In Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Module 3, the players eventually come to room 10A.

It's a dragon hatchery, with 3 Black Dragon eggs.

My question is... what are the players' options for dealing with the contents of this room? Some possibilities come to mind, but there are problems:

1. Rezmir didn't want to move the eggs because they were too close to hatching and it wasn't safe, so presumably that's true.

2. The module gives a sense of urgency about leaving, so sticking around to raise them doesn't seem like a good option. (I'm also not that keen on running a campaign about the challenges of dragon-rearing, though I'm ruling it's possible to at least attempt it).

3. Leaving the kobolds (and the rest of the Cult) to raise them as intended seems... likely to end in something contrary to the public interest, I guess, and it'd be difficult to trust the townsfolk won't find out and take matters into their own hands.

4. Killing them is very easy. It seems like this is the default, but my players will NOT be cool with that (and really, neither would I.)

5. Not have the eggs be there in the first place. They're the reason this module is there, so I'd need to skip or substantially rewrite it, either of which I'd like to avoid.

Of course, we can always hope that the players come up with a clever solution, but I like to make sure I've thought of at least one good answer to any puzzle I present, so I can do any necessary prep work. The designers have ideas for other "what if?" questions, like if the PC's don't volunteer for part or all of the first module, but they're curiously silent here.

We haven't started the game yet, so there's time for adding/changing bits, including foreshadowing so it doesn't seem totally out of nowhere if I need to offer a hint (the less change to what's written the better, though I accept that some may be necessary). I'm looking for either specific resolutions/refutations to the problems I've raised, or other options I haven't thought of.

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    \$\begingroup\$ How close to hatching is too close to move them? That part, in particular, seems really inane and like an extremely ham-fisted attempt to ensure this remains a “gotcha” with no good options. Isn’t the whole point of eggs that they are robust enough to protect the infant right up to the moment of hatching? You say classic, I say cliche. But if they’re so close to hatching, can they just wait for that to happen, and take the newborns with them? Seems like we’re talking about maybe minutes here. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    May 22, 2016 at 14:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan "Less than a week". If you can help me find a better justification for why the eggs and their guards were left behind, and where to move them to, that might make a good answer. \$\endgroup\$ May 22, 2016 at 15:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ Wait, what's the issue in the players killing the eggs? They're eggs of evil dragons. In some campaigns, it might be possible for evil dragons to not be evil, but the default assumption is that they are, at the least, very predisposed towards evil. Killing the eggs gets rid of a potential, but very likely, evil. Why is it a problem if the players choose to go this route? \$\endgroup\$
    – xanderh
    May 22, 2016 at 17:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ related: Can a Black Dragon Hatchling be raised to be good? Or is it inherently evil? \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    May 22, 2016 at 17:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @xanderh My players and I have a mindset more like this question: How do I get my PCs to not be a bunch of murderous cretins? \$\endgroup\$ May 22, 2016 at 17:30

3 Answers 3

  1. Actually, you could let players take those eggs and try to raise them to full dragons.

    • If I remember correctly - by default, dragons age slowly - in eons! If your players campaign will span few generations of heroes, grand-grand-children of present adventures could see young dragons to their adulthood. Or at least to the extent where those dragons are small intelligent pesky pets :P

    • Here is a way to make dragons age faster: in earlier editions of DnD, dragons's aging was quite related to a gold, treasure. So if players are treasure hunters their hoarding of gold can (with some hand waving from GM) improve speed of young dragon's aging.

  2. If dragons in your campaign age slowly then... what's the problem leaving situation as it is? If players leave eggs where they are, I think nothing will go bad in a few hundred years. Yes, kobolds will come from all places to worship and raise dragon but huh. I don't think that changes anything... Even then, if I remember psychology of black dragons - their siblings will try to kill each other so only one dragon will rise.

  3. Those could be golden eggs. They are black because they are charred by fires. 0_0. I mean some soap-opera story here about sterile black dragon queen wanting to have children stole eggs from her enemy golden dragon (perhaps killing it in process... or not) to rise them... Eh, I think you get the drift. ;Р

  4. Transporting and selling those eggs in alive state to any interested party - evil wizard, golden dragon (that can try to raise those in good alignment), temple of Pelor, gourmet lord, etc.

  5. Transporting and selling those eggs in dead state to any interested party - evil wizard, gourmet lord, insane but ingenuous jewelry demigod smith (because he wants to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faberg%C3%A9_egg) etc.

Also, babysitting is difficult and stationary task. If players have stable base and downtime between adventures - that's ok. Otherwise, they would be want to give those eggs to somebody else to take care of those.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Funny idea crossed my mind: if we look at factions (4), (5) - and imagine that they hear about dragon eggs, and if those factions need those - what would be their reaction? Agents of gourmet lord clashing with ornate divine jewelry constructs of demigod smith (great loot), declaration of Holy crusade of Pelor Templars in alliance with Good Sage (who is secretly evil wizard), fanatical kobold tribes flowing to enforce players as minions, because they want to serve their dragon-gods... Yes, it could be funny. This direction of events is not required though. \$\endgroup\$ May 22, 2016 at 16:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ According to the MM, dragons reach Young at 6 years of age, Adult at 101, and Ancient at 801 so it's reasonable for the players to see the Wyrmlings grow up to Young but it'd be a pretty long campaign before they saw them reach Adult. \$\endgroup\$
    – Orvir
    May 22, 2016 at 23:52

An ethical dilemma is a complex situation that often involves an apparent mental conflict between moral imperatives, in which to obey one would result in transgressing another.

Before considering methods to resolve the ethical dilemma you must first decide that there actually is one. It is by no means clear from your question what you think constitutes the "moral quandary": you have identified possible actions the party can take (including one that you have flagged that they "would not be COOL with") but have not told us what moral imperatives you feel are in conflict. If there is only one option that is morally unacceptable to you then you have no problem - simply do anything but that. However, reading between the lines, it seems that you have a problem with all of the options you have suggested but have not said why - so we have to guess.

This is my guess - tell me if I'm wrong:

Clearly, you are playing D&D so you have no moral issues with killing sentient creatures like the kobolds and cultists who are guarding these eggs. So, either you have a problem with killing black dragons in particular (which seems unlikely) or you have a problem with the fact that they are innocent sentient creatures - lets go with that as moral imperative No 1

If the party does not interfere in some way then the black dragons will hatch and in the fullness of time they will most likely follow their natures and become nigh on unstoppable killing machines - not allowing this to happen is moral imperative No 2

The Monster Manual tells us:

The black, blue, green, red, and white dragons represent the evil side of dragonkind. Aggressive, gluttonous, and vain, chromatic dragons are dark sages and powerful tyrants feared by all creatures- including each other.

They believe that the world's wealth belongs to them by right, and a chromatic dragon seizes that wealth without regard for the humanoids and other creatures that have "stolen" it.

Chromatic dragons are united by their sense of superiority, believing themselves the most powerful and worthy of all mortal creatures. When they interact with other creatures, it is only to further their own interests. They believe in their innate right to rule, and this belief is the cornerstone of every chromatic dragon's personality and worldview. Trying to humble a chromatic dragon is like trying to convince the wind to stop blowing. To these creatures, humanoids are animals, fit to serve as prey or beasts of burden, and wholly unworthy of respect.

The most evil-tempered and vile of the chromatic dragons, black dragons collect the wreckage and treasures of fallen peoples. These dragons loathe seeing the weak prosper and revel in the collapse of humanoid kingdoms.

All chromatic dragons are evil, but black dragons stand apart for their sadistic nature. A black dragon lives to watch its prey beg for mercy, and will often offer the illusion of respite or escape before finishing off its enemies.

So, in summary: not nice people.

However, the Monster Manual also says:

The alignment specified in a monster’s stat block is the default. Feel free to depart from it and change a monster’s alignment to suit the needs of your campaign. If you want a good‑aligned green dragon or an evil storm giant, there’s nothing stopping you.

But this is simply a specific instance of rule zero - if you as DM want's to do this, you can. So, do you want to do this? If "the needs of your campaign" don't require this particular ethical dilemma, don't do this: in your world these creatures are inimical to all PC humanoid species and killing them is a positive duty. "Nuke the entire site from orbit--it’s the only way to be sure" because you are actually dealing with creatures that are worse than this (and if you can make your players feel like Ripley feels in this scene kudos to you):


However, if "the needs of your campaign" require you to make your players squirm on the horns of an ethical dilemma then make sure they know that these creatures are currently not a threat to the party and that, with appropriate intervention, they may never become a threat to anyone.

Some options that I can think of are:

1. Kill them

2. Leave them a) without any kobolds they will probably fight until one survives which may or may not survive depending on natural predation b) with the kobolds there they would probably all survive c) and tell someone else about them (like Governor Nighthill)

3. Take them a) sell them to the highest bidder b) give them to a loving and nurturing family (of metallic dragons for preference) c) raise them themselves.

Some of these options are morally questionable and some are practically difficult - that's sort of the point. RPGs are about making choices, sometimes hard choices, and living with the consequences. It is worth noting that if you play this through to Rise of Tiamat, there are external consequences that flow for the decision the players make here.

The party I am DMing did this room just last week - you can see what they decided here (Spoliers! Duh!). The discussion grew quite heated and a good time was had by all, however, I realise that this type of intra-party conflict may not be a good time for everybody.


Is it a quandary for all the PCs?

You said some of your players wouldn't be cool with it - but what about others? Smashing the eggs is fast, irreversible, and practical. If there are Evil (or dangerously zealous Neutral or Good) characters in the party, there's little to stop them from just doing it before the party reaches consensus.

How is it a quandary at all?

But the key thing here is that what they do doesn't really matter to them. Smashing the eggs is evil in an abstract sense. Leaving the eggs to hatch into evil dragons is also evil in an abstract sense. But the PCs won't experience the dragons terrorizing the area, because they'll be long gone by then. Nor will they - probably - have to stand before their gods and explain that the dragons were going to grow up evil anyway and they just did a Good act ahead of schedule.

One important thing you should make sure the party knows beforehand is that even evil dragon babies can grow up to be Good.

Make it personal

The best way to motivate the PCs to find a third option is to make all the results matter to them. Maybe they grew up in the village, and having dragons beat on them all the time is an awful idea. But maybe the PCs were only able to triumph because of a Lawful Good intelligent item that warns them against infanticide - or a Chaotic Evil intelligent item that encourages them to smash the eggs. Reverse psychology can work wonders.

Instead of multiple "bad endings" provide multiple "good endings"

A tribe of kobolds is raising dragon eggs on its own? Sounds like the tribe has no strong leader. Maybe the PCs have an opportunity to take over the hatchery - either by dominating or exterminating the kobolds, or diplomacy, and raising the dragons themselves, the right way. Maybe the PCs know of a Good dragon, who would be willing to take a trip to the hatchery and take these misguided young dragonlings under its wing (so to speak). Maybe there's a tribe of Good kobolds somewhere nearby that would love to move to this hatchery, because their roof leaks and their babies keep being eaten by wolves.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Maybe I wasn't clear. Motivation isn't an issue; your last point is the only one I care about, and more detail about how to make that work would be good. Note that the kobolds are not raising them on their own; they're part of a much larger organization, with formidable leaders both at the site and elsewhere. And sticking around doesn't seem viable, as I said in point 2. \$\endgroup\$ May 22, 2016 at 15:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ "One important thing you should make sure the party knows beforehand is that even evil dragon babies can grow up to be Good." Where in 5e cannon does this come from? \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    May 22, 2016 at 20:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DaleM Is there anything in 5e cannon that suggests evil dragon babies can't be brought up good? We assume that the game world works like the world we know in the absence of explicit rules or lore to the contrary, and in the real world, upbringing has a huge effect on behaviour. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    May 23, 2016 at 0:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe Actually, it's the opposite - there's a quote to the effect of "if you want to have a good Green dragon, nobody will stop you" in one of the core books. \$\endgroup\$
    – SPavel
    May 23, 2016 at 0:55

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