Draconic Cities

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Digitalelf
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Draconic Cities

Post by Digitalelf » Wed Aug 01, 2018 1:18 am

How do others visualize and describe a city build for, if not actually built by, dragons?

I personally have a difficult time visualizing such a city... When doing so, my imagination tends to veer towards something akin to the City of Sharn in the Eberron campaign setting.
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Re: Draconic Cities

Post by Boneguard » Wed Aug 01, 2018 1:48 am

I see it as a valley with sharp Cliffsides on 2 or 3 sides, riddles with caves and passages. An odeon carved in the valley floor where they can meet. That would be several low buildings for the vessels.
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Re: Draconic Cities

Post by Digitalelf » Wed Aug 01, 2018 2:32 am

Boneguard wrote:
Wed Aug 01, 2018 1:48 am
I see it as a valley with sharp Cliffsides on 2 or 3 sides, riddles with caves and passages. An odeon carved in the valley floor where they can meet. That would be several low buildings for the vessels.
I can see that. And it makes sense, considering the typical dragon's lair being a cave or cavern of some sort. But what brought me to imagine a more traditional fantasy-esque looking city, was were the books talked about the various clan-nations having some kind of industry:
CoW wrote:The inhabitants of each domain have at least one native industry. Some operate mines; others fashion items of metal or craft beautiful jewelry. Some hunt, fish, grow crops, or raise herd animals. Others produce implements of magic to trade to other clans.
It goes on to say that this industry is handled by the Kindred, saying that the dragons do not so much as lift a claw in anything manual, as the dragons have better things to do with their time.
Cow wrote:Most of the work required to keep the economy moving is done by the clan's vassals. Dragons may supervise, but few rarely—if ever—lift a claw to perform manual labor. Dragons have better things to do with their time—at least according to the dragons.
It's funny... A series of caves along a cliff-side is so obvious a way to imagine a city of dragons looking. Thankfully, I have yet to run a CoW game centered in or around a city.
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Re: Draconic Cities

Post by Coronoides » Wed Aug 01, 2018 1:04 pm

Here’s another take. I wrote this for my ongoing conversion of Book 3 of the boxed set. What follows extends from canon. It makes use of the amphibious nature of some dragon breeds.

About Clear Lake
We know from the map that Clear Lake is inland within a cool temperate forest. It is the capital of clan Majyst and is ruled by Gemmenna a female amethyst great wrym.
I have taken cues from the city’s name and location as well as the descriptions of amethyst dragons in the boxed set and 2e MM when describing the city. Given that the Dragonlord is a great wrym and it is a clan capital, the city is probably large and prosperous.

”In the afternoon you reach the lake. True to it’s name the lake’s water is still and clear. The lake is dotted with sailboats with brightly coloured sails and painted figureheads. At first even the keen eyes of dragons see no sign of the city on the northern shore but as you get closer you can make out little doors and windows in the lightly wooded hillocks and narrow cobblestone roads between them. Quite unlike a spired city of elves, this must be a city of gnomes. There are also larger, dragon-sized austere marble arches and porticos on some hillsides and beneathe the glassy waters of the lake. As you spiral down to a clear space by the busy docks gnomes stop their work to make the sign of Io and kneel or bow.”
The city of Clearlake accommodates it’s 20 000 residents almost entirely underground. Just beneath the surface is a winding warren of interconnected gnome burrows filled with comfortable homes, workshops, libraries, mushroom farms and cart tunnels. Dragons live in lairs dug out and lined with marble and limestone to create austere underground palaces. Gnome tunnels never connect directly to dragon lairs for security reasons and the oldest wealthiest dragons dwell beneath the lake away from thieves and talkative inquisitive gnomes.
The gnomes of Clearlake are friendly cheerful people who provide their service to visiting dragons free of charge and direct them to an old empty lair to rest. The gnomes still charge for any goods the PCs buy.
The dragons of Clearlake behave like serious nobles. They are coldly polite to visitors and prefer to be left alone.
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Re: Draconic Cities

Post by Digitalelf » Wed Aug 01, 2018 8:24 pm

Coronoides wrote:
Wed Aug 01, 2018 1:04 pm
Here’s another take.
Added to my CoW files... Thank you.
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Re: Draconic Cities

Post by Coronoides » Wed Aug 01, 2018 10:15 pm

Digitalelf wrote:
Wed Aug 01, 2018 8:24 pm
Coronoides wrote:
Wed Aug 01, 2018 1:04 pm
Here’s another take.
Added to my CoW files... Thank you.
I’m pretty sure there will be more in the future. Watch my book 3 conversion feed.
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Re: Draconic Cities

Post by Big Mac » Fri Aug 03, 2018 1:34 pm

I know that some of the old buildings in the UK have super-tall doorways designed to allow a man to ride in on the back of a horse.

There would probably be some sort of variation in the architecture, but if you want to have important buildings, I'd suggest they follow that sort of rule.

Gigantic arched doors (probably called dragon doors) would be there for dragons to go in and out. They might even be restricted to dragons (and their riders) with humanoid people coming in and out via separate doors.

I really like Coronoides ideas for fitting gnomes around dragons.

If you build dragon cities in other ways (taking different types of geography into account) you could probably build the big dragon buildings first and then fill in the gaps with the companion races.

I like Boneguard's idea of building on a cliff.

If you actually excavate a series of stacked dragon-sized caves into a massive cliff, you could have small carved steps on the edge of the cliff or boarded walkways between the cliffs, that humanoid races have to use to get to the caves. Take a look at this real-world cliff walk in China for inspiration.

If you have underground races, like dwarves, you could build their cities around a series of dragon sink-holes that simply vanish into the ground. Dragons could drop into those holes...and fly out of them, but everyone else that fell into them would be killed by the fall. Dwarves could cut their own tunnels down into the ground.

I think if you brainstorm a few other ideas for building dragon caves into different types of terrain, you can make most of the entrances difficult (if not impossible) for humanoid races and then think about how they would adapt those cities. :)
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Re: Draconic Cities

Post by willpell » Fri Aug 03, 2018 5:38 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Fri Aug 03, 2018 1:34 pm
Gigantic arched doors (probably called dragon doors) would be there for dragons to go in and out. They might even be restricted to dragons (and their riders) with humanoid people coming in and out via separate doors.
Humans would likely stick to balconies and mezzanines, maybe even scaffolds.

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Re: Draconic Cities

Post by Digitalelf » Fri Aug 03, 2018 8:26 pm

Awesome ideas. Thank you.
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Re: Draconic Cities

Post by Coronoides » Sat Aug 04, 2018 12:40 am

willpell wrote:
Fri Aug 03, 2018 5:38 pm
Big Mac wrote:
Fri Aug 03, 2018 1:34 pm
Gigantic arched doors (probably called dragon doors) would be there for dragons to go in and out. They might even be restricted to dragons (and their riders) with humanoid people coming in and out via separate doors.
Humans would likely stick to balconies and mezzanines, maybe even scaffolds.
Of coarse in the Io’s Blood Isles humans stick to the jungles and other inhospitable wilderness. For a human to wander into a dragon settlement is almost certain death. ;)
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Re: Draconic Cities

Post by willpell » Sat Aug 04, 2018 2:35 am

Coronoides wrote:
Sat Aug 04, 2018 12:40 am
willpell wrote:
Fri Aug 03, 2018 5:38 pm
Big Mac wrote:
Fri Aug 03, 2018 1:34 pm
Gigantic arched doors (probably called dragon doors) would be there for dragons to go in and out. They might even be restricted to dragons (and their riders) with humanoid people coming in and out via separate doors.
Humans would likely stick to balconies and mezzanines, maybe even scaffolds.
Of coarse in the Io’s Blood Isles humans stick to the jungles and other inhospitable wilderness. For a human to wander into a dragon settlement is almost certain death. ;)
HumanOIDs, whatever.

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Re: Draconic Cities

Post by Coronoides » Sat Aug 04, 2018 8:04 am

Here’s flavour text written for my Book 3 conversion. Not very inspired but this and my last example demonstrate how every dragon city has its own style.

”As you pass over the foothills and the sun begins to set the peak of a mountain ahead gleams as if it is on fire. This is your first glimpse of the City of Gold. Spiralling up on the winds until you are level with the distant city you are so high you can see your home All Clans Isle to the South. Closer you can see the burning light is from many gold dragons flying over the city and from the gold coating many of roofs, columns, and huge statues. The wealth, size, and power of this metropolis carved from the rock of the mountain is staggering. The circling gold dragons pay you no mind as you approach their city.”
Should you need it more information on Clan Exaurdon is given CWB9-10 and Book 2 of this conversion. The Clan is so powerful that it has no overt enemies. Golds are also arrogant. For these reasons I decided that a few young dragons would be ignored as not a threat and not important by the golds. However once the PCs land vassals will recognize that a mixed-breed group of young dragons must be from the Custodians. Vassals will make the sign of the eight-pointed star (CWB24) and generally try to be helpful, though they still charge the PCs for lodging, food, and other services.
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Re: Draconic Cities

Post by Boneguard » Sat Aug 04, 2018 2:40 pm

Karst formation can be a great help as you have a naturally forming cave-system often with sinkhole.

Now another more unique city would be marsh mounds. In the deeper part of the bog, massive mounds are scattered about, between them, on firmer grounds, trees or on platform above the waters are various buildings linked with "bridges". Several swamp barges can also be seen. The mound themselves will often house stone structure on their plateformed top. Gathering halls, temples, etc.

Beneath the water, the bedrock is crisscrossed with tunnels, with occasional waterfilled sinkhole, that leads to dry chambers within the mounds. These chambers houses the clan's dragon.
Last edited by Boneguard on Sat Aug 04, 2018 9:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Draconic Cities

Post by Coronoides » Sat Aug 04, 2018 8:14 pm

Boneguard wrote:
Sat Aug 04, 2018 2:40 pm
...
Now another more unique city would be marsh mounds. In the deeper part of the big, massive mounds are scattered about, between them, on firmer grounds, trees or on platform above the waters are various buildings linked with "bridges". Several swamp barges can also be seen. The mound themselves will often house stone structure on their plateformed top. Gathering halls, temples, etc.

Beneath the water, the bedrock is crisscrossed with tunnels, with occasional waterfilled sinkhole, that leads to dry chambers within the mounds. These chambers houses the clan's dragon.
This would be a great fit for the Black Dragon city of Boghold.
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Re: Draconic Cities

Post by Boneguard » Sat Aug 04, 2018 11:53 pm

Coronoides wrote:
Sat Aug 04, 2018 8:14 pm

This would be a great fit for the Black Dragon city of Boghold.
Yeah, I was definitely thinking Black Dragon for that one, but I didn't have any specific clan or city in mind though.
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Re: Draconic Cities

Post by Coronoides » Sun Jan 20, 2019 7:04 am

Excerpt/draft from my work in progress for book 3.
Maelstrom
We can seee from the map that Maelstom’s position would make it an important port for those few travelling to or from the arctic isles. It hugs the corner of a bay possibly for protection from the weather to the north. We know it is the capital of Topaz Clan Seaspray and that the Dragon-lord is Windrider and female Wrym (Ancient Topaz Dragon). Clans Sparkle and Majyst are al-lies of Seaspray and relations are strained with Tempest over fishing rights. From this we can guess Maelstroms economy is partially supported by fishing. We know that topaz dragons build lairs with entrances below the waterline and antisocial loners in attitude (CWA23) and care little about the affairs of other clans (CWA24). That’s about all the canon information we have. What follows is an extrapolation of what the city might be like…

“The closer you get to the coast the wind becomes a gale. Soon a cold driving rain adds to your woes. The coast here is a tall cliff of of hexagonal columns of black basalt. In the bay a fishing fleet is working. Eventually you see below the road to Maelstrom a long ramp cut into a cliff-face. A few carts traverse the ramp. Maelstrom itself sits on a natural platform of basalt maybe twenty yards above the choppy ocean. Spiraling down, the worst of the wind is blocked by the cliff. No dragons are in sight and there is only one building, a huge hall or warehouse, which could hold an adult or older dragon. This building sits at the end of the ramp road into the port from here three wide roads lead to another ramp in the basalt down to the wooden docks where three ships are at birth. The other streets are narrow lanes barely wide enough for two vassals to walk side by side. The only places to land are on these wider streets. The buildings roves are built of planks presumably from the local forests and as you approach the ground you can see the walls are the same black basalt as the cliff. The town smells of the sea and fish guts.”
No one greets them when they land. Large dragons only have room to set down on the few wide roads, a clear space infront of the large warehouse, or by splashing into the sea. There are no dragons in sight and the only vassals braving the cold rain are hunched over loading and unload-ing carts from the docks. The three wider streets are lined with warehouses and buildings where the local seafood is, pickled, smkoked, or salted before being sent out with merchants. The large building doubles as a warehouse and accommodation for visitors. Knocking on the door will summon the caretaker a cantankerous old gnome called Billingswort. The Great Warehouse’s large doors could admit even an ancient red and its interior could sleep two such dragons, but currently much of the floor is covered in crates and barrels. There are pallets for humanoid visi-tors, a little firepit open kitchen, and a row of latrines. Billingswort gestures to these facilities “there you are” and then turns his back and wanders off. “We should roast him for his insolence” suggests Fireclaw.


The dragon lairs are unseen by the PCs because the entrances are underwater and spread sparcely along the shore. These lead up to air filled lava tubes or mined out chambers. Topaz dragons do not want visitors; in fact they don’t even like each other’s company. For the most part the vassals of Maelstrom rarely see their masters and only occasionally receive orders through gnome kin-dred. For the most part they dump tribute at traditional times and places into the waters of the bay and that is that. They do see dragon travelers fairly frequently, mostly amethysts coming and going from Glacianta.
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Re: Draconic Cities

Post by willpell » Mon Jan 21, 2019 9:12 pm

So, Eberron at least assumes that Dragons had a civilization long before humanoids existed. What are the odds there was even one building involved?

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Re: Draconic Cities

Post by Coronoides » Mon Jun 24, 2019 10:45 am

Sometimes dragon rule means an absence of dragons and rule!
The map of the Io’s Blood Isles only shows the capitals of each clan. Presumably, many settlements, like Dwarftown in the second adventure, are not marked on the map. Other settlements like these are details referee must add to the setting. Glacianta is a an arctic land that could not support a very large population. There are probably very settlements on the island. However, a small port and fishing town directly opposite Maelstrom for receiving cargo bound for the other ports and cities of Glacianta seems likely.
My Landfall may be named for the relief felt after setting foot of solid land after the rough seas of Maelstrom. This is a small port where goods from ports closer to the City of the Dawn, Frostwind, Foulsnow, and Cold Stream Junction are transferred to larger seaworthy vessels to cross the Maelstrom.
So what might it be like?
Sometimes dragon-rule is simply a lack of rule. Landfall rests in Clan Sisath (Sunlight) lands but the local Lord Dominor is an absent ruler and visitors from other Glacianta clans are major transient minorities here. In other locations local vassals would have the stability and resources to rule themselves. Here though locals have little but fish and are outnumbered by rough sailors of all the the gem and White clans of Glacianta. The dragon masters of these visitors ignore the behaviour of their vassal sailors and the pleas of Landfall locals. The net result is a lawless town.
Vassals who come here to trade or crew trader’s ships are from clans whose dragons are hostile to each other. All this make Landfall an unruly place where only the bitter cold stops brawls from growing into large-scale rioting in the street.

Finally, after many days on rough seas of the Maelstrom strait a bleak black and white coast comes into view. Nestled in bay bordered by black basalt capped with snow is a rag-tag fleet of ships and boats flying the claw runes of Sisath, Srisiejir, Frixthraejing, and Corum. Beyond these you can make out a ramshackle town of local black stone and pine imported from across the strait. Captain Todmingle bellows the nessisary orders to furl the sails and drop anchor among a cluster of ships flying the Corum rune. “Here we are then Dominates. Glacianta; untamed, beautiful, and Io-forsaken cold. Good luck!” And with that he turns to inform his sailors that they will leave on the morrow, “there is cargo to haul and coin to be made once we cross that damned strait. Take the boats, go find ivory and furs but in fives mind you and back before dark. Landfall is nest of cutthroat rogues!”

When the PCs fly towards the town…

As you close on the town you see the single street of basalt and slushy snow is flanked by ramshackle buildings. Some are little more than cairns of local rock with whale hide roofs, others are shacks of pine, and quite a few are old boats and ships hauled onto the land. Scruffy sailors and whalers shuffle through the cold in armed gangs of five or more, some surrounding wealthier looking folk, probably trading captains. Your sensative dragon senses detect traces of sour booze and lewd songs even at this height.
Last edited by Coronoides on Mon Jun 24, 2019 10:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Draconic Cities

Post by Coronoides » Mon Jun 24, 2019 10:48 am

The other thing I’ve been working on for my 5th edition conversion is adding the magical ‘Regional Effects’ associated with dragon lairs in the 5th Edition MM to the dragon cities. So the City of Gold is wreathed in opalescent mists and the near Clear Lake are cairns of stones where gnomes fell defending the city during its long history.
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Re: Draconic Cities

Post by Coronoides » Mon Jun 24, 2019 11:06 am

willpell wrote:
Mon Jan 21, 2019 9:12 pm
So, Eberron at least assumes that Dragons had a civilization long before humanoids existed. What are the odds there was even one building involved?
Good point. However, I imagine dragon and eagle talons are equivalent and eagles build nests. Dragons of Eberron might have built some structures. Rough walls of logs to fortify lair entrances, circles of stones to aid astrology, excavated tunnels to expand a cave lair. I dunno if these are ‘buildings’ but they are definitely in the grey area of ‘structures’.
Eberron’s history differs from Council of Wryms and Forgotten Realms in that the dragon dominated age of those other worlds had plenty of humanoids to do the work. Interesting.
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