I am creeped right the hell out by snakes. In fact, I have a theory that everyone is either afraid of things with too many legs (more than 4) or too few (less than 2.) I fall in the too few category. There is simply something alien and seemingly malicious about serpents I feel this way even though one of my friends pointed out that snakes are simply too stupid to be malicious. And I know that reptiles are only a step above (and that’s iffy) fish and insects and that insects are basically nature’s robots with no real awareness and only rudimentary programming.
One of my earliest memories of a movie is being terrified of James Earl Jones and the way he transformed into a giant snake in Conan the Barbarian (the original one, with Arnorld Schwarzenegger.)
Somehow, nonetheless, snake people have become a prominent part of my role-playing life. I actually blame Legend of the Five Rings. By the time I caved in and bought a deck, all the other clans had already been claimed by my friends. All that was left was the Naga. That didn’t bother me too much, though because the Naga were outsiders who did not fit into the Japanese sense of duty and honor (or our western ideals of Japanese sense of duty and honor) that I’ve never really bought into.
Even when we moved from the card game to the role-playing game, I stuck with Naga. Then, when I started creating my own world, I pulled the Naga with me. So, my game universe, the one that I use in the campaign that I’m running and what I carry with me into some con and internet games includes the Naga. Of course, the Naga in my game resemble the stereotypical Asian culture.
Even beyond that, I’ve added another level, the Draga. Draga, obviously enough, are half-Naga half-dragons, either directly or the descendents of several generations of Dragas. As with all half-dragon creatures in my universe, the Draga have 6 limbs (though because of the nature of their bodies, two of these limbs are vestigial and hidden in their tails.) They also have more draconic features like spines and fins.
Related, thematically, if not in fact, are Saurians. Lizard folk are a staple in most fantasy campaigns. They end up with any number of names and styles with some of the most memorable for me being from the Warhammer Fantasy world.
My name for them are Saurians, and they are the usual primitive lizard folk, though they span the range of anthropomorphized lizards. Some of them are swamp dwellers like alligators and others are desert dwellers. They are also integrated into the society of the Empire that forms the core of my game world, so they are unusual within the Empire. Even with the technology and culture surrounding them, they are simply mentally incapable of truly learning and utilizing it.
Mostly. With inspiration from Spelljammer (which inspires my whole campaign and is a central part of it) some Saurians are incubated closer to their sun (actually orbiting it on a derelict ship especially for that purpose) and this means that they are inherently smarter than their more primitive fellows. The closer a Saurian incubates to a star, the more advanced they are.
The nice thing about using such broad categories as inspiration for races as “snakes” and “lizards” is that so many radically different creatures fit in those categories. Snakes can be anything from the innocuous grass snake in the backyard to a deadly cobra or aquatic anaconda. Lizards can include crocodiles, iguanas and even the little chameleons in most people’s backyards. And if you don’t want to be too strict, you can even take inspiration from amphibians.
These differences can simply be character or story driven with the character having any sorts of coloration or physical decorations and personality quirks a player wants to throw in. On the other hand, these physical differences can have mechanical consequences in the game, as well. In fact, entire bloodlines can be created with these differences in mind and can be used as a sort of template over the basic racial abilities for character creation.
So, here are the Naga and Saurians from my campaign as well as a few heritage edges to make them unique and a Saurian bloodline to further specialize them.
Naga are native to the Shan continent, though a large contingent of them defected to the Almati Confederation long before the Ravnivori invasion. Like the dwarves and humans of Shan their culture is based upon duty, tradition and honor. However, Nagas’ views of honor differs from both of the other two races. They see nothing wrong with attacking from ambush or using subterfuge to ensure success. Naga have humanoid torsos with long, snakelike tails instead of legs. They range in length from 9’ to 12’. Their skin is scaled, the scales on their tails large while those on their torsos, arms and heads are much finer. Scale color ranges from green to brown and black with gray appearing on occasion and very rarely red. Various patterns, such as stripes, chevrons and diamonds decorate their scales and their underbellies are often a lighter shade or entirely different color from their backs. However, Naga have some control over their coloration and can manipulate the hue of their scales to help them blend into their environment. Their eyes are yellow, red, green or black and their hair is dark; black, blue, green or purple. Naga use large, heavily curved blades, spears and polearms, weapons that allow them to use their unique body structures to make quick strikes and retreat before a counter attack can be mustered. They, like all Shan dislike shields and they seldom wear armor. When they do, it is always light, often made of bamboo, but never restrictive of their ability to swim or climb. However, their true forte lies in archery. Naga are master bow makers, capable of making short and long bows as well as composite and compound bows of all sizes. Naga archers are rightly feared throughout the Empire.
Serpentine Dexterity: Naga are deft and agile creatures and receive a d6 in Agility.
Large: Due to their looping coils, Naga are larger than most other humanoids and gain a +1 to toughness.
Blending: Because their skin is often naturally camouflaged and they are raised knowing when to be still and be quiet, Naga are adept at hiding and get a d6 in Stealth for free.
Bloodthirsty: Naga have a rather stark view of the world and are loathe to leave potential enemies to endanger them again. They never take prisoners unless ordered to do so by someone of authority and no Naga commander will ever do so.
Snake Tail: While their unusual body structures don’t slow the Naga in most situations, few other races design their architecture to accommodate the creatures. A Naga must succeed on an agility check to climb a ladder or rope (or the rigging of a ship, for that matter,) and even then can move at only half the speed of most races. Stairs present a similar obstacle and they can only move half speed up or down them unless they succeed at an agility check.
Cultures: Most Naga are Shan, though there is a relatively large colony in Almatia that has been there long enough that the members have adopted much of Almatian culture, thus Naga may choose either Shan or Almatia as their culture.
Saurians originate in the swamps that dominate the south western shores of Almatia. Despite several centuries of dealing with civilized races, Saurians remain primitive in many ways. They are superstitious and have a difficult time understanding complex ideas or creating any but the most rudimentary of tools. However, they are quite strong and tough and thus make excellent warriors. Saurians are generally taller than humans ranging in size from 6’ to 7’ in height and they are much more heavily muscled, though not bulkier. Their skin is thick and scaled with bony plates and ridges along their spines, backs, shoulders, arms and legs. Their eyes are yellow or red. Saurians’s skin is meant to blend into their swampy homes and can be varying shades of green, yellow, brown and gray. Their heads are large with powerful jaws filled with jagged teeth. Their hands and feet are clawed and webbed and they have thick tails. Saurians generally use primitive weapons such as crude clubs, axes and spears made out of wood, bone and stone. They carry shields made from wood, often covered in some easily malleable metal or hide. They also manufacture simple bows.
Scaly Hide: Saurians’ tough skins give them a +2 armor bonus to toughness.
Toothy Maw: The fang filled mouth of a Saurian can be used as a weapon. A bite from a Saurian deals Strength + d6 damage.
Powerfully Muscled: A Saurian’s thick muscle mass give it a d6 in strength to begin.
Slow Witted: Saurian’s are not as clever as other races and it takes two points per rank to raise their Smarts during creation. Additionally, they are incapable of ever rising above a d10 in smarts.
Slow Footed: Saurians’ bulk and stooped posture work against them, making them slower than most races. A Saurian’s pace is only 5.
Cultures: Though “culture” is a somewhat generous description for what passes in Saurian lands, these creatures can chose either Almatian or Shan culture.
Heritage edges are specialized background edges that require that a character be from a specific race or one of a few races before they can take it.
Requirements: Novice, Naga or Saurian, Swimming d6+
Your body is naturally adapted to the water. Though you cannot breath water, you are able to hold your breath for far longer than others. You gain a fatigue level for every 15 minutes you hold your breath. On reaching Incapacitated, make a Vigor roll every minute or drown. Fatigue levels are regained at a rate of 1 for every 15 minutes back in air. Additionally, you may use your swimming score as your pace when you are moving through water.
Requirements: Novice, Naga, Vig d8+
Much like your Saurian cousins, your skin is tough and thick and skins gives you a +2 armor bonus to toughness.
Requirements: Novice, Saurian or Naga with Scaly Hide Edge, Vig d8+
Your scales are thicker than most of your kind and may feature spikes and ridges. This adds an additional +2 to your armor value.
Requirements: Novice, Naga, Str d8+
Your mouth features a pair of large fangs and sharp rows of smaller teeth. Your fang filled mouth can be used as a weapon and deals Strength + d6 damage.
Requirements: Novice, Saurian or Naga with the Bite Edge, Vig d8+
In addition to your fangs, you possess a pair of poison sacs that can pump venom into your target on a successful bite. Your victim must make an immediate vigor check or be paralyzed.
Requirements: Novice, Saurian or Naga with the Bite Edge, Vig D8+, Poisonous Bite
The venom you inject is particularly potent. The check to resist the paralysis caused by your poison is done at a -2.
Requirements: Novice, Naga or Saurian, Str d6+
Your tail is either particularly well muscled or features a bony knob or spikes that allow it to be used as a weapon. You may use it to do Str + d6 damage.
Requirements: Novice, Naga or Saurian, Spi d6+
Your tail features a number of hollow bony rattles. This can be shaken rapidly to generate a bone chilling noise that strikes fear in the hearts of those who hear it. This provides you with a d6 in Intimidation and a +2 to any Intimidation checks made when you can use the unsettling effect of your rattling tail.
Requirements: Novice, Naga or Saurian, Vig d6+
Whether a neck hood, throat sack or your entire torso, you are capable of expanding a part of your body in a threatening way. Most creatures are inherently intimidated by larger creatures and your expanded body part features a striking pattern as well. This provides you with a d6 in Intimidation and a +2 to any Intimidation checks made against creatures when you can use your expanded feature.
And here are two heritage Hindrances that can apply to the Scaly inhabitants of the Ravnivori Empire.
Requirement: Naga or Saurian
You are more reptilian than other members of your species. You retain much of the cold blooded nature of your primitive ancestors and are heavily influenced by your environment. You receive a -4 to resist both heat and cold environmental effects as your metabolism is heavily influenced by your surroundings.
Your scales are not as thick as those of most Saurians. In fact, they are hardly thicker than those of the soft skins around you. You do not have the +2 armor value common to your race.
And below is a Saurian Bloodline. It is balanced so that a player creating a new character can treat it as their race rather than picking Saurian and still take Edges and Hindrances as normal.
The Poqui split from their Saurian cousins millennia ago when their ancestors ended up stranded on a large island many miles from the coastal swamps that their fellows continue to inhabit. How they ended up on this island is something of a mystery. The Poqui believe that they were magically transported there by Tusquanah as a reward. Many other Saurians also believe the Poqui were delivered there by Tusquanah but as a punishment.
It is generally believed by the scholars of most other races that the Poqui were shipwrecked on their island either after an early, botched attempt by their race to create seagoing vessels (an attempt that would not be repeated) or after being captured by a seafaring race as potential slaves.
Separated from their kin, the Poqui adapted to their new home and started to change in distinct ways. For quite some time, they were left entirely alone, with only the rarest interaction with other sentient races. It was not until the Ravnivori invasion of Almatia that they became a part of the outside world again. Their island home, while outside of the normal trade routes of Almatia, was in a direct path of the Ravnivori fleets.
In true Imperial form the Ravnivori less conquered the Poqui and more assimilated them. Bringing the natives all the wonderful technology and comforts that the Empire could offer, they managed to induct the Saurians into their nation.
Though they had no ships of their own, the Poquis’ inherent and fearless climbing skills and their amphibious natures, they were valued as sailors. Before long, many of them had a taste for sailing and had developed a taste for piracy. They managed to get their hands on ships through a variety of means and several famous and infamous pirates and privateers sailed before the end of the Almatian invasion.
Despite the fact that they can easily interbreed with more common Saurians, the Poqui have remained a separate bloodline, many of them remaining and intermarrying within the other natives of their home island.
Over the centuries of their seclusion, the Poquis have developed very specific traits. They are smaller than most Saurians and have lost the thickness of their scales. They have long, deft fingers and large, protruding eyes. They are equally at home in the trees and in the oceans surrounding their island home.
Toothy Maw: The fang filled mouth of a Poqui can be used as a weapon. A bite from a Poqui deals Strength + d6 damage.
Powerfully Muscled: A Poqui’s thick muscle mass give it a d6 in strength to begin.
Slow Witted: Poqui’s are not as clever as other races and it takes two points per rank to raise their Smarts during creation. Additionally, they are incapable of ever rising above a d10 in smarts.
Slow Footed: Poquis’ splay footed gate and stooped posture work against them, making them slower than most races. A Poqui’s pace is only 5.
Amphibious: Poquis are naturally adapted to the water. They cannot breath water, but are able to hold their breath for far longer than Saurians. They gain a fatigue level for every 15 minutes they hold theirr breath. On reaching Incapacitated, make a Vigor roll every minute or drown. Fatigue levels are regained at a rate of 1 for every 15 minutes back in air. Additionally, they may use their swimming score as their pace when they are moving through water.
Diminutive: Poquis are smaller than other Saurians and most sentient species, in general. They are approximately the size of a human child and thus have a -1 Toughness.
Tree Huggers: Poquis have developed a rather unique hunting style that focuses on stalking prey in and from the tree tops of their thick jungle homes. Taught from hatching to scale trees and move hide, they start with a d6 in both Climbing and Stealth.
Cultures: The Poquis’ culture is as different from their Saurian kin as their appearance. Traditionally, they have hunted as much in the water as in trees and since the coming of sailing vessels have taken to ships wholeheartedly. Poquis may start with a d4 in either Swimming or Boating.