Humans, The Serpent Folk of Ith

“You really have no idea what you’re doing do you? You think that because you’ve won out against these weak northern assassins and spies that you are ready? Haven’t you heard of the Poisoning of Imris? Ithians are bred of a thousand, thousand generations of intrigue. They can whisper so softly in the ear of your best friend that they become the most casual of enemies, a lover becomes crazed attacker, and the unknowing simply follow orders without even know that they are. Worst yet, you will never know who is the quick-witted agent or their dim-witted dupe. Never trust an Ithian, their words are poison and their poisons are worse.”

-Azperi, Bastard Ithian Half-Blood, Mercenary and Duelist

The Ithains are the scions of the Serpent Kings, the descendants of the human slaves of the elder kingdom of the Serpathians. While human in many respects, the miscegenated blood of the Serpathians also flows in their veins, and this has left its reptilian mark. Degenerate and monstrous abominations are occasionally born and hidden away by their families, or used in dark and secretive rituals designed to further the aims of the Eternal Emperor. The Ithians rule over the remnants of the Serpathian Empire, wise in ancient lore and antediluvian secrets – and ever in fear for the return of their ancient masters. They rule as their masters did, though fear and sheer mystical power and psychic force, from oppressive basalt towers and cities in the jungles of Ith over legions of slaves who keep them in decadent and glorious splendor. Considered a cold and dispassionate people of monstrous appetites (literally), capture by Ithian slavers is almost as feared a fate as being taken by the Sh’dai.

Statistic Modifiers: +1 Charisma, +1 Intelligence, -2 Wisdom

Languages: Ithian, Demonspeech

Size, Speed, and Appearance: Ithians are all Medium in Size and their Speed is 30. They stand 4’8″ tall (+2d10″), and weigh 110 lbs (x2d4). Both sexes tend to have a slender and muscular builds, with alabaster or ivory skin – often with scattered fine scales that does not tan in the slightest. They tend towards either human beauty or a monstrous grotesquerie. Body and facial hair is non-existent in Ithian pure-bloods, and they are often bald or have minimal head hair. Those that can grow a head of hear have exceedingly straight locks cultivated very long to show off, usually in black or some shade of white. It is not uncommon for Ithians to have a long forked tongue like a snake, or serpent eyes of amber or green.

Common Dress: In their homeland, Ithian dress is minimalistic, primarily consisting of loincloths, silken robes, and bare skin due to the heat and the desire to flaunt their serpentine traits. In other lands they dress far more modestly, both for warmth and for privacy. Jewelry tends towards body piercings (often mimicking scales), bracelets, and necklaces – though tattooing is uncommon and seen as declassee compared to actual scales.

Lifespan: Ithians are young adults at age 15, considered mature adults at around age 25, and can live up to 250 years of age before they either die or begin to transform into some else... They generally begin play at 13 + 2d4 years of age.

Common Culture: The Ithians are an ancient and proud people of deeply held traditions – and a brutal, decadent society that reflects their own origins as a slave race of the Serpathians. This racial trauma plays out in the treatment of their own slaves, as well as their deeply held paranoia about the Serpathians. The rulers of their own Empire, built upon the ruins of the Serpathians, the Ithians have castes of warriors, priests, sages, nobles, merchants, and slaves. They thrive on secrets and intrigue, deception and indulgence, seeing life as an eternal cycle of life, death, and rebirth – life feeding on itself to beget more life. Bloodlines and family relationships are carefully traced and recorded – though incest and bastardy is common and merely cause for note rather than any automatic disqualification or inherent prejudice. Ithian life is a chaotic and confusing mess of serene and detached contemplation marked by orgiastic frenzies of incest, bloodletting and other debauchery. For the Ithian, all is permitted with the proper ritual, the correct payoff, or the right blackmail.

Common Backgrounds: Ithians are commonly of the Acolyte, Criminal, Harlot, Noble, Outcast, Sage, and Soldier Backgrounds.

Naming Conventions: Ithians have simple given names, with surnames that derive from their caste. Professional and noble titles are considered quite important – and in the lower castes may even be used as a given name or surname. Names are inspired by Indic and Mesoamerican source material.

Common Alignments: While the Ithian Empire is a tradition-rich, even hidebound institution, the indulgent and self-serving nature of Ithian’s themselves, combined with a ruthless desire for power and disregard for the life and freedom of other brings a fair amount of chaos to what would normally be a Lawful Evil society. As a result, individuals that survive and thrive are most commonly Neutral Evil (with the worst offenders being Chaotic Evil) – Chaotic Neutral, Lawful Neutral, and Neutral are also common and probably provide the stability that ancient empire needs to survive. Few Ithians rise above their beginnings to actually have or maintain a Good alignment.

Common Religions: Religion in the Ithian Empire is a curious thing, with ancestor worship through the person of the Eternal Emperor as the representative of the Great Devouring Serpent, being the primary form of organized religion (as an often bloody variant of the Old Faith). Other religions are often ruthlessly suppressed, and the only ones that have any real foothold is the Church of the Lords of Light and the Horned Society.

Common Classes: Ithians prize raw magical and psychic power. Preferred — Monk, Sorcerer, Rogue; Common — Barbarian, Fighter, Warlock; Uncommon — Wizard, Druid, Ranger; Rare — Paladin, Cleric; Very Rare — Bard

Common Professions: Ithian culture is part of a deeply traditional society with tightly regulated caste system. In this system, pure-blooded Ithians sit at the top, almost exclusively of the aristocratic and ruling classes – the middle and lower classes are comprised of Common Men and Ithians of mixed breeding. As a result, Many Ithians have no profession and are used to a life of luxury as a sybarite. Outside of their homeland, Ithians are commonly encountered as merchants and diplomats, occasionally as travelling wizards and sages – alternately they are outcasts due to some political misstep or other infraction on the laws and traditions of the Empire. Ithians can often trade on their race to become poisoners and spymasters for those in other lands.

Racial Traits

Darkvision: Due to their heritage from the Serpent Kings, Ithians can see in dim light up to 30 feet as if it were bright light and in darkness as if it was dim light. They cannot discern color in darkness though, only shades of grey. They also have Blindsight at the range of 10 feet, this does not allow them to discern details of appearance it does allow them discover many features and characteristics.

Serpent Blooded: Ithians are Immune to Poison.

Snake Lords: Ithians are able to communicate with snakes and serpents of all kinds and they are considered to under the effects of an Animal Friendship spell at all times.

Magic Resistance: All Ithians have Advantage on saving throws against spells and magical effects.

Legacy of the Serpent Kings: Strong and innate Psychics, an Ithian’s natural psychic abilities are based on Charisma and do not require material components, and are not considered magic per se. All Ithians have the Prestidigitation, Friends, Message, Mage Hand and Poison Spray Cantrips. Upon reaching 3rd level they may cast Suggestion once per day, they may use it an additional time per day for every odd level after that. All of these are Psychic in nature.

Special Vulnerabilities: Beyond social prejudice and stereotyping from the Common Men and other races, Ithians have Disadvantage on all saving throws against Serpathians. Furthermore, Ithians all suffer from an inbred, psychic Dominate Person effect that any Serpathian can use.

Psionics: Reserved (But Highly Psychic)

Death: Upon death, the spirits of Serpent Folk travel to a large basalt crystalline egg contained in the depths of their family’s stronghold. They may not be Raised or Resurrected (though Revivify and True Resurrection work as normal). If Reincarnated they invariably come back as Serpent Folk, usually some form of horrific abomination or another.

Categories: Campaign Development, Game Design, House Rules | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Humans, The Serpent Folk of Ith

  1. Very interesting take on what D&D would call the Yuan-ti Purebloods. I love the Robert Howard’s Stygia feel to the Ithian civilization. Thanks again for a great post.

    • Yup and you are most welcome! I was really captivated by I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City, and the Yaun-Ti were quickly adapted (though I wasn’t ever really captivated by the Aboleth or Bullywugs or the Mongrelmen which other folks seem to love). I have played the heck out of that module over the years both as a player and as a GM. I’m also big fan of both Howard and Lovecraft (and other early pulp/horror), so there are many parts of my world that are a conscious homage to those sources.

      Much like in the Lovecraft Mythos, the Serpathians (aka Serpent Men) had the crazy psychic biomantic mix of sorcery and science – and they can “pop up” in various ways in the campaign world. Picture Lizardman Archmages with full-bore psychic abilities that start with mind control and go up from there. Their current descendants are the Lizardmen (and Kobolds), and with 5e I’m in the process of figuring out what the relationship of the Dragonborn are to them (if any).

      I know that later editions of D&D really developed the heck out of the Yaun-Ti, but I never played them and so I missed out on those sources. Not that I really care, I’m pretty happy with what I did with them. 🙂


      • I did some design work on the Yuan-Ti for a campaign that never encountered them. It detailed how their linage steadily diverged from human norm. Pure Blood Yuan-Ti were interfertile with Humans and other Pure Bloods and always produced Pure Blood Yuan-ti. If two Pure Bloods had three generations of only Pure Blood ancestors, their child would be a Half Blood. Half Bloods were interfertile with Pure Bloods and such pairings always produced Half Blood offspring. Two Half Bloods with five generations of only Half Blood ancestors would have Abomination offspring. Abominations could have Abomination children with Half Bloods or if two Abominations with five generations of only Abomination ancestors would have Anathema offspring (3E and 4E creatures). It was supposed to make my PCs feel revulsion about the fact that these creatures were once human. I liked the idea that the more demon-snake they became the more they bestial they acted until (thanks for 4E) Anathema were mad engines of destruction. Hope this overly long comment was interesting. 😉

      • Nice! I’ve never bothered to work out the exact nature of Ithian genetics. I tend to think that it’s a dominant “hidden trait” in the same way that the Innsmouth Taint works for Deep Ones (which I also have in my campaign). It can surface in nominally normal Commen Men with an Ithian ancestor – and the degree would determine Pure-Blood or Abomination or something in-between (or worse). I’ve always kind of liked to think about the interplay between physical and spiritual inheritance (like half-elves in Middle-Earth) so there is also this sort of inherent degeneracy or inhumanity that tends to come with the active trait.



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