Toby Rants – Dragon-riders

Okay, now this one, this one, my friends, has been going on for way too long, it’s full of crap, and the most sickening thing about it is never once have I heard someone point out how stupid it is.  I am talking, of course, about dragon riders.

We all know the stories:  a noble-yet-savage dragon forms a lifelong bond with an up-and-coming young man, or woman, and together they soar across the land and fly into battle, a force to be reckoned with.  Now, for the sake of this first part of the argument, we are going to assume that dragons are intelligent beings with free will and a soul.  Why is this important, you ask?  Because what sort of sapient creature—and yes, I said sapient, that’s a whole other argument—what sort of sapient creature would allow themselves to be ridden by another sapient creature just because they’re smaller?  Would you let a gnome ride you into combat?  No you wouldn’t, and do you know why you wouldn’t?  Because it implies dominance.  It implies that the rider is the superior creature who guides the mount, and the mount is just an assistant, a means to an end, a dehumanized entity that is not as important.  “But Toby”, you say, “What about a dad giving a piggyback ride to his daughter?”  I want you to study that sentence real hard, is what I would say.  The dad is giving his daughter a ride, instead of the daughter taking a ride.  The dad is in complete control and the daughter is just sitting back enjoy it.  Plus, a piggyback ride isn’t meant to accomplish anything; it’s just for fun.

“But Toby, it’s not like that!  They’re friends, they’re a team!”  Do you know what a team does?  A team works as one unit, doing things together that none of them could do alone.  Tell me one thing that a human riding a dragon can do that an intelligent dragon couldn’t do for itself; name me one, thing. The dragon can talk, relay messages, bargain prices after delivering supplies, observe the skies around it, and plan its own battle tactics.  I want you to picture that gnome riding a human again.  Master Blaster from friggin’ Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, that is what we are looking at.  Do you see how stupid that is?!  And ignore the whole “Blaster is mentally retarded” bit, that’s not the point of the analogy.  The point is, what good is the gnome doing in this situation?  He’s slowing the human down, tiring them out faster, making them unbalanced, and yet, the gnome doesn’t have the reach to attack with the human, unless he uses a ranged weapon, which will be minimally effective since he’s not very balanced either and won’t hit for crap.  Now take all of that and apply it to a human riding a dragon.  Same deal.  It makes the dragon less combat effective, and makes the human less combat effective.  “But Toby”, you say, “What about Top Gun?”  Okay then, let’s talk about Top Gun.  What you’re saying is that in Top Gun there was one plane but two people: a pilot, and a spotter.  The spotter didn’t fly the plane, but he checked the radar and the sky for threats; basically a pair of eyes in the back of Tom Cruise’s head, doing all the things he was too busy to do.  Do you know how I am going to answer this?  I am going to answer this with a phrase that, when taken out of context, will sound incredibly stupid:

Dragons do not have machine guns.

The reason why enemy airplanes are such a threat is because they don’t have to be anywhere near you to kill you, and they move so fast that by the time you can see them you’re probably already getting shot at.  Dragons in a medieval era, heck even a Renaissance era, do not have this problem.  All they have to deal with is ground-bound archers (who they can just avoid by increasing altitude), airborne archers (which wouldn’t be able to hit them accurately anyways), or other flying opponents, which have to get near them to attack them, even if it’s another dragon with firebreath, because that’s a short-range technique.  And guess what, a rider would not be able to aid in dispatching any of these threats in the first place!  An extra set of eyes isn’t worthless, yeah, but the benefit of them isn’t worth the cost of the extra weight on the dragon.  “But Toby but Toby, what about mages with ranged spells and homing spells?”  Son you do not want to talk to me about mages with ranged spells and homing spells, airborne combat or no airborne combat.

Doors.  A dragon, cannot, go through doors.  And this means that any time a part of the story takes place indoors, underground, or even sometimes just within a city, the dragon is forced to be written out of the story.  Dragons are always a minority of the worldwide population, and humanoid creatures are always the majority, meaning the majority of the story by default is taking place in humanoid society, meaning the majority of the story by default has doors, meaning the majority of the story by default cannot focus on the dragon.  Once again, the mount is dehumanized and made unimportant while the rider becomes the focus and the figurehead.  It’s the stupidest reason ever to forget about a character, but it’s there.

And aerodynamics, for the love of God, aerodynamics!  Do you know how hard it is for a living creature to fly under their own power?  Every part of their bodies is designed in such a way to allow flight: bone density, muscle structure, wing shape, wing size, length of the tail, profile, everything.  It’s a perfectly-balanced equation with a hundred variables.  Now you take that perfectly balanced equation and you set a 200-pound rider on top of it and you tell me that’s not going to change anything?  You tell me a giant lump sticking out of the dragon’s back isn’t going to affect its wind resistance or move its center of gravity?  There’s a reason why birds are pretty small, and that reason is because the difficulty of getting an object in the air increases exponentially with its size.  The wingspan has to be longer to generate more lift, which means it needs heavier muscles to power the wings, which means its carrying more weight and it needs to generate more lift, and so on and so on.  It’d be hard enough to get a dragon airborne, let alone get it airborne while carrying useless ballast.

“But Toby Toby Toby, maybe the dragon uses magic to fly and doesn’t need to worry about physics!”

If you’re going to solve every damn problem with “magic”, then this conversation is over.


{I agree with Toby on the societal and aerodynamic arguments, but disagree with him on the tactical and utilitarian arguments.}


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