Dragons: they’re half the name of the game. But how often do you encounter them during play? I thought it would be fun exercise to go through the official Wizards adventures and count up how many you find. Scroll to the end of the article for the headlines.
For my own sanity, I did not include dragons that were merely referred to (eg, as part of a random encounter list or in a ‘future adventures’ suggestion), nor did I include dragon eggs, dragon lore, dead dragons, and so on. I tried to focus on dragons that the party can actually encounter (not necessarily in combat, of course). I also decided to stick to ‘true dragons’ in this post – the five metallics and five chromatics – as dragon turtles, pseudodragons, dragon gods et cetera would make this a very long list indeed.
Spoilers are inevitable, but I have tried to keep disguised dragons anonymous so that players don’t stumble upon a massive giveaway. I suspect there are a few mistakes in here, too, so let me know in the comments if there’s something I’ve missed – I’m happy to go back and correct the article if needed.
Dragons by adventure
I will go through these in chronological order. Note that I’m only covering the hardback adventures and the starter sets here.
Lost Mine of Phandelver (2014)
Not really a spoiler at this stage, since the adventure has been out for nearly eight years and has a picture of the dragon on the front of the box, but yes, there is a young green dragon named Venomfang hanging out in Thundertree.
Hoard of the Dragon Queen (2014)
This adventure is bookended by dragon encounters, but they otherwise barely feature – surprising, given the name. The opening features an adult blue dragon attacking the town of Greenest, and in the last act there is an adult white dragon that the party will probably encounter. Other than that, there are adult black dragons referred to, but it is noted that they should not be encountered until Rise of Tiamat.
The Rise of Tiamat (2014)
This is the dragon adventure, so you would expect to encounter a fair number of them. Again, though: not as many as you might think. Overall, the party will probably encounter three adult dragons (black, green, white) and two young (blue and red). But that’s it. Still, one of every colour!
Princes of the Apocalypse (2015)
A young red dragon can be found in a particularly fitting lair, and there are two adult dragons disguised as NPCs: one black, one bronze.
Out of the Abyss (2015)
One dragon! Just one! An adult red who keeps a city’s forges burning. That’s it!
Curse of Strahd (2016)
There are four red dragon wyrmlings somewhere in Castle Ravenloft (it’s a big place, so hardly a spoiler), and a young blue dragon can be summoned by triggering a booby trap. It’s not a very dragonny adventure, this one.
Storm King’s Thunder (2016)
This is a tricky one to count. In terms of dragons referred to, there are five ancients (red, green, blue, and two whites that return in Rime of the Frostmaiden),seven adults (two blues, two whites, a silver, and two bronzes, one of which is in disguise), four young (brass, copper, green, silver), and two wyrmlings (white and silver). That’s 18 dragons. However, several of them are random or suggested encounters, which makes sense given the open-world nature of this adventure. If we remove those, we are down to one ancient, six adults, and one wyrmling. That’s still more than Hoard of the Dragon Queen and The Rise of Tiamat combined.
Tales from the Yawning Portal (2017)
This is really seven adventures, of course. The Sunless Citadel has a white dragon wyrmling, The Forge of Fury has a young black, Dead in Thay has a black dragon wyrmling, Against the Giants has an adult red dragon and a pair of young white dragons.
Tomb of Annihilation (2017)
Just the one: a young red dragon to be found somewhere in Chult. I DMed ToA from 2018 to 2019, and this encounter was one of my highlights of the whole module.
Waterdeep: Dragon Heist (2018)
There are two named metallic dragons, one gold, one bronze, but more detail than that could be a big spoiler.
Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage (2018)
This 23-level mega-dungeon contains three-quarters of the Monster Manual, so you would expect a fair few dragons in there. We have: an adult red dragon with six children (young reds); an adult bronze shadow dragon; a mated pair of young blue dragons; a young green dragon. There’s also a steel dragon (unique to this adventure) and, if you screw up a trap, an adult white dragon, but I’m not including those in the count.
Ghosts of Saltmarsh (2019)
There are several random encounters where a dragon might feature, but in terms of specific keyed locations, there are no dragons in this adventure.
Essentials Kit (2019)
Just the one: Cryovain, the young white dragon on the front cover. Oops, spoiler. (Incidentally, Cryovain is also referred to in Storm King’s Thunder.)
Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus (2019)
Obatala, an adult white dragon, guards Arkhan’s Tower, and four smaller dragons live inside it: three young (a black, a blue, and a green) and a red wyrmling. One NPC is secretly an ancient copper dragon in disguise.
Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden (2020)
Unsurprisingly for an arctic adventure, all of the dragons in this adventure are white. Two white dragon wyrmlings share a cave with some berserkers, and Arveiaturace, ‘the White Wyrm,’ is an ancient white dragon.
Candlekeep Mysteries (2021)
An adult black dragon can appear in one adventure, and a young bronze dragon has made its lair in an abandoned laboratory.
The Wild Beyond the Witchlight (2021)
There are several . . . ‘other’ dragons, but only one ‘true’ dragon: a very well hidden green wyrmling.
Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos (2021)
The five founder dragons all have stat blocks at the back of the book, but these are the only dragons you will find here, and they are not ‘true dragons’ in the conventional sense. Sad face.
Critical Role: Call of the Netherdeep (2022)
From what I can see, again, just the one: an ancient brass dragon.
By dragon type:
- Black: 6
- Blue: 9
- Green: 5
- Red: 17 (although four of these are wyrmlings and six are offspring)
- White: 13
- Brass: 5
- Bronze: 5
- Copper: 1
- Silver: 1
- Gold: 1
Chromatics are clearly more used than metallics. This makes sense: chromatic dragons are generally evil and therefore more likely to be player adversaries. Of the chromatics, it depends how you count them, but red and white seem to be the most popular and green the least. Of the metallics, brass and bronze dragons crop up the most, often in disguise, and copper, silver, and gold dragons barely feature at all. A shame – they’re some of my favourites.
There seems to have been a general trend away from true dragons over the last few years. Netherdeep has one. Strixhaven has the five founders, but that’s it. Witchlight has a green wyrmling. Candlekeep has a black and a bronze. The last adventure to feature a range of dragons across multiple locations is arguably Mad Mage, which came out more than three years ago. That said, some of the early adventures are also very light on dragons, such as Out of the Abyss, Princes of the Apocalypse, and fan favourite Curse of Strahd.
What are your favourite dragon encounters in the 5e adventures?