As I was entering the Ruins of Thunderholme adventure area, I noticed something. Something that seems … off. Here, check out the loading 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.
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.
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.
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.
Still, wouldn’t it be awesome if we did get Tiamat?
🙂 😀 🙂