The dream mount for many paladins is, of course, a dragon. Raising a dragon from an egg until it's large enough to use as a mount (which depends both on the dragon's type and your size) can take years. While some elves or dwarves may be inclined toward projects that lengthy, members of other races need mounts sooner. Assuming someone in need of a mount could get a dragon to stop and talk, she might persuade the dragon to join her as a special mount and a partner (see Leadership and Mounts, below). Offering a dragon immense rewards in return for assistance might also work, depending on the species -- but be sure to pay the reward! Tempting a dragon's curiosity is another possible way to gain a dragon partner. Young dragons already separated from their families might serve in return for experience, education, and protection.
Using magic, such as charm spells, is a mistake, since the magic eventually wears off, and such coercion may anger the dragon. Similarly, persuading a dragon of widely differing alignment to join an adventuring group leads only to the dragon leaving, if not attacking the party.
Training Your Dragon
A young dragon is more like a very intelligent child than a simple animal (Intelligence score ranging from 8 to 18 depending on age and species) and may well be smarter than its rider. Patience and tact get better results than harsh words and punishments. Expect the dragon to learn quickly, but allow for its inexperience to cause mistakes. Like children and pets, dragons get tired, and it's best to let them rest when they do.
Keeping Your Dragon
Always give the dragon the reward promised it. Always treat the dragon as an equal partner in any enterprise. Anyone who wants a loyal dragon companion must defend that dragon as vigorously as the dragon defends its partner.
The idea of partnering with a mount may strike many as odd, but it's the smartest approach with a dragon. The dragon is an independent intelligent creature, with its own mind. Expect the DM to treat dragon mounts as NPCs, not as animals. A rider without a high Charisma can expect to lose a lot of arguments with one of these mounts. Dragons age, but do not generally gain experience points.
Losing Your Dragon
Dragons have long memories and gain vast powers over time. Angering one always has consequences. The time may come when the dragon wants to leave. Keeping a dragon when it wants to leave, even if that is possible, is a mistake. Chances are you will gain experience faster than the dragon grows. At some point the dragon will realize this (generally when your level is greater than the dragon's CR + 4) and will leave. Whether or not it discusses leaving depends on its alignment and its relationship with you.
If you keep your promises to a dragon mount and let it leave when it chooses, most likely the dragon will remain friendly toward you. If it holds a grudge against you, it may attack openly, or it may plot secretly for years before striking.
Leadership and Mounts
Canny characters may use the Leadership feat to attract a cohort that can serve as a mount (see Leadership, page 45 of the Dungeon Master's Guide). This feat cannot attract a mount with an Intelligence of less than 4. If you already have a special mount, familiar, or animal companion, you suffer a -2 penalty to your Leadership score. Table 2-27: Example Special Cohorts on page 45 of the Dungeon Master's Guide includes some cohorts that can also serve as mounts; use these as a guideline if you want to add more examples.
If your DM is willing to allow it, you might be able to use the Leadership feat to attract a dragon as your cohort. To determine the type and age of dragon that will heed your call, first consult Table 2-25: Leadership in the Dungeon Master's Guide to determine the level of cohort you can attract. You can't attract a cohort of your level or higher, even if you're only using a level equivalent (for special cohorts, as given in Table 2-27). Then consult Table 1-4: Dragon Cohorts to see what type and age of dragon can be attracted based on the level of cohort you can attract. (Generally, only lawful good dragons, such as bronzes, silvers, or golds, will serve as a paladin's cohort. The other dragons are included on Table 1-4 as examples for nonpaladins who wish to have a dragon cohort.)
Most dragon cohorts are at least of young age. Wyrmling and very young dragons are too young to serve as cohorts, since they are usually still under the care of their parents. Dragons older than adult age make poor cohorts, since they are generally seeking a mate by this time.
It is possible for a paladin to attract a dragon cohort that is too small for her to ride.
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