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My brain had to take a vacation for a couple weeks, but I’ve finally returned to my 1st Edition AD&D (“1e“) database. Having recently discussed the shishi, it was a nice coincidence that I finished Fiend Folio‘s oriental dragons last night. There were a couple of things that bothered me in the technical writing (e.g., is their lack of infravision a mistake?), but there was a creative choice that bugged me as well.
In my conversation with Tanya last Friday, she pointed out how eastern culture has far more good-aligned dragons than the western world. This was my understanding as well. Then why are all but one of the oriental dragons neutral along the moral axis? I get why Sobek, the crocodile-headed Egyptian god of the Nile, was made evil in most (every?) editions of D&D. He looked evil, and they needed a balance between good and evil gods for that pantheon. His evil fulfilled a narrative role, and there was plenty of material presented to accommodate some wiggle room. Besides, DMs are free to change it. No harm done.
That doesn’t seem to apply to neutrality, though. Sure, if the Fiend Folio had gone into depth as to the role their neutrality took, then there may be a narrative value to that change. Instead, it appears that they were made neutral simply because none of the chromatics or metallics were neutral. If you’re introducing a different culture into your game, it makes far more sense to remain loyal to it, at least until you’ve got a certain minimal level of material. That is, to start, it’s better to give DMs something authentic/faithful so that they have the right feel for that material before you or they make it their own. As with the Egyptian pantheon, oriental dragons should have been a balance of good and evil, and if one of them was made neutral, it wouldn’t have struck me the wrong way.
Note: I’ve never opened the 1e Oriental Adventures, though I recently bought the PDF from the DMs Guild. I say this to point out that I have no idea how an expansion of those cultures played out in the D&D world beyond what’s in the Fiend Folio and 1e Deities and Demigods.
My conclusion is that I’m going to have to do some personal research and, depending on what’s in the 1e Oriental Adventures, may modify these dragons. I definitely like oriental dragons and intend to use them.
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