Band of Bugbears
Dragons are intelligent, tremendously powerful creatures who live in every biome on Arcadia. It is unknown when the first dragon was born, but their clearly magical nature implies that they are the product of an ancient cycle’s Resonance. Dragons live for a very long time, with the oldest known dragons being well over 3000 years old, and the older a dragon, the more powerful. Dragons lack a metahuman soul, and as such cannot be raised from the dead. While this of course varies from variety to variety and between particular dragons, most dragons have only enough intelligence to understand a language and perform simple tasks. This should not lead one to underestimate them, dragons are apex predators and have a great deal of cunning, and their failure to understand advanced mathematics makes them no less skilled at those activities they find themselves more suited for.
Different varieties of dragons can be identified most easily by the color of their scales. Colors breed true when bred with a “lower” color, so every offspring of the pairing of a red dragon (the highest color) and a white dragon (the lowest color) will be red. Lower colors of dragon tend to have larger clutches of dragonets, and are often more easily trainable. While a single red dragon can be a fearsome force, they breed slowly if at all, and even when raised from the egg, a red dragonet will be successfully trained only about 20% of the time. The varieties of dragon are presented from lowest to highest.
White dragons are the weakest and smallest of all the dragons. When fully grown, a white dragon measures 30 feet from nose to tail, but much of this length is thin neck and tail, with the bulk of the body measuring only 10 feet in length. White dragons are most commonly found in cold climates, where they use their icy breath to form bowls of ice near the peaks of mountains, where they lay their eggs.
When in harness, a white dragon can carry two riders, leading to their use in combat to ferry sniper/spotter teams from place to place quickly. In a pinch, they are useful to strafe infantry when anti-air weapons have been neutralized, but their lack of bulk or armor makes them poor choices for air to air combat, especially given their not insubstantial cost to house, even considering their comparatively small size.
White dragons tend towards one of two personalities. Most white dragons are submissive and eager to please, and the vast majority of trained white dragons are of this personality. They are often described as “sweet”, but are rarely more intelligent than particularly trainable dogs with the ability to speak. A tiny minority of white drgaons are far more fierce. Failure to train rates of these dragons is very high, nearly as high as Reds, but they are also far more intelligent, reaching levels of intelligence almost entirely unheard-of among dragons. As such, the latter sort is prized, although between low training rates and low emergence rates, only a handful are in service.
White dragons require 75-90 feet of space to take off, but can land given 20 feet of space. They require much less food than other breeds of dragon, but are very uncomfortable in temperatures above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and may perform less successfully as a result.
Black dragons are found primarily in swamps, moors, and other marshy areas. They are excellent swimmers, and often remain submerged for hours at a time while stalking prey. They prefer to ambush prey or enemies, making several decisive strikes and then retreating again. Measured from nose to tail, Black dragons are 45 feet in length, but much more powerfully built than white dragons, with comparatively short necks and tails. Their claws are viciously curved, and secrete a semi-magical filth that causes injuries to become infected very quickly.
When in harness, a black dragon can carry a team of up to five people, and it is not uncommon for it to do so, using its stealth to ferry teams of sappers up under bridges so they may be destroyed. Black dragons are feared in dragon vs dragon combat, as the filth under their claws can mean that even a victory can cost the life of a black dragon’s opponent. Against aircraft, however, the black dragon is at a disadvantage. While skilled swimmers, black dragons are more ungainly in the air and cannot make the sharp turns and changes in velocity that allow dragons to best fighter planes. While the conventions of war ban its use, the Black dragon’s breath weapon is a massive cloud of toxic gases very useful for clearing out bunkers or trenches, and in practice its use for such seems inevitable.
Black dragons are often arrogant of disposition, only responding to orders given to them by their own crew, and even then often resentfully. They love fights when they believe they have an advantage, but will often retreat if they sense that opponents have an advantage over them. They are naturally patient, and will wait without complaint for hours to achieve even a momentary advantage of surprise or position. Black dragons are generally of average intelligence, but above average cunning, gleefully arranging traps for their enemies to fall into.
Black dragons require 400 feet of open space to take off, but can achieve flight from a variety of surfaces, including swamp or marshlands, from which other species would be unable to launch. Black dragons require no special considerations for their keeping, save for large quantities of water after using their breath weapon.
Yellow dragons, or “Sand Dragons” are found almost exclusively in deserts, particularly sandy deserts. Yellow dragons in the wild often sleep for 18 hours a day, burrowed deeply into the sides of dunes to avoid the heat of the day. Juvenile yellow dragons often do much of their hunting similarly to black dragons, burrowing underneath the sand and using the natural tremorsense they possess to ambush prey on the surface. Adult yellow dragons tend to eschew these methods, preferring a more typical hunting pattern. Fully grown, a yellow dragon is 50 feet long, but with an 80 foot wingspan, they have a deceptively heavy load capacity. In the wild this allows them to glide for extreme distances, but their load capacity has never gone unnoticed by military planners.
When in harness, a yellow dragon is one of the most versatile and valuable weapons in a military’s arsenal. The vast majority of yellow dragons are used to drop bombs, as they can carry large quantities of munitions much deeper into enemy territory than dragons of a similar size. When put into use in this role the dragon will often carry five crew, and between 500 and 2500 pounds of bombs, with lighter loads being used for longer journeys. One captain directs the dragon, two bombardiers target and drop the bombs, and two crewmen operate a heavy machine gun which represents the primary defensive option available to the yellow dragon. Another common use for the yellow dragon is to deliver light infantry. Over shorter distances a yellow dragon can carry as many as fifty soldiers and light-weight equipment.
In aerial combat the yellow dragon is dangerously vulnerable. The long wings that make the yellow so useful as a load-bearer prevent it from making tight maneuvers of any kind. Crew-served machine guns are the most common way to defend a yellow, although lighter dragons or light-weight fighter craft should beware the hurricane-force winds that the yellow is capable of unleashing. Far more frightening is a yellow dragon which has entered into a low altitude attack run. A particularly strong yellow dragon once successfully lifted a half-track armored vehicle off the ground and dropped it from one hundred feet up. While such attacks can be incredibly effective against infantry and light vehicles, the exposure of the yellow to anti-aircraft fire or even small arms is generally too great to be worth the risk.
Yellow dragons tend to be relatively friendly to “their” crew, but are slow to grow to trust anyone not part of that group. The much greater quantities of food available to harnessed dragons is often enough to entice them to submit to harness, as yellow dragons in the wild often go without finding sufficient prey for weeks on end. If a yellow dragon grows unsatisfied with service, they can become disgruntled and rebellious at much higher rates than other breeds, even once harnessed, and dragons under short supply have been known to simply leave camp AWOL and find their way to the nearest desert and set up there.
Yellow dragons require 200 feet of space to take off, but are capable of taking off of loose earth or sand as easily as harder surfaces. Note that yellow dragons retain the ability to burrow at tremendous speeds through anything short of compacted stone. Yellow dragons are more difficult to keep than black or white dragons, as they must sleep underground, and can become sick if their warrens are not heated. Bases where yellow dragons are permanently stationed often construct two-level underground hangars, so that a fire or similar heating element can be applied to the “floor” of the dragon’s nest.
Blue dragons are one of the most widely spread species of dragon, although they are usually found in coastal regions. Blue dragons feed off of cattle and other large animals, hunting from the sky. Their coloration tends to be lighter on their underbelly and darker on their backs, making them fairly stealthy predators. Measured from nose to tail, they are 50 feet long, similar to yellow dragons, but are much slimmer and more of their length is made up of a long tail with vanes not unlike the tail of a fish. This allows the blue dragon unparalleled maneuverability. The wings of the blue dragon are uniquely flexible, swiveling to much more extreme angles than other species of dragon. This makes the blue dragon slightly weaker physically than the yellow dragon, but makes it far more dangerous in the air. The blue dragon’s horns make it an even more dangerous opponent as it can, in lieu of a more traditional breath attack, unleash a devastating blast of electricity.
In harness, a blue dragon takes an anti-aircraft role, fighting other dragons and airplanes. A crew of five man the dragon, a captain and two teams, one on the dragon’s back operating a light cannon, and one team slung on the dragon’s stomach with a machine gun. This position, known as a “belly gunner” is a common role for new Dragon Division soldiers, as it can involve being hung upside down for extended periods of time while in battle.
Green Dragons are prize specimens for all Dragon Divisions, regardless of nationality. They are native to forested terrain, where they establish a territory that increases in size as they grow older and more powerful. Green Dragons are on average the smartest dragons, with Green crews reporting almost human-like speech patterns and relationships with both humans and other dragons. A fully grown Green is 80 feet in length, with a powerful build. A Green dragon hunts large mammals like the bison or steer, and requires a phenomenal amount of nourishment when active, but can also go “dormant” for months at a time, where it requires very little food, although a Green that is awakening after a period of dormancy is very animalistic until it has eaten its weight (up to eight tons) in meat.
Greens in harness are classified as “Heavy” dragons, one of two breeds described as such. They require 700 feet of open space to take off or land, one of their primary drawbacks. They are often used as escorts for flights of Yellows where other Greens are potential threats. While the Blue is generally considered to be the king of the air, Greens can outgun the Blue to such a degree that the advantage is minimized. Greens kitted out for combat carry a crew of 12, a captain/pilot, a spotter, two “engineers” who maintain the heavy armor and harness, two teams of two on the dragon’s shoulders near the wing operating machine guns, a team of two on the dragon’s belly doing the same, and one team of two operating a 30 mm cannon. Despite the fact that the Green lacks a breath weapon, it has a particularly heavily armored head that means that when armored a green can withstand a great deal of punishment without being badly injured, which has on occasion led to the Green’s use to evacuate troops in dangerous positions where other dragons might not be able to survive a landing.
While supply lines are important to keep a Green fed, they are hardy and do not require special housing, and once harnessed are generally seen as the most reliable breed. More than any breed besides the intelligent Whites they understand and value loyalty, and on very rare occasions have been permitted to work independently. This is rare because Greens are expensive to keep and difficult to harness, so a crew is often easier to come by than a dragon.
Red Dragons are the largest, most powerful, and indisputably terrifying breed of dragon. Measuring up to 150 feet from nose to tail, the Red resembles a brick building with teeth. Weighing in at ten tons or more, the hide of the Red dragon is thick enough to defeat small arms fire, and even some machine gun rounds. As a rule of thumb, defeating a Red in the air requires three or more Greens with additional support from fighter planes or smaller dragons. Reds in the wild are extremely rare, and tend to spend most of their time in or around volcanoes, as their already prodigious appetite becomes even more difficult to sate when their internal furnaces must be maintained internally. Red dragons are not particularly intelligent, and in fact they are the most difficult breed to control. Were it not for the decisive advantage that a Red provides in aerial (or land) combat they would be dismissed as difficult to control and expensive to maintain, but in reality any Red that can be brought under harness is harnessed and the Dragon Divisions lucky enough to have one are thankful for it.
Under harness, Red Dragons are classified as Heavy dragons, and can be used for a wide variety of roles. They can carry more bombs than a Yellow, more armament than a Green, and can defeat any other breed in open combat, although Blues have the maneuverability to escape one. Their rarity and versatility means that there is no standard loadout for a Red. Some are used as mobile anti-aircraft platforms, with 20 men manning machine gun emplacements, some are used as heavier versions of the Green, with a mix of machine guns and heavier cannon. Once or twice a Red has had a large artillery cannon mounted on it, and was used to provide heavy support fire to multiple wings of an attack at the same time. When appropriately rigged, a Red dragon can even move up to sixty infantry and all of their man-portable gear.
While any Dragon Division officer would say that they would take as many Reds as they could find, the accountants involved probably feel differently. Providing heated housing and feed for a single Red costs as much as housing and feeding two Greens, or a dozen smaller dragons. The housing for Reds is similar to what is used for Yellows, although in a pinch a Red can simply sleep in a fire pit. A Red dragon requires at least a half-ton of food every other day, but if combat is expected the Red should be consuming closer to one and a half tons. Without this feed, the furnace that provides the Red’s legendary breath weapon extinguishes, and the dragon will rapidly become sickly and deteriorate. Restoring the furnace is difficult. The simplest way is simply boiling 50+ gallons of copper or similar metal and feeding it to the dragon, but this is often difficult in the field. Some handlers have reported success with gasoline and some sort of small incendiary, but this is dangerous for the dragon and may cause an even more severe injury.