The Dungeons and the Dragons of Dungeons & Dragons: White Dragon Lairs

Now that we’ve seen the insidious and torturous nature of the black dragon and the windy torrent of the wind dragon and their D&D dragon lairs, I think we need to cool off. Let’s take this party to the frozen tundra of the north where, shockingly enough, I have no shirtless savages. Instead, there be dragons. Well, just the one really. Let’s talk about introducing a dragon with the vicious, cold, and animalistic white dragon. What do these frost wyrms have to offer, what do white dragon lairs look like, and what servants, if at all do they have? We’re going to jump into my take on this lesser used dragon and try to make a unique adventure.

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A white dragon as seen in the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual. [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]

White dragon lairs — chilled caverns

Nestled high atop a snowy mountain peak is a yawning cave mouth. The climb to the top is cold and treacherous. The characters must fight the blistering cold and sheer edges of the travel, having to make Athletics checks to climb efficiently and take damage from the terrible chill if they’re too slow, all while risking dangerous falls and injury. As they struggle to the top, they are engaged by a yeti in a fight on the edge of a slope. Once they triumphant over this beast, they will have to finish the climb and make it to the foggy top.

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A yeti as seen in the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual. [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]
Upon reaching the peak, they will be met with the massive cave opening, a cold draft sliding out from the inside like a open freezer door. A haze hangs on the cavern floor, a fog cloud obscuring the frozen stalactites above. In the wide, dark and obscured chamber on the opposite side stands a tall ledge. The echoing, slow steps across the cave are interrupted by the sound of liquid slapping onto the hard ground.

Their attention drawn, they see fluid shapes that emit a cloud of frost as glacial ooze comes in droves to consume the new arrivals. Fighting off these freezing foes is dangerous and takes effort, but the party should be triumphant if someone isn’t drained of all moisture first. After dispatching the foes, they find away to magic or climb onto the higher ledge, entering into the next cavern. In here they are met with a similar sight, but this time a massive ice wall blocks the path forward, expect for a gap left near the ceiling of the cavern like a makeshift tunnel.

More glacial ooze comes to feed and one of them is larger and more dangerous, but during this similar fight there is an interruption. A vibration moves through the ice and the ooze slips away into the haze, slinking back towards whatever pockets they drug themselves out of. If the party takes the cue to hide, they will be witness to the massive form of a white dragon, its scales and form almost invisible against the backdrop of the cavern.

If they stay quiet, the dragon will quietly leap to the ceiling and slip through into the next cavern. After seeing this frightening and powerful foe, they must make the decision to pursue or to flee while they can — the crux of introducing a dragon.

The lone hunter

The white dragon is an interesting dragon. Described as more instinctual and paying little mind to other creatures around it, I really wanted my white dragon to be different then the other dragons I’ve created. The beast has little time for allies or even subordinates, choosing to instead consider any bartering being as a quick snack. It knows its strength.

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The glacial ooze appears in Fifth Edition Foes from Frog God Games. Click the image to check out the Frog God Games store, and use Nerdarchy’s exclusive coupon code STAY-NERDY-30 for a 30 percent discount on anything in the store, usable twice per user.

The dragon has no time for weaker beings and will not tolerate something that could be stronger than it to thrive. It is a lone hunter in its mountain keep and has no intention of changing this. This difference poses a problem because without minions it doesn’t make for very interesting D&D dragon lairs, nor does it have much of a need for an expansive dungeon layout.

This is where the climb comes in. The adventure to get to the top is meant to be tough and drain resources of the party, imparting the feeling this being is so powerful that it calls such a terrible place to live its home. Throwing a yeti in halfway up is fun, because everyone loves yetis on mountains. Once they reach the cavern, while there isn’t a focused force within, there would be some scavengers that have learned to stay clear of the dragon and feed on the scraps. The dragon likely knows about these pests, but they keep the area clean of more annoying vermin, so it tolerates them as long as they stay mostly hidden. This creates a motif similar to a hermit on a lonely mountain. Albeit, a gigantic murdering lizard-hermit, but you know…hermit.

Whether the party engages the white dragon immediately or lets the hiding scene play out, the battle isn’t changed much. The white dragon, more so than any other dragon, is brutal and savage. The party will likely be triumphant but this dragon will dive into savagely a single target until that character is dead. The white dragon will freeze everyone it can, dive down to grab someone, and fly into the haze of the ceiling to destroy and consume the person. Only after killing them moving onto another character. Like the others, this dragon will use the lair to its advantage, not just with powerful lair actions but combining their ability to obscure sight and hide within the mist around the cavern. The party should never feel like they have the upper hand. They are always being hunted by a blinding fast and brutal hunter. Once they are triumphant, that’s when the can breathe again.

What do you think? Have you ever used white dragon lairs at the table? Ever faced off against one? What would you do or did you do running a white dragon or introducing a dragon in your games? Let me know in the comments below. As always, stay nerdy!

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Follow Jacob Kosman:
Child of the Midwest, spending his adolescence dreaming of creating joy for gaming between sessions of cattle tending. He holds a fondness for the macabre, humorous and even a dash of grim dark. Aspiring designer spending most of his time writing and speculating on this beautiful hobby when he isn't separating planes.

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