Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Art of Being a Monster: Dragon

Thanks to Dragon's Flagon for the original post that inspired this series!
Your battle tactics need to utilize your mobility, the terrain, and your supernatural powers. Your fearsome presence, lair attacks, and breath weapon work best against enemies grouped closely together. Try to force enemies through choke points and tough terrain to make your breath weapon usage as efficient as possible. These points also cancel out any numerical advantage your enemies might have against you, letting you engage a few of them at a time and making it hard to flank. Take full advantage of your flight to reposition or keep to the skies, dive-bombing your prey with unavoidable attacks. Look below to see how the archetypes of your foes fall before you.
F: Make quick, devastating hit and runs in between flame attacks against the well armored fighter-type enemy. They will generally get in the way of your attacks against weaker enemies and are resistant to direct physical attacks. Use their protective impulses to get them near their allies and strike them all with your breath attack at once. Remove their offered protection by killing them, disabling them, or maneuvering around them. Since your attacks are mostly physical this is probably your first priority target, as other enemies won’t be able to stand up against your attacks but fighters will get in the way of you dealing with them.
T: While thief-type flanking enemies will have trouble piercing your thick armor, your attacks are mostly direct so you will be vulnerable to their flanking tactics when you attack. While their attacks can be negate with your flight and good tactical sense, it makes sense to keep their position in mind when you attack their allies. If they prove particularly troublesome, attack the fighter in a position that offers only one or two flanks, then retaliate with your full attacks as soon as the thief moves into attack.
R: A ranger is usually a low priority enemy. While they are able to target you in flight, you are simply too strong and well armored for them to present a significant threat. Their weak damage can be shrugged off until you have dealt with their higher damage allies. Take them out quickly if they prove otherwise by maneuvering around their fighter to trap them apart from their allies and unleash your full force down on them.
W: You have very strong resistances to magic and as a singular combatant are not particularly worried about area attacks. Wizards and other spellcasting enemies are not a great threat. Spellcasting enemies can be taken down at your whim with a single barrage of attacks that they are powerless to stop or block thanks to your wings. Use cover to break their line of sight and force them into a position near their allies if you want to use your breath attack or apart from their allies if you want to strike at them.
A Dragon’s Collected Thoughts
With your combat dominance so assured, your cunning has already turned to your plots and schemes that encompass much more of your interest. It is here that these closely guarded secrets will be shared, secrets that would have swept away the follies of lesser dragons. The plots of your enemies will be like so many mewling kittens compared to the dragonic roar of your brilliance.

-My kind has long been the target of specialized hunters and numerous enchantments, rituals, and items have been created specifically to target me. I will ensure that I have a reliable way to detect the presence of magic and reliable methods of scouting the existence of such armaments. One way I may accomplish this is to trick my enemies into using them against dragon-like minions such as drakes, illusioned animals, or clones. I will ensure that I have effective means to dispel or negate the advantages such armaments bring. If I do not have such, I will evade where practical or eliminate their wielder with my highest priorities.
-Where possible, I will convert my treasure hoard into things not easily stolen. Art, inlays, gilding, and other avenues of opulence are both more grandiose than piles of treasure but also more tactically sound. I will never keep damageable treasure in a place I think combat could possibly take place in. I will keep such treasures locked or protected in a place that requires going through me to get to, it does no good to protect such things from my own might only to have them stolen by others.
-In my dealings with various underlings, servants, henchmen, mercenaries, and pets I will strive to be as kind, gentle, and generous as possible. Not only will this reduce the inevitable likelihood of their betrayal, but it will make their betrayal more conflicted, giving me more fore-warning of any treason. Additionally, this policy will make it easier to recruit and retain my forces, counter-intuitively making their overall cost cheaper with a non-stingy policy compared to a stingy one (in most cases). No matter how well I pay or trust my followers, I will never trust them well enough to make them the single point of failure in any one of my plans.
-A silver tongue, fierce roar, strong bite, and thick hide will serve to not only physically describe me, but will be my guiding motifs for my diplomatic efforts. I will cultivate strong alliances and agreements with all the surrounding political bodies. I will use whatever methods work, not afraid to play the part of the flatterer or to shrug off insults strategically. Those avenues of diplomacy will not be tossed away out of pride but because they have been considered and found wanting. Keeping my word is paramount to my ability to negotiate, so I should consider my promises for a long time before uttering them, including my threats. A strong diplomacy will keep me informed of what is happening around me, lets me build up buffer states, influence regions, and increase my schemes’ reach.
-What the more foolish of my kind often neglect out of petty color bias is working with my fellow dragons of other colors. While the chromatic versus metallic divide is one of philosophy, I will make my most sincerest efforts to ally with dragons of the other elements. Not only will our abilities strike past resistances of foes specializing in fighting one elemental type of dragon, but our combined strength and intellect will be greater than the sum of its parts. The only competition we might have is for the limited amount of treasure, subjects, or food in a given area, but that loss will be more than negated by the greater reach our combined efforts offer. Lastly, even in a looser alliance, having fall-back lairs and allies lessens the probability of any one of us perishing. With fewer dragons perishing, it will be harder for dragon-slayers to gain a foothold. Those who won’t help a fellow dragon against a slayer need only remember whose cave the slayer will travel to next should its location accidentally be uttered in the dying breath of a dragon.
-I will follow up on the theme of co opting other elemental types into the design of my lair. I will not theme my own lair around the exact types of elemental damage of my breath weapon. Any enemy that is prepared will have protection abilities ready to use against that type of element. If they are unprepared or can be tricked into using up their preparation on measly traps, then they don’t warrant designing my lair’s defenses around as they will likely be dispatched with less costly methods. I will incorporate traps, magic, and minions that offer a range of threats that can affect someone prepared to fight against my own powers. In doing so, I will not overly focus on one other type that could be easily prepared against. Some could include necrotic undead amongst a fire dragon’s lair or acidic lizards inside a lightning dragon’s cave. In no case will I populate the lair with elemental types which are both strong against me and able to be used against me. These can be used but should be immovable or unable to target me.
-My lair and hoard will feature large and mostly useless collections of magic junk, trinkets, and other magical ‘noise’. I will make it difficult for outsiders to utilize powerful magic I collect by hiding it amongst junk magic of similar appearance. Also, this will confound any effort use magic senses or knowledge to determine danger, traps, power, or my presence by this sense alone.
-I will take it upon myself to secretly supply the anti-dragon or elemental protection magics and magic items in the surrounding region. These will be designed to function normally until they are actually used against a dragon or will otherwise be able to be rendered useless. This will functionally undercut other purveyors of these types of items in this area, as I will subsidize their price, and make sure I have a good knowledge of the types and quality of similar items through my business subsidiaries. In public, I will try and usually fail to have these manufacturers and merchants destroyed, undermined, and defeated to create the illusion of their effectiveness while giving cover to my destruction of any real purveyors of such items.
-I will seed false rumors of things like missing scales over my heart or other such fake weaknesses to keep opponents poorly prepared against any real weaknesses I may have. These falsehoods will range from believable to ‘well-supported with facts’ to completely outrageous. The spread of such weaknesses will cause my enemies to have trouble distinguishing truth from falsehood and thinking themselves wise when they pick the most believable lie from amongst my many lies. Even if they rightfully believe all of them are lies, they can never be completely sure.
-I do not anticipate my demise, but I will be prepared for all eventualities. I will have a clone, illusion, simulacra, or fake that I can utilize if everything else has failed and death seems certain. I will fake my own death against superior foes that have the upper hand. It is best to do this in a way that is difficult or impossible to verify such as falling into lava or being disintegrated. At worst, this strategy may require severing a limb or two.
-My young will be treated well and educated properly. A strong family and its bonds of loyalty will be earned through my behavior and not expected by blood. Family are not only useful allies, but are also a strong deterrent against enemies that have to account for vengeful dragons.
-Greed may be my motivation but I will not overlook solutions that cost gold or treasure. Leaving whole areas of strategy out of consideration not only lessens my power but also reduces the net amount of treasure I can accumulate. It is best to be efficient in both the grand scheme and in the fine details, but in the cases where a choice must be made, I will opt to favor long term returns over short term gains.
-Any hunting of local livestock I do will be purely for reasons other than food. My food and water supply should be under my complete control. I will not allow other creatures to be able to interrupt my supplies or to leave a strategic weak-point to be exploited. If I do hunt, I will not make a predictable schedule out of the act. Finally, I will take care in what harm I impose on the local population. Reckless damage to the locals increases the likelihood of an attack against me.
-It is better to be feared than loved, but it is best to be both. I will establish the area around my lair as protected or do something like taking up a local monastery as my protectorate. This gives people a good reason to not trust dragon slayers and creates fewer opportunities for the creation of enemies. Using these protectorates grants me a casus belli for my conquests and demands of tribute from their enemies with fewer normal feelings of unjust oppression. This policy may even lead to new areas begging for my protection and generosity. I will be prudent and cautious in my ruling decisions.
-I will not build areas in my lair that are only accessible by my minions or creatures their size. If I must, I will make sure that such a place has as few entrances to my living quarters as possible. Those small entrances should present significant tactical problems if creatures try to use them to attack me. It is preferable that these tactical problems are not immediately apparent, so as to trick enemies into thinking their position is better than it is.
-No matter how much I have invested in a plot, lair, or kingdom, I will not hesitate to abandon it in favor of marshalling my forces or changing my plans should the odds turn against me. I will set my threshold of riskiness as an objective standard at the beginning of when I set a plan in motion, I will not try to judge riskiness while I am executing a plan.
-I will keep on hand numerous escape plans. This will include things such as regeneration potions to regrow lost limbs, fake corpses, self-destructing lairs (which I survive/ and can use the ruins to heal), teleportation, or polymorph. This is not an exhaustive list and they should have redundant backups.
-I will be a patron of the local adventurers guild or should one not exist, I will start one myself. By giving missions to adventurers, I help influence what sorts of enemies they specialize against, what type of magic items/treasure they find, and what sorts of ventures they consider profitable. Additionally, the weight of such organization can often fill my coffers while keeping out rival adventurers that I do not have influence over. If possible, I should run this openly and in dragon form, but prudence may require I do this in my human polymorphed form. A fallback plan can be to call upon adventurers I have befriended, patroned, and supported for help against those who would hunt me.
-My influence will be well spent as a supporter of the arts. Having bards, musicians, painters, poets, and writers think favorably of me will be a strong disincentive against glory seekers to hunt me down. It may provide a limited benefit of giving any treasure stolen from me a distaste in the local people’s mouths (limited because gold is gold, after all). Favorable propaganda makes my job in controlling the local populace, gathering intelligence for my plots, and providing for my defense and the defense of my realm. If I ever should find extremely talented artists, I will bankroll them as much as I can, as their influence is worth the kingdoms they will sway to my side.
-Polymorph and shape changing effects are very powerful in that they allow me to take other forms for subterfuge or combat ambushes. I will not polymorph into a situation that will put me in a significant tactical disadvantage or will make it impossible to change back. I will take this as a general rule to never enter a space not able to fit my full draconic glory, unless it is specifically required. I should keep a ready stock of different humanoid and animal forms that I am familiar with so I can use and dispose of these disguises as needed. I will keep these disguises fresh, have them regularly interact with normal townsfolk, and do my best to integrate them thoroughly into the world around. My disguises will be so complete, if they are discovered, it will be suspected that I replaced an existing person not that I established them from nothing. These abilities will be greatly improved if I can seed the rumor that dragons can only shapeshift into one human form.

Keep these treasures in your hoard, and those that would seek to slay you will be but ill-remembered piles of slag and ash.

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