Where Did You Get The Idea For Bobby’s Superpower?

I get asked about this a lot. If you haven’t read the book yet (You should!), Bobby is the main character of Dragons In Pieces. He abruptly develops a superpower that’s a little unusual. His body can become hundreds of tiny robot dragons. Repeatedly through the Maze Beset trilogy, he displays that he can pop just one or a handful off his body, or go full swarm and let them all out. Each dragon is about the size of a quarter, and when they pop off, each removes about that much of his body. So, when he just lets one out, it takes a fingertip from the last knuckle. Letting out a ‘handful’ is letting his whole hand become dragons up to his wrist, and that’s about 25 or so of them.

The Maze Beset trilogy originally began as a Mutants and Masterminds (second edition) role playing game, also titled Maze Beset, for which I am the Game Master. The game has a similar premise, similar bad guys, and similar themes. It began rather differently, with the characters being treated much more reasonably and deciding to work with the government because of it. The four main characters of that game are in the books as secondary characters, with most of them not appearing until Dragons In Chains.

Because I chose the number 35 for how many superheroes there would be in total, this meant I had to make up 31 of them myself. They needed names, basic personalities, superpowers, and appearances. I did a lot of the typical ones, like fire starting (Lizzie), ice generation (Alice), super-speed (Ai), and flight (Violet), but there are only so many options for typical powers and I got bored. Stephen, as a vampire, is an example of what my boredom led to. Why couldn’t someone set up a suite of powers and drawbacks that mimic a vampire? No reason why not. Matthew the werewolf had similar reasoning.

I just needed a few more, and I sat drumming my fingers on my desk, madly trying to come up with anything that didn’t seem stupid. There was the M&M Core Book on my desk. With no better ideas, I started scanning the power entries. There’s one power near the beginning called (Alternate) Form. This power is all about the hero’s body being able to turn into some other substance, like sand or shadow or mist. One of the options reads:

Swarm: Your “body” is actually thousands of other tiny creatures: insects, worms, even little robots.

The Dragon On My DeskBingo. But…little robots? What kind of little robots? Enter The Dragon On My Desk, seen here hanging out with some tinsel and lights for the holiday. It normally sits, as noted, on my desk. This little guy has been jealously protected from my kids for years, because he’s mine. Never mind that he doesn’t have a proper name, that’s entirely irrelevant. Mine.

That dragon, though…well, I thought it would be both silly and difficult to explain if Bobby’s dragons looked like that one. Also, sparkly wings didn’t really fit my image of a mildly homophobic hick dumbass from Georgia. So, what should tiny robot dragons look like? How about this?

Yeah, much better. That’s the mercury dragon from AD&D, also known as 2nd edition D&D, found in the Monster Manual 2. I’ve always loved this particular picture. It’s far and away my favorite dragon in all the books. For some reason, this one says ‘dragon’ to me in a way that none of the others do. (For the record, the black dragon is my second favorite.)

Bobby’s dragons don’t look exactly like this, that would violate WotC’s copyright. Shorten the tail and give it a little bit of a robotic feel, and that’s the feel of them. Someday, I’m going to have someone make me a little horde of these things out of some kind of metal and stick them to my walls. Because.

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