D&D Monster Monday: Dragon Turtle

The crew erupts into song as you crack open a bottle of mead in celebration of a successful high-seas heist. You down a hearty swig of the good stuff and join in the merriment. The boat shakes with glee as… wait… that’s not supposed to happen. Oh god, something just took a chunk out of the lower deck! DRAGON TURTLE SURFACING ON THE PORT SIDE!

The middle of the ocean is the one spot where your party is safe from random dragon attacks, right? I mean, sure they can fly out there but that’s a lot of effort for not much reward.

Wrong!

Let me introduce you to the dragon turtle. A fortified tank of a dragon that scours the ocean in search of treasure. Rather than flying it propels itself through the seas to demolish ships and plunder the underwater caves of the deep.

They’re creatures with the ferocity and breath weapons of a typical dragon, but with the armored shell of a turtle. This deadly combination makes them a menace for privateers and high-seas traders alike.

Let’s ready the cannons and set sail into the Monster Manual to hunt us one of these fortified beasties and claim their treasure hoard!

a dragon turtle taking a bite out of a large ship
*Munch* Credit: WotC.

Dragon Turtle Lore

As the name implies, a dragon turtle is the combination of a dragon and a turtle. These gargantuan beasts are turtle-like in appearance but dragonlike in nature.

Like their dragon cousins, the dragon turtle is obsessed with treasure. They’re often found scouring (and causing) shipwrecks searching for gold, jewels, and magical items that they then take to their hoard in an underwater cave.

Due to their lust for treasure, dragon turtles are easily bought. Sailors can secure safe passage for their vessels by handing over an offering of valuables to a dragon turtle they come into contact with.

Sahaugins take this a step further and will offer them treasure as payment for mercenary work. With the help of a dragon turtle’s steam breath, sahuagin raiders can decimate coastal settlements with ease.

All in all, they’re fearsome beasts, but they’re not cunning or intelligent like a typical dragon. They rely on their brute strength and powerful breath attack to claim the treasures they seek.

Dragon Turtle Stats and Abilities

You can find the dragon turtle’s statblock on page 119 of the Monster Manual.

Stats

Size: Gargantuan dragon
AC: 20 (natural armor)
HP: 341 (22d20 + 110)
Speed: 20 ft., swim 40 ft.
STR: 25 (+7)
DEX: 10 (+0)
CON: 20 (+5)
INT: 10 (+0)
WIS: 12 (+1)
CHA: 12 (+1)

An AC of 20 coupled with 341 base HP gives the dragon turtle a strong defensive foundation. Not only are they tough to hit, but they also have a substantial amount of beef below their shells!

Their 20 ft. of movement lets them lumber around on land, but they are surprisingly agile creatures when swimming. 40 ft. of swim speed is already quite good, but when you consider the underwater combat rules, it’s over twice the speed of a typical medium-sized PC. You can outrun them, but you can’t outswim them!

The dragon turtle’s ability score spread is underwhelming for a CR 17 creature. Don’t get me wrong, their Strength and Constitution are great. However, the rest of their ability modifiers are lacking.

Thankfully, this doesn’t impact their common saving throw abilities too hard since they have proficiency in all three of these stats. Still, they’re not going to wow the table with any ability checks.

Resistances, Immunities, Saves, and Skills

Saving Throws: DEX +6, CON +11, WIS +7
Damage Resistances: fire
Senses: darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 11
Languages: Aquan, Draconic
CR: 17 (18,000 XP)

As I mentioned before, their saving throw proficiencies are a fantastic addition to their statblock. Having saving throw proficiency in all three of the common saving throw abilities is both a fantastic and necessary addition. Without it, the dragon turtle would be susceptible to any non-Constitution saving throw due to the lack of condition immunities, Magic Resistance, or Legendary Actions.

The lack of damage resistance is surprising for a CR 17 creature. What’s more is that while engaged in underwater combat, the dragon turtle already has fire resistance so their only damage resistance is redundant a fair amount of the time.

The 120 ft. of darkvision is nice for surveying the ocean’s dark depths, but I can’t imagine that they’d see much with their 11 passive Perception.

All in all, I think they’re a decent creature but CR 17 feels a little high due to some major issues with their statblock. On paper, they look balanced, but they’re missing a lot of what makes a high-CR creature terrifying to face.

Traits and Abilities

Amphibious. The dragon turtle can breathe air and water.

Duh.

Actions

Multiattack. The dragon turtle makes three attacks: one with its bite and two with its claws. It can make one tail attack in place of its two claw attacks.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +13 to hit, reach 15 ft., one target. Hit: 26 (3d12 + 7) piercing damage.

Claw. Melee Weapon Attack: +13 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 16 (2d8 + 7) slashing damage.

Tail. Melee Weapon Attack: +13 to hit, reach 15 ft., one target. Hit: 26 (3d12 + 7) bludgeoning damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 20 Strength saving throw or be pushed up to 10 feet away from the dragon turtle and knocked prone.

Steam Breath (Recharge 5–6).The dragon turtle exhales scalding steam in a 60-foot cone. Each creature in that area must make a DC 18 Constitution saving throw, taking 52 (15d6) fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. Being underwater doesn’t grant resistance against this damage.

The dragon turtle has a variety of options for its Attack Action. They have two flavors of Multiattack and a wide-spread 60 ft. AoE that deals some hefty damage.

Multiattack 1 is a three-attack Multiattack that deals an average of 58 piercing/slashing damage per action.

Multiattack 2 is only two-attacks and deals less damage than Multiattack 1, weighing in at 52 piercing/bludgeoning damage. However, the tail attack in this option has 5 ft. more reach than its Claw attacks and has the chance to push the target back 10 ft. and knock them prone. The DC 20 Strength save it calls for will give any non-STR using PC a rough time as well.

Steam Breath is a single-action attack that deals a boatload of damage to any creature that it clips in its wide-ranged 60 ft. cone. The DC 18 Constitution saving throw to take half damage from this attack is pretty beefy as well. It has a 33.33% recharge rate as well so it’s got decent odds of being up a couple of times in the fight.

Dragon Turtle Strengths

Respectable Baseline of Defenses

The dragon turtle has a fantastic foundation of defenses. They have fantastic AC thanks to their giant turtle shell and a boatload of HP from being such an enormous creature with a ton of constitution.

Their saving throw proficiencies make them all-around great at the three most common saving throws in 5e. That’s a boon that can’t be understated.

While their resistance to fire damage is redundant much of the time, it’s nice that they’ll always have resistance to one of the most common damage types in the game.

Solid Mobility & Movement Displacement

While their land speed is piss-poor, their 40 ft. of swim speed makes the dragon turtle impossible to flee from should you encounter them in the water. You could outrun them on a ship, but that’s assuming their Steam Breath doesn’t decimate your vessel in one hit.

Their 10-15 ft. reach with their attacks gives them additional positioning benefits. Not to mention their Steam Breath which hits targets up to 60 ft. away. They have a ton of range to couple with their fantastic swim speed making them surprisingly maneuverable creatures.

Plus, their Tail attack gives them a movement displacement option that also knocks a target prone, effectively cutting their speed in half.

Dragon Turtle Weaknesses

Mediocre Damage

Steam Breath is a heavy-hitting attack provided that you can catch most of your enemies in it. However, the issue with the dragon turtle’s damage output arises on turns where Steam Breath is on cooldown.

Both Multiattacks have mediocre average damage for a CR 17 creature. With that being the case, it’s always better to use the creature’s Tail to knock someone prone rather than bother with the +6 average damage per Action that the bite/claws combo gives.

It almost feels like the designers were balancing the turtle around having Legendary Actions like their dragon cousins, but forgot to add them in. As-is they’re just weaker dragons that can’t fly. I mean, they even have the same CR as a red dragon!

Lack of High-Tier Defenses

Using the adult red dragon as a frame of reference, the dragon turtle isn’t super far off with regards to its lack of condition immunities, damage resistances/immunities, etc. Both creatures rely on their heavily beefed-out saving throw proficiencies to keep them from being crowd-controlled.

However, the adult red dragon has Legendary Resistances, which at least give it a few mulligans in a challenging encounter for high-level adventurers. If the dragon turtle misses a saving throw, they could be stunlocked for some time!

I think the dragon turtle needs some love to bring it up to par with their dragon cousins.

a dragon turtle swimming through a current
EAC duuuuuuuuude! Credit: WotC.

How to Play a Dragon Turtle

Use Steam Breath Whenever It’s Up

Steam Breath carries the dragon turtle’s damage. When it’s up they become an absolute menace particularly because it’s not impacted by the fire resistance granted by underwater combat. Ergo, it’s best to use it whenever it’s available.

However, like with any other rechargeable action, you should strive to squeeze as much value as possible out of each use of it due to its lack of availability. Ergo, you should aim to hit at least two targets with it each use. If you’re only striking a single target you may as well use a Multiattack.

Truthfully, with its 60 ft. range, clipping at least two targets in its range shouldn’t be an issue. Its area of effect is massive so the only chance the party has to avoid it is to spread out and hope to find cover on the seafloor.

Knock ’em Down!

While the bite/claws Multiattack combo deals more damage on average than the bite/tail combo, I’d actually suggest using the bite/tail combo more often. That movement displacement in an underwater combat setting which has already severely hindered the party’s movement and positioning is deadly.

The 10 ft. knockback and knockdown is a fantastic way to set up for a Steam Breath. It practically locks the target down due to their severely reduced movement speed, so all your dragon turtle needs to do is swim around to clip at least one of the target’s allies with their breath weapon.

Plus, if the dragon turtle has any minions the prone enemy sets them up with increased accuracy in the form of advantage on their melee attacks.

5 Dragon Turtle Plot Hooks

  1. Taking a Bite Out of the Competition – Dozens of ships have washed ashore in the past few months. Strangely enough, each ship is missing a chunk of its hull in a manner that resembles a bite mark.
  2. A Desperate Defense – Costal towns settled on the shoreline of the great ocean have been raided relentlessly by sahaugins over the years. Yet they’ve always prevailed. However, in recent months many towns have been decimated due to a dragon turtle surfacing and torching the town with its steam breath!
  3. A Flame Resistant Shield – Before taking on the infamous red dragon that has been terrorizing the countryside, consider getting a flame resistant shield. I hear the shell of a turtle dragon is sturdy and flame resistant material…
  4. Horror from the Deep – Countless treasures from sunken vessels lay at the bottom of the ocean. It’s said that a monsterous creature, the dragon turtle, collects and guards these treausures. A brave soul who defeats it would be set for life!
  5. Safe Passage? – Seasoned merchants traveling across the sea have been known to keep an extra chest of gold and jewels onboard. It’s said that this chest could be used to barter their ship’s life should they ever come into contact with a mythical treasure-hungry beast.

Conclusions

The dragon turtle is an interesting rendition of a classic dragon. Instead of super-fast flying speed and powerful wings, they have a tough, shelly exterior with an impressive swim speed.

They have a fantastic baseline with solid defenses, a variety of attacks, and high-value saving throw proficiencies. Unfortunately past that solid foundation, they need a bit of love. With the same CR, their winged cousins have a bunch of fun tricks and mechanics while dealing more damage per round.

Still, if you’re in the market for a terrifying, gargantuan, creature that can destroy a ship in no time, the dragon turtle is a fantastic option. Their background info gives you plenty of ways to utilize them in any seafaring campaign.

Previous Monster Monday – Amber Golem

Next Monster Monday – Whomp

If you enjoyed what you read be sure to check out my ongoing review for all of the official D&D 5e books!

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