Playing a Dragonborn in the Realms, Part 3: The next generation

Since you all helped me raise such a lot for Extra Life, here is a third installment of “Playing a Dragonborn in the Realms.” This one focuses mostly on sex, marriage, and children–topics that might seem out of place in a game, but which can shape a dragonborn character’s life in profound ways.

Incidentally, this is great background material for Ashes of the Tyrant.  

Before you get married
Before you get married, none of your elders is much going to care what you you’re doing. You’re young, you’re healthy, you’re probably running around with your cohort learning fighting skills and serving in the Lance Defenders. Sex is bound to happen. Contraception is available, it’s easy to time things to avoid eggs, and honestly if someone got gravid, well, everyone wants more eggs for the clan. But out of-wedlock births are socially messy and so frowned upon. Your clan’s bargaining position is damaged if the eggs are already a factor.

This extends to same-sex relationships. There’s not a strong stigma against them in this time frame—you’re sowing your oats, making bonds with other Vayemniri. Who can complain? (Well, some people can complain, but of the over-arching culture it’s not considered a very big deal, so long as you aren’t trying to avoid marriage and eggs.)

You might know who you’re going to be married to by now, but it’s more likely that your elders will wait until you’ve become an adult (e.g. done your service in the Lance Defenders and earned your status blade) before sitting you down and discussing your options. It’s possible you’ve got enough going on that they’ll let it go for some years after too.


Behind the black box (a moment of meta)
If you came here for specifics on what happens when the door closes on two consenting Vayemniri, I’m going to disappoint you. Ask someone whose primary dragonborn character isn’t “the Dad.” Biologically, you could look at monotremes or assume they’re basically humans or…I don’t know, it wouldn’t surprise me if someone, some time had written a breakdown on dragon genitals.  Also, 100% sure someone on tumblr has illustrated their own theories.

There’s one sign of physical affection that has made it into the Brimstone Angels books that’s not intuitive: rubbing your jaw frills against the other person’s head or face is like a kiss. This is appropriate to do with anyone you’d show affection to—you can rub your jaw on your kids or your parent or your lover.


Time to settle down
Eventually, your elders are going to insist you get married and establish what’s called a qallim agreement with another clan, and here’s where your youthful relationships stop mattering: marriage is for eggs and you need to do your duty for your clan, regardless of your personal desires.  You’d be expected to stay put until you’ve got a couple of viable clutches at least, and if you or your spouse isn’t gravid, people will be up in your business about it with advice until that changes.

If you don’t want to settle down, the best thing you can do is have very important things occupying you away from your elders. Refusing to get married is a good way to get exiled. Just not being there and coincidentally not getting any letters that come for you works a lot better. But be forewarned: they may send someone after you, or worse, they may try the same passive-aggressive moves and tell you your grandmother is dying to lure you back home, (‘”Technically, we’re all dying,” she’ll tell you as she pours some tea and you discuss the nice Verthisathurgiesh girl who’s made an offer.)

The bigger your family is and the lower ranking you are, the less likely you’re going to be “pressed into service” But the qallim comes for just about everyone, eventually.


The qal
The word for bride or groom is qal, and your pool of potential options is called shuk-qalli, or “maybe-brides/grooms.”

Technically, this is every one of your opposite-sex agemates, but it quickly becomes a lot trickier, and the more prominent your clan, the more complicated it gets. The qallim is in a lot of ways a business transaction between your clan and your qal’s and there are a lot of factors to consider.

Your feelings are one of them—assuming your elders are decent. Probably your parents will ask you for a list of your favorites and you can start from there. But here are a few possible scenarios:

  1. You have had a qal agreement since birth. It was actually part of your parents’ qal agreement that you marry back into your father’s clan (remember: clans have multiple family lines, so you’re probably not marrying a cousin). When the time comes, there’s not a lot of arguing over specifics, and more time spent mingling with your shuk-qalli pool, trying to decide which of you is best suited for the other.
  2. You and a fellow Lance Defender have grown quite close and your families agree that the match is advantageous—which given he’s Kepeshkmolik it certainly is. There will be a lot of arguing over specifics—how many eggs can your clan claim, for example—and the Kepeshkmolik patriarch might threaten to shut it down, but that’s how qal agreements go. It will work out in the end.
  3. You’ve finished your service and your uncle has found you a perfect qal—his mate’s sister’s third daughter.  You meet her and you get along fine. Since you expect to be adventuring in a few years and she expects to be in the Lance Defenders, you figure it will work out. A few years at home, a few hatchlings in the nursery, and you’ll both be free to do what you want.
  4. Your qal agreement is deeply political. His clan and your clan have been fighting for ages and this should be a bridge. It will take a long time to settle on the specifics, but you both want to do your duty to the clan.
  5. You don’t live in the city, but out in the countryside on one of your clan’s ranches. Your qal agreement involves a lot more details about whose farm your children will be expected to do what work on than it would in the city, but you’ve got pretty much free rein to choose your qal. That pretty Yrjixtilex girl you’re always flirting with perhaps?

Your qal agreement is binding—divorce isn’t really a thing. You can be a widow if you have to, but Vayemniri don’t divorce. It can be renegotiated, under extraordinary circumstances, but that could be deeply embarrassing.

Eggs, heirs, and koshqalli
The most important part of your qal agreement has to do with eggs. There are two parties in a qal agreement:  the anurithominak or “under-clan” and the svernominak or “over-clan”. The default assumption is that the svernominak has rights to the eggs—usually because they’re the more powerful of the two. The reality sees your clutches divided up between the two clans, and the percentages of eggs from each clutch, who gets to choose eggs, etc. are the bulk of your agreement.

An example: Say Verthisathugiesh Arjhani marries Kepeshkmolik Uadjit. Uadjit is from the more powerful clan, and she’s more highly ranked—she’s got more accomplishments and she’s her father’s likely successor to the matriarch position one day. Verthisathurgiesh isn’t a very weak clan, but they don’t have quite as good a qal to offer up. argument is that the children would be better off being known as Uadjit’s children than Arjhani’s.

But that agreement is likely to be turned down, because it wouldn’t take many generations for Verthisathurgiesh to lose more members than they gain. So the agreement comes down that 35% of every clutch will be koshqal, essentially the price to Kepeshkmolik for Arjhani.

Koshqalli (“bride/groom’s children”) are the children designated for the anurithominak. All hatchlings stick with their parents in the svernominak enclave until they’re ten and old enough to get their clan piercings. The koshqalli then move into their lower-status parent’s enclave and become part of that clan.

Usually, the eggs are divided before they hatch, each clan marking their chosen eggs once they’re hardened. Verthisathurgiesh in this case gets to choose first.  Not every egg is guaranteed to hatch, and so this assigning of eggs gets around the possibility that one clan will just claim their share of descendents from only the viable hatchlings. It also means the choosing is often a very formal, public affair—shaking the other clan’s eggs is a hideous act, but it comes up enough with the villains of dramas and ancestor stories that safeguards are in place


Children and clan
Your parents are your primary caregivers still, but it’s important that the whole clan (or really, clans) get involved in your upbringing. While you were small, you lived in your parents quarters but a parade of aunties and uncles, and even cousins, watched you, taught you, and made sure you grew up to understand everything it means to be Vayemniri.  Anyone who had their piercings when you were born could be considered an auntie or uncle.

Children call their parents by their first names—it’s considered to be polite to call all adults by their first names and dragonborn children gain enough language quickly enough to make those names come out just fine—but with so many adults around it’s acceptable and proper to call an adult whose name you don’t recall just “auntie” or “uncle” or “elder.” The older the relative, the more you have to at least pretend you’re listening.


Why would I need any of this? I don’t roleplay that kind of game!
I don’t think anyone’s going to integrate a qallim negotiation into their game (although if you do, please record it. I want to see), but look at the bigger picture—if this is a big part of your life, it’s going to affect other things.

  • A reason you left Djerad Thymar: Maybe you’re avoiding getting married. Maybe you’re trying to prove your value and hardiness to your potential qal’s clan. Maybe the one you love just married someone else.
  • A quirk in how you interact with nondragonborn (or how dragonborn interact with you!): Maybe it’s not your turn to have a qallim or maybe you already did and now you’re out and about—how are you going to look at all these human-types? Maybe you try and hook up your wizard every chance you get—how has he not gotten eggs yet? You know that mauthreki get gravid if you look at them funny!
  • Source of NPC/villain motivation.  How much would it suck if you belonged to some piddling little clan while your brothers and sisters were living high in the fancy Fenkenkabradon enclave? Hello, Dragonborn Don John! How would you like to channel your vengeful ambition?
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2 Responses to Playing a Dragonborn in the Realms, Part 3: The next generation

  1. Rayketh says:

    I love reading your posts about dragonborn in the Forgotten Realms. Dragons have always entranced me so I jumped at the chance to roll a dragonborn in my groups upcoming 5e campaign. When I looked for source material and history I didn’t find nearly as much as I wanted. I plan to read all of your books (Just got the first Brimstone Angels book and I’m looking forward to Ashes of the Tyrant when I get that far!) but I was wondering if there are any other resources about history and especially clan life for dragonborn?

    I like to (roughly) draw my characters, so I’m also curious about the different facial piercings for the clans that you mentioned in your part 1 post. I’m having a hard time picturing for example the “copper owl-shaped piercings in face” for Linxakasendalor. Could you elaborate on any of the clan piercings, what they mean (if they mean anything) or just any other clan history/specialty/anything really? Or if this can be found anywhere else? I’m just extremely fascinated and curious and kind of falling in love with the dragonborn.

  2. erin says:

    Hi Rayketh!

    The majority of the piercings were established by Richard Lee Byers in his Brotherhood of the Griffon series, so I’m not sure what sort of history he was imagining. I created only Verthisathurgiesh’s and Yrjixtilex’s, and built off of an unnamed clan for Kepeshkmolik’s. Yrjixtilex’s jasper axe heads reference their past as mining slaves for the Foul Empress. Kepeshkmolik’s are a more recent change, referencing the founding of Djerad Thymar. Verthisathurgiesh’s are really old and no one probably knows why they wear jade plugs exactly. I’d assume the more detailed the piercings are (e.g. the owls, the roses), the newer the clan or the newer the piercing style, as probably their manufacturing skills have only improved since their earliest days. There are also small depictions of four clans–Verthisathurgiesh, Kepeshkmolik, Yrjixtilex, and Shestandeliath–on the map by Mike Schley which appears in Ashes of the Tyrant.

    In Ashes of the Tyrant, there are four ancestor stories which give a peek into the distant past of three of the clans–Kepeshkmolik, Yrjixtilex, and Verthisathurgiesh–and by extension the Vayemniri at large. I am trying to pick out excerpts to post in the lead up to the release, and I might use one or two of these. (In Fire in the Blood, Farideh tells briefer versions of two other stories as well).

    The Brotherhood of the Griffon books have depictions of dragonborn life, but they’re largely through the eyes of someone young and moving away from traditional life–and the plot focuses a lot on external issues, like treaties with other nations and the Great Game of the dragons (and of course, the Brotherhood of the Griffon!), so it doesn’t dig down into clan politics too much. Still, that’s the starting point of a lot of this stuff!