Friday, September 5, 2014

Of Dragons

While I have worked up GURPS Dungeon Fantasy-style statistics blocks for over a hundred animals, creatures, and spirits that inhabit the tropical jungle around the megadungeon, I have yet to do anything regarding dragons. Honestly, they didn't even enter my thought until reading +Douglas Cole's recent blog post about +Peter V. Dell'Orto's handling of the matter – which I immediately proceeded to read. A few things struck me about how I might incorporate dragons: they should be mysterious; they should be dangerous; and they should be awesome. I also began wondering what dragons might symbolize within the setting. And this is where it lead:

Dragons in Starfall

Dragons are the embodiment of nature's wrath and might. They represent the most potent of natural forces: blizzards, earthquakes, eruptions, maelstroms, tempests, wildfires, etc. Not completely elemental spirit, but hardly mundane, they are the claws of the World Spirit – avalanches, flames, gales, tsunamis, all made flesh. While the majority of dragons possess a low cunning that easily surpasses that of any animal, very few are sapient, but those few make truly frightful foes when angered. One should note that dragons are not inherently evil, and like everything that is part of the World Spirit, they share in a dichotomy. They are forces of destruction, but in their wake, new beginnings sprout like seedlings the spring after a forest fire.

As embodied forces of nature, dragons are incredibly dangerous, and much of that danger lies in their diversity. No two dragons are ever perfectly alike. Some spit streams of corrosive saliva, others exude toxic miasma, while still others are merely massive eating machines. The most famous power of dragons belong to those who exhale tremendous gouts of flame, but even these can prove unpredictable. Similarly, even the form of a dragon often varies. Some have distinctly avian or bat-like morphologies with two wings and two legs, others resemble titanic flying serpents, and are giant, lizard-like quadrupeds who lack wings entirely. Some have horns; some do not.

Still, dragons do all share certain characteristics. They are distinctly reptilian with thick scales capable of protecting against massive attacks, are incredibly resilient – possibly owing to their strong ties to the spirit world, and they grow to tremendous size. Distinctly supernatural, they are usually highly resistant, if not immune, to most metabolic hazards, don't strictly need to eat or drink (but most dragons take pleasure in both), and don't necessarily have to sleep. They are also believed to exist in both the material and spirit worlds simultaneously.

The peoples of Starfall respond to dragons in a variety of ways, but chief among them is fear and reverence. Naturally, this leads to dragon cults among peoples lacking large, organized religions, or in some places such cults become organized faiths. Dragons are often worshiped for the power they represent, the forces they wield, and in attempts to stave off the natural disasters they herald. Other cultures do not bend their knees to dragons, but rather send brave (or stupid) warriors to kill the beasts before they rain down disaster upon them. These dragon slayers usually meet dismal ends, but once in a while someone succeeds in killing such a beast and is immortalized in song.

Both views of dragons often hold that various parts of the dragon contain great power and may be used to create magical elixirs, charms, or other items. Such folktales claim the claw of a dragon carved into a sword can pierce the hardiest mail, and the eyeball of a dragon can be fashioned into a superb scyer's ball. Others say that the treasure is not the dragon itself, but the trinkets and things it accrues from foolhardy adventures seeking fame and fortune. Still others say that a dragon's true value is in what it can teach those who know how to listen. Considering the great diversity among dragons, perhaps all are true. One could never be certain.

Regardless of what dragons may or may not be, how they may look, or how they behave, they all represent the unrestrained power of nature. They are as diverse as what they embody, and are among the most power and most dangerous creatures in Starfall. They are nature's fury made flesh.

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