Syp has an article over at Massively giving 10 reasons why MMOs should stop using dragons. I’m assuming that the article is more about him having a deadline and an article quota rather than this really being the most burning issue in MMOs today (dragon pun only slightly intended).
It’s a fair point that dragons in MMOs are, by and large, used poorly – Deathwing is a one-note rampaging beastie (but then, to be fair, most Warcraft lore comes from the WTF school of terrible writing) and Guild Wars 2’s dragons mostly fail to live up to their billing as awesome forces of nature (Zhaitan takedown winning the award for most anti-climactic boss battle ever). Looking beyond MMOs to film and to pen and paper RPGs, however, we have plenty of examples of dragons that are so much more than a big bag of hit points with AoE attacks. For example…
Smaug – the original in modern fantasy writing, and now that he’s on the big screen it turns out that he’s Benedict Cumberbatch, whose voice and acting chops are guaranteed to make anything at least 200% more villainous, even when he isn’t actually a villain. Seriously, that Sherlock is one scary high-functioning sociopath (his words, not mine).
Lofwyr – FASA’s Shadowrun RPG was an inspired mix of fantasy and cyberpunk – so inspired, that it spawned not one but two successful Kickstarter games. In Shadowrun’s universe, when magic returned to our world in the early 21st century, so did dragons, and Shadowrun dragons are smart sentients as well as being big, scaly, firebreathing and greedy. Lofwyr took one look at the modern world and promptly exchanged a huge pile of gold for a controlling interest in the Saeder-Krupp megacorporation. Dragon as CEO, because why nest on top of your wealth when you can invest it?
Dunkelzahn – also from Shadowrun, this dragon went one better and ran for president, because dragons are fully intelligent sentients and capable of relations with other races that go beyond “Raargh, burn, destroy!” Sure, Dunkelzahn may have had dark secrets and his own agenda, but then allegedly so does Barack Obama… :)
The Dragonstar Dragon Empire – however, the prize for dragons seeking political power goes to Fantasy Flight Games’ Dragonstar setting for the D20 (AKA D&D 3rd edition) pen and paper RPG rules, which could take your fantasy characters into space to discover a galaxy where mages store their spellbooks in PDAs and the stars are ruled by an empire dominated by dragons of all kinds in an uneasy alliance, while non-dragon races are relegated to second class citizenship. Actually, since the drow make up the secret police, arguable everyone else gets THIRD class citizenship…
Gloranthan Dragons – because political power, however, is nothing compared to the dragons of Glorantha, the fantasy world best known as the original setting for the Runequest RPG. Gloranthan dragons have spent most of history asleep, but their magic is so strong that their dreams manifest in the real world. Greg Stafford, the setting’s creator, once described an occasion where a dragon woke up… and an entire mountain range disappeared, because the mountains had only been there because the dragon was dreaming of them. This had fairly drastic consequences for all of the people who had been living in that part of the world, so all things considered it’s probably best to let sleeping dragons lie.