Majestic Magical Beasts, with hoards of gold and other riches, and running powerful entities in the worlds they live? Or are they merely really big monster lizards who are a threat or hazard to the areas they inhabit, a constant danger to man and beast?
The answer, really, is kind of both. And their portrayal can vary. The same goes for their morality, their alignment, to borrow from Dungeons and Dragons (and other games)
One of the things that kinda bugged me the longer I game mastered was that Dragons were pretty typecast by colors, with the metallic being considered the Good Ones and the Chromatic automatically their opposite. And my like humans, one would thing there was a far greater variance in that.
Some assumed certain colors were stupid too… which is something else I thought was wrong. Dragons are magical beasts and all of them are spell casters (though the books vary their power/potential). While I could accept the limits on overall ability (even in real life, some folks just can’t learn past a certain point) I felt this should not be a limit to their mental capacity. Or a specific world view, either.
I got to thinking on the morality and world view thing. Much like player characters, I figured Dragons would have some very pragmatic views on a great many things… and if presented opportunity, perhaps act on them. Not all Chromatic Dragons wanna eat you… as well as not all Metallics are all that good of heart.
Abilities too… were adjusted. Dragons of a certain power level and age, I decided to allow basic to complicated shape change into things like Humans or Elves. The younger/weaker dragons were able to do animals but as they got older, Human and other racial forms were possible. And being able to do so enabled them to learn about the “Lesser” Races and experience life from a different perspective… I mean, Dragons have their own world view but the smart ones learn about those that could give them grief… and gaining perspective on such is a powerful thing.
The same with what constitutes their hoards. Gobs of Coin was one thing. Art objects and items were another… but not all wealth is such things; one man’s waste is another’s treasure. Why should Dragons be different?
So, in my world, you have the Stereotypical Fantasy Dragons out there… but along with them, you had ones with variant personality and views on various things. I’ve had the haughty Metallics who are species-ist to the core as well as the very Brutal Red who is all about killing shit- sometimes for no reason…. But if asked in the right fashion, will sit for a cup of good Tea and pleasant conversation. Killing is fun, but there is no intellectual benefit…
Then there is this one…
In taking these ideas forward, I decided to take one of my favorite dragon colors and incorporate one into my setting… and not make him a Typical version of his color. Thus was borne into my game world the Ancient Blue known by his Common Name- Voltaire.
Voltaire was an Ancient Blue Dragon and had been unusual in liking the Mountains of the Central Divide. He had over the years had many an interaction with various groups of adventurers. Many of those groups attempted to kill him for his hoard… and he had grown Tired of it. Being the pragmatic sort, a decision was made to try and rectify this issue. And one of the beings he’d tangled with ran a city not terribly far (by dragon standards) from where he was.
A meeting of the minds, so to speak, between this dragon and the Mighty Paladin of Torm was had. There was no combat- as Voltaire made it plan when he landed in the middle of the city he wasn’t there to fight but to Talk.
Several hours of discussion between the Paladin and the Dragon were had… and a deal struck. The city would gain a defender against the rash of Goblinoid and Giant attacks and the Dragon would gain a place to call home, free of various groups coming to kill him just cause he was a Dragon. Voltaire, like most dragons, liked money and gems…. And other things magical.
But he prized Knowledge. Books, tomes, manuscripts… and his hoard was a mixture of the traditional and his substantial collection of books.
Taking up a large section of the center of the city, he actually *paid* those who were displaced in the creation of his residence and also contracted residents to help build it. The Paladin was the arbitrator for interactions… and once the overall fear/panic of a DRAGON taking up residence dissipated some, the populous eventually embraced the Dragon as a fellow Citizen.
Over the years, Voltaire looked out after the City- he might have been Dragon Greedy and arrogant… but protecting the city was insurance for a mostly trouble free life.
Players in my games have had opportunity to meet him and many have loved their interaction. Two groups have wound up doing work for him, pursuing items of interest on his behalf. And one of thse groups wound up being part of a Dragon’s Only Auction… where many different colors of Dragons showed up to barter and bid on things of interest to those of Dragon Kind.
The roleplay of reaction to a near Dozen Dragons descending on the city was fun to do and the level of nervousness on the players was epic. A Blue hosting the auction at the Trading House owned by the Councilwoman Drow-ess was one thing…. The Various Dragons that showed up (all different personalities too! I thought I was schitzo at one point) was fun to RP too… and some stereotypes were screwed with.
All the Metallics had a rep there- to include two Silvers who were rivals… and a few Chromatics came too. Among them was Voltaire’s former Mate and a Red Dragon’s Pact Knight attending on his master’s behalf- his Master taking up residence in an empty Stone/Wood warehouse near the City’s Forges. (He could shapeshift but hated doing so. It gave mortals the wrong ideas…). One of the metallics, a Gold, tried to pick a fight too… and was promptly scolded by the Paladin who was there when it happened. Fun times….
But in running that game and auction, it presented ideas to the players who would go on to GM their own campaigns for folks… and leave lasting impressions on the players on how to look at things different.
And its specialness came from taking a normal thing (dragons) and flipping it on its side, adding a bit of a twist to the standard perception. And its this re-working (of a sort) of Dragons that really added to my world’s setting.
Doing stuff like this can really set your campaign world apart. And I whole heartedly recommend doing stuff like this; it can add serious life to your game… and maybe help players get pulled into the game world instead of the session being “Kill more (insert goblin race here) and free the town” game.