A busy few weeks of gigging and production has come top an end, so I'm able to go back to my D&D comfort den, perhaps with some extra insights gleaned from beating my brains a little. Or perhaps not.
At any rate, I've been playing multiple games of my LotFP/D&D 5e hybrid since last Friday, with a couple of sessions on G+/Roll 20. It's been interesting to say the least, mainly because I've had the opportunity to develop a few ideas for my OSR community/homebrew setting---ideas which I think are not boring.
One of my players wanted nothing more than to play as Dragon Born. Frankly, I was kind of horrified. At best, they felt underwritten and cartoony. At their worst, they had a lame, B movie kind of vibe. Grotesque scenes floated before my third eye, scenes from a film, probably on the Sy-Fy Channel. I saw a rubber Dragon man stinking out the inn of ignorant goode folk. Just sort of looming there, waiting for his obligatory, stiffly choreographed fight scene and possibly , probably,earning a noble death, proving that the hero played by some 80s guy, was right to trust the big, dying lizard.
I mean, maybe you actually like the sound of that, I don't know. I mean, rubber heads definitely have their place. CGI heads, I'm still deeply unsold on. So think of those if you dig rubber.
Anyway, as far as I'm concerned, they even seem a poor fit for high fantasy, unless it's the kind of high fantasy championed by the Forgotten Realms,which, personally, as a setting, seems too much like a LARP gathering in an American gym hall (and yes, I've witnessed one...a Vampire game, like the weirdest PE lesson of all time and a definitely saleable spectator sport). The idea of Renaissance Fair villages full of Midwestern peasants, I find, indescribably cack. To me, Dragon Born fit into that milieu.
There's no sense of mystery to them. No sense of what makes a Dragon special. We see reasonable cracks at this with the other races...their racial abilities go some way to describing them as a culture and a species. But to say that dragons are defined by the types of damage they deal and resist... well, could it get any more boring?
What kind of losers are Dragon Born anyway? How would you deal with the inferiority complex? By hanging around other losers of your own species? Or by stinking out inns, standing at the back of adventuring parties, contributing nothing but your breath weapon and your BIG RUBBER DRAGON HEAD?
Even so, my player was thoroughly enchanted with the concept...thus, the race had to be made acceptable to mine eyes. I succeeded, but let's check your sensibilities...
The Dragon Born
The Dragon Born, ironically enough, are not born, but created. They emerge, from suicidal devotion to ideas,desperate need to escape the tatters of life,doomed efforts to understand that which cannot be understood...and even; on occasion; from the wrong needle, dug deep into a vein, seeking an escape only the opiates of Yoon Suin can provide.
There are ten venerable dragons, shepherds of the creatures of flesh, stewarding and winnowing as they see fit. Their ultimate origin is unclear...that they are orders of magnitude more potent than mortal races is as obvious as their matter is alien. They seem to bear a kind of responsibility towards the creatures of flesh. But it is more accurately a commitment, to a terrible kind of eugenic omnicide.
Areas home to dragons, warp and twist in fashions apt to nature of the master of the land (where they live, they are always masters). Their very proximity, causes reality to bend towards a model in which the Dragon dominates and flourishes.
At some juncture, their blood appeared in stoppered vials, circulating through the arcane underground, such as it is. How this blood had been obtained, was open to conjecture.
Some say that the blood was donated by these gargantuan doom lords, with intent and carried out by their servants.
The blood of the Dragon is highly mutagenic. If one injects the blood, then a change occurs on a fundamental physical, mental and spiritual level. In short, the subject becomes Dragon Born, their identity and matter, being overwritten by the power contained within the draconic blood.
No memories exist of the former individual. If the blood is injected, a new level 1 being comes to exist. This creature is entirely new, ageless and inquisitive.
Some perceive this as apotheosis. Others as escape from a life of shame, crime, illness or grave misfortune. It is undoubtedly a kind of suicide. Even so, all that hope to receive the intravenous mutagen, tell themselves a trace of their old self will remain. But it does not. Whatever was born human, is cast away irrevocably.
And yet a visual clue persists. The Dragon Born can assume a humanoid shape for a few hours a day. The shape, the illusion, is the image of the former, abandoned identity.
They learn swiftly, the benefits of surreptitious behaviour. Their true forms are too monstrous to be acceptable. They find themselves hunted by Cube Knights and Monster Slayers, driven into wild places, far from civilisation. And yet they are attracted to the lives of mortals, their strange ways their odd achievements. They also, are tempted to feast upon them. There exists a beast in the heart of every Dragon Born, no matter how seemingly noble.
Some insinuate themselves back into society. Reptilian presences within the higher echelons of culture. They are constantly seeking, wondering, attempting to find purpose. The worst of them groom and farm sentient life so as have a ready larder of flesh. Some they say, are deep ensconced within the greatest aristocracies of the land.
Sometimes they dream and their dreams are atomic splendour. And remote.
Sometimes they receive thoughts from the one that spawned them. Sometimes they are imperatives.
Both The draconic and mortal experience, are open to them and yet they are neither. They can see through the illusions perpetuated by other Dragon Born. Sometimes they form alliances and secret societies, though they are just as often loners.
The fleeting notion that they are part of a greater whole, never leaves them. They are obsessed with transformations and indeed, many continue to seek physical metamorphosis throughout their seemingly endless lives.
The mysteries of existence never end. They see inside the inside of themselves and they are compelled to make it explicit. But it is a mirror looking into itself. There seems to be cessation of revelation.
A true and inimical Madness waits for many Dragon Born. Some say this madness leads ultimately to a strange city, all angles terminating in impenetrable Draco-Space. Finally, the oldest Dragon Born are here, building, creating something. The angles keep getting tighter. Can an angle exert something akin to gravity if it is acute enough? Acute through multiple spatial plateau?
Some scholars think so.
Every Dragon Born is saddled with a Draconic Temptation. Roll a d10. The Dragon Born has disadvantage on all Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma rolls whilst resisting the Draconic Temptation and able to satisfy it immediately.
1 Virgin Heads
2 The Fat of Children
3 The Flesh of Dogs
4 The Hearts of Lovers
5 The Skin of Saints
6 The Bones of Knights
7 The Eyes of the Holy
8 The Tongues of Fathers
9 The Blood of Mothers
10 The Unborn Whole and Crunchy
Every Dragon Born learns a Draconic Truth. They know one such Draconic Truth when they are created. They may learn a new one whenever they qualify for an attribute increase or whenever they find/persuade a Venerable Dragon to teach them.
1 Egg Rebirth: a dragon born can construct an egg from itself out of which it will be reborn. This costs 5000 xp to create the first time, doubling thereafter. It is a costly process. Invariably they emerge less human, gaining a new Draconic Temptation with each renewal.
2 See True Geometry: the Dragon Born can utilise space according to dragons. Once per day, per point of Wisdom bonus, it may Dimension Door. A DC 15 Wisdom save must be made to avoid passing into a different dimension for d6 rounds. Carcosa, say. They usually end up somewhere portentous.
3 Breather underwater/aether. Does what it says on the tin. Phlogiston would work just as well as Aether. Beware Aetherial Regrets, which are fascinated by Dragon Born. They also are now able to resist extremes of pressure.
4 Draconic Trans-mind. They can reach into a kind of Akashik Record, a draconic supra consciousness...a reptilian over soul. Roll 5 d20 and arrange in any order. These are the results of the Dragon Born's next 5 d20 rolls. Put this down to the fact that Draconic Trans-Mind knows the limits of neither time, nor space. This emanation is perhaps a side effect of the Strange City.
5 Envoy. The Dragon Born been chosen by a great dragon, to represent its interests amongst the lesser races. The Dragon Born gains advantage on persuade rolls with wise members of monstrous races (those who recognise the Envoy's crest). They become subject to random dragon missions and a gain a host of new enemies. On the other hand, whenever a monster city is entered, the Dragon Born can rely on having the capability of drawing upon one contact, a being aware of their importance.
6 Stone Sleep. Can enter a stony encased hibernation trance appearing to be a foetal statue. This takes about 10 minutes. The Dragon Born is treated exactly like a petrified individual, but remains conscious and can re-flesh with a thought. DC 10 con save required, else cannot awake for d100 years without outside help. This help, involves the Dragon Born's favourite Draconic Temptation.
7 Mutagenic Blood. The Dragon Born's blood, creates more Dragon Born if injected intravenously. The transfused individual, is immediately level 1 in a new class. About a pint is required. The old person is completely gone. The new Dragon Born is a physical clone and will be favourable towards the one that made it.
8 Hoard Strength. GPs have powerful effects upon Dragon Born when slept upon. A minimum bed of 5000 gp, is enough to constitute a hoard. Sleeping on it, will ensure the Dragon Born begins each morning inspired. Furthermore, the Dragon Born may make a DC 18 Insight check to know who was the last owner of any given GP in their collection. A DC 18 Insight check will reveal their current location. Treasure must spend at least 2 weeks within the lair of the Dragon Born to qualify for hoard status. The Dragon Born becomes trnasfixed by the notion of acquiring more wealth for its hoard.
The Dragon Born still possesses a breath weapon and a resistance. A d10 can be rolled to determine the Dragon colour of origin.
(I used the ten Venerable Dragons from Rafael Chandler's extremely fun 'Terratic Tome', as the basis for the breath weapon/resistance of my Dragon Born. You can use the normal ten if you wish. I don't really have much time for them, as written.)
Vermilion Fire, 15' cone, resistance to poison or fire
Azuline Lightning, 30' line, resistance to electricity
Porphyrous Insects, 15' cone, resistance to piercing
Chlorochrous Enchanted Cloud (force), 15'cone, resistance to force
Nacreous Sulfur (fire), cone 15', resistance to poison or fire
Flavescent Sonic Death (force) 30' line, resistance to force
Albicant Cold, 15' cone, resistance to cold
Chromatophoric Fire & brimstone (fire) 30' line, resist fire
Gamboge Spores (poison), 15' vibe, resist poison
Atrous Acid, 30' line, resist acid
Everything else, I'd keep as is. I recognise that I've certainly made the race more complex, but honestly, I think they needed that. Well...I needed that.