Nick recently commented on a scenario in which the dragon that his group was all anxious about and ready to kill politely challenged them to a game of chess.
One thought his post raises is how differently people consider dragons. "Dragons", probably more than any other fantasy character/element, calls up vastly different assumptions from different people.
Even though my first image of a dragon was probably Tolkien's dragon Smag in the old The Hobbit cartoon movie, I prefer dragons to be just powerful and intelligent animals (like the one in the movie Dragonslayer - my second dragon experience)... creatures which can't communicate with humans. Other gamers would be extremely disappointed if a game's dragon didn't talk.
Expectations are tricky. That old cartoon also gave me my first goblins. Goblins there are big, powerful, ferocious and truly frightening (if dumb). I like EQ2's goblin models, but I would have preferred them to be more seriously toned.
What's the best way to handle the diverse expectations when dealing with familiar creature types?
Is it fine to rub against the grain; to expect gamers to push past their assumptions and accept the gameworld for what it is? Is it best to invent your own creatures, but make them resemble known creatures in name and in model? Or should the resemblance be visual only? Or is it better to invent entirely new entities which could only fit in your unique gameworld?
Honestly, I don't think there's one right answer that applies to all fantasy or sci-fi games. But I'd be interested in hearing what route others would choose.