Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pellatarrum: My Dragons are Different (part 10)

Oh my God, I can't believe I never finished this. I had every good intention of so doing, and then I got distracted, and now it's been three years since part 9?   Good Lord.

Anyway, this is the conclusion to the My Dragons are Different series.  Please accept this with my sincerest apologies!

Written as a cooperative effort by Erin Palette and Mike Kochis

"Challenge is a dragon with a gift in its mouth... Tame the dragon and the gift is yours."
-- Noela Evans 

XI. Life, Death, Rebirth

Herein lies a hodge-podge of thoughts and notions which didn't merit an entire category.

Being especially long-lived (a competent dragon can live for a millennium or more), dragons are equally slow to reproduce.  Finding a suitable mate is the first hurdle;  it is difficult for innate schemers to trust each other enough to become intimate in such a manner. Therefore, mating is (much like all things draconic) planned out in advance, by proxy as much as possible, and through intense negotiation.

When all is finally said and done, their mating is more akin to a human "one night stand" than anything else:  the two dragons, having finally determined that turning on each other mid- or post-coitus will result in mutually assured death, meet in a location carefully determined to be tactically non-advantageous to either party (saying "without possibility of ambush" is rather facile, as of course both dragons will bring along allies to watch their backs during the deed); the male deposits sperm within the female's egg sac; then they both leave.

"Will my offspring be a threat to me or my future plans" is a keen consideration when mating, especially among males, as all children are birthed by the mother in her lair, and therefore out of the father's control. Ideally, the male is from far enough away, and has interests sufficiently different from the mother, that any offspring will not infringe upon the father's territory -- and recall, dragons interpret "territory" as "within my area of interest".   If this ideal cannot be met, then a typical arrangement is for half of the eggs to be delivered to the father's kobolds after being laid.  No male dragon will ever accept delivery of live young!

Gestation within the mother takes a year, but incubation within the egg takes decades or centuries, depending on the age of the mother; a good rule of thumb is to assume that incubation is roughly equal with a dragon's age category.  Therefore, the eggs of a young adult (the youngest age at which a dragon can give birth) would take between 50 and 100 years to gestate, while an ancient dragon's eggs take nearly a millennium to gestate!  The benefit to this, however, is that the hatchlings will have absorbed a massive amount of information while "in ovum", and therefore will be far more powerful than their peers:
  • Young Adults' offspring are Challenge Rating -1;
  • Adults' are base CR;
  • Mature Adults' offspring are CR+1;
  • Additional +1 to CR for each age category after that. 

This is why fathers refuse to accept live offspring: by the time they are delivered, they will already have been indoctrinated into the mother's way of thinking (including her distasteful regard for the wrong kind of thing to hoard).

Eventually, some ambitious adventurer will get it into his head that it would be a great idea to steal a dragon egg and raise it as his own.

Setting aside for the moment that this sort of thing requires an epic expenditure of time, treasure, and effort to rival killing the mother (for that is what it will take), as well as the time requirement for gestation -- this adventurer now must contend with a young being who is, at birth, as smart and as strong as a human adult; possessed of a terrible hunger both physical and intellectual; lacking the cultural and ethical conditioning of the mother; and only going to get larger, stronger, more ravenous, more territorial, and more uncontrollable as time passes.

Meanwhile, in the real world, animal specialists with doctorates are routinely maimed and/or killed by animals dumber than they are.

If any player character wishes to raise a feral dragon, the GM should smile and say "Yes, absolutely," and then harshly punish even the mildest mistake or lapse in judgement.  If necessary, consult the parents of teenagers for ideas.

Given the difficulty in finding a suitable mate, and the massive amounts of time and effort it takes to bring a dragon to term, the existence of half-dragons -- the product of a shape-shifted dragon and a member of a lesser race -- suddenly makes more sense. These cross-species "booty calls" have two benefits:  the dragons satisfies its biological urges (more common for males than for females), and, if pregnancy occurs, a useful tool/minion/catspaw is created.

It is worth noting that if a female dragon is so impregnated, she must stay in that shape-shifted form for the duration of the pregnancy, else the child be miscarried. However, a female dragon carrying eggs that were fertilized by another dragon, but are still unlaid,  may shift form without detriment to the young.

Pellatarran Half-Dragons are created as per Pathfinder rules.

Despite being exceptionally long-lived and paranoid, dragons can and do die. Usually this is through enemy action, but it is possible (however unlikely) for them to succumb to illness or injury; death from old age is unknown. Indeed, it is entirely possible that dragons cannot die due to age.

However, just because it is difficult to kill a dragon does not mean it is impossible, and this fact worries many of them. If they are worried enough, they will consider becoming undead through dark rituals; these undead dragons are known as Dracoliches or Raveners.

White dragons in particular are most prone to this, as their typical area of interest is "survival", but any dragon of sufficient age and expertise will have amassed enough foes who want it dead that making itself immune to death is a tantalizing option.  Black dragons, with their passion for knowledge that encompasses occult lore both forgotten and obscene, are the ones most likely to posses the know-how to become undead without needing the assistance of a divine spellcaster. Green dragons, on the other hand, are the one species actually less likely to embrace undeath, as their obsession with biology and living things is anathema to reanimation.

It is worth noting that any necromancer of the Dark would give his left anything to gain an undead dragon for an ally. However, this also means that said necromancer has some degree of power over the freshly undead dragon -- a situation which any proper dragon cannot abide. Therefore, any Cultist of the Dark assisting a dragon into undead-hood needs to be very powerful and very clever, or else he will end up very dead at the claws of his newest creation.

The Church of the Light, naturally, regards Dracoliches as abominations of the highest order and will spare no effort to destroy one.  Even the Cabal of the Gray regards undead as unnatural and will go out of their way to aid in the destruction of a  Ravener.

Dragons regard becoming undead with an attitude that combines the concepts of  "That's disgusting," "That's cheating," and "That is damn useful, I need to figure out how to do that myself."  Naturally, any dragon known to be undead will be regarded as a greater threat than typical, and so its rivals will display an unusual amount of cooperation to take it down... followed immediately by the victors fighting among themselves for possession of the knowledge so they can do it to themselves.

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