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So, I was just writing up the introduction for my races:

"Even with their innate fragility, bird people sport impressive talons and wings that allow them to scale almost any obstacle. Thanks to their eyesight, they will make excellent spotters and snipers.

"Minotaurs are all about offense. Their raw strength will let them handle even the heaviest weapons with ease and dominate in CQC.

"Lizardfolk are solid all-arounders as always, equally adept at climbing and swimming. While smaller and more agile than minotaurs, their hardened scales still give them an edge.

"Centaurs can carry more equipment than any human, and their quadrupedal stance allows them to better handle the recoil of LMGs.

"And then there will be dragons. Who would have thought that something so small and frail, would have such a terrifying breath attack?"

Yes, I've run out of ideas for the colossal titan, but you get the point.

There are two parts to a dragon's breath that was supposed to make it all the more terrifying:

  1. Homing: Dragon breath is capable of identifying targets, obstacles, and friends; and navigate around or into them.
  2. Extreme damage: A dragon's breath weapon is supposed to be able to be able to mission kill MBTs (main battle tanks) like an M1A1 Abrams, and simply kill regular infantry.

Now, I'm sure we'd need a swarm of microbots. That's likely doable, but I'm still unsure about the details and mechanism. I suppose that the breath weapon's default range is 40 meters. I.e: that's the distance it can travel on its own power.

So, how would my dragon's breath weapon be able to indentify objects (you can try to cheese that aspect), travel relatvely long distances and mission-kill main battle tanks, assuming it gets to them?

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  • $\begingroup$ Right, I've got the patent office on quick-dial, just waiting for a good answer. Can we assume that the dragon might have a decent sense of smell, eyesight and hearing? Can they see infrared or ultraviolet? That might seriously help. Also, do they need to kill the tanks fast or would twenty minutes work? Can they just be incapacitated, then everyone dies inside. Specific criteria could help narrow it down. $\endgroup$ – A Rogue Ant. Jan 29 at 0:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Tantalus'touch. Mission kill means that the tank becomes useless as a tank. So, if it can't move, shoot or see, that's probably enough. And yes, you can assume the dragons have heightened senses. $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Jan 29 at 0:41
  • $\begingroup$ That's cool, helps quite a bit. It means that no one needs to fiddle about with direct-brain interfaces hopefully. $\endgroup$ – A Rogue Ant. Jan 29 at 0:43
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    $\begingroup$ Aside from the small and frail requirement it strikes me that what you’re looking for already exists. It’s called an A10 Warthog. $\endgroup$ – candied_orange Jan 29 at 3:14
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    $\begingroup$ Think more of a Starcraft Protoss carrier. It launches tiny self-propelled drones with their own weapons and AI, which swarm a designated target. Now, unless your dragons are technological savants, or happen to have swallowed a 3D printer when nobody was looking, I really can't see these evolving naturally. OTOH, it does explain their demand for precious metals and stones; not to sleep on, but as raw material for their experiments $\endgroup$ – nzaman Jan 29 at 6:16
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The dragon's breath is not smart, the dragon is.

Now that this is clarified, let's talk about how the dragon breath would stop tanks and follow enemies around.

Since there's almost nothing about your dragons on your question I'm going to assume that they exist for a long time even before other races, therefore, they have been around time enough to know how to aim properly their breaths.

But how they have become so precise with their breaths?

When a new dragon is born, it can't fire HUGE fireballs or breathe fire for a long time, but, they start throwing little sparks of fire, aiming for little animals, bugs or even bushes, trees or forests. I imagine dragons would love to put things on fire since childhood. So, they start practicing their aim on those first, and then, they learn how to focus their breath on a single point, projecting fireballs that fly really fast towards their aiming point. Then they get bigger and start learning how to control their breath to actually prolong their fire for seconds, even minutes, throwing fire at a cone in front of them, losing some precision but gaining more area of effect.

But how can they actually disable tanks??

When they become an Elder dragon, they become so proficient with their hability to control the fire that they can throw GIANT fireballs towards virtually anything they want, if they want to take down some mosquitoes they could do that in an instant.

How does this relate to tanks? Well, it's pretty simple, they can just aim towards the cannon hole and blow fireballs inside of it and if that's not enough they could also probably just melt the cannon or the tank wheels by breathing fire non-stop while flying around it which probably would prevent them from being hit by cannon projectiles.

It all comes up to training

If even we, humans, can train our entire life to be, lets say, a professional dart thrower, we will reach some point of expertise that we don't even need to try anymore, we simply hit our targets everytime, why won't a dragon be able to train their dragon breath enought to be able to take down tanks or other creatures?

Unless ...

Your dragons are pretty small and weak or are being hunted by other creatures, which in this case would prevent them from being able to train their offensive skills and focus more on defensive skills, even then, I think they would be able to escape any lesser creature and probably kill anything alive with their fire breath.

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If you're not willing to say "a wizard did it", then your best bet is probably a symbiotic swarm of bugs with a highly corrosive spit that can eat through metal.

It's physically possible to have a fire breathing dragon, but I can't think of a way for a dragon with homing fire breath.

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  • $\begingroup$ I never said my dragons breathed fire. $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Jan 29 at 20:20
  • $\begingroup$ Apologies. I should not have assumed as much. $\endgroup$ – Globin347 Jan 29 at 20:26
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Why use microbots in a fantasy setting?

Make the dragon's breath symbiotic microorganisms. The organisms live in the dragon's "flame sacs" and are released when the dragon uses its breath attack. In exchange for being provided warmth and food by the dragon's body, the organisms attack to defend it as part of the dragon's breath attack.

This has the added advantage that the dragon can "retrieve" its breath attack, allowing for a "boomerang" style attack in which the organisms attack from the front, curve around, and attack from behind on the way back to the dragon.

As far as targeting goes, perhaps the organisms could receive queues on the intended victim from the dragon's nervous system, or perhaps the dragon "spits" a chemical on its victim that the organisms are attracted to. This could lead to an interesting idiom in your world: "Marked by a dragon" which would have the same meaning as "marked for death" in our world, but with more certainty.

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  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking about something like that, but I'm still struggling with the exact damage mechanism. Infantry is easy, but what could a bug do to ruin a tank? $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Jan 29 at 20:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Mephistopheles That depends. You have a fantasy world, so there should be some kind of magic, right? The other possibility could be that the organisms are capable of metabolizing metal so they literally eat the tank and "grow." Say their growth is exponential, and they eat the tank to make more of themselves. $\endgroup$ – stix Jan 29 at 20:35
  • $\begingroup$ I don't use magic. More precisely, magic is supposed to be forgotten nanotechnology. $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Jan 29 at 20:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Mephistopheles That sounds like how magic works in "Didn't I say to make my abilities in the next life average?" Essentially in that story, magic is nanomachines that respond to the user's thoughts. The understanding that they are nanomachines or of real science principles actually gives you an advantage because it allows you to make your intentions to the nanomachines more clear, so your magic is stronger. If you're using that approach, you could say that dragons are strong because they have a better connection with the nanomachines, and that they're willing to live inside the dragon. $\endgroup$ – stix Jan 29 at 21:08
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe not metal, but there sould be easy-to-break bonds somewhere. $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Jan 29 at 22:39
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The dragon's breath is not truly fire. It is a particle, much like a W boson, that has a limited lifetime before it decays. The neutralization of a presently unknown particle by that decay briefly reduces the energy level of the false vacuum, causing nearby particles to become more energetic. Emitted in very small amounts, this particle causes all nearby objects to radiate in terahertz frequencies, which the dragon can see, and with this multi spectral imaging it can recognize a great number of things that would seem hard to detect. The dragon then directs its particles in larger numbers, beginning with a small pilot beam and increasing the power as it finds its target, giving the appearance of a thin, weak burst of flame that envelops and destroys the target object.

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