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Dragons hoard things, they're known for it. In this setting, they're quite possessive and like hoarding. However, some dragons have been observing humans and noticed something odd: when introducing a friend or loved one to someone else, humans say things like "Hey Dave, this is Linda, my new wife!" or "Hey Marcus, these are my kids, Mindy and Carla."

These dragons investigated through a combination of scrying spells and spying minions (dragons always have minions. And gold. So much gold. You can never have enough gold.) and found humans have concepts like:

  1. Our king

  2. My friend

  3. My relative

  4. My spouse

  5. My children

Humans don't often question these relations, which the dragons interpret as a sort of ownership unique to the human species. This ownership is doubly odd to the dragons because it's mutual; if someone belongs to you, you belong to them. The dragon's closest analog is their obsessive connection to their hoards.

However, as the dragons pondered their findings, they realized something upsetting: why is it humans can own other people, but dragons can't? Understandably outraged, the dragons spread their findings far and wide, and now the dragons want to right this wrong. So, the question is, how can the dragons gain human hordes?

Consider:

  1. The method must result in uncontested ownership-the humans must not question that they belong to their dragon. Indoctrination is likely. Controls must be set in place so upstart mages don't try to slay their dragon.
  2. The resulting relationship should be akin to the king-subject or master-servant relationship; there can be feelings of friendship and even love between the two, but there should be no question which one is in charge.
  3. The dragons don't want to share ownership of their humans (let alone their authority over them, except maybe with a mate), any more than a king wants to share his subjects. In other words, it's likely they'll kill the human leaders so they have total ownership (and control over) their subjects but it's also possible that they claim the leaders as well and keep them as overseers.
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    $\begingroup$ Does taxidermy count? $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Dec 31 '20 at 4:38
  • $\begingroup$ I didn't think of that. Fortunately for the humans, the answer is no. $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Dec 31 '20 at 5:25
  • $\begingroup$ Either as pet like squirrels do or snack like squirrels do $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Dec 31 '20 at 7:03
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    $\begingroup$ There is a very funny light novel Vainqueur the Dragon where Dragons "hunt" and "collect" princesses... Just to quote "I am Grandrake, and I have been a Princess Hunter all my life". They clearly have problems because princesses are rare, and difficult to find, and well protected... $\endgroup$
    – xanatos
    Dec 31 '20 at 12:17
  • $\begingroup$ Dragons kidnap princesses. Hoarding explains this! In the latest book I'm writing, as background there is an old family story about a kidnapped princess. It starts with "In the old days, when Vikings ruled the seas" and ends with the princess slaying the dragon and returning home to collect the reward. $\endgroup$
    – NomadMaker
    Dec 31 '20 at 17:20
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They just need to found a new religion, based on the worship of dragons. The dragons will reward the true faithful and punish the blasphemous ones.

  • The method must result in uncontested ownership-the humans must not question that they belong to their dragon. Indoctrination is likely. Check

Religion and indoctrination walk together since forever. It's not something the humans aren't used to.

  • The resulting relationship should be akin to the king-subject or master-servant relationship. Check

Every religion has its own set of rules and prohibition to be followed. Again, nothing brand new for the human minds.

  • The dragons don't want to share ownership of their humans. Check

Do you know any religion which is happy to share their supporter base?

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  • $\begingroup$ This works great, thanks! However, how will this account for upstart (and possibly atheist) mages? $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Dec 31 '20 at 3:49
  • $\begingroup$ +1, since a properly created cult/religion will be self governing and possibly even grow both itself and your material hoard on its own. It’s a hoard with interest! $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Dec 31 '20 at 11:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Alendyias : Burn the heretic? $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Dec 31 '20 at 11:09
  • $\begingroup$ "Do you know any religion which is happy to share their supporter base?" So, apparently you've never heard of Paganism, Buddhism, and (if I remember correctly) Hinduism... $\endgroup$
    – The Daleks
    Dec 31 '20 at 15:17
  • $\begingroup$ @TheDaleks ‘Paganism’ is not one religion (even modern neopaganism is not), and only some of the ‘pagan’ religions involved/involve not caring what other belief systems their followers adhered to. Most of those that do care are not as zealous as Christianity and Islam have historically been about converting or eliminating those of other religions, but that is not the same as not caring. $\endgroup$ Dec 31 '20 at 16:14
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They should enter the feudal society. We like to think of feudalism as a fully consistent, stratified pyramid: with kings on top, who are served by dukes, who have counts, who have barons, who have peasants. Video games haven't helped with this misconception.

In reality, feudal relations were complicated and inconsistent. Firstly: before the nation state, there were barely any borders between large realms. Two land owners agreed which fence marked the boundary between their farms, but their liege lords would not be able to say the same. A land owner at that theoretical border would probably be in some arrangement with both lords, even if they would not be equally strong. The feudal period was one of contracts between nobility, and those contracts could cross and go sideways.

Contracts existed between neighbouring rulers of equal "rank", which is when they were called alliances or pacts. And contracts between small and large were often of the nature of the big entity providing military protection, and the small entity paid taxes. But a wise feudal lord would have arrangements, in varying degrees of strictness and expense, with many other lords in the region.

What this means for your dragons? They can have a castle built (or conquer one) and declare themselves barons of the fort and the surrounding villages. They can consider the peasants their property if they want: the lowlife wouldn't have more than one liege lord. But they can do so without swearing allegiance to a duke or king in a way we are accustomed to.

They can instead engage in relationships with other, human lords in the region. And they would probably be the less powerful partner in most of those relationships, as they would own just a single castle, but the feudal contract was so important in the medieval era that both parties considered it their "ownership", or their duty to maintain. Breaches were rare, in either direction. It was seen as a mutually beneficial partnership, which is why the word "liege" could apply to either party in such an arrangement. I have read a historical text that called the count of Holland, governing a small swampland constituting little economic value, the liege of Lorraine, a duchy so powerful it could just secede from the Holy Roman Emperor (and engage in a new contract with the more lenient king of France) and it took years to conquer them back.

That's the first solution I can think of for your dragons: make them do what every other person of power was doing at the time.

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    $\begingroup$ Great answer, you really got me thinking! However, while this is a great _start,_the dragons are going to want more power. Dragons are _the_definition of unstoppable, forceful personalities that will fight tooth and nail to be and remain large and in charge. $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Dec 31 '20 at 1:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Alendyias The limiting factors to growth of their lands are the arrangements they can make with their neighbours. Help Count Bob in a war with Baron Kevin, maybe by personally engaging in combat (they're dragons), and in return get a village of Kevin's added to their territory. The standard feudal method was marriage, which is harder for non-humans, but their military might could compensate at least in the earlier stages - and people had a sense of realpolitik then as well. Perhaps they could "adopt" the original baron family, keep them around for marriage but have all control. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Dec 31 '20 at 1:44
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    $\begingroup$ Regarding the personality; I was thinking of crafty dragons with endless patience, who could brood on their alliances the way they would on a pile of gold: precisely because the very liege relationship was mutually "owned", rather than a one sided affair. If your dragons are more of the aggressive brute type then this strategy might not be applicable. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Dec 31 '20 at 1:46
  • $\begingroup$ Valid and interesting; since I don't completely understand your concept, have you read Harry Potter? If so, does Horace Slughorn ring a bell? He sounds an awful lot like your dragon concept. Also, could you explain why they'd want a mutual liege relationship rather than a one-sided affair? Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Dec 31 '20 at 1:50
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    $\begingroup$ Only seen the movie character so I'm probably missing the concept. And I don't mean to say that dragons specifically want mutual relationships: it is that every feudal relationship was considered a mutual affair. "Everyone within those borders is a subject of the king" is not at all a medieval way of thinking, that's more typical to Absolutism which came after. Typical of feudal society is the agreements between powerful people, and a dragon with a single castle would never have to consider himself the ownership of a king. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Dec 31 '20 at 1:56
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Find a king who has only a daughter.

Demand her. (A grand tradition of dragons.)

Marry her and demand half the kingdom now and the whole when the king dies. (The traditional reward for killing the dragon and saving the princess, but -- who wants to argue with the dragon?)

Wait for the king to die, and then for the princess.

Be a good king so that the subjects don't run away. In particular, dealing with invading armies yourself rather than letting your subjects get slaughtered. (Hmm. You'd want to do that anyway to prevent the waste.)

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    $\begingroup$ Considering the possibility that the dragon can become human, this is a _great_option. The dragon's hoard can start with the princess, and since he (presumably) has had legitimate heirs with the princess, he can ensure his offspring's inheritance of power as well. Thank you! $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Dec 31 '20 at 5:27
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    $\begingroup$ There are, in Eastern European lore, dragons that are the same size as humans -- small enough to ride horses, have balls that humans attend, and even marry humans. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Dec 31 '20 at 16:15
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Have you considered having your dragons go into the corporate sector and becoming CEOs of megacorporations? CEOs are often seen as having control or dominance over their workers and their lives, especially in depictions of potential corporatocracy as in cyberpunk. However, this doesn't have to be restricted to cyberpunk. It could just as easily work in an early Renaissance (i.e., rise of the merchant class) or Industrial Era setting. You could even have the dragons go into banking and have a win-win. Not only are the humans giving them money, but they are amassing their own horde of people through their system of employees.

In many Western countries it is expected that people will leave jobs and go elsewhere when opportunities arise, so the idea of being "owned" by a corporation might seem weird, but in some cultures (like Japanese work culture) you are expected to stay with a single company for life. Indeed, the depiction of the corporation as controlling one's life was especially the case in the U.S. prior to the passing of labor laws in the 21st century, when companies far away from any other major population center would build "company towns" which were pretty much glorified prisons where the people living there were dependent on the company for food, water, shelter, and even transportation in and out of the town (there are examples of company towns in other countries, but I know more about the history of them in the U.S.). Sometimes people got fed up of being dependent on the company for basic needs and rioted and the company usually suppressed these with extreme force. Even after that there was often this expectation of lifelong loyalty to the company that employed you, as you can see in a lot of fiction set in the 50s-80s.

Shadowrun is a good example of how dragons can make hoards by going into the corporate sector. On a completely unrelated note, vote for Dunklezahn.

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ Honestly, that's genius-it works anywhere, but it doesn't quite fit 1. 2 and 3 yes, but it's perfectly possible for people to rebel against their employers (they just don't most of the time, _especially_in early Renaissance or Industrial Era). This is a nitpicky comment at heart, but I did specify uncontested ownership. $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Jan 2 at 22:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Alendyias Honestly, the threat of rebellion isn't much different from being a feudal lord or religious leader. People weren't supposed to rebel against their feudal lord or religious sect, but people did so anyway (coughProtestantReformationcough, coughOdaNobunagacough). Even slave revolts were so common in the Roman Empire the Romans literally lined their highways with the crucified bodies of slaves like highway signs. It would be very difficult to make revolt impossible rather than highly unlikely given how much humans hate being controlled. $\endgroup$ Jan 3 at 2:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Alendyias But for a more story-driven answer another factor could be dragons are socially pressured into making sure their servants don't leave by other dragons. Servants are status symbols, and making them loyal and not want to leave you makes you look good (this was a thing in feudal and slave-owning societies, as well as some sects of capitalism). If a servant wants to leave you it means you are doing a bad job as a dragon protecting and caring for your hoard. It would be like leaving perfectly good silver out to tarnish instead of polishing it. Disgusting. $\endgroup$ Jan 3 at 2:13
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, nice idea there! $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Jan 3 at 3:43
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Newsflash $-$ They Already Did.

Dragons are the dominant species on the planet. The leaders of the major nations are dragons. This is a closely guarded secret, known only to the higher council mages who are paid a handsome sum for their cooperation, and for hunting down rogue anti-establishment mages.

Dragons live for thousands of years and are powerful spell casters. It is no trouble for them to appear human. Of course every few decades one must change their appearance and name to give the illusion of mortal human rulers dying and being replaced.

This is the reason the major nations have existed for thousands of years. It's because Dragons live long enough to either (a) plan that long or (b) erase their nations's history so it seems like the nation is really old when in fact they established it only 3 generations ago.

Another benefit is the Dragon Kings can arrange phony wars (see the famous England vs. France conflict) between neighboring kingdoms to keep the peasantry on their toes (you need me to protect you) while in fact the start and end dates are agreed long in advance.

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