Minecraft Series, 1: The Ender Dragon

I thought I'd write a series about converting different Minecraft encounters and monsters to tabletop, because there are some interesting things to learn as far as monster behavior and environmental interactions. Stats given are loosely for OD&D, but are broadly applicable. I mean, this one is just a dragon. The actually important part is structuring the encounter and its 'stage' using interesting patterns of behavior and restrictions of movement.

The Ender Dragon

HD 10, AC as plate, Mv. 240’ flying

The Ender Dragon is a black and purple dragon that lives on an island in the sky (or in another dimension, of sky islands). As usual for dragons, the Ender Dragon has an age value from 1 to 6 (representing age levels from infant to elderly). Instead of rolling for HP, you multiply its total HD by its age level. Thus an Ender Dragon of age level 3 has 30 HP.

All physical attacks against her deal half damage except on a to-hit roll of 20, representing a blow against her head by missile.

There are 6 crystals strewn about her lair. Each crystal is on top of an obsidian pillar 120’ tall, 10’ in diameter, and arranged in a circle with 120’ between adjacent pillars. The Ender Dragon encircles the perimeter. If there is an adventurer within 60’ of her path onto the next pillar, she will spend half her move (120’) to dive towards them and attempt to hit for 2d6 damage. If the closest target is 120’ away, she will cast fire ball upon them for d6 damage on a failed save, and she will complete her full move (240’). Finally, if there are no targets in range, she will simply take her full move (240’). To be clear, a half move results in the Dragon moving one pillar over, and a full move results in her moving two pillars.

When flying past a crystal, the Dragon will restore HP equal to her age level. Crystals can be destroyed (treat AC as chain), causing an explosion hurting anyone within 30’ for d6 damage (save vs spell). The explosion will also automatically harm the Dragon if she is currently near that pillar, and she will no longer restore HP while passing that pillar.

After finishing one lap around the perimeter, for n crystals destroyed, there is a n-in-6 chance that the Dragon will fly towards the middle of the pillars and perch on her shrine there for one combat turn. During this time, she is immune to all missiles; however, her head may be directly targeted by up to three attackers (requiring only a successful melee hit, rather than a roll of 20).

If any adventurers are within 60’ of the shrine at the middle of the pillars while the Dragon is not perching, she will fly across the perimeter and cast her breath attack (dealing damage equal to her total HP; save vs dragon breath). All adventurers within 30’ of her path are at risk of being hurt. She will then end her turn at the pillar opposite the one whence she flew.

On the shrine, there is a valuable dragon egg and (if you wish) a portal which will return the adventurers to the Overworld.

The End Island

Roll 3d6 for how many tens of yards each pillar is from the end of the sky island. The entry portal is located at the farthest edge of the island. The dragon can begin its course on the pillar farthest from the entry portal, or on a random pillar (roll d6 for one of the six possible pillars).

You could populate the island with Endermen; however, with how many there might be, it could be a hassle of keeping track of all of them. You might instead treat them as a sort of random encounter, as adventurers run between different sections of the island (from edge to pillar, pillar to pillar, pillar to shrine, etc.). For each turn spent moving, players could roll for a 5-in-6 chance to avoid the gaze of an Enderman; for someone with a speed of 60’, such that it takes two turns to move from pillar to pillar (120’ apart), they must roll one such die per turn of movement, i.e. two dice for the total stretch. Since Endermen teleport, they can be treated as an accumulating omnipresent enemy; perhaps each of HD 1, and each trying to hit once per turn until defeated. Their gaze could be avoided by moving carefully, at half speed.

Abstracted Location

The stage of the encounter can be treated as a sort of “pointcrawl” rather than as a whole plane in all directions. This means that players and the referee can describe their characters’ movements by referring to broad zones, such as Pillar 1 or the Shrine, or by referring to flux spaces between them (since adjacent pillars are always 120’ apart, and each pillar is 120’ away from the shrine at the center). It would be much easier then to treat the island as a traversable space, rather than as a vague stage of the mind and without using a physical board to scale.

To abstract the lair, draw six 120’-wide hexagons surrounding one hexagon in the center. These represent the pillars surrounding the shrine. The Dragon will move either 1 or 2 hexes per turn, depending on whether it dives or shoots a fire ball. The edges of the island can be treated as partial tiles between the pillar hexes, allowing adventurers to move between pillars while avoiding dive attacks from the Dragon (at the same time, wasting a combat turn). Melee attacks can only be attempted in the same hex and on the same elevation; this means that a melee attack can only be attempted when the Dragon is perched at the shrine. Meanwhile, ranged attacks can be attempted across adjacent zones, unless the target is on a higher elevation; this means that one can only shoot at the dragon or at crystals by being on the same tile. The Dragon can dive at anyone in the tile it is entering, or it can shoot fire balls into any adjacent tile (or into the tile it is currently on).


What I'm suggesting here is that there are more interesting boss fights possible than just hitting a big monster ten times in a row before it obliterates you. By giving the boss predictable patterns of behavior, and placing them on a dynamic stage, the boss fight comes to be about how to exploit that stage and the boss' behavior to defeat the boss.

An especially interesting tip for boss fights, letting hit dice represent monster components and then nesting them so some are 'hidden', was proposed by my friend Ty at Mindstorm yesterday. Check that out too (link)!


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