Tyranny of Dragons
Dragonborn are a race of draconic creatures native to Abeir, Toril’s long sundered twin. During the Spellplague the dragonborn nation of Tymanchebar was placed where Unther had once been, creating the nation of Tymanther, where most dragonborn of Faerûn dwell to this day. Dragonborn have a strong hatred of dragons, who enslaved them on Abeir.
Standing on average between 6’2" and 6’8", dragonborn are impressively tall with a heavy weight to match, commonly possessing a mass between 220 and 320 lbs. Dragonborn feet are ended with three strong talon-like claws with a fourth claw in the back as are their hands, with the replacement of the rear claw with one thumb on each hand. A dragonborn’s head features a blunt snout, a strong brow, and reptilian frills on the cheeks and ears. On the back of the head a crest of hornlike scales form what resembles a mess of ropy hair. Dragonborn eyes are usually red or gold in hue.
One faction not to be confused with of the pure dragonborn race is the half-dragon. Unlike true dragonborn, half-dragons are descended from dragons and another humanoid race. As such, they appear much like their other parental race physically – human, most commonly – with a few vestigial features, such as reptilian eyes or unnatural-colored hair. However, their abilities and strengths are nearly identical to dragonborn. Dragonborn often hold contempt for half-dragons as bastard sires of their hated rivals, but others hold pity for the mongrels. Half-dragons who prove their mutual hatred for dragons, or become dragon-hunters, can often be redeemed in the eyes of dragonborn purists.
Dragonborn have a well-known dedication to honor, and how deeply rooted this trait is remains debatable. However, all dragonborn tend to view all living things, even hated dragons, as deserving of courtesy and respect. To dragonborn, honor is more than a word and is often considered more important than life itself. Cowardice is not simply undesirable amongst dragonborn, it is considered outright repulsive.3
Part of the roots of this honorable attitude lies in the dragonborn’s drive for self-improvement. The draconic nature of dragonborn gives them a strong self-consciousness and a tendency for strong emotions.6 Both of these combine to make dragonborn particularly wanting of the approval of others. Dragonborn place great value on the skill of an individual, including themselves. Failing at a task is anathema to dragonborn and as a result they can sometimes push themselves to unhealthy extremes of effort. This aspect of the dragonborn mind means few of the race take a laid-back approach to any skill or ability, striving ever to become the masters of a particular skill and dragonborn respect those among other races that approach life in the same manner. As a result most dragonborn adventurers come to their way of life through a desire to prove themselves and win respect from their brethren.
Other races may see dragonborn as proud or even arrogant because of this dedication to excellence and high standards. It is true that dragonborn are typically proud of their race’s accomplishments. However, dragonborn are also more than willing to recognize with respect the accomplishments of other races in turn, whether or not the race in question is an ally or enemy.
Moreso than other races, dragonborn often wear their hearts on their sleeves, typically hiding neither anger nor joy. Dragonborn are enthusiastic about life, particularly success, and brooding about failure for only a short time before their disappointment is shaped into a strong drive for improvement. Only a handful of dragonborn actually demonstrate traits that might be considered timid or reserved, and the vast majority of the race has no qualms asking for what they need or taking time to improve themselves. Trust is a major factor in the lives of all dragonborn and each expects others to be just as open and forthcoming with them as they are.
Perhaps paradoxically, given the often rigid conditions of their society, dragonborn have a strong sense of independence and self-worth. Most dragonborn, however, do not view this as a need to break away from society as other individuals might, but rather to shape it for the better through their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Likewise, dragonborn see themselves as responsible for those around themselves, the group ultimately reflecting on the individual. In this way the successes and failures of each dragonborn are the successes and failures of the group they associate with, giving dragonborn a very collective sense of self while retaining their individuality. Ultimately, dragonborn hold themselves accountable for their choice of allies and poor judgment is considered no excuse for failing to uphold the standards all dragonborn hold themselves to.
Good dragonborn are fairly common, but dragonborn are as fallible to evil as any other race. The passionate nature of dragonborn can make the race brutal or vengeful and given to hasty choices that are morally compromising. The dragonborn sense of worth can likewise lead to greed and egotistic selfishness. But while dragonborn can turn to evil, most dragonborn villains retain the race’s scruples and values that define the race, including respect and courtesy to enemies.
RELATIONS WITH OTHER RACES
Other than their well-known hatred of dragons, dragonborn have few definitive relationships with other races. The dragonborn of Tymanther have a known tolerance for races of all kinds, extending their courtesy even to races generally disliked such as tieflings. This tolerance does not, however, equate equality before the law and only dragonborn are allowed to participate in Tymanther’s authoritarian government. The strongest friendships the dragonborn have forged have been with the humans of Chessenta and High Imaskar, even though both nations are traditional enemies. The Tymantherans are, however, distrusting of two of their neighbors, the genasi of Akanûl, with whom they have a long-standing grudge, and the dragon lords of Murghôm, who they view as no more deserving of friendship than the tyrants who they fought to free themselves from on Abeir.
The dragonborn drive for honor carries on into the culture of the race. Amongst dragonborn, the most horrible crime is oathbreaking; honesty is expected whenever a deal is struck. Commitment to a word is expected to be carried out to the letter and all parties in a transaction are held accountable and responsible for failings. Ultimately, those who fail to meet their word are expected to accept the consequences and, in fact, most dragonborn do. So widespread is this value of honor and honesty that it is commonly believed that dragonborn never break their word.
Dragonborn society in the nation of Tymanther, partially because of its martial origins, is extremely rigid in its organization, with hierarchical castes and strict laws. The nation is divided into large clans, each organized more like a military organization than a government. However, while the laws of Tymanther may be unforgiving, the nation is also highly meritocratic and Tymantheran leaders are those that have proved their ability for command.
The dragonborn culture of Tymanther has a strong and abiding hatred of dragons, perpetuated by terrifying tales of draconic cruelty and retelling of the dragonborn struggle for freedom on Abeir. Though the dragons of Toril have nothing to do with this horrid past that haunts the race, the dragonborn are not particularly forgiving in this regard, and individuals who take up dragon-hunting for whatever reasons are honored as heroes amongst the Tymantherans. Many dragonborn also take up the life of a mercenary.
However, though this hatred of dragons is strong, even carrying over to a condemnation of the worship of Bahamut, many dragonborn hope that life on Toril will help them escape the tragedies of their history. In part because of their distrust of dragons, but also because of a general desire to forge a bright future for their people devoid of war the Tymantheran, dragonborn have worked hard to earn the friendship of races around the world and few prejudices other than the hatred of dragons plague the dragonborn race. Dragonborn efforts have been partially successful but the sudden appearance of the dragonborn and the alien nature of their culture makes many wary of their motives.
Like dwarves, dragonborn are usually practical about the arts. Few items are created for purely artistic reasons, instead having a functional purpose behind them. In spite of this, like the dwarves, dragonborn arts are not at all ugly or mundane in appearance and dragonborn craftsmen take time and care in creating new works. As pieces representative of the skill of a craftsman, dragonborn art pieces often possess a distinctive flair that is draconic or elemental in nature and are often embroidered with jewels or precious metals.16
Not all dragonborn art is purely pragmatic in nature, however, and the dragonborn have a love for jewelry as well. Jewelers, gemcutters, smiths, and minters have a respected place in dragonborn society. Ironically, dragonborn often adorn themselves with baubles of all sorts in subconscious imitation of the very same dragons they resent. Like dragons, dragonborn have a craving for precious metals and jewels that can seem like hoarding, though most dragonborn possess a culturally-instilled restraint rather than engaging in the gross overindulgence that many wyrms do.
Like the dragonborn approach to art, the race’s attitude towards leisure activities is very practical, and when dragonborn aren’t at work, they’re often engaged in sports with a training component to them. Often competitive, these sports often lack teams, with the most popular games ending in victory for one, clear winner. Many of these sports are also violent, particularly by the standards of many other races, and wrestling is extremely popular with the race as are, to a more limited extent, blood sports such as gladiator games or pit fighting.
Not all dragonborn sports are so physical, however, and the race is also fond of strategic board games, riddle contests, or improvised storytelling events. In all cases, the dragonborn emphasis for recreation is on the triumph of the individual and the improvement of practical skills.
CLAN AND FAMILY
Clan and family bloodlines are both preserved amongst dragonborn and are highly important to dragonborn culture as a whole. Both are different, though the line is subtle to non-dragonborn. Family refers specifically to actual blood relatives, as far as can be traced, whereas clan, in the dragonborn context, refers to a confederation of families united by mutual purpose in ages past, organized along military lines. Of the two, clan is usually considered more important and it is to the clan that dragonborn owe their most loyalty, particularly in Tymanther.
Clans, which play an enormous role in the life of dragonborn, are led by wizened, aged clan-masters chosen for their ability to lead who are looked to for guidance by their lieges. Dragonborn do not forget the past, and ties to clan and family determine much about how one dragonborn is viewed by others. All clans have reputations, for good and ill, that often last for generations. A dragonborn’s actions are expected to bring favor and good will to his or her clan, improving this reputation. For this reason, dragonborn typically go by their clan names rather than their family names, hoping to bring honor and glory to their clan.
This pressure to either right the wrongs of the past or continue a clan’s glory can define a dragonborn’s life. Some dragonborn flee from the imposing responsibilities their clan puts on them, choosing infamy over such a burden. Others accept the responsibility or even turn it into an additional drive for their ambition, hoping to one day become the clan-master.
Overall, compared with clan ties, family is secondary and private to dragonborn, as reflected by the fact that most dragonborn family names are kept secrets shared with only the closest friends and other family members. The usual family unit is quite small, often composed of only two individuals: a mated pair or a parent and its child. Dragonborn marriages are arranged by the clan leaders along old pact lines. Dragonborn lack the association of love with marriage that many races have, instead wedding purely for reproductive reasons. Once a dragonborn child reaches 3 years old the wedding is typically dissolved, with the parent who is the same sex as the child rearing it for the remainder of its childhood.
The parent-child relationship during the formative years between the marriage’s dissolution and the child’s adulthood are incredibly important. Parents, along with other adults from the community, are expected to not simply act as loving caretakers but teachers as well, using storytelling and direct action to instill the virtues of society within a child. In addition to scholarly studies and moral lessons, parents are also expected to focus the drive of a child and teach them basic martial skills for the purpose of defense. Dragonborn believe this in-depth mentorship is necessary not only for the child’s education but also for their morality. It is thought that without this imposed discipline, a dragonborn’s fierce passions might give way to a feral savagery. Within a large dragonborn community, the parent maintains the position of authority, but other adults are allowed to act as surrogate parents and teachers, giving a young child multiple examples to learn from.
MAGIC AND RELIGION
Because of their position as slaves of the dragon lords for so long, dragonborn don’t have a tradition of magic, though they have a significant affinity for certain forms of it. The race’s natural abilities are well suited for the path of a warlock, though few dragonborn are willing to actually take up the career since it forces them to deal with powers beyond their control. Some dragonborn warlocks do exist, usually social outcasts or those who have justified it as a form of individuality. Dragonborn arcane spellcasters are, however, far more often wizards or sorcerers, attracted by the often secretive and eccentric ways that both paths involve.
Having come from Abeir, dragonborn have a very different approach to religion than the other races. On Abeir, divine influence was rare and mysterious, contrary to Toril where it has been relatively common in past ages. Since Abeir was dominated by the primordials who were, according to myth, driven into hiding by the mighty dragon lords that reign over most of the planet, the dragonborn feel less beholden to gods than the members of other races. For this reason many dragonborn are entirely agnostic, with no strong feelings one way or another about the gods.
Dragonborn who do embrace religion, however, are well-suited to the path of a paladin. Making the creed and commandments of a god a code by which you live is in many ways attractive to dragonborn, so long as they are able to get past their natural aversion to faith. If they do join the faithful, dragonborn can become quite devoted in their chosen church, craving the direction and purpose it gives them. Likewise, paladins, unlike clerics, represent an almost martial career path and one that blends well with the militaristic culture of the race.
The origin of the dragonborn race is uncertain, shrouded in myth. While the origin of the Tel’Quessir as Corellon’s children is well known and dwarves firmly believe in their stony origin, dragonborn are unsure from whence they came. Some legends of Abeir tell that Io, the first and greatest of the dragon gods, created the dragonborn as servants for the first dragons. These stories relate that the dragonborn, like dragons, were formed from the essence of both the Astral Sea and the Elemental Chaos, though their nature overall favored the elemental over the astral, just like dragons.21 A slight variation on this is common amongst the dragonborn of Tymanther, who believe they were bred by the dragon lords of Abeir for a cruel fate as slaves.
The Platinum Cadre posits an alternative theory in their efforts to spread the worship of Bahamut, that the dragonborn are the ancient creations of the Platinum Dragon. However, most of the order is ridiculed or even openly persecuted for their beliefs since, to the dragonborn of Tymanther, the idea of a good dragon, let alone a good dragon god, is completely alien. Yet another, less popular tale tells that Io was killed in the war between the gods and the primordials and that the dragonborn sprang from his spilled blood.
Regardless of the origin of the race, dragonborn have been the slaves of dragons for millennia. Occasionally clans would rise in rebellion but only a few, such as the nation of Tymanchebar, were ever successful. However, during the Spellplague, Tymanchebar was believed destroyed, wiped out following the transplantation of its center from Abeir to Toril. In spite of this tragedy, the Abeiran expatriates of the new nation Tymanther remained strong, and have since formed a strong and steady homeland for the dragonborn of Toril that has begun to see acceptance amongst its neighbors. Some dragonborn migrated from Tymanther to other lands on Toril, though most that are not a part of the nation remain enslaved by dragons, either on Abeir or within the new continent of Returned Abeir.
Dragonborn are most commonly found on Abeir, where the vast majority of the race dwells. There, as well as in Returned Abeir, dragonborn are enslaved by draconic overlords who rule over much of Toril’s lost twin. However, some dragonborn nations do exist that have wrested themselves away from draconic rule. The largest of these was Tymanchebar on Abeir, whose center of power was wrested away from Abeir by the Spellplague and transplanted on the ruins of Unther. Most dragonborn believe now that Tymanchebar has been destroyed and reconquered by the dragon lords of Abeir, no longer having the protection of its mighty citadels and armies. Today, Tymanther, the dragonborn nation formed from this expatriate of Abeir, is the strongest center of dragonborn culture, at least on Toril.