Age Of Dragons: Characterisation
Overview of Characterisation
- Select your Breed
- Name Your Dragon
- Aesthetic Detailing
- Describe Personality
- Create History
- Establish Character Relationships
- Set Agenda
- Consolidate Character
Select your Breed
There are twelve draconic breeds, and which you select will go a long way towards determining what sort of dragon you are depicting.
In the default Age of Dragons setting there are twelve Dragon Breeds to select from:
- Pure Dragons are white-scaled, and believe themselves to be the most blessed children of the Mother Goddess, and with the most divine blood. They are filled with holy purpose and grace, and are greater in faith and purity of purpose than any others.
- Argent Dragons are silver-scaled, militaristic and hierarchical. They are strong advocates of the rule of law, and strongly dislike disobedience and anarchy. They consider themselves to be the noblest and most disciplined of all dragons.
- Solar Dragons are gold-scaled, and are dedicated to the precepts of harmony and prosperity through peace. They enjoy resolving conflicts through peaceful means, and have the most skilled ambassadors of dragonkind in their number. Despite this, they are not afraid to defend themselves and their allies, and have many skilled warriors in their number.
- Hunter Dragons are bronze-scaled, feral and barbaric. They prefer an older, more-primal way of life and have nothing but disdain for the civilised fops of the more cerebral breeds. Instinct and the way of the predator rule their culture and behaviour.
- Forest Dragons are green-scaled, spiritualist and insular. They have humility enough to recognise that dragons are merely one facet of the world's complex web of life, and pride enough to accept responsibility as life's guardians and masters.
- Storm Dragons are blue-scaled, and for the most part dwell beneath the horizon in the depths of the ocean. Their lifestyle makes them seem alien and enigmatic to other breeds, as their aquatic realm is a mystery to skybound dragons.
- Ashen Dragons are dark grey-scaled, haughty and imperialistic. They consider themselves to be better-bred, more intelligent and superior to all other breeds, and take pride in standing alone and apart from Dragonkind.
- Velvet Dragons are purple-scaled, and are the most beautiful and sensuous of all dragons. They are renowned for their ability to seduce and persuade, but also have a reputation as masters of lies.
- Chimerical Dragons are rainbow-scaled, ephemeral and enigmatic. They are the Dragons of Dream, and have a complexity of agenda and motivation that is positively labyrinthine. Others respect their mystical wisdom, but often see them as lacking in solidity and greater significance.
- Ghost Dragons are pale grey-scaled, and are well known as master scholars, but are often seen as eerie and unsettling by other breeds. Their numbers have been decimated by the Ascendancy, and the breed has been reduced to little more than enclaves of scattered survivors and refugees.
- Blood Dragons are red-scaled, and dedicated to the perfection of war and slaughter. Their bloodlust and aggression is second to none, and their dragonbreath burns as hot as their fiery tempers. They live to kill, and would rather destroy than create, and all fear them.
- Sable Dragons are black-scaled, and are recognised as being ambitious, intellectual, magically potent and strong leaders. They have a certain darkness in their soul, however, and it is a rare Sable who does not have a touch of immorality and spite within him.
You can select any one of the Draconic Breeds for your dragon, but players should be aware of several caveats:
- The default assumption is that player characters are with the Alliance, and certain breeds are better represented in this faction. However, this is not an absolute limitation, and dragons of all breeds can be found in all factions. The occasional Sable Dragon has found his way to the Alliance, just as heretical Pure Dragons sometimes ally with the Ascendancy.
- Under the official metaplot, certain breeds have very dark destinies. Every Breed will face certain unique trials and tribulations, but the most dramatic upheavals are reserved for the Ashen, Chimerical and Ghost breeds. Players who choose these options should be aware that the future may take them and their breeds in unexpected directions.
Before you select your Breed, it is advisable to refer to the Chapter on the Twelve Dragon Breeds.
Name Your Dragon
The language of dragons is called Ess^rag-hhai, though is often simply called "Draconic" by mortals. It is a language of considerable complexity and nuance, and to the human ear can vary between simple growls and roars to musical hums, intonations and clicks. Body language is part of the language, and a word can change meaning altogether if roared or whispered, according to its context, and whether it is at the start, middle or end of a breath. Certain words also have different meanings according to the breed, age and gender of the speaker, or even according to their current and past Lifepaths. A harmless comment can be revealed to be a grave insult when a dragon discovers more about the speaker's past.
Draconic names are always in this language, though as the human tongue has trouble with this, we use their translations for the purpose of this game.
A dragon name typically has many meanings, but one primary meaning, and when humans use their translated names they tend to go with this primary meaning. For example, an ancient Hunter Dragon goes by the name Predator-Claw, but to other dragons the collection of syllables and intonations that make up this name can also mean "king of the hunt" and "taker of lives", and when spoken in the context of his tribal name, there are also subtle notes indicating his purity of purpose and his enmity to the Ashen breed.
The pages on the individual breeds give more suggestions as to the naming traditions of each breed.
Though the chapters on biology and draconic breeds give you a rough idea of what a Dragon of your breed will look like, bear in mind that dragons do not all look the same.
This does present a challenge for player characters, of course. While dragons may be obviously varying in appearance from the viewpoint of other dragons, to human eyes, all dragons can look pretty similar. In game, it can be said that dragons have equal difficulty telling different humans apart aside from referring to the most obvious features - sure, that human there has yellow hair, and that one black, and that ones probably female because she's slightly curvier, but to the draconic eye, these little scurrying mammals all look pretty similar.
The difficulty comes then, when we (hopefully) human players try to describe characters that to our own eyes would be pretty similar.
Try to avoid gross anatomical variations. Saying a dragon has an extra horn is like saying a human has an extra ear. Saying that their scales are twice as large as normal would be as strange as saying a human has fingers and toes of double length.
Instead, its worth considering superficial features that have a story to them ("my dragon has a short scar above his left forelimb, from a duel in his youth, and walks with a slight limp when grounded") and emotive features ("my dragon has a sly and slightly shifty look to him, which gives others the impression he's about to either snap or take flight at any second"). Describing your dragon in these terms allows you to maintain versimillitude, while at the same time allowing for a degree of aesthetic variation.
Next, consider your dragon's personality. Again, to a mere mortal, dragons might seem pretty similar to each other - they all seem wise but haughty, powerfully intelligent and brilliantly charismatic. To a human, every dragon is fearsome and monstrous.
To dragons, of course, all humans seem pretty similar. To dragons, mere humans seem short-lived and rash, and prone to looking scared all the time. A dragon will tell you that all humans are brutish when it comes to social nuance, all are fairly dim-witted, and all are suitably cowed by even the slightest intimidation.
Consider instead what your dragon seems like to other dragons, and consider how his personality compares to his peers. Is he a walking paragon of his Breed's ideals, or is he a loose cannon who has little in common with his family save the colour of his scales? How does he view the world around him? What motivates him?
A good way to approach this as a group is for the GM to create some situations, and for the players to say how their dragon would react. Some examples might include:
- The Obstacle - A Dragon will often encounter obstacles to his goalsHow does he approach obstacles in general?
- Dealing with Defeat - Life never goes perfectly for any dragon. How does your dragon react to setbacks and defeats?
- Dealing with Victory - When your dragon gets what he wants, how does he react? What thoughts and feelings go through his head?
- Social Attitudes - How does your Dragon view his friends and allies? What of his enemies? How does he interact with strangers?
Your selected Lifepath will give you an outline of your dragon's broad activities till now, but this isn't the sum of his history. Its worth putting flesh on the skeleton that the lifepath provides. Sure, you were a Scholar-Sage, but were you a lonely hoarder of lore who studied in the deep desert, or a sociable White Archivist in the Kalarni libraries?
If this is your first character, you might not yet have any idea what lifepath you may want for your dragon - in this case it might be worth coming back to your history later, and filling in these details as the character generation process continues.
As well as fleshing out their timelines, players may want to create an event or two from their past, which may be personal or tied into the setting's history. These should tell us a little about the character, give something to roleplay off, or provide plot hooks for GMs. Events might be anything from small moments important to the Dragon himself, to grand melodrama. Ambitious player groups may want to roleplay out these memories, either during the prologue to character creation, or during in-game flashback sequences. Some examples to spur your imagination:
- You discovered recently that you were the product of a rape.
- You were presented with a carved stone tablet by your mentor, as a reward for years of scholarship and study.
- You were in a battle once, but held back from full melee because of a knot of fear in your gut.
- You had a sister once, but she went over to the Ascendancy twelve years ago and now you consider her to be dead to you.
Establish Character Relationships
Your character might have a backstory stretching across ten pages, but if you don't relate to the other players then you're writing a novel rather than roleplaying.
Consider the other player characters and the back-stories they have made. Can you link your story to theirs? Even if you barely know them, can you say how your dragon views them?
Creating binding ties between player characters is extremely important. The power and mobility of the player characters means that it is very easy for a solo dragon player characters to move away from the others, so that he is effectively playing in his own little story away from the others. This makes for very hard work for the GM, but forcing characters to stay together unnaturally can strain disbelief ("uh, you all meet in a tavern... a draconic tavern"), so its the players' responsibility to give their characters reasons to interact.
That's not to say it all needs to be true friendship and camaraderie - a century long rivalry, or an unrequited love work just as well as comradeship and perfect friendship. As with everything else in your character's background, his relationships are there to provide material for roleplaying and storytelling.
What does your character want?
Dragons live a long time, and most of them have the wit and foresight to make fairly long term plans. Its worth knowing from the outset what your character's agenda is, as if nothing else it gives the GM plot hooks for future stories.
Agendas can be as simple or complex as you desire. A brutish Blood Dragon may have no wish other than to become a warrior without peer, and to defeat all challengers. A well-bred Pure Dragon may wish to come to terms with the legends of his famous father and heroic grandfather, balancing the feeling of pressure to achieve great deeds and to continue his bloodline, with his own personal desire to become a celibate recluse in the White Archives, and his own burdgeoning awareness of his homosexuality.
Agendas also need not be set in stone. Humans can change their life direction a half dozen times in the space of a few years. While Dragons tend to have more of a long term view, one thousand years is a long time, and even a Dragon is entitled to change his mind. As the story progresses, there may be lfe events that change a Dragon's view of the world, and likewise shift his agenda. This is the sort of thing that is ripe with roleplaying potential, so its often well worthwhile playing out these changes in priorities in the story.
Finally sit back and take a look at the character you've made. If it doesn't hang together you may want to double back to earlier steps of characterisation and tweak or adjust details. Its worth letting the other players know all about the Dragon you've just created, and getting constructive feedback. If Dragons in the group don't mesh well enough to belong in the same story, you can make adjustments as a group to make the GM's life easier.
Visualise your Dragon, and based on what you've created so far, decide where he is now, and what he is doing. Tell the group this as well, and once everyone is ready, this is the time to start putting numbers to the character sheet. You can always come back to characterisation later in the character generation process, and tweak and modify as you go, but its worth avoiding writing anything on the character sheet till you have at least a fairly good idea as to who your dragon is.