Number one is using the rules for thirsting to death.

A character needs one gallon of water per day, or two gallons per day if the weather is hot. A character who drinks only half that much water must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or suffer one level of exhaustion at the end of the day. A character with access to even less water automatically suffers one level of exhaustion at the end of the day. If the character already has one or more levels of exhaustion, the character takes two levels in either case.

So a dragon would get through six levels of exhaustion in four days and die. However, there is a variant rule that allows dragons to cast spells.

A young or older dragon can innately cast a number of spells equal to it's charisma modifier. Each spell can be cast once per day, requiring no material components, and the spell's level can be no more than one-third the dragon's challenge rating (rounded down).

This allows any adult dragon, and a few types of young dragons, to cast the third level spell create food and water, meaning that the dragon could survive until it died of old age.

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    \$\begingroup\$ So based on this, if there were some source of water, would it need food as well? If so, then would it be able to survive by eating whatever creatures may be down there as well? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 26, 2020 at 20:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ But dragon is not a character — in D&D 5e monsters and NPC do not use rules for characters. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Commented Jun 26, 2020 at 22:30

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