Dragons in my Greyhawk....


Here comes something not mapping related, but I hope you still find it interesting..

Dragons are a fantasy icon and a staple of most settings, and they are certainly present in the World of Greyhawk. Here comes a look at dragons in my campaign and a bit of how I envision them, what makes them tick and why they haven’t taken over the whole world yet.  

Dragon Birth and Reproduction

Dragons can at best produce a clutch of eggs once a century, and the number of eggs varies between dragon types but the older and more powerful the mother, the number of eggs increase. Like in big birds, female dragons are bigger and often more powerful to be able to care for the extra weight and effort with the eggs. Whether guarding the eggs and hatchlings is the solitary duty of one of the parents, a shared undertaking between the parents or a group effort varies a lot. Young dragons often need to share the responsibility in order to protect the eggs and hatchlings, while an older and more powerful single parent will take on the challenge.  

For a Dragon to rare young to successful hatchlings the eggs need to rest on a bed of dragon bones for sustenance. The bones of a dragon can give sustenance to as many eggs at a time as its age category at death. The bones retain this ability for as long as the dragon, who the bones used to belong to was alive. This makes Great Wyrm dragons who are starting to feel their powers to diminish to seek out a place to die and give their bones the best possible chance of nourishing new generations.

Dragons are highly competitive and will go to almost any length to acquire parts of dead dragons or kill them if they are still alive, something especially true when it comes to dragons of other types or with a different alignment.

Treasure in the form of precious metals, gems and pearls can be used as a substitute, which have led to dragons started to hoard these items. This behavior started a long time ago by locating lairs at places where treasure occur naturally or by magical means. In more recent times with the advent of other creatures who mine and refine these resources into more (for dragons) useful treasure, the practice of hoarding them became widespread in most dragon types.  

Shape Shifting

Some dragon types have an innate ability to shift to another form, usually humanoid. The type of creature they shift into is determined at a very early age, either by the parent presenting a creature of the type they want their hatching to be able to shift into, or the hatching bonding to a creature it comes in contact with by itself. The contact must be voluntary and friendly for all parties involved. Dragon parents often establish relationship with creatures of the type they want their hatchlings to be able to shift into, long before to make sure their offspring get the shifting ability desired.

Dragons with this ability always shifts into the same individual of that form. Their alternate form ages at the same rate as their true Dragon form, a hatchling dragon will shape shift into a toddler and a wyrm will shift into an elderly person. They can acquire class levels, skills, feats etc. as a normal for that type of creature.

Dragon Sleep

In order to advance an age category, the dragon needs to sleep for months or even decades, and the older it is, the longer its naps will be. Dragons are far from defenseless when they sleep, their hearing and sense of smell is often as active as it is when they are awake and active. Some dragons can also make use of other senses in the sleep, like for example tremor sense. Dragons amazing sensory usage during sleep is one of many adaptations’ dragons have gained over generations of an often-solitary existence.  

Dragon Aging and Death

Old age is something dragons are looking forward to, it will make them more and more powerful as they age. Physically and mentally a dragon's capabilities increase all the way up until the dragon have reached well beyond the age of old wyrm and reach the twilight age (around 1200-1500 years).

The appearance of dragons does deteriorate as they age, becoming less colorful, less shiny and scales become more and more like a scarred set of armor. This is for the most part desirable and beneficial for dragons, giving them better defenses, better camouflage and make it more difficult for non-dragons to identify their type. Dragons are experts at judging other dragons and are very rarely fooled, or in doubt about the nature of another dragon. Smell, tracks and even the smallest trace of another dragon's current, or past, presence is enough for them to know exactly who they are dealing with. 

Dragons yearn for their bones to literary nourish future generations, and ending the life knowing their bones will form a nest is very reassuring for old wyrms. This often leads to old wyrms trying to find other powerful dragons of their own type, challenge them to see if they are worthy and often slaying existing partners in the process. Dragons found to be worthy will have the honor of mating and in the process ending the life of the old wyrm. To be killed by the right partner is one of the biggest highlights of a dragon’s life, and they look forward to it for centuries. 

Some types of dragons this have established special places that old dragons go to die and younger dragons guard in order to pick up the bones. For other dragons, old wyrms advertise the fact that they are ready, and younger suitors fight for the honor of being the last mate and successor of the old wyrm. 

The roar of a dying wyrm making the final sacrifice can be heard, and felt, far and wide (miles), and anyone who have heard such a roar will never forget it. A Will Save is needed in order to not fear dragons for life. And any creature that are within the frightful presence radius, will automatically fail this save and only a Wish, or Miracle cast, with a material component being a bone from the roaring dragon, can cure it.

For dragons this roar is something else indeed, especially the dragon who has the honor of killing a wyrm in its last act. This lucky dragon will be able to stay active all the way into and through its next age without having to take a nap, and female wyrms often use this to make sure their last clutch of hatchlings makes it into adulthood and beyond, making it easier to raise the young ones without a partner. 

This is by no means the last word on this topic, it is only a small part of the planning for my D&D in a Castle campaign I’m going to run next year and dragons will be a big part of it….

I will be on Jay Scott's Twitch channel today at 7:30 pm EDT, and we will be talking about dragons.