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    nonsi's Avatar

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    Default Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    .
    I was thinking of making some radical concept changes regarding dragons, but first I wanted to specify the motivations and see how people react to them.

    I don’t know if the subject ever came up (I know I’ve never seen it) but I believe it should’ve.


    Okay, What do we know about dragons ?
    - They’re physically powerful
    - They’re mentally superior
    - They have crapload of spell power - features, spells & treasure
    - They have crapload of skills
    - They are a valued prize among high-level adventurers
    - They breed slowly
    - They have a very long life span (thousands of years)

    The above lead to several compelling conclusions regarding encounters:
    - A dragon with Int 18 or more should never ever ever be encountered by chance. Decades of survival have thought them to avoid unnecessary conflicts.
    - A dragon with Int 16 or more never ever ever underestimate an intelligent opponent.
    - An encounter with a dragon should almost always start with optimum settings for the dragon (deadly traps, dispels/A-M, self-empowerment via spells ahead of time, followers/slaves – all after the characters have been significantly beaten down and warn out... and when all the above fail – contingency means to revitalize and quick escape routes... and if you happened to have taken one down, getting to its real treasure should be as easy as pin-pointing a specific snowflake in a blizzard).

    This goes even farther on a game-settings scale.
    Given that:
    1. Dragons were around at the dawn of mankind and the other humanoid races
    2. They had a lot of time to assess these young races, and anticipate the direction in which their evolution takes them and what effects this will have on the denizens of their homeworld and on them in particular.
    The compelling conclusion is that in a world where dragons exist in even a reasonable amount of abundance, humanoid races should’ve been hunted down and dwindled to near extinction.
    Even if the above is nearly impossible ecology-wise, dragons with polymorph and Alternate form should’ve easily made it to almost every key political position and set global-scale wars among the humanoids – just to keep them too busy to ever become a threat in any way.


    Does anybody follow my trail of thought ?
    Am I making any sense ?
    Am I missing something other than “snap out of it man, it’s just a game” ?
    .

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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    This is a common issue with dragons.

    In Faerun- they once ruled most of the world, before the Dracorage Mythal was constructed, causing them to periodically go berserk. This is why they rarely build truly long-lasting empires.

    Metallic dragons do tend to gravitate to high places. And in Eberron, the dragons rule a continent, and have devastated continents like Xendrik when the inhabitants have really offended them.
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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    {Scrubbed}
    Last edited by Roland St. Jude; 2010-08-01 at 06:59 PM.

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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    Its more a "given all the advantages dragons have, why don't they rule the world and keep everyone else down?" question.

    Which can be answered several wauys- the simplest of which being "because it wouldn't be fun to play in that kind of setting"

    That said, there are others. Usually involving the unwillingness of dragons to cooperate with each other, internal battles between different kinds of dragon, and possibly psychological differences (with most dragons, even evil ones, not wanting to run empires, and those that do, being rare exceptions).
    Last edited by hamishspence; 2010-08-01 at 03:00 PM.
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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    Yeah, using anything but the OP as a reference and not making dragons specifically invincible would help a lot. :D

    Also, according to the book, the best humanoid wizards are smarter than dragons (Int 39 counting age, IIRC, and that may still not be the maximum; versus Int 32 for the typical - and stupidly rare - oldest of the smartest species).

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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    Quote Originally Posted by hamishspence View Post

    Which can be answered several wauys- the simplest of which being "because it wouldn't be fun to play in that kind of setting"

    That said, there are others. Usually involving the unwillingness of dragons to cooperate with each other, internal battles between different kinds of dragon, and possibly psychological differences (with most dragons, even evil ones, not wanting to run empires, and those that do, being rare exceptions).
    Isn't "because there's not enough of them" easiest solution?
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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    Part of a dragon's long lifespan comes from the rarity of higher level adventurers. While they do have magical abilities they are relatively low level.
    So you never have to interrupt a game to look up a rule again:
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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    1. Conflict between the different kinds of dragons. There are a ton of different kinds, and none of them like each other.
    2. There are extremely few of them. The number of different species and their intelligence exacerbates this; finding another mature dragon is ridiculously difficult given that they're so rare in the first place and tend to be reclusive, finding another mature dragon of their species is even harder, and finding another of their species that they like is even harder than that. Dragons don't breed much.
    3. They're goddamn dragons. Almost everyone else wants to kill them in preemptive self-defense (including other dragons of different species/ alignments), and sometimes they succeed - especially against younger ones. And seeing their children killed every few decades causes a fair portion of the dragons that actually do manage to find mates to succumb to despair and stop trying.
    4. As a result of all of the above, they are extremely reclusive and paranoid. Sure they could have lots of power easily if they flew into town and declared themselves ruler, but very few of them are willing to take such risks.
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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    You could also have a perfectly interesting setting running with the assumption that dragons do rule the world, and mortals have to deal with the challenges presented by the dragon hegemony (such as navigating dragon politics, where you might serve one against another; or attempting to overthrow draconic control in some manner).

    I saw a setting called Iokarthel which was set up this way; if anyone's interested, I can see if I can drum up a link to some material.
    Last edited by MythMage; 2010-08-01 at 06:00 PM.
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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    Or I've heard of worlds that are post dragon-wars: the chromatic and metallic dragons fought it out, and after the carnage the humanoids came out on top.
    So you never have to interrupt a game to look up a rule again:
    My 3.5e Rules Cheat Sheets: Normal, With Consolidated Skill System
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    MonkGirl

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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    That sounds like how the world evolved... Reptiles ruled the world and then something bad happened... And mammals came out on top :P
    I have to give Paizo credit...

    They took an established work and said they fixed it but didn't actually fix it and yet still made money off from it.

    How can you beat that?

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    PirateGuy

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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    Of course, in our natural world there was no such thing as magic. I think Dragons could avert a crisis or save themselves (200 year duration for imprisonment cast on self or something).

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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    Asking why dragons don't rule the world is like asking why the abyss doesn't flood the material. There is nothing stopping them, and looking at the hard rules they have all the tools they need.

    But Hami said it best, that kind of game world may not be fun for the default game world.
    Last edited by Arbitrarious; 2010-08-02 at 12:37 AM.

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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    yeah, it's like the reason we have dungeons even though they're tactically disadvantageous, especially with scry-and-die.

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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Aran Banks View Post
    yeah, it's like the reason we have dungeons even though they're tactically disadvantageous, especially with scry-and-die.
    And that's why one goes out and fixes stuff.

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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    >> why the abyss doesn't flood the material
    This could easily be explained by the material not being their natural environment. "They might just not like it over here".

    >> yeah, it's like the reason we have dungeons
    >> even though they're tactically disadvantageous,
    >> especially with scry-and-die.
    IIRC, Scrying requires you to have some familiarity of the target.
    This reduces tactical advantage significantly, when you have no idea if there's even anything in there.


    And as far as dragon go, I can think of a way of putting things back in order:
    1. swap spellcasting with the DFA's invocations. This is a lot more credible for being "magic from within" rather than "magical studies".
    2. make a significant Int reduction, say all start with 5 and end up with 18, gaining +1 per age category till "Ancient" and +2 for the last 2 age categories. This will at least make it reasonable that they didn't take over the world.
    Last edited by nonsi; 2010-08-02 at 09:11 AM.

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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    I don't know how it is in 3.5, but Planescape very clearly states that Tanar'ri can not leave the Abyss unless summoned. Exceptions are very rare.

    Anyway: dragons are extremely powerful. They can level mortal armies when they want to, so there needs to be an explanation for that. Some I've heard:

    They don't care. Let the humans build their silly kingdoms, it will be no threat to me while I do really important stuff. Some dragons hop over and let themselves be worshiped as a god for a decade or two, but that's kid's stuff, really. Real dragons research magic, and unlock the secrets of time, space, belief, creation and other such fundamental concepts.

    As dragons age, they get more and more passive. A great red wyrm will level a country when he wakes up, but his metabolism is so slow, he only does that once a millenium. The chances of any two great dragons actually meeting are slim, so they can not really collaborate on that sort of thing.

    They are held in check by equally powerful forces opposite them. Be it dragons of other colours, the gods or tippy wizards, they aren't the biggest lizards in the pond.
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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    I don't know how it is in 3.5, but Planescape very clearly states that Tanar'ri can not leave the Abyss unless summoned. Exceptions are very rare.
    +1 to that. Fiendish codex states that most rank and file demons wiish for an oportunity to leave their horrible home. Only the big dudes can enter and leave at will, but those prefer to stay in their personal layers surrounded by their armies than go out there and get ganked by adventurers.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    Anyway: dragons are extremely powerful. They can level mortal armies when they want to, so there needs to be an explanation for that. Some I've heard:

    They don't care. Let the humans build their silly kingdoms, it will be no threat to me while I do really important stuff. Some dragons hop over and let themselves be worshiped as a god for a decade or two, but that's kid's stuff, really. Real dragons research magic, and unlock the secrets of time, space, belief, creation and other such fundamental concepts.

    As dragons age, they get more and more passive. A great red wyrm will level a country when he wakes up, but his metabolism is so slow, he only does that once a millenium. The chances of any two great dragons actually meeting are slim, so they can not really collaborate on that sort of thing.
    About that, Dracomicon states that while dragons are very powerfull they're also very lazy. Think about it. You can go out there spread a trail of destruction and risk a lucky group of adventurers kill you.

    Or you can rest in your cave for centuries only eating those who aproach your lair too much and you'll become even stronger, smarter and more powerfull just because of aging! Why bother working hard when you'll become stronger just by waiting?

    And when you finally reach the end of your life? then you can ascend to something even greater! Who cares about the short lived mortals and their ephemeral kingdoms? It's fun crushing one now and then but indeed you've got better things to do.

    In conclusion, dragons have lots of reasons to don't risk their lifes. Mortals decay as they grow older so they have some reason to choose "Live fast and die young", but a dragon has a lot more to gain from playing it easy and bidding his time whitout risking atracting the atention of a group of adventurers. Sure you could crush them, but there's still a chance you end up geting killed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    They are held in check by equally powerful forces opposite them. Be it dragons of other colours, the gods or tippy wizards, they aren't the biggest lizards in the pond.
    That too. Dracomicon states as well some older dragons will make a personal quest of hunting and killing dragons of the oposite alignment.
    Last edited by Oslecamo; 2010-08-02 at 09:48 AM.

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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    I'm actually reworking the dragons to fit my setting better. I've removed the metallic variety and added about 5 new colours.

    It's a large project and nowhere near finished and it's all in the name of making my setting a little more unique.

    But yeah, I agree with a lot of what has been said above. Dragons are lazy and self-interested, why would they bother with lower races? And a setting where dragons rule the world would befun for a one-off campaign, but as a default it wouldn't be very interested because it would be difficult to play it.
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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    I think dragons doesn't rule everything for simple reasons.

    First, they don't care. Yes, they could use the world as their playground, but seeing as they are antisocial and loners by nature, they don't bother with lesser beings. They can take what they want, whenever they want, so they don't need to worry with anything.

    Seconds, dragons, for being "obviously" "superior", doesn't deem the lesser races as worth enough to bother with them. It usually proves their downfall as they neglect the ability the lesser races have to increase in power.

    True, a 100,000 old dragon should have seem enough of the world to know there are some powerful individuals out there, but they either refuse to believe a puny human can defeat it, or, when well played by a DM, will have enough experience to know better, although many younger dragons around will do these mitakes still.

    In short: Dragons have awfully inflated egos, and don't see others as menaces, until it's too late, and their head ends up on the adventurer's wall.

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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    Quote Originally Posted by MythMage View Post
    You could also have a perfectly interesting setting running with the assumption that dragons do rule the world, and mortals have to deal with the challenges presented by the dragon hegemony (such as navigating dragon politics, where you might serve one against another; or attempting to overthrow draconic control in some manner).
    Someone should run a campaign like this. I'd play it.
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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    An Eberron campaign set on Argonnessen, or a Faerun campaign set prior to the first Dracorage, would be ideal for this sort of thing.

    Did Council of Wyrms make the assumption that dragons are In Charge of most of the world?
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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    Or a nation game where everyone is playing a single dragon out to rule the world...
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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    You could draw on PHB2's "Organization" rules- only each dragon's organization is actually a small nation.
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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    Which edition of the PHB2?
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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    3.5 edition.
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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    Not all dragons are smart.

    Look at White dragons:
    Even at Great Wyrm (CR 21) is only as smart as a 1st level human (Int 18).
    They only have 14 at Wyrm age.

    Greens/Blue/Red are only above average (14) till reach Adult

    Blacks are only above average (14) till Old

    Int scale is White/Black/(Greens/Blue/Red).
    CR 15 to be Int 16 minimum for evil dragons.

    Sadly for most of a dragons life: they are big dumb lizards.

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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    Technically Int 11 is above average (very slightly)

    White dragons are probably the only dragon which could be called stupid for much of their lives. Especially considering dragons live for a long time past starting Great Wyrm age.

    Then there's the metallic dragons- significantly smarter, earlier (most of them).
    Last edited by hamishspence; 2010-08-02 at 02:23 PM.
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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lix Lorn View Post
    Someone should run a campaign like this. I'd play it.
    I don't know about active campaigns, but here's that campaign setting I mentioned: Iokarthel, created by WarDragon. You should let him know if you try to use his setting. :)
    Last edited by MythMage; 2010-08-03 at 01:45 AM.
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    Default Re: Dragons – did they get them wrong ?

    Yes, they did get dragons wrong.

    Alignment. I find it impossible to justify on philosophical grounds dragons having an "always" alignment. Differing alignment also makes for a more fun game. Neutral dragons are even mentioned in the players handbook.

    Dragons breath fire. All except white and silver dragons should be able to breath fire. Other breath weapons should be in addition.

    Too many types. Having so many different types of gigantic mobile intelligent apex predator is unneccesarily unrealistic. Is it really sensible having separate bronze/brass/copper and white/silver dragons? I reduce the core types to Red, Green, Black, White, Bronze and Gold for my games.

    Blue dragons. I find the discription and lifestyle of the blue dragon as portrayed in the 3.5e Players Handbook unconvincing even for a fantasy world. Clearly a lot of people did, they changed it for 4th edition.


    I reduce the core types to Red, Green, Black, White, Bronze and Gold, all of which vary from their usual alignment, and all except White breath fire as well as their stated breath weapon.

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