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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pellatarrum: My Dragons are Different (part 4)

 
Written as a cooperative effort by Erin Palette and Mike Kochis


"This of course is the way to talk to dragons, if you don't want to reveal your proper name (which is wise), and don't want to infuriate them by a flat refusal (which is also very wise)."
~ The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien



V. Draconic Interactions with Lesser Beings

Dragons regard themselves as the rightful lords of all things, living and unliving. Tens of thousands humanoids are starving? That's nice. A baby dragon is starving? That might be of some concern.

Dragons expect a minimum of three gifts from non-draconic guests: a greeting gift, meeting gift, and parting gift (the latter of which is also expected from draconic visitors). If there are multiple visitors, the greeting and parting gifts are expected to be larger.

The greeting gift is both a tribute to the dragon (for not eating them, being willing to see them at all, etc.) and an indication of how much value the person places on being able to meet the dragon. It is also a measure of the gift-bearer's wealth. If a dragon is willing to meet with poor people, this gift can sometimes be waived. (Hint: dragons know adventurers aren't poor.)

The meeting gift is given during conversation, and is meant as a consideration to agree to whatever the visitor is proposing. The idea of visiting with lesser beings just for conversation is enough to send most dragons into paroxysms of laughter. The value of the gift indicates both the value of the request, and how much time the dragon is expected to take considering it. It is also a precursor to the "half up front" standard in service negotiations. If a dragon declines an offer it is traditional (but not guaranteed) that they either return this gift or, equally common, give a gift of equal value as their parting gift.

Contrary to popular belief, the parting gift is not a bribe not to eat the departing guest. Instead, it is a measure of how much one has enjoyed the dragon's company. Between dragons, this gift is reciprocated by the host; among lesser beings, this is less common. Beware the dragon who "gifts" you with a parting gift higher in value than your own! Either it is attempting to manipulate you (and being crass about it), or is setting you up for some manner of trouble.

Dragons are expected to hold to the letter of their word to other dragons. They are expected to be good hosts and courteous guests to other dragons. None of these conditions apply to non-dragons. Because each dragon determines its own rules relating to non-dragons, it seems whimsical to outsiders. At best, good dragons will deal with you fairly. There are legends about dragons who break promises, make deals only to eat their visitor as soon as they leave their lair (and then keep their half of the deal anyway), and even one where a dragon traded a golden lyre for a literal song (the legend down-plays the misadventures that followed the bard after acquiring his new instrument).

It is worth noting that dragons will often eat people, some of them without being provoked. Many dragons do not consider lesser beings to be truly intelligent (of the elder races, only the elves come closest to this mark), and none regard other races as their equals. Eating someone is a mark of superiority, contempt, and a means of killing someone in a manner that disposes of the body and hinders resurrection all in one concise bundle. Some dragons limit themselves to eating "bad" people (by the dragon's definition), but there are few dragons that will not eat you under the proper circumstances.

Deal with dragons with caution, respect, and more caution.


Sidebar: Dragon, Inc.

From our modern standpoint, it helps to think of dragons as corporations. They don't consider themselves beholden to the rules of conduct of lesser beings, are interested in profit, and are often willing to harm the public good in order to better themselves.

Where this analogy breaks down is that dragons are self-policing: they care what other dragons think of them. Also, remember most dragons are genius-level intellects; they understand the concept of investment, compound interest, and short-term sacrifice for long-term gain.

It's just that as geniuses, they intend to be certain that others make the short-term sacrifices.



To be continued. 

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