Day 21 of the 30-day D&D Challenge asks for your favorite among that iconic class of D&D monsters, the dragon.
The dragon permeates the D&D game about as much as it does the mythologies of the real world, though some creatures that are draconine in nature, such as the Lernaean hydra and the Asian naga, are classified differently in D&D. Dragons are so iconic to the game that I know of at least one player who got into the hobby because the idea of fighting a dragon fascinated her. And of course there are all those artworks featuring dragons, from what seems to be a third or a quarter of all Dragon Magazine covers to the caricatures featured in the Dragonmirth section of the mag.
So what’s my favorite dragon type? The Cerilian Dragon, from the Birthright campaign setting. It’s the dragon that has the most mythical feel for me – there’s only one species, all are extremely ancient, and have the stupefying gaze attack attributed to dragons in The Hobbit, the Silmarillion, and the Germanic sagas that they were based on. And because there are only a very limited number of dragons left on Cerilia, but all of them pretty much gods, slaying one will truly be an epic accomplishment.
Call me a heretic (but then again, if you’ve read my posts in this series you probably know that already), but there’s something that niggles at me with the standard D&D dragon types. See, I find that D&D’s taking creatures from myth and trying to work them into settings as though they were naturally occurring, naturally evolved species of that world’s biosphere, tends to weaken the fantasy angle of the game for me with some creatures.
If dragons really existed as a natural species in your game world, and they’re its top predators, civilization shouldn’t even exist. Think about it. If dragons were truly as powerful, voracious, and intelligent as they’re hyped up to be, they’d get rid of all other rival species quickly. So to tell me that dragons are as natural to a fantasy setting as lions are to the Serengeti will quickly start to thin my suspension of disbelief.
Truly supernatural dragons, however, that spend most of their time in magical slumber, and perhaps represent cosmic forces of some sort, and are extremely rare, make a better setting element. In this, the Cerilian Dragon more resembles the wyrms that bedeviled Beowulf and the Knights of the Round Table. I guess my fondness for Birthright (though I never got to play it) stems from its being very Arthurian/Celtic in flavor. It was a tragedy that Birthright came out in TSR’s failing days.