Dragons are the descendants of one of the three original tyrant races—they descend from Wyrm, whose initial role (before the Dawn War) was to break down and recycle unneeded or improperly constructed pieces of the worlds. This they did with their mastery of True Sorcery (changing creation by renaming it). While diminished from their original power, dragons still pose a significant threat to any creature or society with which they come in conflict and have a good claim at being the most powerful individuals in the world.
Dragons are hatched out of eggs laid by female dragons. A breeding female will lay a dozen or so eggs, of which only a few will reach adulthood. These eggs grow after being laid as they are exposed to elemental energies, either from their environment or by their parents. A newly laid egg is about the size of a large chicken egg and is about the same color. An egg ready to hatch is much larger, about the size of a goblin and massing about 20 kg. As they mature, they take on a pearlescent color, regardless of the elemental affinity of the parents or wyrmling-to-be. Eggs mature at a rate that only depends on the exposure to anima; an untended egg does not die, it merely crystalizes. A crystalized dragon egg can wait indefinitely unless physically destroyed or drained of the copious quantity of anima it contains even freshly laid.
Eggs hatch into hatchlings about the size of a large cat, albeit one with wings, scales, and teeth. These newborns gain strength rapidly, growing over about a year’s span until they’re the size of a large dog with a 4-6’ wingspan. While hatchlings, the dragons also pick up information quickly. They’re born with the ability to speak Draconic, but many pick up various mortal languages by the time they become wyrmlings. During this period they retain the opalescent look of the egg and lack the fixed elemental affinity of more mature dragons.
At some point after about a year (but rarely more than 2 years after hatching), the hatchlings undergo their First Molt. This is a critical time in the life of a dragon. Each hatchling is drawn to a source of elemental energy, often flying for days without stopping. Once there, they immerse themselves in the source (which ranges from an active volcano to a massive storm or icy glacier), drawing the elemental substance around themselves to form a cocoon. This cocoon lasts for a varying amount of time, usually days or weeks. Many do not survive this process (either the desperate search for a suitable source or the cocooning process). Others awaken wrong, blasted of mind and degenerated into animalistic drakes and wyverns. Those that survive come out attuned to that element, their scales bearing a monochromatic palette instead of the variegated colors of hatchling-hood. They have become wyrmlings.
The wyrmling stage lasts for about 5 years on average (more in areas with poor sustenance and less in rich areas). While up to this point the hatchlings have no real name (frequently being called by their rank in the hatchling ranks based on rough-and-tumble brawls), they start building their identity and gain the first syllables of their name. This is where dragons are at their hungriest—without the sustenance from a hoard, they devour the flesh of creatures or even rocks. Their exact color varies—see Colors and Patterns infra. They are also at their most curious, wanting to experience everything.
Once the wyrmling has grown to the size of a draft horse (with corresponding wingspan), they undergo the Second Molt. During this time they enter a deep sleep in a protected location. As they sleep, they mentally review their experiences, searching for their own identity in their hoard. Once they find the germ of the hoard that will sustain them for the remainder of their (very long) lives, they awaken. This process takes months to years, rarely more than 2-3 years. The young dragons that awaken are single-mindedly dedicated to starting their hoard. This is the most dangerous part of the lifecycle (for others and for the dragon)—this obsession can drive them to attack settlements, other dragons, or otherwise take risks that older dragons would be able to resist. As their hoard accumulates, they settle down.
After about a hundred years (more or less, depending on the rate of accumulation), they transition into adulthood. The Third Molt is another period of hibernation, one where they become sexually mature and transition from eating primarily physical substances to being supported by the concentrated anima of their hoards and the elemental planes themselves. This transformation takes multiple years or even up to a decade. As adults they seek out mates—some mate monogamously, others mate promiscuously. Females are in total control of their fertility and lay eggs at most every decade. By this point the dragon is very fixed in its ways and irrevocably settles on a chromatic status. This phase is the social phase, where they seek out others of their kind for challenges, cooperation, or even companionship.
A very few dragons gather enough of a hoard to prompt the final transformation, the Fourth Molt into ancient dragon-hood. This process takes decades or centuries of hibernation. The creature that emerges desires control. Not enough to settle down with a hoard and occasional interactions with others, ancients want to lead a flight of their own with dragons that answer to its demands. Ancients are the most powerful of their kinds.
Whether adults or ancients, dragons live about 1500-2000 years in total, although substantial portions of that are spent in sleep (either Molt or just regular hibernation). Dragons, when they die of old age, become a form of elemental crystal that radiates strong magical power. As such, flights defend and hide their graveyards—these often serve as destinations for hatchlings (much safer than plunging into the depths of a raging volcano); conversely these are a target for marauders.
Dragons and Hoards
Dragons are defined by their hoards. What comprises that hoard depends on the dragon. Every dragon’s hoard is individual—some as general as “valuable items” and some as specific as “the sounds made by creatures in the depths of despair/heights of pleasure”. Some are material, others are ideas or concepts. As a general rule, the more powerful the individual dragon, the more esoteric and specific the hoard.
Elemental and chromatic affinity play some small role in this hoard formation. Metallic dragons tend to focus on more mortal-oriented (such as beautiful or ugly people or relationships or power) or arcane hoards, while chromatics tend to focus more on “classic” dragon hoards such as money, gems, artwork, or herds of animals.
Hoards are both the strength and weakness of dragons. A dragon can draw on her hoard for power, letting them go without food for decades at a stretch as well as fueling her supernatural abilities. On the other hand, if the hoard is disrupted or stolen, much of the strength is lost. In addition, dragons often become monomaniacal about their hoard, taking almost any means to extend or protect it. Threaten their hoard and they will respond, even if it’s an obvious feint. The few that can resist this intrinsic urge are the most dangerous ones around.
One notable set of dragons claim an entire city-state of mortals as their hoard—the city of Bel’s Peace in the south-eastern Dragonreach region of Noefra. These three dragons (the gold dragon Vladik, the silver known as The Prophet of Peace, and the bronze Blazhi) rule the surrounding area with an iron fist, suppressing dissent and enforcing their standards of righteousness on the populace. In general, their reign is benevolent, and the standard of living has increased significantly since they took over three decades ago. They demand fidelity up a defined chain of command, with the lesser powers obeying their masters zealously and the masters protecting the lesser. Transitions between hierarchy levels is carefully controlled based on non-lethal competitions. While considered weird by other flights, they abide by the Law of the Flight and so are accepted by greater draconic society.
Another notable dragon goes by the name of Marci. This adult brass dragon ostensibly claims the city of Kaelthia in the Council Lands as her hoard, but really hoards stories. She was transformed from a dragonborn into a true dragon by one of the last actions of a pre-Cataclysm deity, now forgotten to time. She lairs above the city her friends founded and watches over it in their memory, although she rarely interferes in the affairs of the city. She has a bad habit of walking among the people in human form and “requesting” that those with interesting stories visit her in her lair to share them in depth. She always pays for their time, but attendance and story time are not optional. Currently she’s watching over the rehabilitation of the mentally-damaged young dragon Elvarg rescued by some adventurers from the Imperial Research Alpha facility before its destruction. She does not participate in broader draconic society but is not outcast—she merely has never made a choice as to the Law of the Flight.
A third notable dragon is Gozh. He is an ancient dragon of uncertain color—visually he’s an albino with traces of black and metallic coloration. One of the oldest dragons on the Noefran continent, he is a powerful spell-caster who prefers humanoid shape so that he can manipulate the mortals to his will. He is a total coward who will run from physical confrontation. Currently laired in the Giant Spine mountain range, he harbors a deep and abiding grudge against dwarven-kind for the actions of a pre-Cataclysm clan. His plans to cause chaos in Fuar Uulan were disrupted by an adventuring party in 210 AC and he has retreated for the moment to figure out a new approach. He is not known to have a flight—it is theorized that he desires control over mortals because of his deviant status. To greater draconic society, he is an outcast and a pariah.
Dragons and Names
One constant holds about draconic names. The length of the name correlates directly with the age and experience of the dragon. Wyrmlings take a seed name of a few syllables in Draconic that describe them. To this they add more syllables in whatever language fits their fancy and that they feel describe them as they grow. Young dragons tend to have dozens of syllables in their full name; adults may number in the hundreds. Those at the end of their natural lifespan may have names that take hours to say in full.
Knowing a dragon’s name to a greater extent (even in full) does not grant any direct power over the dragon. It does describe them in detail and gives significant insight into their internal mental state, physical capabilities, and hoard. Dragons tend to use a “use name”—a few syllables chosen out of their name as a tag. All the names given here are use names, not full names.
Colors & Patterns
Most scholars categorize dragons into 5 chromatic types and 5 metallic types. These types are each associated with an element. Unlike the default rules presentation, dragon color in Quartus is not directly correlated with power. You can have a white stronger than a red, for example. Draconic type only tells you what type of breath weapon you can expect and whether the dragon has put significant effort into the study of the arcane. Type and element do play into preferred terrain and a bit into personality, but personality is dominated by the individual, their upbringing and their hoard.
As a general rule, “chromatic” (blue, green, red, and white) dragons focus on their innate magic rather than stooping to learn the structured arcane arts. As a result, chromatics rarely cast more than simple spells and only very rarely can change their shape. Metallics (brass, bronze, copper, and silver) are the opposite—they tend to be weaker physical combatants but stronger magically. It is unknown why exposure to structured anima as a spell-caster turns the scales metallic, but this pattern is observed widely throughout dragon-kind.
Black and gold dragons are the exceptions to the chromatic/metallic duality. Attuned to the primal force of destruction itself (rather than to any element), these dragons are the closest things to the original Wyrm that still exist. Black dragons are twisted by exposure to abyssal energies, while gold dragons are suffused with radiant astral energies. This does not make blacks evil and golds good. Both are creatures of destruction and heralds of the end of things, just in different ways. It is not known how they become such, merely that they are dangerous. As exceptions, both blacks and golds can be spellcasters (or not) without showing traces of this training.
- Blue dragons: Air aspect
- Preferred terrain: sandy deserts.
- Coloration: They are often sand-colored from above and sky-blue from below, concealing them while they soar through the skies or burrow through the sand.
- Breath: Lightning (line or ball)
- Green dragons: Earth aspect
- Preferred terrain: Forests and jungles. They prefer warm, dense, wet terrain. They climb well and often spend less time flying and more time on the ground (or up in trees) than most.
- Coloration: forest camouflage. Greens and browns in shifting patterns.
- Breath: Acidic, toxic spray (cone or line)
- Red dragons: Fire aspect
- Preferred terrain: volcanic mountains and caves.
- Coloration: Shades of red through orange and yellow
- Breath: Fire (cone, line, or projectile)
- White dragons: Water aspect
- Preferred terrain: glaciers and ice sheets, high mountains.
- Coloration: Greys, whites, grey-blue
- Breath: Freezing vapor (cone or line)
- Brass: Air aspect
- Preferred terrain: steep cliffs and mountain valleys, often lairing in the side of a cliff. They love to soar through the air.
- Coloration: silvery, pale yellow. Sometimes with orange or red tones.
- Breath: Concentrated sound (cone). Counts as thunder damage.
- Bronze: Water aspect
- Preferred terrain: coastal cliffs and rocky shores, reefs. They swim and spend lots of time underwater.
- Coloration: Golden brown with blue-green highlights.
- Breath: Steam/superheated water blast (line). Counts as fire damage.
- Copper: Earth aspect
- Preferred terrain: rocky deserts.
- Coloration: Orange-brown, shading to green-yellow.
- Breath: Abrasive sand (cone). Counts as acid damage.
- Silver: Fire aspect
- Preferred terrain: plains and rolling hills. Cities.
- Coloration: Mirror finish. Silver with other colors present intermittently.
- Breath: Fire (line or ball)
- Black: Abyss aspect
- Preferred terrain: any
- Coloration: black with shades of purple and dark green.
- Breath: Necrotic (any)
- Gold: Astral aspect
- Preferred terrain: any
- Coloration: Brilliant white-gold. Often appears to be glowing.
- Breath: Radiant (line)
Dragons are not highly social creatures. They are not entirely solitary, either. The default social structure for dragons is the flight—anywhere from 1 mated pair to 10-15 adults and a similar number of wyrmlings overseen by an ancient. Young dragons (after the Second Molt) are driven out (or leave on their own) to find their hoards—they may return later but usually either start their own flights or join another flight. Flights larger than a single family-unit (a mated pair and their immature wyrmlings) are usually ruled by an ancient dragon. These larger flights are made up of related dragons—instead they’re held together by the will of that ancient and by shared values. Exceptions exist—the dragons of Bel’s Peace do not have an ancient. The three dragons there all share a hoard (an exceptionally rare circumstance) and are held together by that common tie. Solitary dragons (such as Gozh) are not uncommon.
Each flight claims as much territory as they can hold, usually about a half a day’s flight (20-25 miles) in radius. Since adults don’t need as much food as younglings, they can coexist better. Chromatic dragons tend to prefer terrain away from the cities of mortals (because they aren’t fond of thieves and pointy objects and would rather not have to fight if they don’t have to); metallics often prefer to lair on the edge of mortal societies so they can play (and because most of their hoards depend on mortals). The larger flights tend to split the difference if they have mixed coloration (which some do). Only the largest flights have more than one lair-complex. Dragons of a flight all protect each other’s hoard.
Inter-flight relations are strained. In ancient times (and reaffirmed periodically at a gathering called the Congress of Wyrms) the first dragons of the 2nd Age made the Law of the Flight, which regulates the behavior of dragon with dragon. Its tenets are few, but clear:
- No dragon shall use mortals against other dragons. Play with mortals as you wish but using mortals as weapons against dragons will see all the flights turn against you. This includes revealing the lair of another flight.
- Hatchlings in search of their element are inviolate. Hatchling access to burial grounds must be granted without issue.
- All flights are responsible for the actions of their dragons. All must answer for the actions of the individual.
- When one dragon would enter the territory of another flight, they must request permission to hunt or to meddle with mortals in that territory.
- Disputes are to be brought to a neutral party before going to war. Meddling with the hoard of another dragon is an act of war.
Not all dragons abide by the Law of the Flight. Some (like Marci) are unaware of it; others, like Gozh, consider themselves above it. This puts them outside the protections of the Congress.
The sanctions for violation of the Law are assessed by the surrounding flights—they range from exile to partial loss of hoard to (in the extreme) the destruction of the offending flight and the reallocation of the wyrmlings.