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Alright, so while coming up with a way for adventurers in my world to obtain dragons, I decided that the drop mechanic system (please see Preventing Dead Monsters From Spawning Undead for more on how that system works) would turn rocks or gems (which I count as rocks) in a dragon's body into dragon eggs upon death.

However, that poses a bit of a problem: sooner than later, the dragons will realize that if one of their own is killed with rocks inside them that their slayers will be able to collect some dragon eggs in result. Now it seems rather obvious that this is UNACCEPTABLE, since the people who normally kill dragons are either dragonslayers (duh) or adventurers, and they can't be trusted with dragon eggs.

Dragonslayers are likely to either destroy the eggs or use them in making food (omelets, cakes, and so forth) while adventurers are generally slightly crazy and like money, so they'll either sell the eggs to make some quick cash, hatch the eggs and raise the dragonlings as "companions", or train/breed/sell the hatchlings much like humans (likely) did anciently to domesticate wolves.

Never mind all that, and one still has a problem; the dragon's new children are left worse than defenseless, at the mercy of whoever killed the dragon or perhaps whoever outruns the slayer to collect the eggs. That being said, my question is simple: Why Would A Dragon Leave Eggs For Their Slayers?

Specifically, why would a dragon swallow rocks or gems knowing they would become dragon eggs if they were killed by someone, or just died in their sleep? They don't have gizzards, and they can reproduce normally, so that's right out....is there even a plausible reason for dragons to do this?

As always, I appreciate your input and feedback, thanks in advance. If you choose to VTC or close-vote, please give me an explanation so I can improve the question.

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  • $\begingroup$ can the reproduce normally? $\endgroup$
    – John
    Feb 12 at 2:30
  • $\begingroup$ @John, yes, yes they can. Let me add that to the question. $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Feb 12 at 2:54
  • $\begingroup$ It doesn't have pouch like kangaroo and pelican, and it doesn't have a thumb like us and monkey worst still the egg can't move by itself... cannibalism yes but it will likely die from suffocation as the egg block the windpipe okay after serious consideration the mother decided to abandon the 98th, 99th and a century egg ;D $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Feb 12 at 6:37
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    $\begingroup$ I doubt the dragon is planning on being slain by the hunters. They must have a different need for ingesting the rocks/gems and the drop is just a byproduct. $\endgroup$ Feb 12 at 14:58
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    $\begingroup$ "Why Would A Dragon Leave Eggs For Their Slayers?" but your definition? They aren't leaving eggs... they are getting killed and turning into eggs. Not like they are turtles leaving eggs in the ground... The question isn't why are they leaving eggs... its why would they allow themselves to die. (Hint: They don't do it on purpose) $\endgroup$
    – WernerCD
    Feb 13 at 7:58

11 Answers 11

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Biology is Cruel and the Logic is Ruthless:

As a biologist, I have to say that nature is ruthless, cruel, and indiscriminate. Survival isn't of the fittest, but of the survivors. So there is a grim logic to leaving offspring in the hands of those who kill you. Even abandoning them is better than them never existing.

If you leave NO offspring, you don't survive. Period. Gone. No more dragons. So if adventurers are strong enough to kill a dragon, then they are strong enough to protect and raise a dragon. Yes, some will die. Biology is ruled by ruthless numbers. A hundred eggs destroyed that would have been destroyed or not existed anyway means no loss. So if one in a hundred survives as a pet, or domesticated dragon, or a good friend to a dragon slayer, then the dragon has passed on it's genes. The dragon who DOESN'T pass on their genes this way is at a disadvantage. If all the wild dragons were wiped out, only those in captivity would exist, and dragons would live on.

IF, however, these domesticated dragons threaten their own species survival (like dragons being used to track and kill other dragons) then the survival of these individuals DOES damage the species as a whole. But these captive dragons may become a useful sub-species and no longer consider themselves the same as wild dragons. You may have laws against keeping sentients as slaves, and if so then the only way to have a dragon is to raise it like a child and let it be free.

So swallow those stones, dragon brethren. Let mother nature take her shot and see what will be. The alternative is to risk extinction.

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  • $\begingroup$ threatening the species with extinction is completely possible with evolution, natural selection does not care about the species. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Feb 12 at 2:28
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    $\begingroup$ @John exactly my point. Anything that increases the likelihood of passing on your genes passes on more of your genes. If all surviving dragons are in captivity, then there are still dragons, whereas if all wild dragons are gone and there are no captive dragons, then dragons are just gone. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Feb 12 at 2:39
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    $\begingroup$ Very helpful answer! Yes, natural selection is just as ruthless as human beings, so dragons doing this would, or rather should result in a net benefit for the species. $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Feb 12 at 3:01
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    $\begingroup$ Also worth pointing out that some of the adventurers simply won’t get to do anything about the eggs - perhaps they suffer a mortal wound, or get killed by other monsters, or cache the egg and never get back to it. Perhaps another dragon takes revenge and seizes the egg from the adventurers. Those situations leave the young dragon out there and wild, not just a pet $\endgroup$
    – Pingcode
    Feb 12 at 12:21
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    $\begingroup$ This is why some marine animals (such as some sea urchins) will let out a cloud of eggs/sperm when they feel threatened. It's like a last shot at having offspring. $\endgroup$ Feb 12 at 13:00
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Who says they are doing it for dragon slayers?

There are plenty of things that can kill you sickness, accidents, other dragons. having a genetic failsafe against such things seems like a solid evolutionary tactic. Keep in mind humans would have been only killing dragons recently so evolution may not have had time to change the behavior. Just like how humans still crave salt to a self destructive degree.

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting! I didn't think about a vestigial behavioral trait. $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Feb 12 at 2:58
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    $\begingroup$ I like this idea. Simple, yet completely valid. Evolution works over generations (however long a generation is for a given species, which for your dragons is presumably at least a few decades), so it's slow. Humans going around slaying dragons is far, far too recent in evolutionary terms to feasibly make any significant adaptations. $\endgroup$
    – Palarran
    Feb 12 at 10:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Palarran: That's not completely true. Elephants have already adapted to human ivory hunters (poachers) by making females tuskless, which was previously a trait present in only 4% of female elephants if I recall correctly, and certain bird species have adapted to be less capable of fast flight so they are less likely to fly in front of cars. In the OP's situation, fast evolution could happen if swallowing rocks somehow made a dragon vastly more likely to be killed (e.g., 99% of dragons who swallow rocks get killed by humans before they can reproduce). But I don't see that happening. $\endgroup$ Feb 13 at 17:32
  • $\begingroup$ @CharlesStaats A "generation" is in the context of the species in question. For humans, it can't feasibly be less than around twelve to fifteen years (in first-world societies, it's generally longer), because that's how long it takes for us to hit puberty and become capable of sexual reproduction; I can't recall offhand what that time is for elephants, but most species reproduce a lot earlier than that. Dragons, however, are often long-lived species that don't mature quickly (the OP doesn't specify, so I'm going with the typical assumptions), so their biological evolution is slow by default. $\endgroup$
    – Palarran
    Feb 13 at 23:22
  • $\begingroup$ @CharlesStaats Still, you have a point that it's a possibility. The timeframe here is left undefined by the OP: if this has been going on for a thousand years, that's certainly time enough for changes to be possible, albeit significant reductions to reproductive capabilities (which weakening or removing this form of egg-making qualifies as) are usually a bad thing, in evolutionary terms. A sufficiently severe selection pressure (your 99% example) can also result in rapid change by way of removing everyone who doesn't have whatever lucky trait is relevant. $\endgroup$
    – Palarran
    Feb 13 at 23:26
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The Eggs Still Look Like Rocks and Gems

Anyone who picks up the profession of dragon slayer without learning about draconic biology will see the rocks, complain about the lame treasure and leave.

If the dragon ate gemstones, the eggs become shiny trojan horses. The dragon slayers return home safely with their sack of loot, only to be devoured in their bed by a swarm of vicious dragonlings.

If the dragon dies atop their pile of loot, their killer cannot tell what treasure is safe, and must either leave it or take the risk.

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    $\begingroup$ Sorry for the delayed response, this is a great answer. First up, it will protect the stone eggs, and second, the gem eggs could act as a great 'revenge' mechanism. Third, the eggs can defend the treasure and punish those who steal it by hatching and eating them! $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Feb 13 at 3:25
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    $\begingroup$ Depending on the hatching time, this might not be an issue. Subjecting it to heat treatment should remove any residual murder babies, and either it's edible now or you throw it into a bigger furnace. That said, great answer! $\endgroup$ Feb 14 at 23:20
  • $\begingroup$ Good point. And depending on how much fire Alendyias wants to be necessary (kitchen stove vs Mount Doom), they could give the eggs the appropriate level of draconic fire resistance. $\endgroup$
    – jb6330
    Feb 16 at 3:21
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    $\begingroup$ Or heating makes them hatch. $\endgroup$ Jun 3 at 20:26
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Reincarnation

You’re a dragon. You’re a big magic flying lizard with tons of power. However, for whatever reason, you are concerned that today might be the end. Maybe you heard that the dragonhunters are coming, and their reputation has got you worried. Maybe you are already hurt, or sick, whatever. You have a bad feeling that you’re not going to see another sunrise.

What is your last move?

Many cultures have some concept of the offspring holding a little bit of the spiritual essence of their parents. Do your dragons have any spiritual beliefs? What do they believe about the nature of a soul?

How do they feel about reincarnation?

There are no atheists in foxholes. Lots of people start brushing up on religion when they think the end is near. Why should intelligent dragons be any different?

Say there is some idea of reincarnation in dragon spirituality. Say there is some belief that a part of a dragon’s essence, or knowledge, or power, can be literally transferred to whatever gems or rocks are inside you at the point of death. A dragon born of those rocks might be a special dragon. Might have a connection with your soul. Might grow up with a link to what you once were. Might be able to talk to your ghost, or let your ghost live vicariously through them.

Might be able to eventually avenge your death.

It could be for nothing. You could be condemning your rock eggs to a terrible fate. There’s no way to know.

Your murderers are coming. You have run out of tricks. All you have left is a wild shot in the dark.

Will you take it?

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    $\begingroup$ Whoa, great answer! I really like how it reads like a story, and it goes perfectly with my idea that a dragon born of a rock would reflect its parent! $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Feb 12 at 17:57
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They biologically have to

Dragons need to eat some small amount of rocks to keep their digestion going (people in heavy leather armor are too hard to digest otherwise).

And like cats or owls, all this nondigestible stuff is curled up to a ball, and then barfed out ( normally), and 2-5 of these balls are forming in the dragon at all times (they help with digestion after all and are only thrown up after becoming too big/old).

If a dragon expects a life-or-death fight, they throw them all up to get leaner for combat (and to not leave any eggs to the enemy). But that requires some time and leaves the stomach aching for quite some time in case of victory, so they only do it when absolutely necessary. (e.g not for your run of the mill adventure group, remember how arrogant dragons are).

Now, if a dragon knows its dying and is in a peaceful spot or even with its mate, then they spend the rest of their days munching on rocks and other hard to digest things in order to produce up to 20 of these balls - eggs when they die.

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting idea! Going off the linked question, some incredible abominations could be created by dragon pellets upon death, so that could actually serve as a 'revenge' mechanism! $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Feb 12 at 18:25
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Dragons are usually considered to be solitary creatures. Even if one of them (or even all of them) is smart enough to figure out that eating rocks gives dragonslayers eggs, why would they care? By that point, they're dead, so it's some other dragon's problem!

Heck, giving their slayers the chance to raise a dragon or two would be a nice middle claw to all the other dragons who would try to horn in on their recently vacated territory. (Yeah, yeah, they're already dead, so it's not their problem anymore, but dragons (and humans, for that matter) are funny that way.)

And if, perchance, dragons aren't solitary, then the "some other dragon" whose problem it is is more than likely right there to help the dragon be not dead in the first place. In this case, swallowing a rock would be a plan Z to replace their number if the unthinkable happens.

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    $\begingroup$ Nice job accounting for the motivation of solitary and social dragons! I will use this, thank you. $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Feb 12 at 17:58
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Like a bull and an ox are technically the same animal with just the removal of a pair of glands, which makes one much more docile than the other, so your dragons get the gland responsible for their aggressiveness removed by their slayer and become calm egg laying animals.

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  • $\begingroup$ Very interesting, thank you! If these dragons are as intelligent as humans, I feel like this will set up an awful lot of conflict; perhaps a dragon rebellion seeking to free their surgically altered brethren from the human's control? $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Feb 12 at 3:43
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Frame challenge: Have the eggs been fertilized?

Since the dragons can reproduce normally that means an adult male and female are needed in the process. Hens can lay a lot of eggs, but unless a rooster is present the eggs will never hatch a chick since they were never fertilized. As such in the case of the dragons if they drop eggs that are not fertilized then do the dragons care? The egg is worthless to the dragons since it does not have any life to it. The most an adventurer can do with the egg is make a dragon omelet out of it (assuming it does not contain something in it that makes it rather foul).

Also one side thing to think about: Can male dragons drop eggs?

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  • $\begingroup$ A solution would be to make the dragons hermaphrodites and self reproducing. They fertilized their own eggs and keep them inside until the hatchling is ready to get out. If you kill the dragon before the egg is hatched, you can still retrieve the egg and hatch it yourself. So having eggs on the dragon death is perfectly normal and dragons have no way to avoid it, except if they stopped reproducing (which would be stupid). $\endgroup$
    – Echox
    Feb 12 at 16:21
  • $\begingroup$ Great idea Anketam! One of the world rules in my story is that it takes life force from two members of the species to create a spirit, so perhaps the egg would have to be held by the slayer when they take down another dragon to make it viable? Oh, and male dragons can drop eggs only through magic. $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Feb 12 at 18:24
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Dragon eggs are tough, and hatchlings cannot break their way out of their egg by themselves (they lack a functional egg tooth). In normal situations the parent would assist in breaking them free. In the event of the parent dragon's death, any attempt to destroy their egg would free the hatchling within. Dragon hatchlings, like many other creatures (horses, antelope, etc), emerge fully capable of moving around like an adult. Breaking the egg is thus like throwing open the door to a birdcage. The young dragon would fly out of the egg and away from the attacker.

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  • $\begingroup$ Ah, interesting idea! This would be a great defensive mechanism for dragon hatchlings! $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Feb 13 at 3:19
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The eggs are radioactive. The insides of an adult dragon shields/absorbs the radiation. Maybe dragons are simply immune to this radiation? But exposed slowly kills humans

At dragon "birth" the egg explodes contaminating with radiation a large area around it. Giving the dragon enough time to escape.

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  • $\begingroup$ This looks like a great answer but needs more meat to it. I will say that if "radiation" was replaced with "draconic magic that doesn't play nicely with non-dragons," this answer would be perfectly good and would force would-be egg collectors to "innoculate" themselves with dragon magic. That'd be a plot twist.... $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Feb 12 at 18:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Alendyias my imagination does not reach that far :-p I'm more technically minded. $\endgroup$ Feb 12 at 18:35
  • $\begingroup$ okay then. I know not everyone has an imagination like mine. $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Feb 12 at 18:47
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It's only natural that dragons would want to reproduce and continue their species. That's the whole reason behind reproduction. However along with what others have said, their only threat isn't just humans. Age, sickness, other beasts are always a threat no matter what you are. One way to get around the idea that humans will use them for food is to make the eggs harder than rocks, unable to be broken by any force or magic other than that of the baby residing inside (assuming this is in a fantasy world, most worlds have dragons being this powerful magical creature). If you don't want dragons to commonly be hatched and domesticated by humans then you could look into having the baby dragons be able to last indefinitely in their eggs (magic follows different rules than the world most people know) and only be willing to leave the safety of their eggs when they feel they are with a being that they have some form of link with (likely just their mother or parents) and again only willing to leave when their linked individual isn't in distress as a form of self preservation. Otherwise they will stay dormant and waiting for the right time. This doesn't stop humans from collecting and selling the eggs they find but if they looks like normal rocks then that could be enough to either hide the eggs from the uninformed and only become valuable to those who have a deep understanding of dragons (which most people won't have). If you want to eventually build having domesticated dragons or just dragons paired with a single individual you could get inspiration from the Eragon series with how a dragon wouldn't hatch unless it found the right person (as with Eragon and Saphira). The egg being dormant for millennia and only hatching if they felt the person was noble and of a similar manner that the dragon finds agreeable.

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting idea Jaisus! I posted a question about fairies (Fairies: Protecting Their Rights) that was very similar to your answer, and this is indeed a good answer to my question. Just two tips: break up your text in paragraphs so it's easier to read, and enjoy the site! $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Feb 13 at 4:10
  • $\begingroup$ Gonna be honest, my brain don't work too good and I honestly hate writing so this is just the verbal vomit that my brain conjured up. I'm a comp sci major so actual paragraphs are foreign to me haha. But I'll keep that in mind and I will do my best. Thanks for the tips! $\endgroup$
    – Jaisus
    Feb 13 at 5:22
  • $\begingroup$ Great, I appreciate your honesty. You're welcome for the tips! $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Feb 13 at 5:43

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