Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Alphatian Province of Randel

County of Rardishay, Randel -- 8 Miles per Hex

A curious geological feature strikes first-time visitors.  Seen from an airship at a high altitude, a pattern of mesas makes the land look as if it were covered with giant bubbles.  These formations are arid, porous, and filled with caverns.  Rocky spires tower above larger mesas, like giant spires.  Seen from the land, the formations' flat tops become more revealing as to their fauna.  With some patience and a bit of luck, one may observe a giant, bat-winged creature taking off in search of a meal.  Although originally called randels (a play on the word "roundel,") these mesas became better known as dragon crags.  This most curious topography brought about the creation of this realm and its social makeup.

Chartered town
Randel, whose capital sits at the realm's extreme southeastern edge, includes more than a dozen dominions, six chartered towns, up to five knightly dominions, and a large number of commanderies.  Chartered towns enjoy autonomy from local aristocracy but answer directly to royal authority.  White star symbols mark their positions on the map.

This southern realm of Alphatia nurtures an old tradition among a certain caste of wizards.  It consists in protecting dragons and, if possible, in establishing individual bonds between wizards and their chosen dragons.  These wizards are known as mage-knights.  The bond is an esoteric one that does not result in controlling dragons, flying them, or emulating their features and powers.  These skills belong with dragon knights and dracomancers.  Mage-knights of Randel are a different kind of people entirely.  They draw upon the legendary ferocity of dragons buried in the breeds’ racial memories.  It is an arcane force enabling masters to seamlessly blend warrior-like prowess with magical skill.

Mage-knights start as conventional magic-users.  At any point during their careers, they may be able to join a Draconic Order and begin in-depth training.  This involves approaching dragons and attempting to establish bonds with them.  Mage-knights may approach any number of dragons during their careers, but can only maintain bonds with three separate dragons at a single time.  Once established, bonds provide wizards with special abilities.  Not all mage-knights and dragons are compatible with each other for reasons including, but not limited to, their alignments, Charisma, experience or HD.  Some deeper connection may be required, forcing wizards to seek a better fit elsewhere, provided they didn’t end up as a snack.

 The sizes and breeds of chosen dragons determine the extent of special abilities.  There are three dragon sizes that come into play: small, large, and huge (using BECMI rules, or small, average, and huge for AD&D rules.).  There are two conditions to these abilities.  First, a mage-knight must craft a separate weapon and piece of armor for each chosen dragon.  Second, a mage-knight is bound to protect his or her chosen dragons.  If a chosen dragon is killed, the mage-knight loses a significant amount of experience, based on the size and breed of the dragon; the associated weapon and armor lose their enchantments; the mage-knight must also begin another quest for a bond and craft new equipment.

Special abilities of mage-knights involve three combat aspects:

  • Proficiency: a permanent ability to use certain fighter weapons.  Those are crafted after establishing bonds despite normal magic-user class limitations.  The weapons are specific to the breeds of chosen dragons.  For a limited duration, the mage-knight also gains a bonus to hit with these special weapons.  The size of a chosen dragon determines the extent of the bonus to hit, while its duration reflects the wizard’s experience level.
  • Fighting: the ability to inflict greater damage for a limited duration, using special weapons (the duration reflects the wizard’s experience, while the dragons’ sizes determine the extent of the bonus to damage.)
  • Armor: the ability to craft special armor pieces fit for wizardkind.  These can boost armor class for a limited duration.  The AC bonus reflects the dragons’ sizes, while the wizard’s experience level determines the duration of the bonus.

Additional spells unique to mage-knights can be learned.  These are used primarily to interact with dragons, establish bonds, and craft unique weapons and armor.

If using BECMI game mechanics, there are three Draconic Orders in Randel—one Lawful, one Neutral, and one Chaotic.  With AD&D-style alignments, there are five—Good, Evil, Lawful, Chaotic, and True-Neutral.  Although rivals, these orders remain obedient to Randel’s monarchy.  As a result of potential frictions on the battlefield, Randel rarely calls upon more than one order to participate in a battle, or mix rival mage-knights within a same garrison.

To avoid further complications, general territorial jurisdictions concerning relations with dragons have been granted to the orders to separate them from one another.  Within their general jurisdictions, the orders own a small domain in which they maintain their keep, enforce the laws, and collect taxes like any other Randel province.  Ownership, however, is temporary.  A rotation takes place every ten years following precise, predetermined routes and dates for the orders to take possession of their new domains.  Dedicated chapels and knightly commanderies dotting the countryside remain in place.

The hilly region northwest of Randel is open to all orders.  It is officially designated as a neutral zone by royal decree, but in practice it remains largely a lawless wilderness.  It is peculiar because of the frequency of caverns and deep ravines propitious for dragon lairs.  Dragons of all sorts live there, maintaining a fragile balance between kinds, and provide the greatest source of bonds to the mage-knights.  This explains the rotation of domains, for those located closest to the hills are more desirable.  Although rivals, mage-knights would never willingly harm a dragon or follow a course of action that might result in harm to a dragon, regardless of its alignment.  They stay away from those which they believe to be incompatible.  All orders agree that harming or allowing harm to come to a dragon constitutes inexcusable bad form. Undead dragons, however, are viewed as unholy aberrations that must be destroyed at once.

Dragon Crags, Commandery, and Knights' Hold
Choosing a dragon within Randel isn’t an obligation:  it is more of a practical concern for mage-knights.  There is plenty of wilderness in the country to accommodate dragons, such as the dragon crags in particular, in addition to those hiding among the normal population.  Because of the existence of Draconic Orders, there are more dragons living in Randel than anywhere else in mainland Alphatia.  This detail remains a painful and sticky diplomatic issue with Eadrin’s Shadow Lords.

Draconic Orders and their clerics generally honor dragon-related immortals such as Ka, or one of the three Dragon Rulers for BECMI (Bahamut and Tiamat for AD&D).  The Great One isn’t worshiped in a religious sense because its alignment isn’t known, but remains nonetheless honored among Draconic Orders. 
Regardless of protection afforded by Draconic Orders, Alphatian dragons are weary of powerful wizards.  Indeed, their survival there is more at risk than elsewhere on Mystara.  Some dragon communities exist outside of mainland Alphatia, where they are more secure and tend to live longer.  A good example are the dragons in the most savage reaches of Norwold.  More experienced mage-knights seeking to replace a vacant bond may travel to very distant shores on a quest to establish a greater association.  The benefits far outweigh the perils.

As the name infers, mage-knights are truly knights and faithful to their orders.  Their alignment determines the manner in which they prove their loyalty and uphold the tenets of their knighthood.  Sample ethics are listed below:

Lawful Order: a close fellowship of knights where the good of the many outweighs the good of the one.  At their best when working together, they are generally respectful of local laws and traditions.  These mage-knights are most likely to receive assistance from their order.

Chaotic Order: a loose association that rewards individuality.  They support their order’s goals in unpredictable and indirect manners.  Individual bravery, daring, and creativeness are encouraged.

Neutral Order: these mage-knights seek balance in all things.  They rely on common sense, logic, equitable arrangements, good business sense, and pragmatism above all.

Good Order (AD&D): they strive to protect both people and dragons equally.  Peace between people and wyrmkind is their goal.  Good will and trust lie at the heart of the bond with a dragon.

Evil Order (AD&D): these mage-knights bond with dragons at any cost to human life.  Stronger dragons mean a stronger order.  Force and fear are the fire and anvil with which bonds are forged.

An important aspect of knighthood is honor.  Although the manner in which each defines it varies somewhat, honor matters a great deal to all Draconic Orders.  Cowardice before a dragon, or for that matter before any foe, is the second worst crime in their eyes (after allowing harm to come to a dragon.)  Banishment or death are expected.  A frivolous accusation of cowardice against a mage-knight is likely to earn the sternest of responses, either individually or by the entire order.  Mage-knights are obligated to confront anyone bearing the title Dragon-Slayer, or boasting to have slain, wounded, attacked, tricked, or stolen from a dragon.  Wizards using live dragons as a source of spell components (other than discarded bones and loose scales) or individuals enslaving dragons, are equally reviled.

Good mage-knights are unwealthy because they must pay 10% of their earnings to the order.  Much of the rest goes to sway new dragons, or maintain a good relationship with those already bonded.  At a higher level, a Grand Master may entrust a mage-knight with a commandery, a small domain comparable to a monastery whose objectives are to shelter and train mage-knights as well as generating cash for the order.  Some farmland is included for cash crops.  All orders and their commanderies employ retainers to bolster their ranks, including in particular warriors and clerics.  Some thieves may be employed, usually in the role of scouts or spies.  All retainers are bound by their orders’ ethics and rules during their employment.  Local farmers and laborers provide the basic work.

There may be personal frictions between mage-knights within the same order (using AD&D game alignments.)  For example, a Good-aligned mage-knight with bonds to Lawful dragons may harbor a personal dislike of another Good-aligned mage-knight with bonds to Chaotic dragons.  Clashes are likely to ensue.

There are four primary ranks among mage-knights:

  • Squire: a neophyte under a more senior mage-knight’s tutelage.  Squires haven’t earned mage-knights’ special abilities yet, but have learned spells needed to approach dragons and basic knowledge of draconic lore.  Squires may communicate through signs with any dragon, including one devoid of speech.
  • First Degree Mage-Knight: one who has established a bond with a dragon.  Such a mage-knight is immune to dragon fear effects (AD&D), and speaks the languages of the chosen dragon and those of dragons with the same alignment.  The mage-knight always senses the location of chosen dragons.
  • Second Degree: a mage-knight bound to two dragons.  Such a mage-knight incurs only half-damage from dragons’ breath weapons (a successful saving throw reduces damage to one quarter,) and may communicate with any dragon.
  • Third Degree: a mage-knight bound to three dragons is immune to these dragon breeds’ breath weapons (and comparable* attacks,) and can communicate telepathically with a chosen dragon once a day for 1 Turn within a range of eight miles per level.  This powerful mage-knight can easily tell chromatic from gemstone dragons, as well as identify another mage-knight’s chosen dragon from the appearance of the latter’s equipment.

(*) Example: a third-degree mage-knight attuned to a red dragon is entirely immune to fire-based attacks, whether magical or not.

A chosen dragon may die during a mage-knight’s lifetime.  Other than the loss of specially attuned equipment, none of the benefits gained from previous bonds are lost.  They can still be clearly sensed
, however, by any other dragon within direct sight of that mage-knight.

Other degrees exist, such as mage-knights who bonded with at least one, two, or three large, adult dragons, and mage-knights who bonded with at least one, two, or three huge, old dragons.  These degrees are generally associated with upper ranks.  A Grand Master ought to be of the highest degree among his or her order.  The Ninth Degree remains a quasi-mythical achievement among all orders: a Ninth Degree Grand Master could theoretically command all other Draconic Orders, and would be called a Draconic Overlord.  Tutors gain prestige among their peers when a student reaches the Third Degree and demonstrates further brilliance throughout later stages.

Aspiring mage-knights must petition orders matching their alignments (at least in part for AD&D) for admittance, and to obtain mentors.  A sponsor is required to petition an order, such as member of that order, a local aristocrat in good standing with the order, an influential merchant or banker contributing financially to the order, a high-ranking ecclesiastic of appropriate faith, a title-holder in the monarchy’s administration, a member of the royal family, or (in rare cases) a dragon.

In order to quality for a petition, the aspiring mage-knight must satisfy prerequisites for magic-user and fighter classes.  Experience bonuses are allowed if minimum requirements are met for both.  Since dealing with dragons is a perilous business, it is understood that very low level mage-knights might not fare well, although this is technically possible.  Ideally, a magic-user should seek admittance to an order just before reaching the fifth or sixth level.  BECMI elves are acceptable as mage-knights, but with limitations that will be explained later.

The supplicant is admitted as a neophyte student when earning a new experience level after the petition is approved (hence, level two is the earliest possible admission to a Draconic Order.)  Initially, two mentors provide basic guidance to an aspiring mage-knight: a sage well-versed in draconic lore, and a master-at-arms.  From this point on, and as long as the mage-knight is a member of the order, a –20% experience penalty applies to all earned experience, along with a 10% tithe on earned treasures.  Experience bonuses can be used to directly offset the –20% penalty.  The mage-knight uses the character’s original magic-user experience progression, saving throws, and hit charts.  Personal leave is permissible for neophytes to conduct private matters and gain further experience in life (such as adventuring with usual buddies.)

A neophyte may not knowingly approach any dragon for any reason at any time until reaching the next experience level. At this point, the neophyte becomes a squire (as described earlier), reporting to an older, more experienced mage-knight assigned as the squire’s personal tutor.  The tutor is selected from among those whose personality best matches the squire’s, in order to foster a healthy and long-lasting relationship.  The tutor’s responsibility is to teach the squire the first steps toward approaching a dragon, and provide advice until the aspiring mage-knight attains the Third Degree.

The first concern for a squire is to determine which dragons are most suitable.  It is a crucial matter, as preparation may make a difference between survival and becoming someone’s dinner.

There are alignment restrictions involved when considering which dragons to approach.  The very first chosen dragon must match the mage-knight’s own alignment.  Generally, at least one dragon should match exactly the mage-knight’s alignment when establishing additional bonds.  With the AD&D game, one such dragon may not be available, therefore pick one that best matches the character's personality.

With BECMI game mechanics, a mage-knight may only bond with dragons of the same alignment or one degree removed, as long as none of the chosen dragons have opposite alignments.  As a result, a Lawful mage-knight may only bond with Lawful and Neutral dragons.  A Neutral mage-knight may bond EITHER with Lawful and Neutral dragons, OR Neutral and Chaotic dragons.

For AD&D-style alignments, the same holds true as regards conflicting alignments, including Good vs. Evil and Lawful vs. Chaotic.  For example a Lawful-Neutral mage-knight may bond EITHER with LN, LG, NG, and N dragons (if available,) OR LN, LE, NE, and N dragons (if available,) and so on.  There are many other dragons with unusual alignments which aren't listed here (shadow, mist, and cloud dragons for example, oriental dragons, and those in 2nd Edition AD&D.)

Several specialty spells help establish a relationship between an aspiring mage-knight and a dragon.  They are designed to identify and locate the right creature, to improve the odds that first contact does not end badly, and to establish a bond.  They are listed later in this article.

The goal of the mage knight is to visit the coveted dragon at least once before attempting to convince it that a bond is desirable.  The first contact spell greatly improves the odds a dragon will at least listen to the visitor initially.  If the spell succeeds, the mage-knight earns an opportunity to return for a later visit.  Subsequent visits help establish the beginnings of a relationship and impact directly the mage-knight’s ability to eventually convince the dragon.  It’s a delicate balance between building trust and pestering the dragon, somewhat akin to courtship.  Naturally, attempting to steal anything, being impertinent, or prying into the dragon’s business would provoke an immediate “0” failure for the encounter (see below.)

Once first contact is made, subsequent encounters are simpler in their resolution.  They are visits of courtesy and need not be overly complicated.  Roll 1d8 and add modifiers listed below.  If the result is 5 or more, the visit is a success.  If the result is 1-4, it is a failure, but a safe one (a polite bow and a cautious retreat will do.)  If the score is 0 or worse, the effect depends upon the dragon’s alignment:
  • Lawful: leave at once; the dragon will shun the mage-knight from this point forward.
  • Neutral: mage-knight should flee; 30% chance the dragon decides to pursue within 2d4 rounds; if so, no further visits will be permitted.
  • Chaotic: 60% chance the dragon attacks immediately; since it is chaotic after all, it will nonetheless entertain future visits.
If ever attacked by a dragon, subdual damage and defensive spells are the only actions permitted to members of a Draconic Order, and only for the purposes of escape.  Combat bonuses linked with special abilities are allowed in this case.  If a dragon is subdued, it is temporary until the mage-knight can reach safety.

Visit Modifiers:

Mage-knight came empty-handed:
Mage-knight brought non-magical gifts*
Mage-knight brought magical gifts**
Previous visits within the past year
Previous visit was a failure
Good role-playing effort
Dragon’s Disposition—roll 1d8:

   1   Sleeping (if awakened)
   2   In a foul mood
   3   Eating at the time
   4   Looking for a misplaced valuable
   5   Expecting the mage-knight’s visit
   6   Bored, seeking news of the world
   7   Itching and seeking relief
   8   In a jovial mood (birthday, dragon holiday)

(*) At least 20 gp per hit point for a small dragon, 30 gp per hit point for a large dragon, or 40 gp per hit point for a huge dragon
(**) At least equivalent to one average-value magical potion for a small dragon, two for a large one, four for huge one.

The odds of success depend upon different factors listed in the next paragraph.  If the mage-knight’s efforts are successful, the dragon blood spell creates the bond and seals the association between mage and dragon.  A mage-knight’s business with a dragon is a personal one; friends, familiars, pets, adventuring companions, henchmen, or retainers must not be present when contact is made.

Odds of Convincing a Dragon

Mage knight is of a higher level than the dragon
Mage knight is of a lower level than the dragon
Total number of successful visits
Previous failures to convince the dragon
BECMI Charisma (basic bonus times 5)
+5% to +15%
AD&D Charisma (½ reaction adjustment)
+2% to +17%
Mage-knight’s alignment differs from the dragon’s
-10% to -20%
Mage knight’s present bonds
Mage knight’s previous Bonds
Present dragons with other alignments
Previous dragons with other alignments
Dragon suspects something isn’t right
-5% to +30%
Creativity and substance of the present offer
+5% to +30%
Role-playing and pizzaz
+5% to +30%

It is assumed the dragon senses much of the mage-knight’s nature and past associations in order to determine bonuses and penalties.  It is also possible that the mage-knight’s reputation preceded him or her.  Odds can never be less than 10% or more than 90%, regardless of modifiers.

Once odds are tallied, the player must roll a percentile score equal or less than the total.  If the roll succeeded by more than 30 percentile points, the dragon willingly allows the mage-knight to cast the dragon blood spell.  If the roll succeeded by 30 or less, the dragon demands the mage-knight first undertakes a quest of some sort.  If the roll failed by 30 or less, the dragon tolerates another visit at a different time.  If the roll failed by more than 30, the dragon is annoyed and refuses any further contact; if the dragon is Chaotic (BECMI) or Evil (AD&D,) it may also wonder what this mage-knight tastes like.

Experience Levels: the mage-knight’s experience levels must be compared with the dragon’s Hit Dice.  A more powerful mage-knight commands more credibility than a weaker one.

Successful Visits: the mage-knight can build up odds of success when visiting a dragon, as described earlier.

Previous Failure to Convince: the perky and persistent mage-knight attempts to convince the dragon more than once.  The dragon’s patience wears thinner.  This is only possible if the previous request had failed by 30 percentile points or less.

Charisma: a straightforward factor, although it is a bit skewed toward AD&D game mechanics.

Mage-Knight with Different Alignment: with a difference of alignment in BECMI, the penalty is –20%.  With the AD&D game, it is –10% per degree of difference; for example: N to LN incurs a –10% penalty, while from N to LG incurs a –20%penalty.

Present/Previous Bonds: refers to bonds that are current as opposed to those established with dragons that have passed away since.

Present Dragons with Other Alignments: if the mage-knight bonded with dragons of different alignments than the one being approached, in BECMI, the penalty is –10% for each such dragon.  With the AD&D game, the penalty is –5% per degree of alignment difference for each such dragon.

Previous dragons with other alignments: as above.  The -20% penalty refers to the case when a Neutral mage-knight lost a dragon and seeks to replace it with one of a diametrically opposed alignment.  Although technically possible, the new dragon might not appreciate the fact that this mage-knight had associated with a creature of questionable repute.

Dragon Suspicion: the DM adjudicates this penalty.  If the dragon knows that the mage-knight’s adventuring buddies are present in the lair, the offer will automatically fail.  The roll must still be executed but with the full –30% penalty to determine by how much it may fail.

Creativity and substance: refers to measures the mage-knight took to help sway the dragon, such as meaningful gifts and actions benefiting or impressing the dragon (see Returning Visits for guidelines, listed earlier.)  Each dragon is unique, and may require a different strategy.  Offering identical “deals” to all dragons is like trying to give the same dress to rival women.  It may be the mage-knight’s undoing.

Role-playing and Pizzaz: refers to the manner in which a mage-knight interacts with a dragon.  Style and panache may impress a dragon and entertain both players and DM.  As self-conscious and narcissistic as they are, dragons are more inclined to associate with prestigious and colorful individuals (as if they were shining gems to be added to their hoards) than dull ones.

Regardless of bonuses, swaying a dragon, especially a powerful one, should never be an easy, routine process.  If need be, the dragon should impose additional conditions to the relationship.  Mage-knight and dragon may break an established bond at any time provided there is reasonable cause to do so (see Breaking Bonds later in this article.)

Dragons are incorrigible hoarders.  They amass precious metals and gems, magic, and if they could, valuable people too.  The trouble with people is that they have hands and take stuff.  They have legs and don’t sit still in nice, big piles.  They talk and make annoying noises that wake up dragons.  They can get pretty smelly, and napping on top of them is generally a bad idea too.  But most importantly, they don’t last very long, not like gems for example.  So, from a dragon’s point of view, the next best thing is to retain people’s loyalties and services for as long as they may last.  For this reason, some dragons accept bonds with multiple mage-knights.  The latter have proven quite valuable in the face of adversity, whether the source of danger lies in a group of greedy adventurers, monster-hunters, dragon-slayers, or rival dragons.

Once a mage-knight establishes a bond, the next task is to craft one appropriate weapon and one appropriate piece of armor.  These cannot be produced in advance.  The draconic enchantment spell enables a mage-knight to attune chosen equipment to a draconic bond.  The tutor will craft the equipment if the mage-knight isn’t experienced enough to cast that spell.

Types of Equipment:

Chosen Dragon
Chosen Weapon
Armor Piece
White (or Brass*) Short Sword or War Hammer Light chainmail
Black (or Copper*) Short Bow or Lt. Crossbow Copper skullcap
Green (or Bronze*) Normal Sword or Battleaxe Bronze bracers
Blue (or Silver*) Long Bow or Hvy Crossbow Silver greaves
Red Bastard Sword or Halberd Shoulder armor
Dragon Turtle* Trident Heavy shield
Gold Two-Handed Sword Gold chest plate

(*) AD&D game only.  Read “normal” sword as longsword.  Substitute oriental dragons as appropriate, based on relative Hit Dice, and replace corresponding equipment with oriental equivalents.

Gemstone dragons (BECMI) enable the same weapons as chromatic dragons of comparable tints.

Once a chosen weapon is crafted, the mage-knight automatically gains the proficiency to wield this specific weapon (and no other,) using the magic-user’s normal combat table.  The proficiency is permanent and comes in addition to those normally permitted to a magic-user.  Unless a special power is triggered, the proficiency does not confer any bonuses to hit or to damage.

Each piece of armor, once attuned to the bond, provides a non-magical +1 bonus to the mage-knight’s Armor Class and does not conflict with spell-casting.  If a mage-knight bonds with dragons of the same breed, pick the next available armor piece listed and change its metal.  For example, if a mage knight bonds with two white dragons, the resulting armor pieces should be light chainmail and brass skullcap.

After establishing their first bonds, BECMI elves must forego the use of all previous weapons and armor (including magical,) and limit themselves to equipment attuned to these bonds.  Ignoring this limitation breaks a bond.  This explains why there are few elves among Draconic Orders.  From a game mechanics point of view, considering the elves’ experience progression chart, it is a stiff price to pay.  On the other hand, they do still benefit from good saving throws, a reasonable combat table, and standard racial abilities.  High-level elven mage-knights can make tough NPCs to deal with.

Combat bonuses come into effect when the mage-knight draws upon the powers of the bonds.  The process is immediate and does not count as an action.  The effect lasts 3 rounds +1 for every three levels of the mage-knight.  For example: a 6th level mage-knight would be able to sustain the bond’s power for 5 rounds; at 15th level, the duration would be 8 rounds, etc.

Dragon’s Might
Combat Bonuses
of Use
HD 6-8 hp 18-34 +2 +2 1/day
HD 9-11 hp 35-55 +4 +4 2/day
HD 12-17 hp 56-80 +6 +6 3/day
HD 18+ hp 81+ +8 +8 4/day

(*) Treat a large green dragon as if it only had 11 HD for purposes of determining draconic equipment bonuses.
(**) These ranges are for the 1st Edition AD&D game.  Readjust as needed to match hit point ranges for the 2nd Edition AD&D game.

Weapon bonuses affect both hit and damage bonuses, and are equivalent to magical bonuses as regards which monsters may be hit.  If anti-magic comes into play, the level of magic is based upon the matching dragon’s own HD.  These weapon bonuses correspond specifically to the bonded dragons, if more than one (i.e. they are likely to be different.)  Over time, a dragon may gain HD, resulting in better bonuses to a mage-knight’s matching equipment.

Spiritual Weapons: With two dragons bonded, the earlier chosen weapon may levitate and be used much in the manner an AD&D cleric would a spiritual hammer, effectively providing the mage-knight with multiple attacks. The range at which a disembodied weapon may engage in melee is no more than 30ft.  Meanwhile, the mage-knight may either cast spells or wield normally the more recent chosen weapon against the same foe or any other within 30ft. If the disembodied device is a ranged weapon, it levitates within 30ft of the mage-knight, moving along with the owner if the latter steps out of range.  It reloads itself but at half the normal speed, and may only target a foe not yet engaged in melee and within clear sight of the mage-knight.  If an opponent tries to snatch it, the disembodied weapon resists with the strength of the corresponding dragon.  With three dragons bonded, the earlier two weapons may be used as a spiritual hammer instead of just one.

AC bonuses are given as a total.  They aren’t cumulative for each separate piece of armor.  They also count for making saving throws.

Any mage-knight may provide basic care to a dragon, such as applying first aid to wounds, stopping blood loss, setting fractured bones, and fighting common draconic illnesses.  Much of this non-magical care relies on mud-based cataplasms and herbal medicine.  Under the care of a mage-knight, a dragon may heal twice as fast as it would otherwise.  Abandoned eggs and hatchlings may be cared for, with the goal of releasing the latter as soon as it can be done safely.  By the Third Degree, a mage-knight is equivalent to a sage specialized in dracology.

A dragon in peril may (and will if able) call its associated mage-knight(s) for help.  First and Second Degree mage-knights might experience an ominous dream or receive the visit of a messenger (a small creature bearing a token from the dragon.)  A dragon would otherwise contact its Third Degree mage-knight(s) using their telepathic link.  The nature of the bond is such that a huge dragon with at least 50 hp would cause the mage-knight(s) to teleport to its side, regardless of the distance or planar location.

Whenever a bond is broken, either willingly by a dragon, by a mage-knight, or as the result of a dragon’s death, the mage knight suffers a personal loss.  The damage reflects an arcane wound and a loss of prestige among the order, which translates into lost experience points. The extent of the damage varies with the size of the dragon, as shown below.

Dragon’s Might
BECMI*      AD&D**     Effect of a broken bond

HD 6-8        hp 18-34     -200 XP per dragon hit point
HD 9-11      hp 35-55     -500 XP per dragon hit point
HD 12-17    hp 56-80     -1,000 XP per dragon hit point
HD 18+       hp 81+        -2,000 XP per dragon hit point (plus permanent

                                     –1 penalty to Charisma*)

(*) In the event the dragon died as a result of the mage-knight’s personal failure.

The loss of experience may well be enough to incur the loss of a level, including consequences to hp, attack rolls, saving throws, ability to cast certain spells, etc.  Furthermore, the attuned equipment involved in the bond loses its properties and can no longer be used.  On the other hand, the mage-knight is not demoted to a lesser degree.  The latter is an important consideration because it may allow the mage-knight to add another immunity to certain types of attacks if/when a new bond is established with an entirely new dragon breed.

The use of magic to influence or control dragons (such as charms) is considered cowardice and grounds for death or banishment from a Draconic Order.  Breaking a bond for a frivolous reason is seen as willful treachery and will also result in banishment from the ranks.  Deliberately allowing harm to come to a dragon, or cowardice in general, are grounds for banishment.

If banned, the mage-knight retains all accumulated knowledge, spells learned, and special abilities provided chosen dragons do not break their bonds of their own accords.  The latter depends on circumstances and the quality of the relationship between dragon and mage-knight.  Chaotic dragons may not care one bit about being associated to a banished mage-knight (they may actually find some entertaining value to the situation;) lawful dragons on the other hand would be most likely to break their bonds.  Short of death, the most severe punishment for a mage-knight is a forcible breach of established bonds in addition to banishment.  A Grand Master may undo the bonds of a lesser mage-knight of the order.

While banned, a mage-knight does not incur the –20% experience penalty or pay the 10% tithe on earned treasures.  Establishing new bonds while banished will result in the order branding the mage-knight a renegade, which may be heard of through the dragons’ grapevine.  The order will thereafter remain on the lookout for this renegade, possibly dispatching one or more knights and their retainers as bounty-hunters.  Randel’s monarchy and common military will concur with the order’s judgement and view the renegade as a criminal to be dealt with as they please.

If a mage-knight was unfairly banished, which may happen with the sort of personal rivalries existing among orders, proving one's innocence is generally enough to be reinstated.  New bonds will have to be established.  If the matter ever came up, mage-knights—even renegades—cannot become Shadow Lords and vice-versa.  They are sworn enemies.  Knowingly consorting with a Shadow Lord is punishable by the death penalty.

Locate Dragon (Level Two Spell)
Range: unlimited
Duration: 1 day
Effect: locates a dragon

The first time the spell is cast, it selects a dragon, plus one for every three experience levels of the caster.  If the spell selected multiple dragons, it presents them to the caster one at a time while the latter undergoes a trance.  The mage-knight must refuse one before examining the next.  If the caster rejects all choices available, the spell ends and cannot be cast again until the next day.  A spell cast by a Squire always results in dragons of the same exact alignment (provided they exist in the game.) 
A DM could decide to alter a dragon's alignment, not more than one notch, in order to cover such unusual slots as LN, CN, NG, etc.  At the knighthood's first degree, the DM rolls percentile dice for each dragon the spell selects, as follows:

Dragon Alignment
BECMI (d%)
01-32 One degree removed*
33-00 Same alignment
AD&D (d%)
01-10 Two degrees removed**
11-32 One degree removed**
33-00 Same alignment

(*) For BECMI rules: if the mage-knight is Neutral and has only bonded with Neutral dragons so far, an odd score selects Chaos (otherwise Law.) 

(**) For the AD&D game, roll 1d10.  The score determines what "path" to follow on the PHB's alignment diagram.  With a score 1-5, first move horizontally one notch and, if called for, one more notch vertically.  A score of 6-10 yields the opposite.  With a Neutral mage-knight, the path should trend toward the alignments of previously bonded dragons, if relevant; otherwise, if the d10 score was an odd number, trend toward Chaos, and if the d10 score was an even number, trend toward Good. 
If no dragon breed exists that specifically matches the mage-knight's alignment, select one "on the path" between the player character's alignment and the dragon's (or make one up.) 

For example: a CN mage-knight rolled a d10 score of 4, meaning that the path from CN should first be horizontal, therefore through the Neutral box on the diagram since there's no other choice.  If the percentile score had called for an alignment one space removed, a Neutral dragon is selected, otherwise either a NG or a NE one.  If the mage-knight had previously bonded with a CE or NE dragon, the selected dragon would be NE (possibly a shadow dragon from MM2, or a new breed entirely, or one lying "on the path" from CN--in this case N.)  If the mage-knight had not previously bonded with any other dragon but Neutral-aligned ones, the score of 4 would indicates instead a trend toward Good, therefore NG.   

If there are multiple breeds of dragons matching the selected alignment (likely,) the DM adds them to a list, up to the total number of dragons initially selected by the spell.  Once done, the DM
rolls up their hit points, based upon a choice of HD closest to the mage-knight’s experience level (if tied, pick the higher HD.)  For the AD&D game, hit points are based directly upon the mage-knight’s experience level, as follows:

Mage-Knight Levels Dragon hit points
3-7 3-4
8-13 5-6
14-17 7
18+ 8

For example: a 10th level mage-knight selected a green dragon.  With BECMI, this dragon can either have 8 or 12 HD--therefore 12; since it is a tie, the highest of the two choices applies.  With AD&D, the red dragon would have 10 HD at either 5 or 6 hp per HD, at the DM's option.

The DM may roll percentile dice for the approximate distance (+/-10%) to the dragon’s lair from the mage-knight’s present location, as follows:

Percentile Distance
01-08 8 Miles
09-24 24 Miles
25-70 80 Miles
71-86 240 Miles
87-94 800 Miles
95-98 Another continent and more than 1,000 miles away
99-00 Another plane of existence

While in Randel, the direction should be toward the northwest hills.  If the distance exceeds the realm’s borders by more than twice the distance to the mage-knight’s present location, the direction is random.  If a location is at sea, the lair is either under the sea or at an appropriate spot on the closest coast.

Roll 1d10 for random direction:: 1 = N, 2 = NW, 3 = W, 4 = SW, 5 = S, 6 = SE,  7 = E, 8 = NE, 9-10 = straight down or straight up, whichever is the least nonsensical, Mystara’s Hollow World being a definite possibility.

When done, the DM drafts a random list and starts disclosing these details to the mage-knight’s player, one at a time, until a dragon is chosen.  A mage-knight may only reject one selected dragon per experience level.  Once that limit is reached with this spell or any subsequent one, the next selected dragon must be accepted, regardless of conditions.  Once a dragon is selected, the mage-knight wakes up; later uses of the spell simply tell the mage-knight in what direction and how far to go to find the selected dragon (+/-1d4 miles,) or whether it is no longer alive.  The spell resets after first contact.  The mage-knight’s knowledge of dragons or a visit to the order’s library may provide details about the dragon’s life and personality, and the lair’s appearance.

Draconic Enchantment (Level Three Spell)
Range: 0 (one item)
Duration: 8 Hours +1 Turn for every three levels
Effect: attunes an item to a draconic bond

The spell enables a mage-knight to attune a chosen weapon or piece of armor to an established bond.  Master crafters at the Draconic Order’s disposal fashion the object needed, during which the presence and participation of the owner is required.  The mage-knight must cast the spell and maintain it in effect, weaving the bond while work is in progress.  The mage-knight must strive to maintain concentration while being tattooed with dragon-like patterns.  Every line and dot adorning the mage-knight’s skin flare as they duplicate themselves upon the item as etchings or carvings.

The strength of the bond determines the time needed to fashion the work.  An item to be attuned to a small dragon’s bond requires a week’s work. Each morning, the caster resumes the spell until the task is accomplished.  Two weeks are required for a large dragon, four for a huge one.  Tattoos at first cover parts of the torso and back.  If more space is needed by a mage-knight with many previous bonds, arms and legs follow, with the face and scalp coming last.  It isn’t rare when tattoos are seen shifting, coiling and uncoiling, or flapping their wings.

A mage-knight can always sense where an attuned object is located.  If it were stolen or lost, the mage-knight has the option of leaving on a quest to retrieve it, or enchant a new one, which eliminates the link to the other.  If within 30ft, the mage-knight can cause the item to dimension door to his/her hand, which requires a round of concentration.

Crafting chosen equipment while banished requires the mage-knight to find master crafters willing to betray their order or who’d been banished as well.  Naturally, their working together would invariably lead all involved to become renegades.  On the other hand, they may decide to start a new order outside Randel, which has happened a few times with varying results (including torture and execution.)

First Contact (Level Four* Spell)
Range: 0 (mage-knight only)
Duration: 1 Turn per level
Effect: special

First contact is a true oddball as magic goes.  In a nutshell, it is a cocktail of simplified spell effects blended into one. These effects play off the arcane link already generated by the locate dragon spell and innate senses of the mage-knight.  The spell is learned when a neophyte becomes a Squire.  A seventh level mage-knight can use the spell without error.  Lower level mage-knights may attempt to cast it as well, but with various consequences if they fail.  The spell may only be used once per day and only for the purpose of making the initial contact with a selected dragon.

Odds of failure are as follows: the DM rolls 1d10 and adds the mage-knight’s experience level.  If the result is less than 8, the spell fails in some way.  Like searching for secret doors, there is no way to tell when the spell fails because not all of its effects may be negated as a consequence.

  • Effect #1. Find the Path (as the clerical spell.)  Enables the mage-knight to find the most direct and safest route to approach the dragon within its lair.  It merely amplifies the effects of the locate dragon spell.  It ceases when reaching the dragon, or at the end of the spell’s duration, whichever happens first.
  • Effect #2. Dimension Door (as the magic-user spell.)  This effect is contingent upon the result of the encounter.  If it goes badly and the dragon attacks, the mage-knight instantly dimension doors back along the ingress path.  The first contact spell ends thereafter if this effect is triggered.
  • Effect #3. ESP (as the magic-user spell.)  It helps the mage-knight adopt the best demeanor for the dragon encountered.  It provides the mage-knight with 1d4+1 rounds during which to safely interact with the dragon.  The effect is triggered when reaching the dragon and lasts until the end of the spell’s duration, whichever occurs first.
If the spell failed, some of the effects do not manifest.  If failed by 1-2, ESP doesn’t trigger; by 3, ESP and dimension door fail, by 4, none of the effects trigger.

Generally speaking, the result of the first encounter is predicated upon the player’s ability to roleplay a particular demeanor.  The object of the encounter is to present one’s respects, introduce oneself in a clear and concise manner, salute the dragon, and retreat.  Here are some basic choices of demeanor:

  1. Debonair: relies on good humor, panache, and personal charisma
  2. Obsequious: plays off the pride and vanity of the dragon
  3. Warrior-like: establishes a rapport of strength and mutual respect
  4. Business-like: a no-frills, honest-Abe, there-you-have-it approach
  5. Scientific: more like an insightful sage seeking knowledge
  6. Self-Sacrificing: “do with me as you please, Great Dragon, for all I offer is everlasting loyalty and service.”
Every dragon is different.  ESP will enable the mage-knight to pick the right demeanor.  The rest relies on the player’s ability to roleplay.  After 1d4+1 rounds (or at the end of the first round if the ESP effect fails to trigger at all) the DM resolves the dragon’s reaction, using appropriate mechanics.  With BECMI for example, use the random monster reaction table, RC page 93.  Picking the right demeanor should give a bonus to the reaction.  Roleplaying it well should give another.  If, by the end of the encounter, the dragon is at worst neutral toward the impromptu visitor, first contact is successful.  Otherwise, the visit failed and another dragon should be selected with a new locate dragon routine.

Dragon Blood (Level Four* Spell)
Range: 0 (dragon and mage-knight)
Duration: 1 Turn
Effect: establishes a permanent bond with a dragon

Once a dragon agrees to establish a bond, the spell finalizes the process (no saving throw.)  As with the first contact spell, mage-knights of lesser levels than normally required may cast the spell with a chance of failure.  The DM rolls 1d10 and adds the mage-knight’s experience level.  If the result is less than 8, the spell fails.  The actual score rolled determines the extent of the failure.  If the roll failed by 1-2 the dragon pats the mage-knight on the head and requests another attempt at a better time.  If it failed by 3, the dragon will need to be convinced once more.  If it failed by 4, the dragon is truly annoyed: the mage knight needs to locate another dragon.

The spell, when it succeeds, requires a small wound for dragon and mage-knight to mix their bloods.  Both bear henceforth small and identical scars within their forelimbs which can never be truly healed, unless one of the two dies.  The dragon bears as many scars as it has consented bonds.  An astute observer might catch sight of them.  A mage-knight would immediately sense whether a peer shares a bond with the same dragon.  For all intents and purposes, they would be blood-brothers.  Whether they actually like each other remains a different story.  The same is true of dragons attuned to the same mage-knight, although jealousy among dragons can be much worse than among humans.  For this reason, it is generally best to bond with dragons whose lairs lie far away from each other.

A side effect of the bond is that dragon and mage-knight can sense each other’s emotions when communicating.  This includes perceiving lies or half-truths.

The nature of the link from the point of view of the mage-knight has been described at length and does not need to be revisited here.  From the dragon’s point of view, it may be seen as a source of prestige among peers, especially if the mage-knight bears more HD than the dragon.  A Lawful dragon isn’t likely to entertain a bond with more than a single Draconic Order, while a Chaotic one would not hesitate to have several, seeing conflicts among its bonded knights as a source of curiosity and possibly a way to ascertain which is best.  A one-upmanship contest might develop from rivalries, usually profiting the dragon.  A Good dragon (AD&D) treats the relationship as a mutually-beneficial one especially where goals coincide, while an Evil one would manipulate and exploit the bond to further its own personal ends.  A dragon may decide to help a mage-knight, depending on its alignment, the quality of their relationship, and whether an intervention conflicts with its personal goals.

Banished mage-knights or others who simply chose to leave their previous order may seek to establish a new fellowship.  It needs to be well away from Randel.  To create an order, one requires a least one third level mage-knight, a sage in dracology, a master-at-arms, a cleric of the right faith, three master crafters, and a tattoo-wizard.  Retainers can always be hired along the way.  Local folks will flock to the opportunity to earn food and protection.  A keep can be built in the wilderness or in a domain supplied by a friendly aristocrat.  The experience penalty of the founding mage-knight grows to –30% as no higher level tutor is available there to provide guidance.  Absolutely all of the founder’s income goes toward the order.  If at least one of the key people leaves or dies and isn’t replaced within 6 months, the new order fails and everyone leaves.  Thankfully, established orders certainly have more than enough of these key people to keep functioning.

Realm of Randel, 8 Miles per Hex
Click HERE to view or download the complete map.  Special thanks to Janet Deaver-Pack for her editorial support.


  1. Play-testers would be welcome to check game balance and mechanics. Thanks.

  2. Absolute stunning posts, every reading left me feel wanting for more.

    The game material and bakgrounds are simply...delightful.

    Can't thank you enough, Bruce. Mystara is back, and at its best!

    1. You're welcome--and thanks! Praise is always appreciated.

  3. Oh, wow, I wasn't expecting all of that. Alphatia keeps getting better and better!

    Now, Shadow Lords and Mage-Knights beg the question... shouldn't (almost) all kingdoms have their specialty wizards? Like, Amburian Astromancers, Arogansan Grandmasters, or Aquan Mermages?
    Even Denwarf-Hurgon could have some type of specialty, explaining why the kingdom exists within Alphatia, like Oremasters (may be associated with clerics rather than wizards).
    Stonewall would probably be the exception, although it may have created its own non-magical guilds (eg. Blademasters).

    Alright, great write-up on mage-knights, but outside of the draconic orders what is the kingdom like, its politics, history (battles), etc? Do you have another post on the way on the subject, maybe as you describe its capital and armies?


    1. Hi Hervé

      Your question: "shouldn't (almost) all kingdoms have their specialty wizards? Like, Amburian Astromancers, Arogansan Grandmasters, or Aquan Mermages?"

      Absolutely, yes. While finding my stride, writing all this new stuff, I've been thinking about applying the same detail to the other realms, which means revisiting the previous entries and fleshing them out in some similar fashion. The idea had indeed crossed my mind.

      Your question: "Do you have another post on the way on the subject, maybe as you describe its capital and armies?"

      I'm presently working on "stats" for Randel. I had planned on diverting much of the info on traditional troops, politics, and economy to that page, since the previous entry had grown so long. I should be able to release all that tomorrow, barring any unforeseen hiccups tonight. The capital city will follow in a third post, as I had done with the past several realms. There is a certain pattern now that is coming through.

      For history and battles, I'd like to wait until I'm done fleshing out the realms. If nothing blows up, then I can focus on tying together historical backgrounds. Any readers' comments on that matter very much help me catch canon material I had forgotten, and plan ahead. If something related crosses your mind, by all means do let me know.


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