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How to Roleplay in the Dragonriders of Pern Universe

Updated on July 5, 2015
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Dreamhowl has played Dungeons and Dragons since 2007 and has roleplayed on forums for longer! She loves making new characters come to life.

What is Dragonriders of Pern?

Dragonriders of Pern is a book series by Anne McCaffrey that features dragonriders, hatchings, and alien Threadfall on a planet called Pern. In this universe, people can bond with newly hatched dragons, resulting in a melding of minds called Impression. Bonded human and dragon can communicate telepathically and share emotions and images. Dragons hold an important role in the survival and defense of Pern.

Once Impressed, the pair trains to become dragon and dragonrider to fly the skies and fight Thread, an ancient enemy. The Red Star (a planet orbiting Pern) occasionally passes too close to Pern, resulting in Thread falling into Pern's atmosphere. Thread eats through foliage, burrows into the soil and fatally injures both man and beast on contact. The Red Star has an eccentric orbit of about 250 years; the 50 years of the orbit during Threadfall are called a Pass, while the 200 years without Threadfall are called an Interval.

Learn everything you need to roleplay Dragonriders of Pern without reading the books!
Learn everything you need to roleplay Dragonriders of Pern without reading the books! | Source

Because there is such a long Interval between each Pass, the danger of Threadfall can easily be forgotten. Dragonriders exist both to combat and defend against Thread, serving as reminders of what the deadly organism can do. In the original first three books (Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and The White Dragon), Pern is coming out of an Interval and not expecting Threadfall to occur again. Dragonriders are often at odds with holders, who live outside of the weyrs and don't see the need for continued use of dragonriders.

Hatchings are all-important in the grand scheme of the Dragonriders of Pern universe. Female gold dragons are the largest and the only ones that can clutch, and are usually impregnated by the second largest, male bronze dragons. The other colors, in descending size order, are brown, blue, and green dragons; green dragons are female, but chewing firestone makes them infertile, and they would not be as motherly as the large golds.

Get the Dragonriders of Pern Original Trilogy!

The Dragonriders of Pern: Dragonflight Dragonquest The White Dragon (Pern: The Dragonriders of Pern)
The Dragonriders of Pern: Dragonflight Dragonquest The White Dragon (Pern: The Dragonriders of Pern)
"Finally together in one volume, the first three books in the world's most beloved science fiction series, THE DRAGONRIDERS OF PERN, by Anne McCaffrey, one of the great science fiction writers of all time."

How to Roleplay Dragonriders of Pern

Now that you know the basic history behind the Dragonriders of Pern universe, it’s time to roleplay! Most roleplays take place on online forums, where players can join with a personalized username, make their own characters, and start their own roleplaying threads. Forums give players an organized space to reenact the Dragonriders of Pern books, as well as a place to socialize and bond over shared interests.

1. Read the Forum Rules

Most forums have several threads dedicated to the rules of the forum.
Most forums have several threads dedicated to the rules of the forum. | Source

The first thing you should do when joining a roleplaying forum is read the rules. One important rule to heed is the forum rating; depending on the roleplay forum rating, some roleplay elements may not be permitted. For example, a PG-13 rated Dragonriders of Pern forum may forbid the roleplaying of sex scenes, whether during a mating flight or not. R-rated or 17+ forums are more lenient toward sex, violence and cursing.

You should always follow the code of conduct when roleplaying. Some forums have a detailed list of rules, such as how many characters one player account is allowed, or what kind of dragon or pets a character is allowed. Rules are put into effect for a reason; limiting the amount of characters can help keep certain roles (such as bronzeriders and golds) active. Pets like firelizards may be limited to site-wide hatchings to keep numbers down and make firelizard breeding both necessary and unique.

Of course, interaction with other players (and characters) on the forum should be pleasant and friendly. Your characters may not get along with other characters, but you should always be respectful of other roleplayers. Never bully or badmouth another player. If you are being harassed by another player, report it to a forum administrator instead of tackling the problem yourself. Admins have the power to temporarily suspend or permanently ban users, and may choose to do so with the proper proof and warnings.

2. Choose a Character Type

This illustration (from my favorite nerd book) shows gold Ramoth as large as a jet plane!
This illustration (from my favorite nerd book) shows gold Ramoth as large as a jet plane! | Source

Candidates are youth chosen to stand on the sands for a hatching, be it for dragons or whers. Canonically, candidates are generally between the ages of 13 and 23, and are both male and female. In the book series, male candidates can Impress bronze, brown, blue and green dragons, while females can only Impress gold and green dragons. On semi-canon and non-canon roleplaying forums, there is more flexibility on what genders can Impress dragon colors. There may even be invented colors, such as red, black and purple!

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Dragonriders are candidates who bonded with dragon hatchlings and went through one Turn of weyrling training. They are skilled in fighting Threadfall, as well as going between on their dragon from one place to another. Wherhandlers are where candidates that bonded with whers (less articulate versions of dragons with small, stubby wings) and underwent wherling training. Unlike dragons, whers cannot fly or see in daylight, and communicate in simpler, less-wordy sentences.

If dragons and whers aren't your thing, you can create a simple weyrfolk or holdfolk character. These are more common people of Pern, like cooks, farmers, healers, and more. Weyrfolk are important to Pern life and help keep the weyr going on a daily basis. If your forum allows it, you can create a weyr or holder character that Impresses a dragon from the hatching stands, or decides to become a candidate for the next clutch. Be creative, but consult your forum admins before making any final decisions.

3. Create Your Character

This is Al'an (Aleran), one of my dragonriders on Canyon River Weyr. He has a green.
This is Al'an (Aleran), one of my dragonriders on Canyon River Weyr. He has a green. | Source

Once you have decided on the type of character on Pern that you prefer, it is time to make your character. Forums generally have character templates that are outlines for submitting a new character. These are essentially coded forms for the player to fill in with their character's information. Character templates typically feature the following sections:

  • Name

  • Age

  • Gender

  • Appearance

  • Personality

  • History

This is the basic information required to create your own Pernese character. Their biography does not have to be an essay, but should be detailed enough for other players to get a sense of who your character is, what they look like, how they act and a bit of their past. Think about reality; your friends know some, if not all, of this information about you, don't they? And as your character grows on the forum, you can always edit and update your biography.

In most cases, the forum admins need to approve your character before you can start roleplaying; this is generally done by moving your post from a "New Character" subforum into a subforum corresponding to your character's rank in the roleplay (such as "Candidates" or "Dragonriders"). Don't start playing on the forum until your character has been approved, and be open to any changes the admins feel you need to make. It is their forum, after all!

4. Participate in Open Threads

Pern forums have several subforums representing locations around the Weyr.
Pern forums have several subforums representing locations around the Weyr. | Source

Once your Dragonriders of Pern character has been approved, you can start jumping into threads! Beginning on a new roleplaying forum can be daunting for both first-time roleplayers and veteran roleplayers. Try starting with open threads that are already active. Open threads are posts by players that anyone else is permitted to join. For example, a player might start an open thread in the "Candidates Barracks" subforum to have their candidate character interact with other candidates.

Check Out the Ultimate Guide to Pern!

The Dragonlover's Guide to Pern, Second Edition
The Dragonlover's Guide to Pern, Second Edition
"An indispensable companion guide to the wonderful world of Anne McCaffrey and her dragons."

Private threads are just the opposite; players create private threads to tag specific characters for a personal roleplay scenario. For instance, a player might tag another player's dragonrider in a private thread because they want their characters to bond and interact with one another. If a forum thread is marked as private (and does not tag you), don't jump in! If you would like to have your own private thread, discuss roleplaying your character with another player's character. There is nothing wrong with plotting between players!

Occasionally, a roleplaying forum may have site-wide events take place, such as a Gather celebration or natural disaster. These are great opportunities to roleplay with everyone on the forum and interact with characters of various ranks. Site-wide plots are also really exciting and often result in eventful circumstances for all characters involved. A dangerous flood can give a character a fear of water, a fire can leave them spooked - remember, just as people change, characters change, too!

5. Respect Player and Plot Outcomes

A fan-made dragon size chart showing large Ramoth (gold) and tiny Ruth (white).
A fan-made dragon size chart showing large Ramoth (gold) and tiny Ruth (white). | Source

Above all, respect all player and plot outcomes on the roleplaying forum. A hatching is a great time to keep this in mind. Many Dragonriders of Pern roleplayers create characters in the hopes of Impressing high ranking dragons (like gold females and bronze males). These dragons are limited and are often allocated to characters by admins based on certain factors, such as player activity and character personality. If you don't Impress a gold or bronze, don't get upset! Prove yourself with a new character at the next hatching.

Another uncontrollable event is a dragon's mating flight. When a gold dragon rises to mate, all male dragons may give chase, but bronze dragons are usually the only ones with the stamina to keep up. The player with the character whose dragon is rising chooses the male dragon who wins the mating flight, whether by random selection or by predetermined decision. If your character's dragon does not catch the rising female dragon, you have no right to get upset.

Whatever the circumstance, just relax and try to have fun - that’s what roleplaying is all about! Playing your characters as they learn and grow is so exciting, especially as they bond with their dragon and where charges. Living this unique life vicariously through your characters in the Dragonriders of Pern universe is exhilarating, and your characters aren’t the only ones who will make new, lasting friends. Have fun!

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© 2014 Jessica Peri


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