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Resizing Your Dragons

This article allows offers an alternate system for determining dragon size and attack damage for 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.

Illustration by Matthew Ray.

All species of dragons in 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons go through eight growth stages, from “very young” to “ancient”. However, the only the number of hit points it possesses changes as it ages. Armor class, size, and phy`1sical attack damage is the same for a 1-year-old dragon as it is for a 400-year-old dragon. These incongruities are often confusing to Dungeon Masters and players alike. An example of this is found in the module, I6 Ravenloft. Once encounter involves four small “young” stage (6 to 15 years old) red dragons have only 18 hit points each. However, their claw and bite attacks inflict the same damage as an adult dragon with far more hit points. Needless to say, this is quite a surprise to players when these “young” deliver powerful bites and claw rakes, yet their feared breath weapon is pitifully impotent in comparison.

This article attempts to rectify this issue by assigning dragons of different growth stages gradated claw and bit damage, and varying sizes. In short, younger dragons inflict lesser amounts of damage in accordance to their smaller size. Conversely, physical attacks from dragons older than the “adult” stage inflict greater damage than that listed in the manuals. Furthermore, two most dragons have been given wing buffet and tail lash attacks to enhance their fighting prowess. Finally, each entry lists an alternate hit point/Hit Dice method for dragons, which will be discussed later in the article. These latter two additions are optional, and can be disregarded by the DM, if they wish to do so.

Wing Buffet (optional): A winged dragon can strike with each wing once per melee round at opponents on its flanks. A successful wing buffet inflicts damage equal to a claw attack. Dragons cannot use this attack while flying.

Tail Lash (optional): Dragons that have tails can lash out at an opponent on their rear. The attack inflicts approximately one-third of a dragon’s bite damage. Again, tail lashes cannot be used while the dragon is airborne.

Hit Dice (optional): The DM has the option to use a gradated Hit Dice method for dragons. Each dragon species entry listed below has a “Hit Dice” column that contains three numbers separated by slashed. The number to the left indicates a small-sized (Sm) dragon, the middle is average (Av), and huge (Hg) on the right. The Hit Dice for each type of dragon can go lower or higher than the standard amount. Instead assigning a set number of points to each growth stage, as is typically done in AD&D and OD&D, the DM simply rolls 1d8 per Hit Dice the dragon possesses (as is done in B/X D&D). This gives the DM greater flexibility controlling the toughness of any particular dragon the party encounters.

Listed below are tables for each type of dragon listed in the 1st edition Monster Manual, Monster Manual II, and Fiend Folio, with the exception of the faerie dragon.






†The number listed to the left of the slash indicates the dragon’s normal Armor Class; the number on the right indicates its gaseous Armor Class.