Follow TV Tropes


Tabletop Game / GURPS Dragons

Go To

GURPS Dragons, by Phil Masters with additional material by Jo Ramsay, is a GURPS supplement looking at numerous ways that dragons might appear in tabletop roleplaying games; if Our Dragons Are Different, this book details most of the plausible differences. It gives an overview of dragons' history in mythology, describes a number of types — subdivided into limbless, snakelike wyrms, including two-legged lindorms and winged serpents; four-limbed wyverns; classic western dragons, including wingless varieties and ice dragons; sea serpents; and eastern dragons, including the growth stages of dragons who begin life as carps, various types of dragons holding authority over different parts of nature, and dragon turtles — their enemies and foes, and how they might play out as antagonists, allies, powerful NPCs and player characters. It addresses most draconic tropes; for example, Dragons Are Divine is covered in various forms.

The book was originally written for the third edition of GURPS, but it appeared just before the fourth edition, and update notes are provided in an appendix.

Tropes encompassed by this volume:

  • Apocalypse How: One campaign idea included is an apocalyptic scenario where a Standard Fantasy Setting finds itself overrun with dragons for unknown reasons — possibilities given in the book include dragons deliberately ramping up their fertility to deal with an increase in dragon-slayers, the eradication of a predator that normally thins out populations of newborn dragons and a mass summoning spell, as well as combinations thereof. Regardless of the reasons, the world finds itself overrun with dragons rampaging where they wish and destroying anything in their way, leading to a widespread collapse of civilization.
  • Cybernetic Mythical Beast: The book discusses the potential for including dragons in science fiction settings, and brings up the possibility of using robots or a mixture of cybernetics and genetic engineering in order to explain a fantasy dragon's classic abilities in settings where using magic to bypass the laws of physics isn't an option. Similarly, dragon-shaped machinery is an option for Steampunk settings, and a tremendous, complex machine, growling with internal processes, shining with brass and shrouded in clouds of steam, easily brings draconic imagery to mind. The book then notes than any good steampunk machine should look like that anyway, however, which it concludes may say something about steampunk or something about dragons.
  • Dinosaurs Are Dragons: This trope is discussed as a possibility. The book includes stats for a couple of types of dinosaur, in case that's the option a GM wants to take, and one of the scenarios where The Dragons Come Back has as an in-universe hypothesis for their nature the idea that they're the embodied ghosts of ancient dinosaurs.
  • Dracolich: The book discusses undead dragons in a chapter dedicated to types and variants of draconic monsters. It notes that such beings, and Non-Human Undead in general, are recent fantasy invention, because folkloric undead were a reflection of human fears about their own mortality. They began to crop up in recent fiction because in settings where undeath is a clear thing that exists in its own right it can become difficult to justify why it only affects humans, and because there are few things more intimidating, if in a somewhat excessive way, than an undead dragon.
  • Dragon Ancestry: The book provides game mechanics for this idea, in the form of a "Dragon-Blooded Human" character template.
  • The Dragons Come Back: GURPS Dragons devotes a full sample campaign setting and some short example setting descriptions to this trope.
    • In the main example, dragons appear in 1878 for reasons no-one — including the dragons — understands. Between a few hundred and a few thousand dragons simply wake into existence with a knowledge of language, a strong self-preservation instinct and no idea what or where they might have been beforehand. These dragons can take human form and live in secret to avoid the attention of humanity, and several conspiracies develop to expose or study the dragons or to keep them hidden — several of the latter run by the dragons themselves. Theories on their origins range from them having emerged from a magical hibernation to their being Tulpas manifested from humanity's collective thoughts, ghosts of ancient dinosaurs released from the mining of fossil fuels and demons clad in flesh.
    • Secondary treatments project the same basic premise into later epochs such as the 20s, World War II, the Cold War and the modern day. Story prompts include Pulp-style conflicts between lantern-jawed heroes and dragons seeking world conquest, spy stories against secret string-pulling draconic masterminds, and modern-day stories where the dragons have successfully gone underground behind layers of secrecy, obfuscation and historical revisionism to hide from human scrutiny.
    • Another setting description, while without actual dragons, has a world where magic quietly vanished in the late middle ages, taking with it most of the totem spirits that had fueled magic beforehand. This lasts until the 90s, when a scholar stumbles upon a scroll describing the Dragon totem. This one appears to be the only totem left in existence, and its knowledge quickly spreads across the world to fuel a new age of dragon-powered magic.
  • The Dragonslayer: GURPS Dragons discusses several types of dragon-slayers and their tactics, and has templates for barbarian dragon-slayers, knights in shining armor, thoughtful "technical" slayers, and knowledgeable advisors. It also has notes on things to do with a dead dragon's remains.
  • Food Chain of Evil: One of the backstory options presented is a campaign setting where dragons have overrun a fantasy world is based on the dangers of tampering with such food chains. In this case, dragons normally produce huge numbers of offspring that another species of monster habitually preys on, keeping their numbers very low. Then the dragon-eating monsters are wiped out by humanoids who see them as threats, and, well...
  • Language of Magic: In one suggested setting, human beings can perform magical effects when they speak the dragon language. Interestingly, dragons cannot perform magic by doing so, but they can train mortals to become sorcerers.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: The point of the book is discussing the narrative identity of dragons and the various ways in which they can be included into fantasy game settings. Among the various ways in which dragons can be different, the book discusses various types from fantasy and myth, alongside variation in intelligence, moral character, powers, size, and presence in the story's world.
  • Our Wyverns Are Different: Four-limbed wyverns appear as one of the several subtypes of dragons. They have no breath weapons but possess poisonous barbs at the end of their long tails. They are clumsy walkers but frighteningly fast fliers, and thus prefer to attack targets from the air. They're largely animals, although smart ones, and the book notes that all-dragon campaigns might use them as pets or attack dogs for dragon characters. Variations include one able to shoot quills from its tail. GURPS Dragons notes their origins in medieval heraldry, and speculates that, since explicit wyverns appear almost always in heraldry, modern fantasy wyverns likely originated from people noticing them in crests and coats of arms and deciding they looked interesting enough to include as in-game creatures.
  • Sea Serpents: GURPS Dragons includes sea serpents as the oceanic counterpart of landbound dragons. Their basic template is simply a big animal capable of crushing a ship in its coils, but proposed variants include intelligent beings, as well as the Malay bena, a serpent that lives in estuaries, attacks fishing ships, and sometimes probes up rivers. The section also proposes that, in a setting ruled over by draconic deities, a powered-up sea serpent might serve as the ruler of the seas.
  • Shapeshifting: The book discusses shapeshifting, usually between human and draconic forms, in several places — it is a fairly common feature of dragon myths, and turning into a dragon is a formidable power for a character.
  • Shoulder-Sized Dragon: The book gives game stats for and a description of shoulder dragons, referred to as "petty drakes". It opines that their occurrence is a side-effect of dragons becoming increasingly common and familiar in media, leading to them eventually being shorn of size and aggressiveness to serve as pets and companions. The statted version can breathe a small but hot jet of fire, and can use its foreclaws as hands. Some live in the wild in small family groups, but they are often caught and tamed as companions and Familiars.
  • Snake People: The book has a section on the shape-shifting snake-person nagas of Indian myth, treating this idea as a cousin to stories of dragons.