I occasionally hear people bemoaning the trivialization of dragons in Dungeons & Dragons… and yet I see very few dragons in most people’s games. Personally, I like having each dragon being different than the others to keep players on their toes. However, most are also old and famous enough that a bit of research will tell you the important facts to prepare for such a battle (especially what kind of breath weapon the creature has).
In my recent games I had an albino dragon, a spider dragon and Gurrweth the Beast, a feral dragon. For each of these I just took the stats for a dragon from the B/X rules, changed the skin colour and descriptive text, and then changed the breath weapon.
The real trick is the breath weapon. It seems to bring back the sense of wonder every time the dragon lets out a blast of whatever strange magical breath said dragon has. Typically I add a secondary effect to the dragon breath so that the players remember it as vividly as the characters would once they survive a blast of putrescent goo.
So here’s a quick list of ideas for some unique dragons. Have a few yourself? Throw them here and I’ll look into putting them into a new Dodecahedron.
I took a black dragon for this one, added a spider climb like ability to walk on walls and switched the breath weapon to a cone with the secondary effect of entangling those who fail their save.
For a lower-level game I reskinned a white dragon and made it sickly and weak. It’s breath weapon is a line of decaying goo (treat as a black dragon’s acid breath) that also reduced the movement rate of those who failed their save.
This was just a red dragon with no spellcasting ability and extra fur. Because of his high hit points and my desire to not have him completely slaughter the party with his breath weapon, his breath was weakened by his lack of magic and bestial throwback genetics, dealing only half the normal damage. He preferred to get involved in good old melee combat, which is just as terrifying as anything else a red dragon can throw at you.
Dragon of Primal Air
Increase the flight speed of the dragon by 50% and swap out the breath weapon for the djinni’s whirlwind ability.
Dragon of Primal Earth
I used a blue dragon here, replacing the description of the lightning bolt with a cone of stony debris that also knocked back anyone who failed their save.
Same breath weapon as the Albino Dragon (but in this case, a half-digested morass of carrion). Also, anyone slain by the breath weapon immediately gets animated as a zombie as per the spell animate dead. For bonus points, surround the dragon with a cloud of carrion birds.