Dragons are fearsome reptilian creatures with claws, wings, and scaly hides in colorful hues that vary between species. Originally hatched from eggs that take years or even decades to mature, all dragons are born large, and continue growing throughout their lives. Because they never die of old age, the eldest dragons can reach truly gargantuan proportions.
Although there are other varieties of reptilian monster, even some with wings, the most distinguishing physical trait of a dragon is its breath. All dragons share a deep connection with the Maelstrom that allows them to breath out blasts of potent elemental energy. As with the dragon's hue, the type of energy expelled depends upon the dragon's species.
There are four primary species of dragon, one corresponding to each of the four elements.
- Drakes are fire dragons. They are large and muscular like their cousins the wyrms, but have broad wingspans like wyverns. Most scholars consider them the most versatile and deadly breed, able to combine swift movements and powerful attacks in equal measure. Drakes are likewise adaptable in their choice of den, though many prefer simple caves in mountainsides. Their scales tend to be colored in hues of red, orange, and yellow, and they breath gouts of flame.
- Nagas are water dragons. They have long, sleek, serpentine bodies. Pure-blooded nagas have no wings, though many nagas bear them anyway due to mixed lineage. Whether or not it can fly, every naga is an accomplished swimmer, able to reach the deepest trenches of the ocean and remain there indefinitely. Nagas make their homes in such places almost exclusively. Their scales tend to be blue, navy, or green in color, and they breath sprays of icy water.
- Wyrms are earth dragons. They are the largest and most muscular of the dragon species, with thick, bulky hides. Like nagas, pure-blooded wyrms have no wings. Those who do as a result of mixed lineage tend to be poor fliers due to their size, though all wyrms are accomplished burrowers, tunneling out dens for themselves in caves deep underground. Their scales are deep brown or black in coloration, and they breath sprays of acid or poisonous gas.
- Wyverns are air dragons. They are the leanest and lightest of the dragon species, with large, overdeveloped wings that allow them to travel at high altitudes and over great distances. They make their dens in perches atop high mountain peaks. Wyverns tend to range in color from white to azure and breath bolts of lightning.
Dragons go through several discrete life stages as they age, each marked by an increase in size, influence, and magical ability.
- Hatchling - When dragons hatch, they are already as large as animals such as horses or bears. They are rarely cared for by their parents, often being left to fend for themselves from birth, although older dragons may occasionally use their offspring as minions. This is rarely a problem, however, as dragons are born fully capable of defending themselves. Many even possess enough racial memory to speak and use magic the moment they emerge from their eggs. This period in a dragon's life is the most active, with hatchlings hibernating every year or so for a few weeks at a time.
- Adult - After a hatchling has spent several decades maturing, it will enter adulthood. Adult dragons are about as large as wagons or large boulders. By this age, most dragons have established a territory of their own, and may seek out a mate. Some, but not all, adult dragons are capable of assuming the form of a humanoid, though few command magic beyond the ken of an ordinary sorcerer. During this period in their lifecycle, dragons are about as active as during their hatchling years, though the duration and time between hibernations becomes longer, slumbering for several months once every few years.
- Elder - Dragons more than a century old are classified as elders. Elder dragons are the size of small buildings. After more than a century of life, they often have large territories, numerous minions, and well-protected dens. By the elder stage, all dragons have mastered the ability to assume humanoid form, and most have several potent forms of dragon magic at their disposal. These are necessary, however, as elder dragons are less active than when they were younger. An elder dragon will often hibernate for a year or more, becoming active afterward for a roughly equal amount of time.
- Ancient - After several centuries as an elder, a dragon reaches the classification of ancient. Few dragons ever live to be ancient, but those who do grow to the size of large buildings or small hills. An ancient dragon will often have multiple large territories, armies of minions, and dens that have been fortified with every imaginable defense. The magic at their command will often border on the power of Primordial Sorcery, to say nothing of the magic possessed by their countless minions. Ancient dragons, however, are even less active that their elder counterparts, waking for a few years every few decades, and so the few who exist today are rarely seen.
Despite their monstrous appearance, dragons are highly intelligent and cunning creatures. All dragons are capable of speech, though some are more or less inclined to converse with other creatures. They are also highly magical, so much so that adult and elder dragons often acquire the ability to change their shape and even sire inter-species offspring. The extent and purpose to which a dragon chooses to use these abilities varies along with a dragon's personality.
Besides being intelligent, dragons are also well-known for coveting treasure. Most dragons will stake out a territory for themselves and raid travelers or settlements, taking what they manage to extort or pilfer. Though rare, benevolent dragons sometimes guard individuals or areas in exchange for regular offerings. Many temples of Drathenix operate in this way, with devotees paying tribute to the temple's guardian dragon. However the dragon acquires its treasure, it will then hoard it in its den. This behavior has the obvious side effect of making dragons popular targets for treasure hunters.
What most people don't realize about the treasure-seeking behavior of dragons is that they are not simply greedy; they physically hunger for treasure. A dragon's lifecycle consists of periods of activity followed by hibernation. Prior to slumbering, a dragon must consume a quantity of valuable metals, gemstones, and even magical items. These treasures are digested in the dragon's gullet, sustaining its life and fueling its growth. As the dragon grows older, the amount of treasure it must consume increases, as does the length of its hibernation. Those who fail to acquire the necessary sustenance wither away and die, and so the eldest dragons are often the most cunning and ruthless.
Dragons are innately magical creatures whose magic grows stronger as they age due to consumption of magic items. Unsurprisingly, many are powerful sorcerers. The oldest devise unique and powerful spells beyond the ken of mortal magic. Though it lacks the potency of Primordial Sorcery, this dragon magic is often used to place safeguards on the dragon's den, ensure loyalty from its minions, or sew untold destruction on its enemies.