Jun 032016

As I was entering the Ruins of Thunderholme adventure area, I noticed something. Something that seems … off. Here, check out the loading screen:


Thunderholme load screen


There is a sigil of sorts in the lower right quadrant of the load screen. A logo. Very stylized. Up until now, I’d seen this and just glossed over it; a symbol of dragons, while loading into a zone that has been overrun by the Cult of the Dragon. It fit the dragon theme and therefore became, at least to me, unremarkable.

Until this weekend. For some reason – maybe the load screen stayed on longer than usual? Maybe I just hadn’t seen it in awhile? – whatever the reason, it drew my attention. And immediately jarred me.

That symbol has nothing to do with the Cult of the Dragon. That symbol has nothing to do with Thunderholme either. That symbol has everything to do with the Chromatic Dragon, Gary Gygax’s ultimate Queen of all Evil Dragons. She of the five heads, one of each evil dragon color. Tiamat.

Tiamat in chaos monster form

I used to know more about the origins of Tiamat than I do now. Memory fades, but I once had a Babylonian mythos period where I read everything I could find about Gilgamesh the hero, Enku and Marduk, and all the rest of the Sumerian pantheon – humanity’s first recorded religion. Including Tiamat.

She was the mother of all the gods, and also a sea goddess, and also a chaos monster, but I don’t recall exactly why or how. I recall conjectures that our understanding of Tiamat may actually reference more than one deity.

It is amazing how much we do not know about the period of time where writing and culture and civilization were first being invented.

Here is the Wikipedia article on Tiamat. But there is more available in the world, and I recall it to be fascinating. I urge you to investigate on your own rather than relying on wikipedia’s succinct summaries.

But our Tiamat (and yes, as a life-long nerd and D&D aficionado I think it is appropriate to refer to her as “ours”; I have earned that) is not a Babylonian goddess of any sort; She is all monster.

First Edition Tiamat

Tiamat from the First Edition Monster Manual

With five heads, she seems like a Hydra, except the Hydra has weak-ass heads that only have the power to regrow when decapitated; Tiamat has dragon heads. Ancient dragon heads. That can bite, or breathe, or cast spells. Red, White, Green, Black and Blue. Tiamat is not a pretty monster, but she is a powerful one. According to First Edition AD&D, a dragon’s breath did as much damage as the monster had hit points. Now apply that to five heads, breathing at once, each powered by Tiamat’s massive pool of hit points.

An unassailable foe. Or at least, meant to be unassailable, like most of the gods and devils in early D&D, Tiamat had actual stats, and could therefore be encountered and (theoretically) defeated. But not in my world. I strongly believe that there are some opponents that are too intelligent, too archetypal, too …. godly, for lack of a better word … to ever appear in a random monster table. Look at her stats – even in First Edition she had genius intelligence. Why would she ever let herself be punked by some munchkin running about with a +10 Sword of Chainsaw? No way.

Tiamat in the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon

Tiamat in the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon

It’s not that she cannot be defeated, it is more that she will not let herself be put into situations where defeat is a possibility.

Gary Gygax agreed with me, at least on Tiamat. In the 80’s D&D cartoon Tiamat was one of the two main villains (unless you count the Dungeon Master himself, as I do), and the only one that is truly villainous. She is also the only one that cannot be directly faced; the only option is to run away! And Gygax had huge influence on the cartoon. So apparently Gygax didn’t want some overpowered yahoo casually killing the Queen of all Evil Dragons either.

And now I am back to last weekend, loading into the Thunderholme adventure area, with all of this Tiamat history crashing about me. Why is it there?

Was Tiamat going to be in DDO?

That would be amazingly awesome. Also, awesomely amazing!

But I think not. I think it is much more likely that Turbine was coordinating with Wizards of the Coast in their Tyranny of Dragons campaign, which totally does feature Tiamat, even though WotC does nothing but disrespect DDO and promote its competitor and even though Tiamat is most unlikely to ever make an appearance here.

I’m sure I am not being totally fair to WotC. I know that in at least one case it was entirely WotC initiative (and I suspect, WotC money) that brought DDO representatives to GenCon one year. So the love affair is not entirely an unrequited one.

Just mostly.

Still, wouldn’t it be awesome if we did get Tiamat?

Run away!

πŸ™‚ πŸ˜€ πŸ™‚

  13 Responses to “Was Tiamat Supposed To Be In DDO?”

Comments (13)
  1. I’ve just realised, Tiamat must be related to Hiram McDaniels….


    • Gotta love Night Vale πŸ™‚ Need to catch up with that, it’s on my list after finishing the Magicians audiobooks.

      And as for Tiamat, iirc that was asked in one of the podcasts, but they ran into tech issues.

  2. First edition (and AD&D) didn’t have the Evasion mechanic; IIRC, that was introduced in 3E. As such.. Any character who actually survived merely the first round of “five dragon breath attacks for 840 damage, or 420 if you made all five saves” is far beyond the realm of even min/maxing. Never mind that there are two more rounds of that (though possibly for less, if you actually damaged her), the potential for flyby razing, and then spell nuking before having to simply resort to biting, and you have one hell of a boss that isn’t just going to roll over and squeal.

    Maybe if you came at her with an army of charmed beholders… But that might just be epic enough to warrant the death of the Dragon Queen.

  3. I have the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting for 3.5th edition and the 4th edition core rule books. In both of those, Tiamat has been promoted to Goddess of the Chromatic Dragons and Greed. She’s still pretty low ranking in the Forgotten Realms cosmology, though. The 4th edition Draconomicon did give her statistics as well as the rituals required to kill her. Obtaining the ritual materials and procedure would be most likely equaitted to at least 4 quests of level 30+ and the boss fight being a level 35 raid. Probably.
    And lastly, Tiamat is a constellation in Eberron.

  4. Enkidu…not Enku.

  5. and DDO can easily and most certainly do a MUCH better job of realizing her than DDO for Dummies (which only has a Lloth section (top most))…. see post on forums for more. πŸ™‚

  6. I asked Jerry directly awhile back about Tiamat and he said no.

  7. I was always a fan of the Dragonlance campaign, so to me it’s Takhisis πŸ™‚

    (Doing as much damage as HP means different things in PnP… Monsters in DDO have ridonkulous HP, but players in DDO avoid a lot more damage than PnP, including the 3e evasion.)

    • Ah, yes. Dragonlance. Haven’t researched too frequently into that world, but I do have that Campaign Setting. She was called “Tii’Mhut” by Istar. Sounds rather similar to “Tiamat”, don’t you think? Perhaps Tiamat and Takhisis are either the same or one is the aspect of the other? Similar to how Lolth is in both Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk?

  8. The Ruins of Thunderholme and those two raids serve as a prelude/introduction to the Tyranny of Dragons storyline that Wotc and related properties utilized that year. People tended to say that DDO didn’t do anything for Tyranny of Dragons, but that wasn’t actually true. The Cult of the Dragon’s mission is to free Tiamat. See here for more lore info: http://dnd.wizards.com/dungeons-and-dragons/story/tyrannyofdragons

    As far as bringing Tiamat to DDO, there was never a plan to do that, in part due to Tiamat being utilized by a different game as the capstone to their main Tyranny tie-in that year. There are also technical reasons why having a five-sentient-headed dragon at the scale and size of Tiamat would be challenging. While we did well (IMO) with Lolth, we did get some feedback about fighting arms and legs, and ultimately our version of Tiamat would probably lean more in that direction unless a huge amount of additional engineering and other tech work was done. Ultimately, given our planned calendar for that year, we opted to intro Tryanny of Dragons and then focus our development elsewhere.

    • Which does make me wonder what can be done to make these things more obvious. Spelling out the fact that the cult of the dragon is trying to free Tiamat, even as a big voiced over reveal at the end of the quest would have helped with that.

What do you think?

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