20 September 2010


Snicker snack, motherslapper!
I remember when I was but a boy, and my father came home with the animated Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings movies (it was the mid 90s, so Peter Jackson hadn't even started on the Lord of the Rings movies yet.) If you've never seen them, they're pretty good if you keep an open mind. They're designed for children, so everything's vaguely anthropomorphic and yet undeniably awesome. The goblins whose mouths open directly to the cave floor is a nice touch, as well.

I mean, shit, this is what D&D really is to me. It's about being the little man, being careful because over there is a mountain full of goddamn goblins and they're living underneath a dragon's motherslappin' cave and by the way, there's also a hideous deformed mutant guy living in an underground lake. Badass.

And then there's Smaug. When Bilbo decides to talk to him, I remember distinctly Smaug toying with him for his own amusement, because apparently everybody in Middle Earth has a damn riddle fetish. After Smaug decides the dude's a smelly-ass human, he goes off to burn Lake Town to the ground. But not before bellowing that his teeth are spears, and his wings hurricanes and his breath is death and all of that. I think I have the video link, in case you haven't seen it. For a nearly immortal, unkillable dragon, he sure likes to brag. And man, is he bad at riddles.

Good at breathing fire, though.

But that's something that I think is really cool, and that's dragons with personalities. I'm intentionally ignoring the color-coded dragon scheme, because I think it's absolutely retarded and doesn't explain anything at all. Sure, dragons can have adapted to their preferred environment, so that a red dragon lives in mountains and volcanoes and a blue dragon could live in a desert, but that doesn't tell you a damn thing about their personality any more than the fact that I live in a forest or in the plains would.

But before I digress, I'd like to talk about dragon personalities a little. The way I see it, dragons would have an extremely long-term approach to life. They've got nothing to do, they live for nearly forever, and their only real goal is power. They'd more or less ignore human intrigues, as there's nothing really they can provide to them. I imagine dragons living a solitary life, with separate dragon politics that the ruled might not even be aware of. For instance, were you aware that you're currently in the realm of Abronaxus the Green, and that he comes every roughly 200 years for his tribute? Do you think the current ruler, Viscount Grehm knows that?

He's about to find out.
The other idea I like is that dragons would necessarily domineer other groups. The currently popular idea is that evil humanoids will serve those bad, bad dragons, with humans and elves and dwarves bravely standing up against the cruelty by fighting the dragon. And probably getting killed, too. The only smart response to a supernaturally smart, long-lived, extraordinarily powerful fire-breathing despot is servitude. A dragon's servants aren't evil or stupid, they're practical. That guy is providing you protection from whatever other minor enemies you have at the tiny cost of setting aside some of your people to make sure it's happy. I mean, hell, that's not a bad deal, especially considering that dragons wouldn't likely desire much other than to have their pride soothed by the little people they've claimed as their own, something to eat, and some treasure. That's less than some human rulers demand, to be honest. Failure to bring the dragon these things, of course, would result in a swift, flaming death. Or at least while he's awake. While the dragon's sleeping, maybe the wizard's been creating an entrapment spell for the great wyrm, or maybe the finest blacksmiths in the land have crafted a great muzzle, to stop his deadly fire. The tyranny will end before it has a chance to go on forever!

Or maybe it takes the opposite tack- maybe the dragon is heralded as divinity, with dragons being the primary recipients of worship in the kingdoms. Makes sense to me. After all, people give the entirety of their lives over to mythology they never see, people they've never met, and abstract ideals, so belief in a dragon-oriented society would necessarily be strong and devout. Here he is, the absolutely divine representation of our gods. Hell, he could even be their god, making claims that in times past, he was involved in the Great Creation, or that he was one of the Firstborn, the first dragon to crawl out of the Primordial Egg and lay claim to the vast dominion he's held since the beginning of time. He might even be telling the truth.

If you don't believe him, you and him can always have a word.

Abronaxus will see you now.


  1. At the risk of sounding like a shameless pimp –and possible spoilerizing– you might want to check out our (Faster Monkey's) latest module "Skull Mountain." :-)

  2. @bighara: You know, I'd honestly been meaning to check it out. I've heard nothing but good about it!

  3. To this day, I love the Rankin-Bass visuals for grotty-looking Dwarves and Elves, the weird Goblins, and the catlike Smaug with headlight eyes. I don't think it works as Tolkien, but it works as "looking cool."

  4. @scott: It's funny you should mention that, actually, because I'm a noted non-fan of Tolkien's books. They just left me cold and exceptionally bored, and I'm not at all interested in the lore.

    But man! That movie has some seriously cool stuff.

  5. Yep yep, Rankin-Bass' "The Hobbit" in particular had an enormous influence on my perception of D&D as a kid.

    Between Smaug and the similar scene in a "Wizard of Earthsea", you've got a certain archetype of lazy, prideful, rage-y dragon done exquisitely.

  6. I think it's Michael Swanwick's _The Dragons of Babel_ that has a really chilling 20th-century take on the advantages and costs of serving a dragon, but maybe it's _The Iron Dragon's Daughter_ which also has mind-blowing dragon-ness going on.
    - Tavis