On the Origins of Dragon Species
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    On the Origins of Dragon Species

    Warning: rambling discourse ahead. I've been pondering why the founding nerds picked those 5 colors and 6 metals for the core dragons.

    First, we have damage types. OD&D initially recognized fire, cold, and lightning. Black dragons & trolls bring acid into play, but the word never appears in descriptions of corrosive oozes or other creatures. Dragons had a separate table noting resistances & vulnerabilities to the following 5 sources: water, fire, lightning, air, & earth. Cold seems to count as water type, but acid and poison don't count as any of them. Air & earth were only relevant to elementals.

    Tiamat appears to be based on the seven-headed serpent Têmtum (aka Lotan in other myths). Why only five heads? I think it's because they couldn't dream up appropriate breath weapons for two more dragons. Chlorine Gas was already a terribly awkward leap.

    It's clear that although Arneson, Gygax, and friends cared deeply about historically accurate arms & armor, they cared not at all about historically accurate chemistry. Chlorine and Platinum weren't known until the 1700s. In addition to king of the lawful dragons, Bahamut is king of D&D anachronisms.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_chemical_element_discoveries

    Someone in Lake Geneva was a huge fan of copper alloys. But it galls me that if bronze and brass are so important to deserve dragons, then why not Tin and Zinc?

    Adding insult to injury, the expanded list of dragons (Dragon Magazine et al) picked bizarrely modern metals. Cobalt, Tungsten, Chromium? Three more 18th Century discoveries. At least Iron is appropriate, and one or two splatbooks rightly have a Mercury Dragon.

    Lead, however, gets no respect. The 2nd oldest metal known to man, long before the Bronze Age, but it's never gotten an official dragon. Even though every single one of those other dragons were represented using miniatures made out of lead!
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    Fantasy.

    Not reality.

    The technology of a typical D&D game - when putting all magic aside - is a mishmash of eras. And that makes some real sense, if you think about it. The rate of technological advancement in a world would be quite different if the smartest people around all tend to use magic rather than science.

    Regardless, the answer as to why thse 5 colors of chromatic dragons and why those 6 metals ... is likely really just about preferences and flavor. Not mechanics, science and reason.
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    Why are we trying to tie Tiamat to random gods? There was literally a goddess Tiamat.

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    In my setting, there are 7 varieties of metallic dragon - lead, copper, tin, iron, silver, quicksilver (the name “mercury” doesn’t make sense in a world without the god for which it is named), and gold, corresponding to the 7 classical metals of alchemy, with Bahamut being the Orichalcum dragon, rather than platinum, repesenting metal perfected by the Great Work. There are 4 varieties of chromatic dragon - black, white, citrine, and red, representing both the four most widely recognized stages of the Great Work, as well as the four humors, and are characterized by the temperaments associated with an over abundance of their respective humors, with the seven-headed Tiamat representing the Peacock’s tail and the failure of the Great Work.

    Alchemy is a big thing in my setting.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Immortal Sun View Post
    Why are we trying to tie Tiamat to random gods? There was literally a goddess Tiamat.
    Read the article you just referenced. The mythological Tiamat was sometimes depicted as a serpent, but she was strictly one-headed. The extra heads only appear in later mash-ups with Temtun/Lotan/Leviathan.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Charlaquin View Post
    In my setting, there are 7 varieties of metallic dragon - lead, copper, tin, iron, silver, quicksilver (the name “mercury” doesn’t make sense in a world without the god for which it is named), and gold, corresponding to the 7 classical metals of alchemy,
    Very cool.

    I went the other direction, and decided that the rules of the game represent the underlying physics of the game universe. Each dragon type embodies one of the essential forces of the universe, aka the 10 energy damage types, so I filled in extra colors & metals to match.
    Last edited by Frankie1969; Friday, 10th May, 2019 at 01:08 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frankie1969 View Post

    ...
    .

    .....It's clear that although Arneson, Gygax, and friends cared deeply about historically accurate arms & armor, they cared not at all about historically accurate chemistry. Chlorine and Platinum weren't known until the 1700s. In addition to king of the lawful dragons, Bahamut is king of D&D anachronisms.

    .Lead, however, gets no respect. The 2nd oldest metal known to man, long before the Bronze Age, but it's never gotten an official dragon. Even though every single one of those other dragons were represented using miniatures made out of lead!
    LOL HA HA HA ....cared deeply about historically accurate arms & armor...... I glad the coffee is not made.
    HOLY MOLLY US GAMERS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE EXTINTICTION OF A TOTAL SPECIES.
    Yes we killed off all the lead dragons so we could play Dungeons and dragons.
    I shall go through myself out the window.
    crash
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    I believe the origin of metallic dragons had more to do with in-game currency and metallurgy than it had to do with scientific discovery of those metals. The mystery, though added later in an issue of Dragon, is why they added Bronze and Brass instead of Iron and Electrum dragons, which IMO is due to armor and weapon types ( Iron weapons, Bronze Plate, et al) more so than currency.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jasper View Post
    LOL HA HA HA ....cared deeply about historically accurate arms & armor...... I glad the coffee is not made.
    HOLY MOLLY US GAMERS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE EXTINTICTION OF A TOTAL SPECIES.
    Yes we killed off all the lead dragons so we could play Dungeons and dragons.
    I shall go through myself out the window.
    crash
    They killed off all the lead dragons at my table tooo!!

    /mourn Ral Partha
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    Quote Originally Posted by Immortal Sun View Post
    Why are we trying to tie Tiamat to random gods? There was literally a goddess Tiamat.
    Thankfully you have linked the article here. If you look under other names for Tiamat, you can see the tranliteration of the Akkadian cuneiform sign value "TAM.TUM" and TI.AMAT," both of which were names alternatively used for the mythological figure. The link between a TAM.TUM/TI.AMAT in Akkad (Mesopotamia) and a Têmtum in Ugarit (northern Levant) should not be difficult, especially given their Semitic language roots. (And the connection between the aforementioned Lotan and the figure of the Leviathan, which is again more obvious when looking at the Semitic roots.) But the multiheaded serpentine depictions of Tiamat (or presumed artistic depictions of Tiamat) are not exactly common. We instead find this sort of depiction more frequently in Levantine (and West Semitic) analogues, though this a resurfacing of this motif becomes far more prominent in MUCH MUCH LATER biblical apocalyptic writing. Considering how loosely EGG connects Bahamut/Behemoth to a platinum dragon, it's possible that EGG was just looking for a cool, ancient sounding name from the grab-bag of West Asian mythological names to apply to his monsters. (A goddess who is meant to embody the very essence of primordial chaos is Lawful Evil? )
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