My group of players finally encountered a dragon in my BX(DH) game. Some of the players are new to D&D, other have been decades of experience. I decided some years ago that making every dragon a godlike creature that is only worthy of NPC status or apocalyptic end-boss status was pretty lame. I mean the fucking monster is in the name, right? So enter the "thunder lizard".
The short version of the setup is that on the Isle of Dread the village of Tonora has been abandoned because it was beset by a thunder lizard. This being the isle of dread, players assumed a T-rex. When the thunder and lighting of the the dragon was revealed (it was an epic appearance, crawling out of the sea eating the last of a shark) there were two trains of thought.
1) Fuck this. The entire rest of the island is cut off. This is way too powerful for us.
2) Dragons have treasure and I want to get this this thing's treasure.
I did my best to neither encourage or discourage any plans - hanging back as referee judge and letting them debate and make choices. In the end, 2 daring party members identified that the dragon had its hoard under the sea near the short (that gem-finding sword I forgot i handed out like 10 sessions ago came in handy!). The rest hung back and watched - prepared to flee and partly in it for the probable carnage.
The crew was a bit underpowered, but clever. They did some sneaking and used their abilities to their fullest. When the dragon woke up and started rampaging at the interlopers, the battle was FIERCE. All the hirelings but 1 got obliterated. 2 of the PCs got blasted down to unconscious (using the 0 HP = unconscious in my game, -1 is dead) with some lucky rolls. 1 PC got lightninged apart. Everyone was damaged and beaten ... but in the end, they defeated it!
After all, a blue dragon is an 8 HD creature. Some luck and clever tactics & strategies were on their side. The dragon had el blasto breath and some magic, the one character who took draconic as a langue finally got to use it, everyone was sure it was going to be a TPK, but when then the final crossbow bolt did its job there was a collective cheer.
Dan: "That was amazing. I've been plying D&D for 30 years and that is the first time i've ever got to actually fight a dragon". I know - because Dan I an used to play as kids and I had the 'dragons are the badassest things in the universe' problem. Everyone was excited. The crew tangled with and beat the most iconic fantasy monster. It was only 8HD but they thought it was 100HD and still went for it!
They had the option to avoid it. But that lure of something to fuck about with is too strong. The urge to do stupid dangerous things in D&D is what makes D&D amazing. It is the opposite of real life. The dragon is that thing you can't tackle in real life because you are scared of it or maybe it is too much. For example I need to replicate a customer environment in a VM for some testing of of something my devs haven't been able to reproduce, but fuck it, why not?
Overcome your dragon! SLAY IT! It isn't impossible. You might even have a good time doing it and find some sweet treasure. I mean seriously - who doesn't want a sharkskin cloak studded with blue quartz that lets you turn into a shark 1/day. ALso, bragging rights.
You can make dragons gods in your game, world-shaking monstrosities that control the destiny of millions, but i let them be monsters. terrible monsters, but monsters that can be overcome nonetheless.
Side note - on the way back to Lotamu to get their XP for getting that treasure (you get XP for treasure once you get to civilization in my game) they got ambushed by some giant geckos and a couple of ghouls wearing the discarded gecko skins as a 'disguise'. That almost anihilated the party. That was the most atrocious series of shit rolls I've seen by a group of players in quite some time. But somehow, also fucking awesome. RPGs are dreat.