Campaign Advice: Why Are All the Dragons Gone?


Advice


In the world I'm building, dragons are extremely rare. My party have met two, but are aware of three. One is an ancient silver dragon and my sorcerer's ancestor (draconic bloodline). One is an ancient white, and a rival to the silver. Another is the ancient white's son, and they barely escaped him alive when they encountered him.
These encounters have not been frequent. No other NPC they've ever met has seen a dragon. It is generally believed that they are either severely endangered, or extinct.
That isn't necessarily the case. The dragons didn't all die off, I just haven't figured out where they went. I've got a loose idea rattling around in my head about something called the Dragon's Gate, and maybe there was a mass migration and they went to a different dimension, but that raises its own set of problems (like, why would chromatic and metallic dragons migrate together? Did all the Imperial and Primal dragons go too? If so, why? Also, why are there still a few dragons left?).
Another common theme in my world is that magic is not as common as it used to be. There's one country that is a magical superpower, but on the whole, arcane magic is becoming more rare. Perhaps there is a connection between that and the disappearance of the dragons.
Also, society is becoming more modern, and spreading out to tame the wilds of nature. It is possible that dragons got in the way of the spread of civilization, and some of them were eliminated.
Addendum: Creatures like drakes and wyverns are not quite as rare. Sea drakes patrol the coasts, and forest drakes live in the deep forests. A player in my second party decided to be a draconic druid, and chose a fire drake as his animal companion.
That's part of the biggest reason I want to figure this out. My storytelling has always been driven by my players and the characters they've created (these are the first two games I've ever run as a GM), and I want to have something for them to do for their main quests. A draconic druid in a world with no dragons has some interesting paths to tread. He's going to be on a quest to find out where the dragons went, so I need to figure that out for myself.
I'd like some help fleshing out ideas for this, if anyone is willing.


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A few of your assumptions might need to be rethought, it is your world, so you don't have to take just what is in the bestiary.

One is, how many kinds of dragons their used to be. While the bestiaries give a lot of options for you, you don't need to include them all in your world (if you wanted, white and silver could be the only ones there ever were.)

You can change alignments for Dragon types if you want, (maybe some famous Reds were evil, but they aren't necessarily all evil, and some Silver dragons can be) so the colors and alignment aren't automatically linked. Alternately, they could have gone to other places, perhaps using the same gate, but set to different destinations.

My point in the above isn't to give you answers, but to not let what is in the bestiary limit you if it isn't in the best interest of your world.

I'd probably skip on the 'decline of dragons = decline of magic' trope. Not because it is bad in and of itself, but because it has been done quite a bit, Game of Thrones being one big example.

It strikes me that you say the world has become less magical and more modern and that they wilds are being tamed more effectively. This seems to me to indicate that the new way is more effective than the old. One obvious example that fits the mechanics of pathfinder, is that guns are pretty deadly to dragons. Perhaps the dragons left because they were afraid (even a powerful one that personally felt they could cope with the rise of technology might not want to raise young in such an environment.) That might lead to an interesting story, or it might be something that you don't want to go for.

As to why they didn't all go, personally I like the idea that the two ancient ones were busy fighting and missed the bus. The youngster is actually a child of the two of them (even dragons might go for angry sex on occasion, especially if the other was the last possible choice on earth, of course since dragons are one of the few things out there that has interspecies relations almost as often as humans you might have to explain why they felt the need for another dragon at all.)

Dark Archive

If the party have met two dragons and are aware that another one exists, are they really that rare? It seems odd to me. I know adventurers are special and all, but still.

Gate is a 9th level spell. If magic isn't that common anymore, why do dragons have access to powerful magic?

Okay, as for the reason why the dragons are missing, here are some possibilities:
- The dragons used the Dragon's Gate to escape the coming apocalypse.
- Magic is waning. Soon the world will be in a dead magic zone for whatever period works for you. After that magic will slowly return to the world. The dragons had anticipated this and decided to leave before they lost their magic.
- Bahamut, Io, Tiamat and the others raptured all the dragons. Except for the ones they dislike or something.
- Somebody is killing dragons. Only the party can stop them.


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They haven't gone anywhere. They just shapechanged into other creatures and are living low-profile lives until the idiot character races kill each other off with their advancing technology. You might have bumped into one at the supermarket the other day.


blahpers wrote:
They haven't gone anywhere. They just shapechanged into other creatures and are living low-profile lives until the idiot character races kill each other off with their advancing technology. You might have bumped into one at the supermarket the other day.

Given Most Metallic and Some Chromatic Dragons can shape shift, typically into Human/Elf/Humanoid/Demi-Human forms, you could have a village of them the party passed through. Now a dragon that gives birth in human/ect form may have a normal looking like race child that may grow up never knowing it's true heritage until it's made known. A Dragon Rider may have gained an unusually long life with it's bonded dragon, though may it's self be a dragon and not know it, a parent watching out for it's off-spring, concealing their relation.

Dark Archive

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Scrapper wrote:
blahpers wrote:
They haven't gone anywhere. They just shapechanged into other creatures and are living low-profile lives until the idiot character races kill each other off with their advancing technology. You might have bumped into one at the supermarket the other day.
Given Most Metallic and Some Chromatic Dragons can shape shift, typically into Human/Elf/Humanoid/Demi-Human forms, you could have a village of them the party passed through. Now a dragon that gives birth in human/ect form may have a normal looking like race child that may grow up never knowing it's true heritage until it's made known. A Dragon Rider may have gained an unusually long life with it's bonded dragon, though may it's self be a dragon and not know it, a parent watching out for it's off-spring, concealing their relation.

Oh great, now I have to go and play a dragon that thinks that they are human. How am I going to get my GM to accept that?

Edit: Actually, that village would be a great thing to add to my gonzo campaign. I suppose I'll have to GM this myself.

Dark Archive

Valdir the Wanderer wrote:
That isn't necessarily the case. The dragons didn't all die off, I just haven't figured out where they went. I've got a loose idea rattling around in my head about something called the Dragon's Gate, and maybe there was a mass migration and they went to a different dimension, but that raises its own set of problems (like, why would chromatic and metallic dragons migrate together? Did all the Imperial and Primal dragons go too? If so, why? Also, why are there still a few dragons left?).

If Apsu (or Tiamat, whomever!), found a new world ripe for dragons to claim as their own, free of the humanoid races 'infesting' this one, that dragon-god might have opened a 'Dragon Gate' to that new paradise, and the vast majority of dragons answered the call of their god(s) and went to claim this vast new world, ripe for the taking.

A few dragons chose not to go, too wrapped up in what they'd built on this world, or too contrary by nature, or just too darn lazy to pack their things and go, or even thinking that, with the others gone, they'd have this world all to themselves! (And at least one slept through the whole thing, even though the Gate was open for a century!)

Also, quite likely multiple Gates were created (so that metallic, chromatic, Imperials, etc. wouldn't necessarily have to interact, or fly to another continent to get there), or even some other alternative, like instead of an actual Gate somewhere, each living dragon was given a Choice, to go to the new dragon-world, and the power of their god(s) handled the transport. Dragons being dragons, this 'choice' might manifest as a large gem or hunk of metal, and the few that remained might still have theirs, as a memento of the choice they didn't make, and some wonkiness might result in a party of adventurers someone activating the (previously thought to be powerless) gem and getting themselves whisked to Dragon World, where they will be distinctly un-welcome... :)


You could combine the decline of magic and the "lack" of dragons, albeit not in a manor that Dave Justus described. The decline in magic made the dragons drowsy and all (except a few) went into a very deep and long slumber.

This way, the party can stumble upon a secret dragon cave with dozens of metalic/chromatic dragons in a deep slumber (followed with a party whipe of they are foolish enough to decide to wake the dragons). The decline in magic may also be a man-made event, and the party is the only group who will lurn about this event are will be responsible to stop the decline (and wake the dragons).


You could go the Dragonlance approch.

The bulk of dragons left the continent and went north (Ansalon is in the Southern Hemisphere) on a series of Islands, hidden and removed from humans. Some went To the Moons or other planes.


The dragon deity/deities called all the dragons through the gate to guide and protect a burgeoning world. Not every dragon heeded this call, and now you've got a whole new savage land to adventure in.


Maybe they travelled into the future to rescue the world from a mortal threadthreat that only they could match...

I guess the other 3 didn't get the memo.


^_^
We all know that dragons are the earthly manifestation of extraplanar extrareal entities. Manifesting to breed and raise children, of course, some get caught up in the whole materialistic schtick. The inevitable moments of introspection are why they are all so cranky.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

In ages past, chromatic and metallic dragons warred over the right to rule or protect the mortal races. Eventually, they warred with such terrible magics that they risked the destruction of the world by accident.

They came to their senses, and agreed that each faction should go into exile in a separate outer plane of their own making. One of each faction, a silver and a white, were permitted to stay behind by the terms of this bargain to advise the mortal races, but never to directly attack the other.

But the white dragon who remained behind was secretly pregnant...


Alternate idea: All the true dragons gated to a world/plane more suitable to them, but any stuck on the world the game takes place on are exiles/penal colonists. That's right, the game world as the players know it is the dragons' version of Australia.


I'm reminded of a Piers Anthony book where the dragons of Xanth were dying out and the characters had to travel to a world of dragons in order to bring some back.


Someone has been stealing dragon eggs, with no regard for breed nor species for at least 300 years. At first the egg-nappings were attributed to cultists, adventurers' raiding dragon hoards and rival dragons devouring the eggs. And not just an egg here and there, but all the eggs, for more that 300 years. The more logical dragons set magical protections, the more cunning set lethal traps, to no avail. The eggs kept disappearing.

It was finally learned that even the lesser species of dragon-kin, wyverns and drakes, suffered the the loses for perhaps 50 years earlier, but the thief moved to the more intelligent dragon's eggs. Chromatic, Metallic, Imperial, Primal, Gem and Planar dragons were all victims of the remarkable thefts.

WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW MORE?

The Dragon Gate is indeed an artifact the dragons created. And any Dragon using the Gate was subjected to a powerful Geas to protect the next generation of eggs at a hidden location for the next 200 years, until the next generations can be laid. This location, called the Unfouled Land, is so far away, no dragon alone could fly nor swim to it and no magic could touch it, the Gates' magic so powerful so ancient that no non-dragon could travel through it and survive*. For it takes Will to Call the Gate, Intent to Protect every dragon egg, and Surrender to Accept the Geas to pass through the Dragon Gate

The Dragons that have stayed in the World that Robbed Dragonkind are subjected to a subtle enchantment that makes them forget about the Dragon Gate in 6 days of hearing of it and the reason for it. These dragons are carefully scryed and watched and should they lay an egg, they are quickly approached and informed of the danger again. Thus far only 91 eggs have come through the gate with a parent to be so protected. The Dragons will not say how many eggs are protected in the Unfouled Land.

WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW MORE?

Someone is recruiting and helping to outfit adventuring party's to find and fetch dragons hordes and eggs, and, perchance to kill the dragon. If there are survivors, they are killed, their belongings taken to help outfit the next group of rubes.

An immortal cabal of liches is behind the egg-nappings. They call themselves the Forrest Through the Trees, the cabal is ruthless in its pursuit of creating the Master Phylactery, capable of housing the souls of 99 liches. Constructed of thousands of Dragon Eggs, dusted unicorn horn and bone, mixed with the blood of innocents and more… blah, blah, blah.

WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW MORE?

.
*[could one ride a dragon to survive the gate?]


Heather 540 wrote:
I'm reminded of a Piers Anthony book where the dragons of Xanth were dying out and the characters had to travel to a world of dragons in order to bring some back.

Were they named George and Gracie?


blahpers wrote:
Heather 540 wrote:
I'm reminded of a Piers Anthony book where the dragons of Xanth were dying out and the characters had to travel to a world of dragons in order to bring some back.
Were they named George and Gracie?

No. The main character was Clio and the dragons she met that helped her out were named Drew and Drusie. The title of the book is Currant Events.


Heather 540 wrote:
blahpers wrote:
Heather 540 wrote:
I'm reminded of a Piers Anthony book where the dragons of Xanth were dying out and the characters had to travel to a world of dragons in order to bring some back.
Were they named George and Gracie?
No. The main character was Clio and the dragons she met that helped her out were named Drew and Drusie. The title of the book is Currant Events.

One of these days I should reread the original 27-part trilogy.


I think he's still writing too.

Scarab Sages

In one of my campaigns, dragons used to be very common and detrimental to the civilizations of lesser beings. They had their own civilization, including a city built by, and for, dragons that very few non-dragons ever saw.

Anyways, one of the humanoid factions was a civilization built upon alchemy back when humanoid magic was still in its proto-stage. This alchemical civilization created a weapon through alchemy, a terrible disease that targeted dragons and spread to them from contaminated food sources and treasure, and from contaminated dragon to dragon.

It wiped out a massive chunk of their population. Infected dragons who had not yet died but laid eggs after being infected would give birth to many of the lesser dragonkind, such as drakes.

In retribution, the dragons laid waste to the alchemical civilization, turning their capital into virtual glass. Their rage was incredible.

Because of that event, however, dragons are exceptionally rare to encounter. Their birth rate was already low, and as magic developed and humanoids learned how to hunt and kill stronger creatures, the dragons never really recovered.

If you want the majority of dragons to survive, you could manipulate this from wiping them out to turning the world toxic to most of them - forcing them to flee or die.

In my setting, the original toxin lingered in only one place - the hidden laboratories of the royal house of alchemists, buried deep underground in the ancient wreckage of the lost capital of their civilization.

My players almost set off a new war by accidentally releasing a mutated form of it. But they realized at the last moment and I quietly shelved my notes on the 'possible dragon wars' section of the campaign.


You could decide that dragons being magical creatures require magic as a part of their physiology. Some external event has reduced magic on the whole causing most of the old dragons to have died.

The lesser dragonlike creatures are either dragons unable to grow properly lacking sufficient magical stimuli or are just less magical and so not as effected by the change. The two dragons your party has seen have avoided most of the effects of the lack of magic because they have set up their homes on magical "nexuses." This explains the child dragon's ability to have developed properly as well. Then there can be other dragons tied to similar magical "nexuses."

What do do about it from there is completely up to campaign design. Undo the great event? Find and destroy the remnants of dragons? Find a country secretly establishing an enslaved force of dragons at one of these nexuses? You can think of all sorts of stuff I'm sure.


Wow, I haven't looked at this thread in over a month, and I'm seeing a lot of great ideas here.

Thanks!

I did come up with something I think I'll go with, but I might make some changes, given the new insights I've gotten from you all.

As settlers spread out into a new land, they encountered dragons. Inevitably, conflict arose. The humans suffered many dragon attacks, but were resourceful and inventive, and began developing weapons to help hunt them.

This is where guns and firearms enter the story, and so the decline of dragons is directly related to the rise in the use of guns.

Long story short, a council of metallic dragons convenes to decide what their best course of action is. They ultimately decide they should leave, go to another world, and a Gate is prepared. Some of the metallic dragons were sent out as emissaries to the surviving dragons to tell them of the time and date the Gate would be opened.

Meanwhile, five chromatic dragons banded together and assaulted the humans' capital city, laying it to waste and getting away with it. They arrogantly proclaimed their triumphs from any high place they could find, but did not stay together. They went their separate ways, satisfied that they had dealt the humans a fatal blow.

They hadn't. The humans regrouped, made stronger weapons, and sent out hunting parties to catch and kill these chromatic dragons.

Four of them were slaughtered. The white one was caught in his cave, but by this time he'd heard of the demise of some of his friends, and was alerted by traps he had set up in his paranoia. He was able to escape by burrowing through the ground and out of the mountains.
The silver found the white, and knew what he'd done to the human city. He decided then to lie and tell him the Gate was opening in a different place on a different day.

The silver is still in this world because he is serving as a sort of monitor for the humans. If their society ever gets to a point at which it can peacefully coexist with nature and magical creatures, he'll send word to the other dragons that they can return.

The white is angry that he got left behind, and has made it his life's work to end the silver dragon. His mate was killed by humans, but not before she had lain a couple of eggs.

That's the basic idea I'm going with. There might still be some holes I need to plug, but I think it'll do the trick.

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