Is the draco vulgaris (first described in Guards! Guards! (1989) inspired by the pseudodragons found in Dungeons and Dragons?

I recently learned about them and find many similarities:

  • small winged dragon (around than 2 feet long)
  • can be a pet
  • (relatively) short lived
  • limited ability to communicate

Since D&D has many versions, I face difficulties identifying when pseudodragons were first defined but they seem to be mentioned in a first version (1977).

Digging around this topic, I found the small pet dragon trope: it seems to be even older?

Does anyone have a Terry Pratchett interview or discussion about this topic?

  • 1
    @valorum why remove the part about not being able to quote their books? May 10, 2019 at 19:10
  • @Stormblessed - Because OP is right about their in-world first significant mention
    – Valorum
    May 10, 2019 at 19:11
  • 6
    I don't know about inspiration, but the swamp dragons were clearly meant as a parody of tiny purse-sized dogs bred by/for rich women. They're small, unhealthy, annoying animals bred from a large, dangerous, practical species, and the wiki link you provided mentions a "The Show Judges' Guide to Dragons, by Lady Sybil Ramkin". May 10, 2019 at 20:57
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    The Pern series/world also has small dragons (fire lizards) although the distinction from the full size version seems to simply be size vs the big differences between D. nobilis and D. vulgaris. I do like @ArcanistLupus 's comparison with the little yappy dog breeds...
    – ivanivan
    May 10, 2019 at 21:01
  • 2
    draco vulgaris == common dracon
    – Oni
    May 12, 2019 at 23:53

2 Answers 2


While the notion of small dragons (or dragon-like reptiles) is certainly older than Dungeons & Dragons, I think there is actually a good reason to think that Pratchett was, at least in part, inspired by D&D. That reason is the name: Draco vulgaris. The first edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons had all the non-unique dragons listed in the Monster Manual given faux-Latin scientific names.

Draco Causticus Sputem

These include Draco Causticus Sputem, Draco Electricus, Draco Impudentus Gallus, Draco Orientalus Sino Dux, Draco Chlorinous Nauseous Respiratorus, and Draco Conflagratio Horriblis, among others. Later books identified the Platinum Dragon, Bahamut, as having the Latinate name Draco Paladin. The name Draco vulgaris (which is dog Latin for "common dragon") follows this pattern. Since the made-up dragon names were an innovation of first edition AD&D, I suspect that Pratchett had the D&D dragons in mind as he was writing Guards! Guards!

  • Many thanks @Buzz ! Another clue of this wiki.lspace.org/mediawiki/Dungeons_and_Dragons "It is thought that The Colour of Magic originated from Terry Pratchett's experiences as a Dungeon-Master and some of the things he incorporated in the RPG group he ran - ie, the Luggage originated as somewhere to stash the loot but from which the loot could not necessarily be retrieved, depending on the beast's mood" May 13, 2019 at 6:49
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    I think that your argument is very weak. Making up scientific names for fictional creatures is widely practised, and Pratchett's work contains many other dog-Latin phrases.
    – OrangeDog
    May 14, 2019 at 13:24
  • ...and that entry in lspace is unreferenced (In fact I've since removed it for being unreferenced). May 14, 2019 at 13:51
  • @OrangeDog It's even a name that has been used for an actual species (though the Linnean name that was ultimately settled upon was Draco volans. archive.org/details/booknatureembra01philgoog/page/n22
    – Jacob C.
    May 14, 2019 at 22:42
  • Draco vulgaris being (not even doggish) Latin for "common dragon", and Draco volans being "flying dragon"
    – Jacob C.
    May 14, 2019 at 22:51

I'd be very surprised if D&D Pseudodragons were the initial inspiration for Draco Vulgaris. As the TV Tropes page says, small pet dragons predate them in a significant way. The tropes page guesses that the Trope maker (i.e. work that popularized it) was Dragonquest by Anne McCaffrey, a 1970 work, but the also appear in A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin. Mr Pratchett was clearly aware of Dragonquest because he parodied the entire Dragonriders of Pern series in The Colour of Magic (thanks Sarriesfan for reminding me). It hard to imagine that given those two huge influences Mr Pratchett would give main credit for the inspiration to a fairly obscure D&D monster. Of course, as with most literary inspirations, it's likely that the creatures didn't derive from a single source.

  • Interesting; I'd assumed it was the Harper Hall series; I'd completely forgotten that the fire-lizards showed up in the original series.
    – DavidW
    May 10, 2019 at 21:51
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    The Wyrmberg section of The Colour of Magic is a parody of the Pern books Sir Terry was clearly familiar with the stories. Lessa becomes Liessa for example.
    – Sarriesfan
    May 11, 2019 at 12:59

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