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So, let's suppose I finally made it. A creature that's very agile, able to resist most small-arms fire and has a whale-oil breath weapon. Flight is solved with bones, as strong as carbon fiber, (laughs in limpet teeth) and even more muscle on the pecs.

This example dragon's name will be.. Gyvaris.

Now, the dragon also has a rider... which leads to a few problems, namely:

The dragon simply can't use active flight to gain altitude with that weight on him.

This isn't a problem if he's to take off from a ledge or any similarly high place, but that's not always possible.

Sometimes they're forced to land in places where dragon and rider can't take off, so usually only the dragon does. Dragons are more vulnerable on the ground, so it's better that way, however, now the rider can't catch up to the dragon. An ODM gear (if possible) would still be close to useless in, say, a prairie.

I've no idea how a dragonrider could catch up to their mount on land, and with lightweight gear, do you have any?

FAQ:

Why can't a dragon take off with a human?

enter image description here

Note the Quetzalcoatlus.

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    $\begingroup$ This feels like you put an artificial constraint on your world for no other reason than to open a thread here. Is this really an issue that you are facing? Why not make the dragon strong enough? If you have a 10 ton dragon, does it really care about a human? This imo isn't good world building. Don't make stuff harder than it needs to be. If this is truly something you need, I'd imagine that you would already have a way in mind. Could you perhaps explain why you need this to be that way so that one can find a suitable answer consistent with your idea? $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Dec 10 '19 at 20:16
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    $\begingroup$ If your flight is limited to gliding (probably very poorly, given how much a human weighs) from high places, why bother riding in the first place? Practice falconry with your dragons, that way the big slow human stays behind while the dragon does its thing. $\endgroup$ – Cadence Dec 10 '19 at 20:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 I wish it was artficicial. $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Dec 10 '19 at 20:19
  • $\begingroup$ A rope then? Maybe? Please elaborate why this is good world building, I'm curious now $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Dec 10 '19 at 20:22
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    $\begingroup$ Dragons should have no problem with the extra weight, any large flying predator, eagle or dragon, still needs the strength to lift any prey it plans on flying back to its nest/infants. You’ve said nothing of scale, scale would help grant context. Also I’m imaging a lot of dislocated arms while vainly trying to skyhook a dragon. $\endgroup$ – Darius Arcturus Dec 10 '19 at 20:27
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In all honesty, he's walking home.

Unless he can steal a horse.

However

and all of these will require a very well trained dragon.

Q airlines

James Bond (I forget the film), releases a balloon on a line that's caught by an aircraft and they fly away. An amusing way to die, certainly not a good way to escape anything but you could play with the idea.

Tow launch paraglider

A bit of a technological leap but given enough rope and a paraglider the dragon could potentially tow the rider into the air and then he remounts while airbourne.

Hawk pickup

Most dragons are predators, in many cases predatory birds can swoop in and capture prey from the ground/water without losing much speed. The dragon regains height, turns that into airspeed then swoops down to collect the rider while trying not to break his neck on pickup. Maintaining airspeed will allow them to regain enough height to get home.

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  • $\begingroup$ Your first idea is basically Fulton for dragons. It might be less lethal than you'd think, as long as you can get a strong enough rope... $\endgroup$ – Maciej Stachowski Dec 11 '19 at 16:10
  • $\begingroup$ Relevant xkcd (at least, near the end) $\endgroup$ – Punintended Dec 11 '19 at 17:26

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