4th Edition dragons are among the most dynamic, exciting monsters in the gameas they should be. Theyre different from each other, across categories (the metallics arent like the chromatics), across colors (reds and whites dont have all the same attacks), and across age categories (fear the ancient dragons). Heres just a taste of what a fight against an ancient dragon might feel like:
* On the dragons turn, the first thing it does is burst out in an inferno of flame, searing every PC within 25 feeta free action. Then, with a standard action, it slashes out at the fighter and the cleric with its two front claws (even though theyre both 20 feet away). As another free action, it uses its tail to slap the rogue, who was trying to sneak up behind it, and pushes her back 10 feet. Its getting angry at the wizard, so it uses a special ability to take another standard action: it spits a ball of fire at the wizard, setting him on fire. It has a move action left, which it uses to fly into a better position for its breath weapon. That ends the dragons turn.
* Its the fighters turn. He charges the dragon and manages to land a solid blow, dropping the dragon down below half its hit points. Ohthat gives the dragon the opportunity use its breath weapon as an immediate action. A huge cone of fire bursts from the dragons mouth, engulfing all four PCs. But at least the dragon is below 500 hit points!
* Now the rogue moves around to flank with the fighter. Ordinarily, that would let the dragon use its tail slap again as an immediate action, but the dragon has used its immediate action already. Thats lucky for the rogue, who actually gets to make an attack this round! Unfortunately, she fails to hit the dragons AC of 49.
* The wizard fails to put out the fire, so he takes more damage. Worse yet, the dragons breath scoured away the wizards fire resistance, so he takes the full amount. He blasts the dragon with a ray of freezing cold, but this isnt 3rd Edition. The dragon takes normal damage, but its not enough to slow it down.
* Finally, the cleric is up. Calling on the power of her god, she swings her halberd at the dragona critical hit! The damage isnt bad, but even better, the wizard gets a nice surge of healing power.
Hes going to need itits the dragons turn again.
Yeah.... I changed my mind. I won't be buying even a PHB. Immediate actions, dozens of free actions, fighters doing 500 hp of damage, AC's of 49? Sounds like they didn't change that much after all.
I think the dragon's turn alone took 20 minutes.
EDIT: Here's an authentic picture of this combat taking place via the WoTC Digital Initiative: