The setting is named Dragonblade! for Pete’s sake. I’d better talk about either dragons or blades here soon. I pick dragons.
Obviously, with the goal of having an East/South Asian mash-up fantasy setting, dragons are going to look, and feel, and behave differently when compared to your “standard” Western dragons inspired by the likes of the Dragon of Revelation, the nameless dragon St. George killed, the nameless dragon that mortally wounded Beowulf and was slain by Wiglaf, Fafnir, Ancalagon the Black, Smaug the Golden and so on. I hope you are already pretty familiar with those kinds of dragons – generally sinister, almost as greedy and narcissistic as Donald Trump, fire-breathing, etc.
Eastern dragons (broadly), by contrast, tend to be wise, relatively benevolent, and associated with rivers. They are more serpentine and often wingless, though still able to fly in many stories. They often have lion’s manes and clawed feet and long, flexible bodies. They often control the weather and sometimes, by extension, local fertility. They are, like their Occidental counterparts, associated with power and the supernatural, and do remain dangerous if crossed or aggravated. They’re more likely to have a treasure-store of wisdom than of gold and gems, however. Obviously, there is a great deal of variation in both categories.
For Dragonblade, I wanted to stick with the strong elemental theme, and so I decided very early on that there would be five main types of dragons coinciding with the five Daoist elements. By color, in classic D&D fashion, that would be Yellow, White, Black, Red and Green dragons, and I’ll describe them, but in a way to avoid spoilers for my players. You know, on the off-chance that they are some of the couple dozen people still periodically reading this blog.
White Dragons, or Metal Dragons, are able to glide at most. They have the highest AC of any of dragonkind, and have some capabilities that make them at home amongst undead. We know they will be strongly associated with lightening, and are likely to be vulnerable to fire in some way. In appearance, they are skeletal and have shiny scales that tarnish and rust with age. They are tireless and possibly even sleepless, and profoundly patient, even for dragons.
Black Dragons, or Water Dragons are flightless, though they have a stronger swim speed than usual for water sup-type dragons in the MM (like the Black Dragons listed there, or the Bronze Dragons). They are fully amphibious, at home in the water or on land, and are a lot like sea monsters sketched in to the oceans of old maps. We can already surmise that they will be strongly associated with cold, and will likely be vulnerable to acid and poison in some way. Black Dragons wield fear with incredible skill, and of all dragons have the most sinister reputation.
Azure or Green Dragons, or Wood Dragons, are the smallest and most flexible of dragonkind. They can fly, burrow and swim, though they are not fully amphibious like the Black Dragons and must simply hold their breath (which they can do for a long time). Green dragons are physically the strongest, especially for their size, and heal more quickly than other dragons. They are strongly associated with force and thunder, and vulnerable to fire. In appearance, they range from bright green to blue-green to sometimes even blue (sometimes this type of qi is referred to as green, and other times, as blue or blue-green). They are easily provoked to anger. In appearance they are the most “standard” Asian dragons, and of course, when they fly it is without the need for wings.
Red Dragons, or Fire Dragons, are able to fly but not burrow well, and certainly cannot swim. Whether they are able and simply hate it, or whether they drown easily none now know. They are the most affable and interested in lesser beings, and the most likely to genuinely care about ren and other races. They are passionate and value art and beauty very highly. Of course, they also breathe fire, and are in some way vulnerable to cold. In appearance, they can look less like dragons and more like huge phoenixes, or maybe like archaeopteryxes made of supernatural fire.
In addition to the five main types of dragons there are others. The ones I can’t really talk about are the vast, epic monsters, the primordial beings from which all lesser dragons are descended. Can’t spoil them here, though, sorry.