green dragonYesterday I noted that I’m planning on making dragons a lot more common in our AD&D game than I’ve made them in the past (read: virtually unused) and how having uberpowerful “name” dragons doesn’t have to mean that all dragons are uberpowerful.

While I’m basically onboard with dragons as they’re written in the AD&D Monster Manual, one thing that’s always bugged me a bit is the fact that the damage from their claw/claw/bite routine is the same across all age brackets and sizes. Regardless of what power level you want your dragons to be, the idea that a monster with very specific age and size categories causes the same melee damage regardless of category is more than a little disappointing.

I’m not the only one to be bugged a bit by this, of course, and an article called ‘Dragon Damage Revised’ in Dragon Magazine #98 by Leonard Carpenter had a very good and detailed system to fix it. Each dragon was given three sets of damage numbers for each of three age ranges, and this was further expanded to cover each of the three size categories for a total of nine sets of claw/claw/bite per dragon. I intended to use the numbers from the article in play, but I’m not sure that I ever actually did due to the extreme rarity of dragons in my campaigns.

However, I’ve long since embraced the “less is more” approach to gaming, and, even though it’s not easy to reconcile this viewpoint with my decision to go with AD&D, I’m trying to keep my tinkering and optional rules to a minimum. When I do make a change, I try to keep it as simple as possible.

So here’s how I’m going to handle dragon damage. The goal is to tone down the bite damage at the immature age (below Adult) brackets while tweaking up the claw damage in the mature age brackets. If the amount of adjustment between the two was about equal, I would have just as happily left them both alone and called it even. However, after spending some time playing with the numbers I decided that it was worth making tweaks to each.

So here is what I’m planning to do:

kilgore's dragon damage adjustments

A couple of notes:

First, notice that in addition to the adjustments for age there is an adjustment for huge-sized dragons. It’s not a lot, but it’s a little bit of a kicker for the biggest of the dragons besides the extra HD and associated increase to breath weapon damage.

Secondly, it looks like the young adult category could easily have a small positive modifier for claws and a small negative modifier for the bite. In fact, when I finally settled on my numbers there was a +1 per claw attack and a -2 per bite. However, the minimalist in me pointed out that two +1s and one -2 pretty much cancel each other out, so I dropped both.

If I really want to differentiate while sticking to this minimal table, I could round the half damage bites down for very young dragons and up for young. But the point is to get dragon damage to be a little more reasonable without jacking anything up or requiring a lot of external look-ups. This could easily be penciled into the MM next to the age categories.

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One Comment to “Dragon Damage”

  1. chris says:

    Kilgore, I’m looking to include your ‘The Heart of Darkness’ in a book I’ve written. Send me an email and I can get you additional information.