Tactics and Tips04/04/2006

Tougher, and Meaner Than You (Part 2)

Fighting Blue Dragons

It's the Year of Dragons! As a part of this celebration, we're going to be taking a closer look at these iconic beasts, their abilities, and some of the best ways to fight them . . . and come back alive. Over the course of this series, we'll focus on the true dragons described in the Monster Manual, and although we'll touch on the tactics and abilities that all dragons possess, the purpose of these articles is to explore their unique powers and their temperament, plus show how they use their lairs to their advantage.

This week, we turn our attention to the cruel and terrible king of the desert, the blue dragon. Vain, territorial, and haughty, blue dragons claim large swathes of land as their own and torment any creatures that dare to enter into it without their permission -- and sometimes even with it!


Blue dragons live in desolate, inhospitable deserts full of flowing sand. Their bodies are exquisitely designed for both burrowing through sand and soaring for hours above the dunes. Because of this, parties rarely can use the terrain to their advantage when fighting a blue dragon. Instead, they should be mindful of the terrain so they don't fall into a blue dragon's trap.

The Dragon's Side

To make better tactical use of a blue dragon's abilities, you might consult Sandstorm; the book offers a number of spells these dragons might use against parties already weakened on treks across the desert, such as parching touch, sunstroke, desiccate, and tormenting thirst.

Likewise, the first chapter includes a number of natural and supernatural hazards a blue dragon might incorporate around its lair, from furnace wind to leech salt flats. As mentioned in the article, blue dragons can use the illusion of ruins to bait well-laden adventuring parties -- or they might build their lairs near actual ruins, using their undead denizens as guardians or ambushing parties that emerge with looted wealth.

Because they can burrow through the earth at a remarkable speed, one of blue dragons' favorite tactics is to dig themselves into the sand with just the very top of their heads exposed. If you have to go into a blue dragon's lair, typically caverns deep beneath the winding sand above, be aware that even if you don't find the blue dragon in there, it might be sitting inside one of the walls of the cavern, waiting to strike unsuspecting adventurers as they pass by, and remember that the attack might come from any direction. Of course, things in and around the blue dragon's lair might not seem as they appear -- see below.

In deep sand, blue dragons prefer hit-and-run tactics, where they can strike their slowed opponent and burrow away, popping up in a different direction. Try to stay on rocky or otherwise solid ground if you're facing a blue dragon.

Blue dragons are capable flyers and can stay aloft for hours. If you're entering into blue dragon territory, always have someone keeping her eyes above, since the coloration on their bellies blends in extremely well with the blue, desert sky. Spread out and avoid walking in a single-file line, so as to avoid everyone from succumbing to the blue dragon's line-shaped breath weapon.

Special Abilities

Blue dragons excel at lies and deceit, and their special abilities aid them in befuddling their prey -- create/destroy water, ventriloquism, hallucinatory terrain, veil, and mirage arcana. Although blue dragons get most of the water they need from the blood of animals, they often use their special ability to make water to lure in prey. They can also use this ability to destroy the potions of an adventuring group, in addition to their precious supply of water (see the previous article in this series for more details on how to combat this tactic).

Blue dragons also use their sound imitation ability to lure in potential prey, and they prefer to do so from the safety of a spot into which they've burrowed. They use it to both mimic the calls of desert animals and the voices of any people they might overhear, in hopes of dividing up a group and picking them off one by one. Adult and older dragons combine this with ventriloquism to further confuse their enemies.

Older blue dragons use hallucinatory terrain and mirage arcana to make their lairs look completely different. They might create the illusion of an oasis to draw in prey or hide the entrance to their cave with a fake cliff wall. One of their favorite ruses is to make an illusion of long-forgotten ruins -- the perfect bait for adventurers.

Other Tactics

Blue dragons have the earth descriptor, so they can be rebuked by clerics with the Air domain, although their formidable save makes this an unlikely prospect. If you're planning on stalking and hunting down a blue dragon, set up some bait, preferably camels, horses, and other herd animals, to draw their attention. They are drawn particularly to caravans -- a double bonus of both food and treasure in one sitting -- so creating a trap this way could work well. However, blue dragons are very intelligent and it might work only on the younger dragons who may not have experienced such treachery and lack the willpower to pass up such a prize.

Dealing with a Blue Dragon's Breath Weapon

The blue dragon's breath weapon is a line of electricity -- avoid lining up to give the dragon a free shot! Stock up with spells, potions, or scrolls of protection from energy or resist energy and armor and shields of electricity resistance.

Blue dragons fight well in flight, so do your best to keep it on the ground, using nets, web spells, and tanglefoot bags. If it does get into the air, stay close to your allies, but avoid getting in a line (see sidebar). Blue dragons excel at hit-and-run maneuvers and try to separate a group first before picking off individuals one by one.

If you're heading into a blue dragon's territory with the intent of taking it on, make sure you have true seeing and similar spells or magic items so that you can make sure that you're looking at reality instead of illusion. Also make liberal use of spells that protect against the trials of the desert, such as locate water, hydrate, and protection from desiccation. Of course, a good decanter of endless water never hurts either!

Game Resources: To use the material in this article to its fullest, check out the following resources: Dungeon Master's Guide, Monster Manual, Player's Handbook.

About the Author

Eric Cagle cut his teeth at Wizards of the Coast, but now lives the extravagant freelancer lifestyle. Look for his name on D&D, d20 Modern, and Star Wars books. Recent credits include d20 Apocalypse, Races of Destiny, and Monster Manual III. He is also a contributor to the Game Mechanics, Green Ronin Publishing, Dragon Magazine, and this lovely website. Eric lives in Seattle where the coffee is dark and bitter like his goddesses.

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