Dragons are world-weary and few. I’m a huge fan of these creatures. Who isn’t? When the fourth edition of D&D launched I loved the variety of dragons in the game. I used them everywhere. They served as main villains, but also as mounts for bad guys, guardians of temples and artifacts, beasts that were summoned by wizards, powerful allies, combat companions alongside the PCs… you get the idea. After all of that I’m a little pooped out on dragons and they’ve lost some of their majestic pizzazz for my players. I know, I know. I blame me. So I’m taking a different approach.

However, I also don’t think dragons should be shut away in ivory towers, reserved for epic level encounters only. They are in the name of the game after all and a big part of the attraction. If you can’t see a dragon in your fantasy life when can you? (Seriously when can you see one in real life, if you know, please tell me.) As a player I’d feel cheated in a dragon-less campaign and as a DM I’d have a big dragon-shaped void in my gamer heart.

Dragons Are Special

What do you mean I ain’t special?!?

In Exploration Age, dragons should feel special, but not wholly inaccessible. The PCs should all know of the greatest dragons from childhood stories. The mere mention of a specific name should make an entire tavern nod with recognition. Before a dragon ever steps into the PCs’ lives they should know he or she is kind of a big deal.

Along the same lines dragons in Exploration Age should never play second-fiddle to another NPC. They don’t serve as full-time guardians or mounts, those are jobs for animals, not great majestic beasts. If a dragon chooses to work with an NPC, it is for one of two reasons. First the dragon is clearly in charge, the scheme is of his or her design and the NPC is the dragon’s lackey. Second, the dragon and NPC appear to be equal partners in a scheme crafted by the latter; however the dragon still considers itself superior (he or she probably is) and allows the NPC to think of them as equals as long as their goals are aligned.

Dragons of Exploration Age are proud of their mighty heritage. Since the dragons of Canus only grow stronger of mind and body as they age, some dragons from The Birthing Dawn (the time when the dragons came forth from Canus’ core) are still alive. Though old age will not kill a dragon, he or she could still be put down by physical wounds. There is no known ritual that can restore a dragon to life once it has died, which is why some might choose to become a dracolich. If sword or spell strikes down a dracolich, the phylactery will bring the dragon back.

In general, dragons have grown world-weary of the affairs of mortals. While once their goal was world domination, most no longer desire power and already have a vast horde of treasure, either acquired or more-likely inherited. Dragons often look to gain something far more useful than items or kingdoms – knowledge. They have the time and strength of mind to become experts in all sorts of lore. Some might spend their time summoning other-worldly beings to speak with them, reading mounds of ancient tomes, experimenting with magic, studying the stars, talking to spirits of the dead, or even occasionally seeking out mortals of renown – all in the name of expanding their minds.

There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. Some dragons may grow so bored and nihilistic they seek their own death, so they begin raiding villages and country sides as a challenge to find a creature worthy enough of granting them death. Others may hunger for knowledge so ravenously that they kill other dragons and extract the knowledge of the victims’ corpses. Still others, mostly younger dragons, may become obsessed with gaining power or a larger horde and seek out treasure, minions and power, or enjoy the company and affairs of mortals more than most of their kin.

Chromatic vs Metallic

In Exploration Age there isn’t a strict evil/good divide between chromatic and metallic dragons. Instead these general truths holds true:

  • Chromatic dragons can be found in Parian, Glacius, and Findalay.
  • Metallic dragons appear to be exclusive to Verda.
  • Chromatic dragons are quicker to anger and use their might and wrath to swing a situation to their advantage. They are more straight forward and demanding when dealing with lesser beings.
  • Metallic dragons are calmer and more level-headed in high pressure situations. They let their confidence and intellect win the day and prefer to have others fight for them, only attacking when there is no other option.
  • Surprisingly, these two types of dragons have always known about each other, or so they claim, but have had no known contact since they emerged from Canus’ core. The reason why is currently unknown, but it seems the dragons are not friendly.

Legacy of the Dragons

Exploration Age’s dragons are no longer active in the day-to-day lives of mortals, but that wasn’t always true. Drow and elves formed from the blood of chromatic dragons and share their love of knowledge, quick temper, immortality, and passion for life. They are fiercely proud of this heritage and call themselves The Dragon Children. Sharminds, gnomes, and dwarves fought against the chromatic dragons long ago, and their tales speak of the terror and violence dragons can rain down upon the world. Tieflings and dragonborn can trace their own creation back to the hands of metallic dragons. The dragonborn just recently learned of their lineage, but the tieflings have never forgotten their younger brethren, nor have the tieflings ever stopped hating the dragonborn’s existence.

The dragons influence can be witnessed throughout the world. Aberrant ruins tell tales of the wrath of the dragons, while abandoned nests tell tales of their caring, introspective natures. Tieflings have books and works of art from metallic dragons in their Spires. Dragonscale armor is more than practical, it’s a sign to others that you are a badass. Scholars may spend their lives dreaming of getting to sit down and access the mind and/or library of one of the more ancient dragons, while a village may live in fear because of their proximity to a dragon’s nest.

Stories are the largest legacy dragons give to the world. There isn’t a person on Canus who hasn’t heard at least a few tales about the majestic beasts as heroes or villains.

Do you agree? Should dragons be super special, but still fully integrated into the world?

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Comments
  1. joelastowski says:

    The longest D&D game I ever ran began because my friends & I were so upset that the D&D Movie had turned dragons into non-special fighter planes that we wanted to do it better. So I totally agree that dragons should be special, and never run-of-the-mill.

    I wonder if there are (as in some other games) Dragonslayer Guilds or similar groups, who might be viewed very differently in Canus depending on who’s the dominant race of the area. I could totally see a team of dwarf, gnome, & shardmind dragonslayers walking into a tiefling city and being refused service or chased by a mob.

    One of the big design discussions I’ve heard about dragons has been whether or not they should have inherent magic and spell-like abilities. I think, given their age, it makes total sense that they’d have a couple hundred years to master wizardry… but then does that take away from the massive monster intimidation factor? Also, do you intend on keeping to the traditional draconic personality types by color? I know those were always suggestions, but the scheming green vs the hiding black vs the rampaging red have always been key roleplaying cues for me as a DM trying to control different dragons.

    And finally, since this is a D&D Next world that you’re building, let me take a moment to say that I REALLY hope they get the math better-balanced. In the last public playtest, I had a group of level 5 PCs that I ran against a level 10 black dragon, and they took him out without any characters even dropping to half HP. It felt very anticlimactic, and while I don’t think dragons should be untouchable (like that impossible, red dragon in the quarter-stealing side quest of the D&D arcade game), I feel like they should be a legitimate threat that players think twice before fighting. Sounds like you’re certainly in the right ballpark story-wise… I just hope the final system gives you stats to support what you’ve written. Either way, I’m sure they’ll explicitly state that you can do the “iconic” DM thing and adjust the stats on your own.

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    • Joe, if they don’t get the math right on dragons that is going to be a HUGE disappointment, like makes-me-want-to-not-buy-the-game-as-much so. I hope it does match up, because otherwise Exploration Age might be bound for another system.

      Love the idea of dragonslayers being mistreated by tieflings and elves. I will probably stick to the personality type by color guidelines, but I’m always a fan of breaking the rules where I can too. A sneaky red dragon is just as cool as a rampaging black. As far as wizardry for dragons I feel like their spells only make them MORE badass. Breath weapons, spells, claws, bite, tail slap, and wings?!?!!? That’s the epicness of an ancient wyrm!

      Like

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