Ponies of the Eclipse – Dragon Speculations

And today it’s another offline question… “What would Spike (from “Friendship is Magic”, not Buffy the Vampire Slayer) look like in Eclipse?

Well, the trouble with creating a racial template for Equestarian Dragons is that it’s going to be pretty speculative. Yes, we see a fair amount of Spike (although his activities are often rather repetitive since he’s mostly a foil for Twilight and personal mail system) – but we also know that he isn’t entirely typical and other draconic appearances are few and far between. To fill things out a bit, I’m going to see what I can deduce from how Ponies interact with Equestria’s Dragons.

Ponies are the masters of Equestria. They control the sun and moon, the weather, the seasons, and more. They are powerful practitioners of Harmony and Love – the two greatest forces in their universe. Tireks scholarly mentor even outright states that ponies (and Unicorns in particular) have the most powerful magic in the universe. His viewpoint is likely biased, but there’s probably something to it.

Ponies seem to become even more powerful as they attune themselves more closely to the various virtues of the Elements of Harmony. Does it really seem likely to be a coincidence that…

  • Rainbow Dash, a paragon of loyalty, is the fastest (and possibly the toughest, at least judging by the “Rainbomb”) pegasus in all Equestria. What’s more, her abilities can’t be blamed on direct contact with the physical Element of Loyalty without timey-wimey shenanigans since she showed some of them many years before the Elements were reactivated.
  • Applejack, a paragon of honesty, stops stampedes, faces down monsters, and does quite incredible amounts of work. After all, the farm went down the drain in days without her despite everything that Big Mac, Apple Bloom, and Granny Smith could do.
  • Rarity, a paragon of generosity, can carry and toss around multi-ton boulders, outperform a small factory, use far more magical effects than a normal unicorn (including remotely teleporting large objects), is a skilled fighter, and can easily manipulate small swarms of enemies into giving her their treasure.
  • Fluttershy, a paragon of kindness, can stare down cockatrices, communicate with animals and make them all live together peacefully, wrestle bears, model, sing, conduct music, sew, and even reform gods of chaos.
  • Twilight, the “Princess of Friendship”, may be the most powerful mage in Equestria – and certainly demonstrates the desire and ability to make the universe conform to her will that is the essence of magic.
  • And then there’s Pinkie Pie, who can do almost anything.
  • For that matter there’s Cheese Sandwich, who clearly demonstrates that other ponies can tap into such powers without being element-bearers.

Yet we also know that such power is a rare and special thing. How do we know that? Because Equestria has problems AND keeps coming back to the mane six to solve them instead of just letting the general population handle them. Ergo… while ponies are empowered by the forces the Elements of Harmony represent it’s rare for one of them to be enough of a paragon of virtue to get a LOT of power.

And yet… dragons worry even the paragons. In a universe that primarily runs on the harmony of loyalty, honesty, generosity, kindness, laughter, and magic, and secondarily on love, dragons defy those powers. They may appear in small packs as adolescents, but the adults mostly seem to be solitary apex predators. They have a “king”, but their traditional method of choosing one seems to be based on skill in evading traps, competing with each other, raw power, and luck. On their own dragons show distinct tendencies towards…

  • Treachery. Rejecting a kid the moment he disagrees about pointlessly killing something? Spike expects to be betrayed by his “mother” and get replaced by an owl?
  • Deception. The adolescent dragons act accepting and then try to rig their contests? Spike getting their pets and the Cutie Mark Crusaders to deceive the Mane Six?
  • Greed. Spike growing into a monstrous dragon out of greed? Dragonhoards in general?
  • Cruelty. Wanting to smash phoenix eggs? Spike labeling his friends “Hairity, Rainbow Crash, Spitty Pie, Apple Teeny, Flutterguy, and Twilight Flopple” when they’re poisoned and panicked?
  • Wrath. Trying to hurt or kill a toddler for snagging some of your snacks? Inspiring fear the way that they do?
  • Chance: Leaving your kids to roam around unsupervised? Using an obstacle course to decide the potential fate of your entire species?

Dragons still seem to be affected by Love, but it, at most, tempers their behavior. Adult dragons obviously aren’t normally filled with love or keeping a dragon egg in a school and using it to test students would have been pretty horribly offensive wouldn’t it?

When Spike, who was raised by Ponies in isolation from other dragons, gives in to Greed he grows immensely in size and power – but he is restored to normal by the power of his affection for Rarity (incidentally demonstrating that the emotion is both genuine and serious).

So the primary behavioral traits – and apparently power sources – of Dragons are the Inverse Elements. Treachery, Deception, Greed, Cruelty, Wrath, and Chance (the inverse of magic – twisting the odds perhaps, but accepting the way of the universe instead of demanding that it do what you want). I’m going to call these traits the “Discordant Powers”.

Harmony may permeate the world – but that simply means that the outbreaks of the Discordant Powers are tightly focused, and very powerful locally – as shown by Discord himself. There are hundreds of times as many ponies as dragons and their overall power is far greater than the dragons – but that’s not a lot of comfort when it’s only a few dozen ponies against a Dragon who is channeling a lot more of one of the Discordant Powers than the ponies are channeling Harmony.

That… gives us a draconic power source, a reason for Ponies to be very wary of dragons, and a set of motivations all in one. It tells us why Dragons are so individually powerful but yet ponies dominate the world.

It may also imply a relationship between Dragons and Discord and between Dragons and Changelings, but there isn’t much support for that so far.

So what do we need to buy to build an Equestrian Dragon racial template?

Dragons:

Are Extremely Tough. They can leap from a height into magma without being hurt, chew, swallow, and digest sharp fragments of diamond, are highly resistant to energy (especially fire, even if you can get them sooty), and can take one of Rainbow Dash’s full kicks – shown to be capable of smashing through four sizeable trees – without injury.

  • Damage Reduction 5/-, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect; Only versus Physical Attacks, not versus Adamantine (12 CP).
  • Berserker with Odinpower and Enduring, Powered by Mana, +15/- Universal Damage Reduction (also protects against energy) (12 CP). That’s fairly expensive – but will allow a powered-up Equestrian Dragon to shed most weapons like drops of rain.
  • Energy Infusion (Fire, 6 CP). Given that ice cream can upset Spikes stomach when rocks can’t… a vulnerability to excessive amounts of Cold doesn’t seem unreasonable.

Eating gems really isn’t especially advantageous, even in Equestria where they’re absurdly common and inexpensive. After all… a modest gem does seem to have enough value to trade it for a substantially larger sandwich even there – and given that Spike sometimes gorges on them, their effective caloric value can’t be THAT high. Elsewhere… it’s just absurd. Eat that gem worth several hundred gold pieces – or use it to get a hundred gallons of ice cream and other goodies? Dragons seem to like those too… Ergo, no cost.

Are Limited Shapeshifters. They can change size and the details of their appearance – although this does not seem to be entirely under their control. In addition, they are naturally armed and armored. They can also dig well (although they don’t seem to have a burrow speed like Diamond Dogs) and seem to have little use for material possessions (or shovels).

  • Accursed. A dragon’s appearance reflects it’s personality, state of development, and (at least to a limited extent) current mood. This makes them extremely distinctive, hard to fit for equipment, easy to “read” (other creatures get a +5 bonus on Sense Motive against dragons), and makes it easy for other creatures to pretend to be dragons with flimsy disguises. After all, a dragon could easily look like that… (-3 CP).
  • Immunity/having to actually have mundane equipment to get it’s bonuses (mundane equipment is Very Common and not having it is a Minor problem for an adventurer. The Trivial level covers basic tools and clothing, Minor covers light and medium armor and simple weapons, Major covers heavy armor, masterwork stuff and martial weapons, and Great covers exotic weapons, materials, and alchemical gear. That’s 4, 8. 12. Or 24 CP. Dragons normally start at (12 CP).

Once again, I could speculate on a connection with Changelings here. After all… a dragon-pony hybrid might well not have a strong connection to either the Elements of Harmony OR the Discordant Powers. If so, it would be an incomplete creature, lacking a natural source of magic, drives, and emotions – and perhaps needing to take those things from others. A bit of a dragon’s natural toughness for an effectively armored insect-like hide, some fangs, spitting mere sticky goo instead of magically charging the stuff to act more like napalm, the draconic shapeshifting… I could even argue that the holes are due to their shapeshifting reflecting their inherent incompleteness. That may not be what this article is about – but I am being speculative here.

Seem to have a good Constitution, but show no other exceptional attributes save strength – which may just be due to size bonuses – and aren’t especially sociable.

  • Attribute Shift: +2 Con, -2 Cha (6 CP).

Are implied to be very long-lived and easily capable of surviving in the wastelands. Spike – despite being at least ten years old – is considered a baby dragon.

  • Immunity to Aging (Uncommon, Major, Major, 6 CP). Dragons can expect to live for thousands of years.

Are apparently magic-resistant when they want to be – or at least the various unicorns around Ponyville don’t seem to have much luck in dealing with Spike when he’s gotten bigger.

  • Spell/Power Resistance II (12 CP).

Are Firebreathers. They can breathe enormous amounts of fire and/or smoke, possess considerable control over that ability – enough to either melt masses of snow or ice or to make toast – and can use it for at least some magical purposes.

Can, at least as adults, sprout wings and fly at considerable speeds and with fair maneuverability

  • Instinctive Dragon Magic: Innate Enchantment (total value 6320 GP, net cost of 7 CP).
    • Enhance Attribute: Str +2 (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .7 Personal Only = 1400 GP).
    • Enhance Attribute: Con +2 (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .7 Personal Only = 1400 GP).
    • Feathermail (a touch-range Transmutation effect targeting armor, +3 to maximum Dex, -3 to Armor Check Penalty, reduce movement penalty by 10 for 2 rounds/level, Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP (Unlimited-Use Use-Activated) x .7 (Personal-Only) x.8 (“Armor” from Immunity Only) = 1120 GP. Dragons can generally move easily despite their scales.
    • Montage Scene/Power Tool: Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP (Unlimited-Use Use-Activated) x .5 (Only on their internal “tools”) = 1000 GP. Dragons can get a lot more done than would normally be credited – digging like a backhoe, jack hammering through stone, and so on. In general, dragons gets a lot more done than any normal human.
    • Immortal Vigor I (The Practical Enchanter): Provides +(12 + 2 x Con Mod) Hit Points. (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .7 Personal Only = 1400 GP).
  • Immunity/stacking limitations when combining innate enchantment effects with external effects (common/minor/trivial; only covers level 0 or 1 effects) (2 CP).
  • Immunity/the normal XP cost of racial innate enchantments (uncommon/minor/trivial) (1 CP). Dragons are born with their innate enchantments, and need not pay any extra experience for them.
  • Immunity to Dispelling effects (Common/Minor/Great, Specialized and Corrupted / only to protect Racial Innate Enchantments, 4 CP).

This stuff just comes with being a dragon.

Learned Dragon Magic: Inherent Spells, all powered by Mana. Unfortunately, all of these require extensive training to use. Dragons must either spend years wandering and working on self-development, seek out “appropriate” tutors and get them to teach them, or simply level up until they can control these abilities without training, before they can use these. Secondarily, inexperienced dragons fairly often have minor “accidents” with these powers. That’s Corrupted for Reduced Cost (36 CP in total).

  • L2: Essence of the Dragon (SC, Costs 1 Mana)
  • L3: Giant’s Wrath (the Practical Enchanter, +2 Size Levels) and Dragonskin (SC)
  • L4: Flight of the Dragon (SC), Voice of the Dragon (SC)
  • L5: Dragonsight (SC), Grand Earthward (L5)
  • L6: Greater Invocation of Flame (SC), Aura of Terror (SC)

Grand Earthward: L5, activates once per round on it’s own, on or off action, blocking 60 points of damage from any one attack as well as any special effects – poison, energy drain, or whatever – that it might have).

A L6 Greater Invocation of Flame produces Fire effects of  up to level five – ranging from making toast and baking on through near-instant alchemical transformations and a wide variety of fire blasts.

Discordant Channeling. The ability to channel the power of the Discordant Powers is advanced Dragon Magic – and, in Equestrian terms, blatant dark magic. It is obvious to unicorns when used, always runs at least a slight risk of loss of control (basically a roll of “1″ on a will save when using the stuff), can provoke reactions from Harmony Magic, and can be countered by Harmony Magic. Any dragon can use, it, but only practice and mental discipline will provide even a modicum of control. It counts as being Specialized.

  • Witchcraft II. Provides the use of The Adamant Will, Healing (Specialized in Self-Healing for Double Effect), and Witchsight (Specialized in Scent, for no cost), with a base Power score equal to (Sum of Physical Attributes/3), and a base Will save DC of (13 + Cha Mod) (6 CP):
  • 1d6 Mana, taken as 3d6 Power. Only usable for Witchcraft (3 CP).
  • Ridden by the Loa with Partial Control, Corrupted/Only to draw on the Discordant Powers (2 CP).
  • Immunity/the one-point-per-hour cost of keeping Ridden by the Loa Running (Common, Minor, Major (up to 30 Power/Day equivalent, Corrupted/cannot normally be turned off to get rid of an inconvenient Discordant Power, 2 CP).

Drawing on the Discordant Powers generally provides +2 levels of Growth (96 CP) and 35 CP related to the particular power being channeled – the remaining 32 CP plus a disadvantage. It’s no coincidence that the “particular powers” match the basic structure of Mysteries. In fact, a Bokor in Equestria can also learn to channel the Discordant Powers – although they won’t get the “Growth” function. That’s another reason to regard them with fear and suspicion (as if another reason was needed). Perhaps, in Equestria, Bokor are the equivalent of basic d20 Sorcerers – ponies and zebras who just happen to have a dragon ancestor somewhere.

What about Lust? Well, you can include Lust as a perversion of Love or Harmony – but I doubt that the powers it grants require any real game rules. I may throw something in just to make sure that I cover everything – but it certainly isn’t necessary.

In any case… all of that comes out to 126 CP – a +3 ECL race. Of course, in a standard game, without the Superheroic World Template to provide a steady supply of Mana to work with, you’d probably want to invest another 32 CP or so in buying Mana and Rite of Chi with Bonus Uses to replenish the stuff.

Next time around on this topic I’ll see about the Discordant Powers.

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4 Responses

  1. I’m not sure that I agree with regards to Cheese Sandwich. It’s true that he only got his “Cheesy Sense” after he started to emulate Pinkie, but there appears to be a key difference there: Pinkie’s “Pinkie Sense” (and, for that matter, Maud’s “Maud Sense”) is unrelated to her special talent, unlike with Cheese Sandwich.

    As a party pony, Pinkie shouldn’t have any particular ability to sense incoming danger (nor Maud, with her fixation on rocks, be able to find things that have gone missing). That’s why Twilight is obsessed with explaining Pinkie’s ability in Feeling Pinkie Keen. (To my eyes, it looks like having a psionic wild talent runs in the Pie family.)

    Cheese Sandwich, by contrast, is a party pony himself (even if his cutie mark is a little odd), and his Cheesy Sense lets him sense the direction of imminent parties. That seems like it’s just a (admittedly rather strong) aspect of his special talent. It may also be precognitive the way Pinkie’s Pinkie Sense is, but it’s precognitive in a way that fits with the magic of his cutie mark, and so seems like a different thing that just happens to resemble what Pinkie can do (the same way a lot of psionic powers have magical equivalents).

    Also, this article references changelings as possibly being between dragons and ponies, but I have to wonder how Discord’s being a “draconequus” fits in there, even if he does seem like he’s a living inversion of Harmony (perhaps the Discordant Powers should be called the “Elements of Disharmony”?).

  2. […] as for the questions about this article that brought this […]

  3. […] Equestrian Dragons and Building Spike: Ponies and Virtues, the Discordant Powers, the Equestrian Dragon Template, and the Discordant Channeling. Commentary: Cheese Sandwich. […]

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