Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Some Thoughts about The Reptilian Races

Adam M and I have agreed that our Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad setting will not traffic in the "standard" monstrous races of the Worlds Favorite RPG. So, no orcs (instead, "boar people"), no goblins, no kobolds, none of the greenskins at all. A large part of this denial of The Canon is undertaken in an effort to make the world new again, to make the monsters unknown, weird, and, well, monstrous. But there's another part of it that should be considered.

This is a new story. It's not J.R.R. Tolkien's world. It's not the world of those who followed in his (admittedly deep) footsteps. It's Adam's world, my world, and to a great extent, the world of those authors, directors, bloggers, game designers, musicians, and all the others who have influenced our aesthetic and practical choices in creating the Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad setting. It also comes from the discussions we have, which alternate between whole-hearted agreement and and somewhat skeptical agreement at their extremes. For the most part our visions are sympatico, and where I may sometimes go a bit too far toward the gritty-grimdark-concrete spectrum for his tastes, he may sometimes get into the wacky-weird-abstract a bit too much for mine.

That said, I still want to try out his ideas, even if they aren't things I'd think about for my game, and I'm pretty sure he's willing to "go there" with me. And, hell, we often cross the ground in between our more polar tendencies. It's a good working relationship, and has proven extremely productive. We often steal ideas from each other and run with them in a new direction for a while, riffing on a theme just to see what we can come up with. So that's what I'll do here, with the various reptilian races that Adam has posited to exist in our game world. If what I say is in disagreement with what he has said or will say, then it's because the histories are conflicting, and the legends often contradictory. They are both true, and both untrue, and both real for purposes of the game world.

For now, let's consider two of of the Reptilian races: The Lizard Men and the Serpent Men. With each of these races, it's important to understand the following:

They have been around FOREVER. They predate the elves. They may have been contemporaneous with the Old Ones from Beyond the Stars. It's possible that they were here before the Old Ones. It's possible that they were crafted from more primitive stock by the Old Ones, who seemed to enjoy that sort of tinkering.

The remaining reptilians are largely debased from their earlier heights. While there may be some enclaves, particularly among the Serpent Men, that have preserved their old knowledge, most of their remnants are primitive and rely upon what weapons and capacities have been left to them by Nature. Still, there are legends of vast, underground lairs and temple complexes, of primitive human tribes that worship living snake gods, and other, less well-defined stories of the remaining bastions of the Reptilian civilizations. Few give them any credence, because everyone knows the Elves killed all the Reptilians (and they have been saying so, for millenia, to anyone who would listen).

They were displaced by the races that followed them, chiefly the Elves who arrived after them from Elfland, in a parallel plane of existence and became trapped here for some reason. The war between the Elves and the Reptilians was millenia long, and resulted in the age of Elven Ascendancy, where the Dwarves, Men, and Halflings became subject races to their new overlords.

The Lizard Men were great warriors and adventurers. The Serpent Men were great mages and makers.

The Lizard Men preferred a more nomadic existence and were known particularly for their seafaring ways and for the construction of great ports and monuments. The Serpent Men preferred more settled domains and were known for their great seats of learning, industry, and worship.

When the Reptilians were defeated by the Elves and their slave races, the Lizard Men retreated into the deserts and settled on lonely islands. The Serpent Men hid in the jungles and swamps for the most part, and in vast, underground complexes. However, it is said that they also created a hybrid race now know as the Viridians, though they are mostly extinct now, and that some still hide among the Viridians, in the Far West.

There are human cults that worship the Serpent Men as gods, and human warriors and sailors who revere the Lizard Men as totem beasts.

There are still remnants of Reptilian civilizations to be found in the wilderness. In fact, it is said that Ur-Hadad is one such remnant, though it has been built upon, changed, and degraded over time. The Sunken City, though, may be a better representation of what their seats of power really were like.

It is rumored that the Great Wyrms, the dragon folk, are also manifestations of the Reptilian races, and they they represent the truest remaining examples of their power and glory.

There are other legends, stories, and tall tales about the Reptilians, but they are less well known, and probably just a bunch of bullshit anyway. But, you know, my third cousin's wife's best friend claims that she saw something nasty when she was out walking along the edge of the fens down Redflood way, something scaly, with red eyes and claws, and great gaping jaws full of fangs. Bloodcurdling stuff, I tell ya. She does like her drink, though, that one, so who's to say?

Next time, I will write up some ways I might include the Reptilians in gameplay, and a few sample Reptilian "monsters."

For now, though, wise and worldly readers, what other tales have you heard about the Reptilian races? Share in the comments below, or put it up on G+.


  1. You are correct, of course. I guess I mean to say that we're trying to do the basic races of D&D somewhat differently than the canon.