The dragons aren't all that common but they live in the nearby mountains and after a harsh winter are more likely to come looking for easy prey to fatten back up on. What are the major design considerations likely taken into account by those people living on the edges of a dragon's sphere of influence?

The dragons I'm thinking of here are along the lines of Smaug. Large fire-breathing flying dragons that don't really need to go out much unless the fancy takes them or they get peckish.

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    $\begingroup$ Fire-proofing. And lots of it. $\endgroup$ – Mike.C.Ford Apr 7 '15 at 16:23
  • $\begingroup$ Can I assume that they breathe fire? $\endgroup$ – JDSweetBeat Apr 7 '15 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ @DustinJackson Yes! I was assuming that, to me Dragons = fire! ;) $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Apr 7 '15 at 16:27
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    $\begingroup$ @bowlturner in that case your dragon covets gold greatly. How to solve problem? Send all your tons of gold to the neighboring rival town. Sit back, relax and watch the show! $\endgroup$ – JDSweetBeat Apr 7 '15 at 17:52
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    $\begingroup$ First thought: underground cities/dwellings. If you do not have an offence capable to destroying dragons fairly easily underground is the only defense I can think of that would deter something of that size and strength. It does not matter how big your castle is, or how fireproof your buildings a fireproof city would slow down a dragon but it would only give you a few extra hours before the dragon had leveled everything. $\endgroup$ – Jonathon Apr 7 '15 at 19:20

21 Answers 21


I'm going to go with underground shelters being a major part of defense, like bomb shelters. Buildings would be made of thick stone.

It mainly sounds like they would be a problem in the spring. So I don't know if underground only living would be worth it, but people might move most of their belongings down into the shelters toward the end of winter, beginning of summer when the dragons go back up into the mountains to escape the heat.

In the spring you don't have much in the way of crops to protect, but a dragon could probably eat a few cows or sheep. It would probably be considered acceptable losses, since letting a dragon take a cow is a small price to pay. Other strategies would be to graze cattle under tree cover when available, since that would offer some protection, though less grass, so would probably use hay.
I really want to steal Paul Chernoch's cattle coating, but I wont. :)

Another way to defend against dragons would be bait piles/pens. Why would a dragon attack a city where most people are dug in deep and other people are shooting great big pokey things, when a few miles out of town are some tasty, easy to get snacks. There would be some kind of tax where farmers would surrender their old and lame animals to entice the dragons to go somewhere away from their healthy herds.

People working out in the fields planting would be in danger, so guard towers would be in place, and shelters would be strategically placed in order for workers to hide if need be.

The best defense is a good offense, so if I can assume that the dragons hibernate during the cold winters, then during the winter months you'd have dragon hunters going into the mountains to thin the herd. They'd make their living selling dragon scale/meat/bones/eggs, and maybe harvest any chemicals to sell to alchemists. There are not a lot of animals that hunt humans, and that's mostly because we've killed them all. Killing dragons would be a very dangerous but high profile job, and dragon hunters would get a lot of respect. Also women.

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    $\begingroup$ So instead of sacrificing virgins to the dragons, they would sacrifice them to the dragon hunters? $\endgroup$ – Raidri supports Monica Apr 8 '15 at 14:27
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    $\begingroup$ What about the female dragon hunters? $\endgroup$ – user2781 Apr 8 '15 at 18:34
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    $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl Female dragon hunters can get women too. $\endgroup$ – Doval Apr 9 '15 at 16:01
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    $\begingroup$ The Lonely Mountain had all of this (it was an underground city built into a mountain of firm rock), and it still succumbed easily to Smaug. $\endgroup$ – user89 Apr 14 '15 at 0:53
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    $\begingroup$ @user89 that's why I asked if it was sentient or an animal. Smaug was smart, and old, and lusted for power and gold. He was a person. These aren't. They are hungry, and cranky and intelligent, but not smart. It's like bears coming out of their den in the spring. They'll mess with people because people mean easy food, unless you make easier food. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Apr 14 '15 at 0:57

I am working on a world with lots of dragons. There is a tree whose sap is gathered and applied to wood, causing the wood to rapidly petrify, making it stronger and fire proof.

Also consider spikes on the roofs of buildings and water towers to pressurize water for use fighting fires.

How about a poison that reacts with flame? It forms a cloud which blinds the dragon. If inhaled, it makes them retch. Since flying creatures need to breathe in lots of air, it would be susceptible to this form of attack.

Then there is sound. Perhaps dragons have a natural enemy. Something like a bird call might make them go away.

You could soak the fleece of the sheep in something foul-tasting so the dragon won't eat it.

How about lady dragon pheromones? Lead the dragon away from town on a fruitless search for a new mate.

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    $\begingroup$ Good idea with the sheep soaking... Could be applied to cattle too. The dragons would learn to avoid cattle because of the taste. Maybe even some kind of poison. Make it a bright color and call it the monarch defense. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Apr 7 '15 at 17:16
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    $\begingroup$ If you remove sheep and cattle from a dragon's diet, what's to stop the dragon from naturally moving on to the next prey item of equal size: humans? I'd rather lose a few sheep. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Apr 7 '15 at 17:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre - Take a sheep and cattle tax each spring. Each farmer has to give up small percent of their herd, but they can be the weak, old, lame, etc. These can be taken somewhere far away from people, closer to the mountain, and won't be dyed. So if a dragon sees a bright orange sheep, it knows it will taste bad, but the normal looking sheep that's closer will taste good, and the dragon won't have to go as far from the mountain, and stay away from the town. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Apr 7 '15 at 18:51
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    $\begingroup$ Natural selection will of course lead to the development of extremely intelligent sheep who will cut a deal with the dragon and ruin this system. $\endgroup$ – Paul Chernoch Apr 7 '15 at 19:32
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    $\begingroup$ @PaulChernoch -- keep in mind that heavy timbers (upwards of 8" in diameter) are naturally fire-resistant due to wood of this size forming a layer of insulating char that prevents the fire from further weakening the member $\endgroup$ – Shalvenay Apr 8 '15 at 3:03

With a question like this there are two ways to go: how would things play out in a work of fiction, and how would they play out in real life?

I think a lot of people have covered the "work of fiction" angle. If you were going to design a city from scratch and with none of the real-world financial or political constraints that cities face as they grow and evolve, you'd probably have a big network of underground shelters for people to hide in when the dragons came around.

But let's look at a similar real-life situation featuring unpredictable death from above: a city prone to catastrophic tornado damage. (I write this with my other browser tab open to a weather radar, because I'm currently under threat from a severe storm system right now).

Moore, Oklahoma extends a couple of miles on either side of Interstate 35 as it passes south out of Oklahoma City on its way to Dallas. It occupies about twenty square miles, which is fairly small by the standards of this part of the country, but with a population of around 50k it's one of the ten largest cities in the state.

And, unlike the larger cities of Norman and Oklahoma directly to its north and south, it's also had completely devastating tornado damage several times in the past few years. In fact, some of these tornadoes were destructive enough to merit their own Wikipedia pages. (I had a third link to post here, but I haven't got the reputation to post it yet.)

Now, what I want to highlight here is basically a direct analog of what's been suggested in many of the other answers. Among the casualties of the 2013 Moore tornado were several students at the Plaza Towers elementary school, one of two Moore elementary schools destroyed by the tornado.

In the days after the tornado, a proposed law requiring new schools in the state to be built with tornado shelters unsurprisingly gained a great deal of traction with the public. Now take a minute to think through what this says. It's not proposing public tornado shelters for everyone, or retrofitting existing structures, but merely that any new construction of schools will come equipped with some sort of tornado shelter.

In interviews with the media, the measure was immediately dismissed by the Governor as too expensive, and nothing came of it. What did happen? Well, the city of Moore updated its building code, essentially requiring that new construction be built to withstand EF-2 tornadoes.

Now, remember, the tornadoes that have repeatedly destroyed Moore are in the EF-4 and EF-5 range, not the EF-2 range. Since that probably doesn't mean anything to most people, here are the sample images from Wikipedia of EF-2 and EF-4 destruction:

EF-2 damage: EF-2 damage

EF-4 damage: EF-4 damage

(That used to be a house, if it's not immediately obvious.)

Okay, so how do we compare this to what we know about the (I'm assuming) medieval societies that we're imagining facing a dragon attack?

We know that many medieval cities were built around castles that served as a central fortress for the community. The laborers who worked in the city surrounding the castle would, in the event of an invasion, come inside of the castle.

Now I'm going to assume that the castle predates the dragon here, because nobody in his right mind would spend the time, money, resources, and man-hours it takes to put up a castle in an area where there were constant dragon attacks. To quote an article on HowStuffWorks by Craig Freudenrich (which I can't link to with a new account),

Castle building employed about 3,000 workers (like carpenters, masons, diggers, quarrymen and blacksmiths) under the direction of a master builder. ... Castles generally took two to 10 years to build.

Nobody would bother undertaking such a project if those three thousand workers kept getting eaten alive and/or set on fire. People would just live somewhere else. So I'm envisioning a castle built to keep out invading armies, not dragons.

Now, there's a problem with this. Castles, pretty much from the beginning to the end of their existence, have relied on the fact that having the higher ground is what you want in battle. Early "motte-and-bailey" castles were basically just walled buildings (often just made wood or even dirt!) put on top of a hill that would suck for an invading army to run up. And even later on, when castles started to get way more sophisticated, it was always the case that the most heavily-fortified part of the castle was also the highest off the ground.

11th-century motte-and-bailey castle

Launceston Castle

14th-century castle

Vincennes Chateau

On top of that, any castle seriously intended as a fortress would feature machicolations, which are great if you want to drop rocks on the invaders scaling the side of your tower but which are probably less useful when you're facing an indiscriminate airborn flamethrower.

So the parts of the castles which have been designed to be the most secure are in reality probably the least so. Moreover, these fortifications would have been constructed with the express purpose of preventing large underground structures from being built underneath them. This is due to the ancient combat tactic known as "mining," where an invading army would dig small tunnels under a building and use them to place explosives underneath the walls, hopefully breaching them. In fact, the moats that surrounding some castles were more to prevent mining than to keep out invaders on foot.

The one thing a castle would have underground would be its cellars, which were designed specifically to be a bit fire-resistant. (These were still a serious weakness a couple of reasons. Remember how Guy Fawkes was going to blow up the House of Lords by setting off an explosion in its cellar? And then there's the fact that, without modern construction techniques, every extra floor you add is just another thing trying to make the castle sink into the ground.) These underground storage rooms are where, in the event of a dragon attack, you'd have the best shot at surviving.

castle cellar

Remember, though, that these rooms aren't empty, like in the picture above; they contain all the provisions you're holding onto in case of a siege. And remember that, due to the difficult engineering problem of constructing a cellar which the castle doesn't collapse on top of, you're not going to be building these with a lot of extra room.

And here's the payoff for the bit about tornadoes above. Cities faced with tornadoes don't build extra infrastructure to protect their citizens. They use whatever they had already (so, church basements and YMCAs and so forth), the people at the top are taken care of one way or another, and the interchangeable people at the bottom of society are left to fend for themselves. (Oh, and if you think the nobles are going to give them time off work to dig themselves tunnels, you don't have a clear picture of what the serf/vassal system looked like.)

And tunnels aren't that great anyway. You know how to deal with an enemy who digs tunnels? Here's what Wikipedia has to say:

The oldest known sources about employing tunnels and trenches for guerrilla-like warfare are Roman. After the uprising in Germania the insurgent tribes soon started to change defence from only local strongholds into utilising the advantage of wider terrain. Hidden trenches to assemble for surprise attacks were dug, connected via tunnels for secure fallback. In action often barriers were used to prevent the enemy from pursuing....

The use of tunnels as a means of guerrilla-like warfare against the Roman Empire was also a common practice of the Jewish rebels in Judea during the Bar Kokhba revolt (132–136 AD). With time the Romans understood that efforts should be made to expose these tunnels. Once an entrance was discovered fire was lit, either smoking out the rebels or suffocating them to death.

Which makes tunnels without fortified entraces an unattractive defense against fire-breathing dragons.

So, how would cities under threat from dragons be designed? Well, unfortunately, they likely wouldn't be designed at all.

  • $\begingroup$ If you'd care to leave the third link in a comment here, I'll edit it in. $\endgroup$ – ArtOfCode Apr 9 '15 at 10:29
  • $\begingroup$ Explosives were a relatively late development in siege mining. It works pretty well to just set the supports on fire. $\endgroup$ – canhascodez Nov 15 '18 at 3:37

I have sort of a radical idea based on the family of stink bugs infesting my apartment: why not design a city the dragon doesn't want to eat?

First, you're going to want a lot of farmland devoted to a poisonous plant. Your humans are going to want to tend to this plant, breeding it so it grows thicker, quicker, and deadlier. Next, when the harvest comes around, you're going to want to use as much of this plant as possible in as many things as possible. Thatch your roofs with it, mash it up and put it in your bricks, weave it into your clothes, and line your streets with the living plants as decorations. There may be a spike in infant mortality, but parents should be keeping a keen eye on their children in a world where dragons exist. Anyway, when a dragon comes knocking, they may eat half the town, and they may even live to tell the tale, but they're going to get one heck of a bellyache, and that'll deter them from coming 'round again.

But maybe you want to keep the dragon out the first time. To do this, I return to the stinkbug idea: simply make some unpleasant smells. Medieval cities already smelled bad enough (if I were a dragon, I'd steer clear), but if you had a few dozen people collecting the garbage, you could put it to even stronger uses. What I'm thinking is a few towers along the outer wall of the city, atop which you would store a few barrels of raw sewage. When a dragon is sighted, open the barrels and light them on fire. Most of the smell should waft upwards, out of the city but straight into the nostrils of the dragon. Even if it can get itself close enough to take a bite out of your populace, it's probably going to lose its appetite. Again, this might bump up the total deaths in your city (raw sewage is not good for overall health), but hey, now you'll have a steady supply of corpses to light on fire too.

  • $\begingroup$ Voila! Another use for kudzu. $\endgroup$ – Paul Chernoch Apr 7 '15 at 19:33
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    $\begingroup$ kudzu is actually all edible. $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Apr 7 '15 at 23:05
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    $\begingroup$ Related - according to an answer to the spider city question, spiders are repelled by orange, cinnamon, and peppermint. Maybe there's something that dragons don't like that people actually like or at least don't mind? That could be a quest - go out and find something better smelling that still repels dragons. $\endgroup$ – Rob Watts Apr 8 '15 at 22:18
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    $\begingroup$ @RobWatts I imagine a long line of knights holding candy and flowers, waiting to go into the dragon's lair. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Apr 8 '15 at 22:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Paul Chernoch I moved from Texas to Georgia an the first time I saw kudzu, it kinda creeped me out :) $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Apr 13 '17 at 20:43

I would go with bunkers and scapegoats...

As already mentioned bunkers could offer some protection from a direct attack, but scapegoats would probably be a better over all strategy.

As spring approached each year the local ranchers and herdsmen would be tapped for a few sacrificial animals, not unlike many ancient cultures, only in this context rather than trying to appease an angry deity, its dragon feeding season.

So as the snow melts livestock would be staked out around the foothills of the dragons' layer. Think of it as a wall of meat, that keeps the dragons full and spares the village.

If your dragons are intelligent, they will probably get used to the arrangement and recognize that a healthy village produces a reliable yearly food source. If your dragons are savage beasts they will still probably be happy with easy prey that they don't have to travel as far for.

  • $\begingroup$ Definately go with "present something you don't care as much about for the dragons to eat", it's the cheapest and most efficient solution. $\endgroup$ – Erik Apr 9 '15 at 7:59

One important question is how difficult the dragons are to kill. I assume that hunting them in their natural mountain environment is too difficult, or people would have hunted them to extinction and it they wouldn't be an issue. So then it just comes down to if they can be effectively defended against, or if you can just try to minimize damage. First, there are some principles that apply in both cases:

  1. All cities would be built around rivers. Most cities are on rivers anyway, but an uninterruptable source of water would be absolutely critical for firefighting.
  2. Wide avenues every few blocks with no trees, signs, etc. hanging over them to act as firebreaks. This will limit the spread of any fires started.
  3. With dragon fire coming from overhead, thatch roofs would be banned within the city. Exterior walls would likely be of stone, stucco, or similar instead of wood. Building codes would be strictly enforced, with shanty towns forced to be some distance away from the city proper.
  4. Fire-fighting technology would likely be more advanced than the corresponding real life period. Look at the real history of firefighting for an idea of what medieval/renaissance firefighting was like.
  5. On farms, livestock barns would likely be as fireproof as possible (considering cost), including being sunk partially underground and having water storage inside.
  6. There would be a great emphasis on developing ranged weapon technology and fire-resistant materials. This would have an impact on all sorts of things. Notably, non-dragon caused fires would be easily handled (in contrast to real medieval cities where those were uncommon, but very destructive when they did happen).

If the dragons can be killed or driven off by humans you would see very distinctive defensive works. Specifically, I envision tall stone towers spaced evenly throughout the city with archers and ballista on top. There would be clear space around teach tower to prevent fire spreading to/from them. Smaller settlements would have a defensive tower at their center. There may be dedicated bands of horse-archers assigned to respond to dragon attacks outside settlements.

If dragons cannot be defended against, defensive towers would be a waste of money. Instead, underground shelters would be common. If dragons prefer larger prey than humans, horses and other large animals may be banned from the city to reduce the likelihood of attacks. On farms, farmers might try and only protect some of their livestock, in hopes that the dragon would take the unprotected ones without destroying the farm itself.


Many answers have described how to build a city to survive a dragon, this is how to build a city to kill a dragon. Using Medieval technology and no magic.

Dragon abblities in order of importance High mobility (flight) well armored body close range area of effect weapon (breaths fire) powerful close range attacks ( its a dragon)

1- pull its wings, the body is well armored but the wings aren't. Numerous archers with barbed arrows can easily hit the massive wings ripping holes, if ropes are attached to the arrows the barbs and be ripped up causing larger holes. In just a few passes the dragon can be rendered flightless, hopefully within the city or nearby.

2- pound it. The town should have a ring of high towers along the perimeter that have protected inside powerful ballista. Once the dragon is grounded pull out the ballista and hit it. The ballista out range dragon fire and can break through its hide. The towers are high enough to fire over buildings at the dragon. Once grounded the dragon is slow enough that it can be targeted, and finished off with little melee fighting.

3- Reuse it. A dragon's hide and wings are fire proof so use the to protect your city and warriors, and nothing says don't mess with me like a pile of dragon skulls.

  • $\begingroup$ Very good answer! $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Dec 22 '15 at 23:14


The dragon flies into town looking to make a few manwiches. Unfortunately the men don't like eaten and have a plan. It silently lands. That is when a harpoon flies out of a tower on the wall. It soon finds itself pinned to the ground by a heavy metal link netting.

The harpoons might kill the dragon and if by some chance it survives it is caught in the netting.

The dragon will try to burn its way out of the netting.

Then, when it realizes too late that the netting is made out of metal. It twisted and trapped in it and some of the metal melts into its scales because of its panic.

It gets free before the guards reach it. Unfortunately for it, the town has dozens of towers equipped with these towers scattered evenly throughout the town.

To make matters worse it damaged its own wings in its thrawling panic when it accidentally melted the metal into its skin. Whenever it passes the towers in town they shoot at it. To make matters worse the entire town has been arisen to hunt it. Archers are hunting it.

It is eventually killed while trying to get out of a rear gate.


I can imagine larger towers being spaced around the town walls with harpoons with thin metallic brass coating around attached netting. There would be dozens around the town every dozen yards on the walls and many smaller towers wielding harpoons as well scattered in the town.

They would have more lookouts that time of the year (dragon season?) and a minimum of half of them on duty at all times. Especially at night. If there was a dragon attack they would have to rouse everybody, so large bells would have to be on the lookout towers.

There would also likely be a fortress of several feet thick stone in the town hall in the event of many dragons.

Excuse my horrendous story telling. I didn't have much time when I wrote this.


With dragons such as Smaug whom one cannot expect to defeat, mitigation is generally called for. Overtly preparing to try to defeat the dragon, may tend to provoke it, and if your odds aren't good, that may not be a good idea. The goal being coexistence despite a persistent giant powerful dragon threat, and not to defeat or eradicate the dragons.

The traditional answer, is to organize a regular tribute and/or sacrifice to the dragon of some sort (not necessarily human virgins...), so that the dragon doesn't attack your city. Typically, this even leads to policies that actively aim to detect and discourage or prevent anyone from trying to attack or steal from the dragons.

In addition to that, having fire-resistant buildings, and perhaps burnable ones that you don't mind losing, further out. And then hidden bunkers and vaults that a dragon might have difficulty knowing about, finding, and getting into. And of course, disaster contingency plans.


My own advice would be based on a few things:

A.) These dragons are barley even sentient. (No traps or continually heating an area)

B.) They are not even close to as invincible as Smaug.

C.) No direct-type magic (Basically flight and fire-breath, nothing else)

So, first things first, if your town is rather poor, start with "dragon cellars", bury them beneath the town square or other areas that have a stone covering. Big room with walls and such, long tunnel, and metal entrance door. This will protect the villagers and some of their stuff. If your town can't afford the next step, booby trap the tunnel. Next, you want some manner of weapon against the dragon. I personally recommend building a square tower that's stone all the way up until you get to the top where a metal roof, sliding metal shutters, and a rail-system gives a giant crossbow or archers (depending on the armor of the dragon) a full 360 aiming section, while also allowing for coverage from fire. Third, your farms and ranches need protection. If you build a small, stone, house-like structure with a roof that can open and put some manner of pokey-thrower in there, mission accomplished. Lastly, stone EVERYTHING, if it is an exterior, it should be made of stone. Oh, and of course Slayers, really, dragon anything is valuable, so thinning out any manner of pack profits the town by a revenue flow and less attacks.


come looking for easy prey

Why would a Dragon go to a city for easy prey? They need a better reason to do that, like Smaug-Gold, revenge, baby dragons protection etc.

Anyway, in my conception they will target farms and isolated people in the camps and borders.

The most cheap and obvious protection for these people will be caves to hide and storage foods like that one:

simple cave in the woods

And security by obscurity like don't use many torches, don't make too much noise and things that smell good like beef. Maybe even camouflage, even if in the medieval era they didn't know what is this!

They can make some way to notify the surrounding farms and cities know if a dragon is in the region with a system like used in LoTR, the fire signals

signal fire in the montain


You might go with "Anti Dragon" architecture, as provided by the lazy firefighters guild. They don't want to have to put the fires out, so they would encourage you to build in ways that isn't going to let fire spread. This would consist of extensive use of Stone for walls and ceramic for roofing. That's mostly for the wealthy. The poor have options as well though.

Lets start with the Roof. Ceramic tile is going to reflect quite a lot of heat, but it could eventually get hot enough to set fire to structural members underneath. You can avoid this with Catalan Vaulting. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catalan_vault This vaulting technique produces exceptionally strong structures. It's also made of clay, which means it might be within the reach of the cities middle class.

The wealthy would be able to build with stone for walls. The rest could build with Adobe. While not as flame resistant as stone, Adobe should be able to resist the worst of a flame attack.

Finally, everyone builds a small dragon shelter. Like others have pointed out, small underground shelters that the dragon can't get into would be best.

That's your passive defense. Active defenses are all kind of standard fantasy fare. They are going to be dependent on the characteristics of Dragon hide in your world, as well as the beast's tactics. High power, roof mounted crossbows. Trebuchet might help. You could also use something like a catapult mounted South American Bolo. The Korean Hwacha might make an appearance. Lets face it, you imagination gets to take over at this point.


Another option: Build some very powerful ballistae--they don't have to be capable of a one-shot kill but they do need to have the power to inflict substantial injury on the dragon. These are build inside what appear to be ordinary thatched-roof buildings. You also have underground bunkers adequate for the population.

When a dragon comes around everyone goes into the bunkers except for those needed to actually aim and fire a ballista. The crews only fire if they get a good shot and as soon as their bolt is away they dash for the bunkers--no attempt is made to reload.

Dragons will soon learn to stay well away from any thatched-roof building that's big enough to hide a ballista.

A building is only in danger within the range of the dragon's fire--and that's normally far less than ballista range. Sure, in general I would expect a dragon to be able to destroy the building without taking a bolt in the process but the defenders don't have to win every time. They don't even need to win a majority of the time. Only desperate predators go after prey with any substantial ability to harm the predator. It's not like a RPG where the PCs are perfectly willing to lose half their hps to take down the monster.

(And note that when we see such engagements in the wild the predators always use pack tactics, only attacking when there's basically no risk of retaliation.)


Look up anti aircraft defenses of WW2, e.g. Flak Towers.

enter image description here

These were huge concrete towers with antiaircraft guns on top. The inside was used as an air raid shelter for the civilian population. The walls are so thick that it was impossible to demolish them, many are still standing today.

I don't know what technical capabilities your society has, but in principle this type of tower could have been constructed in medieval times. If you search for pictures online, you'll find many very interesting construction details to protect the gun crews. All of this would work equally well to protect against flying dragons.

As far as armament goes, I have no idea what to kill a dragon with. If antiaircraft guns don't work, maybe some kind of spear gun with a rope to pull the dragon in? The captured dragons can be sold to utility companies which use them in their power stations to generate steam and heat the city. Big income stream for the city.

  • $\begingroup$ I'd expand on this answer more -- give it enough context so it can survive even if the link dies tomorrow! Also, how would you build a flak tower in a medieval society, and fit weapons capable of taking a dragon on in it? $\endgroup$ – Shalvenay Apr 8 '15 at 2:59

I am going to go with a modern age twist and I would say to build a standard city (maybe with a few extra dozen fire stations) and surround it with tanks.

I don't think many tanks would be needed to cover the city, more would be located between the mountain and city. Maybe a couple dozen in total. A direct hit from a tank shell would be enough to severely injure or kill the creature.

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    $\begingroup$ While this does technically answer the question, it's more like a comment. Could you expand on this a bit? What kind of numbers of tanks are we talking? $\endgroup$ – ArtOfCode Apr 9 '15 at 10:27

I would imagine caves and underground tunnel networks would be the primary living area to protect against dragon attacks. Thatched roofs on traditional cottages and town houses would be instant eradication of the society. Natural caves expanded into vast tunnel networks seem like they would provide sufficient protection, assuming the doors were small enough to keep the dragons out.

Lifestyle would likely be more hunter/gatherer than agricultural. If you have a significant chance of having your supply of food wiped out on the whim of a fire breathing dragon it seems there wouldn't be much point in focusing on farming. Hunting and foraging could work, if the society is in a cave network perhaps mining would become an industry allowing trade with villages that don't have issues with dragons.

I guess my theory would the society would in essence live like dwarves to thrive while under the threat of dragons. It’s just Orcs to worry about at that point.

  • $\begingroup$ Would you mind expanding on this some more? $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Apr 7 '15 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site! Please take the tour to learn how this site is different from other (who am I kidding, there are no other) Worldbuilding Q & A sites. Answers that are simply correct but include no description or clarification are not valid fits for Stack Exchange websites. Please consider revising up your answer with the edit feature. $\endgroup$ – JDSweetBeat Apr 7 '15 at 17:50
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    $\begingroup$ I approved this edit (/pending edit) on the assumption that the annon user was SRG. SRG, if you log in to edit your answer, we don't have to manually approve it. $\endgroup$ – Mourdos Apr 9 '15 at 10:27

If the society has advanced enough technology of magic, they can build underground cities like the dwarves did. Grown their food underground under artificial light or chemically/magically synthasize it. Build dragon-proof underground city. Have all gates too narrow for dragons to get through if possible.

If there are gateways wide enough for dragons to squeeze through have very strong and massive hundred ton gates of stone and metal which slide down like guillotines and can slice or crush a dragon. And have dead man's switches controlling them. A person has to hold the switch closed all the time. If he let's go for an instant the gate will be unlocked and gravity will make it slide down into position. Put the dead man's switch in front of the gate so the switch holder will be killed by dragon or run away, letting go of the switch, before the dragon reaches the gate.

I wonder if Erebor had such gates but they were always accidentally being released and were very troublesome to pull back up. So King Thror had he switches modified so that they had to be deliberately pulled to lower the gates. And then Smaug arrived and the switch holders fled or were killed without throwing the switches and the gates remained open and Smaug entered and wiped out the city.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding.SE. I tried to review it a bit, but you should try to check the spelling of your answers. With correct (enough) spelling, they are more likely to be well received. $\endgroup$ – clem steredenn Aug 3 '15 at 7:13

In the First World War one method of defence against aircraft was the use of barrage balloons. String lots of them above your town and link them by fireproof cables, so it can't get through without tangling its wings. You could build your town next to a mountain and use it for anchoring some of the cables. You don't have to kill the dragon, just make it hard to get at you so it will fly off to bother your neighbours.


Copy pasting my answer to a similar question:

A flying, fire-breathing mass of muscle out is to get you. What are the limits? How far can they fly? What is the range of their fire? Is it a continuous stream, a fireball, or can it use both? What loads can it carry? How much does it need to eat? WHAT does it eat?

First, fireproof everything. Flammable liquids should be stored in stone or earthenware jar (not wood or metal!) and preferably buried until needed. Make your ballistae with longer range than their breath. Leave no dragon food within a single flight range of your town-change your eating habits if you must. Make narrow holes for your ballistae, put them in reinforced stone rooms and protect them with spikes on the outer wall. Use light bolts to damage their wings at long range, instead of heavy bolts to target their bodies. Minimise use of wood to prevent fire spreading. Find what dragons hate or are allergic to and have plenty of it close at hand.

There are plenty of ways to deal with the problem but first we need to clarify exactly what the problem is. A single attack run of dragons can be beaten back with significant loss on both sides, but will the dragons persist? Will they learn to avoid you next time?


Dwarf style built-into mountaines fortresses with expendable countryside around it. When the dragon attacks the townsfolk gather in the fortress to wait out. All of the tricks mentioned earlier may be employed.

Expanding on the dwarf style cities and the Smaug like tendency of dragons to attack said dwarves: the only big enough enterances for a dragon to come through may be long tunnels filled with all sorts of traps, extraction venting systems(when a dragon breathes fire its' sucked out into the venting system dealing little to no damage), sealable intersections and repeating balistas/cannons on the far end akin to the WWII bunkers - you don't have to aim much if the target is already trapped in a confined space.


This is just a short and possibly irrelevent answer, though I wanted to share it. I know the idea is to have it be in medievel times. But let's assume it's not. Then other than the obvious fire fighting infrastructure and more stone based buildings I'd just imagine one of these on every roof top.


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