A Preview of the essentials elder dragon is up on the D&D Website.
There’s some pretty good stuff here. My thoughts are below:
- Action Recovery: An answer to the crippling save ends dazing, stunning, and dominating effects some higher level players can throw at dragons. This guarantees they only last a round, which is A LOT better than the chance these already super powerful effects might stick around for multiple rounds of combat.
- Instinctive Assault: This trait is awesome and really allows this solo to pack an extra punch. It gives a free action claw or bite, which is pretty boss, and because the dragon makes it at 10+ their normal initiative they are both likely to go first and mix up the combat a bit so it’s not just the dragon followed by all the PCs. It also ends stunning or dazing effects, meaning that a dragon only really loses half of its total attacks to one of these effects.
- Bite: A grab + ongoing damage that only goes away when the grab ends (DC 30) is awesome and SUPER powerful against those poor low strength builds, which is a lot of people, even some defenders (I’m looking at you Charisma based Paladins).
- Claw: Two attacks is great, especially when you consider this often adds up to 4 attacks! Also, this grabs, meaning you can pin down two PCs (3 if you use claws and follow up with a bite).
- Immolate Foe: I’m of the opinion that most monsters should have ranged attacks even if they are behind their normal attacks in terms of pure power. Solos especially need this sort of thing, since it is way too common to be immobilized or otherwise pinned down with no recourse but a ranged attack. This ranged attack is definitely behind claw or bite in terms of damage output but is good enough that the combat can still be fun for the DM if there’s a round or two of the dragon being totally pinned down.
- Breath Weapon: Nothing special about this, but it bears mentioning that a close blast is an awesome way to make players think more tactically about combat rather than bunching up to be slaughtered.
- Tail Strike: Another solid attack to discourage moving around, though of course marking the dragon always puts the DM in a tight spot when another PC starts moving around to flank.
Action recovery and instinctive assault are so good that I can kind of see just giving them to every solo. Obviously instinctive assault is going to buff up any solos combat ability by a ton, but I could see swapping out other powers as appropriate as it made sense to do so. And action recovery is kind of necessary for balance with solos, since daze, stun, and dominate are 5X more crippling against a solo versus a normal monster!