Welcome back adventurers and DMs (Dungeon Masters) Wizard Charlie here! Last time on “How to Run:” we focused on creating our very own adult Red Dragon, join me today as we look into the vile and cruel Black Dragon. This will be more of a guide to help DMs but all are always welcome.
This week we shall with our 4 methods of voice, speech patterns/cadence, actions/mannerisms, and tactics as we create our dragon. If all goes well we will end up with a scary and memorable dragon for your players. So why don’t we learn a little bit about black dragons first.
Black dragons hate. It’s that simple, they just hate. They hate those that they consider weak, they hate to see “the weak” prosper, they hate other dragons and they hate just about everyone and everything. What they do love is to see the collapse of kingdoms, the end of civilizations, and once great regions; so much so that their preferred treasures are those of collapsed kingdoms. Black dragons are set apart from other dragons in that they are truly sadistic, they enjoy torturing their prey more than anything else.
The Player’s Handbook (PHB) says they smell of acid and a mixed scent of rotted vegetables and foul water. They also have an interesting appearance with sunken eyes and horns that shape the sides of the face and come forward as if to be used as a possible weapon for impaling. Black Dragons also have spikes that cover their heads and make them look like a horror gargoyle from your nightmares. When thinking of a black dragon think of that villain that makes its enemies beg for mercy, give them the illusion of freedom, and then finish them off while they have the hope of escape in their hearts. Black dragons avoid tougher enemies while choosing to prey on weaker ones, even with dragons. When these evil creatures are faced against death they will say and do anything they need to in order to survive, but they will never ever let another creature subjugate or enslave them. Black dragons are vile, dangerous, and they are not afraid to play dirty in order to win.
If you want yourself a chaotic evil villain that actually derives pleasure from being cruel then here is your guy. I remember early in my adventures my group and I came across black dragon eggs and we had to decide their fate; half of us wanted to give them a chance at life while the other half mentioned that black dragons are vile evil creatures that can not change. This is a situation you should consider putting your players in to subvert their expectations; it’s one thing to face off against an evil dragon, it’s a completely different one to come across a nest of black dragon eggs that can not defend themselves. Aside from that little tidbit I think we have all we need to start building our black dragon.
Where do we begin? Sadistic torturer that loves to revel in the ruins of falling kingdoms? Okay we can work with that. Why don’t we make an adult black dragon and put some years of survival on him. I am thinking of someone with a dungeon of horrors in a castle or keep of a long since fallen kingdom, hidden in a deep swamp; that means plenty of treasure to attract adventurers, and that is exactly how he wants it. Maybe our black dragon sent his minion Kobolds and Lizardfolk to spread rumors of a great treasure hidden away in his lair. Now our dragon has a constant source of curious people to torture, destroy, and feed on. Now all we need is a weakness and a name. Why don’t we make his weakness the fact that he loves to torture? He just won’t kill people… not until they beg for death, which means that he won’t kill the party if he defeats them, giving your adventures the chance the need to eventually defeat him.
All we need now is a name… let’s see… Black Dragons love to be in the places of fallen humanoid kingdoms right? And this one has been around for some time so he would have definitely given himself a title; Rinut Destroyer of men.
Vile and evil? Do your best version of a raspy or growly bad guy voice. A creature like this can be boisterous if you like but I think something more subtle can be more effective. Think of a low voice that is calm and consistent so it creates a sense of distrust and unease when paired with this terrifying looking creature.
- Speech Patterns/Cadence
Paired with the low and calm voice, pick yourself a distinct cadence that adds to that unease. Maybe they smile at the end of their sentences, maybe they always smile, or never smile. Maybe they barely talk at al? Ooo yes let’s drive home the sadistic nature and make it so that he takes long pauses with very few words, and when he does it is in short words that are raspy and consistent. Let’s make this a creepy serial killer dragon.
To add to the serial killer vibe, why don’t we have our dragon just stare at the party as it smiles, not a toothy grin but just a slight smile. Maybe as he grows impatient and excited for the conversation to finish so he can begin the torturing, he has a nervous tick. The longer the conversation goes on for, the more these nervous ticks surface. It can be anything from a twitch in the eye, to a compulsive need to claw at the ground or crack his fingers; hell why not all of the above. This can show how truly unhinged Rinut is, he just can’t wait for the torturing to begin.
During the conversation with this beast, he refuses to let them leave the room once they have entered, he uses his massive claw to block the exist and continues the conversation as a distraction to get their guard down and acid breath them. If he reaches low health have him beg for his life and offer them anything they want; make him pitiful and a coward. He will say and/or do anything to live. So if begging doesn’t work and he needs to bring down the keep on top of them all including himself in order to create an exit and fly away, then do so. If he needs to bring multiple people down with a breath attack and then dart out of there then do so. He won’t look back to see who is still standing, he just needs to escape.
In actual combat have Rinut knock a player prone and pin them down with a grapple as he smiles down at them and taunts them. Next turn they are toast if the others don’t help to free them. With a dragon like this, who wants victims to torture, he might even non-lethal claw some of them so that he can make them beg for their lives later. Also, reflavor some of those claw attacks as the horns on his head, pin a player to the wall with them before tossing them aside like a sack of potatoes.
Since our dragon is a sociopath now let’s instead change the name to something more fitting and fear inducing; Rinut the Eviserator.
Rinut the Eviserator is an adult black dragon who has a perfect set up for someone of his standing. He has made a lair out of a long ruined massive castle that once belonged to a supposed great king. This castle resides in a swamp that is several miles from several small towns. Rinut sent his minions out to spread rumors of a great treasure in his castle; one by one thieves and adventures arrive to claim their prize. And one by one they all fall victim to his dungeon of horror. Overtime less people arrive and now he is itching to try out a few new torture techniques. Luckily, he has received word that the region’s law keepers have hired a group of adventurers to come find out about all the disappearances in recent months. He awaits them with anticipation. When they arrive he attempts to be the most gracious of guests but he is just so excited that he can barely contain himself. An eye twitch here, a claw flinch there, a neck spasm once in a while; he just can’t help himself. And all the while the group smells an acridic smell mixed with rotted vegtables and stagnated foul water.They ask him questions and say things that warrant responses but he is so busy thinking up ways to torture them that he pauses for long periods of times, he occasionally asks them to repeat themselves or responds after long periods of unintentional silence. After getting a sense of how each person must fight by asking them a few questions like “So you’re a cleric? Who is your God?” he now has an understanding of who to target first. One swift acid spray, take down the more frail spellcasters first, then keep the survivors alive and healthy so he can do his work. After another long pause he says “So? I have been patient. Shall we commence? Grovel for me.” As the first toothy grin shows itself, and Rinut the Eviserator shows his true self.
And there we have it friends, our sociopath black dragon is created. Always remember that you can make your dragons act how you like and no one knows your group better than you, so you pick what works. Also, make sure your players are okay with this kind of stuff, or at least issue a warning as to how black dragons act so they can know what to expect. Everyone has their own experiences in life and that makes us all sensitive to some things. So just keep that in mind and try your best to communicate with your players so they feel comfortable and safe. And with that good luck out there friends! Go out there and terrify your players with your own memorable monsters and as always remember DMs it isn’t just your world, and it isn’t just the player’s world, it’s all of yours.
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