It's the Year of Dragons! As a part of this celebration, we're taking a close look at these iconic beasts, their abilities, and some of the best ways to fight them ... and come back alive.
As we near the end of this series, we turn our focus on the noble gold dragon. A stalwart defender of all that is lawful, right, and good in the world, the gold dragon is also a fearsome and highly intelligent opponent. You're in for a fight!
Gold dragons make their lairs in any sort of terrain, though they prefer warm plains and always set up home inside places made of stone -- caves, or preferably, castles and other crafted stone buildings. Their caves or castle lairs are designed for both defense and comfort. Welcome guests find these places warm, inviting, and comfortable, while enemies soon discover that they are in dangerous territory, full of traps.
Gold dragons can breathe underwater, and thus, may be found even deep in the waves. Some set up massive underwater homes (complete with airy sections both for them and the comfort of their air breathing guests). Some cunning gold dragons have been known to create a false lair in the hills or mountains, while their true lair is in the lake or sea located nearby.
Because they can assume an alternate form, gold dragon lairs may have several escape routes that are considerably smaller than the dragons' true form, and smaller even than anything that Medium size creatures could hope to crawl through. Innocuous-appearing tunnels may in fact be boltholes for a gold dragon.
While not a 'special ability' per se, gold dragons are blessed with immense intelligence. Even gold wyrmlings are much smarter than unusually bright humans and thus make tricky foes. They always think several steps ahead of their enemies.
Gold dragons have the fire subtype, and thus can potentially be rebuked by clerics with the Water domain. They are immune to fire but, unlike most dragons, do not relish basking in the element of their type. They are vulnerable to cold and thus avoid the coldest environs. Some of the best attacks against gold dragons are cone of cold, Otiluke's freezing sphere, sleet storm, and other spells with the cold descriptor.
Gold dragons spend a great deal of their time in an alternate form. Much like the brass dragon, you're never quite sure what you're dealing with when you encounter a person or harmless-looking animal in gold dragon territory. If you suspect that a creature is actually a gold dragon in disguise, use tree seeing to view it in its natural form. Don't let on that you're aware of this duplicity until you have the advantage!
Gold dragons like to use bless on themselves along with any allies nearby. This is one of the first actions they take when danger seems imminent. For longer durations, gold dragons bestow their luck bonus on a gemstone and grant it to their strongest and most loyal ally. Always take this additional benefit into account if you must fight a gold dragon or its followers.
Old and older gold dragons employ their geas/quest ability on particularly persistent foes, especially those that come back time and time again to annoy and assault the dragon in its lair. Unless their opponent is particularly violent and egregious, gold dragons typically instill a geas that simply compels the affected creature to stay far away from the dragon's lair. While not as capricious as brass or copper dragons, gold dragons may see the merit in having the affected creature act in some humiliating manner in order to demonstrate the folly of annoying such a powerful creature. To counter this possible effect, be sure that someone in your group is capable of casting remove curse.
While the gold dragon's detect gems ability seems mostly harmless, it's a way for the dragon to locate people nearby. Because many characters that face Old or older gold dragons wear jewelry or carry magic items that incorporate gemstones, they may be noticed even when a gold dragon's amazing senses miss them otherwise.
Dealing with a Gold Dragon's
Gold dragons possess two types of breath weapons -- a cone of fire and a cone of weakening gas. See the red dragon for ways to avoid the worst of the gold dragon's cone of fire. Stock up on scrolls and wands of restoration to negate the ability damage from the gold dragon's cone of weakening gas. Make sure your Strength-oriented characters carry a potion of restoration in case they are too far from a cleric after the gold dragon lets loose with this attack.
Ancient gold dragons reserve sunburst against the worst of their enemies but have no qualms about releasing it against undead. Goggles can prevent being blinded by this effect. If the worst happens, be prepared with remove blindness/deafness spells or scrolls.
Great wyrm gold dragons possess foresight, allowing them to perceive the worst dangers ahead of time. Remember that flanking doesn't help in this situation. Feint attacks could be used to negate the gold dragon's Dexterity bonus, opening it up to sneak attacks from your group's rogue. Gold dragons use foresight the moment they suspect an attack.
Gold dragons also cast cleric spells and those from the Law, Luck, and Good domains as arcane spells. They use spells extensively in combat, so be prepared to deal with all manner of magical assaults in addition to their formidable physical prowess.
Game Resources: To use the material in this article to its fullest, check out the following resources: Dungeon Master's Guide, Monster Manual, and 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.