On Playing a Dragonborn in Forgotten Realms: Part 2

Hello, readers!

I’ve had a follow-up question to my earlier post about dragonborn from Micha. Do you have more of these? I’m happy to answer them as time allows. Like I said before: this stuff is coming out my ears!

So,  the vayemniri don’t care for dragons.   How is the relationship with metalic dragons?   I would assume that the tyrranical dragons of Abir were chromatic.   Do they see a difference, or have both dragon types been lumped together?   Since we have a new world that lacks a history of dragon overlords, would a visiting dragon be treated with hospitality, or are we talking prejudice?    How would the vayemniri look at the dragon worshipping kobold?

 And what about the Wall of the Faithless?   I assume that is still around, and I imagine its demonstratably real.

 

Good questions! Let’s break it into two parts.

DRAGONS
To the first point, I cannot speak with absolute authority—the information on Abeir is–intentionally, I suspect—a little thin, so you can craft your own lore. But the impression I’m left with is one of a world corrupted by the tyranny of the Dawn Titans/primordials. The laws of nature in Toril are not the laws of nature in Abeir, and so metallic dragons aren’t necessarily as good as they were at the beginning of time or in the current age in Toril.

Here’s why I say that: the dragons in Abeir gained their power in a lot of the same ways the dragonborn gained their freedom. They begin as the steeds and property of the titans. They fight them, defeat them—mostly—and throw off the shackles, then set to building their own empires on the backs of humanoids. Chromatic dragons and metallic dragons are in the same boat here, and once different dragon kingdoms start establishing themselves, it’s very plausible to me that each dragon is only thinking of their counterparts. Humans, elves, dragonborn, etc.—these never get a real chance to gain a solid foothold the way they do in Toril. They are chattel and creatures—not “real” like dragons. And so even given the possibility of a metallic dragon that is capital-G Good, with the general state of things they’re probably good in a very paternalistic way: they treat their slaves very well, but they’re still slaves. Poor things couldn’t make it on their own. More likely, I would think, is the possibility that Abeir has corrupted them too. Humanoids are acceptable collateral damage in stopping chromatics/primordials/etc.

But that’s not how metallic dragons are in Toril—this is true. And if you look at the sourcebooks, there are definitely examples of dragonborn who are convinced that metallics are different, including the worshipers of Bahamut, the Platinum Cadre. On an individual level, this is extremely plausible.

On a cultural level, the Vayemniri haven’t had enough time to adjust and the right overtures haven’t been made.

Assume one silver dragon arrives to welcome them to the neighborhood (and I’m going to assume that takes a little while, given the previous neighbors were not the dragons’ best friends either). The whole city is going to go into defense mode. Every dragonborn in the place is going to go, “IT’S THE BIG ONE!” and beat the war drums (there are literal war drums on the market level, per Whisper of Venom!). Even if they can’t defeat that silver dragon, even if that silver dragon is just trying to give them a fruit basket, they know you can’t take chances with dragons and they’d fight like their lives and their offspring’s lives depend on it. The dragon, I would think, would bail out and tell other dragons that those people are crazy. Don’t bother.

Could good dragons change the Vayemniri’s perception? Maybe. With time, or maybe with a mass show of goodwill, like a big flight of them settling down at a safe distance with muffin baskets. But they don’t really know, necessarily, what they’re up against. What they have to, in a sense, prove they aren’t. They really can’t just say, “Guys, we’re not like that!” because that’s what an Abeiran dragon would say! And come to it, the Vayemniri aren’t really missing out on much by not dealing with good dragons.

(As for kobolds, I would expect they don’t like kobolds at all.)

FAITHLESS AND GODS
This is a tricky one, because this is a case where they are potentially losing out. For those who haven’t delved into the nuances of the religion and afterlife of the Forgotten Realms, divine magic comes from the gods, who are very much real and have definite opinions about who deserves that magic, and the dead are judged by Kelemvor, the god of the dead, and then claimed by the gods who love them best. Those who worship no gods, who deny the gods, are hung on the Wall of the Faithless for eternity—unless they take a deal from a devil to escape to the Nine Hells and take their chances.

(…I think. There are a lot of ideas that seem to collide in this, which kind of makes sense. I don’t imagine a lot of people come back with detailed accounts of the bureaucracy of the afterworld.)

So the dragonborn are not atheists, specifically. It’s hard to exist in the Realms and not accept that there are gods. But they don’t have any interest in them. Mehen describes the gods at one point as being like beggars—you give them a little attention and they’ll be after you and your coin purse for all your days.

Which means dragonborn ought to end up on the Wall of the Faithless.

There are two things about that though. One, for all that sounds like a terrible fate, I don’t know that it’s not better in the eyes of the dragonborn. If the alternative is having your soul go to some god’s plane of existence, separated from your clan for eternity, and then serve that god for eternity, I can see a lot of Vayemniri asking if the Wall’s available.

Two, the question that needs to be asked is actually “What’s the afterlife of Abeir like?” There are no gods in Abeir—the gods got Toril, and the Dawn Titans got Abeir, and the Dawn Titans don’t collect souls. For all but the last hundred years of their existence, the Vayemniri dragonborn haven’t worshiped gods because there weren’t gods to worship.

This is where it’s fun to piece together the bits of information given in the FRCG and other sources: They’re as close to atheistic as you can be in a world where gods literally pop down. They have no formal temples or shrines in their city. But they have catacombs—they have funerary customs, and those funerary customs include preservation of the dead. If all these are true, this tells us a couple of things:

  1. The gods haven’t made Djerad Thymar a priority. Gods, it’s been theorized, gain strength and power and realness from worship. This is a city of tens of thousands where there is no competition for worship, and converts are individual and minute? The only group with numbers worth noting are the Platinum Cadre, the worshipers of Bahamut. Are the gods super racist or impossible divas? “No, you come to me!” Or are they holding off for some reason? Regardless, I would argue that the gods are culpable, too, in the faithlessness of the Vayemniri.
  2. The Vayemniri probably have some sense of an individual soul. Funerary customs are really interesting and bring up a lot of fascinating nuances between cultures, but if you’re preserving the body (e.g. keeping it intact) it’s usually because that person’s immortal soul needs it. (It’s alternately possible that there were a lot of problems with necromancy in Abeir, and keeping your ancestors’ bones close is how you prevent them being defiled by assholes. But that still assigns value to the body.)
  3. They built this enormous city with catacombs—they arrived with this custom in place.

 

All these things come together in a few possibilities:

  1. Do Abeiran souls go to the same afterlife as Torilian souls?
    1. YES. Is their lack of worship still relevant?
      1.   YES. The Wall of the Faithless is full of Abeirans and this is what the Vayemniri expect from their afterlife.
      2.  NO. The gods are scooping up deserving Abeirans from the Fugue Plane, and since they clearly haven’t signaled the rules have changed, they continue to scoop Vayemniri and the Vayemniri continue to live their lives to the best of their abilities, without giving the gods much thought.
    2. NO. Is there an Abeiran afterlife?
      1. YES. Then the Vayemniri may well go to a kind of limbo state, like a god-less upper plane. A god could step in and claim them, but it would be a hard sell.
      2. NO. Then the Vayemniri’s souls may be obliterated.
      3. WELL…SORT OF. The Vayemniri’s souls persist as ghosts that stick around their bodies. Maybe your ancestors literally influence you this way.

There are other possibilities, too, and I have my favorites. But suffice it to say, nothing is canonical yet.  And one reason for that is that the dragonborn probably lack divine magic: you probably don’t get a lot of dragonborn returning from the dead to tell everyone what they experienced. You probably also don’t get a lot of quick, complete healing, which is also interesting in my opinion. The dragonborn probably have a very different experience of injury and disability than the rest of Faerûn–someone like Shestandeliath Geshthax, the patriarch of his clan, whose right arm was amputated, is probably a stranger sight in other parts of the world where a priest can regrow that arm, but in Djerad Thymar he’s an elder who’s seen battle, probably one of many.

I suspect, too–given this and given the text which describes them as avid gardeners–that dragonborn have a more robust knowledge of what I’d call traditional healing–their healer’s kits should come with an extra bonus.

 

Enjoy this breakdown of dragonborn culture? Consider pre-ordering Ashes of the Tyrant, the upcoming Farideh novel that ties into the Rage of Demons storyline and returns to Djerad Thymar. 

Have more questions about dragonborn? Ask ‘em here, or use the contact form and I’ll write another post.

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3 Responses to On Playing a Dragonborn in Forgotten Realms: Part 2

  1. Micha says:

    Hmmm….. That’s definitely interesting! Thank you so much for your reply!

  2. Viktor says:

    Wow! All of a sudden I got more interested in playing Dragonborn in the Forgotten Realms. The “Well, we know herbal and traditional healing along with potions” thing might in itself be enough to build an interesting concept around. Another thing would be to find out why my potential dragonborn would decide that it was a good idea to throw in with a god. I almost imagine it a bit similar to Faridah’s pact when it comes to the reactions from others.

    The general remarks about the afterlife in the Forgotten Realms is also something I would like to know more about. Something I’ve asked myself when reading the Brimstone Angels Saga is “why do people in the Forgotten Realms care about their souls?” or “assuming you live a good life and get claimed by a good god, what happens to you then?” Another thing I don’t quite get about souls is why the extraplanar beings care.

    I get that devils want lemures and demons want manes as labour and potential servants, warriors etc after promotion. But what’s in it for the gods? A few lucky mortals become exarchs I guess, but the rest? Do they retain recognisable shapes? Do they also work as armies and labour etc? And what is a soul even in the Forgotten Realms? If I would describe the concept of a soul in real life it would probably be related to the ability to reason and similar functions of the brain. Since Lorcan says to Faridah that “a soul was never a certainty for you” this can’t quite be the case in the Forgotten Realms.

  3. Micha says:

    Actually, I also have an odd follow up question, if you don’t mind.

    Tiamash is a draconic curse word. Especially Tiamat m’henish! I wonder… is there an equivalent to Bahamut in the curse language? I use that draconic primer you posted two years back a lot in my games, so if there is some more I can use, I love it.

    Your faithful reader, Micha