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[personal profile] cordyceps
I've been researching Dungeons and Dragons (and Pathfinder) lately. Not doing any playing, just...researching. Pouring over Player's handbooks, reading the bestiaries, looking at blogs and reviews and forums.

There's some stuff that I'm actually liking about what I see. But there's some stuff that makes me glad I didn't grow up playing the game, because I would hate to imagine being nostalgic for this garbage nonsense.

One of the things in the latter category is the take on dragons.

Funnily enough, ADnD 2e doesn't grind my gears so much in this regard. While it was the early editions that started the whole nonsense that annoys me later, for some reason I feel able to forgive it. The early Monster Manual illustrates the different dragons in such a way (variously mixing features of eastern and western dragons, ancient reptiles and living ones) that they feel like totally different species - all dragons in the same sense that triceratops, stegosaurus, and tyrannosaurus are all dinosaurs - which makes the idea that the species have huge differences in their mental and physical stats a lot more natural.

But over time, the dragons got bigger, smarter, more powerful, more majestic, more important...and more similar-looking and generic and conceptually interchangable, so that the difference is less "t-rex vs bronto" and more "half-elf vs half-orc."

And yet a white dragon is still inherently much smaller, weaker, and stupider than other chromatic dragons, AND is inherently Chaotic and inherently Evil, AND lives in cold, icy lands and specialized in ice-related magic. No wonder I see DMs arguing about how to make dragons fun/interesting/suprising for their game buddies.

D&D et al. has some baaaad problems with implicit racism in its treatment of its sentient humanoid roster, and I understand that from a broader viewpoint it's more important to fix the issues with the "exotic"/"monstrous" humanoids, but. For God's sakes, Kobolds get thrown more Bones Of +1 Flexibility than the very beings they worship that the silly game is named after. And I like the kobolds, they're probably one of the most intriguing reptilian or "monstrous" humanoids the game has to offer, even without the whole "are/worship dragons" stuff that 3.5 introduced, and I've downloaded every bit of DnD or Pathfinder material on kobolds that I can. But the little guys who started as "something dudes can slaughter en masse while still at level 1" have been given more opportunities to be cool than dragons have been given to regain their cool.

Instead, the same thing over and over in Monster Manuals and Draconomicons: "these are True Dragons, let us tell you everything you already knew about them. Here are some new True Dragons that both of us will probably forget about, because they're basically already-existing chomatics/metallics with a few traits swapped around and a new breath weapon and scale color, or they live in Magic Space where normal adventures don't take place, or whatever. Too bad for you if you like them, because we'll probably forget about them when next edition rolls around, or even within this edition. Quirkier dragons that are more directly inspired by folklore (especially non-western-european!folklore) are not True Dragons. Dragons that you can dragonride or keep as pets without worrying about enslaving a sentient beings are not True Dragons. Dragons that are the size or shape of dragons in typical medieval and Renaissance artwork are not True Dragons. Only giant sorcery-flinging Smaug/Godzilla expies (and Sinospheric dragons sometimes I guess lol, when we fucking remember them) are True Dragons. Since none of these other dragons are True Dragons, we will devote little to no space or attention to them."

You know what would be a good idea? Make dragons modular.
  1. Strip the 10 classic DnD dragons of everything but their base numerical stats. These are now the draconic species/"race" options for DMs to throw at players, akin to the difference between tossing a black bear at someone vs a grizzly, or fighting a goblin vs a hobgolbin.
  2. Take each color of dragon's breath weapon, special abilities, immunities, etc. These are now wrapped up in a package akin to a sorcerer's bloodline in Pathfinder, which for now I guess I'll call "Wyrmic Broods" or some pretentious shit. The white dragon-themed package might be called the Blizzardbrood, the silver package the Mistbrood, the red package the Vulcanbrood, the gold package the Sunbrood, etc etc. So you could have what is essentially a Gold Dragon but give it the powers of a Green Dragon, for example.
  3. Maybe have an option to allow the breath weapon in a specific Brood to be traded out for a different one, including breath weapons not accounted for in the 10 classic DnD species (such as sonic energy). Love D&D-style green dragons, with their forest-dwelling and gnome-eating and shit, except you reaaaally wish they could breathe fire like green dragons do in all non-D&D media ever? Bam, done.
  4. Dragon alignment up to DM's discretion. Dragons are the folkloric descendants of Cosmic Serpents and Chthonic Serpents and the monsters of Primordial Chaos that sun gods and other heroes of Lawfulness like to kill; this is likely true of even the lawful and benevolent ones. (Seriously, check out some of the weirder chinese dragons.) You reaaaally shouldn't be able to tell one's alignment just by looking at it.
  5. Some rules on how to apply the Brood templates to non-"True" dragon species, and possibly even certain animal/monster categories that often blurred into the "dragon" concept/label in ye olde times. "Serpent" means both "dragon" and "snake," "wyrm" means both "dragon" and "worm." "Dragon" itself is derived from drakon, snake. "Wyvern" is just a corruption of the word "viper." I feel like giving a snake or lizardman or whatever access to weird draconic enviromental sorcery, while otherwise being the same as its bretheren, is a more interesting way to create a demi-dragon enemy and build up to an encounter with a Capital-D Dragon than "lol the local dragon likes to commit bestiality, here's your bat wings and your sleep/paralysis immunity." Like seriously? Even Dragonborn are less stupid than half-dragons.
  6. ????????????????????? like obviously there are probably ways to make dragons even more modular, but I'm pretty sure separating physical properties from magical properties is a good starting point to avoiding the need for "desert dragon but stronger/weaker" or "cave-dweller dragon that isn't fire."
  7. I'm done ranting about dragons. (Not really. Please talk to me about dragons, I'm so lonely.)

Date: 2014-07-29 04:17 am (UTC)
tiferet: cute girl in pink dress captioned "not all bad girls wear black" (Default)
From: [personal profile] tiferet
Pretty much that's exactly how I used to do dragons in my old campaigns, alignment up to player and breath weapon swaps allowed.

But then I was pissed off about the implicit racism and genetic evil in the 80s.

I played a half-orc lady fighter with a charisma of 14 or 15 (whatever the max was) who used to beat the shit out of people who implied that her parents weren't married and that her father had outraged her mother. :) People freaked out about the pictures I drew of her. "She's not ugly enough!" "Dude, she's hot. *I* don't have a charisma of 15."

I always had EVERYONE's alignment up to player and gave humans random bonuses and other species different bonuses when I ran campaigns...and no penalties.

Date: 2014-07-30 12:48 am (UTC)
tiferet: cute girl in pink dress captioned "not all bad girls wear black" (Default)
From: [personal profile] tiferet
oh no no no no apologies needed! I agree with EVERY WORD. My best friend and I were on about the orc thing back in 1984 when I was a kid. Like, are you seriously trying to say what I think you are Gygax? Because even if Tolkien is problematic, this is supposed to be its own thing and you don't have to do that.

My justification for random human bonuses was that humans' main special ability is adaptability as opposed to being good at war or in tune with nature or something. And I just didn't think anyone should have a penalty to the total amount of points they could get in characteristics because they wanted to play an unusual character.

I loved my gaming group but we played really fast and loose with the rules when they didn't suit us or seemed incredibly weirdly unfair. Orcs are supposed to be able to beat your ass and win wars. So they shouldn't all be intellectually disabled and have like 8 hit points, amirite?
Edited Date: 2014-07-30 12:48 am (UTC)

Date: 2014-07-30 12:52 am (UTC)
tiferet: cute girl in pink dress captioned "not all bad girls wear black" (Default)
From: [personal profile] tiferet
Also, Liath's parents were not only married, her mother had run away from her home town with her dad, who was a titled military advisor in a king's court because he was awesome, because of the racist BS. :) She had NO sense of humour about the "default" assumption. People either loved her or hated her, but nobody fucked with her.

Date: 2014-07-30 12:58 am (UTC)
tiferet: cute girl in pink dress captioned "not all bad girls wear black" (Default)
From: [personal profile] tiferet
Sorry for the spam lol.

I think I was also lucky in that our group didn't discourage roleplaying trumping the odds even when I wasn't running the game (Liath was a player character).

I once played a cat in a Runequest game (yes, an actual cat) and they allowed me to be smart as well as fast because, "dude you have like 2 hit points, if you are serious about doing this you should at least have a chance." I couldn't talk but I would describe my character's body language in party discussions and it actually worked pretty well. Not that I think cats should be equal to humanoids, just saying my group was not too hung up on making things extra hard for people who didn't want to be standard stereotypical characters.


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