THEME: The origin of dragons

 
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KaVir



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PostPosted: Wed May 02, 2007 10:52 am    Post subject: THEME: The origin of dragons Reply with quote

I'm trying to design a background story (i.e., thematic excuse) for certain dragon races, and was hoping to get feedback from others, as this really isn't my area of expertise. Any suggestions for refinement would be more than welcome, as would pointing out any logical flaws in what I've got so far.

Basically what I want to have is the following:

PCs: Should be able to play as draconians, dragons, hydra, wyverns, etc.

NPCs: There should be mob dragons, but also "dumb" drakes (which serve as mounts). I also want to have lizardmen and sauroids as two distinct NPC races, each with their own flavour, but I think it makes logical sense that they would come from the same evolutionary source.

In short, I want all of these dragon-oriented races and forms to be thematically tied together in a vaguely logical way, supported by judicious amounts of technobabble.

This is what I've got so far (the bold part is generic theme, the rest is dragon-specific):


Scattered throughout the Universes are fragments of primal energy, and sometimes a tiny fragment strikes a world. Reality became distorted around things touched by this energy, and rare individuals calling themselves "wizards" have developed the skills to control and manipulate this power, which they call "magic". Sometimes the energy encounters a free-floating sentient soul, and instead of merely touching it, merges with it. These immortal beings, called the Supernaturalis, don't simply manipulate magic like the puny mortal wizards; they are one with it. A Supernaturalis wields magic with the same natural ease as a mortal breathes air.

The Dragon Realm is a world ruled by great lizards. Imagine something similar to our own world, back when dinosaurs walked the Earth, except that these great lizards were never wiped out. The dominant species of lizard was the dracamander, which possessed a highly developed brain along with racial memory, and eventually evolved to become the creatures known today as 'dragons'.

Note that humans were successful not just because of their brains, but also because of their ability to use tools. Dragons evolved in much the same way except that instead of physical tools, they developed and used magical ones (i.e., spells and magical devices).

Although only human souls have the correct alignment to become Supernaturalis, the highly evolved dragons are very close, and this spiritual proximity can be exploited. A Supernaturalis human who is consumed by a pregnant dragon may choose to allow his essense to meld with that of the egg. When the egg hatches, the resulting dragon will be a Supernaturalis. It will retain the memories of the original Supernaturalis as well as the genetic memories of the dragon, and the personality will be something of a mixture between the two.

Those who retain a dominant human personality will usually turn away from their Dragon heritage, embracing their human side and abusing their draconic gifts. This makes them the ultimate dragon hunters.

When the draconic memories overpower original personality, the resulting dragon will embrace that aspect of himself. Often this form will be favoured anyway, as any Supernaturalis who deliberately chooses to meld with a dragon obviously has some preferences in that direction.

However the resulting dragon sometimes feels equal affinity for both its human and dragon sides, and will transform into a hybrid of the two forms - a reptilian humanoid. This draconian form is inheritently magical, and does not exist naturally.

A Supernaturalis dragon can only breed with others in the same form, although the resulting child will not itself be a Supernaturalis. If a dragon in human form breeds with a human (or another dragon also in human form), the child will be a human (albeit one with supernatural gifts). Equally, if a dragon in dragon form breeds with another dragon, the child will also be a dragon. However there is also one other possibility: A dragon in draconian form who breeds with another dragon in draconian form will have children sharing their hybrid form.

The offspring of such a union are not Supernaturalis, however, and as the generations progress they lose more and more of their power and intelligence, as reality tries to reject them. Over time this has given rise to two distinct draconian races - lizardmen and sauroids.

The lizardmen are a draconian race of highly territorial savages, barely more advanced than bronze-age humans. A few among their kind serve as shamans, but the majority are hunters and warriors, lacking any sort of magical gift. They have also devolved physically, having lost their breath weapons and even their wings.

The sauroids are a draconian race who pride themselves on their wisdom and knowledge. Although there are certainly plenty of warriors among their race, a large majority prefer to study arcane law. The sauroids have managed to maintain their intelligence by breeding with true Supernaturalis draconians as frequently as possible, and their obsession with bloodlines and generations borders on the fanatic. They revere the true draconians as messiahs, if not gods, and even the children of two true draconians will find themselves regarded with great respect.

Interaction between the two races is very rare and almost invariably hostile. The lizardmen reject the very core of the sauroids' beliefs, becoming what the sauroids fear the most - devolved savages. Equally the lizardmen are highly xenophobic and territorial, and would treat sauroids in the same aggressive way they would any other rival lizardman tribe.

Note that there are various pedigrees of dragon, as well as several breeds (such as hydra and wyvern) who evolved either alongside dragons, or from the early dragons (this is a source of much speculation among modern dragons). In addition, there are also other descendants of dracamanders (such as drakes) who didn't manage to attain the same level of intelligence as the dragons - although, like modern monkeys and apes, these draconic cousins are still far more intelligent than most beasts.
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KaVir



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PostPosted: Wed May 02, 2007 12:16 pm    Post subject: Re: THEME: The origin of dragons Reply with quote

KaVir wrote:
Although only human souls have the correct alignment to become Supernaturalis, the highly evolved dragons are very close, and this spiritual proximity can be exploited. A Supernaturalis human who is consumed by a pregnant dragon may choose to allow his essense to meld with that of the egg. When the egg hatches, the resulting dragon will be a Supernaturalis. It will retain the memories of the original Supernaturalis as well as the genetic memories of the dragon, and the personality will be something of a mixture between the two.


Some dragons dispute this view, claiming that they became Supernaturalis directly. The counter-argument is that a particularly weak-willed Supernaturalis may have had his original human personality and memories completely subsumed (or even consumed) during the melding. There is even one documented case of a Supernaturalis who used the melding as a form of 'suicide' - although he couldn't die, he allowed his personality to be completely overwhelmed by the dragon memories, and the new dragon remembered nothing of its former human life.

It is also possible that the dragon may be in denial - or simply lying - about his or her origin. In particular, dragons of purebred pedigrees are the ones who most commonly claim to have directly become Supernaturalis.

There are other dragons who claim that the human aspects of the original Supernaturalis are destroyed entirely, and that only memories remain. They claim that the Supernaturalis soul is simply a source of power and knowledge, and doesn't make them who they are. The major argument against this is the simple fact that every Supernaturalis dragon is capable of assuming human form at will - a form which is physical indistinguishable from a normal human.

Yet others claim that the merging results in a form of spiritual war between two personalities, whereby one side may achieve dominance or even defeat the other, but where the greatest power lies in achieving harmony between the two sides. Those with this belief often favour draconian form, feeling that it better symbolises such a balance, allowing them to draw upon the strengths of both personalities at the same time.
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Vopisk



Joined: 22 Aug 2005
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PostPosted: Wed May 02, 2007 2:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I must say, you've got ridiculously more thought into that one thematic, racial background than most games have for their entire game theme. But then again, you're "KaVir".

I think that the little digression into breeding patterns and outcomes is a little droll and had a hard time reading through it, getting to what I thought was better information contained beyond that.

Also, I would go into a bit more detail in regards to the home plane ("Dragon Realm") before launching in about how dragons can be Supernaturalis, etc...

I would probably suggest moving your final note to right up there where you're first talking about the dragons, establishing the various "pedigrees" of dragon in a little bit of detail and then getting on to how they exist in this realm.

A note I'd like to know more about is do Sauroids continue to have wings and breath attacks, perhaps a rare trait of their selective breeding? You mention this specifically in regards to the Lizardmen but passed it over with the Sauroids.

You might look at something like Australian Aborigines as a culture that you could use for the lizardmen, at least a basis. (note I have no idea if these people are xenophobic or hostile, but they are a primitive culture that still exists today, that's the extent of my knowledge) Perhaps a culture like ancient China for the Sauroids, distinctly because of the importance dragons already play in the culture and the fact that they invented just about everything before anyone else did, so it goes along with the whole "arcane law"/"maintained intelligence".

I realize this is most likely your "general" Dragon overview, so a lot of this is probably not pertinent to the particular theme you're trying to draw up, but it may be helpful in crafting race-specific theme. As I mentioned, I would suggest relocating the part about human/dragon melding to perhaps a separate file, it just seems out of place.

Anyway, just some quick thoughts,

-Vopisk
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Alayla



Joined: 11 May 2005
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PostPosted: Wed May 02, 2007 6:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My problem with this is that it's based on a wrong premise:

Quote:
Although only human souls have the correct alignment to become Supernaturalis...


Dragons are a Nephilim class:

The Nephilim are the true Supernaturalis, those who were never truely human to begin with. Many of them predate the birth of the human race, and although they have lost much of their original power, they are still a force to be reckoned with.

The rest of the background is for a large part trying to find excuses for how dragons as non-humans can be Supernaturalis - needlessly.
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KaVir



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PostPosted: Wed May 02, 2007 7:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vopisk wrote:
I think that the little digression into breeding patterns and outcomes is a little droll and had a hard time reading through it, getting to what I thought was better information contained beyond that.


Just to clarify: this isn't supposed to be anything like a final draft, or even a first draft, but at this point just a combination of the notes I've put together so far, shuffled around and clarified a bit to make them more readable (I rewrote it specifically for mudlab with other developers in mind, and would write it differently when addressing players). The current notes are primarily concerned with addressing the source of the various dragon-like races, and how they relate to each other. I would certainly like to expand on this, however.

The final version would certainly be broken up into sections.

Vopisk wrote:
Also, I would go into a bit more detail in regards to the home plane ("Dragon Realm") before launching in about how dragons can be Supernaturalis, etc...


Still very rough, but I imagine it being something like Earth during the Cretaceous Period. I plan to base various creatures on dinosaurs, although they won't have dinosaur names, and will also draw upon fiction (although nothing too cheesy).

Vopisk wrote:
I would probably suggest moving your final note to right up there where you're first talking about the dragons, establishing the various "pedigrees" of dragon in a little bit of detail and then getting on to how they exist in this realm.


I imagine the pedigrees (Metallic, Chromatic, Crystal, Celestial, etc) would get their own section, as would the breeds (Wyvern, Hydra, Imperial, Serpent, etc). The precise details aren't so critical to the big picture though - the important thing from this perspective is that there are elitist purebred pedigrees, and various breeds who diverge from the dragon line.

Vopisk wrote:
A note I'd like to know more about is do Sauroids continue to have wings and breath attacks, perhaps a rare trait of their selective breeding? You mention this specifically in regards to the Lizardmen but passed it over with the Sauroids.


Supernaturalis draconians have wings and breath attacks. The idea is that as their descendants devolve, they start to lose their draconic features and abilities. The sauroids would likely be very similar to draconians because of their selective breeding, perhaps sterilising or even killing young who lack such characteristics, while the lizardmen have lost much of their draconian heritage and powers.

Vopisk wrote:
You might look at something like Australian Aborigines as a culture that you could use for the lizardmen, at least a basis. (note I have no idea if these people are xenophobic or hostile, but they are a primitive culture that still exists today, that's the extent of my knowledge) Perhaps a culture like ancient China for the Sauroids, distinctly because of the importance dragons already play in the culture and the fact that they invented just about everything before anyone else did, so it goes along with the whole "arcane law"/"maintained intelligence".


Good suggestions - thanks. For the sauroids I was tending to think of something a little like the Melnibonéans from the Elric novels, in so much as they'd be magically powerful, yet also decadent and bound by many customs. I tend to combine ideas from many different sources though, and ancient China could certainly provide a rich source of ideas.

Alayla wrote:
The Nephilim are the true Supernaturalis, those who were never truely human to begin with. Many of them predate the birth of the human race, and although they have lost much of their original power, they are still a force to be reckoned with.


That's right - the dragons were never human to begin with. As described in the 2002 writeup of the Supernaturalis, "The fourth and final method [of focusing their power] is through a second merging. Just as a Supernaturalis is created by the merging of primal energy with a mortal soul, so that Supernaturalis can merge again with certain other creatures in order to create a being of even greater power. The process of merging varies, and is only possible with "higher" life forms - the target must be strong enough to retain some aspects of itself when merging with the powerful Supernaturalis soul. The resulting being, called a "Nephilim", represents the combined power of a Supernaturalis soul with the powerful form of a creature such as a dragon, demon, or giant. A third merging is never possible - there is simply no creature strong enough to retain a sense of self when merging with such a powerful being."
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Vopisk



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PostPosted: Fri May 04, 2007 12:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

KaVir wrote:
Just to clarify: this isn't supposed to be anything like a final draft, or even a first draft, but at this point just a combination of the notes I've put together so far, shuffled around and clarified a bit to make them more readable (I rewrote it specifically for mudlab with other developers in mind, and would write it differently when addressing players). The current notes are primarily concerned with addressing the source of the various dragon-like races, and how they relate to each other. I would certainly like to expand on this, however.

The final version would certainly be broken up into sections.


Thanks for the clarification, makes it easier to know where you're coming from.

KaVir wrote:
Still very rough, but I imagine it being something like Earth during the Cretaceous Period. I plan to base various creatures on dinosaurs, although they won't have dinosaur names, and will also draw upon fiction (although nothing too cheesy).


I like this idea, the dinosaurs are most likely a far too often missed source of reference to these giant reptilian beasts that inhabit our games. I'm thinking of all the dinosaurs I remember and they do provide a large number of different appearances and features. Imagine the horns of a triceratops, or the armor plates of a stegosaurus.

What sprung particularly to mind when you mentioned this was Drakes. Specifically I would envision them something like an extruded version of a Pterodactyl, with leathery skin as opposed to scales and a long, pronounced head and tail. Of course you could also add all the other nifty dragon/dinosaur features to them (like the aforementioned horns) perhaps as "upgrades" since you were considering them as mounts.

KaVir wrote:
Supernaturalis draconians have wings and breath attacks. The idea is that as their descendants devolve, they start to lose their draconic features and abilities. The sauroids would likely be very similar to draconians because of their selective breeding, perhaps sterilising or even killing young who lack such characteristics, while the lizardmen have lost much of their draconian heritage and powers.


The idea of a culture that employs infanticide to weed out the "bad apples" is an interesting one, but I'm not sure if it's a bit too grisly. Then again, borrowing from the greater dragons, we are talking about elitist groups who pride themselves on their own superiority. It could also be that those children who are born with wings or breath attack (I think based on their "devolved" nature, they should only get one or the other [generally]), are raised in station and treated something like demi-gods or powerful manifestations of spirit (see Hercules/Jesus Christ).

-Vopisk
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shasarak



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PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2007 8:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I must confess, when I think about dragons I always tend to think about non-magical aspects of their physiology. For example, illustrations of dragons always have rather small wings in relation to the massive size of their bodies. This ought to make them unable to actually fly. But once you start thinking about an animal might breathe fire, it all becomes obvious: clearly the dragons must produce enormous quantities of hydrogen gas inside their bodies, and they do not merely fly by wing-flapping and gliding, they also gain buoyancy from large internal gas-bladders (like the swim-bladders of fish) - so they float as much as fly, like zepellins.

The fire-breathing is achieved by igniting a flow of hydrogen gas in the mouth. The production of hydrogen and also its ignition must require some fairly exotic chemistry, perhaps involving rare metal catylysts such as platinum. This could give a dragon a taste for gold- or platinum-ore, which might explain why they are always associated with precious-metal hoards in legends.

Since the same supply of hydrogen powers both their ability to fly and also their fire-breathing it follows that excessive use of the breath-weapon would result in the dragon being temporarily grounded. It also raises the uncomfortable possibility that a slain dragon which has not used up all of its fire gases could perhaps explode with enormous force and take out the entire surrounding area.

I'm obviously not the only person who thinks along these lines. There was a rather entertaining pretend-documentary about draconic natural history that was made a few years ago, featuring all of these ideas and more. They suggested that dragons originally coexisted with dinosaurs. The land-living ones died in the asteroid impact along with most of the other giant reptiles, but some of the aquatic dragons survived (like crocodillians) and subsequently recolonised the land.
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