Thursday, November 17, 2011
Love/Hate: AD&D Dragons
Dragons occupy a strange space in D&D. The game is Dungeons and Dragons, after all, but you really don't see them until of sufficient level - and if your group is anything like mine you won't be facing one in the foreseeable future (we just had a TPK in Session 25 of the Northern Reaches - but I digress).
I always loved the dragons from the original Monster Manual. I suppose my fondness for them - particularly the evil dragons - came from the consistency of their representation. An AD&Der knew a black dragon from a white dragon. I liked the straightforwardness. AD&D modules carried forward the aesthetic of the blue, black, green, and white dragons. This was particularly true of the Dragonlance modules. Yes, I know they get grief, and rightly so in some instances, but I adored the depiction of dragons in the early DL adventures. Spot on.
The proliferation of dragons in subsequent editions really bugs me though. I play D&D because im interested in playing archetypes and battling archetypal monsters. Now, to be fair, the proliferation of exotic dragons began in AD&D. Did we really need a Cloud Dragon (MMII)? Or how about the "Oriental Dragons" from the Fiend Folio? Carp Dragon anyone?
The aesthetic of the evil dragons mentioned above remained somewhat consistent in 2E although the inclusion of "Gem Dragons" (Amethyst, Crystal, Emerald, Sapphire, Topaz) gives me a big rubbery one. And who could forget the legendary Brown Dragon? Deep Dragon? Mercury Dragon? Mist Dragon? Steel Dragon? Yellow Dragon? Someone should have made the madness stop. The one redeeming feature of dragons in this edition was the inclusion of age categories - it was nice to biggy-size your 8HD black dragon if so desired.
Do you have any particular thoughts on dragons in the game? How many have you actually faced/set against your players over the years?