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In a world where society and culture are very similar to Medieval kingdoms of past ages, and moreover a world where there is no one conclusive ruler, but a region of small city-states which each have their own rulers vying for power, how could these states and lesser entities protect themselves from Dragon attacks?

Are there any historical technologies that could have been employed to defend themselves from fire-breathing dragons? If not, are there any technological leaps that are not too theoretically far-fetched to incorporate with Medieval culture? Finally, if the dragons couldn't breathe fire (instead spitting acid or something of the like), would their defenses be possible then?

EDIT: The kind of Dragon I'm talking about is essentially your standard large, red, firebreathing dragon - the quintessential dragon, more or less. No outside magical powers. I'll bend the question a little bit and ask as well if there are any interesting variations on dragons that could exist alongside normal culture and not be oppressively dominant?

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    $\begingroup$ While not a dup, it seems to have some overlap with this question. Might give you some ideas. worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/13794/… $\endgroup$ – bowlturner May 7 '15 at 20:05
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    $\begingroup$ You'll need to define "dragon" much more strictly than you have here. There's a wide variety in fantasy. Size, intelligence, magical capability (if any), etc. $\endgroup$ – Dan Smolinske May 7 '15 at 20:15
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    $\begingroup$ ...I think the answer to that is build new ones out of stone after the old ones burn down. $\endgroup$ – James May 7 '15 at 20:15
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    $\begingroup$ You may also want to define the local environment and the abundance of magic (if any). $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre May 7 '15 at 20:33
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    $\begingroup$ I think you just cross yourself and stab it, and then put a virgin's girdle on its neck like a collar. $\endgroup$ – KSmarts May 7 '15 at 21:00

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Couple methods...I'd actually suggest a Roman legion was better equipped to fight a dragon than most medieval forces ever were (maybe the English were an exception due to the extreme importance put on bow use).

  1. Siege weapons, in particular the Ballista and possibly the Lithobolos (basically a giant stone thrower). The Scorpio and the Cheiroballistra could also have relevance here. Anti-personnel artillery seemed to be a Roman specialization and would have had a decent effect if turned on a dragon. By medieval times, much of this technology was lost, and what was left became more specialized (trebuchet)...unfortunately these more specialized weapons were designed for taking down city/castle walls and wouldn't have been very good vs a flying target.

  2. English longbow tactics. This is as much a way of life than anything...I believe it was Henry III that decreed all people, poor and otherwise, should be proficient with a bow or halberd (or bill). This gives a society where every member was capable of bearing arms. No matter where a dragon attacks, it's going to find a populace shooting arrows at it. This somewhat fits into the theory of "If you and I are running from a bear, I don't need to outrun the bear, I need to outrun you"...if a dragon has a choice between attacking a land where everyone was armed and ready to fire at it vs a society that's relatively defenseless, guess which one the dragon will attack?

  3. Figure out what the dragon wants and give it to them. Dragon wants wealth? Start paying a tribute (bonus points if this results in a dragon protecting towns from other dragons because that town is paying them tribute). Do they want food? Start sacrificing animals and possibly ritual sacrifice humans to the dragon. Are they protecting their lands? Move the town elsewhere!

  4. Mass crossbows. Unlike bows and the majority of medieval weapons, a crossbow is exceedingly simple to use (load, point, click, repeat) and a person can be trained on using a crossbow in an hour or two. They might not be the best at it, but it creates the scenario in #2 above where everywhere a dragon attacks, it's going to meet resistance in the form of arrows.

  5. Nets. A net 'launcher' isn't that feasible, but luring the Dragon into chasing a group of hero's that snag the dragon in a net between two trees could be an individual 'heroic' effort to bring a dragon down.

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    $\begingroup$ The idea of the society teaching everyone and anyone to wield weapons is a great point that I didn't think of. As well as the crossbow's simplicity, while also have the punch-through power to pierce a dragon's (typically) resilient scales. +1 $\endgroup$ – Michael May 7 '15 at 20:52
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    $\begingroup$ The opposite of what Michael said. The medieval societies of the agricultural type are the complete anthisesis of an environment where a ruler would be even remotely willing to teach all the peasant masses to fire crossbows well. Whodayathink will get cross-bowed first, a dragon that eats 3 peasants out of 1000, or a baron who raped half the peasant daughters and wives and starved 1/3 of the peasants? $\endgroup$ – user4239 May 9 '15 at 1:20
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    $\begingroup$ @DVK - ha, that is quite the risk...though the same happened in England with the longbow and the rise of the Yeoman class there...King Henry had to be careful as he created a class of upperclass peasants that could unite, resist, and overthrow the crown. $\endgroup$ – Twelfth May 11 '15 at 22:33
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    $\begingroup$ @DVK As stated in the question: " a region of small city-states which each have their own rulers vying for power". This to me sounds less like a feudal set-up and more like the ancient greeks. What you're describing sounds a lot more like the feudal medieval ages with prima nocte, etc. I think we're just emphasizing different points of the question, where you're focusing more on the "very similar to Medieval kingdoms of past ages" bit. $\endgroup$ – Michael May 12 '15 at 20:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Michael Note that "primae noctis" in form popularly known is a myth - "There is no evidence of the right being exercised in medieval Europe" en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Droit_du_seigneur $\endgroup$ – Mateusz Konieczny Jan 17 '18 at 23:17
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The natural world has stuff that other species use to cope with the dragons

It occurs to me that you won't have only dragons. Predators and prey are closely matched and evolve through an arms race. The dragon would not evolve such power unless he needed it against his prey and other life forms. I think about the Larson cartoon the sheep that give us steel wool have no natural enemies. Maybe dragons evolved because wolves could not hunt them.

People might harvest fire-retardant grasses and pelts from their farming efforts. Other large animals may produce hard scoots that make excellent armor against that specific threat.

Dragons are tough why?

And as I alluded to earlier, the dragon will have its own predators. You would not want a worse one on hand, but there are small "predators" such as germs, parasites, scale mites, etc.

Please do feed the dragons

Finally, the farmers can efficiently feed the dragons too. The dragons will find that easier than fighting for each meal, and eventually will become dependent on the farmers, which they will then have incentive to protect. In short, domesticate the dragons. Shepherds did not kill all the wolves; their descendants now work as shepherds alongside the humans, or guard the flock against their wild cousins.

If dragons are territorial, the best defense is to have the land occupied by an allied dragon. Maybe they are social creatures and make good pets.

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  • $\begingroup$ (If other creatures are not wanted) you could say the predators are the dragons, and livestock are prey, humans could be what provides the "evolutionary arms race". Therefore, while dragons have gotten large, firebreathing, and powerful. Humans have developed "?" which is used to defend their livestock. $\endgroup$ – DoubleDouble May 8 '15 at 21:44
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    $\begingroup$ The timescales don't match. Dragons would take millions of years to evolve. You would see existing animals adapting to the new situation (e.g. cats, mice, roaches) but not new species with novel features or new genera or higher order categories. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz May 9 '15 at 16:07
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A more inventive answer would be to use airspace denial techniques; assuming you can build a big, fabric shell and a burner of some sort to fill it with hot air, and then attach a tough rope or cable to it, you can create a crude form of a mighty annoying device called a barrage balloon -- the lifted cable is very hard to spot while in flight, and a cable or rope can seriously damage even a dragon by injuring their wings.

Even if they dodge it, having to maneuver around a network of cables and even lifted nets can be used much like a land army deploying caltrops, bear and pit traps, snares, and other such means to deny the foe use of an area and/or funnel them into a "kill zone".

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  • $\begingroup$ Wow! That is inventive! +1 $\endgroup$ – Aarthew III Jun 16 '16 at 21:05
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If the dragons are malevolent and even moderately intelligent, defense over the long term is probably impossible, for a devastatingly simple reason:

Burninating the countryside, burninating the peasants.

The answers so far have mainly dealt with short-term tactical considerations, and have done so quite well. However, there's a strategic side to this question: medieval societies are fundamentally dependent on the harvest. Without reliable yields of grain, people will starve and disperse. No more towns, castles, etc. The land will be depopulated. ("Desolation of Smaug", indeed!)

So, how effectively could the fields, barns, hayricks, oxen, and so on be defended against even one fairly tough fire-breathing dragon?

None of the tactical answers discussed above seem up to the task. All of them seem to rely on concentration of distance attacks, with some good attention paid to driving the dragons into established kill zones. (+1 to @Shalvenay for that one.) However, none of these is a reliable means of defense of a broadly distributed agricultural base. You can't concentrate attacks on a dragon that can go wherever it wants to destroy the crops.

This is not unlike the problem of Viking raids in medieval seacoast Europe (mainly Britain and France) when the Vikings could show up when and where they wished, do their looting and killing, and be back out at sea before the local barons could arrive to give battle:

The Viking raiders depended on the superiority of their ships in order to make their raids a success. The shallow draft of Viking age ships meant that they could navigate shallow bays and rivers where other contemporary ships couldn't sail. The broad bottom of the Viking ships made it possible to land on any sandy beach, rather than requiring a harbor or pier or other prepared landing spot. These two factors made it possible for Vikings to land and raid in places that their victims thought it impossible to land, contributing to the surprise of the raids. Additionally, the efficiency of Viking ships under sail meant they could outrun contemporary ships under favorable conditions. And the combination of sail and oar meant that Viking ships could outrun contemporary ships under unfavorable conditions as well. These two factors made it possible for Viking raiders to depart from a raid with little danger from any defenders who might try to give chase.

Flying dragons would have a much stronger advantage in tactical mobility than that conferred by Viking longships; and the horrifying effectiveness of dragonfire against agricultural targets would be decisive.

As a result, your answer is going to be limited to two reasonable worldbuilding techniques:

  • Modify your dragons, either in behavior or in physical capability, to make them less likely to starve human opponents out.

  • Provide your medieval societies with some kind of enormously effective technique for killing dragons, or at least very effectively keeping them from destroying the food crops and the peasant base. This is a terribly difficult thing to do, since one loss means a starvation winter... it might need to involve magic; or it could involve the "make-allies-of-dragons" strategies described by @JDługosz; or appeasement as mentioned by @PipperChip.

It sounds, from the wording of the question, that your story purposes are best served by at least some prospect of meaningful combat. I hope you can pull it off; this sounds pretty cool.

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    $\begingroup$ Excellent analogy to Vikings. I suppose there are in essence two kinds of dragons: stupid ones are basically giant flying lions, and humans have always dealt with lions using the one thing we've got more of, that's our minds. Also pointed sticks. They learn eventually to stay away. Clever dragons are Vikings in helicopters. You're basically screwed if you don't live in a city, and you might be screwed even if you do. $\endgroup$ – Steve Jessop May 9 '15 at 14:17
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    $\begingroup$ Oh, and while the classic "Viking raids" of western European history were mostly on the Atlantic coast (including Iberia at times, and a couple of ill-fated expeditions into the Med), there were also Norsemen raiding and settling by land and river through Eastern Europe. They established a principality in Kiev in the 9th century and even besieged Constantinople. Basically they kicked ass all over Europe. $\endgroup$ – Steve Jessop May 9 '15 at 14:26
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    $\begingroup$ You know, as far as dragon behavioral modification goes you could have the dragons hibernate during the late spring, early fall and summer (It's too hot for the fire breathing lizards?). This would allow humans to farm unhindered. After all, the dragon is just trying to eat, not to exterminate humans. Instead of spending the winter resting humans spend it fighting. $\endgroup$ – Aarthew III Jun 16 '16 at 21:15
  • $\begingroup$ I stopped reading at the first link; that was all I needed. I didn't even have to click it - the song started playing in my head from memory just by reading the link text. Classic. +1 $\endgroup$ – Loduwijk Apr 13 '17 at 17:34
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    $\begingroup$ You are reminding me of an article in a russian scifi and fantasy magazine on how to properly use the dragons in warfare. It proposed to focus on surprise attacks of supply chains and downright strategical destruction of enemy's harvests. When half the Kingdom is starving war becomes more and more difficult. $\endgroup$ – Nick Dzink Dec 11 '17 at 0:04
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When I was a little kid, I had a collection of recordings on vinyl disks, some of which went with booklets to teach reading. One I remember seemed to be the audio (only) of a cartoon, perhaps a Disney short or segment but I don't know what the original presentation was (Google does. Love this 21st century!).

It concerned a duel between magicians, with the final rule, "no disappearing!". After various transformations where each could better fight the other's current form, one becomes a dragon and that appears to be so powerful as to be indefensible against. They he says "hey, no disappearing!" Or words to that effect as the sounds of the battle stop.

The opponent speaks: "oh, I'm still here, but I'm very very small. I am a germ. A rare, dragon, disease. And you have caught a bad case of me."

The morals are several: the very smallest can beat the very largest, completing the circle, and cleverness can beat overt force.

Especially for the best story, I'd follow those themes. The defense is not a bigger missile, but subtle and understated. sure, dragons are no problem since they are huge and blundering and have so many points of failure. It's mosquitoes that are the real hazard.

  • methane or other gas makes the dragon fire misfire and hurt itself.
  • fine dust dispersed into clouds are annoying in many ways, oh, make them flammable too.
  • tiny darts with poison and diseases
  • cultivate dragon pests like scale mites so the dragon won't want to come near these pests.

Of course, you can have your own trained domesticated dragons. They can easily win because they are trained fighters and have human direction in battle, and artificial enhancements like protection over vulnerable spots, or selective breeding to be badder fighters even at the expense of overall fitness in the wild.

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    $\begingroup$ I really like the idea of using a parasite to deter dragons, it has a certain "even if you win you'll suffer for it" aspect to it, that is helpful in negating overwhelming force as the question isn't "can I kill a bunch of puny humans?" but "is it worth it?" $\endgroup$ – Maxim May 8 '15 at 0:42
  • $\begingroup$ For your cultivation of scale mites I shall burn down all your crops! And then I shall do it again the next year, and then again until every one of your kin perishes! I don't care if I'll have to take brine baths for the next twenty years. $\endgroup$ – Nick Dzink Dec 11 '17 at 0:10
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Bolts, Lots of Bolts

Crossbow get a bad rap in fantasy sometimes, but the truth was that they were very powerful weapons which could pierce knights' armor. Even low-power crossbows can penetrate well. In fact, there are many nations with laws against crossbows still. If their scales are thick like plate armor, a crossbow bolt could go through. In fact, modern crossbows can still go through modern armor!

Obviously, bigger dragons would merit bigger crossbows... or a ballista! A little know fact is that cannons were uncommon in Middle Age Europe, but not entirely unavailable. If arrows and bolts don't make it through a dragon's skin, a cannonball might.

Fouling Up Flying

The other option is to have weapon which foul up the dragon's ability to fly. Many birds, for instance, cannot fly if a wing is damaged or "clipped." A dragon could be downed if a large enough nets, bolas, or grapeshot were used. Once downed, lances, halberds, crossbows, and perhaps other weapons may be able to deal with the dragon. At the very least, this tactic may be annoying enough to make a dragon not want to bother with people. After all, deterrence is a viable strategy.

What About Fire/Lightning/Etc.

Some simple countermeasures for each of these:

  • Fire: Use metal pavises, giving you cover. Brick and Mortar can only be set on fire with great difficulty.
  • Lighting: Get a lightning rod. Okay, lightning rods were not invented until later, but it's not inconceivable to get this development. Knights' Armor will cause electricity to flow around the knight into the ground if the knights are in contact with the ground, so they're actually well protected. Actually, a metal pavise would work like a lightning rod...
  • Acid: Wipe it off before it eats through. Carry lots of water or other basic substance to counter-act it. Once again, the pavise defense could work well here, if coated in a basic substance. Alternatively, it could be a one-time use defense.
  • "Cold" Breath: This one comes from RPGs. Shields or pavises would work really well, since most icy breaths appear to be shards of ice shooting at foes.

Appeasement

This is the most cowardly defense, hardly one at all, but keeping dragons at bay by giving them what they want. If they can be bribed, it may be worth it. It's practical to know when you're beat, and simply try to minimize losses.

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  • $\begingroup$ arc flash would still mess up knights in shining armor hit by lightning-bolts. $\endgroup$ – Shalvenay May 8 '15 at 3:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Shalvenay Less than if they were wearing nonmetal armor. The arc flash would certainly not occur in the joints, because metal is touching metal. As for the "lightning breath" in the air... nothing short of magic or pure re-direction will stop that from harming people. $\endgroup$ – PipperChip May 8 '15 at 14:08
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    $\begingroup$ Medieval cannons won't work on dragons actually, unless those are land-bound dragons. Most people misunderstood how medieval cannons work. Instead of making an arc like portrayed in movies, medieval cannons simply propel cannon balls so that they'd roll on the ground at high speed, making it deadly against anything land-bound (soldiers, other siege engines, walls). Compared to cannons, your idea of fouling up their flight capability is a lot more effective. After they're on the ground, then you can fire cannons at their faces. Or you can use crossbows too, on their faces. $\endgroup$ – Ifree Contractors Aug 3 '15 at 8:44
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    $\begingroup$ @IfreeContractors Necessity is the mother of invention. I don't think it would be too crazy to see a quicker evolution of the cannon into something more modern... $\endgroup$ – PipperChip Aug 3 '15 at 18:26
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    $\begingroup$ Modern armor can't even defend against knives... $\endgroup$ – Aarthew III Jun 16 '16 at 21:10
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Assuming no magic in this scenario, the best bet for survival on the human's end would likely be avoidance as stated in the comments. Moving underground or into caves narrows down the number of directions a dragon could approach and more or less mitigates the advantages they gain by flight. Barring that, however, ballista and other similar contraptions are feasible for the time frame and in fact did exist. Though perhaps not a guarantee for defense, it stands to reason that individuals would quickly hone the skills necessary to track and shoot down dragons with such weapons to survive.

With dragons becoming, presumably, one of the primary threats to these people it would also be reasonable to assume that they would focus research in improving these weapons as well as developing new ones, thus speeding up discoveries in ranged weaponry compared to historical progress.

As far as creative, low-tech solutions to dealing with flying threats: In the book series "The Black Company", there is a point in which, to counter broom-flying wizards/witches, the enemy who have no magicians to aid them send up large balloons with thick cables/tethers attached to them. The tethers are lined in spikes and other nasty things and put up in a pattern and volume that would foul up any sort of flying adversary. While certainly not fool-proof, it's a start and offers a similar protection as walls against ground-bound adversaries. Combined with ballistae and other such machines, it may be enough to deter or at least slow down dragons.

Edit In addition I find it likely that they would develop some sort of early warning system, and, if not having the entirety of their structures "dragon-proofed", at the very least they would have some sort of shelter created after the first few attacks. Like a system of towers using light to carry warning, or some other such set-up, to give warning of any dragon sightings. This would, hopefully, give time for the people to get into the dragon shelters, whether they be stone buildings, underground cellars or something else, so at the very least there's no loss of life to accompany property damage.

Edit 2 In response to your edit, if I recall correctly in the D&D universe there are a couple types of dragons (I want to say maybe Bronze or Brass) that are more focused on gather knowledge than laying waste to the country side. These, should they choose to communicate with humans, could certainly prove to be almost benevolent or at least neutral to humans so long as they comply in it's requests to garner knowledge. Though it could still be a hazard as it is still a dragon with all the might and fury that can bring when displeased. I think the example they gave was of the Brass (or bronze, or copper, whichever one of the metallic dragons it was) burying humans in the ground up to their neck so they could be questioned and not try to run away. Not exactly ideal, but presumably they're released when the dragon is done, better than being eaten or killed just because.

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  • $\begingroup$ Updated in response to edit. $\endgroup$ – Michael May 8 '15 at 5:29
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Poisons. Traps. Go for the eyes when the dragons sleeping. Kingdoms with large armies can get the job done by sheer numbers. Start some legends about dragons parts having magical uses. There won't be enough dragons to fulfill the demand.

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    $\begingroup$ That last part is a very smart one! $\endgroup$ – Burki May 13 '15 at 12:15
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Hit them back, until they are all dead

Defending against an adult, flying, fire breathing dragon its quite a difficult task. If the dragon lands in the middle of your army most probably you can kill him without too many loses; but the issue is that you cannot be your army in war footing at all times, and you cannot protect all the settlements and fields with it.

Fortunately, men are intelligent creatures$^1$, so the alternative is very clear, and has already been used in history against raiders, marauders, and pirates. You attack them back. And, since dragons are animals and cannot be someted by fear, you have to exterminate them.

Depending of your level of knowledge of dragons/science, you may try first with the easier methods. For example, if poppy seeds make the dragon feel bad, just wrap a few bags of seeds around and cow and let a dragon eat it. Then you follow it to see if it drops dead, or unconscious enough to be easy to kill. Rinse and repeat.

Another way would be sending scouts around to find if there is somewhere they want to hang around, or if there is a favorite river the like to drink from, whatever. You send your army there and deal with the dragons as they appear, instead of waiting for them to appear in your backyard.

If dragons collect food for winter, your army appears there at the end of the autumn and burn everything. If the place were the dragon nests are, each season you send your army and raze all the nests to the ground.

While this campaign is ongoing, your villagers would need to keep a "safe" lifestyle to avoid attracting dragons, examples would be:

  • Safe dwellings (in deep caves, or partially underground with tunnels for supply storage and emergency exit).
  • Keep lookouts for villages and/or fields.
  • Avoid open spaces... taking the cows to pasture in the woods may be more difficult that in the grass, but beats losing half the cows to a dragon.
  • Getting out when dragons are not around. If dragons are daytime creatures, try to get out only in the dark.

$^1$ I am assuming the dragons first ate all of the dumb people, which is a reasonable supposition.

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Defending against a dragon is going to depend greatly on what level of defense you are trying to employ and what kind of dragons you are trying to protect against. The primary issue with trying to apply actual medieval technology to the process of fighting dragons is that dragons were never real and there for people never had to develop things to fight them. The impact of an apex predator like a dragon would have on a developing society would have had long reaching impacts on the development of that society, assuming that the dragons didn't just show up one day out of no where. If dragons have just shown up unexpectedly, there is very little effective defense that medieval people could mount, lacking any sort of concept of how to kill or drive off such a thing. However, if dragons have existed as long as the humans have, they would have developed techniques for dealing with them long ago and refined them over time to be more effective. By the time that humans were able to make large city settlements, they would have first have had to resolve how to keep dragons from destroying smaller single family or tribal settlements to reach that point. Think about the way that humans had to first resolve how to prevent being killed by other predators before we could being making more permanent settlements. One of the earliest methods unfortunately doesn't really dissuade a dragon and in fact might even attract them, fire. The first challenge here is to develop some methods that humans could use to drive off dragons with very primitive tools and then extrapolate to larger and more modern devices.

Some suggestions ranging from direct and lethal to more indirect and denial:

  • Pikes(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pike_(weapon)): basically a long sharp pole. Very easy and simple to fashion and can be braced against the ground. A swooping dragon would be at a great risk of impaling themselves on these poles and by modern times, the pikes can be fashioned with steel supports and blades to increase the chances of critically wounding a dragon. The down side is that the user is putting themselves in direct line of contact with the dragon and failing to kill or stop the dragon most likely means they will be killed.

  • Atlatls(http://www.atlatl.com/): This one always gets looked over in favor of bows, but as far as early missile weapons go, it can't be beat. Early people could have developed these and made adjustments that allow them to take down or deter dragons by throwing sharp sticks, rocks, or various other payloads that could injure or drive off a dragon. Much like the pike, advances in technology leads to bows and crossbows, but could also lead to more advanced version of the primitive tool. Easy to use, even easier to make and can throw things other than arrows to deliver allergens, fuels, etc.

  • Fire resistant construction and prevention: People facing a fire breathing predator would have long ago found ways to deal with fire, perhaps using more clay, brick, and stone over wood and thatch. Using materials that are resistant or immune to fire is going to be critical to surviving against dragons, but also requires you to have reached that technological benchmark without being hunted to extinction first. People would also likely have developed fire resistant clothing using natural oils or extracts that keep things from burning.

  • Poisons: Assuming that dragons are not particularly smart, putting out a prey animal that has been fed or laced with a substance lethal to a dragon could be a great way to get rid of one. It shows up, eats the poisoned sheep, goes to its nest and dies.

Variations on the dragon concept could also make the task easier. Dragons are large apex predators and require a lot of food. Reducing their size and therefore food requirements could make it so that they are less likely to harass human populations, similar to how wolves avoid people because the risk out weighs the reward of eating human guarded herds. Dragons, being flying animals, may also not actually be as resilient as some settings describe. Birds are actually quite fragile, and dragons could be made to be similar, thin scales, hollow bones, unable to handle large weights. Reducing the amount of fire, how often they can use it, or removing that ability all together can make dealing with dragons much easier. If you can trick a dragon into using its fire breath on a resistant target, then that threat has been dealt with.

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Knowing the history of humanity, I expect they'd figure out a way to capture them. If nets don't work, use chains, if the chains break make them heavier. Many people would die trying, but eventually the technological advance would catch up with the dragons.

Then it's just a matter of doing it a few more times, breeding them, and raising the young amongst humans. Voila, instant military domination. Why, you could write some sort of gritty seven-book epic fantasy series about it.

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Many people have suggested taking massive, large-scale strategies that involve the entire population. Instead, create a dragon response team, something akin to elite minute men. Take your finest soldiers, and train them in effective ways of killing dragons (e.g. ballistae) as well as specialized methods such as 3-man chain teams to bind the legs, wings, or jaws, or weapons to peel off scales and stab through the hole. There would probably need to be a warning system of some kind, to (a) signal for the peasants to get to the dragon shelters or caves; and (b) signal the response team to gear up. Also, a ballista with a chain attached to the bolt (i.e. harpoon gun) would be useful in keeping the dragon on the ground for the strike team. Upon missing, the chain could be unattached and a new one loaded in, or possibly reel the bolt back in to be fired again.

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as in the witcher book series, there is a peasant that stuffed some sheeps with poison, the dragon attacked the herd, ate them and died

of course, he gained the ire of knights and other professional dragon slayers, who feared that other peasants will get similar ideas and then they would be out of work.

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Socio-political systems are technologies. They are developed and refined as people navigate their lives and experiences within the frameworks of their culture and environment. Much like dragons, the vikings (and other raiders) of real life presented a threat that small communities could not effectively deal with on their own. Feudal society is almost a direct outgrowth of these kinds of pressures upon agrarian city-states such as those described. Individual city-states do not have the economic power to fund the kind of on-demand skilled military force that is the necessary response to a dragon incursion. Through collaboration and subordination, valuable regions can be assured greater protection through the redistribution of material resources perhaps more plentiful elsewhere at minimal cost. The existence of a trained standing military force (knights) which, due to feudal arrangements, is distributed thoroughly throughout civilian populations is an effective and specialized response against spontaneous small raiding excursions of the sort that you seem to be imagining dragons making. In cases wherein dragon occupation is achieved-- a settlement or region being dominated and its local military proving insufficient-- the ultimate authority of a King allows for the potential to raise the necessary forces and to ensure those forces are sourced in a politically-sustainable manner. Regions that are occupied may be left occupied when the cost of liberating them is deemed to be prohibitive, but the cost will not be prohibitive in all cases.

In terms of the actual slaying, dragons of the kind you seem to be assuming are normal tend to lair in defensible underground locations-- high mountain caves and such. This use of terrain allows a Dragon put on the defensive to effectively negate any numerical advantage human attackers might have, within genre (outside of genre the humans might maintain a siege or send so many soldiers that the human dies of exhaustion, but both options wouldn't work with, for example, Beowulf's bane). Furthermore, the jets-of-flame manner of attacking is significantly more effective against lightly armored rank and file infantry than heavily armored elite troops. Thus individuals or small groups will be the desired norm for the Dragonslayer.

Dragons seem to generally be able to sneak from place to place fairly quickly and without much time to respond. Potential dragonslayers must be able to travel quickly in order to have any hope of chasing down and outmaneuvering a dragon, or they must successfully track a dragon down to its lair, which is not an easy task. Dragons, as the physical incarnation of greed, hoard treasure. Dragonslaying is thus extremely profitable, and-- as dragons are quite rare and take a long time to come to be (via reproduction or spontaneous generation or curses or however your dragons come to be)-- dragons will thus quickly become very rare and reportings of a dragon will be responded to quickly by a number of would-be slayers as the dragonslaying industry progresses over time. Thus in the beginning of successful anti-dragon warfare horses are very much desired, and as the industry progresses they become almost necessary. Horses are very expensive in medieval societies, so this greatly limits who can enter dragonslaying as a profession. The spoils of dragonslaying are, as previously mentioned, great, however, so successful dragonslayers will have no trouble maintaining their status barring political action.

Plate armor is probably the most effective form of armor against dragons. The full body covering with internal padding should render one practically invulnerable to its flame except for direct attacks through the visor. The issue then becomes dealing with the dragon's thick hide and multifarious sharp body parts, which is largely a contest of skill, strength, and weapon quality.

The social generation of knights in shining armor is thus a reasonable solution to dragonslaying, as well as a classic one.

Note that the above assumes the standard, flightless dragon, such as that found throughout Nordic myth, rather than the winged versions common in modern Tolkienian fantasy (or Tolkien's inspiration, Beowulf's bane). Flighted dragons nonetheless seem to dwell in the same sort of places, which obviously prevents flight while in its lair, so the method of dealing with them would rely exclusively on hunting down and killing them proactively as killing them 'in the field' would be technologically infeasible until ballista technology is recovered. As the Renaissance dawns you could make use of such equipment as the Polybolos, rendering wealthy settlements immune to the wrath of dragons.

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    $\begingroup$ "Individual city-states do not have the economic power to fund the kind of on-demand skilled military force that is the necessary response to a dragon incursion" -- Sparta and Venice disagree, although I'm sure you're right in the main ;-) $\endgroup$ – Steve Jessop May 9 '15 at 14:33
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An easy guess is to assume they know what the dragon is allergic to, lets say the dragon is allergic to a type of flower, you can expect people cultivating this flower and using its properties against the dragon in some way . Another proven method is poisoning the dragon's food assuming that people know what he eats and that they leave dinner for the dragon somewhere, I see this method as more effective. Poisoned arrow or poisoned food.

The use of chemical reactions seems more effective towards a dragon because using force vs force is riskier assuming that the dragon can fly and spit fire.

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ballista and cannons chain shot and buck & ball will work well

mortar traps would work well assuming low intelligence, or mortal defense to create safe areas for high intelligence.

really you need to define how intelligent they are because that going to have a huge effect on what will work.

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Starvation

A dragon's greatest weakness? The sheer amount of energy he needs! He's huge, he can fly, and he can breathe fire. All that energy has to come from somewhere, which means he needs to be constantly eating, and eating well.

He won't last long if you find a way of cutting off his food supply. Your fields with cows and horses will have giant spikes in the ground so he can't just dive in and take them. Your hunters will hunt the large animals in the wilderness to near extinction. The people will hide in networks of underground tunnels whenever he approaches, defended by tough, lean warriors outside covered in spiky armour that he can't just swallow whole without damaging his mouth and throat somewhat.

Each meal must cost him more in calories than what he gains from that meal.

Or better, if you find the cave he lives in, block it up while he's asleep in there.

Hopefully he doesn't eat trees...

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Steal the eggs

Easier said than done, but if you manage to steal an egg, you could raise it and have your own domestic dragon. You may have to lure the dragon out of its nest, but unless the dragons take turns and never leave the eggs alone, it shouldn't be necessary. And you only need stone age technology to do that.

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Have the people live underground or deep in cave systems that the dragon cant get into. No dragons inside Moria (LOTR).

The people can dig these themselves. It would be a massive project but it can be done with enough people working together. With torches and properly dug shafts you could still get light in there, and air. Water is not a problem as a stream could be diverted to cut through. If the cavern is big enough you might even be able to bring livestock in too.

The only danger will be when people absolutely have to go outside, say for trading, farming, hunting or whatever.

Something to consider about dragons is that they're so big, and are so predatory, that their only true competition is another dragon. To that end they probably avoid one another and stake out a territory for themselves to hunt it. So unless they're mating I would imagine that a given territory only has the one dragon in it. Still dangerous, but not as bad as a swarm of them.

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protected by ArtOfCode Jun 19 '15 at 17:07

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