Dragons Conquer America is a game of historical fantasy based on the European invasion of America in the 16th century.
The game setting, while based on historical fact, is rife with fantastic elements, including powerful magic, mystic forces, and mythical creatures such as fairies and dragons. The story is mostly fictional, but accurately introduces events that took place during the Mesoamerican War of Conquest, as well as the historical nations and characters at their centre. This of course includes the daring campaigns of Captain Hernán Cortés, and the great domain we know today as the Aztec Empire.
Magic is real in this world, and the history we know, while mostly unchanged, has been subtly influenced or altered by sorcerous forces.
Ancestral air and thunder spirits accompanied the Aryan invasion of the Tamil at the dawn of history, giving rise to the Vedic legends. Bearded, human-faced dragons oversaw the building of the first pyramids at Sumer and Egypt. The Age of Philosophy of the post-Atlantean world gave rise to mighty priest-wizards, remembered as gods and demigods in the records of the Fall of Troy and the Rise of Rome. The descendants of these Roman wizards established the Catholic Council that still rules the world, inspired by the wisdom of the Prophets of the Middle East. Faerie kingdoms allied with the warlord Artus, giving him a magic sword and the title of Faerie King, to expel the Romans from Brittany. Norse elves spurred and accompanied Leif Eriksson’s expedition to Vinland, while the Keltic elf rogue Robin of the Hood led a resistance that forced the British Kings to sign the Carta Magna that would eventually lead to the return of Democracy.
Thus today’s world is shaped by the historical presence of wizards and spirits, which have walked hand-in-hand with humanity, sometimes more noticeably and sometimes from the shadows – but always there.
Magic is inextricably linked to faith; what one believes in determines one’s access to the Spirit World. Thus worshippers of fire entities have access to fire magic, and war priests know prayers to inspire armies.
All religions agree that there is a single divine force above the world. The Catholic nations call this force ‘God’ and see Him as a person – an immortal, unconceivable person, but one they can name and beg to. The Mexica of the New World call it Teotl, which translates as magic itself. Even miscreants and heretics acknowledge this force exists, although they assume it’s just a combination of knowable natural forces.
Those that worship, study or understand this all-powerful force are capable of superhuman feats, understood by others as magic spells or divine miracles. The greatest of these priests and wizards are so powerful in their worship that they become worshipped in turn, becoming the legendary heroes of myth and even the deities of polytheistic pantheons. Catholics, who deny any divinity other than God’s, worship these individuals as Saints.
Dragons have been a part of the catholic world for more than a thousand years, ever since Saint George tamed and converted the legendary Wyrm of Silene in the third century AD. From that moment, the European dragons that would otherwise have been massacred by human knights and soldiers became instead a valuable resource of human armies.
For the last millennium, warfare has been shaped by the presence of dragon riders, and their use has allowed European kingdoms to secure lasting power over their lands. The most famous examples were the Crusades, where Richard the Lionheart’s catholic dragons defeated Saladin’s djinn army and sacked the Holy City; the legendary battle where St. Joan of Arc and her Holy Dragon defeated Richard’s descendants, thus ending the so-called Hundred Years’ War; and the liberation of Castile from Moorish forces, at the hands of the freedom force led by Jimena Díaz de Vivar, still remembered as La Saida Campeadora – the most famous dragon rider in history.
Now, however, as every army and kingdom owns a mandatory dragon force of roughly equal power, European forces have come to a stalemate. Unable to expand into each other’s borders, they have turned to new routes for trade and conquest, taking their dragons to previously uncharted lands.
20 years ago, Christopher Columbus found such a land – a whole New World, it seems, waiting to be discovered in the middle of the Western Sea. European Kingdoms were quick to send their own ships and dragons to the new territories, looking for new lands to expand into and riches to exploit.
But this land is, of course, inhabited. And Here, too, Be Dragons.
New World dragons differ from their European counterparts in their sleeker, larger bodies, their lack of lower limbs and the beautiful plumage that adorns their scales. The most important difference, however, is that these dragons have never been converted to any religion or allegiance. They are free and wise, and have many natural abilities that humans would call sorcery – and indeed humans could only imitate by limited prayers and crude spells. Many of these dragons can even take on human form, and of course only allow themselves to be mounted by those they choose. It goes without saying that these dragons do not serve their human neighbours; in fact, humans often revere them as divine beings. In return, dragons take care of them, as a shepherd takes care of his flock; thus New World natives have no dragon armies, but are under dragon protection. And their gods won’t take kindly to a swarm of lesser lizards invading their land.
However, even if the catholic dragons of European armies are generally less powerful than their New World counterparts, they are far more numerous and better organized. God only knows what will happen when both forces collide – and which side He will favour.
It is the year 1519 of the Christian Era, and Ce Acatl (1 Reed) of the Mexica Calendar Cycle. It’s a time of great changes and portents, marking the prophesied return of the Lords of Tollan to the Valley of Anahuac.
Columbus died years ago, forgotten after making his famous discovery of the West Indies – or the New World, as most people call this unexplored land now, since they learned it isn’t another side of Asia as previously thought, but a whole new continent.
As European governments decide what to do with the discovery and its potential riches, their first settlers, armed with transoceanic ships, guns – and dragons – have ruled over the New World’s easternmost islands for almost thirty years now.
However, the invaders have not yet discovered what lies beyond their island domains. The Hispaniola outposts, long established as the beachhead of European power in the New World, have already determined there is a larger continent to the West, and sailed its coasts – but so far no major mainland expedition has managed to overcome their warlike tribes and treacherous terrain.
Beyond these unwelcoming coasts, still unknown, lies the Valley of Anahuac, home to the Excan Tlahtoloyan – the Triple Alliance of the Aztec peoples. It is one of the oldest and best organised empires the world has ever known, encompassing hundreds of city-states, all of which pay tribute to the mightiest civilization in the planet: the Mexica of Tenochtitlan. For nearly a hundred years, the Mexica have ruled over the land of the Fifth Sun unchallenged, striking fear in the hearts of their enemies thanks to the divine power of their priests and the help of their mixcoatl dragon allies, which terrorise and astonish the peoples under Mexica domain.
This is all about to change.
A single man – a rebellious, haughty gentleman of fortune, persecuted by the law, estranged from the Crown of Spain and followed by a ragtag band of sellswords and adventurers – is poised to start the most significant war of conquest the world has ever known.
His name is Hernán Cortés; he only wanted his share of fame and glory – but he and his dragon riders are about to change history.
The Spanish Expedition Force
Contrary to the popular belief of future generations, the invading force that just arrived to the New World is not a sanctioned group of disciplined soldiers under the command of a duly-appointed general. That is how the Spanish Crown would have liked it, yes; however, Cortés and his crewmates are not soldiers, but adventuring nobles – brave and ambitious thrill seekers and treasure hunters looking to make their fortune in the unexplored land. They wear no uniform but their mismatched armour suits, and no flag but the Catholic God.
This ragtag mercenary group has just arrived to the coast of the New World, without the sanction or permission of Cortés’ immediate superior – and, recently, sworn enemy – the Governor of Cuba. They are mutineers; they are rebels. If their attempt to settle this land and plunder its riches fails, Spain will have them imprisoned – or worse. Their very lives depend on the gamble they’ve just played, and they’re not about to return home empty-handed.
To quell dissent among his men, Cortés has scuttled his ships, tied his dragons and founded a new settlement in the name of the Castilian Kings: Villa Rica De La Vera Cruz. From there, he intends to conquer the surrounding lands – or die trying.
The Aztec Triple Alliance
Meanwhile, the Excan Tlahtoloyan – the Triple Alliance – of the Anahuac has gotten wind of the Spaniards’ first contacts with other peoples from the New World, from their first skirmishes in Mayan coasts a few years back to their several unsuccessful attempts to go deeper into their territory. Moctecuhzoma II the Xocoyotzin, Huey Tlatoani of all Aztec peoples and de facto leader of the Triple Alliance, has already sent messengers to dissuade the new arrivals from pressing on to Tenochtitlan. If they are the Lords of Tollan returned, as the prophecy goes, they are a challenge to the rule of Moctecuhzoma and his peers; if they are not, they remain unknown invaders, armed with unknown weapons and – apparently – Mixcoatl dragons of their own; they must be stopped from making any progress.
The other leaders of the Triple Alliance – Cacama of Texcoco and Tetlepanquetzal of Tlacopan – are similarly restless. Cacama in particular is in grave danger, as his younger brother Ixtlilxochitl covets his throne, and would not be above seeking an alliance with the invaders to obtain it. Ixtlilxochitl has not forgotten it was Moctecuhzoma’s Mixcoatl dragons which pressed the Texcoca council into choosing his brother over him; he is more loyal to any enemy of the Mexica than to the Triple Alliance itself.
In fact, there are many vassal states currently suffering under the Exzcan Tlahtoloyan; if the invaders turned out hostile, many of these oppressed peoples would gladly side with them against the Mexica and their allies. Moctecuhzoma’s messengers have several tasks ahead of them: they must study the newcomers and gauge their forces; they must dissuade them from going any nearer the Anahuac; and they must prevent enemy tribes from allying with them.
This is the situation today. The first outside invading force the Aztecs have known has arrived to their world, and future human history depends on the outcome of this first contact.