Fortunately for D&D players around the world, there are deliciously few top-drawer enemies lurking about for them to encounter and invariably be steamrolled over by. Critters like liches, dragons, anything from the outer planes, and other such diabolical horrors need to be approached carefully, almost reverently. Leaping in swinging swords and fervently hoping for the best rarely works out to the player’s advantage and while it is hilarious from the point of view of the game master it is unlikely to leave anybody else feeling good. Know your enemy, respect their strength, and if they don’t have any discernible weaknesses then you better do some serious planning.
Let’s take a look at a hypothetical upper tier enemy; dragons. These flying lizards of mayhem and destruction have precious few flaws to exploit and more than a handful of offensive powers that make them almost ridiculously tough to best in combat. In addition to their sheer size which makes mere handheld weaponry feel like toothpicks in a raging boar, they have scales that are tougher than steel. All of these horrid things have breath weapons designed to do the most cruel amounts of damage possible in the game, and can be used with disturbing frequency. And if all of that wasn’t bad enough they are more than big enough to devour an adventurer in one bite making healing, resurrection, or even recovery of remains impossible. Sure a dragon is worth a metric buttload of experience and will have a massive cache of loot but getting to that point is purposely painful and problematic.
But there are some basic things to keep in mind when confronting these beasts. First, avoid bunching together. This might be how you fend off some monsters effectively, but any tactic that places the entire group smack in the middle of a breath weapon strike zone is a game ender. Dragons cannot be snuck up upon, either. Most of them can see invisible creatures just fine, and even if they can’t see you, they can thrash about and obliterate anyone fool enough to try and dodge a hundred foot tail that at it’s smallest point is as wide as a pine tree. A severely wounded dragon can be prevented from taking flight, but having such an angry, savage creature stuck on the ground with you is a recipe for disaster. Dragons employ random magic to devastating effect, and more powerful dragons will have henchmen of their own to distract and take down anyone seeking to topple the dragon from it’s position in the food chain. And if all of that isn’t bad enough, the damned thing may very well decide not to play at all, and instead show up at another time and beat the snot out of the players when they least expect it.
These remarkable beasts are the bread and butter of tough monsters. Battles with them are rarely easy, but frequently short. Be prepared. Plan as much as you can. And if you have a magic spear or shield that can be used to defeat the damnable thing, it is advised you use it and not trade them for groceries. Not looking at anyone in particular but there is a chagrined ranger out there someplace wishing that I would stop laughing at this.