Because I normally run games from level 1 on, it’s rare for us to do any high-level gaming. Breaking level 10 is an epic campaign. So for the first three seasons of our Rasherochernon’s Folly campaign, dragons didn’t really make an appearance. (Season 2 had the party briefly face off against a green dragon wyrmlying before sending it packing.) That changed with Season 4, when two full-blown dragons assisted the party, mostly with transportation and as background elements in set piece combat; that season also featured our first half-dragon party member. I started thinking a lot about how dragons feature on the Folly. When Season 5 rolled around, one of the people to join the party was Lucha, a blue dragon who spent most of her time in human form; her longevity has allowed her to return as a party member in Season 8.
Sporting every color in the rainbow (and more besides), dragons can occupy nearly any location in the web of Folly ecology or society. Like all intelligent beings on the Folly, they are did not originate there, but rather have come from many different points of origin to settle the planet. The isolated nature of the Folly and its long period of being held behind a barrier in its own nearly impenetrable demiplane have led to an allopatric divergence of phenotypal and magical qualities between Folly dragons and their kin elsewhere.
All native Folly dragons can assume a clannad form. This form is a true alternate form: it is tied to the dragon’s physical and magical nature, not chosen; it ages with the dragon; permanent injuries (such as scars or limb loss) are persistent between forms. Both the clannad form and the draconic form are the dragon’s “true” form. This means that not only can dragons pass easily in mainstream clannad society, but more fundamentally that dragons are clannad. Still, many dragons choose to live a more traditionally draconic life, spending most or all of their time in draconic form, perhaps finding lonely places in the wilderness in which to lair.
Dragons are not populous enough on the Folly to have a true draconic society of their own (except in latter years on the three tropical islands which are favored by the gods, where Lucha has been establishing a colony of her children). Instead, the intersections of dragons’ lives with their neighbors is often about the dragon finding a niche to fill. In communities where draconic residents live openly, the dragons might work as craftspeople, sometimes employing their abilities or resistances to unique ends. A red dragon blacksmith might be able to work with unbelievable heat to produce impressive armor, for example. For the most part, dragons who live among other clannad are ordinary people.
Where draconic lives intersect with those of other clannad, drakelings are common, though some pairings with non-dragons do produce offspring who are more firmly phenotypally linked to one parent, usually the mother. “Drakeling” is a term which has historically served as a catchall for anyone displaying obvious mixed draconic heritage, up to and including someone with a dragon as a parent. (It occupies the same role as “half-elf”, which on the Folly is a much broader and more genial term than the rigid, sometimes dismissive definition applied elsewhere in the universe.) Drakelings are much more common than dragons, since dragons more often mate with clannad of disparate origins than with other dragons. Because drakelings cannot change form, there is a somewhat sad tendency to be received as more similar to others in their community than their draconic parents (grandparents, etc.) and therefore may find it easier to navigate among other clannad.
Dragons live for centuries, and research suggests that there is no natural limit to a dragon’s lifespan, though they do experience some physical degradation as they reach the most venerable ages. Drakelings can generally be expected to live half again as long as they might without their draconic heritage, and the closer one is generationally to one’s last draconic ancestor, the more potent the effect.
While dragons generally observe spiritual practices similar to their neighbors’, it is worth noting that if a dragon lives long enough the probability that she will actually encounter one of the deific beings of the Folly approaches 1.
Inner Curve Drakelings
There is a subset of drakelings who exist on the inner curve of the Folly, the part of the planet’s surface that looks like an enormous bite was taken out of the crust and a small, stationary, gently-turning moon hung in the empty space. For centuries that portion of the world was contained behind a magical barrier. A group of dragons came to the inner moon from outside the Folly, intending to turn the Folly into a weapon to win their interstellar war, and set up a dracocracy behind the barrier. Those dragons were unable to bear children of their own. Instead, they used genetic engineering to create their own drakeling progeny in order to assist them in military and scientific matters. The dracocracy has since been dismantled and the offending dragons driven off the Folly, but their lab-born children remained and integrated with the rest of society.
The drakelings of the inner curve are phenotypally similar to the “natural” offspring of dragons on the outer curve. They do deserve their own particular mention, however, because while the military-scientific culture for which they were created has evolved and is open to other clannad, it remains a distinct culture in which drakelings are still the most centralized and populous group.
Inner curve drakeling society is results-driven. Scientific achievement is held in the highest regard, though all fields of self-development and contribution to society have their place. Individual prowess is celebrated, sometimes in contrast to the expectation that people must work with others to accomplish a task. Inner curve drakeling society tends toward population clusters which focus on a few complementary research, development, economic, or defense goals, yet it is more hierarchical and stratified than most other non-urban Folly cultures.
The communities of drakeling society are linked by an overarching board made of the “first among peers” of the various recognized fields of development and study – a little like the council of deans at a university. This board is responsible for ensuring that wastefulness and frivolous pursuits are avoided on the reasoning that personal time is a private matter, but one’s work for one’s community should be productive and useful. The board can suggest transfers between communities and approve or reallocate materiel and funds. When the board’s meddling becomes burdensome, however, communities are quick to push back, protesting or calling for special elections or resignations, often with a smear campaign against the perceived problem members’ viability and past contributions.
Drakeling culture on the inner curve has a troubled relationship with religion, considering that not long ago (draconically speaking) society was bent on eliminating the gods as threats to the dracocracy’s plans for the Folly. While no such megalomaniacal impulse remains within drakeling culture, the somewhat internally conflicting idea that the deities are both too meddlesome and not involved enough in the affairs of the world to be taken seriously generally describes the drakeling take on spirituality. Not to mention that religious focus is extraneous to technological and scientific progress and is therefore shunned by any decent, upstanding member of society – you wouldn’t want to ruin your project’s chances of funding by the board with all that religious mumbo-jumbo, would you?