8 Metallic Dragons
Dragons are immensely magical. They radiate soul-stuff; their very presence, given time, will change the local environment. By nature, dragons are solitary, but on rare occasions they can find a stable resonance, allowing several dragons to inhabit the same area. Not allies, not friends, but collaborators. Each dragon believes it is the leader and mastermind; it is very unwise to challenge this assumption.
On the surface, some dragons form Desolations. Others form banks, rule city-states, or sit in high mountain passes and eat the occasional traveling knight. They are neurotic, damaged creatures, but even a temperamental monster can find or create followers. There are some things a dragon cannot do. They create drakencults, hoarding people just as they hoard wealth and other treasures. Sometimes, a dragon's nature is imprinted onto their cult, according to the needs and desires of the cultists and the peculiarities of the dragon.
Fear of invasion, fear of death, fear of illness, fear of poverty. They come and abase themselves, promising anything and everything. Sometimes the dragon agrees. Entire communities are swallowed up, changed, assigned new roles and strange purposes. A fearful creature will never be respected by a dragon. They shrink and degenerate, gaining a dragon's scales and head shape, like a child dressing up as a pilot or a fireman. These creatures are known as kobolds.
Captured dragon-hunters or willing champions are empowered by the dragon. They are remade as warrior-servants, scaled and obedient, tough, brutal, and loyal. Generations of master warriors, training to protect an immortal god-king. They are the dragonborn.
People have a major design flaw; a tendency to bend at the knees. Dragons exploit this. Some people need to be ruled, to serve a powerful and wise leader, to obey and to hold power through obedience. Dragons do not understand why people want to do this, but they exploit it. Externally, they are little changed by their proximity to the dragon, but their minds roil with madness and half-understood dreams.The dragons refer to their highest ranked followers as servants. Everyone else calls them sycophants.
Collectively, a dragon's followers are called dracospawn.
The Grand LairIn a corner of the Veins, where the sun is a legend and the sky is unimaginable, there are dragons. Locked in an uneasy alliance, they rule an underground kingdom. The Five Tyrants. The Five Lords of Creation. They are living gods to their followers and they have many, many followers.
Surface scholars divide dragons into eight metallic and eight chromatic forms, as if by numbering and categorizing them they might become less fearsome and inscrutable. But metals alloy and colours blend. The categories that look so sensible on paper crumble into dust when faced with a real, unique, and dangerous dragon. Dragons are more real than any category. They make the rest of the world look like painted scenery.
|We Are The Dwarves concept art.|
Atgased the VileGreen Dragon
A miserable creature who delights in misery. Green dragons made a poor deal with acid elementals. Their skin constantly weeps corrosive slime. It hurts them, but it hurts everything else more. Atgased can tunnel through limestone in hours. His caves are the remains of an ancient volcanic burp; his acid slime dissolves obsidian and granite much more slowly. He is a long-limbed, emerald green dragon, coated in filth and pot-bellied. His wings are kept carefully folded. He can unfurl them to spray a huge area in sludge. He's the size of a transatlantic jetliner.
A shallow lake of acidic sludge, lit by the faintest chemical glow. Atgased lies on his belly and slides around, sighing deeply and moaning from time to time. If he sits still, only his eyes and his foul breath-bubbles. His treasures rest in alcoves or carefully carved islands.
-Burned books in a huge, tottering stack. Some pages might still be readable. Some spells are still trapped inside.
-Bent tools, rusting. A maze of broken implements, with a few mangled magic items at the centre.
-Damaged beauty. Statues and slaves, both the finest available, burnt by Atgased's acid. He find the Immaculate Slaves of the Drow too obedient and accepting to make a truly excellent hoard.
Atgased the Vile has a huge number of kobolds, specially adapted to live in his stinking acidic tunnels. Their eyes are huge and bulbous, their noses almost vestigial. They have swollen bellies and tottering legs, like famine victims. At Atgased's command, they swallow his slime and belch it onto walls or enemies, carving new tunnels or destroying precious defenses. Their clothes are rags and their weapons are claws, but their numbers and caustic guts often carry the day.
Atgased keeps a few dragonborn. They are taught to believe they are worthless sinners, reincarnated here by the world's creator (Atgased, obviously), to assist in the punishment of other sinners. They are profoundly ignorant and remarkably brutal. If ordered to capture someone, they are likely to break their captive's limbs just for convenience in transport. Their fat, almost toad-like faces look like armoured helmets.
No sycophants attend on Atgased for long. He keeps a few victims around to torture, for he delights in panicked, hasty answers, desperate lies, or just screaming. His view of the world is a mix of these lies and his own beliefs, and it changes every few days.
All the other dragons hate the noxious and miserable Atgased but he is too valuable to kill or exile. He carved the tunnels in their lairs. His followers carve secret passages throughout the Veins. His vices are, in comparison, moderate and well-contained.
Atgased would love to see the other Tyrants humiliated and maimed. Not killed (that would be boring), but permanently crippled or mocked.
He would love to invade a Drow city and rampage through its halls, spreading acid everwhere, poisoning rose beds and destroying beauty wherever he could find it. He fantasizes about this for hours. He would also love to poison the Lake of Teeth, any Olm-sumps he could reach, and... well, the entire world, honestly. He dreams of cavorting through rotting cities, scorched forests, and sulphrous swamps.
Atgased desires no precious metals or gems, but he will accept gifts of art or other well-loved things. Cunning traders have convinced him that worthless objects were highly sentimental, then wept crocodile tears as he destroyed them.
Atgased can provide a force of disposable kobolds to conquer a fortress or dig a tunnel. He will also release a disfigured slave or two if he is certain life outside his lair would be more humiliating than life inside it. He will also promise to use a magical process to heal and transform someone into a new, better, and forever well-fed form. He just eats people and laughs smugly.
Absolutely fastidious, utterly obsessive, fabulously wealthy, and completely paranoid. Kaseldrake is a mirror-bright ribbon of silver, a waterfall of perfectly polished scales and claws. It - nobody's entirely sure if Kaseldrake has a gender - is an organizer, a record-keeper, and a true tyrant. Kaseldrake breaths clouds of sleep. It never eats. It never fights unless cornered, but not for lack of ability. Fighting might disturb its collections. Kaseldrake is the size of a bus.
A city in the rock. Harmonious, peaceful, and beautiful. Every railing and stone was chosen with care by an immortal and detail-obsessed master. Soft blue lights and mirror-smooth rivers. Cold. Every building is large enough to admit the dragon without discomfort. Ceilings are high; arches are smooth and consistently sized. Streets radiate and are carefully marked. In the centre, in a grand palace, Kaseldrake flits from room to room, fussing.
-Princesses. Kaseldrake puts them into an eternal, ageless sleep and then kidnaps them. It has dozens. Each one has their own room, built to mirror their former homes... but improved and tidied by the dragon's tendencies. The rooms are jeweled cases for exquisite relics. Kaseldrake doesn't have a plan or vile desires. It just likes having princesses. It will kill to keep them safe.
-Peacocks. They stroll through the city like kings. Each one is followed by a designated kobold (peacocks are both dumb and messy; the kobolds constantly clean and protect the birds.)
-Silver. Every coin is unique and carefully stacked.
-Beetles. The Authority must have an inordinate fondness for beetles, for there are thousands of varieties. Long halls filled with glass cases and carefully impaled beetles. Dens of well-paid sycophants breed new varieties and document existing beetles.
-Records. Lists. Lists of lists. Content barely matters, as long as it is perfect and well-indexed.
Kobolds, as proud as the peacocks they follow and as obsessive as their master. Uniforms made of blue silk. In groups larger than 5 they form committees. In groups larger than 100 they form parliaments. They are wildly inefficient unless given clear directions. If told to ambush three travelers, and they only see two (or four, or three people and a cave centipede), they will freeze... and form a committee.
Kaseldrake keeps a small horde of dragonborn in a crypt. They can be woken by ringing any of the silver alarm bells in the city. They instantly rush to the scene of a disorder and murder everyone who might be involved. Unfortunately, they are easily distracted, and tend to focus on irrelevant details or minor incidents.
Swarms of sycophants. Most of them are quite willing and fairly happy. Kaseldrake doesn't pay much attention to them as long as things are cataloged, polished, and presented. They believe that Kaseldrake is the world's creator, or at least one of the major contributors, and that the work they are doing is vital. They are the Celestial Bureaucracy. Kaseldrake has never confirmed or denied their beliefs.
Kaseldrake refuses to speak of Atgased, referring to him as "that thing." It is fond and tolerant of Borminthal, provided the indigo dragon and his brood stay at a safe distance. It finds Thanuly disreputable and boring, and it often forgets Postwald exists.
Most races in the Veins are treated with polite disinterest, but Kaseldrake desires and admires Antlings. They would get along very well, save that Kaseldrake has kidnapped one of their princesses.
More princesses. They are the crown jewels of Kaseldrake's hoard. It checks on them hourly. Kaseldrake, despite its obsessions, is very, very intelligent. It will spot a fake princess a mile away and move to destroy those who would pawn such a thing. Rumours of princesses are valuable and will be collated. Portraits are helpful.
New coins and new beetles are also valuable. The rarer the better. Even a coin or beetle Kaseldrake already possesses is valuable because it can be compared to the existing item. The less perfect version is discarded. Information in writing is also valuable. Tax registers, burial registers, and other dry lists of figures are highly valued.
Kaseldrake has many defective coins and will trade in spare silver. More importantly, it will trade information. Kaseldrake and its sycophants know many things. Any information that could be indexed is indexed and added to Kaseldrake's vast storehouses.
|One of Borminthal's children. He's muuuch bigger. Tyler Smith.|
Borminthal the WiseIndigo Dragon
Asleep, mostly. Even awake, Borminthal is distracted. One of his glowing chameleon-cone eyes sees the future. The other sees the past. He can only sense the present dimly, and usually by lightning, which tends to vaporize delicate objects. His purple, warty body is filled with his lightning elemental partner. Mostly, Borminthal sleeps, eyes closed, stirring fitfully, muttering, and discharging bolts of electricity. Awake, he is bad-tempered, lazy, and demanding. His gaze charms and enthralls. Borminthal is ancient and enormous, the size of a small castle, and his sticky feet let him walk on ceilings and walls.
A series of large caves with scorch marks. Networks of small caves filled haphazardly with treasures and dracospawn. Borminthal sleepwalks along predictable paths. He slowly orbits his caves. His entire lair feels benignly neglected. It is lit only by his lightning, the glow of his hoard, and the occasional lantern. Distant thunder (his footsteps).
Borminthal has six children. They are very young, the size of housecats, and they go everywhere together. If you're in Borminthal's lair, he's terrain. A slow moving thunderstorm made of a thousand tonnes of meat. The children are the ones you need to watch out for.
-Music. Borminthal's dream-filled life is soothed by music. Orchestras race ahead of him, constantly playing, constantly innovating. Some people seek him out willingly, for the greatest collection of musical geniuses in Creation rides the bow-wave of his passage. In return, Borminthal gives them glimpses of the future or past, or merely charms them into willing servitude.
-Magic. No one is sure why Borminthal demands magic items, but his servants are certain he desires them. A pyramid of crystal balls. A stack of magic swords. Spellbooks, pickled wizard brains, caudrons, wands, and wax candles. The air in some caves is filled with raw magical discharge; occasionally, some poor wanderer is teleported, mutated, or vaporized.
Squirming, slightly sticky, and very curious. They can burp lightning, but they know better than to vaporize guests. They crawl and stalk and plot and ask all sorts of silly questions and show you treasures and tricks and tell long rambling stories with no beginning or end. They are spoiled rotten. They are too young to have picked names yet and will ask the PCs for advice.
Borminthal's kobolds wear copper hats and long copper chains. They clip themselves into special cables on the walls, moving cautiously like alpine climbers. Lightning will strike them first. They are all profoundly deaf and utterly miserable. If you threaten Borminthal, some kobolds will clip themselves onto you and wait for the dragon's lightning to strike you dead.
His dragonborn are fanatic ninja-like thieves. They possess Borminthal's chameleon eyes but not his strange visions. They prefer to use poison and strangulation to kill their targets. Secretly, they bring magic items and music to add to Borminthal's hoard. They will protect his children with their lives.
Most of Borminthal's sycophants are musicians, though he has ordered tutors for his children. They rarely last long.
Borminthal's legendary wisdom and enormous bulk prevent any other dragon from earnestly plotting against him. The lightning-scarred bones of one challenger lie near the entrance to his lair. Borminthal's children refer to Atgased as "Mr. Stinky", Kaseldrake as "silly old Wrasslesnake", Thanuly as "Auntie", and Postwald as "Mr. Plops." If they can find an excuse to follow the PCs into another dragon's lair, they will, then blame the PCs for any disasters that result.
To be left alone. To sleep forever and dream pleasant dreams.
His children want snacks, races, hold me up, no wait i want to eat your hair, no wait let's go throw rocks at the fishes, why do you have so many fingers, what's the sun like why are plants green and mushrooms brown where do we go when we die are you really tall for a surface human why are your eyes blue look at this thing I found I like silver the best will you teach me how to make a hat like your hat so we can wear hats together did you know....
Borminthal's children will let you steal magic items, but they'll turn you in later and get you in trouble. The kind of trouble where very strong dragonborn cut off your arms and legs while the children watch and offer advice. So... don't do that.
Borminthal's children also know many secrets (1-in-10 are true) and many secret passages (1-in-10 are traps). They will made bad trades.
The closer you get to Borminthal, the more likely a prophecy or vision will stick to your soul. It might be irrelevant, maddening, or vitally important. Strong-willed people can select visions; weak-willed people are overwhelmed. To get close, you need to avoid angering the dragonborn or disturbing the musicians.
|John F Stifter|
Thanuly is currently a human woman with an enormous mass of frizzy orange hair and piercing blue eyes. She is a spellcaster and, even by the standards of most dragons, a little odd. She is joyful, playful, and possibly even charitable. Her lair resembles a conventional city, full of life, art, and happiness. Mandatory happiness. In her war form, Thanuly is a ship-sized blur of magic, orange scales, and blistering hatred.
The city of Absalom is a small but functional city. It has farms, powered by Thanuly's assorted spells. Some enlarge fruit, some spawn vermin, some duplicate items, and some just create food and water from nothing. The city doesn't generate a massive surplus, but it does generate enough to trade. It has markets, warehouses, guilds, and inns. The city is always celebrating. The festival never ends. Its patroness and protector roams the city in disguise. Her gigantic palace is mostly empty. Currently, she is pretending to be Mistress Yolonda, a wealthy patron of the arts. Absalom has a fluid heirarchy of food-barons, art critics, and authors. Their power is illusory; all serve at Thanuly's whim.
Everyone in the city knows Mistress Yolonda is the fearsome dragon Thanuly. Her disguise isn't terribly convincing and she keeps forgetting her assumed name. Begin to mention this and everyone around her freezes in fear. She becomes violent if she thinks anyone has seen through her cunning disguise. Smile, nod, and never acknowledge.
-Artists. Of any kind, as long as they are skilled and obedient. The only subject permitted is Thanuly the Immortal... or, conveniently, Mistress Yolonda. Statues and paintings of Thanuly's previous disguises, including a foxling named Yutrivian and a fat merchant named Yult, are displayed discreetly but openly. If you want to speak to Thanuly directly, wait until she drops her disguise to pose for a painting.
-Joy. At Thanuly's command, everyone in her city is happy. Drugs, surgery, and spells keep the more valuable artists in a state of bliss. Food, drink, security, and extremely liberal social mores satisfy everyone else. Malingerers and dissidents are exterminated by the city's population before word of their treachery reaches Thanuly.
-Gold. Mostly in the form of jewelry. No depictions of faces other than Thanuly (or her disguised forms) is permitted, so most coins are defaced or reworked.
-Spells. Thanuly's magical library is vast and well guarded.
Thanuly's koblods have been told they do not actually exist. They believe it. They move silently on padded leather feet. They wear grey cloth robes and masks to blend in with the city. Most wear furniture. Tables, easels, columns, and chairs move around on soft padded feet. Citizens simply accept it; obedient furniture is very useful.
Her dragonborn are all former lovers. Romance, at the best of times, involves a very slight mingling of souls. Since dragons have a hyperabundance of soul, falling in love can be a transformative and even fatal process for mortals. The survivors are utterly loyal. They fight with the weapons they used in their former lives, or with wands and spells from Thanuly's library.
Everyone in her city, from traveling traders to permanent residents, lives only at Thanuly's whim. Luckily, she is easily flattered. Live in eternal joy and obey her every command. Hoard no gold, no art, and no magic. If you can live with that Absalom is a paradise.
Thanuly thinks the other dragons are inferior and deranged, but has no plots against them. She admires the Drow for their skills and beauty, and they - possibly - admire her, but they also refuse to sculpt her. Every other creature is evaluated only by its ability to flatter.
Confirmation of her own superiority, immortalized in art and reinforced via obedience and flattery. Thanuly's thoughts all turn inwards; she cares for very little outside herself. Thanuly wants to set the latest fashions but she's horribly unoriginal. Allow her to take credit for your work.
She may attempt to seduce unusual or particularly attractive strangers. Sex isn't dangerous (well, not existentially dangerous), but love is, and Thanuly is easy to love. Close proximity is intoxicating. Useful people may not be allowed to leave.
Thanuly will cast spells on you or for you, but will very rarely allow spells to leave her library. She can also introduce you to wonderful people, new foods, soft clothes, and new experiences. Living in Absalom should be enough of a reward for anyone. If you insist on payment, she will provide food, silver, or occultum.
A plump, salamander-like, twitchy thing. Like a dragon sculpted out of white clay. Postwald is a habitual liar, constant schemer, and utter liability. It is small - only 10' long including his whip-sharp tail - and dull grey. It can move like a greased weasel and jump surprisingly far.
A small network of limestone caves carved into a careful and deliberate maze. Several caves are identical down to the last pebble. Postwald keeps its meager hoard in a central chamber, next to a chapel it carved. Secret passages and kobold warrens wind through every part of its lair.
-Religious texts. Postwald is deeply religious. It believes the Authority has a plan for it and that all Creation was put there for its benefit. It assumes any vaguely prophesied religious figure, apocalyptic or messianic, is going to be Postwald, and it is quite excited.
-Secrets. Anything will do. It loves listening to them while purring like a kitten or a malfunctioning cement plant. It won't trade in secrets unless threatened.
-Exiles and Criminals. Anyone banished, cast out, or banned. It thinks of himself as their kindly benefactor... and slowly watches them starve to death. It can't be made to understand that people need food and water. Crowns from exiled kings and last works of banished poets are the most valuable things it owns.
Postwald's kobolds are cunning little bastards. They are experts in camouflage, trap-making, and secretive murder. They can squeeze through impossible gaps. Postwald is very vulnerable; the kobolds know their divine ruler needs a lot of protection. They love Postwald. They think they are angels, like the ones in the holy books.
Postwald has one dragonborn; an ancient knight named Bos. Bos is a poor fighter and a rambling storyteller, but the kobolds revere him and Postwald treats him like a favoured pet.
The prisoners Postwald collects are briefly sycophants. After a few days without water their attitude changes.
None of the other dragons want an alliance with Postwald. Not after last time. It came up with some convincing scheme that failed exactly halfway through, when Borminthal woke up and incinerated his apparent challenger. It's a natural talent. The rest of the dragons try not to acknowledge Postwald. If its lair wasn't so conveniently located to devour invaders and separate Absalom from the dangers of the Veins, Postwald would probably have been killed ages ago.
Postwald will contaminate any alliance it enters. Any league (other than the Five Tyrants) will inevitably collapse. It is very sorry about this, and it's somehow not entirely to blame, but the other dragons consider it an immutable fact. Postwald's existence is therefore useful. Conspiracies against the Five Tyrants and the Grand Lair often seek a route to power through Postwald.
Postwald likes company. It fills visitors with confidence as a side-effect of its pride-inducing breath. It also wants, in a vague and confused way, to take over the world and fulfill a few dozen apocalyptic prophecies at the same time. Religious ceremonies fascinate Postwald.
It can be convinced of almost anything, but once convinced it will want to help, and once it helps your plans begin to unravel.
Postwald likes to keep mementos from his exiles, but it will use them to barter for things. It has no idea how to evaluate relative worth. It might trade a jewel-encrusted crown for a mundane secret or a load of iron shackles for an arduous, hazardous task.
|Too cute not to include. ExitStageLeft|
The 5 Tyrants are designed to occupy 9 hexes of my half-drafted Veins of the Earth-inspired underground hexcrawl. The dragons occupy different niches. Stats, combat styles, environmental rules, and other boring stuff will be added too.
Plots Against the Five TyrantsThe Illithids desire dragon brains. If the PCs bring a fresh (<48hrs) dragon brain to an Illithid, and don't get ambushed along the way, the following things will happen in swift succession.
1. They will be richly rewarded. Ludicrous loot. Some of it portable, some difficult to haul.
2. The Illithid will eat the dragon's brain.
3. The Illithid will tremble violently, then explode catastrophically.
4. Society will collapse.
It's best to flee just after Step 1 but before Step 2.
The Drow have achieved an armed stalemate along their border. Peace is fragile, and there are many factions that would love to see both the Drow and the Dragons weakened.
The Five Tyrants are stable because none of them hoard the same things and none of their territories overlap. Change that, and the entire arrangement collapses. There will be plenty of loot to share.