Drakes - some thoughts on Drake society, biologie and origin

For writers working on documentation, story prose, announcements, and all kinds of Wesnoth text.

Moderators: Forum Moderators, Developers

Daxion
Posts: 66
Joined: July 24th, 2009, 9:23 am

Drakes - some thoughts on Drake society, biologie and origin

I'm currently thinking about a campaign on Drakes. Drakes are not standard fantasy lore, and trying to get some information on them is a bit tough, since alot of things are either not fleshed out in Wesnoth, or do contradict themself. Trying to pin some properties on their society with a bottom up approach, I came to two interesting conclusions (although eintirely not what I wanted). I'd like to present them here, before I venture further down the path of maniac logics.

I will argue that Drakes need to be lighter, than stated in (ref 1). And that their origin Island chain needs to be comparable in land area to Hawaii.
I will also estimate minimum flying speeds and investigate a "drop of a cliff" take off.

It is my intention to use the here obtained results in estimating some propertied an behaviour of drakes, later on.

The first question that lead me to my conclusions was:
"How can such a large species evolve on an island?"
It felt odd that large predators usually need hugh hunting ranges, and islands are naturally an rather small area.

"How much land area, do the drakes need to survive?"
The answer is going to be: alot.

Attention: Math alarm. (if you don't want to read through this, just don't look into the spoiler )

Land consideration:
Spoiler:
Short results: 500-1000 Drakes need the land area of Hawaii to survive.

I want to assume that the upper limit on the land area of "chain of volcanic islands" (ref 1), is the land area of Hawaii. Since overall the possible number of Drakes according to the upper estimate is close to the MVP, I will now make a few assumptions to estimate the weight of Drakes.

(Math warning)
Spoiler:
Shor results: If Drakes jump of a rock, they fall 30 meters before they start to fly.

Now that I have presented the above numbers, I want to play around with them a bit:
(Math warning)
Spoiler:
Conclusion:
By the above estimations I conclude that Drake weight about 250kg, and live on a Island chain compareable in size to Hawaii.
Their population on the Island will be around 3000-6000 males.
Comparing this to (ref 1), it seems that nothing in their description is contradicting with these estimations, except their weight.
250 kg, and a considerable minimum speed of up to 19m/second, make them bulky, and their take off more clumsy than, that of
an albatros.
I suggest that, the weight stated in descriptions of drakes should be altered to match these calculations.

References:

melinath
Posts: 1298
Joined: May 20th, 2009, 7:42 am

Re: Drakes - some thoughts on Drake society, biologie and origin

I like the calculations on how much land mass would be necessary to sustain a drake population. There are some things you might want to take into account:
1. Drakes can probably hunt from the sea as well as the land.
2. Perhaps try to find out how *much* the land needs would increase because the drakes hunt instead of domesticating animals.

Although you could try to convince people to change the drake weight, keep in mind that WINR, so it doesn't really matter. Drakes are magic.

AI
Developer
Posts: 2394
Joined: January 31st, 2008, 8:38 pm

Re: Drakes - some thoughts on Drake society, biologie and origin

Three things:
-drake flight is magic (yes, that's a cop-out, but just take a look at our fire dragon, do you expect THAT to fly?)
-drakes have a magical internal fire that may help sustain them (though your analysis of their hunting ranges seems spot on)
-drakes didn't evolve from smaller creatures, but are the juvenile form of dragons that stopped maturing to full size (probably due to lack of food)

Retired Art Director
Posts: 8414
Joined: August 25th, 2007, 10:12 am
Location: Oxford, UK
Contact:

Re: Drakes - some thoughts on Drake society, biologie and origin

I'd understood drakes to have evolved from dragons - limited food meant that the smaller, leaner dragons which required less food survived to become the drakes. Contrary to popular belief, evolution does not always result in bigger 'better' creatures. It can cause changes we might see as negative.

But ewither way, yeah, Drakes are descended from dragons. And yeah, their flight is contrary to the rules of physics, as we discussed on RIC the other day. You just have to live with that, because there is NO way that natural flapping-wing flight works for a creature that size. None at all. Particularly when you consider that Drakes can take off from a standing start. Call it magic if you want , or just accept that it is so without explanation. But it won't change.

Something to add, also, is that the Drakes like to live in hot environments, either by having large, constantly-lit fires in their homes, or by making their homes near volcanoes or hot springs.
Back to work. Current projects: Catching up on commits. Picking Meridia back up. Sprite animations, many and varied.

Skrim
Posts: 312
Joined: June 10th, 2009, 7:19 am

Re: Drakes - some thoughts on Drake society, biologie and origin

A respectable effort.

However, the biology of Drakes cannot be calculated accurately using reality-based assumptions, since if I am not mistaken, they are magical beings.

They in fact need to be magical beings, given that their wings, like those of Dragons, are too small and relatively flimsy to sustain powered flight for a creature of their weight.

Also, they have that "inner-fire" thing that is necessary for their survival, causes them to prefer warm climates, and allows them to project fire-breath(which is a burning gas or liquid of some sort) at a range, like a flamethrower. Note also that anti-magic Arcane attacks and energy-draining Cold attacks are so effective against Drakes because they directly disrupt this magical inner fire, bypassing the physically tough external scales and armor.

Another point you may want to consider is, according to the "Secret Lore" page on the wiki, Drakes are actually the same species as the Dragons, but are an immature form adapted due to a combination of food shortages and overpopulation, as their former hunting ranges subsided under the sea(they lived on slowly-sinking volcanic atolls before migrating to the Great Continent). So the biological relationship between Drake and Dragon is something like that between Goblin and Orc, but more extreme.

Edit: Oh well, AI and TSI already posted most of these points while I was typing.
Last edited by Skrim on August 17th, 2009, 11:12 am, edited 1 time in total.

Retired Art Director
Posts: 8414
Joined: August 25th, 2007, 10:12 am
Location: Oxford, UK
Contact:

Re: Drakes - some thoughts on Drake society, biologie and origin

I'd suggest that the drakes have speciated away from the dragons - do you think a drake could still mate with a dragon in the wild...?
Back to work. Current projects: Catching up on commits. Picking Meridia back up. Sprite animations, many and varied.

Skrim
Posts: 312
Joined: June 10th, 2009, 7:19 am

Re: Drakes - some thoughts on Drake society, biologie and origin

thespaceinvader wrote:I'd suggest that the drakes have speciated away from the dragons - do you think a drake could still mate with a dragon in the wild...?
Well, the secret lore page says that, under the right circumstances, it is possible for Drakes to mature into full Dragons, but I'm not sure if that page is obsolete or something.

Retired Art Director
Posts: 8414
Joined: August 25th, 2007, 10:12 am
Location: Oxford, UK
Contact:

Re: Drakes - some thoughts on Drake society, biologie and origin

Armageddon Drakes are canoically (at least, currently) close to being full dragons. If I have any say, I'd like to separate the two into distinct, if related, species, personally.
Back to work. Current projects: Catching up on commits. Picking Meridia back up. Sprite animations, many and varied.

Daxion
Posts: 66
Joined: July 24th, 2009, 9:23 am

Re: Drakes - some thoughts on Drake society, biologie and origin

For the weight of drakes. True they are magical beings, and by flapping they are hard pressed to fly. It is possible ( http://news.softpedia.com/news/Flapping ... 2793.shtml ). It was really just trying
to support the fact, that I believe Drakes should be lighter.

I've totally forgot that they are descendants from dragons. Fortunatly the MVP is the minimum population needed to survive catastrophic effects (desatrous storms etc.). If you have a hunter-prey dynamic which causes a population to drop below the MVP there is a good likelyhood that (in evolutionary timeframes) they will be wiped out by such an event.
Considering this, and AL statment on their hunting ranges, I assume the estimate of population densities still does apply.

and
http://www.deerandforests.org/resources/4.pdf - PDF
state natural deer densities of under 1 to 8 deer per Square kilomenter. So the estimate of about 600kg meat in hunting game per square kilometer seem to still apply. (deer weight: http://www.nesportsman.com/ri/hunt/deer ... able.shtml )
By this I think we can assume that Drake population density is about the above state.

I assume that since the islands are scattered, and therefore we have reduction in "effective size". This reduction is somehow countered by
Drakes supplementing their Diet with Fish. (sorry no estimates).

Retired Art Director
Posts: 8414
Joined: August 25th, 2007, 10:12 am
Location: Oxford, UK
Contact:

Re: Drakes - some thoughts on Drake society, biologie and origin

You're over thinking this somewhat. Any inconsistencies are handwaved by magic. It's a weak excuse, but it's the only one we've got when we're talking about a species that physically just doesn't work.
Back to work. Current projects: Catching up on commits. Picking Meridia back up. Sprite animations, many and varied.

Daxion
Posts: 66
Joined: July 24th, 2009, 9:23 am

Re: Drakes - some thoughts on Drake society, biologie and origin

You're over thinking this somewhat. Any inconsistencies are handwaved by magic. It's a weak excuse, but it's the only one we've got when we're talking about a species that physically just doesn't work.
True.
Bad thing is: Inconsistencies have a tendency to grow.
However Drakes seem not to be that far away from physically workable. At least not from the numbers above. Physical flight will remain a problem.
My real goal is to deduce some things of a working Drake society on the volcano islands.
For example. The close a population is to the MVP the more important it will be that they don'*t "overhunt" their food resources (such as Orcs constantly do it). The MVP above was derived from genetical arguments (to reduce the thread of inbreeding).
If you have a hunter-prey dynamic which causes a population to drop below the MVP there is a good likelyhood that (in evolutionary timeframes) they will be wiped out by such an event.
This together means that: If the maximum Drake population is close to the MVP and they have survived several hundret years (sounds reasonalbe for a genetic adaptation, which I understand this is, or at least for the development of a non-dragon society), then they need to have
a social mechanism that prevents Drakes to overhunt their islands.

This could be some sort of ritual that is associated with hunting (which reduced their hunting success). Hunt quota etc.
Or alternativly, controlling population growth, such as killing siblings, or controlling mating rituals (which would again be covered by the lore)
But the need is clearly there.

Skrim
Posts: 312
Joined: June 10th, 2009, 7:19 am

Re: Drakes - some thoughts on Drake society, biologie and origin

Daxion wrote:This together means that: If the maximum Drake population is close to the MVP and they have survived several hundret years (sounds reasonalbe for a genetic adaptation, which I understand this is, or at least for the development of a non-dragon society), then they need to have
a social mechanism that prevents Drakes to overhunt their islands.

This could be some sort of ritual that is associated with hunting (which reduced their hunting success). Hunt quota etc.
Or alternativly, controlling population growth, such as killing siblings, or controlling mating rituals (which would again be covered by the lore)
But the need is clearly there.
I don't think that Drakes kill their siblings.

However, they do control mating rituals. The females are non-sentient, and are, supposedly, closely guarded and mating rights are handed out by the leader of the Drake warband/clan/tribe/whatever-it's-called.

As for their hunting policies, I don't think there is any existing lore concerning that yet.

uzytkownik
Posts: 126
Joined: April 19th, 2008, 7:12 pm
Contact:

Re: Drakes - some thoughts on Drake society, biologie and origin

ref 1) tells us that Drakes weight "more than a man and a horse combined". With (ref 2) I estimate this is around 600kg (80kg human + 500kg horse).
I compare this to food requirements of birds, (ref 3). Birds of Prey have a food requirment of 5-8% of their Body weight per day.
For an upper bound I choose 10% for Drakes. Which makes 60kg per Day per Drake on Food requirment.
I now use sheep as food equivalent for Drake prey. Considering their size of 2-3 Meters, it is safe to assume that Drakes only hunt rather large game with a minimum size of sheep.
A sheep has a typical weight of 120-160 kg (ref 4). This means a Drake eats about 0.4 to 0.5 sheep per day.
Please remember that the bigger the animal the less (relativly) it have to eat - so probably better is to round it down.

solsword
Code Contributor
Posts: 291
Joined: January 12th, 2009, 10:21 pm
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
Contact:

Re: Drakes - some thoughts on Drake society, biologie and origin

Concerning drake diets, they have been known to hunt dolphins (I don't remember if this changed with the new descriptions). Assuming (with some hand-waving) reasonably large stable dolphin populations near their islands, there will be a lot of leeway to reduce the "necessary" land available.

If people here haven't, they should read the drake description thread to get a sense of the lore about drakes (some of Jetryl's comments there are enlightening).

Also, I don't think that we can say that drakes evolved from dragons in the normal, biological sense, without some issues. Because dragons themselves are an intelligent species, and presumably didn't gain intelligence after their split with the drakes (they've been magical all along, after all...) it strikes me as odd that they'd be able to evolve into a separate species. Intelligence generally mucks with evolution, and the evolutionary story would at the very least put intelligent dragons tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands or millions of years in the past. If I were on an island where food constraints were that much of an issue, I'd leave at some point in the next 100000 years. Imagine a group of humans in the same situation. Long before they evolved into anything, their intelligence would do something about the situation. And if we assume that neither drakes nor their dragon ancestors were intelligent until recently, we're greatly straining the limits of how quickly (and how many times, separately) intelligence can credibly evolve.

To me, a much more parsimonious explanation is either just "magic" or else the following:

1. Any dragon young, if underfed, will become a drake.
2. Drakes are not only smaller than dragons, but have a diminished inner fire relative to dragons (this point is pretty much the case, as far as I can tell).
3. When drakes mate, their offspring cannot normally become dragons, because the parent's limited inner fire doesn't pass on to the offspring enough inner fire to fully mature.
4. Under extraordinary circumstances, such as when infused with magic, drakes can in fact mature into dragons, given plenty of food.

Also, this gives rise to the question of whether drakes can mate with dragons, and whether those offspring could fully mature, and the question of what the heck is up with these non-sentient drake females, and how do they relate to female dragons?

Under this hypothesis, the change from dragons to drakes wasn't a real evolution, as the two forms of the species were always possible. Instead, some disaster, such as a famine, made food extremely scarce, and possibly killed the last dragon(s) on the island chain. All of the young in the subsequent generation grew up as drakes, and thus there was no further potential for a true dragon to develop on the island barring some magical event.

I'm not sure how closely my explanation fits with the existing lore, and I'm perfectly fine with the current "its magic" explanation, but I'm interested in what people think of my hypothesis.
The Knights of the Silver Spire campaign.

http://www.cs.hmc.edu/~pmawhorter - my website.

Teamcolors for everyone! PM me for a teamcolored version of your sprite, or you can do it yourself. If you just happen to like magenta, no hard feelings?

melinath
Posts: 1298
Joined: May 20th, 2009, 7:42 am

Re: Drakes - some thoughts on Drake society, biologie and origin

Your explanation is rather close to the secret drake lore, which says that drakes are immature dragons, but the circumstances for the change to a full dragon are unknown.

My take on it is that evolutionarily speaking, there must be some reason that it became beneficial to not fully mature in terms of passing on your genes. For example, there are only so many places where a full-grown dragon can live, and the range it needs is much greater than that required by a drake. So if a given island could support either a dragon or a tribe of drakes, it would be more beneficial for the species, perhaps, to have the island populated by the drakes, with only occasional dragons sprouting up and flying away.

I personally think the non-sentient females are a bunch of BS. It makes little to no sense to me, except as a means to explain why none of the drake units are female. However, this could also be explained by a highly stratified society with very defined gender roles: The men hunt and fight; the women... do something else.

Then the question is: what do they do? Are they locked in a harem, or do they contribute to society? This is (in my mind) largely a question of whether the drakes are fully carnivorous or whether they eat some plant life. If the latter is the case, then the women could be responsible for the gathering; if the former is the case, the women would possibly have responsibilities caring for the young, assisting in the forging of weapons and armor, maintaining the drakes' culture (writing, symbolism, etc.)