Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Kingdom Naming

This is the island of Eorsa, in old Argyll county, Scotland:

According to my research, none of the towns that my encyclopedia includes were in existence in Argyll come the time of my world, 1650: Inveraray, Oban, Campbeltown and Dunoon were all founded later on.  Here is a shot of Fraoch Eilean:

When I started mapping the real world, I made a rule regarding the denizens of any region on the globe.  If the number of probable humans in 1650 was equal to less than 1 person per square mile, that region would be under the control of a NON-human race.  This is why most of Russia in my world is inhabited by orcs, goblins, hobgoblins, ogres and bugbears.  It is why northern Sweden is inhabited by gnomes.  And it is why the county of Argyll, in Scotland, needs to be occupied by non-humans as well.

I ask you, what sort of non-human culture do we put in a place that looks like the island of Luing:

We had a discussion among some of my players and agreed that this would be an excellent habitat for a dragon culture.  It is, after all, Briton, where dragons have always played a role.  I would posit that we could have a benevolent dragon population made up of relatively isolationist dragons, mostly adult or younger, living off the sea, vociferously demanding respect for their borders, yet occasionally acting as mediators and the voice of reason in a difficult political landscape.  After some discussion, we have imagined these being silver dragons.

Something like Glencoe might make a suitable home for them:

However, so far, I haven't heard a name for the kingdom/entity that I like.  Anyone have any ideas?


Arduin said...

Avalon is a classic, but King Arthur is Welsh, so not quite close enough.

"Wruenele" is on Wikipedia as an anglo-saxon name meaning "Worm (Wyrm) Hill" in Fatfield. A dragon was supposedly slain there during the crusades by a John Lambton. That sounds like it's got some heft to it.

Tim said...

You may have seen this already, but the old kingdom was called Dal Riata, which meant "Riata's portion."
Perhaps a good name for the region might be some variation on "dragon's portion"? Dal(w)yrm or Wyrmdal(e) both have a Gaelic look to them.
The other Wikipedia pointer is that Argyll is derived itself from "airer" (border region) and Gaels. Certainly still looks like a border region to me.

Beyond that, it seems like you'd want to convey the character of the land's people with a fun word. "Airgead" seems like one, meaning "silver" or "riches" in Gaelic and Irish, and the "air" portion conveys the dragons nicely. You can slap on a nice topographic suffix for that added geographic oomph.

Dennis Laffey said...

Looking at an online English-Gaelic dictionary (my dad speaks a bit, but not so I), you could maybe call it Dric-dachaigh (dragon home).

There's no pronunciation guide given for the "dric" (dragon) portion, so maybe "dri" with a glottal stop at the end?, but dachaigh (home) is pronounced "daxi" (the x is the Scottish hard ch sound).

Of course, that might be what the neighboring Scots call the kingdom. Do the dragons speak Gaelic? They likely have their own name in whatever draconic language they use.

There are some other words for dragon, I just liked the combination of Dric-dachaigh. Here's the link:


Samuel Kernan said...

How do you go about determining the placement of cities and the level of non-human population in areas such as Argyll? Do non-humans only exist at low population densities, or do they get their numbers boosted?

Dani Osterman said...

Brae Arach, for Hill of Dragons, drawing from Scots-Gaelic? Or Monaidhean Arach (Monaive-in) which could be interpreted as Land of Dragons.

Jonathon said...

Well, they are dragons. I don't know how your dragons operate in general, but that puts me in mind of possessiveness. The title of the post is "Kingdom Naming" - does this community of dragons have a ruler? Maybe in that case the whole shebang - island, younger dragons, and all - is treated as the sovereign's hoard. In which case the best guess I can get from online resources is "Ulaidhean de [Head Dragon's Name]".

Which is not a big a problem for dragons as it would be for people, since the rulers aren't dying on a regular basis.

Baron Opal said...

If it was a mix of copper, silver, and black dragons, you could call it the Niello Holdfast.

Alexis Smolensk said...


Usually I use the same locations for non-human habitations as the real earth - there are always sound geographical/trade reasons for those locations becoming settlements: stock of fish, good land, defensive, access to other places and so on. The population is determined by a simple algorithm I use that compares the length of time the settlement has been in existence, divided by 4000 (using the year 2350 BC as a baseline, few places being founded before that) and then multiplied against the 1952 population figure that I have.

For a non-human city, I pick a historical date that is hundreds or even thousands of years in the past, so that the settlement's long history makes for a higher population. For example, the real world settlement of Campbeltown had 7,079 people in 1952. If I were to say that it was founded in the year 1500, it would have 265 people; if it were founded at the start of the Dal Riata overkingdom, around 675, it would have 1,726 people; and if I were to say that the dragons occupied it around 1500 BCE, it would have a population of 5,575.

But then, this would be the equivalent of 1 HD creatures. Since silver dragons have 10-12 hit dice, we should divide that number by the average, 11. This gives us 507. But dragons are huge in my world, so they have many more hit points per die than humanoids, around three times as many, we can adjust for that too and say the population of our dragon settlement near Campbeltown has 169 dragons.

We could also say there was a plague around 723 BCE that dropped the population by 10% or that there was a pogrom of dragons by the Romans that killed off 25%, if we want to take that number down still further.

In short, it is a complicated mathematical way to produce any number I want. Note, however, that if I say that dragons settled in the region in 1500 BCE, that's the number I will embrace going forward, building up a whole history of dragons based on that date. It isn't that the date isn't arbitrary; but after all, Shakespeare deciding to call his characters Romeo and Juliet was arbitrary. All art is arbitrary. The key is building a basis for structure and detail out of the arbitrary that then remains consistent in future arbitrary decisions.

Anyway, you can get a download of my cities (without Britain, yet), on my wiki, if you want to see how I organize the cities I have into regions and trade zones:

http://tao-of-dnd.wikispaces.com/Cities. Regions like Vostoch, Jagatai, Buryatia, Ulthua, Magloshkagok and such have made up numbers for the date of settlements being founded: the document also shows the original name of the settlement if you want to compare.

Alexis Smolensk said...


The dragons would definitely have a ruler. But no, I don't want to give all of Scotland or the Island of Greater Britain to the dragons. I want those places to be Scottish and English because this is what players will want to adventure in, not a whole island occupied by dragons.

I'm choosing silver dragons because, in old D&D parlance, they're "good"; in my world, merely non-malevolent. This is their home, they want it respected, they won't lay waste to other parts of Scotland as long as their home is respected. Dragons aren't super-powerful, you know; my England/Scotland has at least 4 million people (guessing just now, still working out the exact demographics, based on when each town was founded and what exists in 1650), which means many, many humans with more than 15 levels. The whole English army fighting all the dragons in Argyll (or Dric-dachaigh, my favorite name mentioned so far, thank you Dennis) could probably push them out of Scotland - but at what cost? How much of the cream of England would be lost and how would that inspire France and Spain to come visit?

Some sort of symbiotic relationship is in order, with a dragon king willing to talk to important personages of Scotland and England, perhaps of other places in the world, on a one-to-one basis; a potential for a blessed Scottish clan (I'm thinking the Campbells) having the privilege to hunt in Argyll or fish in its waters. I have other ideas besides, about dragon motivations, but I will keep those to myself, foreseeing some adventuring there someday.

Jonathon said...

I got quite confused when I read your response until I realized where I misread your post (and intent!) I thought you were talking about placing them on just one of the outlying islands, not the whole County of Argyll. Sp when I said 'the whole...island' I just meant Luing and not all of Britain. Sorry about the mix-up, but I'm glad to have gotten your response as it was interesting as well.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Partly my fault, Jonathon. I wanted to insert the pics because I know that most people have never heard of Argyll at all. It was actually fairly hard to find pics without people in 'em.

Dennis Laffey said...

Glad you like it!

Samuel Kernan said...

Thanks for the detailed response! This is very helpful.

Mike said...

I like this idea. Not sure where you went with it, for me I would include dragons of different colors/alignments/outlook. That is, include some traditionally evil D&D dragons, although I would make them more mercenary than out-right evil. Like humans some dragons are more "evil" than others. The "silver dragons" would be the more powerful leader noble types, yet have them be somewhat apologist for their own kind. So that, a "bad" dragon will be able to occasionally get away with raiding or killing or generally being a nuisance. Humans appeal to the noble silver dragons if it gets out of hand. The silver dragons may not act fast enough or maybe humans have labeled a dragon "bad" to get its treasure. Maybe humans have hired dragons as mercenaries to attack other humans; what's a silver dragon to do when it's all internal human politics. In any event there is some tension and mistrust between the species, enough to provide for adventure and intrigue, but not enough to make the killing of a dragon completely justified based on color-coding or to make the lands near dragons uninhabitable.

Alexis Smolensk said...


I'm actually using all your ideas - but as my world is immense and Argyll in Scotland is just a small part of it, and dragons can easily fly 400 miles or so in a day, I'm simply spreading your notion over a greater area. I can put the white dragons in Greenland, the Green dragons in the Amazon, the Black dragons in Siberia and the Gold dragons in Tibet; Blue dragons can inhabit Antarctica and Bronze dragons the wilds of Persia, while the Copper dragons can content themselves with some part of Indonesia and the Red dragons can settle in the Denzali plateau of Ethiopia.

There is tension and mistrust between the species, but they have also been around for millenia longer than humans and thus have a more ritualized means for sorting out those differences and expanding territory.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Damn. Sorry, Denzali is in Turkey. I meant the Danakil plain or depression:


Jonathon said...

This is an example of how your research pushes everyone around you to think about things they otherwise wouldn't:

My first thought was 'wow, ironic that the "cradle of hominids" is occupied by non-human races in your world.'

But that made me realize that it's entirely possible that we only found ancient fossils there because it has been uninhabited for centuries and later human settlements didn't wipe out all traces, that it was the very remoteness that kept them intact. So someplace we are inclined to think of as one of the most ancient homes of our ancestors-many-times-removed was maybe pretty inhospitable to us for most of our prehistory.

Thank you for giving me something to ponder!

Archon said...

It's Interesting that you think of the "Good" as being only non-malevolent. I generally see that as being the position of the "evil" dragons - they aren't out to kill you, they just do not value the life of those who aren't dragons, or of similar power in this slightest, And so as long as they have a better source of food and treasure, and we don't get in the way, they just ignore us. Of course, that's a pretty big if.

On the other hand, I generally see the "good" dragons as simply seeing humans as an inherent "treasure item". So that gold dragon guards the Halfling town not out of the goodness of its heart, but because it is the centerpiece of its hoard. Similarly, the more talky dragons (copper and bronze, as i understand), see stories and jokes as treasure, to be collected and shown off at every opportunity. I think this helps emphasize the different mindset of the almost solipsistic giant lizards we all know and love.