Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Dragons: The Creation of Narya & The Masters of Smolder

“My armor is like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, 
 the shock of my tail a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!”

Perhaps, no monster in fantasy is as iconic as the dragon. After all, they don't call it "Dungeons and Hydras" or "Dungeons and Owlbears". Nope. They call it Dungeons and Dragons.


I am sure you know the answer to this question but, for the sake of this article, humor me: what are dragons?

Dragons are legendary creatures with serpentine, reptilian and avian features and, typically, fly, breath fire and possess magical qualities. There are two main types of dragons depicted in literature and media: European, which are animalistic reptilian sexrupeds (possessing four legs and two wings) and Eastern, which are  intelligent serpentine quadrapeds. Traditionally, Dungeons and Dragons is more concerned with intelligent European-style dragons, but these two paradigms hardly represent the gamut of draconic creatures depicted in cultures from around the world. Why are they so omnipresent in world cultures? By answering that question, we can probably understand why they might just be the ultimate monsters.

Dragons, of some sort, seem to be represented in civilizations across world history independently of each other. These legendary creatures are even found in the art and religions of civilizations like ancient Mesopotamia, such as with the depiction of Tiamat (depicted above), the inspiration for the classic Dungeons & Dragons villainous god. Personally, I adhere to the theory that I'll call "omnimythical" or, that is to say, that dragons are an example of a mythological staple in all cultures due to universal needs and shared ancestry. In this case, dragons serve as both an amalgam and exaggeration of primal fear for creatures including but not limited to: snakes, large lizards, crocodiles, large cats, birds of prey and more. By combining the features of these creatures, the quadrupedal body of a large cat,  the wings and talons of a bird of prey, the scales of large reptile, and the elongated neck similar to that of a serpent, we come upon a shape representing the animals that threatened men in the wilderness. It honestly makes more sense than dragons have ever existed outside of these myths.

And, as for the fiery breath, I'm not exactly sure about the origins of that myth but it is easy to imagine the dangerous power of fire if you've ever seen a large wildfire, a building catch fire or the use of a flamethrower. The addition of that, mostly, supernatural element creates an enemy that is more dangerous than any natural predator and, by combining that with human or above human intelligence, we get the iconic villain of fantasy.

Side note: I would love to hear some theories on why fire breath is practically omnipresent in dragon mythology?

As is traditional in Dungeons and Dragons, there are good dragons and evil dragons in Sublanarya of various metallic kind or color. Most dragons in Sublanarya are evil "chromatic" dragons and, in fact, in the Tytanyan Age, there are believed to be no good "metallic" dragons left alive. The smallest dragons are the size of a horse and the largest can take on truly unfathomable proportions. Quadrapedal, winged and reptillian creatures with high intelligence, an affinity for magic, breath weapons, and, in the case of chromatic dragons, a strong desire for power, wealth and comforts.

There are other true dragons but those are not relevant in Sublanarya.

Ultimately, in the world of Narya(yes, I'm done with the silly book report section of the article), dragons play a vital role in not only the balance of power but in the creation of the world itself. This article will breakdown the creation myth of Narya, the role of dragons through out Sublanaryan history, and the dragons of Smolder in the Tytanyan Pact.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

"So, what if the elves are the bad guys?"

This is probably a strange place to start but BARE WITH ME because I do get into some lore that, honestly, I find engaging:

I'm sure this isn't a completely and wholly original idea but that is where it started. The seeds for this dream started with binge watching Netflix. I had been watching a lot of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. 

 A major contribution of DS9 to the Star Trek Universe, in my opinion, was the exploration of the effects of colonization/resistance/revolution, etc.,  and the addition of species with more complex and deep cultures. Traditionally in Star Trek, each species could be soully defined by a single characteristics: Vulcans are logical and Klingons are warriors. DS9 introduced species with far more complex motives and persona that were harder to pin down while being more relatable and alien to humanity: the Cardassians and the collective species that make up the Dominion.

The Cardassians were very believable as an alien species because they were a dark mirror of humanity in the Trek verse. They shared a lot of personality traits but, collectively, chose a path of militarization and conquest. When confronted with the objectively morally superior Federation, the Cardassians are often forced to defend themselves as individuals and their entire culture. It is fascinating to see the mental gymnastics a Cardassian character has to go through to justify genocide and colonization. After all, they are basically Star Trek's equivalent to nazis.

The Dominion, on the other hand, catches my interest because of the interaction between a variety of species to create a complex hierarchy. They are lawful society, despite creating entire races for slavery and committing genocide against their enemies. Why? Because it is all justified under the auspices of creating a safer galaxy (mostly for themselves) and that is a fascinating motive for a species painted as antagonist. They are tyrants but, ultimately, they're selfishly benevolent tyrants and that is what I wanted to build upon.

So, I decided that in my setting, I wanted to re-purpose classic fantasy races to tell the stories this world is designed to tell, while remaining true to many of the core elements and themes of the species, but also evolving species into very interesting roles previously unexplored. After all, my fantasy settings tend to lean away from the medieval and more towards the Renaissance. I want to create a world that mirrors the "Age of Discovery".

With that in mind, we get to the question at the impetus of this setting's creation:

So, what if elves ARE the bad guys?

Friday, July 8, 2016

"Welcome to Sublanarya! Welcome to the Tytanyan Age!"

"Welcome to Sublanarya. Welcome to the Tytanyan Age."

Hello, would-be adventurers. If you are reading this, most likely, you have been invited to read, share, and contribute to the creation of my most ambitious and fully realized setting that I have ever developed for personal use in Dungeons and Dragons. I am deeply invested in developing this setting to the point where other GMs can confidently run campaigns in their own version of the setting using the various tools and fluff I've come up with.

If you haven't been formally invited, you're still welcome to read and comment. And, if you're new here, you might be wondering who I am, yes?

My name is Sean W. Barnes, I am a writer with a BA in Creative Writing and History, and I have been playing Dungeons and Dragons for over a half a decade. I have played and/or GMed just about every version of D & D and have mucked about in games like Pathfinder, Call of Cthulu, Shadowrun, Ironclaw, Vampire the Masquerade, Star Wars: Force and Destiny, and more.

To get a little bit more personal: I am 26. My hobbies include video games, film, genre television, and all manner of animation. I live near Memphis, TN, where I currently and begrudgingly work in retail (for the time being), rather than acting or writing professionally, and, especially while driving to and from work, I spend a lot of time building fantasy worlds in my head. Fantasy and fiction is the realm that I venture to escape the drudgery of reality, building it with blocks from non-fiction, and now? Now, I want to share my imagination with you! That's really what we're here to talk about, huh? No more stalling? Okay. Let's talk about Sublanarya.


So way back in 2014, I decided I wanted to build a new D & D setting for 5th Edition. One that wasn't silly like the Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll world of Sixx or built upon riffing upon someone else's work like Discworld inspired Beniro. So, I started brainstorming for a new world that would become Sublanarya (formerly called Nyumeneera). I wanted this to not just be a fantasy setting but a D & D setting, so I had the building blocks that most D & D settings have in common: magic, gods and religion, classes, fantastic races, the alignment system, monsters, etc. Looking at the toolbox and wanting to create something that deviated from most of my experiences, I asked myself a question:

What if the elves are the bad guys?

I'll go into further detail on that subject in the next article. For now? Here is my summary of this setting:

Sublanarya takes place in a world and time where feudalistic and tribal societies are under threat of being dominated by a militarily, culturally, magically and technologically advanced authoritarian empire of high elves. Meanwhile, older empires volley for a place in a shifting landscape, extraterrestrial and/or extra-dimensional threats rear their ugly heads, and mysteries lie in all directions over the borders of the known world and across the oceans. Heroes of Sublanarya have a choice: do they stand up against the tyranny of colonization, do they advance the empire themselves, or do they just try to avoid politics altogether and pursue the unknown threats to the world?

If the elves are the "bad guys", then who are the "good guys"?

If that sounds like an intriguing setting, stick around. I intend to go into detail about the history of the Sublanaryan people, each classic dungeons and dragons race's place in Sublanarya and how they interact with the unique races to this setting, the various threats facing citizens from monsters to poverty and so much more. I even, eventually, plan on detailing the other continents on Sublanarya's world (called "Narya").

I am a little out of practice with writing and a little bit nervous, but I hope that I can create breath life back into a world that needs to be experienced. This is where I start.

Thank you.

P.S. The next two articles will be about elves and dragons.