Tactics and Tips05/02/2006

Tougher, and Meaner Than You (Part 5)

Fighting White 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'll discuss the last of the chromatic dragons -- the animalistic white dragon. Although considered the weakest and least intelligent of all the true dragons, the white dragon is still an extremely dangerous foe.


The Dragon's Side

For everything bitter and cold (and thus, perfect for white dragons), make sure that you take a look at Frostburn. Numerous spells within this book provide older white dragons with a huge advantage when bolstering their mastery of the cold -- everything from obscuring snow to ice castle. Glacial ward in particular proves valuable to white dragons, granting them impressive protection against fire-related attacks.

White dragons with a religious bent could turn their scaled backs on their own dragon gods and worship the blasphemous Iborighu, the Frozen King of the Wastes. Indeed, white dragons are intimately familiar with everything that takes place in the frostfell, making the book an invaluable resource for DMs and players alike when facing white dragons.

Of all the true dragons, the white dragon lives in easily the most inhospitable terrain: frozen mountains and the polar caps. This means that even reaching the white dragon's territory is difficult and fraught with tremendous dangers. The white dragon makes its lair in icy caves or in warrens it burrowed deep beneath the permafrost and ice, with the entrances hidden from the warming rays of the sun. Locating these entrances could prove difficult, especially in areas with natural steam vents and chasms. The Monster Manual mentions that white dragons prefer eating their food frozen, so if you find a stash of stiff, ice-cold corpses sticking partially out of a snow bank, chances are that you're in white dragon territory.

White dragons that make their lairs on the icy tops of mountains have it even better -- the bitter cold of the atmosphere plus the potential traps from sliding rocks and sheer cliffs (see the red dragon article {{link to the red dragon article}} for more details) make for some added challenge to anyone who confronts the dragon. If possible, try to use fly or other mobility enhancers to keep you out of harm's way in this treacherous terrain.

Special Abilities

White dragons are the masters of freezing cold and blind winds. Their special abilities (fog cloud, gust of wind, freezing fog, wall of ice, and control weather) allow them to excel at making the biting, frigid air of their home terrain even deadlier. In short, realize that if you're facing a white dragon, you're going to have to deal with intense cold, blinding fog, and thick ice just to get to it.

All white dragons have the icewalking ability, meaning that they can move on icy surfaces, even vertically, with no reduction of their movement. If you enter into a white dragon's lair, make sure you have someone looking up, so as to avoid getting attacked from above by a white dragon clinging to the icy ceiling.

Juvenile and older white dragons use fog cloud to surround themselves with a protective screen when resting or hiding. They'll wait until there's enough ambient mist about so it doesn't draw too much attention or they'll fill up their lair if intruders barge in. Gust of wind is mostly reserved to blow out torches, lanterns, and other sources of fire, but also to keep opponents at a distance (the better for breath attacks) and to knock about flying creatures while the white dragon is also in flight. Freezing fog is used to slick down the floors of the lair or to make the icy steppes outside it even more treacherous and slippery, allowing them to swoop or crawl in while their enemies try to get up.

Ancient and older white dragons use wall of ice to block the entrance to their lairs, both to cage in prey and to keep enemies out. In the twisting maze of ice caverns that make up their lairs, it may be difficult to determine whether a sheet of ice is a "door" or a wall. Be prepared to melt down lots of walls of ice or use ethereal jaunt or similar spells to bypass these barriers.

Other Tactics

Dealing with a White
Dragon's Breath Weapon

The white dragon's breath weapon is a cone of cold, so make sure that if you attack one, you try to surround it from all sides to minimize the number of people in your group affected by this attack.

White dragons are vulnerable to fire and heat-based attacks -- even young dragons know that a group of prepared adventurers likely equipped themselves with fire-based spells, flaming weapons, and other useful magic items before showing up at the lair. These dragons often target "fiery" opponents first to get them out of the way, typically by using spells, special abilities, and their breath weapons so they can remain far from potential damage.

Remember too that white dragons are excellent swimmers, so an ambush from a white dragon may come from the water around an ice floe, not from the iceberg itself or the skies above.

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 , Draconomicon.

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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