Age of Dragons: Ashen Dragons
Evolve or Die
It is paradoxical that the Ashen Dragons, who are the firstborn of chaos, are amongst the greatest empire builders in the realm. But then, one has only to look at the structure of the Ashen Kingdom to understand that their strength comes from adaptabilty, change and the mutable qualities of chaos.
The Ashen have always believed that stagnation results from stasis, and that to grow in power one must adapt and embrace the new. Of all breeds, they are the most likely to experiment with their sorceries, most inventive with their technologies, and most willing to try new ways of doing things. Those who speak of the "old ways being the best ways" are met with contempt by the Ashen, who believe that change and experimentation are the cornerstones of progress.
Character Creation: Game Rules
- Soma 6
- Sophia 5
- Pneuma 4
Ashen Dragons are the strongest physically of the chaos dragons, though typically they claim also to be the most magically adept and the most intelligent as well. An Ashen Dragon does not like to admit his weaknesses!
Adaptability - Ashen Dragons master the basics of Lifepaths with great speed, and are adept at applying lessons already learnt to new directions. For every third Lifepath that the Ashen Dragon adopts and spends at least 50 years on, add +1 to the Arete of all his Lifepaths.
Mutable Form - Any magics or effects that magically alter a dragon's form (whether beneficial or not) work twice as fast on Ashen Dragons as they do on other breeds.
Corruption of the Mutable - The Ashen breed's willingness to try anything has led to sorcerous experiments on the mystical and somatic fabric of hatchlings and eggs through the generations. One in three Ashen Dragons will be born as a hideously warped and essentially mindless chaos-spawn, and one in three Ashen Dragons will devolve into insanity as the grow old, losing mental acuity as they age.
In game terms, player character Ashen Dragons are presumed not to be mindless spawn, though any offspring they have will have a 1 in 3 chance of suffering this fate. As to senile insanity, make a random check for the player when he hits 800 years of age. If you determine that he is going to go insane, he will start to do so after 3D6 years, and will lose 1 Sophia at that time, then a further 1 Sophia every D6 years afterwards.
Fated - If you are using the default metaplot, the Ashen Breed as a whole has a major world-changing event ahead of it that will happen inevitably on a certain date, and beyond player control. Players who select this Breed should be aware that the metaplot has this surprise in store and that they won't be able to do anything about it.
Ashen Dragons are dark grey in colour, with blackish mottling, but always in non-metallic shades. Their horns are the colour of dried bone, and are like a bull's in shape and position. Most breeds grudgingly admit that Ashen Dragons have a cleaner line to their facial features and physical build than most breeds - they seem nobler, more evolved and more blessed in aesthetic beauty than most, just as a classical sculpture or posed portrait might seem. Ashen Dragons vary in minor random ways from dragon to dragon - pronounced lower canines might be found in one noble, while solid white eyes might be found in another. Strangely, these traits seem to be wholly random, and unrelated to heredity or genetics. Ashen Dragons themselves place great stock in these small differences, ascribing certain traits as signs of nobility or greatness, and others as signs of moral deficiency. Typically, of course, they are entirely inconsistent with their phrenology and tend to find whatever meaning suits their own individual agendas.
With chaos-spawn, of course appearance is very different. Most are dragon-sized and wingless, often with extra limbs and heads, tentacles, multiple maws and many eyes. Some take on features of other creatures (such as mammalian hair, or a fishlike face).
Society and Culture
The Ashen paint themselves as a noble and unified kingdom, but in truth the Ashen Kingdom is rife with internal intrigue, both between cabals and between individual dragons making powerplays at each others' expense. Alliances will form and be broken, enmities will form or be cast aside, and the Ashen will take this all in their stride.
The only sense of unity they have comes from their pride in being Ashen, and in their opposition to outsiders who seek to encroach on their domain. The Ashen as a whole hold the Hunter Dragons that share their lands in contempt as "relics of an outdated past", and see even the Ascendancy and the Alliance as "inflexible, and inferior in nature despite their greater strength."
The Ashen have a multitude of cabals, organisations and power groups. However, these rarely have any true permanence or meaning and will come and go as the centuries pass. It is entirely usual for a single Ashen to swear "lifelong and undivided loyalty" to at least six different (and often opposed) power groups during his life, or to claim membership of an ancient bloodline or noble house that in truth has existed for less than a century. Each group of dragons is often more like a conspiracy with a joint agenda, where none trust the others but all are willing to use each other for greater gain.
Naturally the draconic attitude echoes through to the mortal inhabitants of their lands. The Ashen Kingdom is one where the King may change anything up to two dozen times per century, with different mortal houses sponsored by different dragons seizing power and losing it as their fortunes wax and wane. Despite this, there is some illusory sense of continuity, with each new ruler claiming some sort of legitimacy to "inheriting the ancient title". Sometimes the dragons rule outright, sometimes they just advise, sometimes they merely share the land with the mortal king or kings. Regardless, the Ashen Kingdom is always the Ashen Kingdom, even if ten mortals might claim ten different monarchs to be the "one true king".
Another unifying factor for the Ashen is their reverence of a second god. While the Ashen revere and respect the Mother Goddess (who they call Mother Sky), just as southern dragons do, they have also adpopted the idea of Father Earth as an equal deity. Sometimes cults dedicated to other gods come and go, for example worshipping a host of deities, or even revering Endless Night, but the Ashen ultimately retain belief in their dual god and goddess, and prefer to take religion as a melting pot of experimental ideas rather than something to be followed with absolute dogma and conviction.
Finally, there is the place that Chaos-Spawn and the Senile Insane have in society. At sometimes they are regarded as a blessing, at others a terrible curse. Some will seek to use them as weapons, and others simply to put them out of their misery. Only one rule applies - the Ashen don't like to talk about them with outsiders. If anyone asks, they change the subject.
Lifepaths and the Ashen Dragons
As suits their changing and experimental nature, it is almost unheard of for an Ashen Dragon to pursue just one lifepath. Most find that the necessity of defending their interests requires some time and training as a Warmaster, and most find that experimentation with magic is easiest on the Lifepath of a Scholar-Sage. Of course, the intrigues of the Bloodline Houses require some skill as an Ambassador-Courtier, there is enlightenment to be found in the mutable physicality of the Physical Adept, and even imitating the Hunter Breed as a Beast Unbound has its value. Almost any lifepath can be assumed by an Ashen Dragon, and they are open minded enough to copy the Lifepaths of other cultures as well, leading to some pursuing short stints as Demonbinders, Sarcomancers, Animist Adepts or Sky Dancers.
Often the Ashen will mark the change into a new lifepath by joining a group of likeminded dragons. For example, one Ashen might join the Cabal of Changing Reflections to practise polymorphing, then later swear "unending" loyalty to the Society of Ashen Knights to learn warcraft, then attend the Courts of the Grey Circle to apply his new skills to the political arena. As already noted, these societies are always coming in and out of existence, with names and agenda every half century or so and no single group ever lasting more than a few hundred years at best.
Scion-of-Unchanging-Truth, says he is of House Boneclaw, and is Primarch of the Cabal of Dancing Knives, but this may be as false as his name. This is what he claims to believe:
- Pure Dragons - "Ah yes... we also revere Mother Sky, so we are kindred, you and I. Tell me, have you ever considered the other half of the creation myth?"
- Argent Dragons - "A fearsome bunch of soldiers to be sure, and so grim, so serious. Very admirable, I'm sure."
- Solar Dragons - "Of course we will support your Alliance and sign your treaties! The Cabal is with you, my friend! What do you mean we reneged on the last treaty we signed? Well, we were hoping to renegotiate..."
- Hunter Dragons - "Stupid ferals, clinging to the "old ways". If your old ways are so superior, then remind me why it is that you are losing the war?"
- Forest Dragons - "So interesting that they have subspecies of different sorts, eh? I wonder if that phenomenon can be manipulated somehow..."
- Storm Dragons - "Yes, yes, you go play in the sea. We'll deal with things up here."
- Velvet Dragons - "Come in my dear, make yourself comfortable. I do like to collect things like you."
- Chimerical Dragons - "Astonishing sorcerous prowess, and such wisdom! I do so admire them."
- Ghost Dragons - "Oh we sympathise, we do so much. But there's no room here in our little paradise, so move along, move along."
- Blood Dragons - "Best not to mock one of these, unless he doesn't realise you're mocking him. Which isn't hard, really."
- Sable Dragons - "Clever - damnably clever. Luckily, so are we."