It’s called Dungeons & Dragons, which means everyone expects to dungeon crawl and fight a dragon. That will only be more true in October, when Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons unleashes a trove of new dragon lore on 5E. Gem dragons will make their return, dragonborn players will get new options, and lairs will see expanded rules. But that doesn’t mean DMs need to wait until October to drop a dragon on their players. Here are five dragons you can find in the Monster Manual that will shock, awe, and burn your party to a crisp. 

Red Dragon

This guy adorns the standard DM screen that we’ve all owned at some point, and the D&D logo is red. If you’re looking to go iconic, you can’t beat the red dragon. Like many dragons listed in the monster manual, ol’ red comes in many sizes. The smallest wyrmlings are a great way to ease beginners into fighting dragons at early levels, and young dragons can challenge a more capable party. Adult dragons make for a stellar foe, while the ancient red dragon is the endgame battle dragons were made for. 


Those who have survived Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden will remember this name well. Arveiaturace is an aged white dragon that flies the windy skies near the Sea of Moving Ice. She carries the corpse of her former rider on her back, and still talks to his skeletal remains. This sad habit shows the depths of her loneliness, which might explain why she’s more willing than most dragons to talk to puny adventurers. An encounter with Arveiaturace could make for a nice curveball, as it doesn’t have to end in a battle. 

Shadow Dragon

The news of Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons got us to take another look at the Monster Manual section on dragons. One of the more surprising reminders was that there are several types of transformed dragons. Shadow dragons are one of the cooler ones, those being dragons corrupted by time spent in the darkness of the Shadowfell. Now they have enhanced stealth powers and a necrotic breath weapon. If you’re looking for a real scary surprise for your Ravenloft campaign, try having one of these waiting at the end of a spooky cave. 

Dragon Turtle

Who says dragons need to have wings? A dragon turtle is one of the most fearsome threats one can encounter during a nautical campaign. If staged well, a dragon turtle fight will be a memorable set piece. Unlike other dragon fights, where the party can presumably make use of the terrain, combat against a dragon turtle happens at sea. This limits the party to the confines of a ship, unless they all happen to be playing characters with a swim speed. This immediately forces them to make more strategic choices and rely less on their favorite spells and weapons. Plus, the DM could give their ship cannons or harpoons to give the battle a more Hollywood scale. 


D&D players expect to fight dragons, they expect to fight a lich, but why not both? The Dracolich lives up to its name by combining aspects of both its inspirations - the power of a dragon mixed with the complex scheming of a lich. A Dracolich would make an excellent mystery villain for a campaign arc. Players could learn that a shadowy figure’s agents are stealing magic items all over the realm, with clues pointing to a powerful mage. They’ll probably assume it’s some kind of humanoid, maybe they’ll even guess it’s a lich. Imagine their faces when they bust into its lair only to be met with the imposing form of a skeletal dragon. 

What’s your favorite dragon? Have you ever gotten to fight a dragon as a player? If not, check out StartPlaying’s latest dragon-themed games. 

Jul 27, 2021
Encounter Ideas