D&D General Are dragons wings too small/little?

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
There's a theory that we haven't evolved to accurately understand reality, we've evolved to survive. So the world does not necessarily work the way we think but the way we perceive the world is good enough.

On a related note, ancient Greeks like many old civilizations didn't see the color "blue" because they had no word for it and the sky was just a shade of green. :geek:
I’ve dived into that phenomenon, including modern remote cultures that have no word for blue as a separate color form green, and in both cases (old and new), there is terminology for different shades of “green” that include “the shade of green that the sky and those one flowers are”, etc.

So, they certainly saw a difference between leaves and the sky, and probably did actually “see blue”.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
People from the Himba tribe literally cannot distinguish between a blue swatch and a green swatch of the same hue. They will tell you that both swatches are green. I'll let the philosophers debate what that, along with the fact that nothing is really a solid object, means.

For purposes of this thread, the point is that anyone observing two flying dragons probably could not distinguish between a dragon flying because they weighed less than expected or because the dragon is relying on magic in addition to the downward force exerted by their wings to fly.
They absolutely can, though. They call both the same thing, but see them as different “greens”.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I care about the mass because I want my dragons to be powerful, F=ma. The mass is important.

Personally I like the idea of GoT dragons with their extremely heavy "iron" bones, thus needing to be even more powerfully magical!
If they lose mass, but gain momentum via greater strength (stronger muscle attachments, more of their total mass dedicated to muscle, skeletal structure that better supports strength), their power can remain the same.

If what you need from them is for them to shake the earth when they land, then yeah you need more mass.
 

Not really relevant because there is a reason this experiment works and the thing about the color green and the greeks didnt (though in a controles setting there probably is a way to make this happen with enough brute force) but, in the context of historically significant psychology experiments, does the pairing of the words "kittens", "stripes", and "tilt" fill anyone else here with a burning lust to murder a certain someone in a labcoat who also in real life comically wore what seems to be a villain cape? My fellow psych nerds know about the a-hole im referencing.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
They absolutely can, though. They call both the same thing, but see them as different “greens”.

As anthro student at one point, this is sort of true. The actual test is that culturals that don't have separate words, and thus ideas, for blue or green are better able to sort a range of shades from what we considerly obviously green (the colour of grass) to blue (the colour of the sky) and everything in between. So there's a link between ideas and ability to express those ideas in a physical context.
 

Oofta

Legend
The issue with blue vs green is that you can do a test with three different color swatches that certain (even most) people cannot distinguish. Show the swatches to one person and they can't pick out which one is different. But some people can tell the difference and will pick out the unique color every time.

If you don't have a word for the color blue you literally cannot pick out a blue swatch from green swatches of a similar hue. On the other hand if, like the Himba you have lots of words for green that we don't have they can pick out a different shade of green every time that most people simply don't see. You can read about it here if you want.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
The issue with blue vs green is that you can do a test with three different color swatches that certain (even most) people cannot distinguish. Show the swatches to one person and they can't pick out which one is different. But some people can tell the difference and will pick out the unique color every time.

If you don't have a word for the color blue you literally cannot pick out a blue swatch from green swatches of a similar hue. On the other hand if, like the Himba you have lots of words for green that we don't have they can pick out a different shade of green every time that most people simply don't see. You can read about it here if you want.

I read a research paper on it in the 2001 as part of an anthropology course. I'm a little rusty on the details, but I'm familiar enough.

There's also an interesting bit of biology where some people have quadchromatic vision rather than trichromatic vision like most of us. It lets them seem partially into ultraviolet ranges so they can more easily distinguish shades of colour across the entire spectrum.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
Have any of you seen the McFarland dragons? (Okay, better to ask who hasn't, I suppose).

Here's one with credibly Large wings

One Sci-writer used intelligent avians in his tales, and the challenge he addressed was getting enough oxygen to handle the metabolic demands of flight. His solution was slits under the wings, something akin to gills on a fish, that pumped when the wings flapped, becoming an effective supercharger right when and where you needed it.

As for wing size, I've just figured that they scare the hell out of the laws of physics, sy physics tries to avoid them whenever it can.
 

dave2008

Legend
Have any of you seen the McFarland dragons? (Okay, better to ask who hasn't, I suppose).
Yep, I love those dragons. I have even used a few as "minis" in some D&D adventures.
Here's one with credibly Large wings
Actually, if you assume RL animal construction (density close to water, etc.) those wings are not even close to being large enough. They may look large enough, but in terms of RL physics, not so much.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
I didn't say they were actually right, just credible. Something I learned a long time ago regarding game rules: There are three things to consider in game rules: Realism, credibility and playability.

We've had lots of discussions about physics and magic, and we know that they don't mix very well. Realism is nice, but if normal play requires a scientific calculator, something's wrong. (I recall a superhero game that required the extraction of square roots to calculate damage in some situations.) Rules that sound right can be credible without having to be purely scientific. Think of them as a bit more cinematic, if you like.

Also, there are occasions where real world physics goes 100% against what most people would expect. (Check orbital mechanics, for example: If you want to catch a ship ahead of yours while both are in orbit, you have to fire braking thrusters. Try to accelerate and you'll fall farther behind. More velocity pushes you into a higher orbit, which means a longer orbital period.)

So credible trumps realistic, but playable tops them all. It's nice to get all three, but rare. Two is good, but one of them has to be "playable".

The size of dragon wings has very little impact on how playabale an encounter is, so we can decide which is more important, realistic or credible. Since we're talking about a creature that flatly can't exist in the real world, credible is my choice.

So sue me. :)
 


xshibax

"BURN THEM ALL" Aerys Targaryen
And beholders shouldn't can float in the air, nor the floating islands from Pandora (James Cameron's avatar).

Really winged creatures as dragons, pegasus or gryphons can fly against natural laws because there are midichlorians within their cells who allow an anti-gravity effect like the carvorite minerals.
Awesome Star Wars reference. However, there are already real life animals, most extinct, but some not, that break so many laws of physics with their ability to fly. I'll post something else when I have more time about how it works.
 


xshibax

"BURN THEM ALL" Aerys Targaryen
Alright, so most pterosaurs actually defied physics due to the fact that their wings didn't line up with their body weight/size. If you are to increase the length of an animal, (ex., a dragon,) it would be x. As x increases, the wings would grow by x². This would make it easier to fly, right? Absolutely not. As the body gets longer, and the wings get larger, so does the mass. As the length increases by x, and the wings increase by x², the mass actually increases by x³.

That is a lot of weight to add, right? So you would need something that makes it easier to fly. Hollow bones, like some birds? No, they would weigh too much and crush their own bones. How about solid bones? Well, those weigh more, and would make it even more difficult.
Now say that your dragon looks like Schwarzenegger, as jacked as humanly possible. You would be strong enough, right? Nope, you are just adding weight.

What a dragon may have, though, is some kind of organ, like another lung, that just fills with air. Many fish have these to cause more buoyancy, and some birds have even been known to have them so they can fly easier.

That is about all I can give for how a dinosaur could fly with smaller wings.
 

I look at dragon art and I notice that the wings of dragon are pretty small for such a large creature.
Shouldn't the wings have more surface volume? I know it is all fantasy and such, but it just seems to defy the laws of physics.
It kind of reminds me of an Amnizu, although I don't know if they can actually fly.

Shouldn't the wings of dragons be larger, plus extend down into their tails for more muscle and attachment to the body for longer wings?
You can’t use physics for dragons. Their wings would have to be impossibly large to work. Best to go with what feels right. Personally I like when they were smaller and we didn’t pretend that they could actually work - it was magic baby!
 

Laurefindel

Legend
Heh, almost missed the 2-year necro. While i prefer larger wings for aesthetic reasons, larger wings also make dragon flight ever so slightly more believable and sometimes, ever so slightly more believable is enough to satisfy the need for «realism».

I do like the irony of the « because dragons! » argument used to legitimize dragons however.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Alright, so most pterosaurs actually defied physics due to the fact that their wings didn't line up with their body weight/size. If you are to increase the length of an animal, (ex., a dragon,) it would be x. As x increases, the wings would grow by x². This would make it easier to fly, right? Absolutely not. As the body gets longer, and the wings get larger, so does the mass. As the length increases by x, and the wings increase by x², the mass actually increases by x³.

That is a lot of weight to add, right? So you would need something that makes it easier to fly. Hollow bones, like some birds? No, they would weigh too much and crush their own bones. How about solid bones? Well, those weigh more, and would make it even more difficult.
Now say that your dragon looks like Schwarzenegger, as jacked as humanly possible. You would be strong enough, right? Nope, you are just adding weight.

What a dragon may have, though, is some kind of organ, like another lung, that just fills with air. Many fish have these to cause more buoyancy, and some birds have even been known to have them so they can fly easier.

That is about all I can give for how a dinosaur could fly with smaller wings.
The pterasaurs didn't defy physics, though...

Scientists have opposing theories on how the largest of them flew, but even then it's mostly about how long they could fly without landing, and whether they were limited to initiating flight by jumping off of something or if they could get off the ground on wing power. They aren't confused as to like...how they could have possibly flown.

DND dragons are much more massive than any ancient flyer IRL, however. Like extremely so.
 

Ah, thread necromancy. Almost didn't hit quota for January! :p

An actual dragon would need to be made of unobtainium to reduce weight, have some sort of solution for the square-cube law, and (yes) would need wings significantly larger compared to their body size.

They are fundamentally, in almost every way, antagonistic to the laws of physics. Their body size (too large), body weight (MUCH too large), wing size (too small), elemental breath, lifespan, breeding habits, feeding habits, sleeping habits, lairing tendencies, hoarding tendencies, and more are all contradictory to physical law in one way or another. (E.g. the hoards make no sense because an "average" dragon hoard would be worth billions in a world where millionaires are extremely rare. There just aren't enough prosperous political units to support the kinds of dragon hoards you can acquire in D&D. Physical resource extraction rates alone, nevermind the social expertise required for things like furniture, paintings, gemcutting, etc., could never support more than one or two dragons in the whole world, let alone a dragon in every other mountain range!)

As a result of their inherently unrealistic (I personally prefer "fantastical") nature, I've considered an alternative explanation for dragons that I think is pretty neat, if I do say so myself. Dragons as extraplanar refugees. In their home reality, dragons are not the top dogs. That's something like tarrasques (yes, plural) or the like. Dragons have predators in that other world, though they are also predators themselves. While food resources are scarce, mineral resources are plentiful and can be used as a form of protection--perhaps dragons in Dragonhome keep predators away from their nests using shiny crystals.

Suddenly, a whole bunch of weirdness has a naturalistic explanation. Dragon breath is a defense mechanism against predation. Dragons that live longer have more children. Building hoards of shiny, valuable things is a defense mechanism for their nests, and is instinctively recognized as "home" even for dragons that have only lived in "our" world (that is, the "main" world of a setting.) Dragons are naturally magical because everything is naturally magical in their home dimension, they just don't normally live long enough to capitalize on it--and perhaps they can draw on the magic of "our" world in a way no one else can, which is what lets them do their thing. They're naturally solitary in their own world, only rarely forming pair-bonds to mate, but the instinct to hunt and protect a territory etc. evolves into their notorious lairing tendencies. And they can grow as powerful as they do because they have no natural predators in their "adopted" worlds, but they're cunning enough to be aware of, and avoid, the possibility of ecological collapse. (Perhaps this is a lesson learned from a previous world they "adopted" and overran?)

Their hibernation cycles are some kind of natural response to the conditions of their home reality (perhaps there are magical seasons of devastating power, so dragons hibernate in places similar to their nesting sites until the season becomes more hospitable.) Those conditions don't apply in their adopted world(s), but the instinctive hibernation cycle remains. Dragons that reach "great wyrm" stage (well over a millennium, based on what sources I can find quickly) are incredibly ancient by their native world's standards, which allows them to attain mental, physical, and magical heights impossible in their native reality.

So yeah. Dragons as semi-eldritch beings native to a plane of reality where the laws of physics are fundamentally different. Worth a thought for your next campaign!
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
Dragon flight is definitely based only on magic and not in any way aerodynamics or real world physics in any way. Now just because some artists depict dragons with overly tiny wings perhaps (not in my experience, but then I don't study dragon art that deepy, at least not other people's art). When I create dragons, not that I give any thought to wing size vs. animal size, but I guess I create better versions because I'm not trying design a specific dragon type that was previously determined by other artists - I don't care what other artists have done, and their previous work does not impact my work in any way. Here's a recent 3D dragon illustration I created as a potential Spelljammer ship for a collection I'm working on to publish, but it didn't make the cut as one of the inclusions. Though I called this a Drake and not a Dragon...


drake.jpg
 


An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top