DRAGONS (and Dungeons)
So there I am, 14, and flipping through a friend’s Monster Manual (First Printing of First Edition, the one with no illustration for the Eye Of The Deep, and of course the classic Sutherland cover, and my attention was focused not on the topless monsters (oh, boys and girls, there was nudity back in those days in our gaming books… mmm…. Loviatar….), but on the dragons. It utterly and completely fascinated me that there were ten types of dragons (plus two uber-dragons). My semi-Asperger’s adolescent mind was enraptured with the categorization scheme — colors for evil, metals for good, each with levels of power, and of course each dragon had eight age groups to which it could belong. (Indeed, a large part of the appeal of the Gygax era was, to me and to many others, the codification and classification of fantasy. To some folks, especially hoity-toity modern day artsy-fartsy new-age hippie commie ‘indie’ game designers, this is blasphemy and anathema, the destruction of wonder. To me, though, it’s the candle to the moth of my interest. The world of Gary Gygax, the world of color-coded dragons and numerical demons, of oozes and trappers and lurkers above, is the world that first grabbed hold of my consciousness. Thinking of it now, it occurs to me that the obvious artificiality of it was a huge part of the appeal — it was so self evidently a designed world, a world made up by a modern mind for the purpose of being made up, that it told me “You can do this too!”. Mythology was not just something inherited or absorbed, with no known origin and no credited creator; mythology could be made up by anyone.)
OK, major digression there. Anyway…. Dragons.
Well, maybe it wasn’t such a digression. Categories imply expansion. If you have red, blue, etc, dragons, why not violet? Or yellow? Or robin’s-egg-blue with a hint of turquoise? Why not gem dragons? (Indeed, why not, and my first issue of Dragon contained the gem dragons, and they remain among my favorites to this day.) Why not striped and speckled dragons? While TSR itself mostly resisted the urge, producing new and vaguely defined categories instead of overloading the “classic 10” with Azure Dragons and Mercury Dragons, the third parties, legitimate and otherwise, were not so restrained (bless them!), and, of course, it is here in my ramblings that I point to that other great influence on My Life And Work: David A. Hargrave and the Arduin Trilogy.
Volume III of this great work (all of my copies date from purchases in the early 1980s and are getting seriously worn; need to buy some new ones on eBay) contains, among other wonders, the Violet Dragon, which breathes ionized and electrified gas, whose effects include dropping all magic item “plusses” by one. It is worth noting that there is nothing about the Violet Dragon’s personality, habits, lairs, lifecycle, or any other such folderol, just a few lines of text in small, monospaced font. And yet, somehow, the Violet Dragon has stuck with me for many years. Maybe it’s the image — a great purple beast whose spines crackled with electricity as it unleashed a gout of that classic fantasy element, ionized gas. Maybe I just like purple. (I do.)
I feel the world is a poorer place for the lack of Violet Dragons, or Red-and-White Striped Dragons (yes, they were in the same volume) or Rainbow Dragons (ditto). (I know there are, in fact, Purple Dragons in the 4e Draconomicon, but do they breath ionized gas? No they do not!) So this is weird, random, and strange dragon week here on Breakfast Crunch. But here’s the deal. Breakfast Crunch, by definition, is supposed to be done quickly — and doing a full-on dragon, all five (six if you cound wormling) life stages takes a while. So my plan is to give you the Adult form, and allow you, dear reader, to create the other stages yourself. Look at it this way — you’re still getting a lot more than we used to get, in terms of detailed mechanics. For what it’s worth, if anyone asks, I will email them the XML from the Monster Maker for easier editing.
To begin with… well, it seems inevitable. We must begin with the Violet Dragon, re-imagined for Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition. (“Re-imagined”, in this context, is not code for “Filled with angst and political commentary.”) I have, indeed, given in to the modern fad for things like “context” and “background”, and have provided some details on what Violet Dragons are like, hopefully enough to provide a DM with ideas for plot hooks and stories without constraining them too much.