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Deadliest Monsters, Part I: Ancient Red Dragon vs Ancient Gold Dragon

Written by Janna - Published on May 29, 2009

Janna discovered D&D at the age of 16, and she's been rolling the dice for 16 years. (You do the math.) She is fond of intelligent villains, drow society, and campaigns that explore the Dark Side.

Picture by Rumpleteaser

I must confess: I’m an addict, and my addiction is “Deadliest Warrior” on Spike TV. The show pits different fighting styles against each other in epic showdowns like “Ninja vs Spartan”, “Viking vs Samurai”, and “Pirate vs Knight”. After some physical competitions and semi-scientific analysis, one style is proclaimed to be the deadlier of the two. Only one thing could possibly improve the show’s premise: monsters!

So the arrival of the Monster Manual 2 gave me the perfect opportunity to indulge my inner geek by pitting two deadly monsters against each other on the field of battle. Dragons seemed a good place to start. The MM2 contains stat blocks for the metallic dragons (who, to my surprise, are no longer paragons of goodness and virtue). Thus, my evil plan took shape: analyze the rival monsters, have them duke it out, and see which one is truly the deadliest.

Let’s meet the contenders.

Monster #1 – Ancient Red Dragon

(Regardless of what Expy says, the red isn’t going to simply win by default.) Reds are the mightiest of the chromatic dragons. They make their homes in mountainous and volcanic lairs. Some of them could throw down with demigods and emerge victorious. Their interests include treasure, pyromania, and treasure.

Monster #2 – Ancient Gold Dragon

Golds like to lair in rolling hills and plains where they can easily survey their surroundings. They are Io’s most renowned children, and pretty much everything knows better than to mess with them. Their interests include influence, control, and magical secrets.


The ancient red dragon likes to start combat by flying up to its enemies and immolating them with its fiery breath. Then it quickly follows up with a double claw attack. The next round, it terrifies the victims with its Frightening Presence before double-clawing them again. Vicious!

The ancient gold dragon also likes to kick things off by breathing on its foes. It then uses Frightful Presence to scatter its still-smoldering opponents. Then it starts to kill them one by one, beginning with the weakest. Ouch.

Weapons of Choice

When it comes to melee attacks, both dragons can claw and bite the holy hell out of their victims. The red’s attack bonuses are a little higher, plus they get a Tail Strike attack that immediately slaps down enemies that move into flanking position.

The gold doesn’t lash out with its tail, but it does get a Triple Attack that lets it claw enemies three times in one round. Its claw attacks are potentially more damaging than the red’s.

The red dragon gets an Immolate Foe attack that deals immediate and ongoing damage.

The gold dragon prefers to use its Beguiling Glow and Ancient Radiance to move enemies around and make them vulnerable.

Additionally, the gold reacts to enemies’ successful attacks with a Fiery Wing Riposte that deals ongoing damage. It can also create an area burst at range that turns enemies into cinders, immobilizes them, and burns them again if they begin their turn within the zone. Yikes!


Red dragons have an Inferno aura that affects creatures within 5 squares. When a creature enters the aura or starts their turn within it, they take 20 fire damage and gain Concealment.

Gold dragons have a Weakening Flames aura, also 5 squares in scope. Enemies who enter or begin a turn within the aura have a choice: they can either take 20 fire damage or be Weakened until the start of their next turn.

Breath Weapons

When it comes to raw damage, red dragons have the superior breath weapon. They dish out 4d12+10 fire damage, then get to follow up with a secondary attack that negates their target’s fire resistance until the end of the encounter. Their breath weapon recharges on a 5 or 6.

Gold dragons breathe 4d8+9 points of fire and radiant damage, and their target is subsequently weakened. The gold dragon’s breath weapon recharges on a 4, 5, or 6.


Red dragons get slightly better defenses across the board. They have more hit points, better AC, better fire resistance, and better Fortitude. Golds have faster reflexes and generally better skill modifiers.

Who is the Deadliest Monster?

Both dragons have devastating power that could end a PC’s pathetic life in a single crunch. But who will emerge victorious in a battle to the death? Stay tuned to find out which dragon is the deadliest monster! (The guys at Deadliest Warrior use computer programs to run thousands of combat simulations. I’m going to grab a friend and do best two out of three.)

Which dragon do you think will win? Leave a comment to vote for your favorite!

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Written by Janna

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Deadliest Monsters, Part I: Ancient Red Dragon vs Ancient Gold Dragon, 2.8 out of 5 based on 4 ratings

Janna discovered D&D at the age of 16, and she's been rolling the dice for 16 years. (You do the math.) She is fond of intelligent villains, drow society, and campaigns that explore the Dark Side.



25 Responses to “Deadliest Monsters, Part I: Ancient Red Dragon vs Ancient Gold Dragon”
  1. shinobicow says:

    I gotta say i think the red has the gold beat. The ability of the Red to neutralize the Gold’s fire resistance, which i believe it has, makes the damage it takes each turn from the aura a boat load. To top that off, the defenses and HP of the Red means it outlasts the gold hands down.

    I have a comment though, in the DnD podcast they said they were changing a lot of the mechanics behind how solos are constructed, allowing them to hit harder, but letting them be hit easier and have less health. By pitting MM1 Dragon against MM2 Dragon, the playing field isn’t really all that fair mechanics wise. Just my comment.

  2. Gold is by default the inferior color from a outfit designer’s point of view. So I have to give my vote to the Red Dragon, also considering how harsh his Breath Weapon is.

  3. Nicholas says:

    I hope the red dragon wins, otherwise we’re going to have the much shorter fight Expy vs. Janna.

  4. Ameron says:

    Evil monsters always seem to have an edge over good monsters in D&D. I guess that’s why the world needs so many heroes. I think the Red will make short work of the Gold thereby setting up a quest for the heroes of the realm to hunt it down and extract vengeance.

  5. Kyre says:

    Going to be a hard one. With fire resistance on both sides, that’s going to put a damper on things, until each is successful in negating it. If the red’s first breath manages to hit with its secondary attack, (And trying to go after a dragon’s Fortitude defense is not an enviable task, even for another dragon!) then it will have a big advantage.

    Unfortunately, the gold’s ability to add vulnerabilities, its more frequent breath weapon, and the fire/radiant damage type (which negates the Red’s resistance entirely for that attack), do give it an immediate advantage.

    Therefore, I’ll call this one in a very formulaic way. If the Red Dragon hits with its Breath Weapon’s secondary attack within the first 3 rounds, it wins. If it does not, it loses.

  6. Mike says:

    I got to say that these are both extremely intelligent creatures, wouldn’t they just raise and send armies after one another and then only attack once the other one is weakened. Maybe i’m looking at it from a role playing aspect and not a simple power vs power aspect.

  7. ObiJon says:

    I’ll root for the Gold, but I think the Red will win.

  8. Janna says:

    LOL @ Nicholas! I’ll have to go into the Expy Protection Program. :)

    Regardless of which dragon wins, it’s sure to be a good throwdown.

  9. Redhobbit says:

    I’m thinking if the Gold’s triple Claw puts thing in his favor, however his Aura gives the target a choice which in this case the Red would probably pick the thing he’s resistant to. I’m assuming they both have fairly high fire resistance, the Red’s breath gets to neutralize it’s opponents resistance but only after the first attack, whereas the Gold’s breath is both Fire and Radiant. I seem to remember there being some sort of wonky rule about how multi-element attacks work vs single element defense which may push thing in the Gold’s favor if his breath weapon can do decent damage (or at least better than his triple claw attack.)

    I guess I’ll bet on Gold.

  10. Yax says:

    @Nicholas: You’ve got that right!

    @Mike: Armies are logical, but much more boring. I like old school draco-a-draco fights. Let’s say it’s dragon apocalypse and only 1 dragon can survive – Highlander style.

    Oh, and I’m betting on the red. Easiest money ever.

  11. Peo says:

    @Yax next time you’re in town we will get costume and get a live action video of this epic battle. I’ll be the gold one…

  12. Yax says:

    @ Peo: You are so going down! I’m hopping on a plane right now.

  13. Siliaris says:

    Difficult, difficult. My mind says gold, but I reckon it all depends on the first few rolls for the red to win.

  14. Ax the ultimate lord of Doom-i-ness says:

    I would like like to say the winner is …. US the fans… this is a really interesting idea
    and i think i m going to try this one myself (and a freind) and see who wins … maybe use a small DDM map and play it out

  15. Jimmy says:

    I’d like to see the Gold win, but I have a feeling that brute strength is going to get the job done. Red for the win!

  16. Darkskeleton says:

    I feel like the gold is better suited for this one on one fight with their ability to weaken enemies with their aura and use three claw attacks in the same round instead of two. We’ll see though.

  17. Adrian says:

    Gold FTW

  18. Turlock says:

    I’m old school D&D (still even have the “White Box” set I bought back in 1974) so my tendency would be to give it to the Gold hands down and, in just about any other edition, that would be a good bet. However, the 4th Edition Red is another matter entirely! While my heart is still with the Gold, my money would probably be on the Red.

  19. Mike says:

    yeah the more and more i think about it, the more and more it makes sence


    You should build a big Vs. Tree, get people to submit battles and post the win ratios

  20. Ernest says:

    Hmmmmmm I know a comp geek who likes D&D, maybe I can get him to whip something up? pure dice rolling ran a 6 to 4 Red’s favor. I’d still like to do it like the Spike guys though. Sending off the e-mail as soon as I get done posting. Ya never know maybe the Spike guys like D&D too. :)

  21. Redd says:

    My money’s on Gold 4tw.

  22. Bryan says:

    Thats just wrong. There has been 38+ years of D&D with the Gold Dragon being the paragon of dragonkind (excepting being the ultra rare platium dragon that blows the gold away..)

    The red has always been the equilivant of a silver dragon. Why the heck was it changed now?

    I think the gold will win because the all the gods across all the crystal spheres would not allow a red to become as powerfull as a gold.


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