Written by: Tiberius Tyran & Umberto Giano
Images by: Filipa Thespian
Elsibet the Red has a Visitor
The distinct pitter-patter sound of bipedal footsteps stirs Elsabet from her deep slumber. Though no longer a hatchling, she is still young by dragon standards, yet quite ancient by human reckoning. In her brief 600 years of life, she has traveled the world many times over, learned lost arts and magics from the wisest and oldest of her kind, discussed philosophy with great man-kings of old (before of course devouring their virgin daughters), and fought and dispatched the mightiest would-be heroes of human history.
Elsabet possesses a vast reservoir of experience and knowledge – and that is her true treasure, not the shiny trinkets and glittering gems littering the rocky ground around her. Now, however, despite her vast mental acuity, her predator instinct takes the forefront. She is ravenously hungry after her hibernation and, most importantly, bored. As the puny human enters her lair, pausing at the entrance to allow his comparatively weaker eyes to adjust to the darkness, she speaks in his tongue, “Come, Young Traveler … come closer so that I may have a look at you.”
Instantly terrified, he freezes in his tracks and turns to run, then hesitates at the sight of her fabled treasure. The scent of his fear and trepidation is palpable – the air stinks of it, almost as much as the stench of his rising greed. “Poor little man-child,” Elsabet muses in her mind. “He truly doesn’t understand his plight.”
Breaking the silence, she speaks again in a soothing, almost hypnotic voice, “Fear not – you may take as much of my treasure as you can carry, and I will not harm you … as long as you can answer my riddle.” She chuckles as she surveys the tasty, amusing morsel standing before her…
Mention a dragon and, typically, images come to mind from the time-honored myth of the valiant crusader St. George, charging in on his steed and rescuing the princess from an evil, fire-breathing behemoth. It is a simple and pure story of good vs. evil, but the truth is that dragons in role play (rp) settings are anything but simple. Role playing a dragon is actually quite difficult, and it takes a creative, seasoned role player (rp’er) with a good working knowledge of dragons as a whole to pull it off, because, when it comes to dragons in rp, one size definitely does not fit all.
Dragons in actuality are not the mindless, bloodthirsty beasts of lore. While “bloodthirsty” can describe many types of dragons, such as the red dragon, which prefers to devour his meal while it still lives, dragons are also incredibly intelligent beings represented by a dizzying array of sub-species, classifications, and dispositions.
The green dragon, for example, thrives on manipulation and mind control, and, in contrast to her red-scaled cousin, won’t just brutishly devour her victims – she’ll manipulate and cajole them until they beg her to eat their flesh. Your more well-known dragons (chromatics such as green, red, or black dragons) will be closer in temperament to the evil monsters of legend, while the metallic colored (gold, silver, bronze, etc.) dragons are wise, benevolent beings, typically good in nature. Each color represents certain attributes particular to that sub-species. For the novice, it can be confusing, so research is of utmost importance for any role player considering a dragon character.
Various wiki sites offer basic information about dragons, though you can never be sure it is accurate for the particular rp environment serving as your setting. Probably the best source on these scaled wonders is the Dungeons and Dragons Draconomicon, a tome on everything related to the dragon. It’s a fantastic read (I have scoured its pages so many times) and will provide any beginner with a rich source of dragon information and lore; even seasoned RP’ers will benefit from a read.
If possible, search online for the 3.5 version of the Draconomicon, as it delves more into the mythos and ecology of the dragon, the manner in which different types of dragons react and behave, and the way in which they live with and interact with other races. Later versions of this book are less rich in detail and serve simply as a template for creating a monster without much personality or nuance. These are not two-dimensional constructs, but proud ancient creatures. Despite their complexities, however, there are traits all dragons share, regardless of their color or alignment. Two such constants are their compulsion to gather a hoard and their regard for social status among their own kind.
One generality true of all dragons is their insatiable need to accumulate treasure. All dragons compulsively gather and hoard valuables, whether it is the stereotypical gold and gems of literature or treasure of a different nature such as magical artifacts, land, or even humans. It isn’t unusual for a dragon to be guarding a sacred place, keeping a stolen princess in his lair to serve him, and everyone knows gold dragons are avid collectors of rare art. Anything which holds value for a particular dragon will be his “treasure.”
The age and size of a dragon’s hoard are driving factors to their status amongst their peers. The most respected and ancient of wyrms will be sitting upon centuries of accumulated wealth, and they will guard and protect it to their dying breath. No one really knows why dragons stockpile valuables – not even themselves. Greed may be a factor, of course – certainly so with the evil chromatic dragons. As a generality, the hoard is for both beauty and status, yet in some occasions, it can also be food as dragons are able to eat anything including gold.
“A dragon collects treasure mainly for its beauty – you don’t think there can be too much beauty, do you? Besides, some treasure is very good eating.”
– Kacdaninymila, Gold Dragon
– Draconomicon, Page 27
Each dragon sub-species is led by a single powerful Great Wyrm, the oldest living dragon of a particular color. After that, those with the greatest age and hoards fall into rank. “Rank” has varying meanings to different dragons and will be based upon their classification. Among Chromatics (darker colored and malevolent), leaders are brutal, demanding tyrants who lord their position over an underclass of resentful subordinates. A Chromatic leader is hated and must be vigilant for signs of mutiny, crushing any hint of rebellion swiftly and ruthlessly if he wants to maintain his position. In contrast, among Metallics (benevolent dragons marked by their shiny scales), leaders are followed by choice. Great respect is afforded to Metallic leaders, and promotion in rank is rarely violent.
How to best RP with a Dragon
(or, How I met a dragon and survived)
If you ran into a dragon in the real world, your first thought would probably be something like this: “Oh wow, look at these jewels. What is that moving in the darkness? Oh hell no! It’s a Dra -” Cut short, of course, by 30 seconds of sustained 1,800 degree flame burst. For the purpose of rp, this won’t do. That is why it is important for only the most creative and experienced rp’ers to play dragons. Scenarios and story lines must be crafted so that encounters between humans and dragons can be logically concluded and not end with the human as a fried crispy snack.
Those who deal with dragons are best advised to think before speaking and tread carefully. These proud, majestic creatures expect, and often demand, complete respect, even from their prey. Even the most level-headed dragons are convinced of their superiority and believe their species to be the very pinnacle of evolution. Charged with the important task of maintaining great magics and the natural order, they relish this role, and it makes them exceedingly proud – even vain – no matter their disposition or color. Any form of insult, be it slight, major, or simply imagined, will set even the kindest dragons into a rage. Their pride can be a weakness, but one that is excessively difficult to exploit and usually lethal to the fool who trys.
Generally speaking, metallic dragons are more willing to talk with people and even on occasion willing to help others. They can be approached with relatively little fear by anyone who is pure of heart. Arrogance, rudeness, or offensive language is the easiest way to anger even a good dragon. Always be respectful, and acknowledge that they are powerful, sentient beings, not lowly beasts or creatures.
Dealing with Chromatic dragons can be problematic. In their eyes, you’ll at best be an annoyance. At worst, you’re likely regarded as dinner. If placed in a situation where you must interact with such a beast, be subservient and humble yourself before the dragon. A Chromatic will already consider you vastly beneath him, but your acceptance of that position will give you a leg up and let you last a bit longer before becoming brunch. As mentioned before, all Chromatics are vain and susceptible to flattery. Compliments and tributes of gold may also help, but do not expect to hold their ear for long – the longer you keep their attention, the longer they have to decide whether to devour you for annoying them. Keep it short and sweet, and you may have a chance to live.
Elsabet picks her fanged teeth with a femur after finishing off the little man. Feeling recharged, she stretches her wings and prepares to tour the countryside; she’s curious how the world of humankind has changed during her decade-long slumber. Rising from her nest, she stops short at the sound of more footsteps. “What is this?” she asks herself. Then it dawns upon her. “Ah. The little thief must have a partner.” Her reptilian eyes narrow in satisfaction, and she purrs, “Dessert.”
— The story of Elsibet by Umberto Giano of Roleplay Guide Magazine