Americana (DnD Campaign Setting)/Dragon Lords
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The Dragon Lords were the masterminds behind the Great War--powerful, ancient beings of enormous size and terrifying visage. They were the masters of the kobolds, the orcs, and possibly other things not seen or since forgotten--but when the other warring races banded together to stand against them, they vanished, their plots undone.
The word dragon, specifically, describes a species of winged reptile of considerable size--a great number of these have been seen since the end of the War, but only rarely and never for long. The elves say that they are invaders, come from somewhere far away, and do not belong in Americana, hence their general unease and hostility. Ten of the Lords are proper dragons themselves, being exceptionally large, old, and powerful examples of their species (which has enormous longevity), while the other three are of various other builds and presumably species. Large, old, and powerful still applies, however.
Thus they were thirteen in number, or so the records say, and ever since thirteen has been considered an ominous number in nearly every culture in Americana save for that of the kobolds, for whom it is considered most lucky.
During the War, dragons were known to be intelligent but thought to have no ambition beyond accumulating wealth, typically offering their services to whichever warlord could best keep their voracious appetites--and greeds--fed. Their true abilities only began to be detected later on, and a grander picture of their planning and control has been slow to be assembled even with the benefit of hindsight. The one Lord willing to speak with anyone has refused to discuss the War at all, either. Little trace has been seen of any of the Dragon Lords since the War ended, with two exceptions. Some have not been seen at all; others have been glimpsed, but in general they are to be avoided. Nobody knows what they are planning, but everyone knows what a dragon is capable of--and these are the thirteen greatest.
The Lords, according to the Order of St. Louis, can be divided into two sub-groups: true dragons and dragon-likes. The majority resemble great reptiles, but not all of them do. Each represented a different race of dragons, named according to their coloration--Black, White, Red, Blue, Green, Gold, Silver, Bronze, Brass, Copper, Jade, Indigo, and Turquoise. Their complete names are purportedly accounts of their exploits in life, and dragons are very long-lived. They would take days to recite, and have never been recorded--the “full” names in the Order’s file are shortened versions that were themselves turned into nicknames during the War, in the tendency of humans to find that everything takes too long.
The three dragon-likes all favored water as a habitat, though all three were capable of moving on land (if less well). The preferred habitats of the ten true dragon types varied widely.
Muhheakan[tuck], the Indigo Lord. Champ is one of only two dragons to still maintain relative contact with humanity, though he is much the more hostile of the two. He resembles a gigantic, dark-blue snake with a tufted tail and a blunt-looking head. His nickname was given to him by a New Yorki fisherman who found his “fullshort” name too impossible to jaw on, and somehow stuck--only further annoying him.
Champ lives in a lake now dubbed Lake Champlain, because “Champ’s layin’ there”--a body of water roughly equidistant between New York and Detroit. Despite these nations’ frequent brawling and the fact that the area around the lake is one of the few remaining preserved zones in the Northeast, no-one goes nearby without permission. Champ often swims down the Mohegan River and out through the Sound past New York into the Appalachian, presumably to catch food--this has made him a common enough sight that New York no longer bothers tailing him with the Navy, though they know enough to steer clear.
Cadboro, the Jade Lord. Caddy is the least-known of the three aquatic dragons, having been last spotted off the coast of Seattle. It resembles a gigantic turtle in shape, but is equivalent in size to a dragon and has been known to breathe jets of steam that can blast boats apart. It is spotted on occasion, but never for more than a glimpse, and very little is known about it at all. The pirate-natives of the north coasts might know more, but contact with those tribes is rarely on speaking terms.
Wa She Da Aw, the Turquoise Lord. Tessie lives, as her name suggests, in the great Lake Tahoe near the Franciscan settlement of Comstock there. Little was known about her during the War and precious little has been learned since, aside from the fact that she is, in fact, a she. A sect of the local Comstockers is known to worship her as a god--they claim she approves but it is nearly impossible to know whether or not this is true.
The Chromatic Lords
Mitesser, the Black Lord. Reports of the time suggest that the dragon Mighty was the closest thing the Dragon Lords had to a leader, being one of the largest, most fearsome, and most vicious. He was one of the only Dragons not reported to disappear quietly, having been seen to fly screeching southeastward after the peace was announced. When Roger Kalland liberated Atlanta, the surviving populace reported he had flown overhead with a panicked-looking retinue about a week prior, which was taken by the Geddonites as a terrible omen.
Mighty has not been seen at all since then--his flight trajectory would place his final destination somewhere deep in the hellish Floridian jungles, unsurprising since he was known to favor swamps. Those few captured Disnee who have been coerced to talk have spoken on occasion of “black monsters” raiding their southernmost lands on occasion, but none of these have been large enough to be Mighty--presumably they are what remains of his retinue.
Roterreise, the Red Lord. Big Red was the largest of the Dragon Lords, and possibly the largest dragon ever recorded. He was best known for fighting off an entire army with his fire breath in the southwest, which created a region northeast of Phoenix known as the Big Mirror where the sand and dirt has been blasted into shining glass. He was potentially the most powerful of the dragons, but only rarely saw combat for reasons unknown.
Big Red disappeared south towards Mexico at the end of the Great War, though confusingly those who come up from Mexico have not reported seeing him at all--he's kind of hard to miss. His son, however, has been seen, having shown up in Yellowstone a decade ago with two retainers and no explanation as to why he made the choice to join the Copper Lord's nation-building project. He serves on the Yellowstone Council and is theoretically the heir to the Red Lordship, though he has reacted with extreme distaste when the subject is brought up.
Sasquatch. Also known as the Green and the Mad Terror, Bigfoot was the Green Lord, an accomplished shapeshifter, and particularly fond of terrorizing helpless civilians in person, which earned him considerable ire from his foes. His favorite form besides his natural shape was an enormous, ogre-like creature covered in shaggy, dense hair that shrugged off most physical attack and was extremely difficult to ignite.
Bigfoot was wounded and driven off by Marion Hess and her battlecasters a few days before the signing of the Grand Treaty, which quickly dispersed his followers. No confirmed sightings of him have been made since, though any number of unconfirmed and spurious sightings have been reported from San Francisco to Yellowstone. Green dragons were known to prefer dense woods like the rain-forests that carpet that part of Americana, so it seems very likely he IS there, but that country is very sparsely populated and covers a great deal of ground.
Himmeltänzer, the Blue Lord. Mothman was most notorious for his vanity, which often translated to severe disdain for his opponents and led to several humiliating defeats at the hands of Anderson and O'Hern. His list of successes was longer, however--Mothman was fond of using magic to conceal his attacks and was a notorious ambusher, loving attacks from out of the noon sun in particular.
Nevertheless, he was eventually brought to ruin by the elf Laughs-at-Misfortune, shot down in the Northeast and vanishing inexplicably after falling into one of the landscape's many crater-valleys. That was two weeks prior to the end of the War and absolutely nothing has been heard of Mothman since. The Blues Brothers, Yellowstone's chiefs of security, have admitted they don't actually know if he's alive or dead--which would put the blue dragon leadership into a succession crisis, which would be quite the sight if it was out in the open.
Operschnee, the White Lord. The only female Lord on the chromatic side, Opie was one half of the Dragon Lords' subterfuge plans, giving preference to planning. She shared Mothman's love of surprise attacks and traps, but was more given to use the environment instead of magic, operating as she was out of the Pacific foothills. Information from the Silver Lord has revealed that her position was largely dependent on her success, since few of her peers shared a love for subterfuge, and the rapid decline in white dragon sightings towards the end of the war can probably be attributed to this.
Opie has only been seen twice by non-dragon eyes, her fellow white dragons being much more familiar in ambushing mountain travelers. To the extent that she was never seen much at all, she vanished with the others at the end of the Great War, and is likely still hiding out in the upper Pacifics somewhere near Denver, her last known location.
The Metallic Lords
Izithrax, the Copper Lord. Also known as the Bauble Lord and the Mocking Smile (usually by people who've run afoul of him and never to his face). During the War he was famous for stalling entire armies with delaying tactics in the Pacifics, trapping them in canyons or miring them in miles of mud. Original territory theorized to have been somewhere in South Portland; apparently, was driven out by an attack from the entire combined Alcatrazi Pirate Fleet (at great cost) and moved to Yellowstone Caldera in the Pacific Mountains.
Izzy is the dragon the human nations know the most about, as he has been serving as the lord regent of the Yellowstone nation for the past fifty years or so. His exact degree of mental faculty is much debated, given his propensity for jokes and bizarre japes and his occasional seeming distraction from reality, but there is no doubt he is still a Dragon Lord--old, wily, shrewd, and passing cunning.
Tumbaga, the Gold Lord. Also known as the Metal General, Shiner served as the master strategist and planner for Hector Rodriguez for many years. Widely known as the most intelligent dragon (though it might have been that he was the most openly intelligent dragon), he was known as an honorable and capable opponent who disdained the underhanded tactics many of his contemporaries favored.
Though this earned him considerable respect from his humanoid counterparts, he was brutally effective on the battlefield and as such was probably the most problematic of the Lords (hence the vernacular of a black eye as a “shiner”). He vanished utterly upon the signing of the Treaty, and to this date no-one has any idea where he might have gone. Some of his former underlings have shown up at Yellowstone, but if they know where he went, they aren't telling.
Messingpfeil, the Brass Lord. Dinger became famous in the early days of the Dragon period of the Great War for her tendency to nonviolence--rare among dragons, and possibly due to the brass dragon's endless love for talk. Drawing her name from the numerous dings in her hide from arrows and shot, her favorite tactic was to dive-bomb an army and coat the area with her sleep-gas breath, which could instantly incapacitate nearly anything humanoid. Of course, if another army was nearby, their follow-up response was rarely so compassionate.
Dinger was known for repeatedly taking prisoners just to have someone to talk the ears off of for a few hours, before letting them go again. Surprisingly little information was derived from these instances, though it was through them that the existence of kobolds was first discovered. She was the last Dragon Lord to be seen until Izzy reappeared, lingering for a few weeks for the sake of conversation before taking off to parts unknown in a southeasterly direction. Atlanta has reported no sign of her at all.
Meerwache, the Bronze Lord. Less is known about Eddie than any other Lord save for Caddy, Opie, and Tahoe Tessie-he played a relatively small role in the war, being personally adverse to combat and fond of concealing himself with blinding fog when he did fight. Eddie made a reputation as an anti-ship specialist--along with a small team of other bronze dragons, between them they made sure that by the end of the Great War nothing larger than a rowboat could move on the open sea. This devastation of known ship designs has made regaining the water one of the most difficult obstacles to modern science.
Eddie is known for an important role in the story of the Great War--after the signing of the Treaty, a man in the crowd raced away from the scene, into a nearby cluster of tents--and a bronze dragon with familiar markings seemed to explode upwards and outwards, flying off unharassed by stunned archers to report to the rest of the Dragon Lords. That was Eddie's last public appearance, and no-one has any idea where he might be now.
Letiche, the Silver Lord. The other half of the Dragon Lords' subterfuge operation; Letty was an extremely capable shapeshifter, and used this ability to infiltrate various human factions in the war to keep them fighting each other, or not fighting each other, or otherwise working into the dragons' plans. He had managed to ingratiate himself to Alfred Townsend in particular; however, when Mark Twain called the Generals together and revealed the results of his research, Letty lost his composure for only a moment--which proved his undoing, as the seven most powerful warlords were suddenly aware of his true nature.
Capturing Letty was by no means easy, and getting information from him even less so, but his own pride eventually proved to be his undoing as Twain cajoled and beguiled him into revealing the Dragon Lords' plans bit by bit. Disgraced and humiliated, he fled immediately after breaking out and was last seen heading in the direction of New Orleans--an odd choice, given that silver dragons are known to prefer cold mountaintops, but the bayous are a favorite choice for anyone seeking to hide from their own past. He hasn't been seen reliably since, but the Nawlins commonfolk are certain he's still out there, describing sightings of a Bigfoot-like beast covered in dull grey shaggy hair. The Fran Cajuns refer to him as the Tainted Keitre, and hold him in some regard.
Let's face it: dragons, as D&D traditionally uses them, are pretty darn Eurasian. European specifically. There isn't really a sound equivalent in American native culture, apart from potentially the feathered serpents of Mesoamerica. This is unsurprising as a huge reptile is not something that really enjoys the temperate-to-tundra climate that most of North America consists of. So maybe you're looking at this and thinking "This is a little bit much Tolkien in my Twain. What do I do?"
The Dragon Lords play a big role in the backstory, but that's backstory. They very specifically have not been seen for a century. A century is a fairly small chunk of time to a dragon, but on the other hand, dragons crave attention. For any--particularly such powerful and prominent ones--to not be seen for that long is passing strange. The most likely explanation is that they're all dead--Dragon Lords are powerful but there's plenty of other dangerous things in the uncharted parts of the map, and not all of them left the Great War unscathed. As for Izzy and his Yellowstone, maybe Izzy's had enough of this human world, or maybe he just wants to sit back and watch. Yellowstone could be very withdrawn, controlling the northern passes and having little other influence on the world at large. There could be fewer dragons there--maybe they're dying, or meeting at Yellowstone to go back to wherever they came from, abandoning the continent.
Now, that said, dragons are dragons, and this IS Dungeons and Dragons. Maybe some of the Dragon Lords are dead. Others might not be. Maybe none of them are. They might be sitting back, to plan and observe. Or something else might be holding them up--something powerful enough to hold a Dragon Lord from doing whatever it wants would be something incredibly dangerous. Maybe something else has come up that they needed to attend to, far to the north or south. Maybe the dragons have been impressed by this brave new world--dragons value strength and riches very highly, after all, and the modern nations have both in spades. Maybe they see them as puny upstarts. Izzy's Yellowstone could be a legitimate attempt to work dragonkind into the new fabric of the world, or a Trojan horse to try and take it over or bring it down from within, or just the latest fancy of a very old, powerful, and eccentric being. As with anything in this setting, the possibilities are meant to be endless.