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Dragon Rider Clothing

The Southern Lands have, over time, become a melting pot of cultures, so no two dragon riders look alike in their clothing choices. However, certain rules must be followed to keep a rider safe during flight and at least stand a chance of keeping them alive if they had to fight on the ground in an emergency.


It doesn't matter who you are or where you're from, not even fire dragons can save you from frostbite. I've seen too many upstarts think we're no better than mother hens, reminding them to make sure they put on a sweater before they go outside. The ones that learn fast at least get to keep training. The ones that don't? They're lucky if they can still hold a bow with a couple of fingers missing.
— Grandmaster of Fire

While dragon riders in training are used to the higher altitudes of the floating islands, they still need warmth more than most anything else when flying with a dragon. Between the warmth of their clothing and the body heat of the dragon, they are able to survive up to the maximum altitude a dragon can safely fly themselves, but most dragon rider pairs never test this limit for fear of what might happen.


Don't ever get in that saddle without making sure you've got all your gear on. It may not feel like anything when you're riding, but your dragon's scales can cut deep before you realize. The gods help you if you get stranded somewhere like that. If you can even walk, you certainly won't be setting foot in my training ring. I don't teach people who can't take care of themselves.
— Master Trainer

There are several types of protection that a rider needs, the primary one being for their legs. A dragon's scales are sharp and can cut through normal cloth easily. Often this leg protection involves extra layers and can be buckled on so the rider doesn't have to carry it around all the time.

Secondary types of protection are from the weather and wind, and from weapons. Most riders will try not to go flying in bad weather, but their gear is built to keep out the elements for at least a couple of hours in case it becomes necessary. Goggles protect their eyes from the wind so they can see during a flight.

As metal is not used on rider clothing except very rarely, their armor mainly consists of tougher leathers and fabrics. They provide little protection in a prolonged fight, but their intention is to create a basic level of protection against a sword or arrow in the event that the dragon must land and the rider finds themselves in a battle on the ground.



Riders wear a cap to protect their heads from the cold air, often made with wool or quilted and stuffed with wool or down. Even fur is used when available. Wool is the most popular choice as it also serves to protect from rain and still keep the rider warm.

In order to see regardless of the wind and weather, riders also wear goggles made of clear scales from an air dragon. These have been cut and polished, then set in leather straps and buckled securely around the back of the cap.


The number of layers a rider wears will often correspond to how warm they usually are and how well they can handle the cold. This can range anywhere from two layers up to four or five and differ greatly based on materials used as well. All of them start with a linen shirt, followed by a gambeson made of leather or quilted with wool and down. If necessary, a wool coat is added over this to protect the rider from bad weather.


Generally, a rider will wear linen pants underneath a layer of either wool or more of the same quilted material as their gambeson. Strapped on to each leg is a long piece of leather or layers of thick slash resistant canvas, made of a similar material as their dragon's light saddle. These pieces are designed to run the full length of a rider's leg along the inside, where their legs would be pressing against their dragon's scales during a flight.


Wool socks and thick leather boots are usually enough to protect a rider's feet from the cold and rain. Occasionally there are some who will add in fur in favor of lighter socks, but the easiest to obtain is always plain leather boots.

A note about saddles:

Regular saddles are often made of leather and designed so that leg protection worn by the rider isn't as necessary. However, scouting missions or short flights can necessitate the use of the light saddle, which is made of canvas or other slash resistant materials and can be wrapped around the dragon quickly to create a saddle safe enough for flight. Because this saddle is much lighter and meant to be carried folded up in a pack for emergencies, it doesn't create the same leg protection as a regular saddle and will cause serious harm to the rider if they fly without anything else on their legs.


The materials used in a rider's clothing varies, but generally they use some combination of the following:


Wool is primarily used for its water resistance once felted and also as padding for both leg protection and armor around the body. Its warmth also makes it an all around good material for most riders.


For those that prefer heavier body armor, leather is a good choice. It is also commonly used as part of the leg protection riders wear because it is thick enough to withstand the sharpness of scales.


Down is by far the most popular choice for warmth among riders. It is light, so it can be combined with other materials easily, and creates a good barrier against the cold.


While not common, as most fur is used for the rest of the inhabitants of the floating islands, some riders will use fur to supplement wool and down for warmth.


Linen is the primary choice for clothing worn under the armor and other padding. It breathes easily, is generally comfortable to wear, and a slightly heavier linen can add a layer of protection for the body.


Canvas is almost exclusively used for a dragon's light saddle because it is resistant to normal wear caused by sharp scales, however it can also be used for the rider's leg protection. In both cases, it does need to be replaced somewhat frequently as the scales do eventually wear through, but it lasts longer than other types of cloth would and can be carried folded up in a pack much more easily than leather.


Riders are still studying all the potential uses of scales. However, an air dragon's scales have proven to be the best choice of eye protection for riders during flight. When they are shed, the scales turn translucent and can be cut and polished. Once set in leather, they can be strapped on to keep the wind out of a rider's eyes, while also allowing them to see where they're going.


Riders use metal very sparingly when creating clothing to be worn during a flight. The cold of high altitudes can cause the metal to burn a rider if touched. They are still used for buckles on the saddle and anything where another type of material wouldn't be strong enough to hold the strap in place.

Dragon Rider Clothing by Barbarossa Sparklebeard on Heroforge

Cultural Differences

Differences in the way clothing is made or how it looks when it is complete mainly depends on where a rider's family came from before settling in the Southern Lands. It should be noted as well that because families have intermingled over time, and who actually crosses the border varies a great deal, certain fashions have greater representation, and there is a large spectrum of what each rider may choose to wear.


Much of Alexi is farmland, with a standing army that patrols the borders. As such, clothing tends to be sturdy and practical, but with small embellishments to brighten up otherwise drab clothing. Nobles wear much the same, but will choose richer fabrics. The majority of riders are descended from Alexi families, which has led to the quilted gambeson as the most common choice of warmth and protection. Often any embellishments added are used to distinguish the type of dragon the rider is bonded to or how far they are into training.


Peregrine culture revolves around honing battle skills and making sure their people are ready for anything. They compete every few years to determine which clan will lead the kindgom and the remainder of the clans often fight over borders. They often wear leathers and furs as armor. This is not a common pure heritage in the Southern Lands, as there is only a small portion of the border that meets Peregrine. Often, those who find themselves there have traveled through one or more other kingdoms and picked up some of their customs before arriving in the south. However, Peregrine heritage can mainly be distinguished among riders by their choice of a leather gambeson and occasionally fur when they can get it.


Ismena is the center of most magical learning in Casimira and as such, their culture primarily revolves around working with nature. There is significant effort put into only using fibers that don't do harm to plants or animals. As Ismena shares a very small portion of its border with the Southern Lands, it is not incredibly common to find decendants of this kingdom among the riders. Those that do can be distinguished by their choice to use primarily wool and canvas, refraining as much as possible from the use of leather and fur.


Novami is heavily influenced by the culture of the Northern Lands, but the people who live there are primarily from the lower classes that weren't able to hide their aptitude for magic. In many cases, this resulted in a split of cultures: those who feel they have lost their one true home and try to be faithful to its way of life, and those who saw an opportunity to start fresh and have filled their lives with new ideas and ways of living.The rare few riders who have descended from families that traveled far south from Novami either wear drab wool colors, or prefer bright (within reason) colors and intricate designs.

Northern Lands

As far as anyone knows, no one has ever made it all the way south from the Northern Lands except by way of Novami. If they did, any relations in the riders would likely wear the more drab Novami fashions, with as simple and practical of a style as possible.

Item type
Clothing / Accessory

Rider Emblems

One of the few decorative pieces that every rider has in common is their emblem. Typically embroidered on the breast of their gambeson or possibly a cloak, this symbol is colored based on the element of the dragon the rider is bonded to. This is both to prove that they are a dragon rider and to provide some mark of seniority, as the longer one has been a rider, the more elaborate the emblem.

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History and Injury Prevention

The first dragon rider bonded with his dragon during a time when dragon and human cultures didn't mix well. As a result, he focused more on acting as a bridge between the two races than learning how to fly with his dragon partner. He modified a horse saddle to fit a dragon and wore a wool cloak to stay warm, but flew only when necessary and never even as high as the floating islands. As more rider pairs were found and an organization was established, some began pushing the boundaries of flight and learned what was and was not needed as a result.


At one point in time, riders believed that it was necessary to use metal armor on dragon and human alike. Demon attacks were common and if they could fly, it wouldn't take much to drive a rider pair to the ground and force them to fight from there. But soon, they discovered that the metal became extremely cold in the high altitudes and it would take some time for it to warm up after landing. Any bare skin that came in contact with the metal would burn, so they elected to reduce metal usage down to what was absolutely necessary.

Warm Layers

Before settling on one of the floating islands, riders didn't need any thicker layers than what one would normally wear duing a cold winter. As higher altitude flight became more and more common, layers of warmer clothing were introduced to save the riders from increasingly common cases of hypothermia and frostbite throughout the training process.

Leg Injuries

All it took was the development of the light saddle and several young riders with little common sense to create the leg protection that riders wear today. Without it, a dragon's scales can cut deeply into the rider's legs, creating permanent scarring, pain, and sometimes even the inability to walk. Of all potential injuries, this is perhaps the biggest cause of a rider's career being cut short.


A very small amount of limit testing was done after warmer clothing was developed to see how high a rider pair could fly together. While the floating islands hover around three miles off the ground, the average pair can only fly around 3/4 of a mile beyond that before neither can breathe or move safely. Air dragon pairs have also tested this by bringing wind and air with them and can fly approximately 5 to 6 miles before the air they could bring begins to run out and the cold sets in.


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3 May, 2021 16:58

You described the practical aspects of the clothing nicely. However, I would like to know about any cultural aspects of it. Do groups of dragon riders have specific styles? Maybe there are visible differences between ranks

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18 May, 2021 13:35

Good question! I'm still fleshing out my cultures, so I'm not going to be able to really add a section on that until later, but I've put it on my to-do list! As far as ranks, there are not visible differences (I'll find a way to explain that in there) because there's really only trainees, full riders, and grandmasters. The community is small enough that they all know each other, so they don't have any issue distinguishing amongst themselves.

3 May, 2021 18:21

The dragon riders' clothing sounds very well-thought out! It would be nice to see some sketches or drawings or Hero Forge models of the clothes, but if that's not possible, I understand. Very good job!

~TimeBender~ Attempting to become a jack of all trades with a variety of hobbies that interest me!
18 May, 2021 13:38

That's definitely a work in progress, finding the look I'm going for! If you have any ideas for places I can go to find fantasy clothing images, let me know!

18 May, 2021 18:12

Well, Hero Forge allows you to create a model of a character for free, you don't have to buy it, and you can download the image! They have a lot of different clothes styles. But other than that, I don't know of many places to find fantasy clothing images for free! Best of luck in the competition. :)

~TimeBender~ Attempting to become a jack of all trades with a variety of hobbies that interest me!
Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
5 May, 2021 18:54

Great start! Some ideas about things to add:   Do you have an idea of the altitude the dragons can go? and what the temperature would be there? Giving approximate numbers would make a greater impact here I think.   I think you can elaborate a bit about the light saddle. Why do they have it? In what circumstances do they use it? An example could help here - you could even add a quote with a bit of narration. You could also add more details about the kind of injury they would get without the protection and explain how it is different from what people would get with a horse.   "A rider will generally not wear anything metal because of the cold" you could also explain directly the type of injuries this could cause - I imagine some people did wear metal because they didn't know/didn't have time to change. What happened to them?   Interesting bits about the dragon scales :D

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6 May, 2021 12:03

This is good. Have you considered the history? Such as the first riders learning the hard way about leg protections and warmth while flying.

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18 May, 2021 13:42

Thank you for the suggestion! I've added in a section on history, so let me know if that answers the questions you had about how they learned what equipment they need!

12 May, 2021 19:47

Nice read already. It seems you thought out all of the parts of the clothing pretty well just as the materials to use. Especially those translucent dragon scales are quite interesting. I did notice that there is no text under the Legs section, I don't know if that is intentional. Another fun thing to add could be some ideas about what each culture's armor looks like.

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13 May, 2021 17:18

That's so weird, there's definitely something there!   As far as each culture, the biggest issue I have currently is that I don't know what my cultures really are! That may be something I have to expand on as I have more articles.

13 May, 2021 17:23

Yeah sorry I think my comment dates back to a moment when you were perhaps working on that section :p

Feel free to check out my River challenge article and my Secrets in the swamp Adventure article if you want to see what I am up to!
14 May, 2021 10:07

Very nice, utilitarian article about the hazards and complications of being a dragon rider :)   I always appreciate a good overview article that give me an idea what the article is generally about before I start to dive in. It does so much to help set the tone and just is always helpful and good :)   Feedback wise...   I would perhaps consider moving Equipment before Materials; so we know what we're looking at before we look at what it's being made out of. i.e "it's made out of metal" vs "this is armor, and it is made out of metal", to vastly simplify my point :)   About protection: is there any special outfits or armor bits that are popular for dragon-to-dragon fighting? If these dragons have breath weapon, do they ever protect themselves against that somehow?   Are dragon scales ever used for armor? Shed or otherwise?   About metal armor: most armors is heavily layered. The typical knight might have first gambeson/aketon (cloth armor) as padding, mail over that, and then finally plate armor over that. Skin contact with the metal is probably not common. Use that information as you wish :)   There are two things I'm missing that might really flesh out the article, if they are relevent to your setting: culture, and distinguishing elements. How do the riders distinguish themselves. Do they have anything like that? Banners, painted patterns on their outfits or the dragon? Anything that helps people know who is who?   You mention it's a cultural melting pot, but are there any particular elements from some cultures that have become more popular? Are there any trends, or different 'favorite' getups? What about spiritual or religious elements, like good luck charms and all that? :)   That's what I got for feedback. Great article and good luck in the challenge :D

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18 May, 2021 14:50

You really got me thinking with this one! Just thinking out loud (I'll add things to my article as needed!) here's the answers to your questions: Protection - There's some history to it that I can add, but the short version is that there's no reason for extra armor/gear for dragon vs dragon fighting as they don't ever do this with their riders on their backs. Scales are about all they need for that. Metal armor - There are definitely layers, the issue from metal is more that the cold air is enough that the metal starts leeching heat from the rider. Not only that, but it doesn't warm up immediately when they land, so no one can touch the dragon or rider for some time while their armor warms up. That makes it really inconvenient to use and someone would have learned it the hard way! Culture - I'm still working on this! The community is generally small enough that they all know each other and don't carry anything super distinguishing, but I do want to elaborate more on what differences there are in clothing. Spiritual or religious elements - I hadn't thought about this! Time to think about my pantheon! :D   Let me know if that answered your questions!

23 May, 2021 23:18

Lovely detailed piece of writing right here! There's a real sense of practicality behind everything you mention. I'm quite curious about what cultural or social aspect these uniforms might have- do they inspire awe? Respect? Something else? I'd love to know more!

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24 May, 2021 22:46

I really like how the history is both changed circumstances, and simply learning what works and what doesn't. And I love the detail that you need protection against the dragon scales!