Dragons in Echelon, Part 7: Heroic Red Dragons

I posted about Expert Red Dragons this morning, now I think I’ll look into Heroic Red Dragons.

I’m going to start diverging more with them. I’ll keep the starting configuration I have for each right now, but will grow them in different directions. The Dragon Caster will stick to smaller size and focus on magical ability, the Dragon Warrior will go for size and power.

As before, I will use the Eldritch Thread of Blight as this dragon’s required Spell Knowledge talent. The various spell lists used in this Red Dragon series are presented in Dragons in Echelon, Part 6a: Red Dragon Spell List Appendix.

I goofed with the Expert Red Dragons post, specifically with the Dragon Warrior. The Expert Dragon Warrior either does not have the Dragon Caster cornerstone, or has it only at the Basic tier. That means the dragon knows either no spells related to the Dragon Caster tradition, or knows only cantrips, zero-level spells. I have corrected this in the original post, and done it correctly here.

Heroic Red Dragon Caster

The Heroic Red Dragon is a twelfth-level creature in Echelon. In Pathfinder terms it should be a reasonable challenge for an eighth-level party.

Baseline Red Dragon Caster

The baseline Red Dragon Caster is required to have the following talents:

  • Heroic Cornerstone: Dragon Caster
  • Heroic Fire Resistance (30 points)
  • Heroic Breath Weapon (fire, 4d6, 30′ cone)
  • Heroic Intimidate
  • Heroic Spell Knowledge (any)
  • Heroic Capstone: Red Dragon

Twelfth-level creatures have a Level Bonus of +6. Combined with the required abilities this red dragon has:

  • Level 12, Level Bonus +6, Tier 3
  • Martial Training Bonus +0
  • Caster Training Bonus +6
  • Attack Bonus +6
  • Fortitude +6, Reflex +6, Will +6
  • Caster Level 12
  • Natural Armor +0
  • Armor Class: 16 (10 + Attack Bonus +6)
  • Spell Resistance: +3
  • Hit Points (Level 12 + MTB 0) * 3 = 36
  • Magic Ponts: (Level 12 + CTB 6) * 3 = 54
  • Expert Thread Power: Sickening Touch (Eldritch Threads currently have only Expert and Master powers)
  • Fire Resistance 30
  • Smoke Vision

With a Caster Training Bonus of +6 this dragon can cast (D&D-) fourth-level spells as a twelfth-level caster. This dragon knows and can cast the following spells:

  1. arcane markcauterizedetect magicflare
  2. burning handscause fearcolor spraycomprehend languagesdispel magic (lesser)flare burstidentifyray of enfeeblement
  3. blindness/deafnessboiling bloodburning gazedaze monsterflaming spherelocate objectpyrotechnicssee invisibilitytouch of idiocy
  4. arcane sightash stormblinding ashdispel magicexplosive runesinvisibility purgemoltenrageray of exhaustionslowsuggestion
  5. bestow cursecontagioncrushing despairfire shieldfire trapwall of fire

There are a bunch of talents not accounted for. Let’s fill some of them in.

Expanded Red Dragon Caster

Two more Heroic talent slots, all four of the mandatory upgrades are already covered by the prerequisites for the capstone. The two remaining Heroic slots can be filled with net new talents, or I can upgrade lower-tier talents and backfill the lower-tier slots. I’m going to go for net new talents, because I missed something important to this dragon: Flight. According to my old notes on Flight in Echelon, which should get updated really, a medium creature flying at its base speed at average maneuverability is a Heroic ability.

  • Heroic Cornerstone: Dragon Caster
  • Heroic Fire Resistance (30 points)
  • Heroic Breath Weapon (fire, 4d6, 30′ cone)
  • Heroic Intimidate
  • Heroic Spell Knowledge (any)
  • Heroic Flight (Average maneuverability)
  • Heroic Iron Will
  • Heroic Capstone: Red Dragon
  • Expert Cornerstone: unassigned
  • Expert Lightning Reflexes
  • Expert Combat Style (dragon natural attacks)
  • Expert Capstone unassigned
  • Basic Cornerstone: Dragon Warrior
  • Basic Great Fortitude
  • Basic Natural Armor
  • Basic Capstone unassigned

This dragon is a little more buff than the baseline, I should think. Does it feel four levels more badass than the Expert Red Dragon?

  • Level 12, Level Bonus +6, Tier 3
  • Martial Training Bonus +3
  • Caster Training Bonus +6
  • Attack Bonus +9
  • Fortitude +8, Reflex +10, Will +12
  • Caster Level 12
  • Natural Armor +2
  • Armor Class: 21 (10 + Attack Bonus +9 + Natural Armor +2)
  • Spell Resistance: +3
  • Hit Points (Level 12 + MTB +3 + Great Fortitude 2) * 3 = 51
  • Magic Ponts: (Level 12 + CTB +6 + Iron Will 6) * 3 = 72
  • Expert Thread Power: Sickening Touch (Eldritch Threads currently have only Expert and Master powers)
  • Fire Resistance 30
  • Endurance
  • Movement +10′, Flight (average)
  • Combat Reflexes (may apply interrupts while flatfooted)
  • Improved Initiative
  • Uncanny Dodge

Same casting as above, one-third more of it.

To compare to Pathfinder, this would be around CR 8. That would be something like a Very Young red dragon, by my reckoning.

Same size, hit points quite a bit lower (9d12 has an average of 58.5, average Constitution is 17, for +27 hit points more, a total of 85.5 mean). Armor Class comparable, or even slightly better. The breath weapon is weaker (4d6 rather than 4d10). Spell casting is much better, though. This looks like it might be a little bit of a glass cannon compared to the Pathfinder CR-equivalent red dragon… but casters tend to be. Despite the relatively low hit points, I am confident this is not weaker than the Pathfinder red dragon.

Expanded Red Dragon Warrior

This dragon is pursuing a more direct and traditional route: tank up and fight.

  • Heroic Cornerstone: Dragon Warrior
  • Heroic Fire Resistance (15 points)
  • Heroic Breath Weapon (fire, 4d6, 30′ cone)
  • Heroic Intimidate
  • Heroic Spell Knowledge (any)
  • Heroic Capstone: Red Dragon

This amounts to

  • Level 12, Level Bonus +6, Tier 3
  • Martial Training Bonus +3
  • Caster Training Bonus +3
  • Attack Bonus +9
  • Fortitude +6, Reflex +6, Will +6
  • Caster Level 9
  • Natural Armor +3
  • Armor Class: 22 (10 + Attack Bonus +9 + Natural Armor +3)
  • Spell Resistance: +0
  • Hit Points (Level 12 + MTB +3) * 3 = 45
  • Magic Ponts: (Level 12 + CTB 3) * 3 = 45
  • Expert Thread Power: Sickening Touch (Eldritch Threads currently have only Expert and Master powers)
  • Fire Resistance 30
  • Smoke Vision

The casting ability is slightly better than last time. This dragon has a Caster Training Bonus of +3, which allows use of up to first-level spells… but it knows the spells shown below, up to fourth level. Note that not all the spells available to the Dragon Caster above are known here because they come from the Dragon Caster tradition, which this dragon does not have.

  1. cauterizeflare
  2. burning handscause fearcolor sprayflare burstray of enfeeblement
  3. blindness/deafnessboiling bloodburning gazedaze monsterflaming spherepyrotechnicstouch of idiocy
  4. ash stormblinding ashexplosive runesmoltenrageray of exhaustionslow
  5. bestow cursecontagioncrushing despairfire shieldfire trapwall of fire

As before, a bunch of talent slots are unassigned. Filling them should make this dragon a little more imposing.

Heroic Red Dragon Warrior

Like the Red Dragon Caster above, there are two new Heroic slots available that can take either brand new talents, or upgrade current talents.

  • Heroic Cornerstone: Dragon Warrior
  • Heroic Fire Resistance (15 points)
  • Heroic Breath Weapon (fire, 4d6, 30′ cone)
  • Heroic Intimidate
  • Heroic Spell Knowledge (any)
  • Heroic Size (Large – more natural attacks, breath weapon is now 40′)
  • Heroic Combat Style (dragon natural attacks)
  • Heroic Capstone: Red Dragon
  • Expert Cornerstone unassigned
  • Expert Flight (clumsy)
  • Expert Natural Armor
  • Expert Capstone unassigned
  • Basic Cornerstone: Dragon Caster
  • Basic Great Fortitude
  • Basic Lightning Reflexes
  • Basic Capstone unassigned

This guy is going to fly like a truck. Large size brings some combat benefits (not yet fully defined, but probably including Damage Reduction and improved attack damage), but it does not help make for graceful flight.

  • Level 12, Level Bonus +6, Tier 3
  • Martial Training Bonus +6
  • Caster Training Bonus +4
  • Attack Bonus +12
  • Fortitude +8, Reflex +8, Will +6
  • Caster Level 10
  • Natural Armor +5
  • Armor Class: 27 (10 + Attack Bonus +12 + Natural Armor +5)
  • Spell Resistance: +1
  • Hit Points (Level 12 + MTB +6 + Great Fortitude +2) * 3 = 60
  • Magic Ponts: (Level 12 + CTB 3) * 3 = 45
  • Expert Thread Power: Sickening Touch (Eldritch Threads currently have only Expert and Master powers)
  • Fire Resistance 30
  • Smoke Vision
  • Endurance
  • Movement +5′, Flight (clumsy)
  • Combat Reflexes (may apply interrupts while flatfooted)
  • Improved Initiative

Casting ability continues to improve, albeit slowly. This dragon has a Caster Training Bonus of +4, which allows use of up to second-level spells… but it knows the spells shown below, up to fourth level. Note that because this dragon only has the Dragon Caster cornerstone talent at Basic Tier only cantrips are known from that tradition, no higher-level spells.

  1. arcane markcauterizedetect magicflare
  2. burning handscause fearcolor sprayflare burstray of enfeeblement
  3. blindness/deafnessboiling bloodburning gazedaze monsterflaming spherepyrotechnicstouch of idiocy
  4. ash stormblinding ashexplosive runesmoltenrageray of exhaustionslow
  5. bestow cursecontagioncrushing despairfire shieldfire trapwall of fire

Comparing again with the Pathfinder Very Young red dragon, this one still has more hit points (60), but nowhere near as many as they do in Pathfinder. Armor Class is quite a bit higher, though (27!) and casting ability still better than the Pathfinder dragon. The increased size in Echelon likely brings some Damage Reduction with it, which will help mitigate the relatively low hit points.

Comparison

The dragons are diverging in their abilities more. The table below shows some of the differences.

Value Baseline Caster Expanded Caster Baseline Warrior Expanded Warrior
Level 12 12 12 12
Martial Training +0 +3 +3 +6
Caster Training +3 +6 +3 +3
Attack Bonus +6 +9 +9 +12
Caster Level 9 12 9 10
Fortitude 6 8 6 8
Reflex 6 10 6 8
Will 6 12 6 6
Natural Armor 0 2 3 5
Armor Class 16 21 22 27
Hit Points 36 51 45 60
Magic Points 54 72 45 45
Spell Resistance +3 +3 +0 +1
Highest Spell Level 4 4 1 2

The differences between the dragons is becoming a little more significant now. The Dragon Warrior looks a little weaker, but that is in part because not all of the talents being assigned have been fully defined.

Closing Comments

These look to me to be somewhat more powerful than the Pathfinder red dragons at the same Challenge Rating (CR 8). At the same time, they are a little more fragile (fewer hit points). I am not sure yet how to reconcile this, or honestly if I even will. I am not yet convinced this is actually a problem.

That the Dragon Caster is weaker in some ways is fitting and works for me, but the Dragon Warrior may need some tuning up. The incompletely-defined talents will likely make a difference, but will they be enough? I suppose I’ll have to wait and see.

Still, I think as an eighth-level Pathfinder party I might be at least mildly nervous should I run into one of these, so I suppose they can’t be too far off.

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5 Comments to "Dragons in Echelon, Part 7: Heroic Red Dragons"

  1. Robin Leung's Gravatar Robin Leung
    January 21, 2013 - 9:00 pm | Permalink

    Combat Reflexes and Uncanny Dodge sent me down the thought path of snake-like dragons dancing around in the smoke and embers of what was recently an adventuring party’s “we beat the BBEG” campfire…

    • January 24, 2013 - 11:53 am | Permalink

      Now I’m stuck with a mental image of some dragons singing:
      “We love to boogie
      We love to boogie
      On a Saturday night”

      THANKS -_-

  2. David Lamb's Gravatar David Lamb
    January 22, 2013 - 6:00 am | Permalink

    I suspect the only way to be sure of whether a Heroic dragon is too squishy is to run some scenarios. If CR means about the same thing, a single red dragon CR 8 should be a minor challenge for 4 Level 8 PF characters (level 12 Echelon) and TPK for 4 level 4s. We’d need a complete workup for a standard party (whatever you decide that means), assume average damage for damage-causing attacks, assume reasonable strategy on both sides for use of spells, and run through how fast one side defeats the other.

    A tall order at the moment, but at some point someone in the Echelon community needs to try. I still don’t have a clear picture of what such a canonical scenario-testing party would look like, fully worked out.

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