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So, one part that stayed consistent with my story drafts regarding one of my dragon characters is the pre-emptive strike.

You see, the dragon, Gyvaris, is supposed to have a bad attitude. He can chase thieves across half the continent and often threatens to use violence if they don't give his stuff back. He's similar to the dragon from Beowulf in that regard, though his rampage is significantly more directed and comes as a last resort after "negotiation" and "confiscation" fail.

He also gives chase to hunters if they break one of his rules (he limits how much of a particular animal can be hunted and how much of the meat he'll take as " hunting tax"). Gyv considers humans to be inferior to dragons and while he gives them a second and a third and a fourth chance, anyone who attempts to take his life (with proper equipment), or breaks the rules many, many times, will be burned and eaten by him.


So, the pre-emptive strike's rationale is that one day, Gyvaris will cause the death of many humans (i.e: torch a village) and when that happens, there will be no stopping him from doing it to other settlements, so it's best to take his life when he's the weakiest, in a place where he feels the safeiest and sleepiest.

Footnote: I'll never allow Bob Crosby to ghostwrite my questions again.

  • Dragons are renowned for their incredibly strong scales that can deflect a sword-strike easily and requires either a scorpion (from Mortal Kombat or GoT) or a charging horse and a lance to penetrate.
  • However, dragons can also fly, even if it's gliding (ratio: 15:1) 95% of the time with 90-second flapping bursts here and there.
  • Dragons have acute senses (can spot hares from 5 kilometers and hear pretty well despite the HOWL OF THE F-KING HEADWIND!)
  • They also have a formidable breath weapon, which might appear to be fire, but is actually "hellfire", a form of grey goo that consumes its target, causing an intense burning sensation as the nanites gnaw away the nerve endings.
    • Hellfire uses gravity to reach its target, but can also move on its own power, and can survive for around two minutes. It has also been shown to be effective against many different targets, even M1 Abrams tanks( They don't exist in the setting, I just wanted a simple way to demonstrate the flames' power), though they only managed to destroy the electronics and neutralize the shells' propellants.
    • Anyways, they can only use their hellfire two-three times a day, as its a rather taxing thing to do. The hellfire is "exhaled" in a 9-meter cone (as per D&D rules), dragons usually compound it with various toxins to euthanize the target(s) before the hellfire begins to disintegrate them, sparing them from a long and painful death.

So yeah, fighting a dragon is basically a death sentence. However, killing the dragon will get you very rare and very special potion ingredients, a hide that can be made into a ridiculously light and strong armor and the Dragon's Heart, a special-grade artifact that can turn a small nation into a superpower under a week when used cleverly.

So, there is an incentive, but I still think it's a bad idea to risk fighting a creature that can quickly relocate and possesses a weapon that can still kill, even if it only grazed the target.

So, what advantage (logistical or strategical) would allow a human army to have a shot at pre-emptively slaying this dragon?

The dragon will hunt down whoever goes after him, keep that in mind. Also, settlements that house dragon hunters will become targets of the dragon as well.

Tech level and society is towards the end of the high medieval period. Magic is limited to the dragons' hellfire and humans don't have access to it, humans don't have access to other dragons either.

They might try to set traps but the chances of the dragon falling or them are low, thanks to heightened senses and intelligence.

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    $\begingroup$ It sounds like you are asking us to write the plot that goes from A to B. This is not worldbuilding, $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica May 12 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch-ReinstateMonica Uhmm, not how it'd play out, but what can result in the plot happening, which is more worldbuild-y $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles May 12 at 19:33
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch-ReinstateMonica Oh, sorry, I see now. I usually write down the title then start writing the question. Sometimes, I change the subject of the question and kinda forget to edit the title. My sin, my sin. $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles May 12 at 19:37
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    $\begingroup$ This is character-driven plot. The arguments for and against a course of action will be made by the characters involved in the decision. Defining those arguments would require the community to create your characters for you. Providing the arguments themselves would be a writing task, which is also not worldbuilding. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre May 12 at 20:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre "(assuming no prior history of mental illness, average competence, and no emotional factor)" It's a numbers' game. $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles May 12 at 20:47
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Humans by nature are persistence hunters. Repeatedly attack the dragon every thirty minutes or so with a small number of hunters so that it never gets any rest. Simply swap out injured or tired hunters and eventually the dragon will have to A. retreat away from its den to rest or B. die trying to protect its hoard.

Dragons are proud creature if you force on to retreat it will be back. Simply set up traps in its very lair to ensnare and prevent its movement and then you can freely set up to penetrate its hide.

If it defends its lair it loses via exhaustion. If it flees it sets up a chance to finish it with traps and cunning. If it fights it chases a few humans in all directions and generally wastes its time and energy. Lose-Lose scenario.

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Where there is a will there is a way

Humans have been quite smart and actually have always faced insurmountable odds to slay large creatures (such as mammoths) and do dangerous tasks (such as voyages into the unknown over the Atlantic).

In particular this is possible when motivation is strong, and dare I say, self-motivation such as the following:

  • Profit - If there is money in it, people would band together and find ways to accomplish it, out of self-interest.
  • Power - If there is a political advantage, it is easy to send humans to their deaths demanding their loyalty, especially if you get the reward.
  • Need - This is the least likely motivation, as self-interest trumps need. However, if your back is against the wall...

The main advantage your army has is human ingenuity coupled with strong motivation. They then will find a way. So let's look specifically:

  • Numbers. The dragon is one, your army is many. Surround it and flank it. Engage it on all sides.
  • Study. Your humans are small. They should study the dragon, find out its weakness, poison it, trap it, trick it.
  • Expendable. Your humans are many. Try once, if fail, try something else until you succeed.

Your dragon has no chance.

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Physical attack would be dumb. Poisoning the dragon would seem to be the simplest solution. It would also have the advantage of not being traceable to a particular person or faction.

Alternatively, a trap of some sort (even if only a camouflaged sharpened stake) might well do the job. Especially if poisoned.

The other approach would be to recruit a bigger/more dangerous monster to kill it.

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So, what advantage (logistical or strategical) would allow a human army to have a shot at pre-emptively slaying this dragon?

1) You have set out some predictable behaviors, ie chasing thieves, not engaged in combat unless needed. This can be exploited

2) Infinite planning, preparation, organizational, training rehearsal time.

3) Known weaknesses, heavy siege weapons, which can be built for purpose, for ranges beyond fire attack.

4) Willing to take casualties for mission success. (well I am anyway)

That can quickly relocate - Degrade mobility with traps, target wings, select terrain (caves not open plains)

possesses a weapon that can still kill, - A single lethal weapon, with limited 'shots' and dependent on mobility.

They might try to set traps but the chances of the dragon falling or them are low, thanks to heightened senses and intelligence. - Traps to be enhanced by ruses, or misinformation, or limited time to think to degrade the dragons ability to detect them.

My solution

1) Use thieves to steal some item from the dragon, hide in favorable location like a caves. Lure the Dragon to this location.

2) Prepare terrain prior-

a) limiting exists, narrowing/ winding passages

b) pre-siting scorpions, spaced some distance apart that require the dragon to reposition.

c) lay out "obvious traps" that the dragon must avoid so they have limited avenues of approach. Use "obvious traps" to protect troop positions and withdrawals.

3) Initiate the attack with mass of fire power. a) Use a net or ropes to inhibit use of the wings.

4) Present several "bait target" including some of your own troops to make it look real, they will take the initial dragon counter attack. Exhaust the primary weapons (fire breath).

5) Present a clear exists, with a hidden traps. Hopefully the other 'obvious' traps lower assessment of human concealment; and dragon panic degrade the ability to detected these real traps.

If the Dragon breaks out -

6) Employ a mobile reserve to pursue a fleeing, damaged, (out of fire breathed) dragon. (Mounted troops with mobile scorpion). (Will need scouts in position already to report new location).

7) Identify (or create) a good hide(s) for the dragon post battle. It will want to recover. Ambush set up at these location(s).

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If you have an army, and a scorpion bolt can penetrate its skin, then this is what I would suggest.

Prepare a hoard of decent size, something to make the Dragon drooling when they see it.

Near the hoard prepare a large amount of scorpions and ballistae, manned with enough men to reload quickly and such. Hide them as best as you can, their scent and noise as well.

Then send a trusted hunter to the dragon, to talk about this great hoard he has seen. Make him "trade" with the dragon to reveal this location. (eg better hunting tax or lease or something.)

Dragon will see big golden, shiny hoard from 5km away, plenty of time to think about all the sleeping and rolling it will do on top of it. If it is dumb/ ensnared enough by the wealth, it will hopefully not see your army waiting. When it lands on the hoard, fire away. If you have a hundred bolts that can pierce its skin some of them will hit. Then it will be angry, roar and try to lift off. Maybe you can get in a second volley, which will ground it again. And then you just keep firing at it and hope the materials are not too damaged.

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