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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    PirateCaptain

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    Mar 2021

    Default A Debate of Dragons

    The following lore has parts that players would be aware of, and parts that would be revealed over the course of a campaign. I'd appreciate any feedback on how to reveal the unknown lore [represented in brackets], as well as any feedback on known lore.

    So I have this world, the Grand Sea, that Iíve run games in off and on for over a decade. Itís changed a lot over the years, but two villains have emerged that I want to develop. One is a dhampir, actually a former PC, but at the point in history Iím detailing Iíve yet to decide the specifics of what sheís doing. The other is a tyrannical silver dragon, Kyros.

    The setting is naval, with a tech level more or less comparable to the renaissance era, but no guns... yet. There are three kingdoms: Arkunai, Beyat, and Choal. While the people of these kingdoms knew of the other kingdoms, they understood them in only vague terms, since travel between kingdoms was perilous due to pirates and monsters. The dragon Kyros and his brood would frequently get involved rescuing the victims of these threats.

    Kyros tired of getting personally involved in the affairs of humanics. So he drew from his massive hoard to found the Iron Legion, a navy that would protect the trade routes between the kingdoms. The Legion collected taxes for this protection, and grew until it was the greatest naval force in the known world. Under this stability, the three kingdoms grew, while Kyros kept a watchful eye on their governance. When anything that these governments did bothered him, he would take human form and attempt to influence everyone involved towards the greater good. But he grew increasingly frustrated with the petty politics of humanics, and struggled to keep his draconic instincts from just burning down everything.

    Eventually, Kyros departed on a mysterious mission across the cosmos, leaving the Legion in the charge of a council appointed by him. During this time, the Kingdoms were beset by giants. They were losing the war, until the Iron Legion revealed a new technology: firearms. These were already advanced to pistols and muskets, but no one quite knew the origin of the schematics or the tomes that taught of their production. Firearm production went into full swing, and soon commoners were armed. This turned the war with the giants, repelling them. The people knew peace.

    Then Kyros returned. His heralds flew out from his lair, proclaiming that the secrets of firearms had been stolen from his hoard. Kyros himself flew to the city of Tiirdas (pronounced "Teer-duhs",) where the council he had appointed had convened. He devoured them, and laid waste to the city. He then commanded the Iron Legion to seize all firearms and return them to him, or he would continue his destruction.

    To further shame the humanic peoples, he commanded the revival of the practice of using undead soldiers to bolster the ranks of the Legion. This had been practiced by the kingdom of Choal, which Kyros had demanded be ceased when he established control over the trade routes. Then he assumed command of the Legion.

    This conflict occurs in the context of a debate between Kyros and a gold dragon named Ziirka (pronounced "Zeer-kuh." "iir" sounds like "ear" and it's a common vowel in Draconic)

    This is all recent history in the setting. It happened in the context of what I'm about to describe.

    Kyros, as a silver dragon, was dedicated to inspiring nobility and valor in the lesser races. He did so by destroying tyrants, monsters, and rescuing the lost. [he needed to do it himself because of draconic psychology. He has an insatiable urge to model his values for others] His brood followed his example, and they operated on their own, never treading on his territory. [no dragon would outright submit to the will of another. Their fear is a genuine and animalistic fear, though they have no less love for their father because thatís just how dragons think]

    Ziirka, as a gold dragon, is dedicated to guiding the affairs of the world to work toward the greater good. Among humanics, she does so by assuming human form and consulting the lesser races, giving them the tools they need to change the world for the better. [dragon psychology is centered around their inherent urge to hoard and dominate. The dominance of gold dragons comes from their influence, and from others accepting their wisdom. By being involved with progress, gold dragons consider said progress to be their territory] These tools are usually counsel, but may take the form of skills, secrets, or (very rarely) lent property. [dragons are hoarders, so they are loath to even lend out their treasures]

    Her brood wander among humanic populations in humanic forms, influencing people through philosophy, art, and politics. [They compete with each other to see who can achieve the most good, though these competitions have at times escalated into revolutions, counter-revolutions, and faction disputes. By this point Ziirkaís children will have moved on, likely spending time in their natural forms until they hear of the tensions. They then return in dragon form to resolve these conflicts, using their understanding of the underlying causes as common ground for opposed factions. Thus...] In their dragon forms, gold dragons have a reputation as peacemakers among humanics. [This is accepted despite its irony by humanics. Gold dragons know it, and love it, because they consider it a delicious form of dominance]

    Anything before this point that is not in brackets is knowable by PCs, via background, interactions, or knowledge checks. Everything after this point would only be revealed as plot. (if it's in brackets, it's just my commentary)

    Kyros and Ziirka have a friendly rivalry that they have maintained for centuries. Every 20 years, they meet and propose the terms of a wager. [theyíve probably got a dramatic place where they meet then transform into humanics, sharing a bottle of wine] The goal of the wager is to see who can do the most good for the world while abiding by a different set of rules each iteration. The scale of the challenges has grown increasingly larger as both dragons have grown in power and influence. When they were young, the challenge might be to woo and wed a humanic, and see who can establish the most noble and benevolent bloodline. [they can choose their gender when transforming into humanic form]As adults, the challenge might be for each to seize control of cities that are engaged in war, then broker peace.

    Over time, Ziirka has won more and more of these wagers. Kyros, who began to openly engage in humanic affairs as his draconic self, has grown increasingly indignant and bitter over these losses. The War of the Three Kingdoms, in which Kyros commanded the Iron Legion, also strained Kyrosí psyche. As his grip on reality has loosened, Kyros obsessed over how to win a final wager so decisive that his dominance over the ideas of good and evil would never be questioned again.

    At their most recent arrangement, Ziirka did not know that Kyros intended this to be their last. Kyros proposed that the challenge be ďto effect the greatest redemption.Ē Ziirka agreed. She had grown bored with her easy victories, and her efforts to guide the humanic races had become increasingly distracted by Kyrosí bullheaded meddling in their politics. The vagueness of his proposal was reason for her to believe that neither of them were taking this game seriously anymore. Additionally, she already had ideas for whose redemption might win her the wager, all of which she imagined would put an end to this tedious exercise.

    But Kyros had a terrible conviction. He had learned the secrets of lichdom, and had plotted to become a dracolich himself. From there he expected to establish a rule that was so lawful and good that his redemption would be absolute.

    [The clear flaws in his thinking were the result of madness. In trying to lead humanics in what he considered a holy war, he had condoned and demanded so much evil that his moral compass shattered. But his draconic nature remained, filling the vacuum where his morality had vacated. So his morality became centered not on law and good, but brutality and domination.]

    [Kyros conceals his lichdom by means of a spell called Mask of Flesh. The spell allows an undead to appear normal, and any spell to detect creature type or alignment reveals what the caster chooses to portray as the mask. I havenít statted it out for 5e, but I think Kyros will have developed an epic, ritual-level version of the spell]
    Last edited by titlebreaker; 2021-03-13 at 09:21 AM.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Librarian in the Playground Moderator
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    Default Re: A Debate of Dragons

    First of all, this is great stuff. It's got a very Earthsea vibe, and I love how you're working in dragon psychology into the actions of the dragons, but still keeping the "dominance" in line with their alignments. That part reminds me of Thri-kreen of Athas, where their clutch and hunt instincts influences everything from party dynamics to how they buy goods in the market.

    Some of this does not necessarily NEED to be revealed; while you might want them to know that he's a dracolich, if you're planning a "boss fight" (though "he's a dracolich" can be a reveal in a 1st boss fight, leading to a quest for the Phylactery, leading to a 2nd boss fight), a lot of this can just be chalked up to "He's gone crazy and is demanding more things that are evil". You need to know it, but they don't need to know the particulars of dragon psychology unless they want to.

    Where do you picture them being in this conflict? Are they agents of Ziirka? Are they aligned with Kyros? Are they somewhere in the middle? If the latter, are they likely to become uncomfortable with his demands? If the former, might they resent being pawns? Similarly, though, you need to think about what Ziirka will know, when she's going to learn it, and how she'll react... I imagine finding out her old frenemy is a dracolich will shake her a bit, and change her tactics.

    Myself, I start by plotting out what will happen if the PCs don't get involved. If your players decide to **** off to Undermountain, or play Cash and Caravans instead of adventuring, what's going to happen in the world around them? What are Kyros's moves, what are Ziirka's countermoves, and when does Ziirka change tactics, having learned the truth about Kyros, or at least deciding that he's gone from "make the world better" to "evil warlord"? Have that rough map, then let your players rewrite it. Know your lore, but keep it from the players unless they seek it out, or you need them to know it.
    The Cranky Gamer
    *It isn't realism, it's verisimilitude; the appearance of truth within the framework of the game.
    *Picard management tip: Debate honestly. The goal is to arrive at the truth, not at your preconception.
    *Two Tales of Tellene, available from DriveThruFiction
    *The One Deck Engine: Gaming on a budget
    Avatar is from local user Mehangel
    Written by Me on DriveThru RPG
    If you need me to address a thread as a moderator, include a link.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    PirateCaptain

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    Mar 2021

    Default Re: A Debate of Dragons

    I'm glad you like it! Thanks for the feedback! I haven't read Earthsea, but I'd be curious where the overlap is apparent.

    A lot of my interest in dragon psychology comes from the Draconomicon for chromatic dragons, 4e specifically. As for what the players find out, I imagine that players conversing with dragons are going to be like "How can you do any of this and still consider yourself good?" So I'd imagine that insights into dragon psychology would be prompted by player inquiry. So that would be supplemental, optional.

    As for which side the PCs would be on, I'd prefer for them to be on the side of the Iron Legion initially. So yeah, the demands placed on them would be increasingly uncomfortable. I'd want contingency plans for a) they decide to rebel and look for allies, or b) they go through with it until someone stops them by revealing some of the truth.

    And yeah, the might players decide to **** off and become pirates. That's where the Iron Legion comes in. They're a pretty omnipresent, somewhat Orwellian threat. So actions the PCs take to "go off rail" will have a plausible response in the world around them. Namely, the Iron Legion will go after them. So they'd naturally ask themselves, "How do we defend ourselves against the Legion?" And then some NPC happens to have friends who are working on something for a nameless benefactor who is interested in why the Legion is being so evil...

    I'm thinking that designing the campaign will begin with designing the organizations that both Kyros and Ziirka have built to exercise their dominance. That would give me a roadmap to create NPCs, write adventures, and figure out where encounters can fit in.
    Last edited by titlebreaker; 2021-03-14 at 08:33 AM.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Librarian in the Playground Moderator
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    Default Re: A Debate of Dragons

    Quote Originally Posted by titlebreaker View Post
    I'm glad you like it! Thanks for the feedback! I haven't read Earthsea, but I'd be curious where the overlap is apparent.
    Earthsea takes place in an archipelago, with different vying nations upon it. Your dragons are a lot more involved and human-oriented than Earthsea dragons, but the combination put me in mind of it.
    The Cranky Gamer
    *It isn't realism, it's verisimilitude; the appearance of truth within the framework of the game.
    *Picard management tip: Debate honestly. The goal is to arrive at the truth, not at your preconception.
    *Two Tales of Tellene, available from DriveThruFiction
    *The One Deck Engine: Gaming on a budget
    Avatar is from local user Mehangel
    Written by Me on DriveThru RPG
    If you need me to address a thread as a moderator, include a link.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    PirateCaptain

    Join Date
    Mar 2021

    Default Re: A Debate of Dragons

    Gotcha, thanks! I'll happily move forward and be deliberate about how I work with the involvement of dragons.

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