Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Dragonfly People

Three or four years ago a dragonfly lay a batch of eggs into my garden pond. We've been occasionally monitoring the growth of the nymphs ever since. Yesterday morning the half-dozen or so which remained (the others have presumably eaten each other or been eaten by frogs and whatnot; I've seen blackbirds take some of them by perching on a convenient reed or water lily and fishing them out with their beaks) all emerged in one go. Or, at least, that's what we assumed from the fact that their final moulted skins are all festooned in the tangle of reeds and other plants which rise up above the surface of the water, looking a bit like sailors climbing rigging. I hope they flew away now that they've got their wings, although I have a sneaking suspicion the same blackbirds may have gobbled them up while they were drying out after their grand emergence.

What an odd life. Born into a confined space with a thousand or so of your brothers and sisters with whom you then have to actively compete in order to survive. Living in the detritus at the bottom of the same murky pond, year after year, hunting the squirming larvae of other insects. Then feeling suddenly compelled one day to clamber to the surface and break free into the air, the sun, the wind - to abandon what one once knew for the complete unknown, and likely very soon the end. To go to face freedom, sex and yet also one's death. (For some reason I see the film version of this being set to Jacques Brel's "J'Arrive". "Mais pourquoi moi? Pourquoi maintenant? Pourquoi déjà et ou aller?" Can you not picture this playing in the background as the nymphs struggle out of their watery prison to face the airy world and their glorious demise?)

Anyway. Dragonfly men. Born into lakes in clutches of brothers and sisters who hunt and fight each other as nymphs: rivals, but bonded in some terrible way such that, at some predefined moment (maybe they all know this; maybe in their religion they believe it is God who decides; maybe there is such a dragonfly god) they will be called together to leave their watery home and fly.... And at that moment, the people who live in the lands around the lake will tremble indeed.

Dragonfly Person

HD 1+1/2+2/3+3 (nymph), 4+4 (adult)*
AC 7/6/5 (nymph), 4 (adult)
Move 120/sw150 (nymph), 30/fly320 (adult)
Att: Bite 1d6**, carry (adult)***
Morale 7
Number encountered: 3d6 (nymph), solitary (adult)****

*Dragonfly people nymphs moult every 5 years, each time growing in size. At the age of 15 they transform into flying adults and leave their lake
**Treat bites as being vorpal, with the capacity to sever limbs
***An adult can attempt to pick up a target and then either take it somewhere to be eaten (all attacks hitting automatically) or simply drop it to its death. Adults have STR 19
****Dragonfly people nymphs may emerge at night to find warm-blooded prey. Though intelligent and able to communicate they do not hunt cooperatively, although they are usually found in groups - their instincts, thoughts and desires frequently align closely, so that they may appear to act as though possessed by some unified will.


  1. Maybe if they survive long enough as adults, they attain enough self-awareness to become available as PCs?

    1. I have a feeling that might end up being a bit too game changing... although maybe one with its wings clipped?

    2. There is some science fiction short story whose name I cannot remember, which had a species of insect-aliens who died shortly after mating--but they mated in flight, and those whose wings were removed could not mate, and were therefore not eaten alive by their young (these aliens were hermaphroditic, so everyone who mated was going to be eaten), and could stick around to teach the new generation.

      Since dragonflies mate on the wing, something similar might be interesting for dragonfly-people, even if actual dragonflies don't die from mating.

    3. It sort of sounds like something China Mieville would have come up with.

  2. I know at least where I am, the public perception is that dragonflies are pest-eaters. Taking the scale up, maybe the local "big guys" - giants and such, who are too big to be conveniently preyed upon - have a similar attitude? Except in this case, the pests are sometimes humans.

  3. Being a fantasy world, I'm surprised you resisted the temptation to connect them to actual dragons somehow, or at least some kind of in-universe explanation of the etymology. Does popular rumor hold that they spawned from a dragon's egg that washed down the mountain stream and into a marshy riverbed? Or do they have some weird genetic links with dragons like kobolds do?

    1. That is a nice idea actually - maybe they are the leftovers from a dragon's breath attack.

    2. Man, I never thought about that actually. The usual devastating attacks from monsters is save-or-die poison, petrifaction or level-drain, but I never considered something that physically mutates targets on a failed save. I now have some extra utility for all those post-apoc random tables I've curated over the years.

  4. Image = damselfly (a close relative), not dragonfly (for what little it matters...)