I love the idea of the dragonborn, but the execution is often lacking. The fourth of my Summerlands races, for the (now long over) June RPG Blog Carnival, hosted by Tales of a DM, the reven are my attempt to play with the theme, and make them a little more flavorful.
Created by the dragons long ago, the reven of today build powerful city-states and mighty armies. Though they delight in war, reven respect all of the professions that make war possible. Whether a reven is a farmer, a logger, a builder, or a teacher, their work serves one purpose: to strengthen their society and home themselves to perfection. A reven who has perfected the craft of logging is as rightly regarded as one who has mastered the ways of war, and more esteemed than a warrior whose scales have never been bloodied.
The reven are less dragon-born, and more dragon-made. Long ago experiments in creating servants, the reven were either a great failure, or a rousing success. Some say that the reven escaped their servitude and built lives for themselves on the central plains of the Summerlands. Others, perhaps more understanding of dragons’ natures, say that the reven were released, either as a reward or a punishment. All the stories begin the same, however: the dragons created the reven to be the perfect race of servants, but now the reven toil for no one but themselves. Strong-willed and independent, they will bow to no one except by choice, and the frequent wars between their mighty city-states are evidence of their independence.
Individual reven might despise way and seek to avoid fighting, but every reven strives to achieve perfection of body and craft. Whatever a reven does, doing that thing well honors their family, and the dragons who made them.
Warlords and Kings
The great cities of the reven serve to feed their wars with one another as each reven warlord-king (called Greatwyrm by their people) tries to control the fertile grasslands. Some reven city-states control hundreds of square miles, such as the military theocracy of Toka Zjedhur and the democratic, egalitarian Kryesor Madj, but most are small tribal communities of farmers and herders.
Whatever the size or nature of their community, reven tend to be both territorial and expansionist. Even the smallest farmer will defend his little plot to the death, while looking for ways to increase its size. The Greatwyrms embody this ideal on a national level, marshaling armies and waging periodic wars against their neighbors. Rarely do city-states make lasting peace agreements. A truce might be called for a few planting seasons, but before long the armies will be moving, again.
Wings and Scales
While reven can’t use their wings to fly until the reven has evolved, those wings are always a point of pride. Reven polish and shine their wings, sometimes painting intricate designs on the membranes, piercing the cartilage, or grafting strips of metal to them as a mark of their ability to endure pain.
The scales of a reven provide armor, but even for reven who never see battle, their scales are a source of pride and decoration. Many reven paint their scales with symbols or artistic representations of important events or people in their lives. Reven scale-paint does not wash off, but can be removed painlessly, and many reven change their scale-paint every few months.
Draconic, as spoken by reven, is guttural, with strings of consonants. A reven’s name is determined by their accomplishments, and will reveal those accomplishments to those who know them, often in metaphor. As such, reven names can change over time, and while most have a core that remains, reven expect to reintroduce themselves to long-absent acquaintances. The name of the legendary general Steelclaw the Unyielding refers to his finely-crafted metal hand, which was made for him after he defended Toka Zjedhur against a rampaging dinosaur while the city’s defenses were unprepared. A reven beggar might be called One-eye the Unworthy, while a seventh-generation farmer might be called Longplow the Steady. Reven names are more than just labels: they are stories.
Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 2, and either your Dexterity or your Wisdom score of your choice increases by 1.
Age. Young reven grow quickly, aging as dragonborn.
Alignment. Reven strive towards the perfection of self in all things, and tend towards lawful alignments. They have no preference for good or evil, however. Those reven who do follow a path of chaos do so out of a sense of individuality and a desire to demonstrate that their achievements are greater than their peers’.
Size. Reven are broad-shouldered and tall, but light, standing 7 feet tall and averaging 150 pounds.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet and your climb speed is 10 feet.
Claws. Your mighty claws are useful for combat as well as climbing. You are never unarmed. You are proficient with your claw, which is a melee weapon that deals 1d6 slashing damage.
Wings. Your wingspan is twice your height, and those wings are composed of powerful muscles over cartilage, with strong membranes in between them. Although not useful for flight, your wings provide stability, giving you advantage on Strength (Athletics) and Dexterity (Acrobatics) checks related to climbing, jumping and balancing, and on any saving throw to avoid being knocked prone. You can use them to pick up small items up to 20 feet away, although your wings can’t manipulate most items.
Glide. Your wings give you the ability to glide for brief periods of time. As long as you are not prone at the beginning of your turn, and both start and end your movement on a surface on which you can stop (including a surface on which you could climb), you can glide up to your movement speed when you take a move action. You can attack at any time during your move, as normal, but you may not glide and use the Dash action on the same turn.
Protective scales. Your body is covered in thin plates that are nonetheless effective armor. Your base armor class is 12, as long as you are wearing no other armor.
Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Draconic. Draconic is both a holy and a reviled language in the Summerlands, and few creatures speak it in public.
When creating a reven character from the Summerlands, you can use the following table of bonds to help flesh out your character. Use this table in addition to or in place of your background’s bond or a bond of your creation.
|1||I seek perfection in the arts of war, testing myself against all opponents. I would rather lose a fight against a better foe than win against one unworthy of my blade.|
|2||I seek perfection in the arts of diplomacy. My words should move the coldest heart, creating peace where wars rage, or war where peace stagnates.|
|3||I seek perfection in the arts of thievery. No gate shall keep me out, and no lock shall defend against me. There is no challenge greater than an impregnable fortress.|
|4||I seek perfection in the arts of magic. Through study and exploration, I will open doorways in my mind that no other reven has yet conceived.|
|5||I seek perfection in my knowledge of the world. I will explore and catalogue every blade of grass in the Summerlands, and beyond, if possible.|
|6||I seek perfection in slaughter. I will not rest until I have slain one of each type of creature that lives, or all of one type.|
Requirement: Reven Dragonborn
You have undergone the Ritual of Evolution, gaining abilities that connect you to your draconic heritage and abilities that will one day be common to all reven. You gain the following abilities:
- You have a fly speed of 30 feet and a climb speed of 20 feet.
- Choose one type of dragon (black, blue, green, red, or white). You gain resistance to the damage type dealt by that dragon’s breath weapon.
- If you do not use them to fly in a round, you can make an attack with your wings. Your wings do 1d10 damage and have reach. If your attack hits, and the creature if Large or smaller, it must make a Strength saving throw. On a failed save, you knock the target prone.
Hacking the Reven
I’ve already written one subrace for the dragonborn, but I wanted one that focused on the wings. The blog Tribality (which I really enjoy) has another set of subraces based on the draconic types, and while I like the idea, it didn’t fit into the Summerlands. In fact, that Tribality post is one of the few places I could find dragonborn subraces. In the drac, I wanted to focus on the magic of dragons, but in this one I wanted to see a mechanic that emulated wings without giving them flight until 4th level (or later).
Except for the claws and protective scales, none of the new abilities: wings, gliding, a dismal climb speed, would add to the dragonborn’s CR if they were given to an opponent, so they seemed like a fair trade for the draconic resistance, while the claws and armor replaced the breath weapon.
In another world, one where dragonborn don’t usually have wings, the reven subrace could represent interference by dragons, or a natural evolution of the dragonborn race. Either way, they would likely not hold positions of power (unlike dragonborn with the Winged ability, from the Tribality article), but might instead be persecuted and hunted, both by dragonborn and by members of other races who saw them as a threat.
Next time: More draconic meddling! The Dragon-touched Background