Dragon Creation

January 14, 2009

Inspired by town creation from Dogs in the Vineyard, the nature of monsters in Zelda, the Shinto influences in Miyazaki movies, the colossi from Shadow of the Colossus, and a short game Shreyas once wrote called “In Darkness He Is Waiting.”

The natural world operates in accord with the will of heaven. They are not exactly the same thing, theologically speaking, but mirror each other in a complementary fashion. Therefore, if something is at sixes and sevens (or, as they say in Chinese, a real ‘chaotic seven-eight mess’), if the dragons are acting up and causing disastrous calamities, such troubles necessarily have a mortal origin. The player characters are called upon to combat the symptoms of disasters — floods, fires, famines, eruptions of ghosts and monsters — but appeasing the wrath of the dragons ultimately involves determining how mortals are angering the natural world and/or spirit world.

Consequently, in this campaign setting, dragons are not monsters to be slain (though there will doubtlessly be hosts of other monsters that need stabbing). Dragons are effectively big, moving, dangerous puzzles to be found, explored, endured, and unraveled, if you are lucky. If you’re unlucky, they just eat you.

How to Perturb the Dragons

Here’s a table of mortal behaviors and their consequences in the earthly and spiritual realms. The GM uses this table, plus the NPCs that you’ve collaboratively created, to create disasters or other strange events that the PCs are sent to investigate.

MORTAL EARTHLY SPIRITUAL
improper hearts weather animals
improper behaviors storms ghosts
improper family relations crop failure monsters
improper village relations destruction dragonborn
improper conduct of a region disasters dragons
improper rule of a kingdom omens suns die

Your characters’ job, as agents of the Mulberry Throne, is ultimately to prevent the Ten Suns from falling from the sky, which means you have to stop problems from developing to that point. Of course, the difficulty is that many problems don’t become evident until the dragons awake and natural disasters begin occurring.

3 Responses to “Dragon Creation”

  1. Rich Forest Says:

    Thank you, Jonathan.

    This is just what I need right now, and I didn’t even know it!

    I’ll be using this in our ongoing Fantasy Trip “Island Kingdoms” campaign.


  2. Glad you found it useful, Rich. Yeah, I was smacking myself in the head for not noticing “Town Creation = The Mandate of Heaven = The Ghost of Hamlet’s Father” before. Kind of obvious once you see it. Booooo! Avenge my most foul and unnatural murder!

  3. Rich Forest Says:

    Yes — and I think that’s why it struck me as just so, well, right.

    I can’t wait to try it out.


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