Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Taming the Savage Beast: Dragon Subdual

Way back in the 1980s a young boy was paging through his Mentzer Basic Set and noticed a section about subduing dragons. You could fight them with the flat of your blade, and capture them. Even sell them for money. Oh the possibilities...

Historically there are two different methods for subduing a dragon, you can reduce it to 0 hp with subdual damage, or you roll against a ration of damage done over total HP. 4th Edition charts new and interesting territory on this subject.

Chainmail: While dragons are in the fantasy section of Chainmail, nothing is said about subduing them

OD&D: OD&D uses a ratio method where a ratio is kept of total damage done over the dragon's total HP. Each round percentile dice are rolled, if the roll is less than the ration the dragon is subdued. The rules cap the number of people attempting to subdue a dragon at 8.

The characters can choose to sell the dragon for 500-1,000 gp per hit point, or they can keep it in their own service. If they sell the dragon it leaves the game forever. If they keep it they must remain in a commanding position or it will attempt to escape or kill them.

AD&D 1st Ed.: The players must announce their intention to subdue before the start of combat. Silver, Gold, Platinum, and chromatic dragons cannot be subdued. I am fairly certain that by chromatic dragons they are referring to the monster known as a chromatic dragon (Tiamat) not the class of dragons known as chromatic.

1st Ed. uses the same ratio method as OD&D but allows 11 characters to attempt to subdue the dragon. A subdued dragon can be sold for 100-800 gp per hit point. Subdued dragons can be ridden. A dragon can stay subdued indefinitely as long as it is strongly held, well treated, allowed freedom and given treasure. Older, more powerful and spell casting dragons are more likely to turn on their holders and take their realms and holdings as their own.

Holmes: Characters can attempt to subdue a dragon only if it is encounter while it is asleep. They must inflict subdual damage equal to the dragons HP, but subdual damage does no change the dragons breath weapon damage. A subdued dragon can be sold (no guidance on price) or forced to serve. A dragon will only stay subdued for 1 month and will then attempt to escape.

Moldvay/Mentzer: This uses a subdual method similar to Holmes but makes some changes to what happens after the dragon is subdued. The dragon will attempt to escape if given a chance. The subdued dragon must be sold. The sell price is 1,000 gp per HP.

Rules Cyclopedia: Identical to Mentzer except it says "can be sold" where Mentzer says "must be sold"

AD&D 2nd Ed.: While this edition has non-lethal combat rules, I see no specific rules for subduing a dragon. That said, there are a lot of books for 2nd Ed. In fact there are several different versions of the Monster Book out there. It could be somewhere I did not look.

3rd Edition: Has subdual damage in general, but no specific mention of subduing dragons. It is possible that there are rules for this in the Dragonomicon. I am separated from my 3.x stuff by 700 miles and only had a 3.0 core set to work off of.

4th Edition: Rules for dragon subdual are given in the Dragonomicon: Metallic. A dragon is subdued when bloodied. The rules provide for scaling the rewards based on how many characters are bloodied. A subdued dragon will grant passage, aid, or information. The rules also provide for a Duel of Honor. Here the dragon knows ahead of time that the party is shooting for subdual and any characters that are bloodied must leave the fight.

Labyrinth Lord: Uses the method where it must be dealt enough subdual damage to reduce it to 0 HP. The dragon will attempt to escape unless restrained and can be sold for 1,000 gp per HP. The AEC suggests the ratio method be used.

OSRIC: Says that you can challenge a dragon to a fight till subdued.

Hackmaster: Has non-lethal combat rules but no specific subdual rules. They do have rules for selling and uses dragon bits though.

C+C Collector's Set: No mention of subdual of any kind.

S&W Core: Uses the reduce to 0 hp through subdual damage method. Says the dragon can be sold and will attempt to escape if not frightened or impressed.

S&W WB: No mention.

I'd like a method that combines the ratio method and adds the Duel of Honor. I'd want the method to have robust support for selling the dragon or forcing it to serve you.

I am a bit surprised that none of the methods is based on a morale system, even in editions where that system was present. The ratio method and 4E's method are the closest to dealing with it as a morale issue.