Todd Kenreck: Tiamat is one of the most recognizable villains in D&D. She is the goddess of evil dragons and she's worshipped by characters like Arkhan the Cruel. That's why I'm talking to Mike Mearls about her place in the D&D multiverse and why she hasn't taken over yet.
Mike Mearls: Tiamat is a very interesting character because on one hand, it's very simple who Tiamat is. Tiamat’s the queen of the chromatic dragons. She is their creator, we think, and she is their leader. She's the strongest of them all. Being, at the same time, she's trapped in Avernus, the uppermost layer of the nine hells and there's this interesting thing of how did the goddess of dragons end up in the nine hells with all of the devils? That doesn't seem to jive.
We think of dragons, not just think of, we know dragons are some of the most powerful mortal creatures, creatures with a life span. They're born and they will eventually grow old and maybe one day die like aging does something to them. You think of a god, gods don't age, right? You think of a demon, demons don't age. Dragons age. They're born and they grow older. They're effectively … I mean, I don't know if we really think of dragons ever aging, get growing so old eventually pass away but in theory, they could. Of all of those creatures, they're the most powerful by far and yet, when you go to the outer planes, there's no plane of dragons, there's no like, “Here's the outer plane. It’s a line where dragons rule.” Even the giants, their gods have their realms. They have their full Pantheon but the dragons don't have that.
In terms of the other planes, I mean, dragons are powerful. Wherever a dragon goes, it's one of those powerful creatures kicking around in that area but we don't see the organization necessarily of dragons that we see to the same extent of the giants, right? The giants have the Ordning. Every giant knows this is the hierarchy, this is our culture, this is what we believe. It's given to us by the gods. The dragons’ ties are much weaker. They don't have that same direct dictate coming down from on high that they conform to but yet, we know at some point, they had to because the giants the dragons fought a cataclysmic war, which we think took place before the … We think that happened before the Mind Flayer reign over the Material Plane but we're not sure, but we think that's what happened.
Kind of one of the big questions that hangs over dragons is well, what happened? Why is Tiamat in the nine hells? This war ended. The giants sort of retreated, the dragons retreated but it feels that the giants retreated like 50% of the way and the dragons retreated 100%. They basically, in many ways, withdrew from the world and the question is why? What happened? I think it's really fascinating to me that you have Tiamat who's incredibly powerful but here's Asmodeus who is also incredibly powerful and he has nine planar layers he sees over, right? He has an entire hierarchy of devils that obey him. If you're in the abyss, if you’re Demogorgon, you have entire layers of the abyss you can claim direct control over and you have entire of cultists and all this stuff.
Now, Tiamat has a cult, the cult of the dragon but even that, they’ll have you. Originally, the cult of the dragon in the realms for a very long time was fixated in this idea of undead dragons and bringing dragons back as Dracoliches. Eventually, Tiamat’s agents infiltrated and took over. There was a split in their beliefs and the Tiamat faction one and you saw that play out in Tyranny of Dragons but you don't see kingdoms dedicated to Tiamat, you don't see giant temples to Bahamut in cities of the Forgotten Realms. These deities are there. They're powerful but they're not very prominent and that, to me, is very fascinating.
Now, Tiamat, as an entity, is incredibly vain and that's where it also gets really interesting to me is that Tiamat, in her soul at the end of the day, Tiamat looks at creation from her perch in Avernus. She just doesn't understand why people don't naturally just worship her. She is the most majestic and beautiful and amazing, awesome in the sense of like inspiring awe of all creatures, of all gods and yet, where are her worshippers? Isn't this due to her? Shouldn't she rule the world? Shouldn't dragons rule the Material Plane?
Sure, the gods can have the other planes but should the dragons have the Material Plane? Because they are the most powerful of the mortal creatures, they should rule but they don't. Getting at why that's happening and why other creatures have risen and taken their place, why pathetic tiny humans, the vast majority of the surface Faerun is run by humanoids that are nothing compared to a dragon. Why is that? It's one of those big questions. It's like some of the Mind Flayer question of what happened? We don't know yet but maybe someday, we'll find out and maybe someday, if we do, maybe we won't like it.