Monday, April 9, 2012

Aerie: Sapient Dragons

Designing the dragons of Aerie around the idea that they're a sapient race as well as bestial predators. Playing around with head shapes, trying to give them an intellectual look and a slightly alien one as well (as observable by the two Mass Effect inspired dragon heads). I really love the design of the Turians and the Drell from that game.

Sapient dragons definitely have a difficult and sometimes contradictory life. They live solitary existences, and harshly guard their territories against intruders. Their warm blooded, big brained, multi-limbed bodies consume a lot of energy, so land and prey is highly valuable. But when they meet others of their kind on friendly terms they're highly social and inquisitive. They mate for life and make effective use of their mental prowess by carefully managing the prey populations of their territory. They set and construct traps to catch prey, so they don't have to hunt constantly and have time to explore other mental outlets.
Their population is consistently fragile, as their young take a long time to develop and they only lay two to three eggs every other decade after reaching maturity. This worked fine as a way to stabilize their population in ye olden times, but now that prey is scarcer and humans have overrun everything, there's less food in general and every individual lost is sorely felt. The kicker is that as sociable and as intelligent as they are, killing each other over a mate and a patch of land is the natural norm. So if the dangers of their highly evolved world don't kill them, they still have their own kind to worry about. They're not suicidal and will admit defeat or reach amiable agreements if possible, but injuries do stack up.

Aside from fighting over food, land and mates, they may develop rivalries and even enemies over purely ideological disputes. If someone holds a big enough grudge they may challenge their rival to battle. Ignoring a challenge is considered an act of cowardice and can cost the recipient as much trouble as the battle itself in the long run. So battle they do and not everyone lives or comes away without injury. Elder dragons who are often sought out for advice, may voluntarily oversee such duels, and decide the victor without the need of anyone being maimed or killed.

Depending on the local culture, not all mates are won by fighting. Some dragons impress mates with a hoard (not necessarily of valuable items, but of anything shiny), others sing and impress females with showy displays (like birds), some race their potential partners and win the girl if they can catch up to her, and other times it's a combination of various methods. Nothing can compensate however for being a jerk, if the female simply the detests the male for his personality she won't accept him, however worthy he may be. 

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