Backgrounder 004: Dragonkin

The introduced in and rapidly forgotten after 3e, Dragonkin are the original draconic humanoids of Toril and the Forgotten Realms. Their story is tragic, and their plight forgotten… Until now! Welcome to the Backgrounder for Dragonkin!

History

Dragonkin, from Monsters of Faerûn (Wizards, 2001)

Where Dragonkin came from is a mystery, but it’s a safe assumption to say that they arrived with dragons during the Tearfall Event that ended the Days of Thunder in a cataclysm that resulted in the Sea of Fallen Stars. This tracks quite well, since it gives better reason for conflict with the Giants of Ostoria; they needed space for their people. After that, they would have battled in the Metallic and Chromatic civil war among dragons that followed, while at the same time carrying out the activities of building and developing their civilization. Then it all went wrong.

How did it go wrong you may ask? The same way it always seems to in the era before human dominance. Sun Elves. Although uninvolved in the Dragon/Giant War, and already having treaties in place for peaceable existence courtesy of the Dark Elves (who in turn were later betrayed by their Sun Elf kin), they decided that dragons were too powerful, and had to be done away with. So they created the Dracorage Mythal; a 250000 square mile mythal that triggered whenever the King-Killer Star, an irregularly appearing comet, was visible in the skies over Toril. When activated, it drove all creatures of draconic origin into a frenzied state of unthinking, unrelenting violence. And this started in -25000 DR, and of course, the Sun Elves have spun it so it was their way of “throwing off” dragon rule over elves (which wasn’t a thing).

In an effort to stop the madness and be able to live normal lives, Dragonkin were heavily involved in at least protecting the Seven Hills of the Lost Gods. The hills, arrayed around what is now Westgate, are in fact an arcane super weapon that the dragons made to try to shoot down the King-Killer Star. Their first shot failed, missing and shooting a chunk out of the moon to create the Tears of Selûne, the asteroid field that now circles the world. Before a second attempt could be made, a Netherese refugee wizard, Saldrinar, took it on himself to slay its operator and designer, the topaz dragon and first king of Westgate, Kisonraathiisar; and to slaughter the Dragonkin who lived there.

After that, their history is a simple litany of disaster. Unable to create a stable culture or community, they were reduced to bands and tribes, eking an existence on the periphery of lands they once held and lived on, waiting for the next appearance of the King-Killer Star. However, things changed after the final Rage of Dragons in 1373 DR. That’s right, FINAL. The lich Sammaster, a devotee of the Cult of the Dragon, sought control over the mythal, and succeeded. Tying its power himself, he was determined to force all dragons to submit to becoming dracoliches or be permanently mad. His plans were stopped, and the destruction of his phylactery ended the threat of future rage events.

Last Known Status

After millennia of abuse, Dragonkin were generally being used as muscle by the Cult of the Dragon and other evil humans/humanoids. A small number were known to travel to the Dragon Eyrie as supplicants to the Dragon Gods, and to remain there as well. And that’s it. Their status during the Spellplague, Second Sundering, and now are largely unknown.

Potential

Dragonkin have vast potential in the post-Rage world, and just need a bit of prompting to get the ball rolling. There’s a few good factors to bring into the operation to; Bahamut, the Cult of the Dragon, Landwyrms, and Murghôm.

Bahamut is a 3e call back. In the narrative and overplot of Forgotten Realms in that edition, Bahamut was reaching out to mortals again, and rebuilding his following. To me, this means that he was reaching out to the Dragonkin as well; after all, they were among the most downtrodden of his people. I see this as intensifying in the years following the final rage, as Bahamut realizes that they can actually have a draconic civilization again. It would be a slow process, but I can see whole bands and tribes converting under the right conditions. This helps set the scene for stability and commonality. It also gives some good aligned starting points for a group that is, unsurprisingly as a monsterfolk race, are portrayed as generally “evil”.

The Cult of the Dragon may be the other major cultural draw. A century of not being reduced into murderous fury means that the Dragonkin with them may have tired of being muscle and low-level lackeys, they’re the blood of dragons after all. So I see a developing schism in the cult. On one side, the traditional Cult of the Dragon; mostly human, all about those dracoliches and trying to make Sammaster’s dream come true. On the other side, I see a Dragonkin led faction, who have rejected the worship of the undead, but who do venerate dragons (mostly Chromatic ones, but they’re expanding). Both groups of which are in opposition to Bahamut’s followers.

All of this is centered around Murghôm. Why? Murghôm is currently a Dracocracy; ruled by a council of metallic and chromatic dragons who, presumably also enjoying not going insane with rage on a too regular basis, have figured out that cooperation = success. In effect, Murghôm is the nascent heart of an indigenous draconic nation on Faerûn (Tymanther is from Abier). This is a huge draw for Dragonkin, and a place for them to have the peace needed to actually develop. What I see is an increasingly draconic population (Dragonkin, Half-Dragons, Draconic Humans), working through Draconic problems (outsiders attacking, ill thought out attempts to “liberate” them, The Cult of the Dragon Schism, Bahamut’s return etc…) and neighbour problems (Mulhorand doesn’t like an independent Murghôm, or arcane magic, or dragons), all while becoming a distinct and new culture and people.

The last part is the Landwyrm connection; or rather, mutation. As their numbers grow and expand, Dragonkin may start showing the same mutation that led to Landwryms being a thin. In short, a number begin to hatch (be born?) without wings; eventually becoming a situation similar to that with Kobolds, where only a fraction of the population retains their wings. This could be a crisis, or it could be an accepted fact. Maybe it’s been a thing for ages, but the evil humanoids they were under the sway of insisted on committing infanticide on these “defective” Dragonkin. No matter how it goes down, the result is some variety that also further links them to the dragon ecosystem and possible evolutionary directions.

Final Thoughts

I love Dragonkin. Much like Gnolls, they immediately grabbed me visually; then their tragic story unfolded, and it made me more interested in them and their potential. This is just a fraction of what could be done with them, but I think it’s all interesting places to start!

 

References

Monster Compendium: Monsters of Faerûn; Wyatt and Heinsoo (2001)

Player’s Guide to Faerûn; Baker et al. (2004)

The Grand History of the Realms; James and Greenwood (2007)

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