Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Knight vs Dragon

The classic trope of the lone knight against a dragon. Is it doable in D&D? I've never seen it happen. Seems like a suicide mission unless you're talking about a super, high level, overpowered character, but where's the fun in that?

Before writing this, I watched the dragon fight scene in the Disney classic, Sleeping Beauty (1959). It's really the only on-screen visual I could think of that matches this scenario.

  • That dragon was black and breathed green fire which had acidic qualities.
  • Wondering if this influenced Gary Gygax's version of a black dragon.
  • The knight (or was he just a prince?) hit the dragon once on the nose and it sounded like metal.
  • The knight (prince) lost his shield to the dragon's breath weapon (saving throw in action?)
  • The knight slew the dragon by throwing his sword (which had just been enchanted by a faerie) into it's underbelly.

Time to roll up a fight... 
  • B/X will be the system.
  • The dragon will be a standard black (7HD).
  • The knight will be a 7th level knight as offered by Old School Essentials Advanced Fantasy, though for all intents and purposes, it is essentially just a regular B/X fighter because none of the knight class features apply here at all, unless the dragon had spell casting capabilities, where-as the knight would be granted a saving throw vs sleep.
  • The knight will have four randomly determined magic items including a magic sword, representing time spent adventuring. I rolled shockingly well for these, see below...
  • Black dragons have a 20% chance to speak, and thus, cast spells. This dragon is a non-speaker, so, no spells. This alone, makes the dragon much less formidable.
  • The breath-weapon will work on a recharge mechanic after the initial use. The rules state there is an equal chance of the dragon using claws/bite as there is of it using it's breath-weapon. Random determination will mean breathing acid on a 4-6 (d6). Maximum 3 times. 

The Knight

Str:15(+1)   Int:10   Wis:13(+1)   Dex:10   Con:12   Cha:11

HP:36    AC:17(plate + shield)   Dragon-Breath Save:10    To-Hit:+7    Damage:1d8+2

Magic Items:

  • Sword+1 (+3 vs Undead)
  • Ring of Wishes (1) (actually rolled this, could be a game changer)
  • Potion of Healing 
  • Boots of Traveling and Leaping (why did OSE rename the Boots of Striding and Springing?) By-the-book these won't help much here, but I might allow advantage on breath-weapon saves or some such thing.  

Black Dragon 

AC:17    HP:31    To-hit:+6    Damage: 2 claws (1d4+1), 1 bite(2d10), or 1 breath (current HP)    

Morale:8 (will check at 16 and 8 hit points)

Round One (assumes no surprise)

  • Dragon wins initiative breathes acid.
  • Knight makes the save and takes 1/2 damage, 16 points.
  • Knight then hits dragon for 9 points.
  • Knight HP:20   Dragon HP:22

Round Two

  • Initiative is tied, combat will be simultaneous.
  • Dragon breathes acid again.
  • Knight fails save and dies while striking the dragon for 6 points of damage.
  • Knight HP:0   Dragon HP:16

That was quick! 

Lets go again with the following caveats: 1. The boots of traveling and leaping will allow the knight to take zero damage if the save vs dragon-breath is made and half damage if it fails. 2. The knight may also sacrifice a shield to avoid breath-weapon damage on a failed save or a killing melee blow.

Round One
  • Dragon wins initiative breathes acid.
  • Knight makes save, using the boots, leaps out of the way taking zero damage then hits the dragon for 6 points of damage.
  • Knight HP:36   Dragon HP:25

Round Two
  • Dragon wins initiative and chooses 2 claw/1 bite... all three miss!
  • At this point the knight could use the ring of wishes any number of ways to win the fight, it's such a game changer that I passed on that for the sake of this exercise. So the knight strikes and hits again for 6 points of damage.
  • The dragon passes a morale check, continues the fight.
  • Knight HP:36   Dragon HP:16

Round Three
  • Initiative is tied, combat will be simultaneous.
  • Dragon breathes acid, knight makes save, jumping away taking zero damage. While jumping, strikes the dragon for 10 points of damage!
  • Knight HP:36   Dragon HP:6

Round Four
  • Knight wins initiative and hits the dragon for 8 points of damage, slaying it.
  • Knight HP:36   Dragon HP:0

  • Simultaneous combat has interesting consequences.
  • In either fight, the knight never missed an attack roll, had to roll 10+.
  • House ruling the magic boots gave the knight a nice edge, seriously helped by making both saves. This makes sense though, and is probably how these boots would work in sword & sorcery fiction.
  • The knight took zero damage in the four round second fight mainly due to the dragon rolling very poorly.
  • I initially rolled morale at the end of the third round. The dragon failed and flew away (realistic.) Then I remembered that initiative had to be rolled first, which the knight won, then proceeded to slay the beast. Rolling initiative every round has dynamic effects.
  • The ring of wishes could have been used to nullify the dragon-breath, blind the dragon, put it to sleep, etc. Not the best item for this exercise, that's why I didn't use it.
  • Great little fight, easy to visualize, quick and dramatic not unlike the scene in Sleeping Beauty.

I think the knight's chances of success in this scenario diminish further and further with every edition following B/X & AD&D due to the fact that dragons keep getting bigger and bigger, though I'm not about to put that to the test.

XP & Treasure
  • Slaying the dragon: 1,250 XP
  • 58,000 SP (GP value: 5,800)
  • 20 gems (GP value: 2,610)
  • 40 pieces of jewelry (GP value: 48,000)
  • Total GP value: 56,410. Slightly under the average of 60,000 for a black dragon.
  • Total XP: 57,660. 
Enough for this knight to ascend to 8th level!


  1. Interesting. I think that without the house rules, the fight will probably go the way of the first scenario ten times out of ten...at least, given equal hit dice/levels of opponents. Dragons don't really NEED to be bigger to be fiercer opponents.

    It's funny because my kid asked me just yesterday at what level a PC should be able to take on a red dragon. As he was asking with regard to AD&D, I told him it really depending on the size of the dragon, the situation, and the overall preparedness of the party. However, the ancient worms at 8 points per HD are really quite, quite formidable...few PCs should ever brave battle with such a beast. Certainly not in a casual manner!

    [yet another reason for treasure hoards...need to entice those players!]

    1. House rules and/or certain legit magic items definitely make the difference.


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