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So, the thing is that this world (let's call it World A) is shared between several sapient races, some smaller (kobolds), some bigger (dragons, gryphons, minotaurs, centaurs) than humans. Storywise, humans are dominant because numbers, but other races are also capable of combat and are used in warfare, usually along with humans. Their roles vary. For dragons and gryphons, it's usually the same as for SEALs and marines, though they're also often put on guard duty at outposts.

The size range isn't that terrible; dragons are roughly the size of large draft horses, gryphons are closer to various sub-species of brown bears, while kobolds are about a meter tall. Still, it's going to affect combat. Dragons and gryphons are agile, flexible, have keen senses, and should be able to carry bigger guns (such as an Mk 19 grenade launcher) or help their human squads move on difficult terrain.

Still, creatures that move on four legs when on the ground, like dragons and gryphons, are going to have an extra-difficult time with not being sniper magnets, due to their sizable hitbox.

There is only so much shielding technology can do. Even though dragons have protective osteoderms around their vital organs that are strong enough to offer level 4 protection, there will always be guns that can seriously injure them with one hit, even if they're wearing armor on top of their osteoderms.

Also, asymmetrical warfare is present, but only weakly, nowhere near like with ISIS vs Russia/America.

How could dragons, gryphons and their like combat their (compared to humans) increased visibility and size on the ground?

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  • $\begingroup$ generally you have two options speed or armor, they should move a lot faster than a human or alternatively use greater strength to wear lots of armor. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Sep 1 '20 at 23:39
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(Re)thinking outside the hit box:

I think you need to reimagine how a hit box should work for your dragons. There is nothing that will make a dragon SMALL, but there are plenty of things that make a dragon a poor target.

First, we need to think about your dragons as armored vehicles. Low profile armored vehicles are highly survivable, not because they aren't big, but because they expose as little of themselves as possible to enemy fire. A dragon with wings folded and body low to the ground is often portrayed as having legs extending out from the sides of the body, like early Synapsids. This is not an optimal configuration for running, but it does allow a large animal to hold it's body close to the ground instead of upright like a big target. Anyone who's seen a lizard scuttle knows this configuration can be fast in a pinch. Early tanks like the M4 were often upright to maximize their firing range, but were easier targets.

Many dragons are further shown as being thin, with their body very spread out, but never very substantial in any direction. The wings often make up the biggest part of the profile. So if a dragon has folded wings, it makes a rather small target. A neck and tail lay down close to the ground unless popping up for a quick view. Even airborne, if a dragon knows where their enemy is, they can present a very narrow profile by positioning their wings, as dragon wings are much thinner than airplane wings. An attacking dragon swooping down on someone might even be hard to spot.

Further, many historical dragons had no wings at all. They flew with magic or simply didn't. They were often more functionally like giant lizards or even snakes. A snake can be quite large, yet still present a tiny profile, or even slip inside a building meant for much smaller species.

Further, you could reimagine the role of wings in dragons that didn't use them for flying. Imagine a dragon who's wings are more like armored plates, and instead of being a vulnerability, they become a rapidly deployable defense. Even more radical, you could have a dragon's wings be like big hands, with little membrane, so they can hoist a large weapon up in the air while keeping their body down below cover. I envision a dragon behind a car, holding up a minigun by wing-arms, with a built-on camera for targeting so the dragon need not expose its head. Some dragons were portrayed with multiple heads, or heads at both ends, and this would reduce the vulnerability of a dragon to critical hits while allowing the dragon to accurately target weapons held above or to the side, and not just in front.

Not all of this applies equally to gryphons, but many of the principles can.

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