Much to my surprise, the lost art of dragon subduing has apparently been brought back in 4th edition. Sort of. In 1st edition AD&D, "dragon subdual" was a form of non-lethal combat initiated by the players as illustrated in true Gygaxian fashion, in the Monster Manual....
"Subduing a dragon: An attack on a dragon to subdue, and thus capture it may be opted for if such intent is announced in advance in combat. Silver, gold, chromatic (Tiamat), and platinum (Bahamut) dragons cannot be subdued. Note that it is impossible for creatures with less than average intelligence to attack to subdue. Subdual is accomplished as follows:
Upon announcement of intent to strike to subdue, all hit points of damage scored by attacks upon the dragon are considered non-fatal battering/bruising damage. The total number of hit points scored each melee round is stated as a ratio; hit points scored are ratioed over the number of hit points the dragon has and this ratio is converted into a percentage chance; this percentage chance is the chance that the dragon will be subdued by the hit points of subduing damage it has received at the end of any given melee round..."
By comparion, in 4th edition "Subdual Encounters" are designed to go on till a dragon (or other suitable solo monster) is 'bloodied' or at half hit-points at which point it gives up and throws the characters a bone. Whether the PCs then finish it off and take the treasure anyways is still up to them. As presented in this system subdual combat is the dragon's choice to initiate. That's a major difference you see. Looking back to 1st edition, you see, it's all about the gold pieces for characters as the poor subdued dragon loses not only his dragon hoard, but his dignity.
"Value of a Subdued Dragon: Larger towns and cities will usually have a market for dragons. If a dragon is sold it usually goes out of the game, although the referee may wish to assign it to some one of his special non-playing characters whom he runs for encounter in the town/city. The selling price of a subdued dragon ranges from 100 to 800 gold pieces per hit point. This price is subject to adjustment by the referee. Offers are typically determined by rolling an 8-sided die. Subdued dragons can be ridden."
Wow. I don't think I've ever ran a dragon encounter like this, have you? What town in the Flanaess has a market for live dragons? Maybe the former capital of the ancient Suel Empire, but Greyhawk City? Doubtful. Although it does explain why Lord Robilar was known to have Green Dragon buddies. Anyhow, I am fairly sure this concept faded out somewhere in 2nd or 3rd edition where there was more emphasis on parting out dead dragons for components and raising or bribing dragons into service rather than forceably subduing them to be your mount. With that said, 4th edition's system is not bad on the surface (provided that the players go with the dragon's game and aren't greedy). It saves game time by not dragging out a full length combat and it moves the plot of the story while at the same time not rewarding the PCs twice over for the highly unrealistic chore of dragging a beaten monster back to the nearest town to sell at the used dragon dealership. Still, that's the charm of 1st edition. Go figure.
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