Black Dragons, 5e

Welcome to our first 5e guide to dragons. Keeping in our alphabetical order approach, we begin with Black Dragons.

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Black Dragon Lair

Generally speaking, black dragons live in swamps, and use their lair to great effect. When running a black dragon, any encounter in the hex should take twice as long to travel through due to magically enhanced swamp muck grasping at the party, their horses, or their boats. I know that sounds straight forward, but swamp hexes usually have those traits, and so a black dragon’s lair should double that again. This essentially stops any meaningful travel through the hex. Additionally, all water is supernaturally fouled, within the last mile, and fog obscures the whole hex. If you’re not reading between the lines, even getting to the black dragon lair should be a struggle. If the group doesn’t have a ranger with them, or a good guide, there’s a decent chance they never even make it to the lair. Instead of quadrupling travel times, you might even consider just asking groups to make a wisdom (survival) check to plot their route (DC 10+CR of the dragon if traveling by foot and magically unaided), and have failure result in wandering in circles lost with no travel time awarded.

In combat, a black dragons lair actions should give a good example of the sort of place a dragon lives. Pools of water grasp out and pull folks in, swarms of insects cloud a casters face, and shadows drift about providing cover and concealment. When combined with their amphibious nature, which allows them to breath water indefinitely, black dragons should be very rarely found away from it.

Black Dragon Tactics

Black dragons, have blindsight, and so I would envision them fighting like alligators. Drifting about slowly, just below the surface of a swamp, biting, and dragging their prey below the water. More often than not, a black dragon who refuses to surface, and just sits below your boat ripping holes can be a potential TPK. Especially if anyone abandons ship and lets it fight them while they try to swim. And bear in mind, it can have the stagnant water surge out, grab folks, and pull them overboard if needed.

Black dragons can fly, but this should be the escape mechanism if they pick a fight with someone who can fight an aquatic foe, not a primary method for attack. If you see a black dragon in a fight, you’re probably already dead. Keep in mind, the black dragons frightful presence doesn’t need to be seen to take effect. Their prey need only be aware that its around. Somewhere, lurking in the shadows.

Black Dragon Spells

Its tempting to pick blasting spells for your black dragon, but I’d caution against it. Instead, maybe get one, but focus on spells that aid its stealth. My suggestions below.

Dragon TypeCR of DragonSpells Known
Wyrmling2Minor Illusion
Young7Shatter, Silence
Adult14Blight, Greater Invisibility, Hallucinatory Terrain
Ancient21Circle of Death, Delayed Blast Fireball,
Eyebite, Finger of Death

To follow along with this project as it goes on, entries have been tagged with the dragon tag.

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