The draon has shown force, then demanded and received tribute from a [farmer|small farming community|village|small town|large town|city|major city|small nation|several small nations/large nation|the western continent]Vaniver wrote:"You mean there's great loot there? Let's go!"Menacing Spike wrote:You could just mention he easily slaughtered heroes far more renowned and better equipped than the party. Or put a ripped apart kraken near his lear or... or something.
For a signal to be effective, both parties have to understand what it means. Developing that language is an important task that should be taken seriously, especially when a TPK is on the line.
If the 4th level party goes after the dragon taking a cut from the Major City's profits, they deserve the TPK for being fucking stupid. Hell, they probably couldn't take out the dragon who's doing good to get a tribute from a single farmer or small farming community unless it's a "dragon" by way of Ghost Image and a goblin shaman or something.
There's no need for Heroic Paragon Epic language. Not unless you have /consider as being a valid Standard Action. Not in the "Trying to give a grander sense of scale without sticking a 'Loot Me NAO' sign on everything" method of worldbuilding. Now, when the party starts getting in to actual research on the subject and doing some asking around.. sure, break out that sort of language then. But until then, it should be enough for a <10 level party to know that the Dragon's holding a city or two under it's sway to keep them from rushing off after it.
And hell, even if they are of the appropriate level, if they don't do recon, they.. continue to deserve the TPK.