by Mike Brotzman
©2006 Mike Brotzman -- all rights reserved
As I mentioned way back in my opening Dragon's Lair, one of the reasons that transformational ability is important to us dragons is that our size and shape is naturally incompatible with the non-dragon worlds in which we live. Now, yes, there do exist dragon-scale worlds and yes, some dragons see no need to 'conform' to hewman standards (CASTLE GO SMASH NOW!!), but most dragons tend to be more enlightened and can see the need for a more manageable form. In this episode of Dragon's Lair I will briefly discuss the ins and outs of transforming yourself or your dragon character into that more manageable form.
Now, there are three basic ways to get your dragon in/through the door. First, your dragon can simply shrink to fit. Second, your dragon can become what is commonly known as 'anthro'. And third, your dragon can take on the shape of the lesser inhabitants who typically use the door.
Anyway, let's dive right in with shrinking. Unless your dragon species is pathetically petite, your transformation is going to involve some form of mass reduction. Even if you don't expose the mechanics of your shrink spell to your readers, it's good to keep those details in the back of your own mind; you never know when those ideas might provide some juice plot tidbits. For example, what if your dragon's 'extra' mass is stored somewhere? If it gets stolen or access to it blocked, your dragon might have some problems. Also, don't assume that size TFs have to be clean. Your dragon might have to 'shed' his mass in the form of a rush of wind, a flow of water, a crumble of sand or even a sticky pile of foul-smelling goo.
The basic shrink has some advantages and disadvantages. It's a pretty simple spell and a rather simple process. If you don't want to give your dragon full shapeshifting abilities, this is probably your best bet. Also, many eastern dragons have a natural size-shifting ability, so you don't even need any special explanation there. The downside is that while your dragon can fit in a door, and move around a house, he or she is still shaped like a dragon. Think about how well a lion, bear or other mid-size mammal functions inside a confined space. There is also the issue with basic grasping and item manipulation. This sort of thing can be difficult in a quadrupedal form, but usually dragons can sit back/stand on their hind legs so this doesn't have to be an issue. Then again, think of eastern dragons. Moreover, we have wings and tails flailing all over the place. So unless you want to deal with a lot of broken pottery, basic size shifting isn't much more than a bandaid that lets your character meet with the King.
Moving onto the anthro form, many people would say that changing into an anthro dragon gives one the best of both worlds. You have a basic dragon shape and almost all the abilities you had before the TF, but you can fit in close spaces and have free paws with which to eat your food -- I mean, 'greet your generous hewman hosts'. There are some downsides besides the fact that you are copping out as a writer (just kiddin'). First, you clearly mark yourself as a dragon, and many hewmans tend to react out of fear or greed around dragons. Thus, an anthro dragon walking into town might wake up with a sword in his back. Anonymity is very important to a dragon moving in hewman circles, so unless dragons are a common feature in society, you will want to try to use the anthro form only when it won't cause a scene (or when you want a scene to other dragons might find a hewman-shaped dragon form insulting to their race, ancestors, heritage, etc, and would rather have their scales plucked out one by one by rusty pliers than ever assume it. Oh, also keep in mind that with wings, a tail and lots of pointy, spiky bits, it may be hard for your dragon character to find clothes and accessories for his chosen form.
The last option involves simply turning hewman. Fortunately, this in no way means that you actually have to turn into a plain, weak, tasty, mundane hewman (although you are welcome to be adventurous) -- for one thing, how would you change back? Dragons are the master species and they usually won't give that up just because they have to take on a hewman shape. As I am sure you know, dragons in hewman form tend to be tall, strong and hot (think supermodel wrestler), but I like to spice up my dragon characters with a few distinctive markings. Things like hair streaks the color of their scales, crazy eye colors, 'tattoos', awesome clothing -- things that say I'm badass, not some doofus loser who dresses up like he's badass". It's a fine line, but I am confident that we dragons have the ability to pull it off.
Ugh! Weren't you supposed to be on vacation!?
Just... go away. Ugh! Okay, where was I. Ah yes, dragons in hewman form. In addition to stunning fashion accessories, Dragons can retain physical vestiges of their trueforms. You know, things like little horns, a tail, stub wings, etc. You can either treat them as a mark of pride or a downside of the TF process that could expose the vulnerable drake at any time. One thing your dragon should always try to retain is their scaley hide. Scales are bullet-proof, bomb-proof, and battering-ram-resistant, and even while hidden under clothing (which is quite easy to do!), they provide handy protection against everything from raspberries to pointed sticks. If your dragon can do this, there are very few reasons that they shouldn't. It would be like a police officer forgetting to strap on his bullet-proof vest.
There are also some things to avoid with your dragon in hewman form. Please do not give your dragon stereotypical reptile features like a forked tongue or prolonged sssss pronunciation. First, dragons are not reptiles or snakes, they are saurian; second, it's a horrible cliché. Dragons normally speak with a deep, low, husky 'large predator' sound, like you see with talking wolves or maybe James Earl Jones. Please try to avoid having them speak like pale, slimy-skinned villains in decadently embroidered robes. Evil or not, we're really just better than that.
Sssssshut up you ssslimy little sssentaur. I mean -- err -- ugh!! Look what you made me do! That's it, I'm moving to a web 'zine where I can get the respect due my species.
::turns tail and storms out::
The intelligent, well-spoken, creative, admirable, perceptive, virtuous, and (above all) editor writes:
We're afraid Mr. Brotzman ate something that didn't agree with him. Or, much more accurately, someone disagreed with him so he ate them. Either way, we are confident that Mr. Brotzman will return as soon as the results of the blood tests are in. And in the meantime, you can check out that other web 'zine to see what Mr. Brotzman is up to when he's not around here...