As a playable race, dragonkin get a +4 bonus to Strength and a corresponding -2 to Dexterity with 6 base hit points and a Large size that gives then a ten foot reach. Their flashiest ability is their breath weapon, a typical trait in dragons. It forms a thirty foot cone and deals 1d6 fire damage, with a Reflex to halve the damage with a DC of 10 + 1/2 the dragon kin’s level + their Con modifier. At level three it gets a bonus, dealing an additional amount of damage equal to 1.5 times the dragonkin’s level. This ability requires at least a ten minute rest to recharge Stamina points before it can be used again. Defensively, dragonkin have immunity to sleep and have a +2 against paralysis effects. Dragonkin also have a 30 foot fly speed (Ex) with average maneuverability, though they must end this movement on a solid surface or fall until this ability advances at level 5. As with nearly all creatures they get darkvision and low-light vision for a 60 foot range, but their main ability, even more prominent than their flight and breath weapon, is their Partner Bond (Ex) ability. This allows them to select a willing being and form a bond with them, granting both the ability to communicate telepathically while within 100 feet and use the higher of their initiative rolls in combat for both of them. The dragonkin cannot form a new partner bond until their old partner dies, after which they can form a new bond as if they had never formed one in the first place.
Dragonkin are evocative of one of the classics of fantasy: forming a bond with a dragon to serve as your partner. You can see it in Eragon, How To Train Your Dragon, and Dragonlance just to name a few, but the example that started them all was probably the Dragonriders of Pern series. The appeal of the idea isn’t hard to see. Dragons are cool creatures on their own, flying juggernauts who can burn down castles with a breath and tear through armored knights. Being able to have that kind of might on your side is an enticing prospect, especially when combined with the kind of tight partnership between the main character and their best friend. Having a buddy cop movie where one of the cops is a multi-tone mass of fire-breathing reptilian monster is fun enough, but getting to play as that dragon is even better.
Given their primary ability, it’s unsurprising that dragonkin society is tightly bound to their partner bond. In the Starfinder setting it’s primarily used in the military for fighter pilots, granting the two-person teams incredible coordination during dogfights, but take a moment to consider how else this could develop. Would a partner bond be the equivalent of marriage, or would it be something separate? It lasts until the death of one member, which could certainly make divorces a bloody affair, but consider if the dragonkin functioned more like the reptiles they’re related to. If they mate for a clutch of eggs before immediately abandoning their partner, would they even develop something like marriage? Perhaps they would develop a different sort of culture, where lifelong partnerships are based on philia rather than eros and reproduction is separate from that bond. The idea of reproducing with your partner would be alien to them, or perhaps even frowned upon by more conservative groups. However it functions, there’s a lot of changes to be found in a society thanks to that one feature.
Another key aspect to them is their relation to dragons. Are they descendants from true dragons, an example of convergent evolution, artificial mutants, the step between dragons and lizardfolk? How the dragons view them will play a big part of their role in society, as well as how others perceive them to be related to dragons. On the other hand, if there are no dragons in your setting, dragonkin would be a peculiar race without something to frame them against, some mix of reptile and bat with telepathic powers. However you chose to use them it’s sure to be unique. Here’s a few plot hooks to use dragonkin in your game.
- A dragonkin’s original partner was killed years ago in a border skirmish, leaving his partner bereft. The dragonkin has since moved on, forming a new bond and continuing to serve his nation. This life is turned upside down when his original partner comes looking for him, having been resurrected by adventurers who were looking for leads on how to get through the border guard. The dragonkin is now torn between his first and current partners, each of which seeks his true loyalty. If he sides with his first rider, the dragonkin will try to find an situation to engineer his current partner’s death and allow him to rebond with his old partner. If he sides with his current partner, his old partner will try to engineer his rival’s death on his own, betraying secrets to the nation’s enemies in exchange for help in removing this obstacle.
- A dragonkin’s partner died in a battle with a vampire, only to be raised as the vampire‘s spawn. Their bond shattered by death, the former rider is infuriated by what she sees as rejection and betrayal by her lifelong partner. Once the closest of allies, she’s since become a recurring threat, constantly trying to make her partner pay for this perceived slight and force her to rebond.
- Dragonkin are common, humanoid beings descended from chromatic and metallic dragons. Scholars of magic and biology theorize that other types exist descended from other types of true dragons, such as the planar, esoteric, imperial, and outer dragons. Infuriated that this posits that dragonkin descendants are a sign of true dragons, a linnorm seeks to prove that her kind are just as regal by creating linnorm dragonkin. Though her scientific and magical experiments have yet to bear the fruit she wants, she has managed to create plenty of twisted monsters who will eagerly defend her should someone seek to put a stop to her abductions and mutations.