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Old 09-01-2021, 02:41 PM   #1
khorboth
 
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Default [kids game] Ideas for dragons

I'm having a hard time coming up with good ideas for dragons in a homebrew world. I'm running it for my kids, 6 & 8. High-fluff, low-crunch.

My 6-year-old wants to be a dragon-trainer. Fine. I'm looking to put dragons center-stage. But then... I'm kinda overwhelmed with choice. How should I design dragons?

She loves the extended universe of How to Train Your Dragon on Netflix, but I just can't deal with that level of terrible worldbuilding. I just can't.

So, I'm looking to put them in a mountainous, resource-rich kingdom which has maintained peace with their neighbors because only this one kingdom knows how to train dragons. I'm then going to build drama about egg-stealing and secret-stealing, and maybe all the dragons leaving and having to be called back.

So, my biggest questions, I guess, are: How much variety should I have in dragons? How many dragons should I have? Why can only this one kingdom train them? (I'm thinking it's some magical talent in the royal line) What is the mechanism of training?

What are your thoughts, great crowd to whom I'm sourcing?
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Old 09-02-2021, 04:22 AM   #2
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Default Re: [kids game] Ideas for dragons

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Originally Posted by khorboth View Post
So, my biggest questions, I guess, are: How much variety should I have in dragons? How many dragons should I have? Why can only this one kingdom train them? (I'm thinking it's some magical talent in the royal line) What is the mechanism of training?

What are your thoughts, great crowd to whom I'm sourcing?
The first HtTYD basically had a unique dragon type for each of the main characters along with several other types shown (I haven't seen anything further in the franchise). This seems unlikely unless dragons are basically the stand-in for every animal the size of a dog or larger. If you have somewhere around 5-10 types of dragons, they could reasonably be considered the equivalent of the largest animals in that world like hippos, rhinos, elephants and whales, which would not break agriculture, hunting and the like.

If you keep the largest dragons to around elephant size, a nation the size of India could easily have hundreds if not thousands (if many are herbivores).

If you make the requirement to train dragons part of a bloodline, you end up with lots of inbreeding and/or other nations accessing the ability via political marriages or kidnapping + rape. An alternative would be a mystical stone that prospective dragon trainers have to visit or meditate at to gain the ability to tame dragons. If the stone is large enough that it can't readily be moved, other nations would have to infiltrate whatever school is responsible for educating dragon trainers.

Training animals usually involves establishing a bond of some kind, depending on the nature of the animal species that bond can be based on trust, dominance, or a variety of other factors. Once a bond is established, effective training usually involves understanding the personality of the animal and how to motivate it.

The trope version establishing a bond is often portrayed as having the character presented with a lot of options, and having the character finding the one that matches their personality after going through every option. After the selection process, the training is usually just kept to "How Does X Work?" which is frequently played for comedic effect.
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Old 09-02-2021, 07:46 AM   #3
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Default Re: [kids game] Ideas for dragons

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If you make the requirement to train dragons part of a bloodline, you end up with lots of inbreeding and/or other nations accessing the ability via political marriages or kidnapping + rape.
I... think you may have missed the bit where OP said this was meant for 6 and 8-year-olds? That's probably just going to mean an unbroken, fairly uncomplicated line of succession, possibly with the PC's being siblings or cousins (or you can have them be distantly related to the royal family - descended perhaps from a "lost" prince or princess). You could have a plot involved where OpFor abducts a child of the royal family and turns him/her against them, much as the titular character of Hook attempted to do to Peter's children, with the PC's ultimately convincing the character to turn back to the side of good.


As for the dragons, that depends on what you think the kids are wanting out of the game. You could easily have a wide variety (as in HtTYD, which like WingedKagouti I've only seen the first movie of) so as to fit their characters, of course, or you could go with something more traditional. An interesting alternative would be if dragons are able to control how they grow and what traits they acquire, and thus the dragons bonded to each rider will grow to match what said rider needs, be it a speedy sniper like Toothless or a heavy, strong tank-like dragon that breathes the more-traditional cone of flame.
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Old 09-02-2021, 08:22 AM   #4
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Default Re: [kids game] Ideas for dragons

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I... think you may have missed the bit where OP said this was meant for 6 and 8-year-olds?
That was more directed to the OP who expressed distaste for the world building in the HtTYD franchise. A "royal blood" justification just leads to that kind of expectation when you do world building, even if the kids don't think that far. And it's still there for the adult(s) as something that naturally follows.

So if world building is important, things like this needs to be considered.
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That's probably just going to mean an unbroken, fairly uncomplicated line of succession
Complications start arising once you start asking questions about succession. Who inherits the throne? The one with the strongest affinity? The one who trained the biggest/best/prettiest/rarest dragon? The one who trained most dragons?

If the trait is dominant (so it will appear in the family even if a spouse doesn't have it) it will eventually spread to other families and nations within a few generations, which breaks the "Only this nation can train dragons" premise.

If it's recessive, it might skip generations in the royal family and it might still appear outside the nation from time to time.
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Old 09-02-2021, 10:01 AM   #5
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Default Re: [kids game] Ideas for dragons

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Originally Posted by WingedKagouti View Post
That was more directed to the OP who expressed distaste for the world building in the HtTYD franchise. A "royal blood" justification just leads to that kind of expectation when you do world building, even if the kids don't think that far. And it's still there for the adult(s) as something that naturally follows.

So if world building is important, things like this needs to be considered.
This is a fair point, and is feedback I'm looking for. Even if it would *never* come out in the game, I want to think through the implications.

I'm now leaning toward some kind of contract with dragonkind. Maybe the human king saved a royal egg 500 years ago and as a reward... etc.

Then, I can have the original terms lost to human knowledge, but the dragons know that time is up. The PCs can learn and then try to talk dragons into renewal.

I do like the idea of dragons deciding what they become. Maybe a magical artifact where they grow from juvinile to adolescent and can determine "type "
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Old 09-03-2021, 08:18 AM   #6
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Default Re: [kids game] Ideas for dragons

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Originally Posted by khorboth View Post
I'm having a hard time coming up with good ideas for dragons in a homebrew world. I'm running it for my kids, 6 & 8. High-fluff, low-crunch.

My 6-year-old wants to be a dragon-trainer. Fine. I'm looking to put dragons center-stage. But then... I'm kinda overwhelmed with choice. How should I design dragons?

She loves the extended universe of How to Train Your Dragon on Netflix, but I just can't deal with that level of terrible worldbuilding. I just can't.

So, I'm looking to put them in a mountainous, resource-rich kingdom which has maintained peace with their neighbors because only this one kingdom knows how to train dragons. I'm then going to build drama about egg-stealing and secret-stealing, and maybe all the dragons leaving and having to be called back.

So, my biggest questions, I guess, are: How much variety should I have in dragons? How many dragons should I have? Why can only this one kingdom train them? (I'm thinking it's some magical talent in the royal line) What is the mechanism of training?

What are your thoughts, great crowd to whom I'm sourcing?
You haven't said anything about what your 8-year-old (hereinafter older) wants and that may impact your setting. If the older wants their character to be or do something other than HtTYD, that will alter your setting by 50%. OTOH, if the older is fine with the setting as an idea, then you just need to meet their expectations for fun. I'm not sure that you've sat down and gone over what the appeal of HtTYD is for both of them, because it's that appeal that you need to cater to in your worldbuilding, not necessarily trying to replicate the HtTYD universe, only less terrible.

How should you design your dragons? According to the roles they need to fill. You've said that this is going to be a high fluff, low crunch game, so even if the kids want a "great variety of dragons" that doesn't mean you need even a stat block for each and every variety. Dragons should break down to maybe as many as four that you need to stat out, then reskin the descriptions as much as you want. (I think I've seen a couple of episodes from the Netfix series, but I'm primarily going off the movies for this.)

First and foremost, you need to stat Toothless, or whatever dragon your kid or kids are going to have as their personal dragon. Its stats will determine the challenges your kids can face down. You'll be playing the role of one or both dragons, so you'll need to think about the dragon's personality, which is probably going to be paramount to your kids, more so than whatever stats you dream up for it. To stat it, you should probably think of the dragon as equipment for your kid when statting it. So the dragon as equipment brings the following items to the table: transportation (flight, speed and maneuverability as well as the ability to carry fairly large loads [treasure/loot mostly, but necessary supplies as well]); size (big enough to be impressive; sized to be ridden, probably just behind the neck, so it can still be very big; small enough to mostly go where the kids go); a big gun weapon (it shouldn't be the first weapon your kids go for, but when they do it should one-shot any opposition that isn't meant to be a comparable threat and take down those comparable threats in two or three shots; the only exception should be for the boss-villain's dragon). If both kids are going to have dragons, the dragons should be pretty close to equal in stats (and you'll need to watch out for subtle things that break that equality. Making one dragon a little stronger and the other a little less dexterous sounds good, until you find that the reduced DX of the higher ST dragon reduced its Move by 1, so now it's also slower (better to make one with higher HT and the other with higher DX which then doesn't change Move).

The second dragon should be most other dragons. Your kids' Toothless should, for the bulk of any adventure, be the best dragon out there and the difference is immediately noticeable. Toothless is faster, stronger, does more damage and carries more than any other dragon. As a guide, Toothless should handily win any one-on-one fight and have a good chance in a two-on-one fight (not necessarily winning, but coming out the other side having survived with not much more than superficial damage).

The third dragon is a boss dragon, big enough and mean enough to be a real challenge to Toothless [not necessarily one that your kids need Strategy or Tactics rolls to beat, unless they enjoy that kind of challenge]. It should be capable of defeat, but not easily and you'll want to think about how to make it a threat that follows the fairy tale rule of three: the first time shows what happens; the second time confirms what happens; the third time overcomes/gets around what happens.

The fourth dragon is only needed if your kids have ally dragon-trainers with dragons. These are the subtly not-as-good as Toothless dragons. They can mostly keep up most of the time and mostly do as well as Toothless in battle. This is the place for a dragon that is, say 2 DX and 2 HT lower than Toothless and so also 1 Move slower, maybe 2 or 3 DR lower, with a breath weapon maybe 1d-1 less damaging, etc.

How much variety should you have in your dragons? Since you're reskinning the stats with new descriptions, as many as it takes to please your kids. All you need is to make note of the descriptions. If it looks different visually and the breath weapon is described differently (ex. fireball vs. lightning bolt) your kids probably won't care that they're the exact same dragon "under the hood", so you don't need to care either.

How many dragons should you have? Again, enough to please your kids. They may be fine with being the only two dragon-trainers in the world. They may want and be fine with: a lot of wild dragons; occasional raids by migrating flocks of dragons; or they've got the only known, living dragons on the planet. You need to find out what they're expecting, which means finding out what they see as the attractions of the HtTYD universe.

You may want to leave the question of why is this the only kingdom that can train dragons alone and instead answer the question why is my kid able to train this dragon. You may disappoint your daughter if you "just give her a dragon to train." She may want to have a big part of her first adventure be playing the initial meeting, similar to Hiccup's meeting Toothless and gaining his friendship before anything else happens and if she does, it needs to be memorable and exciting. I wouldn't want to sell her short on having that adventure, if that's something she considers important. Incidentally, you may want to see if she has a preference for a boy dragon or a girl dragon as her new best friend.

Last edited by Curmudgeon; 09-03-2021 at 11:32 AM. Reason: clarification; moved word
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Old 09-03-2021, 11:55 AM   #7
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Default Re: [kids game] Ideas for dragons

Maybe the reason this kingdom has all the dragons is simple geography: that's where dragons live, in those particular mountains, and they just won't breed or thrive elsewhere.
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Old 09-04-2021, 09:46 PM   #8
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Default Re: [kids game] Ideas for dragons

In the original books, Hiccup becomes the greatest dragon trainer because he spends all his time watching dragons and learns to speak their language. A possibility. If you do the thing about the contract with the dragons, though, it might be better not to have any humans be able to talk to the dragons, at least not at first, or not well, so that why the dragons are leaving is a mystery to solve.

In the TV series (I haven't seen the film), some of the fun comes from all the dragons having different abilities - some breathe fire, some are just huge, some have armour-plating, some are electric, some can freeze things, some can breathe underwater, all sorts - and the riders having to MacGyver their way out of things using the powers of different dragons, their own or wild ones. (The one that can cut metal with its acid comes up a lot.)
If your kids like that part, then you'll need plenty of different dragons with different abilities to play with.
That probably doesn't mean you need to make lots of stat blocks separately. As Curmudgeon said, you can just have a few stat blocks, say "our dragon" "friend's dragon" "small dragon" "big dragon", and just change the superpower.
(If the impossibility of one little kingdom supporting dozens of whole species of dragon bothers you then they can be all the same species that's just really varied, maybe there's even some way to change how they turn out, as other people have said.)
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Last edited by Inky; 09-04-2021 at 09:59 PM.
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Old 09-05-2021, 07:54 AM   #9
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Default Re: [kids game] Ideas for dragons

I appreciate the feedback everyone. I've been digesting.

My current thinking is:

Dragons start as eggs laid singlely, hatch as wingless wyrmlings. They're pretty dumb in this state. Lizard-dumb. In the wild, they'd need care and bond with their parents/caretakers. In the Kingdom, humans with dragon-empathy can bond with them and convince the parents to move on rather than doing full-time care.

After about 5 years, they Elevate. This is a magical process. In the wild, this is done with the help of the full adults which don't exist in the Kingdom. In the Kingdom, the Dragon Altar calls the wyrmlings on the exact 5-year anniversary of their hatching. The human they're bonded to can guide them to one side of the Altar (design pending) where their next form is determined.

Then, they are in their adolescent form. There are 4: Earth, Air, Fire, Water. Any male/female pair can breed together to create an egg. They are the same species. In the Kingdom, this is believed to be the adult form. These are large enough to ride and are smarter than dogs, though have about the same intelligence range. This form lasts about 10 years. In the Kingdom, on the 10th anniversary of the Elevation, they fly up higher than any can follow and are believed to fly to heaven. In reality, they are flying North to join the adults.

In adult form, they are changed once again in a kind of continuing metamorphosis. A chain of continued specialization. Earth to metal or stone or whatnot. Fire to lava or heat or whatnot. I won't need specifics for a bit. But I'm looking at a large variety here. These are also human-smart and highly magical. They are responsible for the Elevation steps in the wild and can, to a certain degree, control the younger dragons.

I'm thinking that after a few introductory adventures, the deal will expire, and the PCs will have to trek to the dragons and find out what is happening. Then convince the adult dragons to enter into a new deal. This won't be too hard because dragons are physically unsuited to crafts and building. Predators like dragon eggs which they spend much of their effort protecting. This has also forced them to lay eggs in less-than-ideal conditions forcing them to expend magic keeping the eggs warm which requires extra vigilance. The human design for the hatchery is something that the dragons could never make. Therefore, they have really flourished with the influx of adolescents from the Kingdom.

This should sate the kids' desire to be heroic, not be too bloody, get lots of wonder, and still be engaging enough. I'm working on a magic system which will be collaborative between them and handle the problem-solving fun without the need for 37,000 dragons like in the show.

Thoughts?

While I appreciate the feedback on stat-blocks, that's too much crunch. I probably won't even have a single stat-block. General comparisons are all I'm looking at. All dragons can breathe fire, but fire dragons can shape it differently. Water dragons have weaker armor. That's as deep as I'm gunna go.
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Old 09-05-2021, 08:14 AM   #10
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Default Re: [kids game] Ideas for dragons

Adult dragons will need a language that can be understood by trainers and they'll need to be able to understand humans.

And the adolescent stage needs to be able to breed for humans to think of that stage as the final/adult stage. Otherwise you get situations like "Where'd you get that dragon (egg)?" "From that giant dragon-like creature that definitely wasn't a dragon itself."
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