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D&D 3E
Of dragons and challenges. . . 
27th-Aug-2004 05:17 pm
leonal
Last night I sent my party (Average level 7) unprepared into a room with a juvenile black dragon (CR 7) and a pair of kobolds. It's a fairly spacious cavern with a number of stalagmites to use for cover and a deep grotto in the center. The dragon's tactics were basically fire breath weapon and then submerge for X-many rounds until he can spout acid again. The battle wound up having the dragon lose maybe thirty hp and the party was nearly wiped out when they decided to flee. They plan to come back later, but my question is is this setup justifiable for raising the EL of the encounter? A CR 7 creature shouldn't be so thoroughly mopping a group of 7th level adventurers, am I right?
Comments 
27th-Aug-2004 02:26 pm (UTC)
If they go in unprepared, that can happen. If they can't (for whatever reason) effectively damage a creature -- damage resistance, spell resistance, etc. -- that can happen, too.

Are the kobolds contributing at all to the difficulty? Is the dragon able to move around effectively or is it standing toe-to-toe with the party? These are things that would make the encounter /easier/ for the party. I like to get my dragons in large caverns or out in the open where they can fly around, drag party members under water, and generally avoid the party for a couple rounds while they recharge their breath weapons. Mobility is a very powerful ability for dragons.
27th-Aug-2004 02:31 pm (UTC)
The kobolds were merely a minor distraction that occupied the players while the draogn was recharging. The dragon's not very large, so it doesn't drag very well, but it does hide in the water pretty effectively.
27th-Aug-2004 02:27 pm (UTC)
Ask yourself a few questions...

1. Did the party have means of fighting the dragon when it was underwater? If not, the terrain adds at least +1 to the challenge.
2. Was the party balanced, cleric, fighter, wizard, thief?
3. Did the average value of the parties equipment add up to what it should have according to the DMG?
27th-Aug-2004 02:35 pm (UTC)
Good points, the party did have ranged attacks, but they suffered a miss chance while it was underwater, and since they only had crossbows and pistols, nobody could full attack and had to spend time reloading.

Also, I believe I've left them lootless for a bit too long, which this encounter will hopefully change.
27th-Aug-2004 02:31 pm (UTC)
Generally, I would say the CR is at best a guideline. Any monster or group of monsters can be a royal pain if terrain and tactics favor them over the party. Unless the party can come up with a means of neutralizing the dragon's advantage, I'd say the EL of the encounter probably does deserve a raise from the sound of things.
27th-Aug-2004 02:42 pm (UTC)
I think that dragon CRs are at least 2 low, sometimes more. If dragons were stupid creatures that just use their physical power and came straight at you, it'd probably be right. But with their intellect and special powers they are definitely more dangerous than their CR suggests.
27th-Aug-2004 03:09 pm (UTC)
I agree, certainly at the higher levels they are a lot "harder" than challenge rating would suggest; they have a good chance of wiping out a party of supposedly appropriate level, not just using 1/4 of it's resources.
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