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My group of 8 level 3 players are about to run through the Thundertree Ruins and will probably have a hand at fighting the dragon. My question stems from the fact that a single poison breath attack from the dragon will outright kill all but 1 player assuming they fail their saving throws.

I understand this encounter is supposed to be ridiculously deadly, but I don't want to be punishing my players for testing the lengths at which they can fight stuff. A fight should be challenging and they should be able to try and run away, but instant obliteration seems a bit much.

All PCs are level 3 (HP in parenthesis):

  • Wood elf moon druid (27)
  • dwarven frenzy barbarian (44)
  • fire genasi archer ranger (37) (pseudodragon companion (12))
  • wood elf assassin rogue (27)
  • human wild magic sorcerer (22)
  • dragonborn fighter (29)
  • human monk (24)
  • human fighter (32)
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    \$\begingroup\$ What is the ancestry of the Dragonborn? And the Constitutions for the group? \$\endgroup\$ – Drunk Cynic May 6 '16 at 0:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Answer in answers, not comments. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica May 6 '16 at 13:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ the comment about constitution is legit though. Some chars of the group above seems to simply have too high HPs for 3rd lvl PCs. \$\endgroup\$ – Ghilteras Feb 6 '17 at 8:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Some of the HPs are really, really high. It might be that they are really lucky, e.g. the barbarian having +3 Con and rolling 11 and 12, and the ranger rolling 9, 9. Still, in average they are all quite high. Did they just get really high rolls on stats or on HP rolls or what? \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jan 2 at 1:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just noticed the asker is inactive since Nov, 2016, so this is quite an useless comment, but oh well. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jan 2 at 1:15
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If I may indulge in a frame challenge.

A group of wandering murderers who, without provocation, attack an intelligent sentient being deserve what they get. This is especially so since, earlier in the module:

There is an evil Red Wizard of Thay who the party is expected to deal with in a non-violent fashion.

There are any number of ways that the party could interact with the dragon to their mutual benefit, albeit not without risk. From the Monster Manual p.95 (my emphasis):

The most cunning and treacherous of true dragons, green dragons use misdirection and trickery to get the upper hand against their enemies. Nasty tempered and thoroughly evil, they take special pleasure in subverting and corrupting the good-hearted. In the ancient forests they roam, green dragons demonstrate an aggression that is often less about territory than it is about gaining power and wealth with as little effort as possible.

Green dragons are consummate liars and masters of double talk. They favor intimidation of lesser creatures, but employ more subtle manipulations when dealing with other dragons. A green dragon attacks animals and monsters with no provocation, especially when dealing with potential threats to its territory. When dealing with sentient creatures, a green dragon demonstrates a lust for power that rivals its draconic desire for treasure, and it is always on the lookout for creatures that can help it further its ambitions.

A green dragon stalks its victims as it plans its assault, sometimes shadowing creatures for days. If a target is weak, the dragon enjoys the terror its appearance evokes before it attacks. It never slays all its foes, preferring to use intimidation to establish control over survivors. It then learns what it can about other creatures' activities near its territory, and about any treasure to be found nearby. Green dragons occasionally release prisoners if they can be ransomed. Otherwise, a creature must prove its value to the dragon daily or die.

There are plenty of levers here that a socially adept party can manipulate. It the party can give this dragon what it wants then they are in a position to make a deal.

Even if the situation deteriorates to violence, it is unlikely to result in a TPK since green dragons don't do that! At worst it will kill one or two, capture as many as it can and scare the rest off. The adventuring opportunities in being a prisoner/slave of a green dragon and having to convince it of your worth each and every day are huge!

Oh, and Phandelver is deliberately set up as a sandbox campaign - your players should know, because you tell them, that in this type of campaign they will encounter things that they can't kill and that will kill them. The appropriate response to hearing about or finding signs of a dragon is to go somewhere else!

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    \$\begingroup\$ Absolutely agree with your assessment of this particular dragon but don't forget that this information from the MM is not available to those who only own the Starter Box. Plus, don't forget that there is a certain faction with some members active in Thundertree who are interested in the dragon. There are opportunities to trick them or use them in a way that might give the party the dragon's favor. \$\endgroup\$ – Argamae May 6 '16 at 14:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does this answer assume the dragon can be engaged outside of his lair? \$\endgroup\$ – Drunk Cynic May 6 '16 at 14:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you so much! I have a script of sorts to be a devious deceiving dragon, but I was worried it would just roast them after the fight broke out. I need to reread my MM, as it didn't occur to me that monsters sometimes don't even kill. I was so focused on how bad my players would get hit. Thanks for a great answer! \$\endgroup\$ – Costello May 6 '16 at 17:15
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Spoilers of published materials ahead.

Even with 8 characters and the preponderance of possible turns before the dragon goes, with where the encounter kicks off this has a strong statistical chance of being a total party kill; I'd give it a 85% confidence level. Clustering into the tower is through a narrow door, making the dragon's breath weapon on the first turn a strong choice if he is played fairly. At level 3, their hit points would be too low to survive an average breath attack, and they don't have the damage per round to get the dragon to half health.

Justification.

The tower that Venomfang has made his lair is a 30' diameter cylinder, with an attached ante chamber that is 20' by 20' that is attached by a medium door way. His size category is Large, occupying a 10' by 10' square; the Medium size category players can't move through, or stop in, the area he controls. If they come through the door, the most they can fit in the tower is 4-5 PC's, the others in the outer room. From the module:

Venomfang does not want to give up such a promising lair, but if the characters reduce the dragon to half its hit points, it climbs to the top of the tower and flies off to fight another day.

This suggests that the Venomfang fight will occur within the lair. This belief leans on the understanding that the dragon, as an intelligent creature, will maximize his advantages if a fight ensues. Meeting the PC in combat outside of the tower is a strategic mistake; the bottleneck of the door makes the breath weapon more effective.

That said, there are ways out of this dilemma.

Have the dragon not be there, and use the druid NPC to warn off the party in an insulting haughty fashion. Recommend they come back after a time, with an offered reward beyond what the book provides. This will remove the chance of killing the party half way through the scripted adventure, and leaving some content for the later half.

Or, have the dragon make a bad choice and leave the tower, if the players can effectively coax him out.

Humble brag about winning

When my party engaged the dragon, it was after the climactic battle with the books end boss, so we had the Spider Staff. The party was five strong at level 5, with a Light Domain Cleric, Fighter, Totem Barbarian, Rogue, and Sorcerer. A character Wall walked up the wall to secure a rope for others to climb after, and we attacked from above. Additionally, Web was used to trap the dragon in the tower, allowing the party to beat him past half health and into his grave, with advantage because he was restrained.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you clarify in part 3 (humble brag about winning) what your party's level was? If your party engaged the dragon out of order, am I correct that their level was higher at the time of the encounter? \$\endgroup\$ – RedGeomancer May 5 '16 at 21:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @LeeHachadoorian Addressed. \$\endgroup\$ – Drunk Cynic May 5 '16 at 23:15
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First, the numbers

A group of 8 3rd-level adventurers have a budgeted XP threshold of 600, 1200, 1800, and 3200 for an Easy, Medium, Hard, and Deadly encounter.

A Young Green Dragon has an EXP value of 3900, which is Deadly. But! remember, you have to account for having more than the recommended player count of 4-6. The DMG goes off to say:

Party Size

... If the party contains six or more characters, use the next lowest multiplier on the table. Use a multiplier of 0.5 for a single monster.

Therefore, for a group of 3 to 6 adventurers, the Young Green Dragon would be, theoretically, Deadly. But for a group of 8, it is only Hard. Like you, I have DMed LMoP for a group with more than the recommended players. I had 9 players fighting the Dragon at the time, and it was brutal (two of them fell unconscious, and their Donkey died- poor Will Smith) but they pulled it off.


Second, the numbers lie

Much of how difficult the fight turns out is how it starts and how the circumstances mount against or for the players.

If your players simply run in, guns blazing, it will more likely lead to a TPK, which, depending on your preference may or may not be a desirable outcome. If your players are smart about it, they can easily employ tactics that will turn the battle toward a favorable resolution. Or, they can find out more about the dragon and its strengths and weaknesses in order to be more prepared.

This is a broad discussion and I won't delve into it in fear of getting too opinionated.


Thirdly, know your characters

Looking at your party, they all look pretty high-tier: moon druids, fighters, barbarians, and rogues are really strong at this level so you shouldn't worry too much. Now, if the group were mainly composed of diplomat monks and courtly wizards who specialize in non-combat areas of the game, you're going to have a problem.


Lastly, don't forget this relevant text:

Warning! Spoilers! If you plan on playing LMoP, do not look

From page 33 of the module, it says:

Venomfang does not want to give up such a promising lair, but if the characters reduce the dragon to half its hit points, it climbs to the top of the tower and flies off to fight another day.

So your players are really only fighting half of the Dragon. Good luck!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Does this answer assume the dragon is engaged outside of his lair? \$\endgroup\$ – Drunk Cynic May 6 '16 at 15:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DrunkCynic No, but that discussion should be part of the secondly part. Depending on the party make up and the exact situation, it would be either harder or easier. \$\endgroup\$ – daze413 May 6 '16 at 22:28
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In general, I would say a team of 8 should not have a major risk of TPK against the unaltered thundertree dragon, provided their team has good balance and thinks tactically.


Example:

I ran a group of 6 players through the encounter with the dragon (they were 3rd level if I recall correctly), and increased his HP since there were more of them. They still managed to kill it (admittedly, I waited one turn longer than I should have for him to leave, since they had him just over half health at that time). That's not to say that they didn't go down, but we had a cleric on the team, who brought them back as soon as he could.

That being said, I made sure (in character, through the druid) to warn them that he was very powerful. So they made sure they were at full health & spell slots, and drew him out of the castle into the field just in front of it. This let them maneuver around more, and surround him, making his breath weapon a lot less effective.


Now, in your case, given that you have no healers (presuming mood druid stays in wild shape most of the time) it may be a bit harder, but I'd say let it play out, and if worst comes to worst, they were all dreaming.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ How did the party get the dragon out of the air and stop it from just simply circling the field and strafing them from the air with its breath weapon endlessly? \$\endgroup\$ – Praxiteles Dec 11 '17 at 7:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Because I was a new DM and didn't know how to run dragons properly... \$\endgroup\$ – Shem Dec 11 '17 at 14:15

protected by SevenSidedDie Nov 1 '16 at 6:59

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