Monday, July 17, 2017

Dungeons and Dragons, "Dragons"

Standard Introduction
            I have been writing about Dungeons and Dragons semi-regularly this year and in the course of writing those I found a 30-day blog challenge.  As I have done those a couple times before it seemed remiss not to jump on this one.
            If you want here is a link to my 30-day challenge on Disney Movies, here is a link to my 30-day challenge on Video Games, and here is a comically out of date 30-day challenge on Movies (it is old and the writing is rubbish).

Day 17- My Favorite Dragons
            There are 10,000 monsters in this gods damned game.  Expect several top 5 lists this week as there are not too many specific “favorites” more like “preferred”.  Today is Dragons.  Here is a twist for you, I don’t really give a fuck about Dragons.  I emphasize the Dungeon part of Dungeons and Dragons and mostly see Dragons as the iconic… and underwhelming part of the game.  That being said, I will do my usual thing, be super contrarian and pick things outside the box.
            Let’s go.

            I like turtles.  They feature in lots of elegant artwork painted on the sides of vans and surf shops.  Aside from that I grew up in Florida, and one of the more interesting animals you often see at reptile presentations at the local library, county fair, or school presentation is the Snapping Turtle.  The obvious inspiration for the dragon turtle.
            I have nothing special to say about this.  Aside from, it reminds me of things in the real world that I have seen and as such feels more real than most dragons.  It has little personality beyond that.

 #5: Wyvern
            Considering Wyverns were the way dragons were portrayed in “Skyrim” I am surprised no effort was made to create Wyvern variants in the core books of 5e, but aside from some cool art they did nothing to ape material from Elder Scrolls.
            Let’s look past that though.  Wyverns are solid monsters.  Flight, a combination of attacks, and a poison stinger.  They are not bad, just not magical which is one of those aspects of Dragons that shows up a plenty in western civilization.

#4: Metallic Dragons
            Rather than talk about how much I like these things (a bit, they're fine) I want to point out something that rubs me the wrong way about these things.  I cannot fathom why they went with Brass, Bronze, and Copper.  Copper (being redder and with a green fringe) and Brass (being yellow-ish) fine, but why Bronze?  It is too much like the other two.  Not like this is hard to fix either.  Just replace it with Iron to serve as a dull grey, a color not found among the metal or chromatics.
            What is really weird, the bronze dragon is the wrong color in the 3rd edition monster manual.  Bronze is not an especially yellow metal, and definitely not green.  Green trim makes sense for copper dragons because as copper oxidizes it becomes green (hence the statue of liberty).  What is more the 3e Brass dragon is almost orange (which would be cool, but makes no sense).  They tried to fix this in 4e by getting rid of both the brass and bronze dragons to replace them with Iron (good) and adamantine (WHAT!?)

Am I crazy or do NONE of these colors look right?

            Adamantine is a magical and unbreakable metal.  Which implies that a dragon embodying it would be an epic dragon (like how an adamantine golem is an epic monster).  Having it be one of the core five metallic dragons undermines the Gold Dragon’s status at the top of the heap and beyond that YOU GET RID OF DRAGONS BECAUSE THEY LOOK TOO MUCH ALIKE AND THEN HAVE TWO THAT ARE THE EXACT SAME COLOR!?  HOW DOES THAT HELP!?
            Bad designers.  NO!
            And of course, 5th edition just went back to 3e’s sorting instead of taking another swing at the somewhat good idea of 4e to fix it up.  They even got the color wrong on the bronze dragon again.

Sometimes the art on these things gets so epic it kind of gives me a headache.
I don't even know what that means.
#3: Chromatic Dragons
            Chromatic Dragons are fine.  They are color coded.  They have a range of difficulties.  I have no trouble telling them apart from one another and have an easy time recalling which one goes in which environment.  They are classic bad guys.  They are, for most people, the right kind of boring.
            They are 99% of what you expect from a Dragon.  Maybe 85% as I feel “Game of Thrones” and “Skyrim” have shaken up people’s expectations, but they are what people think of when they think of dragons.  Though I guess most normal people would picture a green dragon living in a cave, shooting fire.  Those things don’t line up here, they spread out those traditional elements, but like I said, 85-99% of what people are looking for in a classic fantasy bad guy.

I imagine these things were even more popular when Lockheed was the pet of Shadow Cat from X-Men.
 #2: Pseudodragon
            This thing is awesome.  Honestly, who doesn’t want a pet dragon.  I don’t even give a shit about dragons as icons of mythological wonder and even I find the idea of a cute little dragon pushing its head into my chin like a surly attention craving kitty to be freaking adorable.

"Behold!  Jugan, the Rising Star!"
 #1: Lung Dragons
            YEAH!  I am going for the dragons so obscure at this point I had to use an image from Magic the Gathering’s faux Asian setting “Kamigawa” because finding a non-shit image of the dragons from 3e Oriental Adventures is damn near impossible.
            I am not going to lie, picking this has everything to do with me wanting to point out that the Drake-style Western tradition dragons that define the look of Dungeons and Dragons are overused to the point of being kind of shit.
            While I know, these are all just charts of statistics with some cool artwork sitting next to them the fact is, I want some new artwork.  Asian style dragons (I think) would have been a good change to the status quo that should have been put in with 5e.  Not Samurai, Not Wu Jen, you don’t need any other Asian style monsters to start.  But, this, this sort of transgression.  It would have turned some heads.
It's not like a blending of Eastern and Western Influence can't produce something special and beautiful.
            I hate to be “that guy” who campaigns of diversity for the sake of diversity, but let’s at least try to shake up what we think of as core.  The Giants that were more interesting in 4e got more boring in 5e.  The angels that were more interesting in 4e got more boring in 5e.  Koblods, Goblins, and Orcs all got more boring in 5e.  The Dragons stayed as boring as they have ever been.

Coming Tomorrow
            Tomorrow I am going to talk about Elementals, Fey, and Plants.
            Super interesting.

            If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter (click that link to follow me), Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

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