Fighting the dovah is simple enough in theory, but actually performing it can be very difficult. Dragons aren’t going to pull any punches or take any crap from you once they’re aware of your presence. There’s a long list of things that can’t be done to these beasts and that’s going to restrict your combat choices. This will be complicated by your choice of playing style but more on that later. However the rewards for slaying them are well worth it – dragons carry a large amount of gold leveled for your character as well as Dragon Scales and Dragon Bones that sell for a good bit of money or can be used to make powerful armors.
Dragons don’t seem to be affected by having their stamina or magicka drained so cold and lightning magic are only marginally useful. Their breath attacks seem to be governed like a Shout, which makes sense, but it stops you from being able to do anything to slow those down. So you’ll want to keep a few potions to help you resist fire or ice so you’re prepared for either of the attacks they will use.
To start, dragons can’t be frozen, paralyzed or otherwise rendered immobile. It is possible to cause them to recoil away by hitting them with hard enough attacks but they won’t actually be staggered. They recoil briefly before attacking again, giving you barely enough time to raise your shield. This means that melee combat with them can become a big ol’ slugfest. Even if you have a bunch of NPCs helping you the dragon can lash out with its mouth, wings and tail to ensure that everybody in a radius around it suffers for coming close.
That doesn’t mean that you should never try to fight dragons with a group. If you have a follower, the two of you can circle around the dragon and try to confuse it. It will lash its head back and forth, unable to decide on who to attack, which means it will only attack each of you once or twice at best before getting distracted. At about the midway point of the game there is a chance to bring a trio of dragon hunters with you to dragon roosts to slay them; this will make killing them in these specific locations much easier.
With this in mind there is an “ideal” method for hunting dragons as well as methods specific to each of the three character types. These are the most important parts to bringing these behemoths down.