[RPG] Why are Dragons “Always X” alignment


As per this question and the answers provided therein, Dragons are of the "always X" alignment. Which means…

Always: The creature is born with the indicated alignment. The creature may have a
hereditary predisposition to the alignment or come from a plane that predetermines it. It
is possible for individuals to change alignment, but such individuals are either unique
or rare exceptions.

A description that is usually reserved for such races as Demons, or positive/negative energy aligned creatures… and yet, is also applied to dragons.

This strikes me as somewhat odd, given that dragons are intelligent creatures capable of making decisions of their own, not directly tied to any particular good/bad plane of energy.

What then is the in-canon reason for Dragons being "Always X" alignment?

Best Answer

Much of this has to do with the history of dragons, and the fact that D&D draws significant content from existing cultures. Primarily, dragons were representations of the balancing forces in nature in many cultures. In Europe, they tended to be less so, though they were still symbols of longevity:

Dragons are often held to have major spiritual significance in various religions and cultures around the world. In many Asian cultures dragons were... revered as representative of the primal forces of nature, religion and the universe. They are associated with wisdom—often said to be wiser than humans—and longevity. -- Comparative mythology of dragons (emph. mine)

Fundamental forces of nature are, by strict lore, either slow to change or do not change at all. This, I believe, is very likely to be the original source of the polarizing nature of dragons and their alignments. In D&D, battles between dragons are long, deep, and complex, which is indicative of this spiritual form of dragons. To address why many dragons are evil in D&D:

European dragons are usually depicted as malevolent, though there are exceptions (such as Y Ddraig Goch, the Red Dragon of Wales). -- European dragons

The canonical form of dragon which appears in D&D is a form of the classic European dragon; wings, tail, claws, legs, and lives in mountains or underground. However, Gygax and the D&D team are well-known for drawing ideas from multiple sources, so it is very likely that his descriptions incorporated the magic of many Asian cultures, representing dragons as fundamental forces of nature, which are slow to change and last for inconceivable spans of time.

In short, the dragons we see in D&D are a combination of the European-style bodies and the Asian-style souls and identities. Though both traditions have been somewhat corrupted from their original form, the intent is the same: the dragon is intelligent, long-lasting, and representative of a fundamental force, and is therefore unlikely to change. Or, at most, will change slowly and infrequently.