Dragon – what is the deal with their “immunity”?

Dragon – what is the deal with their “immunity”?

Dragon – what is the deal with their “immunity”? 

TL;DR: The whole “dragons are immune to normal weapons” thing comes mostly from the 16 HP Dragon example but everyone uses this when explaining things in DW; isn’t that weird?”

The 16 HP dragon is one of the most iconic fights for Dungeon World. A lot of it hinges on the fact that “Dragons are immune to normal weapons”. This trueism has kind of been adopted across the board because the example given in that blog post is so compelling and helpful. 

I don’t know if it should always be true though. Based on the Volley discussion I took a look at the stat block again and there is nothing there that inherently supports that. 

Dragon Solitary, Huge, Terrifying, Cautious, Hoarder

Bite (b[2d12]+5 damage, 4 piercing) 16 HP 5 Armor

Reach, Messy

Special Qualities: Elemental blood, Wings

They are the greatest and most terrible things this world will ever have to offer.

Instinct: To rule

Bend an element to its will

Demand tribute

Act with disdain

Nothing in that statblock directly points to Dragons having that right? No of course such a statblock isn’t everything. There is a lot that is implied with the monster itself but if we look at the

Iron Golem – Special Quality: Metal 


Apocalypse Dragon – Special Qualities: Inch-thick metal hide


Swamp Shambler  – Special Qualities: Swamp Form

we have direct example of statblocks pointing out: This can’t be easily harmed. 

The GM in that game (or a player) could have easily established that Dragons are all immune to normal weapons and that is fine. 

I don’t know if that is a trueism we should adopt in every example we use as the book doesn’t directly support that. 

I also like dragons being able to be damaged by normal weapons. The real problem with a dragon is getting close to them and into a position where you can hurt them without getting in danger. Requiring a special weapon also asks a lot and rules out a dragon encounter in a lot of moments. I guess you could just ask your Cleric to  _Magic Weapon_ your Axe but that depends how you have set up Magic Weapon in your fiction. If it is just a slight magical enhancement it will probably not help. If it is a divine blessing that makes the weapon glow with aweful light then it’s different.

Dragons; immune to normal weapons? Yes or No? 

(It depends on your game of course)

12 thoughts on “Dragon – what is the deal with their “immunity”?”

  1. In support of “dragons are immune to normal weapons” is also the explanation from Hack and Slash:


    “Attacking a dragon with inch-thick metal scales full of magical energy using a typical sword is like swinging a meat cleaver at a tank: it just isn’t going to cause any harm, so hack and slash doesn’t apply.  

    is not referecing a dragon. It is referencing the apocalypse dragon. they are the one with inch-think metal scales.”

    This is a reference to the Apocalypse Dragon though. They are the ones with inch-think metal scales. Not the normal dragon. I never put these two things together before. 

  2. personally, I like to use Act With Disdain to mean that dragons can sometimes shrug off certain things while curling their lip about it. Usually spells, more so than normal weapons. The issue with normal weapons is the dragon’s high armor value.

    Also, think this all came from something saying you couldn’t Hack and Slash by PUNCHING a dragon. 

  3. My epic and giant sea monsters carry the tag “immune to hand held weapons”. You need to a ship’s cannon volley to harm them. Harpoon guns and fire balls also work. 

  4. I guess it really depends on what is established in the narrative.

    If the players find a way to describe a Hack and Slash that can suceed, even if it has been said before that normal weapons usually don’t harm a dragon. Like finding the one scale that is missing or jumping into it’s maw with a spear ready.

    They also can be pretty regular enemies, that can be defeated with normal weapons. Or in Surrak’s world Fists (he probably is a fighter who picked Fist as his signature weapon anyway. So it might not be a normal weapon anymore.)

  5. People throw “16 hp dragon” around all the time as a reference to “dragons are immune to normal hack & slash,” but go read the article again.  It never says that. At all.

    The article is about how a monster doesn’t need lots of HP to be scary. The dragon’s tags (terrifying, messy, huge) and moves (bend elements to its will) and the GMs ability to set the scene… those are what make the dragon scary.

    So, yes, it’s very weird that people use this an example of “dragons are immune to normal damage.”

    And in my opinion, they aren’t (according to the stat block in the DW text). They’re hard to get at (flight, terrifying, reach) and have fantastic armor (5!) and I feel perfectly comfortable asking the player “okay, cool, you’re stabbing at it as it attacks, how is your short sword going to do any harm to this thing? It’s head is the size of a Volkswagon.” (huge) “Oh, you’re going to stand there and stab into it’s gaping, flaming maw as it snaps at you? There’s every chance it’s gonna bite your arm clear off at the should, you sure about this?”

  6. Yes and No. Dragons should be exactly what they need to be given the story and the setting. Nothing more. Nothing less. And each monster stat block is merely a suggestion.

    It really doesn’t matter what the rulebook or a combat example says. Make the dragon your dragon.

  7. Ok, so a bit of an old thread, just reading stuff not but:

    First, I don’t think that dragons are immune to the damage.  Follow the fiction: It’s a Huge creature with a very thick hide and normal weapons are known to not be able to penetrate it.  So what this means, a normal, “I run up at it and slash at it with my sword.”  Would not work for a few reasons, some supported by the stat block, some supported by the fiction:

    Stat Block:

    Huge and Reach:

     This gives the impression that they will need to either get in close to avoid it’s reach and that damn it’s big.  By comparison it’s like a mouse getting close to a lion.  Yes, a Volley, goes beyond reach BUT here is the thing about bows and crossbows, they may be able to reach it but size matters.  Often times for an arrow to do anything significant it needs to penetrate a vital organ.  Many times a small cut will leak blood on a creature BUT let’s delve further:

    Elemental Blood:

    Whoops, it bleeds fire.  Ok, so a wooden arrow will just hit it and burn up, the arrow head might be metal but, blood like lava, boom, melted head.  A normal arrow will just annoy it.  Ok, so Spear, Javelen?  Yes, you have a chance.  Both have the reach needed and enough mass to do something.  Ok, so you might be able to bleed it a bit and have the weapon survive the blood.  Oh, Yeah, It controls Fire, it’s Blood is Fire, wow, now we got scary.  So, Anything less than a Long weapon (Javelen or Spear or Lance) doesn’t have a chance).  Now we are getting close to the immunity that was talked about.


    So things that it considers a threat is is cautious about and smart about.  So, It knows that Spears, Lances, and Javelins can hurt it and will be on the look out for them.  It will lash out at anything like this that gets close enough.  Back to Huge and Reach going against you.

    Modify it to: “I charge the beast with my lance on horseback as a Sword can’t penetrate enough to get a vital with out real work.

    Now we are cooking.  So Cautious comes into play, Wait Wings.  Why would it stand still for being hit by a Lance or a Thrown Spear.  Remember this is a conversation not a “Combat Round”  it is dynamic and one “attack” is actually a series of actions a short mini-scene, or more like a movie sequence.  So there is implied moving around.  So that’s no good.

    Also “Terrifying” meaning it is a very scary creature, the Horse wont go near it, so a Lance is no good.  You need to get a weapon that will do the job.

    Now some of the Fiction:

    The main question now is: How does the party get close enough and get a good hit on it to damage it?  Well that is going to take more than “I run up and Stab it with my spear.”  as a description.  It will also take some maneuvering to just get a single hit in.  Hey, A loose Scale will avoid armor.  Ok, but that is only one part of it.  How about a weapon of a Balista Bolt that is dwarf hardened iron/steal, that is long and strong?  Well, it would need to be at least a yard and 1/2 or so to do the job, IF you can find a spot to get through the armor, because those Dragon Scales are thick.  AND it better be close to something vital.  So, Hey, now we have some teamwork and strategy needed to get this weapon into the Dragon’s Heart (a vital area)

    So, yes, they are not “Immune to normal weapons”  BUT you need to get the right weapon before you can even start to trigger a Hack&Slash.  Also, let’s consider: ARMOR 5, HP 16.  To Kill it you will need to do 21 points of damage, if you are going with a single hit.  Or have an amazing weapon with some Armor Piercing or avoid the armor.  A blade from a warrior could do what d10?  50% chance of doing even 1 point of HP if you hit, which means fictionally you need to get positioning to do so.

    Now, I would not roll any damage to kill the dragon IF: they have the right weapon “The special Dwarven Made Balista Bolt”; Got positioning: suckering or getting the dragon to stay still long enough to be hit with a Volley type attack, annoying it with some arrows and having overcome your fears when in it’s arragonce it “Act with disdain”; AND thought to look for the loose scale which may require some spout lore (to remember it was hit once before) or some Decern Realities (to find the spot) and the like.  One Volley by the Ranger or Fighter or Paladin type would on a 10+ strike home and kill it after your epic trial to try to get that perfect shot. 

    If they didn’t meet all of the conditions then I may have a volley and have them try to do damage normally and “beat it down” but they ARE going to work and pay for it through the play and they DO have to come up with some good fiction to be able to make a Hack&Slash roll.

    So, To ME that is why the dragon is basically “Immune to Normal Weapons” with out actually having the tag.  Mind you, it removes a lot of thought if you simply have the tag but sometimes you need to go through these hoops to draw out the fiction of a situation.

Comments are closed.