Dragons are done wrong in fantasy



Hear me out… Dragons in traditional fantasy are great opponents and obviously the classic trope of going into the dungeon and slaying the dragon is really cool. But the way i have been running them in my campaign set in the old TSR Thunder Rift setting is that they are unified. This pulls a bit from the old Council of Worms books as well but here is my new idea maybe for a region or full fantasy setting. Let me know your thoughts, especially if you have any additional rules you think dragons may follow or campaign ideas for heroes living in a world controlled by dragons. Any help appreciated, I think there could be a lot of interesting avenues to pursue here. This post is a bit of ramble and repeats itself but i am trying to create an idea that gets more clear as it goes.

Dragons in fantasy are done wrong…

Why would such powerful creatures live in caves and attack villages and kingdoms for gold.

I think they would rule over their lands and collect taxes, gifts and tithes from those who live under them. A much more efficient way to create massive wealth. They have formed a complete feudal system where they collect taxes from the kingdoms they inhabit and in exchange don’t burn anything to the ground. Treasure flows up from lesser dragons living in a more powerful dragons land to some sort of super dragon. They also follow a very strict set of rules.

The rules of the Order of Dragons:

  1. Dragon life is sacred. Dragons do not fight or kill each other. All disputes must be brought to the council

  2. Dragon domains are tariffed to them by the order

  3. Dragons control and are bound to protect their lands and they are bound to aid other dragons when called upon

Gone are the ages when dragons sought only treasure. Long ago valiant warriors sought to hunt them for it. Those days are gone. They have unified and through there feudal system they now control most of the world’s economy. They let the races of the world continue their affairs but demand continued patronage. In return they offer protection and in many cases aid in the development of their region through investment or direct aid in projects. They also act as bankers sometimes on a kingdom or regional scale. Any wars fought between lesser races must be sanctioned by the Order of Dragons.

They often time live in or near cities in magnificent elaborate palaces. They have legions of kobold followers who revere them as gods. Kobolds have gained a protected place in society because of this. They also have many other loyal high power followers They employ agents in the civilized world to keep track of the all the happenings. They act as mafia controlling thieves guilds and planning heists in secret against each other. Subterfuge and politics are common activities. With all of the free time they gain by not trying to source treasure they spend on schemes and plots. Many have gained large celebrity. They are extremely jealous of each other and are constantly coming up with ways to undermine or get over each other, to this end they will employ the players in their schemes and put them in conflicting positions.


This has got the hamster wheel in my head moving.
I like a feudal system of dragons where the Lords, barons etc are dragons and pay homage to the dragon king of the region.
Would definitely avoid the “I just kill the mayor” when pc’s get too big for their boots.
In my world I do have a region based on dragons but have not fleshed it out at all because the players haven’t headed there yet. I think I just found out how that region is now controlled lol.


First off, I love this overall idea! Anything that makes iconic creatures more than just “what do we kill this week?” fodder is good by me.

Dragons as mob bosses. “Nice kingdom you got here. Sure be a shame if it burned down, wouldn’t it?”

I would (my own variant opinion only) see this one as more “Dragons do not openly fight or kill each other.” The political maneuvering would make Machiavelli green with envy. And, especially given the long lifespan and its effects on advancement, there would be a thriving trade in untraceable “accidents” and the like. Outwardly unspoken, and anyone caught attacking another dragon would be harshly punished, but one of the greatest secret honors would be the perfect assassination that no one can trace back to you.

Nice to see kobolds as more “honored retainers” than the usual “witless minions.”


Definitively agree.
To me, dragon are incarnation of power, so I try and find ideas in LOTR for them. How the ring works, how Sauron works, this kind of stuff.

A strangely pragmatic thing is that power has a range of influence. Like the tower with the eye for example. So having a high place for your dragon is good if they are either watching for dangers or are the danger. A looming threat in the horizon is always cool.

Another cool thing is that power draws conflicts. So they should fight, and win, against things. The thing they win against should be determine by the type of influence you want your symbol of power / dragon to have. A political influence will be to gather people, lead with ideas and actions, while a violent dragon would just shred something powerful like a kraken to pieces and not even look back.

Power is never and always alone. The ruler at the top is lonely, but they are a ruler, they have people around them to do their bidding. They either admire or dread them, with helps to define the powerful even when they are not there.

Power is decisive. A brutal dragon will not hesitate to strike, while a ruler type dragon will be sure to assess everything because they have a plan and the plan is that important to them. They are confident in something, be it their strength, their will of seeing a plan come to fruition or anything else.

Finally, power doesn’t even need to be here to exist. If your dragon is dreadful, people should cower in fear when a big cloud darkens the sky or when thunder cracks, not by fear of cloud or thunder, but by fear of the mighty. The name is known, the deed are known. See how you know about politics and people even if you don’t care about them ? Words are powerful, because they shape the world around the mighty. And the mighty are known because they shape the world.

Thanks for coming to my TedTalk.


As I read your thoughts I guess it never occurred to me that this needed to be said out loud. It seems that we share a sensibility on the dragon front. Ever since my first delves into GMing I’ve placed dragon overlords at the top of the socioeconomic food chain because it seemed plausible and natural.

One area where my dragons differ from yours is that they seldom are willing to band for any reason whatsoever. I see dragons as too vain, too self-centered, too greedy, and ever-cautious of the next dragon usurper. I could see lesser/younger dragons serving a dragon overlord, but it would be rare indeed for me to run similarly-powered/aged dragons as allies.


I think my dragons for the continent I have will be willing to “work under” the boss, this is because the main dragon queen is tiamat. She, and only she can lay eggs, and of the type she chooses. So everyone play nice or your line ends.


In my game dragons are more “animal-like”. Yes, intelligent and cruel, but animal. They are also not rainbow colors (dumbest crap D nD ever came up with) mine have camouflage and patterns like snakes (think diamond back rattler) and have a variety of more “natural-like” breath weapons – clouds of venomous vapors, viscous sticky spit that immediately smokes and burst into flames when in contact with air, fumes that have hallucinatory effects, acids, digestive enzyme fluids that dissolve flesh on contact, etc. The only treasure is possessions of those who foolishly came to its territory.


Are you familiar with Chris Perkins’s Iomandra setting that he ran for 4e? It was an island-hopping campaign, but every island throughout the world was claimed by a dragon, though they may not care about the day-to-day governance of the island, assuming their island was inhabited by sentients.


In an odd way your ultimate cool idea brought to mind…TV shows. Billions, Black List and Money Heist because all are “managing control”. Using dragons as the political elite is a delightful change and makes humanoids the pawns in this chess game played by dragons. We start beneath their notice and try to rise to positions of power or prestige. So our quests could be maneuvering political power to a dragon who favors us and the dragon who lost their position, now seeks our defection to their side or our heads! Wonderful position to have for dragons in a world.