The gist of my approach to dragons is to try and design new versions that are perhaps not your usual dragon fare (i.e. flying reptiles). Partly because it's always good to try and catch your D&D players out and mess with their presumptions, and mostly because I think it's interesting to go that extra mile with monsters just to add some colour and variety to your world. And, at the end of the day, just because something is a dragon that doesn't necessarily mean that it has to follow the default setting (i.e. flying reptiles).
Having previously delved into the world of dragons with my series on chitinous varieties, I thought I'd now have a try at designing a few that reside in the depths of the oceans. This is mostly inspired by the sorts of creatures one can see on reproductions of various old maps, following on from a prevous blog post of mine a few years ago. So, here's the first in a short series on such beasties for 1E D&D which, as usual, is accompanied by a sketch to give you an idea of what it looks like:
'SHIP EATER' (Greater Sea Dragon)
FREQUENCY: Very rare
NO. APPEARING: 1
ARMOR CLASS: 2
HIT DICE: 160 hit points
% IN LAIR: 10%
TREASURE TYPE: See below
NO. OF ATTACKS: 3
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 2-12 claws, 2-12 horns, 6-36 bite
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Blinding
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Nil
MAGIC RESISTANCE: Standard
ALIGNMENT: Lawful Evil
SIZE: L (150' long)
PSIONIC ABILITY: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil
This dragon haunts the darkest depths of the ocean and only rises close to the surface at the approach of twilight. The name 'Ship Eater' is a loose translation of a title given to it by sea elves and is noted with fear in several age-old stories and legends. The creature's lair is rumoured to be a cave somewhere on the ocean floor containing the vast treasure it has hoarded from dragging many ships to their doom. It is also said that the lair is guarded by numourous evil sea-dwelling creatures who worship the dragon as a god. It is not known if there is more than one of these creatures in existence.
The dragon will usually appear to sea-farers in a variety of ways. It will sometimes raise it's huge spiny back back from the sea and remain stationary in this guise, having all the appearance of a small rocky island. It will also use a spell equivalent to a 10th level Hallucinatory Terrain in order to complete this illusion, which will also effect anyone looking into the water around this 'island'. Should any ship or boat moor there for a time, the dragon will rise up and attempt to devour any crew who may have attempted to explore it. The dragon will sometimes capture one or more vessels in this way and attempt to lure more by using them as bait.
If the dragon suspects that a vessel carries gold and other precious items, it may attack it using its huge bite and gulp down anything that falls into its maw. It will regurgitate all of this treasure upon returning to its lair. Otherwise it may lure the crew of the treasure ship in the manner described above, and then later drag this ship beneath the waves and back to its lair.
During storms, fogs and other similarly dangerous weather the dragon will raise its head above the water if it senses the approach of any ship. Ordinarily, it's eyes are flat, dark and dead like those of shark but if it so chooses it can cause one of them to glow, appearing at a distance to be a shore-based light. If a ship is lured towards it in such a way, it will then attack.
At night it can use both eyes cause a blinding light during its attack, if it so wishes. Anyone within 50' of this light must save (as against wands) or be blinded for 6-36 turns. Anyone with infravision within this range must save at -3.
Description: the spine and upper back of the dragon's body appears to be rock-like ridge that may offer some shelter. The rest of its body in covered in numerous streaks and patches of various blue-black hues.