How do dragons fly- internally consistent physics enhanced by magic


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There is a discussion on a facebook group I'm a member of that includes the question of grappling dragons. The consensus is that internally consistent rules for magic and physics are more important than realism. But I got to thinking about judo-throwing a dragon, which can happen in some games. A dragon would be too heavy to fly according to real-world physics, so what if dragons have magic that make them lighter? Not as light as a helium balloon, but maybe closer to the weight of similarly sized nerf football while they're flying. A successful grapple against a dragon could represent catching the dragon at a moment when their magical lightening effect was active.

The issue of real-world physics is important for martial characters. Most games, including PF, detail how magic can break real-world physics within the rules but generally limit martial characters to something much closer to real world limitations. As an undergrad, friends who were physics majors were very adamant about applying real world limitations to martial characters. I think the game is more fun if martial characters can do cool things too, and magic affecting physics could be a part of a system. Any thoughts using magic to affect physics in ways that could add to the game?

Grand Lodge

documentary that attempts to explain how dragons could have existed if they were in fact real.

It's been a long while, but I believe the documentary says that they have sacs that fill with lighter than air gases which aid in flight, which also are mixed to create their flaming breath. Using their breath weapon actually would make them unable to fly for a period of time.


So first off, if we're applying "realism" to the game you need to address the fundamental problems of giants and dragon flight. The best explanation for dragon flight I've seen is internal hydrogen (to lighten them and use as their breath weapon) but that only works for dragons with a fire breath weapon. Still doesn't fix giants and dragons in general violating the square-cube law like it's going out of style. So we either need to accept that gravity is different in the game world or that muscles are allowed to violate the laws of physics, otherwise every tiny+ bug collapses in on itself, every huge+ humanoid collapses in on itself, and pretty much anything gargantuan+ is incapable of moving.

Second, judo throwing has nothing to do with strength. The literal translation is "gentle way". It's based on redirecting the force of your opponent. You don't throw the dragon, you let the dragon throw itself. Which it apparently can, because otherwise it shouldn't be able to move.

Third, grappling is an abstraction for a number of techniques for controlling your opponent's movements. If you don't believe you can incapacitate someone much larger than you are I suggest looking up "small joint manipulation". The short version is that trained martial artists totally can hold you down with nothing but your little finger. The idea that a trained combatant knows which finger joint to twist on a dragon is no more absurd than knowing how to break every creature and weapon and style's grip (disarm), every creature's center of balance (bull rush, trip), and every possible weapon (including improvised) and armor and object a creature can hold's weak point (sunder).


My solution to keep martials bound to reality is to keep them very low level.


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Bob Bob Bob wrote:

So first off, if we're applying "realism" to the game you need to address the fundamental problems of giants and dragon flight. The best explanation for dragon flight I've seen is internal hydrogen (to lighten them and use as their breath weapon) but that only works for dragons with a fire breath weapon. Still doesn't fix giants and dragons in general violating the square-cube law like it's going out of style. So we either need to accept that gravity is different in the game world or that muscles are allowed to violate the laws of physics, otherwise every tiny+ bug collapses in on itself, every huge+ humanoid collapses in on itself, and pretty much anything gargantuan+ is incapable of moving.

Second, judo throwing has nothing to do with strength. The literal translation is "gentle way". It's based on redirecting the force of your opponent. You don't throw the dragon, you let the dragon throw itself. Which it apparently can, because otherwise it shouldn't be able to move.

Third, grappling is an abstraction for a number of techniques for controlling your opponent's movements. If you don't believe you can incapacitate someone much larger than you are I suggest looking up "small joint manipulation". The short version is that trained martial artists totally can hold you down with nothing but your little finger. The idea that a trained combatant knows which finger joint to twist on a dragon is no more absurd than knowing how to break every creature and weapon and style's grip (disarm), every creature's center of balance (bull rush, trip), and every possible weapon (including improvised) and armor and object a creature can hold's weak point (sunder).

OTOH, not a lot of real world martial artists would try a judo throw on a charging rhino, regardless of whether or not it's just "redirecting the force of your opponent". Or grappling moves on a gorilla.

Size and strength matter, especially once you're getting far outside the normal human range.

That said, I've got nothing against that working in game. High level characters should ignore realistic limits. Even martial ones. We're in the real of legend, not the mundane.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Sauce987654321 wrote:
My solution to keep martials bound to reality is to keep them very low level.

Why should the martials be so tied down to physics, when wizards and dragons are not? Did all of those hard bound realists also stop watching saturday morning wuxia theater? Did they snub their noses at Beowulf who beats a monster by tearing off it's arm with his bare hands? or Conan who does much of the same?

It's called Heroic Fantasy for a reason.


TheInnsmouthLooker wrote:

documentary that attempts to explain how dragons could have existed if they were in fact real.

It's been a long while, but I believe the documentary says that they have sacs that fill with lighter than air gases which aid in flight, which also are mixed to create their flaming breath. Using their breath weapon actually would make them unable to fly for a period of time.

Um... you must have pasted the wrong URL in that link. That page talks about the Salvation Army's elderly services.

Peter Dickinson wrote a book called "The Flight of Dragons", which comes up with a scientific hypothesis for dragon flight. Here's the Wikipedia entry.

There was also a movie "The Flight of Dragons", in which Peter Dickinson is taken back in time and merged into the body of a dragon. He gets an explanation of how dragons fly, and works out the science of it. Here's the key clip.

(Mind you, the plot of that movie is taken mostly from "The Dragon and the George" by Gordon R. Dickson.)


Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber

I always imagines dragon's magical flight actually just improved their wing's thrust capability, either forcing air under their wings at an unusually high speed or effectively increasing the size of their wings without increasing their mass.


LazarX wrote:
Sauce987654321 wrote:
My solution to keep martials bound to reality is to keep them very low level.

Why should the martials be so tied down to physics, when wizards and dragons are not? Did all of those hard bound realists also stop watching saturday morning wuxia theater? Did they snub their noses at Beowulf who beats a monster by tearing off it's arm with his bare hands? or Conan who does much of the same?

It's called Heroic Fantasy for a reason.

I was just telling the poster how I would go about it if I wanted a martial character to be more realistic, because he was talking about this in his last paragraph. That's not how I actually think martials should be treated.


ParagonDireRaccoon wrote:
There is a discussion on a facebook (...) The consensus is that internally consistent rules for magic and physics are more important than realism. (...) A dragon would be too heavy to fly according to real-world physics, so what if dragons have magic that make them lighter?

Perhaps (part) of the solution could be to re-imagine what dragons look like, or how big they are.

If an adult dragon had a body the size of an elongated horse, there wouldn't be as much mass to lift. You could go a bit larger, but I think the Colossal dragon will never be realistic or coherent with any laws of physics unless magic is significantly involved.

Also, if dragons were more anatomically "correct" (4 limbs, like a D&D wyvern), there would be less mass and would require less bio-energy. Increase the dragon's wing span to about 3 times body length (from nose to tail) and you have something closer to real world flyers.

When I think back of the amount of helium balloons it took to make one of my G.I.Joe figures fly, I doubt than any gas would give a dragon any significant buoyancy, unless you say that your dragons look like bloated flying whales.

Otherwise the "accepted" theory of most players I know is that, as magical creatures, dragons were allowed to evolve into their present form because of their ability to cast "fly" or "levitate" naturally, akin to oriental dragons.

Presence of wings (6 limps) is probably a result of magical experimentation, which allowed them to propel better into the sky, which allow them to invest less bio-energy in their innate levitation, which allowed them to increase in size for dominance.

Bigger, meaner specimen with larger, more powerful wings would survive better, eventually evolving into what we know of dragons today.


TheInnsmouthLooker wrote:

documentary that attempts to explain how dragons could have existed if they were in fact real.

It's been a long while, but I believe the documentary says that they have sacs that fill with lighter than air gases which aid in flight, which also are mixed to create their flaming breath. Using their breath weapon actually would make them unable to fly for a period of time.

I'll have to watch this when I'm not at work, but I just need you to know...

I love you for sharing this. You are one of my new favorite people.


Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber
Laurefindel wrote:
ParagonDireRaccoon wrote:
There is a discussion on a facebook (...) The consensus is that internally consistent rules for magic and physics are more important than realism. (...) A dragon would be too heavy to fly according to real-world physics, so what if dragons have magic that make them lighter?

Perhaps (part) of the solution could be to re-imagine what dragons look like, or how big they are.

If an adult dragon had a body the size of an elongated horse, there wouldn't be as much mass to lift. You could go a bit larger, but I think the Colossal dragon will never be realistic or coherent with any laws of physics unless magic is significantly involved.

Also, if dragons were more anatomically "correct" (4 limbs, like a D&D wyvern), there would be less mass and would require less bio-energy. Increase the dragon's wing span to about 3 times body length (from nose to tail) and you have something closer to real world flyers.

When I think back of the amount of helium balloons it took to make one of my G.I.Joe figures fly, I doubt than any gas would give a dragon any significant buoyancy, unless you say that your dragons look like bloated flying whales.

Otherwise the "accepted" theory of most players I know is that, as magical creatures, dragons were allowed to evolve into their present form because of their ability to cast "fly" or "levitate" naturally, akin to oriental dragons.

Presence of wings (6 limps) is probably a result of magical experimentation, which allowed them to propel better into the sky, which allow them to invest less bio-energy in their innate levitation, which allowed them to increase in size for dominance.

Bigger, meaner specimen with larger, more powerful wings would survive better, eventually evolving into what we know of dragons today.

I still think the easiest explanation is that magical flight is simply obtained through increased thrust and not lightening the dragon or simply making it levitate.


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The answer is, don't use physics. This is a game, not a reality simulator.


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Claxon wrote:
The answer is, don't use physics. This is a game, not a reality simulator.

I agree with the "this is a game" part, but...

Physics, even if its a made-belief set of physics rules, are require the make the world coherent. Otherwise things fall upward, except when they fall toward what's red, cold makes you catch fire, or whatever.

Whether we like it or not, the game is a reality simulator. We have (many) books full of rules that regulate how we can play this simulator, even if the fantasy reality is different from ours. I agree that there is a sweet spot where the in-game world feels similar enough to our reality for us to relate to our character, but not close enough to make the fantasy element disappear for non-conformation with the Laws of our world.

And we need to accept that this sweet spot, this comfort zone is different for all of us. If coherency or verisimilitude with our world is not important for you, that's cool, but please don't shut this conversation down because you think different from the OP :)


Laurefindel wrote:
Claxon wrote:
The answer is, don't use physics. This is a game, not a reality simulator.

I agree with the second part, but...

Physics, even if its a made-belief set of physics rules, are require the make the world coherent. Otherwise things fall upward, except when they fall toward what's red, or cold makes you catch fire.

Whether we like it or not, the game is a reality simulator. We have (many) books full of rules that regulate how we can play this simulator, even if the fantasy reality is different from ours. I agree that there is a sweet spot where the in-game world feels similar enough to our reality for us to relate to our character, but not close enough to make the fantasy element disappear for non-conformation with the Laws of our world.

And we need to accept that this sweet spot, this comfort zone is different for all of us. If coherency or verisimilitude with our world is not important for you, that's cool, but please don't shut this conversation down because you think different from the OP :)

No, we have rules that say that certain things, like gravity exist and that it functions normally. But that doesn't mean we need to know or understand the bernouli principle to understand how flight works. Things happen because the rules say they do, or that there is a common understanding that they should work a certain way.

If you want to get too real with things, most of your huge size category creatures (and larger) would collapse under the weight of their own bodies as they become too big for bones to support their mass. We also don't take into account how distance affects gravity in game either. The farther you fly away from the planet the less bound by gravity you should become, but why would even try to implement such a thing in game? Do you implement that the atmosphere thins as your fly higher and make flying creatures perform fort saves to keep from passing out from lack of oxygen?*

This is not a reality simulator. It's just not. Don't try to make it one, because it only breaks the game.

As to the caster martial disparity and how martials are limited to "realistic actions" and magic users aren't...well that is a part fo the game you have to understand and learn to live with. It is unfortunate, but we do have access to plenty of martially inclined magic users that get to break the "laws of physics" in game too.

*The oxygen and flight thing is actually a fairly reasonable houserule, but no such rule exist in the rulebooks as far as I know.


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Laurefindel wrote:
Claxon wrote:
The answer is, don't use physics. This is a game, not a reality simulator.

I agree with the "this is a game" part, but...

Physics, even if its a made-belief set of physics rules, are require the make the world coherent. Otherwise things fall upward, except when they fall toward what's red, or cold makes you catch fire.

Whether we like it or not, the game is a reality simulator. We have (many) books full of rules that regulate how we can play this simulator, even if the fantasy reality is different from ours. I agree that there is a sweet spot where the in-game world feels similar enough to our reality for us to relate to our character, but not close enough to make the fantasy element disappear for non-conformation with the Laws of our world.

And we need to accept that this sweet spot, this comfort zone is different for all of us. If coherency or verisimilitude with our world is not important for you, that's cool, but please don't shut this conversation down because you think different from the OP :)

I do tend to find that attempts to justify things in terms of real world physics actually break my suspension of disbelief more than just accepting that dragons fly because that's what dragons do and giants are able to walk around because they're giants. Each attempt to explain something just highlights all the other things that shouldn't work.

Even attempts to specify how magic allows dragons to fly and giants to exist and whatever else just leads to me off in bad directions? Should an antimagic field drop dragons out of the sky? Make the giants collapse? Kill the giant bugs outright? If it's specifically magic letting them exist...

We're playing in a world of myth and legend. Let it work like a world of myth and legend. Like people thought it did when they first came up with stories of giants and dragons. And heroes.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Laurefindel wrote:
Claxon wrote:
The answer is, don't use physics. This is a game, not a reality simulator.

I agree with the "this is a game" part, but...

Physics, even if its a made-belief set of physics rules, are require the make the world coherent. Otherwise things fall upward, except when they fall toward what's red, cold makes you catch fire, or whatever.

Whether we like it or not, the game is a reality simulator. We have (many) books full of rules that regulate how we can play this simulator, even if the fantasy reality is different from ours. I agree that there is a sweet spot where the in-game world feels similar enough to our reality for us to relate to our character, but not close enough to make the fantasy element disappear for non-conformation with the Laws of our world.

And we need to accept that this sweet spot, this comfort zone is different for all of us. If coherency or verisimilitude with our world is not important for you, that's cool, but please don't shut this conversation down because you think different from the OP :)

The game isn't a reality simulator, it's a minatures wargame with roleplaying bolted on. You use physics and biology only up to where it gets in the way of the fantasy paradigm, then you tell them to go sit on the corner until you need them again.

Grand Lodge

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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Magic.

Next question.

-Skeld


Ok, RPGs are not reality simulators. My bad

Nevertheless, if a poster asks "help me explain this", and your answer is "don't", you're not contributing to the thread and just shutting down people's opinion and denigrating their interests. This is rather frustrating...

thejeff wrote:
We're playing in a world of myth and legend. Let it work like a world of myth and legend.

That is a constructive answer however, expressing a vision of the game and not only saying "don't do it, it's badwrongfun". (although is the answer to dragon flight is magic, what happens to the dragon in an antimagic zone is, for me, a relevant question).

Personally, I find the argument that "dragons fly because magic", and magic exist "because dragons!" rather circular. Regardless of what the characters will ever know for sure, i believe that a world can work of an internal logic without losing it's "fantasy" tag.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Laurefindel wrote:

Ok, RPGs are not reality simulators. My bad

Nevertheless, if a poster asks "help me explain this", and your answer is "don't", you're not contributing to the thread and just shutting down people's opinion and denigrating their interests. This is rather frustrating...

thejeff wrote:
We're playing in a world of myth and legend. Let it work like a world of myth and legend.

That is a constructive answer however, expressing a vision of the game and not only saying "don't do it, it's badwrongfun". (although is the answer to dragon flight is magic, what happens to the dragon in an antimagic zone is, for me, a relevant question).

Personally, I find the argument that "dragons fly because magic", and magic exist "because dragons!" rather circular. Regardless of what the characters will ever know for sure, i believe that a world can work of an internal logic without losing it's "fantasy" tag.

The first rule I use when dealing with questions like this is I ask them in return. "How are you asking the question?" I immediately derail any players who try to ask questions from the viewpoint of a 21st century Internet and media soaked American. Some questions will have a closing answer, others will be of the type of "a wizard did it" or "because they are dragons". The people who live in a world of giants and dragons, don't question the fact that giants are as tall as they are, and that dragons can fly, because they are, and they do. Any more than we question the fact that the Sun does shine, and that people troll on Facebook.


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ParagonDireRaccoon wrote:

There is a discussion on a facebook group I'm a member of that includes the question of grappling dragons. The consensus is that internally consistent rules for magic and physics are more important than realism. But I got to thinking about judo-throwing a dragon, which can happen in some games. A dragon would be too heavy to fly according to real-world physics, so what if dragons have magic that make them lighter? Not as light as a helium balloon, but maybe closer to the weight of similarly sized nerf football while they're flying. A successful grapple against a dragon could represent catching the dragon at a moment when their magical lightening effect was active.

The issue of real-world physics is important for martial characters. Most games, including PF, detail how magic can break real-world physics within the rules but generally limit martial characters to something much closer to real world limitations. As an undergrad, friends who were physics majors were very adamant about applying real world limitations to martial characters. I think the game is more fun if martial characters can do cool things too, and magic affecting physics could be a part of a system. Any thoughts using magic to affect physics in ways that could add to the game?

PF doesn't have real-world physics.

That is why a chain of commoners cannot launch poles with nuclear explosion levels of kinetic energy.

Dragons can fly in PF because they have a flight ability. Their mass is irrelevant, since your weight never counts against your carrying capacity. A person can be 2000 lbs, have 1 strength and move around naked just fine.


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Laurefindel wrote:
thejeff wrote:
We're playing in a world of myth and legend. Let it work like a world of myth and legend.

That is a constructive answer however, expressing a vision of the game and not only saying "don't do it, it's badwrongfun". (although is the answer to dragon flight is magic, what happens to the dragon in an antimagic zone is, for me, a relevant question).

Personally, I find the argument that "dragons fly because magic", and magic exist "because dragons!" rather circular. Regardless of what the characters will ever know for sure, i believe that a world can work of an internal logic without losing it's "fantasy" tag.

Note that I specifically didn't say "Dragons fly because Magic". I said "Dragons fly because that's what dragons do." If they didn't fly and breath fire (or acid or whatever), they wouldn't be dragons. (Dragons are slightly tricky, since they're iconic, but varied. They'd be different dragons, at the very least.)

In a world of myth and legend, there is logic, but it's the logic of myth and legend, not of physics. If giants aren't huge they aren't giants. Things are what they are and they work as they need to to fill that role.

A four-limbed, horse sized, hydrogen filled "dragon", isn't really a Dragon. It doesn't fill the iconic role of dragon.


thejeff wrote:

(...) I said "Dragons fly because that's what dragons do." If they didn't fly and breath fire (or acid or whatever), they wouldn't be dragons. (Dragons are slightly tricky, since they're iconic, but varied. They'd be different dragons, at the very least.)

In a world of myth and legend, there is logic, but it's the logic of myth and legend, not of physics. If giants aren't huge they aren't giants. Things are what they are and they work as they need to to fill that role.

A four-limbed, horse sized, hydrogen filled "dragon", isn't really a Dragon. It doesn't fill the iconic role of dragon.

I can relate to that. I don't completely agree, but I could be comfortable in a game with this philosophy.


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Laurefindel wrote:

Ok, RPGs are not reality simulators. My bad

Nevertheless, if a poster asks "help me explain this", and your answer is "don't", you're not contributing to the thread and just shutting down people's opinion and denigrating their interests. This is rather frustrating...

I am not dinegrating them in anyway. That implies I am disparaging them.

Telling people not to try to explain things that don't make sense in Pahtfinder if you try to apply the "real world" to them is a valid answer to the question. Why? Because it is quite a futile exercise, unless you want to rewrite a bunch of rules of the game that could have lots of unintended consequences. "Dragons fly because they are filled with hydrogen? Now they explode when you hit them with fire" type deal. You can do it if you wanted to make a game based on simulating real world physics, it could be an interesting game. But it wouldn't be Pathfinder, or anything resembling it.


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I can fly...because gravity is terrified of me.


Some flying creatures on Earth got Large.

Make the fantasy world have ~1/3 Earth's gravity: Altered elemental abundance shrinks the iron core to an insignificant nugget at the middle instead of a large fraction of the planet's mass, and now planetary density is less (you also need to reduce the radius some to get the gravity down while maintaining density attainable with silicate rock), and this conveniently makes conventional compasses unusable and allows Giants to walk. Also make the atmospheric pressure ~6 times higher (which is on the hairy edge of causing nitrogen narcosis until Humanoids acclimate), but oxygen is increased to a lesser extent -- now flying becomes even easier for big creatures, but fire works less well, conveniently making advanced metalworking more difficult and expensive, and conveniently making heat engines less efficient (steam engines: fire temperature is lower and boiling/condensation temperature is higher; internal combustion engines: lower fire temperature means less combustion chamber pressure over the increased exhaust pressure); yet creatures (including flying creatures) can adapt to use the extra oxygen (just less than 6 times as much) with less of their body devoted to lungs, or use lungs of the same proportionate size as found in creatures of Earth to get higher power output. Not directly relevant to Dragon flight, but accompanying it by impairing technological development, the star serving as sun for the fantasy world has really big solar flares like the one on Earth in 1859 as a common occurrence, thus regularly nipping in the bud any attempt to develop an electrical system, and the really big ones are even worse; yet some creatures might figure out how to harvest the resulting geomagnetic currents for their own purposes.

Now that the above lets you get at least Huge Dragons, let them use illusion to make themselves look even bigger. Part of "finding their vulnerable spot" is at least partly seeing through their illusion (which should be no easy task) to figure out where to hit them/shoot them so that it really hurts instead of just going through or being redirected against a hardened scale.

See? Who says science has to be bad for fantasy?


UnArcaneElection wrote:

Some flying creatures on Earth got Large.

Make the fantasy world have ~1/3 Earth's gravity: Altered elemental abundance shrinks the iron core to an insignificant nugget at the middle instead of a large fraction of the planet's mass, and now planetary density is less (you also need to reduce the radius some to get the gravity down while maintaining density attainable with silicate rock), and this conveniently makes conventional compasses unusable and allows Giants to walk. Also make the atmospheric pressure ~6 times higher (which is on the hairy edge of causing nitrogen narcosis until Humanoids acclimate), but oxygen is increased to a lesser extent -- now flying becomes even easier for big creatures, but fire works less well, conveniently making advanced metalworking more difficult and expensive, and conveniently making heat engines less efficient (steam engines: fire temperature is lower and boiling/condensation temperature is higher; internal combustion engines: lower fire temperature means less combustion chamber pressure over the increased exhaust pressure); yet creatures (including flying creatures) can adapt to use the extra oxygen (just less than 6 times as much) with less of their body devoted to lungs, or use lungs of the same proportionate size as found in creatures of Earth to get higher power output. Not directly relevant to Dragon flight, but accompanying it by impairing technological development, the star serving as sun for the fantasy world has really big solar flares like the one on Earth in 1859 as a common occurrence, thus regularly nipping in the bud any attempt to develop an electrical system, and the really big ones are even worse; yet some creatures might figure out how to harvest the resulting geomagnetic currents for their own purposes.

Now that the above lets you get at least Huge Dragons, let them use illusion to make themselves look even bigger. Part of...

IT also gets you a world with 1/3 earth gravity, which is going to have so many more effects than the problems it solves. Along with the air pressure differences and Oxygen difference and fires don't burn right and ...

Maybe a fun setting, but if you're using it to justify dragons and giants and lack of technological development, you're going to need to figure out all the other consequences in order to keep things consistent. And some of those aren't going to map nicely into the standard PF rules.


Pathfinder Maps Subscriber

I'm not certain that level of atmospheric density is consistent with the reduced gravity, but I'm a mechanical engineer, not a physicist.

Grand Lodge

This Animal Planet "Documetry" I loved growing up.

Points to Youtube.

But if I remember properly, they talk about dragon bones being like bird bones, but also talk about helium sacs in their body.... if I remember.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

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There's an AP I subscribing to (brain fart, can't remember it) where a few thousand years ago, the rules of magic changed and the realm of Air was interdicted. Flight magic disappeared, and dragons were grounded. Unable to fly away, dragon slayers were able to whittle them away and kill almost all of them, since they couldn't flee.

Dragons fly cause magic. That's all there is to it.

==Aelryinth

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
UnArcaneElection wrote:

Some flying creatures on Earth got Large.

Make the fantasy world have ~1/3 Earth's gravity: Altered elemental abundance shrinks the iron core to an insignificant nugget at the middle instead of a large fraction of the planet's mass, and now planetary density is less (you also need to reduce the radius some to get the gravity down while maintaining density attainable with silicate rock), and this conveniently makes conventional compasses unusable and allows Giants to walk. Also make the atmospheric pressure ~6 times higher (which is on the hairy edge of causing nitrogen narcosis until Humanoids acclimate), but oxygen is increased to a lesser extent -- now flying becomes even easier for big creatures, but fire works less well, conveniently making advanced metalworking more difficult and expensive, and conveniently making heat engines less efficient (steam engines: fire temperature is lower and boiling/condensation temperature is higher; internal combustion engines: lower fire temperature means less combustion chamber pressure over the increased exhaust pressure); yet creatures (including flying creatures) can adapt to use the extra oxygen (just less than 6 times as much) with less of their body devoted to lungs, or use lungs of the same proportionate size as found in creatures of Earth to get higher power output. Not directly relevant to Dragon flight, but accompanying it by impairing technological development, the star serving as sun for the fantasy world has really big solar flares like the one on Earth in 1859 as a common occurrence, thus regularly nipping in the bud any attempt to develop an electrical system, and the really big ones are even worse; yet some creatures might figure out how to harvest the resulting geomagnetic currents for their own purposes.

Now that the above lets you get at least Huge Dragons, let them use illusion to make themselves look even bigger. Part of...

When you make your science bad in order to work for Fantasy, it's best to just simply forget about the science. Most of what you're proposing either doesn't work, or has really bad consequences. (such as the solar wind blowing away the atmosphere from your weakened gravity, since your iron-depleted core can't muster up a decent magnetic field any more)

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
GarnathFrostmantle wrote:

This Animal Planet "Documetry" I loved growing up.

Points to Youtube.

But if I remember properly, they talk about dragon bones being like bird bones, but also talk about helium sacs in their body.... if I remember.

Then you have dragons that break like china dolls. That's not a dragon to me.

Next!


Aelryinth wrote:

There's an AP I subscribing to (brain fart, can't remember it) where a few thousand years ago, the rules of magic changed and the realm of Air was interdicted. Flight magic disappeared, and dragons were grounded. Unable to fly away, dragon slayers were able to whittle them away and kill almost all of them, since they couldn't flee.

Dragons fly cause magic. That's all there is to it.

Which brings us back to dispelling dragons to cancel their flight or at least using Antimagic Fields to ground them (And maybe cripple them? Certainly should work on giants.)

And what about other less magical giant fliers?

Grand Lodge

Aaron Bitman wrote:
TheInnsmouthLooker wrote:

documentary that attempts to explain how dragons could have existed if they were in fact real.

It's been a long while, but I believe the documentary says that they have sacs that fill with lighter than air gases which aid in flight, which also are mixed to create their flaming breath. Using their breath weapon actually would make them unable to fly for a period of time.

Um... you must have pasted the wrong URL in that link. That page talks about the Salvation Army's elderly services.

Peter Dickinson wrote a book called "The Flight of Dragons", which comes up with a scientific hypothesis for dragon flight. Here's the Wikipedia entry.

There was also a movie "The Flight of Dragons", in which Peter Dickinson is taken back in time and merged into the body of a dragon. He gets an explanation of how dragons fly, and works out the science of it. Here's the key clip.

(Mind you, the plot of that movie is taken mostly from "The Dragon and the George" by Gordon R. Dickson.)

Apologies, someone else has already posted the link that I attempted to post this morning. I was sending resources to a friend about help with elderly care. Hopefully I did not send her links to a documentary on dragons.


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My own idea is that dragons can fly (and truly "giant" giants can exist) because they are not mortal creatures which evolved, but rather divine offspring of primal creatures akin to gods. Mundane physics just doesn't apply to them.


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The bones of dragons could have a dark matter component that resists the pull of gravity while maintaining mass and density.


Had to hop back in to say that there are rules for high altitudes. They're meant for mountain climbing but could easily work for flying. Still does nothing to help the square-cube problem.

Adjusting gravity makes sense but then the given weights make everyone that much more massive. The lowest human (130 lbs) would be 3 times as massive in 1/3 gravity. Same with a variety of other adjustments to the physical world to make things work. Much of the work is based on the real world (falling objects and terminal velocity assumes earth gravity and atmosphere, for one).

And if we're arguing that eventually things get too big and dangerous for humans, I think we concluded that 24-26 strength is the highest a human has reasonably achieved. That's what, an 8th level fighting man? When you get to 30 strength you're well past "human". Saying a judo master wouldn't take on a charging rhino makes sense. What if he was four times as powerful and could get gored in the chest without dying? Because that's what high level characters can do.


Bob Bob Bob wrote:
And if we're arguing that eventually things get too big and dangerous for humans, I think we concluded that 24-26 strength is the highest a human has reasonably achieved. That's what, an 8th level fighting man? When you get to 30 strength you're well past "human". Saying a judo master wouldn't take on a charging rhino makes sense. What if he was four times as powerful and could get gored in the chest without dying? Because that's what high level characters can do.

Sure. High level martials can easily punch a rhino to death. Or judo throw it. Naked and unarmed, with the right build.

But then we're well out of the realm of human realism. There's only so much strength and toughness the human frame can realistically produce.

Which is fine by me. I'm generally happy out of the realm of human realism in PF. In favor of not worrying too much about how the laws of physics apply to monsters and heroes. If you can throw that rhino because of ancient secrets your sensei taught you, more power to you. If you can drop it in one punch because your just that badass, more power to you.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

A 23 Strength is lifting 800 lbs over your head, which is pretty much world record for weightlifters who have specialized body types and training to achieve exactly that, for VERY short periods of time.

So, one of the reasons Batman is awesome in the comics is because all his stats are base 23.

==Aelryinth


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There is a wonderful explanation in the novel Guards! Guards!

The short of it Dragons fly because people expect them to fly.

Looking at it the mind tells you it's impossible and wrong but the soul tells you it's right and that it is a great majestic creatures instead of a giant mass of meat that should be clumsily bobbing up and down as it's wings rip off during it's head long plummet to the earth.


A lot of great thoughts in this thread. My first post was about combining magic and physics in a way that is internally consistent. I really like MMCJawa's suggestion that creatures created directly the gods aren't limited by real world physics. If you add the caveat that if you gain the favor or attention of the gods real world physics don't apply in the same way, humans with strength in the high 20s becomes plausible in an internally consistent way.

My understanding is that science has a limited understanding of gravity in the real world, it doesn't take much disbelief for me accept giants and dragons with a lot of mass flying or walking around. Fantasy world physics could have started like a game of Calvinball (from Calvin and Hobbes) played by the gods, the gods make up rules as they go and can grant exceptions to the rules at a whim.


Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber

dragons could have carbon based bones, their scales could be made out of similar substances of spider silk, and their muscles could be hyper effecient requiring lower than normal nourishment and oxygen, while giving out greater force per square cube.

If nature really wanted there to by a hyper predator that flies it will find a way.


Greylurker wrote:

There is a wonderful explanation in the novel Guards! Guards!

The short of it Dragons fly because people expect them to fly.

Looking at it the mind tells you it's impossible and wrong but the soul tells you it's right and that it is a great majestic creatures instead of a giant mass of meat that should be clumsily bobbing up and down as it's wings rip off during it's head long plummet to the earth.

Incidentally, the one time I had a player ask this, this was more or less the answer I gave them. God bless Terry Pratchett for giving us such wonderful things to work off of.


thejeff wrote:

IT also gets you a world with 1/3 earth gravity, which is going to have so many more effects than the problems it solves. Along with the air pressure differences and Oxygen difference and fires don't burn right and ...

Maybe a fun setting, but if you're using it to justify dragons and giants and lack of technological development, you're going to need to figure out all the other consequences in order to keep things consistent. And some of those aren't going to map nicely into the standard PF rules.

I know it doesn't fit completely into the Pathfinder Campaign Setting (I think the generic rules themselves aren't quite as problematic, except for needing to replug numbers on specific things like acceleration and terminal velocity while falling), but I was offering my above post as an example of what could be done.

And some of the other consequences could actually have positively interesting effects, like the increased scale height of the atmosphere (due to the lower gravity) potentially giving you more zones of radically different wind direction within a breathable density regime, thus potentially making it practical to produce sailing airships composed of tethered upper and lower units in different windshear zones, propelled by exploiting the windshear. (Would be fun to try this on Earth, too, as a proof of concept, but it would probably only work in a few places and only during certain time windows that occur too infrequently and are of insufficient duration to be of practical use, and Earth's higher gravity puts more demands on the cable, too; on Earth, going up into the jet stream means going too high to breathe without cabin air pressurization.)

SlimGauge wrote:
I'm not certain that level of atmospheric density is consistent with the reduced gravity, but I'm a mechanical engineer, not a physicist.

AND

LaxarX wrote:
When you make your science bad in order to work for Fantasy, it's best to just simply forget about the science. Most of what you're proposing either doesn't work, or has really bad consequences. (such as the solar wind blowing away the atmosphere from your weakened gravity, since your iron-depleted core can't muster up a decent magnetic field any more)

Reduced gravity does tend to work against having a thicker atmosphere, but the correlation is definitely not perfect. Venus is a great counterexample: barely over 0.9 gravities, and no magnetic field while being closer to the Sun, but the atmospheric pressure is over 90 times higher -- granted, it's mostly carbon dioxide, which is heavier, but the Sun is pouring in about 1.9 times more energy that is trying to blow it off. A difference in chemical abundance could easily produce a world like I was describing. Granted, this only goes so far -- if you go all the way down to the size of Mars, most of the atmosphere goes away in the low billion years time frame, but at some point in between the size of Mars and Venus it should be possible to get something that still has a pretty low gravity (especially if chemical composition differences have lowered the density) but can hold onto a thick atmosphere long enough to do interesting stuff to it, especially if life was seeded there instead of evolving there. (Planetary colonization during a solar quiet period, and then a resumption of solar flares fried the colonists' electronics, perhaps? Or maybe just the colonization budget got cut and the pickup ship never came . . .) Anyway, cutting the solar energy input (even if some of it goes into nasty flares) also helps hold an atmosphere on, as Titan shows, although that is going TOO far with cooling things off. (This is because part of atmospheric escape is due to thermal mechanisms rather than solar wind stripping.) But still, something in between ought to do the trick, especially considering that if you have 6 atmospheres of pressure at the surface AND ~1/3 Earth gravity (which increases the scale height), the surface is going to get uncomfortablly warm if you DON'T decrease the average solar input significantly.

Contributor

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Relevant to this discussion.


Sean K Reynolds wrote:
Relevant to this discussion.

Interesting thoughts Sean, and generally speaking I agree with.

So as not to distract too much from the greater conversation though:

Spoiler:
Though, I do disagree to an extent about the crossbow/longbow issue. That is an issue of proficiency, the crossbow should be worse because virtually everyone (I think actually everyone, but I'm thinking there are a few classes that don't get simple weapons proficiency outright but still get crossbow proficiency). As it is a simple weapon it should probably be worse than the martial weapon equivalent, as represented by the reload time.

By spending a single feat you could gain proficiency in a longbow (martial weapon proficiency) or you can reduce the reload time (rapid reload).

I would suggest, that characters who have martial weapon proficiency be automatically granted rapid reload as a free feat for all types of crossbows. That way you can choose between whether you want to wield a crossbow or a bow, without one being vastly superior the other. After that the only difference is strength to damage, but to be honest my 14th level archer ranger only has a +3 bonus to damage from strength, and while not insignificant it's not the end of the world either. Also we would need to rewrite manyshot to allow it's use with a crossbows. "You can somehow manage to finagle a second crossbow bolt onto the string your first shot every round." Why? Because.

Heck, you could even add in the strength bonus damage by saying that you build a crossbow with a higher draw weight that requires a greater amount of strength to reload quickly. Rapid reload could represent your ability to draw back the string by hand unaided, so it is fast. But if you require a mechanical lever to draw it (because your strength is lower than what the crossbow is designed for) then you require a cranequin to lock the string into place. If you must use a cranequin then the reload time becomes a full round action which cannot be reduced (even by rapid reload). With this restriction being in place for balance, to prevent people from cheesing up the bonus damage. Though you could buy up to a high value (would need to place a maximum cap, +10 seem fine), you would spend so much time reloading that it would only be useful at low levels. Thus, it should be priced similar to bows in that each point of bonus "strength" (but really limb resistance) damage costs 100 gold.


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thejeff wrote:


In a world of myth and legend, there is logic, but it's the logic of myth and legend, not of physics. If giants aren't huge they aren't giants. Things are what they are and they work as they need to to fill that role.

A four-limbed, horse sized, hydrogen filled "dragon", isn't really a Dragon. It doesn't fill the iconic role of dragon.

A four limbed horse size dragon exists in Bestiary 1 wyvern.

A six limbed horse-sized one that could be fluffed to be full of hydrogen to power flight and breath weapons is there as well, the CR 10 young red dragon.

Dragon is a flexible concept.

Giants are as well. I was fine with the base medium sized giants from Arcana Evolved, and I'm fine with the large but not huge sized frost and fire giants.

In D&D and pathfinder lots of concepts are very flexible.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Aelryinth wrote:

A 23 Strength is lifting 800 lbs over your head, which is pretty much world record for weightlifters who have specialized body types and training to achieve exactly that, for VERY short periods of time.

So, one of the reasons Batman is awesome in the comics is because all his stats are base 23.

==Aelryinth

Keep in mind that while he may not have heat vision or a megaton touch, Batman is still pretty much a superhero character in a super's millieu so the things he pulls off are themselves, not that special or unique.

And even Batman is scared spitless of Old Bruce Wayne. :)


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When I was very young, many thousands of years ago, my father used to delight in telling me that Bumblebee's cannot fly. He would explain, in great detail (he had been an aircraft mechanic in his youth) that the body weight to wing size ratio of a Bumblebee made it impossible for them to actually be able to fly.

When I would see a bumblebee flying I would point and ask "How come that bumblebee can fly?" and he would answer

"Shhhh, I don't think anyone has told that bumblebee yet."


Terquem wrote:

When I was very young, many thousands of years ago, my father used to delight in telling me that Bumblebee's cannot fly. He would explain, in great detail (he had been an aircraft mechanic in his youth) that the body weight to wing size ratio of a Bumblebee made it impossible for them to actually be able to fly.

When I would see a bumblebee flying I would point and ask "How come that bumblebee can fly?" and he would answer

"Shhhh, I don't think anyone has told that bumblebee yet."

There you go. Are you going to be the one to inform the 100' dragon swooping down on you that he can't fly?

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