Worldbuilding and question background:

In a world with dragons edging close to civil war, their king wants to use a revived “dragon Olympics” politically, to help balance the two rival factions.

The dragons have agreed to respect the four traditional categories (flight, fire, hunting and ‘cleverness’) for the seven events, but the contest details have been lost from the ancient games. Selecting and defining the contest events/rules offers both dangers and opportunities. The king and his advisers need to select contest events within those categories to:

  • Achieve survivable balance between the factions: the 'Strongs’ (~Spartans/Klingons) and the ‘Sharps' (~Athenians/Vulcans.) In terms of factions, the games should result in a tie, or as near as possible.

  • Minimize opportunities for provocation, sabotage and assassinations -- or control those to his advantage.

This world is basically 16th century earth-like (air, gravity, gold/gems/caves, prey animals, population density of pesky humans....) Key attributes of these dragons: adults are about 7 (metric) tons; flying, fire-’breathing’, carnivorous, four limbed, dexterous front paws; limited magic beyond flight and fire. Adults can generally lift up to large cows, horses or similar sized prey. Roughly human intelligence.

Overall, Strongs are slightly better in flight and hunting; Sharps in fire and ‘cleverness.’ ‘Cleverness’ comprises learning, art, gem skill, Magic or riddle-solving. Strongs have a slight advantage in four of the seven contests. The king would love contest events that can (be arranged to) end in ties, at least peaceful ties. Finally, to the extent it can still be done, have an eye toward sportsdragonship and keeping the fun/fatality ratio high.

Question (repeated):
What events for the Reconstituted Dragon ‘Olympics’ can best avoid civil war?

Bonus question: How best to run those contest events to minimize provocation, sabotage and assassination potential?

Example (of what I’m seeking):

Dragon Marathon:

  • 100 mile aerial race.

  • Set course with referees in the air throughout.

  • Touching down disqualifies.

  • Fire or Magic use disqualifies.

Referees will have standard detection amulets. First dragon to reach the finish line wins.

Potential for ‘accidents’:

The greatest potential sources of ‘accidents’ is probably at the starting line, starting as soon as the racers assemble. Referees will be needed throughout the flight course.

If I have too much detail, or have left out relevant aspects, please let me know.

  • $\begingroup$ In Ancient Greece they held Olympic games every four years for a thousand years. The universally accepted rule was that war between Greeks was forbidden during the Games, and for a thousand years they respected the rule. They just had their wars between the Games. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 23, 2017 at 22:05
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not optimistic I can convince these dragons to respect greek precedent; they're only quasi Athenian/Spartan (and would never admit to a culture before theirs.) $\endgroup$
    – Catalyst
    Jan 23, 2017 at 22:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The point is that not even in Ancient Greece did the Olympic Games do anything useful about avoiding war, and the Greeks did obey the rule of no fighting during the Games. Sporting events never did anything useful about avoiding war. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 23, 2017 at 22:12
  • $\begingroup$ Re fire as an event class: these dragon's fire, at it's hottest, can melt stone, but the hotter the flame, the shorter range it becomes. Finite fuel (firegall.) I'd like to avoid fire contests that turn into fire duels, so I'm looking for contestant against the course/target events, rather than contestant vs. contestant, directly. $\endgroup$
    – Catalyst
    Jan 24, 2017 at 4:08
  • $\begingroup$ Some of us weren't fond of the first incarnation of the games, and this new-age king doesn't realize there's nothing better than real combat for determining who is really the best. What's a dragon to do? $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Jan 24, 2017 at 5:10

5 Answers 5


Instead of presenting the games as "Strongs vs Sharps", make the games centered around teamwork - and design it so that the best teams involve players from both factions.

For example, one game could be a race in which two dragons team up to push a large and irregular rock through a complex obstacle course or maze. A combination of strength and cleverness will prevail here.

The prize for victory will be shared among the team, but the real point of the games is to drive home the idea that cooperation between the Strongs and the Sharps is good, discouraging civil war.

This could be used in a story: the King keeps the plan and purpose of the games a secret, so most players pick members from their own faction. The main characters who are friends from opposite factions decide to play together, and they win - which turns out to have been the King's plan all along.


To keep the tension up through the whole story instead of having the team-up win everything (and keep the King's plan from being too obvious), three of the games could favor a team with at least one Strong, three could favor a team with at least one Sharp, and the final, tie-breaking event would favor a team of both.

For example, the games could work like this:

Anyone can enter, and they enter the games in pairs. For all but the last game, each team picks which member they want to play.

The first two games are to weed out the majority of teams, with neither a fairly strong or fairly sharp member.

The next four games are focused on the four categories. So for the Test of Flight, each team presents their best flier. For the Test of Fire, each team presents its best fire-breather. And so on. This way, a team with two Strongs will not always beat the opposing-faction team in Strong-favoring games, but they can still win sometimes. However, the opposing-faction team will have the advantage over the tournament as a whole, since they can score points on both Strong and Sharp games, while single-faction teams will generally only score points in games designed to favor their faction.

The final game is the one where both members of each remaining team enter the game simultaneously, and favors a team with both strength and cunning.


I am not entirely sure what games you could do (the dragon racing game where sheep are dropped in a basket from How to Train Your Dragon comes to mind) but I do have ideas about rigging a tie (or victory). Some simple math and probability can be a great friend here.

For instance: tic-tac-toe is a common game that will ALWAYS end in a tie if the person playing o's knows their stuff, a computer can play a perfect game of checkers, there are number games where each player takes items from a pile 1, 2, or 3 at a time and the first player can always win if they are clever enough, there is the example of Black Jack which can be won by counting cards. Anyway, I think setting up points systems that favor a player (which is easy with two factions) or that set up a tie, would be best.

The tricky part is getting those number games past the "Sharps" and making them athletic enough for the "Strongs". I would favor the "Strongs" initially and let the "Sharps" take things to a tie if they are clever enough.

Also, if you give three games to the smartest, and three games to the toughest, that leaves only one to rig with a tie. (If war doesn't break out over the first six games that is).

You can start by looking for articles like these that break down all of your childhood wonder into math and disappointment.

http://www.cracked.com/article_19747_5-ways-to-beat-old-school-games-using-math.html http://card-tricks.wonderhowto.com/how-to/always-win-card-game-using-bit-math-283821/

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I don't recall the details of, "How to Train Your Dragon," but the idea of combined events, such as a race that included hunting, is an idea I've got to think about. I can do the probabilities, the issue (de-facto) is appeasing the dominant Faction 'Strongs', at the event-selection level (because they have clout), and then, in the implementation, arranging for the under-dragon faction 'Sharps' to bring their game up to rough parity. $\endgroup$
    – Catalyst
    Jan 24, 2017 at 1:32
  • $\begingroup$ And no prey so little as mere sheep (these are hungry dragons): more like wild boar, bear, or sabertooth cats. To put it mildly, there are supply issues with animals from the pesky two-legged ones. A shame, since BBQed beef is a real crowd pleaser among dragons. $\endgroup$
    – Catalyst
    Jan 24, 2017 at 1:41

The olympics would also need to provide things that allow them to combat each other in such a way that they are able to let the tension out on the field. Like we have boxing, wrestling, and other means of combat without it being real, you could add in some form of this to the events. Depends on where you want to go with the story really.

Are you trying to create this event as a means to completely end the tension? Or just a temporary solution and right after the events end, a war breaks out because one side lost and feel they were cheated? One thing that will definitely happen is that the various cultures or regional/city pride will be heavily present in the events. So the events will be needed to be done in such a way that the aggression can be reduced without causing further issues if some regions/cities are sore losers. I think one of the best ways to do this would be to create some combat events where the best fighters can represent each area and spare each other. If their best regional fighter loses to another region, they would be more likely demoralized from creating actual war since their best fighter lost. Or they could use it as fuel saying "if only he could fight for real, he wouldn't have lost". Just depends on where you want to take the situation.

  • $\begingroup$ ggiaquin, First off, thanks for answering. The key thing re combat is to minimize an in-combat fatality sparking the war, right then and there. So no dragon cage fights in this 'Olympics.' The dragon king is a realist; he's trying to stabilize a really fractious situation -- and hopefully preserve his/families lives. {This will be even more vital, when his heir unexpectedly volunteers for the Games....} $\endgroup$
    – Catalyst
    Jan 23, 2017 at 22:22
  • $\begingroup$ Possible to take another angle then. Make it FUN. don't make it competitive per-say. Give them a chance to remember what life was like when they were all friendly and happy. Say 2 factions use to partake all the time in air races but stopped due to issues. Maybe that may help re-kindle friendship. I think this is more the angle you are looking to take based on your reply to me so I would say, keep it fun, think of what your world would think as fun but don't do anymore now that there are issues. Remind them that they are all one dragon family who all enjoy the same things. $\endgroup$
    – ggiaquin16
    Jan 23, 2017 at 22:33

This answer suggests a combined event.

Two dragons play a game like Go. After making a single move, an hour glass is turned and the dragon that has just made its move must fly a course in a fixed time. During its flight it must (a) hunt and catch a prey animal, (b) set fire to a designated target, and (c) return to the Go-like board within the time the hour glass takes to run its course.

If the dragon fails to return within the hour glass' designated time, its opponent can make as many moves on the board as it cares to make before the first dragon returns.

This event rewards all four traditional categories of flight, fire, hunting and ‘cleverness’.

While the OP's question sought a range of events for his dragon "Olympics" this answer has confined itself to proposing a single combined event. On the presumption other answers will offer other possible events to fill the full quota of "Olympic" style events.

  • $\begingroup$ That's something like a pentathalon, but with 4, not 5. $\endgroup$
    – Catalyst
    Jan 24, 2017 at 3:58
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Catalyst That would be a tetrathalon, which is a tongue twister, if nothing else. You're welcome to it. If you want to use it, make whatever changes you think fit, $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Jan 24, 2017 at 6:08

So it sounds kinda like what you want is events that can be rigged. Races are an easy, obvious one. Maybe fire spitting can be an event based on distance or accuracy. I feel like taking a dive on accuracy wouldn't be too hard. I'd imagine dragons would want wrestling as an event. While I don't think dragons would have a judge scoring system to result in a time, I could imagine there being rules in place to prevent things gettig too wild: No biting or clawing or fire blowing - something competitive, but it can give an opportunity for the two to show sportsmanship I guess.


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