Episode 53 Preview: Black Dragon?

There is no guarantee that Vox Machina and the Herd of Storms will fight Umbrasyl tonight, but considering Zanror’s eagerness, we figured we’d at least address the odds that they would have against the black dragon. On the bright side, one lone ancient dragon is at least a possible encounter, opposed to four all at once. Let’s take a look at some numbers.

Ancient Dragons

In the encounter against Raishan, we discovered that the ancient green dragon had an AC of 22 (+1 from suggested MM value). Her poison breath dealt a solid 66 points of poison damage on failed Constitution Save, which is fortunately 11 points below the suggested average of 77. The MM suggests a Con Save of DC 22; Vex’s failed save at 20 lines up with this, but doesn’t tell us if the DC is actually higher than the suggested value.

Vorugal’s cold breath dealt 63 points of cold damage, down from the suggested 72. His Intimidating Presence was standard at 18. Suggested armor class is 20, but we received no confirmation if Vorugal’s was elevated. In comparison, Rimefang the Adult White Dragon had standard AC and abilities, but his HP was approximately 630, nearly three times the average of an adult white dragon.

With these comparisons in mind, we expect Umbrasyl’s 90 ft. straight-line acid breath to deal a value between 55 and 60 acid damage, down from the suggested 67. We anticipate an AC of 23, HP greater than 1100, and a Passive Perception of 26.

Zanror spoke about attacking Umbrasyl the next day, only one day after he came to collect his tribute. Unless the black dragon plans to break its schedule and visit two days in a row, we get the impression that Zanror wishes to lead the tribe and the party into his lair (and lair actions are BAD). While Umbrasyl would have the advantage of the sky, Gatshadow would give him lair actions and, possibly, access to communication with the rest of the Conclave (like the stones in Brimscythe’s lair). Westruun would also serve as a much better arena, thanks to the cover provided by buildings.

NPCs and the Herd of Storms

As we’ve seen from both Raishan’s attack on Emon and Scanlan’s choice to not redirect his fireball, most NPCs don’t have more than a few hit points. Fortunately, Zanror pledged the help of the tribe, who are a bit more durable. Only one archer fell in Episode 52 with less than 60 damage, and 83 fall damage was sufficient to kill charging goliath fighters.

The best news is that Umbrasyl’s breath is a straight line (15 ft wide, 90 ft long). Two doses of acid breath could kill any member of the herd, but as long as they don’t clump, they should be able to last longer than a cone would afford.

The downside is that as much damage as they dealt to Vox Machina, everyone is still attempting to beat a very high armor class. We celebrated when they were rolling 16s and 13s against Pike, but those 26s are going to need to happen much more frequently against the dragon. However, if 10 barbarians are all able to hit even once per round, that’s a welcome average of 150 damage per round, in addition to what Vox Machina can dish out.

An ancient black dragon capable of flight isn’t going to stay in reach, though. The grounded combatants could maybe get a single opportunity before the ranged fighters and spellcasters are left to do the work.

Vox Machina, Then and Now

Since the last encounter with the dragons, Vox Machina has had three party members level: Scanlan and Percy are both level 13, and Pike is now level 12. Vox Machina has a little extra health and a few extra abilities, but otherwise, the party is walking into a similar encounter as the first time they met the Conclave.

The Vestiges grant some small help to the battle. Scanlan’s new sword and Cutting Words can be used to force Umbrasyl to burn his Legendary Resistances. Grog finds his strength elevated from 17 (+3) to 24 (+7) with the Titanstone Knuckles, ensuring that he’s much more likely to hit. Vax’s new armor can be set to resist acid, ensuring that even if he fails the Dex save, he only takes a quarter of the total acid damage with Evasion.