One of the biggest challenges when running the Lost Mine of Phandelver, the Starter set adventure from Dungeons and Dragons and the Wizards of the Coast, is running the Green Dragon Venomfang. Venomfang is a Young Green Dragon and is largely overpowered for the low level adventures that are apt to run into him.
Located in the village of Thundertree, a location the players will likely go in the Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure module, Venomfang has recently claimed a ruined wizards tower as his own, possibly driven away from his previous lair.
Since inhabiting the tower, Venomfang has been laying low, admiring the treasure that he has happened upon in the tower. A mixture of coins and riches, included gold, silver, various scrolls, and a magical axe known as Hew, a +1 battleaxe that deals maximum damage to plant creatures or objects made of wood.
The adventure does not give much guidance on how to run this encounter, other than stating that Venomfang does not want to give up his lair, but can be driven off if the characters reduce him to half his hit points.
With that said, Venomfang has been the bane of newer DMs and players as the dragon is easily capable of dispatching a party of level 3 adventures during this stage of the Lost Mine of Phandelver Campaign.
Rather than just TPK’ing the party and possibly ending your experience with D&D if it is your first campaign, here are some things to consider and alternative ways to run this encounter:
- The first thing we have to consider is the dragon Venomfang. Venomfang is a young green dragon. Green dragons are known for their cunning and trickery. They take pleasure in corrupting and tricking the well-intentioned and love to manipulate sentient creatures into doing their bidding in their lust for power and dominance.
- They love to come up with various schemes and deceptions rather than fight if they don’t have to. With this in mind, there are many ways to deal with this encounter:
- Your party might try to attack the dragon straight up and that’s fine. When a player is about to die, one thing you could do is have the dragon snatch up the character, holding them hostage unless the party does something for him.
- On the flipside, maybe the party tries to negotiate with the dragon rather than fighting. Either way, you have a couple options here regardless of the approach the players use (assuming they aren’t successful in driving the dragon away).
The dragon will want to manipulate the party into doing their bidding. There are a couple options here:
- Reidroth, the druid that the party was enlisted by to remove Venomfang, is a nuisance and a thorn in the dragon’s side, and will sow discourse within the party, assaulting Reidroth’s character and intentions. One way you can do this is by accusing Reidroth of coveting the dragon’s horde, claiming that the druid sent in another party before yours, and that the dragon is quite full from defeating them. Reidroth clearly doesn’t care for their safety.
- If the players are to believe the dragon, he would have the party attack and kill or drive out the druid from the ruins, in hopes that the druid will no longer be an annoyance for him.
- In return the dragon may offer directions to Cragmaw Castle or a piece of treasure from his horde (he’s also just as likely to attack the party as well, depending on the route they wish to pursue).
Another angle that could be played is that the Dragon was driven out of his original lair by Cryovain, the White Dragon from the Dragon of Icespire Peak adventure, that takes place in the same region of the Sword Coast:
- This is a great option because it could accomplish a few objectives for the players, while also giving you as the DM the opportunity to have a way for the party to accomplish the goal of driving the green dragon away, giving the players the out they need to find Wave Echo Cave with Reidroth.
- To run this in tandem with that adventure, you would need access to the Essentials Kit, the other starter kit from Wizards of the Coast. Or, on the flipside, you can just take the young white dragon stat block in place of it and place the dragon somewhere in the mountains just north or south of here.
- The ability to drive this young white dragon is more realistic for the party, as white dragons aren’t nearly as cunning as green ones, are generally easier to hit with a lower AC, as well you can generally expect them to have less hit points on average (albeit slight).
- With that said, our adventurers in their travels could also find themselves leveling on their way to the other dragon and you can use the same method of reducing the dragon to half it’s hp before it is driven away. Upon returning, Venomfang can hold his end of the bargain, taking back his original lair.
Our other option is to have the dragon send the party on a fetch quest for a powerful magical artifact. I generally like to keep the nature of the artifact vague from the players:
- Generally speaking, green dragons like to trick others. What better way than with an artifact that allows them to polymorph into a human? The ultimate subterfuge and way to gain power and favor the world.
- As such, you could craft a daring adventure for this artifact, in which Venomfang would hold up his end of the bargain and leave in exchange for the artifact (also a great way to seed another adventure with subterfuge by this dragon).
For driving the dragon away, nomatter which method they choose, the party will be able to at the very least obtain Hew, the magical greataxe as the dragon isn’t interested in what it deems to be rusty junk. In addition, the players will also get a large chunk of experience points for driving it away and even more for slaying the dragon (unlikely as it may be).
In addition, the party will likely obtain the location of Cragmaw Castle, and possibly Wave Echo Cave, two big important landmarks in our story.
And that ladies and gentlemen is going to wrap up our discussion of Thundertree and the Dragon Venomfang.
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