Did the Dragon Breath on Us or Not?
Years ago, one of the players in the campaign was a bit of a rule lawyer. I am sure you have run into the type of player that knows all the rules backwards and forwards. In the first edition of Dungeons and Dragons, a dragon could only use their breath weapon three times a day.
A dragon was terrorizing a small town. Each night the dragon would come stomping up to the walls protecting the town and roar loudly. The town knew it was a dragon from the huge footprints and claw marks on the walls. The town left piles of gold outside the walls hoping the dragon would go away.
The group of adventurers heard of the plight of the town and set off to kill the dragon. They planned an elaborate ruse. They set up a three wagons filled with a variety of goods. The party separated the wagons so that a dragons breath would only affect one wagon at a time. The party dug a pit with a trap door to hide in. The plan was to use ventriloquism to make it appear the party was in the first wagons and let the dragon burn that up, then use ventriloquism to make it appear the party was in second wagon, and so on. That way the party could force the dragon to use up its daily quota of breath weapons. The plan was the party would then spring out of the pit and attach the dragon.
The plan appeared to work like clockwork. The party heard the roars and stomping of the dragon. They party used ventriloquism to plead for mercy from the first wagon. The first wagon went up in flame. The party repeated the process with the second and third wagon. Confident they were safe from the breath weapon the party sprung from their pit. I asked the party to roll a saving throw. The rule lawyer objected, "Dragons can only use their breath weapon three times a day."
My reply was, "You need to save verses a fireball."
"But, but, dragons dont cast fireballs."
Two ambitious trolls found a staff of fireballs and came up with a plan to shakedown the town. The trolls carved two tree stumps into the shape of a dragons footprint. They used a spear to carve claw marks into the walls of the town. The staff of fireballs provided the flames.
The party of adventurers were disappointed in the rather small horde of gold the trolls accumulated. The party used the staff of fireballs to level the town, killing everyone in the town, and taking everything of value.
It was an interesting adventure to run. I did not expect the party to level the town.
Just because it leaves tracks like a dragon, claw marks like a dragon, and sets fire to things like a dragon; it does not always mean it is a dragon. It could be two trolls with a staff of fireballs.