Tag Archives: Dragons

Considerations for Slaying a Dragon

Realistically, if One Person needed to defeat an approximately house sized, fire breathing Dragon, what weapons would they use? Medieval weapons of course, and Magic is definitely allowed.

I know that realistically it seems like an impossible task, and that’s part of it. A lot of people have died fighting this dragon, and this character is only capable of it because his rich father has been training him since he was little, so maybe that helps? (I’m trying my hand at subverting the ‘princess in a tower’ trope)

I honestly just don’t know how to handle this. Should I just say “Fuck It” and chuck whatever realism is left out the window? That’s kinda what I’ve been doing so far, as I’d just given him a sword a lot like the Buster Sword from Final Fantasy, but I thought I’d ask you anyway.

So, there’s a couple problems here. Let’s start with the dragon.

There is no concrete set of rules for dragons. Everything is particular to the story you’re looking at, or, in this case, writing. Giant, fire breathing, murder lizard only gets you so far. Dragons range from being just another wild animal to thinking beings with superhuman intellect, depending on the setting. Similarly, they range from being just another chunk of meat with a slightly crunchy exterior, to literally immortal and impossible to kill, with examples everywhere in between.

Obviously, there’s a bit of a difference between a story of someone hunting a mundane apex predator who’s been picking off professional game wardens, and someone trying to slay Jormungandr. These are entirely different genres of storytelling, and it’s not as simple as pinning down a size and saying, ‘it breathes fire.”

What are the best weapons? It depends on the dragon’s durability. Things like lances or ballistae are probably your best options, if they work at all. Of course, if the only weapon that can harm it is an enchanted letter opener, then you’d need to use that, and try to figure out a way around the limitations of it not having an edge, and only being a few inches long.

This feeds back into a different problem, and it’s not there already, but heading into dangerous territory. Magic is a cheat. When used carelessly, it will leach all of the tension from your story, and cause the entire thing to collapse. “Just kill the dragon with magic,” isn’t going to be a satisfying ending, and leaves you with the question, “why didn’t any of the last thirty would-be dragon hunters think of that?”

The more difficult that the magic is (by any meaningful metric), the less harm it will cause to your tension, and there is even potential for benefit. If your character is trying to find a magical means to dispatch the dragon, and that’s the core of their quest, it does go a long way towards why none of the previous hunters simply zapped that overgrown iguana out of the sky.

(I’m trying my hand at subverting the ‘princess in a tower’ trope)

Don’t.

There are times that I could gleefully shoot that website into the sun, and this one of those.

It can be a very useful when you’re trying to pull a work apart and see all the underlying thematic elements.

However, when you start looking at it like a shopping list, something is about to go very, very, wrong.

This is one of those times.

What you have is a rich, privileged kid, swooping in to save the day. That’s not a “subversion,” of a damsel in distress (of any form), that’s a version of Bruce Wayne’s superpower being his bank account.

TV Tropes is not a dictionary of narrative elements, it’s a thesaurus, and if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, should be avoided for the same basic reasons. Be especially cautious of picking a trope and trying to, “subvert,” or, “deconstruct,” it. Both are very popular in the Tropes community, but are exceedingly difficult to reverse engineer off a Tropes article.

An actual subversion of the damsel in distress would be the comic strip of a dragon that is casually executing would be rescuers because the princess isn’t interested in them, and the king’s posted reward is marrying her off.

Another, classic, subversion of the damsel in distress would be Princess Leia in A New Hope, and the host of imitators that followed over the next couple decades.

However, Batman is not a subversion of a damsel in distress. Not only because he’s male, but also because he’s not in distress.

I honestly just don’t know how to handle this. Should I just say “Fuck It” and chuck whatever realism is left out the window? That’s kinda what I’ve been doing so far, as I’d just given him a sword a lot like the Buster Sword from Final Fantasy, but I thought I’d ask you anyway.

I’m going to say something that will sound utterly bizarre: “Realistic” is what you make of it. It’s in how you create and justify your world.

This is also why that site can be useful. If you want a snapshot of all the different systems of magic used in fiction, it’s all in one place. Granted, some of it is going to be a bit distorted by fans, who are distracted by how awesome they think their favorite series is. But it is a quick place to start a lit review.

When you’re telling a story, you’re going to be influenced by the media you’ve consumed. That can be books, TV, video games, comic books, music. Very importantly, there isn’t a wrong answer here.

The world you create is boundless. If you want to tell a story about people swinging around implausibly massive swords, that’s an entirely valid option. You may want to find a way to justify it, or you might just want to run with it, and let the audience deal. It only becomes a problem if your world doesn’t support the idea.

Now, the Buster Sword is a visual motif. It’s not going to have the same effect in prose. Obviously, if you’re writing a webcomic or doing animation work, there’s a legitimate aesthetic in comically oversized weapons. If you want to go that route, there’s nothing wrong with it.

Similarly, greatswords are anachronistic in medieval settings, but most people won’t catch that, and it’s really something you only need to worry about if you’re chasing historical authenticity.

Finally, I would not discount spears. They’re extremely underrepresented in modern fantasy, but have a huge footprint in myth.

If your character’s quest is to find a mythic weapon to kill the dragon, that’s fine. You now have a very solid explanation for why that weapon is different from the world around it.

-Starke

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