Dragons are pride. Not the boasting, bragging, importunate pride that demands you acknowledge it, no matter what it may or may not have done, but pride in accomplishment, pride in prowess, pride in success.
Dragons command respect, and the respect of other dragons is their coin and their pride. They live to gain stature, honor, admiration. They treasure it, hunger for it, strive to achieve it. They slave and claw and grasp for each mote of stature. They are driven so by their biology, and that operates at the level of instinct, in the most ancient portion of the draconic mind.
Dragons strive for excellence, as spellcasters, warriors, leaders, artisans, healers, and more; the more skilled and impressive a dragon becomes, the more stature they are granted. They acquire knowledge and wisdom, both bring stature. They amass wealth; the more wealth, the more stature. They acquire territory, territory brings stature. They acquire influence in human governments or organizations, influence brings stature. They create serfs, creatures who imprint on the dragon and serve them with their lives, and the more serfs, and the more remarkable and capable the serfs, the more stature.
In ages past, dragons fought for the right to mate. The largest, fiercest, most attractive dragon won, and mated, and the losers did not.
In time, this became about more than an impressive crown of horns, or shining scales, or sheer muscular prowess. (At least among the more intelligent strains, including the Greats.) It became about achievement, accomplishment, excellence. The most impressive, the most intelligent, the most accomplished, the most clever, the most skilled, the most talented — these could mate, and others did not. Mating was a dance of stature, and the constant, urgent need to compete with all other dragons for stature became the cornerstone of draconic civilization.
All dragons are pride, but for Great Dragons it is not individual pride that matters, but pride in their clutch. The entire goal of a Great Dragon’s existence is to increase the stature of its clutch. Wealth, power, achievements, admiration, renown — it gains these, and its clutch increases in stature, and all the clutch-mates benefit.
Great Dragons crave wealth and stature, and conspire to acquire both. They are greedy creatures, devious and cunning.
Conspiracy and intrigue are second nature to the Greats, and nothing they do is straightforward or easily understood. Their conspiracies operate on a scale measured in decades, not years, and are renowned for their subtlety and obscurity. Sentients are little more than pawns to them.
There is a constant battle for stature and success. Cleverness in intrigue, cunning in plotting, and skill in deception also brings stature. The intrigues of dragons are the battlefield in a complex and incomprehensible game of precedence and stature. Feints within feints, double-blinds, triple agents — all of these gambits are deployed not just to advance their position, but because the sheer artistry and effectiveness of each gambit gains the clutch stature.
Great Dragons are alien beings, whose psychology is more primal and primeval than mankind’s. They conspire not out of desire or malice, but because such machinations are instinctive.
The Greats are like especially intelligent, eloquent, and polite sharks. But no matter how civilized they seem, they are always but moments away from a bloody attack. (If not literally, then metaphorically. A Great Dragon attack can involve a decades-long plot that manipulates three nations, two bloodgangs, and a Chartered Company’s most prized assets.)
Never show a dragon weakness, it is an irresistible inducement to attack. Even if they like you, even if they need you, weakness invites assault. And as Great Dragons are nearly-unkillable, genius-level, dinosaur-sized, armored flying death machines, such assaults nearly always prove lethal. (Even if it takes a while to notice.)