How to Run Red Dragons

With the largest wingspan of all the dragons and a sort of beaked snout these angry and vengeful creatures are known for going into fits of destruction when angered. The mountain lovers love only one thing above all else, treasure.

Welcome back adventurers and DMs (Dungeon Masters) Wizard Charlie here! Last time on “How to Run:” we focused on creating our very own young green dragon and today we will continue the trend by moving on to the nefarious and powerful Red Dragons! This will be more of a helpful guide, hopefully, to DMs but all are always welcome.

    Last time using our 4 methods of voice, speech patterns/cadence, actions/mannerisms, and tactics we created the almost snake like Venomclaw. We will use the same method to make a red dragon that will equally terrify your players. So why don’t we learn a little bit about red dragons first.

    Red dragons are the most dragon of all the chromatic dragons. By which I mean; if a dragon is considered vain, vengeful, angry, and terrifying then the red dragon is considered the most of all those things. They are the most vain and enjoy coveting treasures more than any other. These dragons hate all other creatures and see them all as inferior to it, this includes other dragons. Because of this red dragons see all others as subjects that they can command and therefore anyone who doesn’t follow orders from their king/queen is to be roasted or made to suffer for daring to deny them.

With the largest wingspan of all the dragons and a sort of beaked snout these angry and vengeful creatures are known for going into fits of destruction when angered. These mountain lovers love only one thing above all else, treasure. Red dragons covet treasure so much that they know the placement of every piece in their hoard and are likely to notice if even a single coin is missing. These dragons are dangerous and they have the power behind them to prove it, coming in as the strongest of all the chromatic dragons.

    Talk about scary, these bad boys are no joke. I myself have never faced a red dragon, that would be….well I’m pretty sure I would pass out. It is very easy to incorporate these creatures into your campaign. Something as simple as “A red dragon has taken over a nearby mountain and is now claiming dominion over all the cities and towns in the area” can be used. Before long it will start demanding treasures with the threat of incineration for all those who refuse to kneel. Angry, vengeful, and destructive? Gulp. I am getting a sort of Queen of Hearts vibe here, easily angered and quick to sentence a “subject” to death. Your red dragon should be simple, straight forward, and fun as hell to play.

    It’s time to make our angry queen, and since we are going with the mad queen vibe let’s make this one a female adult dragon. Young dragons are scary enough but an adult one? Oh boy, that’s a wrap friends. Picking a place and weakness should be simple enough; a mountain and vanity. Let’s move on to our four methods.

  1. Voice
    Red dragons should have a nice deep voice, don’t be afraid to lower that tone as much as you like. This being a female dragon allows you some leeway to have your tone be in a fairly large spectrum. Try to speak from the chest, that always works to give a deeper and more dangerous tone and it gives a sort of breathy feel to it. Since these creatures are known for their anger throw in a growl anytime someone speaks out of turn or upsets her.
  2. Speech Patterns/Cadence
    Seeing as our red dragon is a mad queen of sorts let’s give her a regal confidence. Speak quickly and factually because everything you say is right and perfect, even if you make a mistake which you won’t because you’re a red dragon. Or if your dragon is older you can speak slowly so that all your subjects hang on your every word, because they are blessed for being able to listen to your beautiful voice. If she begins to stutter or mispronounce a word maybe this upsets her and she slams down on her treasure, giving the players a moment of fear and a chance to try and calm her down. A nice little teeth clenching ending to her words could be good too, to show her restraint in just speaking with the puny adventurers and therefore wasting her time. 
  3. Actions/Mannerisms
    I tend to favor the wine glass swirl technique with the kinds of enemies that find themselves to be better than or above the party. There is also the pompous fingers swirl, as the person thinks they look up in the distance and swirl their finger in the air. And seeing that our dragon is very fiery and passionate have them speak with their hands constantly. Give another key feature, something like rolling her eyes when someone tries and fails a charisma check against her or says something that she would conceive as dumb. Maybe she likes to run her claw through her pile of gold because she loves the cool feel of it, or maybe she half shuts her eyes and smiles with her chin up high when someone succeeds at complimenting her visage. There are a plethora of things she can do to show that larger than life vanity. So finally, let’s throw a cherry on top in the form of a pompous nose in the air, this serves perfectly since they are all beneath her…. literally and figuratively. 
  4. Tactics
    This is an interesting one because a red dragon is all about hitting the hardest with everything they have before the enemy has a chance to retaliate. However, if your party isn’t ready for this CR 17 monster then that tactic is going to wipe them off the face of the map immediately. If the group is high enough level then just let loose. No matter what the case is; however, give them a chance to roleplay against your dragon. If a battle does commence your red dragon should attack ferociously at the team, preferring to get up close and personal, most likely easily goaded into an attack by someone who can tank hits. If your dragon is in a difficult situation she might fly away normally but if this is in her lair? Suddenly, this becomes a battle to the death. Your red dragon covets her treasure above all things. Would she be willing to leave it for some undeserving group of adventures? The choice is yours but that right there could be part of her weakness, if she were to just run away and save her life then she can live to fight another day but…all that gold. Show her ferocity by describing the damage she deals to the walls and to the armor of the players as she unleashes a whirlwind of attacks. So if it comes to blows it should be a pretty straight forward fight. 

The battle needn’t just be a contest of strength and will. Let’s say the key to defeating your dragon is right in her lair it can be anything from a Stalactite hanging right above her to… actually that sounds like a good one. Maybe now the goal to this encounter becomes one of distraction and conversation from one or two players while another sneaks around and finds a way to dislodge that stalactite and bring it down right on top of her.

If the player distracting her does well then consider lowering her passive perception by 5 because she is so distracted. If the charismatic player is not rolling well show that she is still talking to him but her patience seems to be faltering, adding a sense of tension instead of making the player outright fail. If all goes well, they have the chance to seriously wound your dragon before the fight begins resulting in perhaps a chunk of damage and/or giving her disadvantage on a round of attacks, or maybe the first round of combat she is stunned, giving the players a beginning round of advantage. The Dragon will most likely survive this first onslaught and you won’t feel bad about the damage you are about to deal them as she retaliates in a blind fury. These are just some ideas you are not beholden to any of them. Now let’s see what we have.

Avestra is an adult red dragon who was in search of a new liar. She saw it fit to take up residence inside a nearby mountain. She patrols the skies of her home daily, not because she is afraid of an attack but to show all those below her magnificence, divine beauty and awesome power. Over time she takes over all the nearby towns and forces them to send her food and gifts, of course they all listen. They bow before her and leave her treasures upon treasures, life is good. Then someone hired out some mercenaries to come and push her out of her home, a group of “adventurers”. How dare they!? She has graced these people with a just and beautiful ruler and they repay her by doing this? They come knocking at her door looking to “talk”. These puny bugs dare to insult the great Avestra like this? As they come face to face with her she boasts of her excellence. She promises to burn down all the nearby towns unless they all bow before her. She gives favor to any who bow before her and compliment her beauty and strength. 

Those that don’t are considered disrespectful little bugs who she locks in her dungeon to rot away. They will all learn their place.

One of them steps up and begins singing a song of praise to her. At first she is ready to crush this little creature between her toes but then..she listens to the words and smiles, her head hanging high. He is right to speak of her magnificence for she is their queen, that one could do well to spread word of her aura so that all those throughout the kingdoms of the world know who their rightful ruler is. The other three stay bowed nervously as they…wait, wasn’t there another? And that’s when she feels the massive object slam into her from above. Avesrta sees stars and they are all suddenly at her, stabbing and striking with their puny weapons. As she shakes off the stun she spreads her wings wide and sends them all reeling back and tumbling. As she breathes heavily fire bursts from her nostrils, the smell of sulfur and rock fills the room, her eyes burst open and the adventurers can see the fire dancing wildly in her eyes. How. Dare. They. Fine, if they will not bow


And there we have it friends, we have created our adult red dragon. Note that if you and your group just like duking it out in combats and you don’t want to set up a system that hurts the dragon right away then that is perfectly fine. There is no wrong way to play D&D…actually there is and I have seen it…okay so there are very few wrong ways to play D&D. Just remember to have fun with this okay? Let loose, play the big bad dragon and give your friends something they can remember, let them be the heroes. Watch and/or hear those laughs and cheers of joy, and you will know you are a good DM. Now get out there and run your dragons! 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.

If you’ve enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about how to best portray other monsters, don’t forget to follow us on social media. If you have any comments or suggestions on what you’d like Charlie to cover next, drop us a message in our new forums.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.