Most parties shouldn’t ever have to fight a gold dragon. Typically they’re either far above the fray or far behind the scenes, and even when a party does encounter one, it’s much more likely to be a mentor or ally to good-aligned PCs (or even a mount, if a truly righteous cause and rider is involved) than an adversary.
Yet gold dragons can tarnish (albeit rarely). And their vision for the greater good may involve cold math that does not jibe with the PC’s views of right, choice, and freedom. (To make a crude analogy, as a society we value vaccine research, for instance, but we rarely ask the lab mice’s opinions on the matter.) And just conversing with or outthinking a gold dragon may be worth a substantial story award.
After years of planning, a demilich manages to arrange circumstances so that one of its gems gets selected by a gold dragon as her luck gem. Now an imprint of the horrific undead has imposed itself on the gold dragon’s consciousness, driving her to fulfill darker and darker urges as she quickly begins to tarnish.
Tired of their riddle games, a gold dragon and a sphinx embark in a new series of mental and physical challenges. In their latest bout, the gold dragon has allowed the sphinx to send a party of adventurers against him, who will try to subdue the drake according the old customs long abandoned. Should they succeed, each member of the company shall each receive a magic item, as well as a book for group to return to the sphinx’s library.
An entire flight of silver dragons is knocked out assaulting an Abyssal rift. Maddened with grief, their gold dragon mentor drives back the invading demons—but she does not stop there. Determined to bring the fight to the enemy, she has impressed every adult humanoid male in a fifty-mile radius and has begun building an army.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 108–109
Regarding dragon subdual: Browsing through old editions of the world’s oldest role-playing game should give you some idea how to handle it, and there are plenty of rules and discussions online you can adapt. A good rule of thumb is reaching 50 or 100 percent of the dragon’s hit points with nonlethal damage (using the flat of the blade, etc.) and no damage-causing spells directed at the dragon.
Of all the dragons, I feel like golds need the most thought before they get inserted into campaign. They’re beings of such potential power that I think how the approach life in your world says something about that world and the role of dragons in general. Are they wise counselors? Open rulers? Mystic sages? Warriors for good? Carefully hidden points of light? Removed from the affairs of men entirely? It’s worth thinking about.
Obviously, more about gold dragons can be found in Mike McArtor’s Dragons Revisited and in any Golarion setting book that references the island nation of Hermea.
I did almost zero planning for my show Saturday, so it’s even more old-school, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants free-form radio that usual…which may explain why it’s more testosteroney than usual as well. Listen (although forgive me if something seems slightly off, sound-wise—I think one of the channels was feeling weak).
(Music starts just over one minute into the file. If it skips, you know the drill: Let load in Firefox or Chrome, Save As an mp3, and enjoy in iTunes. Link good until Friday, 5/25, at midnight.)
Also, whether or not you download my show, you owe it to yourself to check out TV Girls’ The Wild, The Innocent, The TV Shuffle mixtape.