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The Slaa'kar

"Have a care when travelin'
near the swamplands, my friend. No, I don't think that ye catch
my meaning. I expect that ye'll use the sense that Jusarin gave
ye, and stay away from quicksand, crocodiles, and the like.
I'm not talking about bad footing or wild animals... strange
folk make their homes there, but they are not people like you
or me..."


The Swamps of Kedesh. Just hearing the name conjures images of desolation, of treacherous, murky footing, of a lifeless waste that wise travelers avoid at all costs.

Yet this image is not entirely accurate. A wide variety of creatures make their homes in the infamous swamps. Exotic birds not found anywhere else in Antaron nest among the unique foliage. Snakes, crocodiles, and other less pleasant fauna reside in the waterlogged soil. And with these beasts are the Slaa'kar, a misunderstood race of intelligent, reptilian humanoids.

The People: Secretive and cunning, the Slaa'kar inhabit the majority of the Swamps of Kedesh, as well as some of the adjoining lands. Slaa'kar stand from five and a half to six and a half feet in height, and are deceptively heavy for their size, due to a high percentage of muscle mass. Slaa'kar are completely reptilian in appearance, having dark eyes, scaled bodies, and hands and feet that terminate in short claws. The surprisingly soft, supple scales usually come in green, gray, or brown, though other variations have been reported (the most interesting of which includes iridescent blues and silvers). Slaa'karn faces resemble nothing so much as lizards, and all Slaa'kar possess tails. Many physical traits, such as scale color, seem to depend entirely upon the individual Slaa'karn tribe. Slaa'kar can live to be older than humans, though nothing like Khordaldrum or Sylvari; one hundred twenty to one hundred fifty years seems to be the maximum. As do most reptiles, Slaa'kar possess a particularly keen sense of smell.

There appears to be some degree of sexual dimorphism among the Slaa'kar; females are almost always smaller than males, and invariably have less vibrant coloring. Many Slaa'karn males have crests of contrasting colors (red, orange), while females never do.

Slaa'kar are strong, due to their muscular builds, though not quite as agile as some races. They tend to blend in well with natural surroundings, Unlike most humanoid races, which are mammalian, the reptilian Slaa'kar are cold-blooded. This enables Slaa'karn individuals to withstand higher temperatures than most other races, but the flipside to this is that very cold temperatures cause sluggishness, and eventually force Slaa'kar into a torpor. While it is virtually impossible for a Slaa'k to freeze to death, individuals in torpor are completely unaware of their surroundings and unable to do anything whatsoever.

Game Terms (d20): +2 to strength, -2 to dexterity, -2 to charisma.
+1 to AC due to natural armor, -1 to all damage dice from heat. +2 on hide checks.
Favored class: Fighter

Game Terms (OSGS): +1 to strength, -1 to dexterity, -1 to charisma.
-1 to AC due to natural armor, -1 to all damage dice from heat. +10% to hide in shadows.

All: If necessary, Slaa'kar can use their tails in combat, inflicting 1d4 points of damage.

Resisting Torpor (per turn)
Temperature
d20 (fort save)
OSGS (CON check)
+10 C / 50 F
DC 5
+2
0 C / 32 F
DC 10
0
-10 C / 14 F
DC 15
-1
-20 C / -6 F
DC 20
-2
-30 C / -24 F
DC 25
-3
-40 C / -52 F
DC 30
-4

Dress: Slaa'kar have thick, leathery hides, and thus have no need of clothing to protect them from the sun. However, they do tend to wear belts and the like fashioned from animal skins, from which they attach various pouches, weapon sheathes, and similar utilitarian items. Slaa'kar have also been known to wear assorted pieces of purely decorative clothing, such as capes and cloaks fashioned from fur, but this seems to be limited to social situations.

Human modesty is an alien concept to the Slaa'kar, but they will nevertheless wear minimal amounts of clothing to satisfy such artificial customs, if needed. Traditional garmets, even when loose-fitting, are viewed as restrictive and burdensome, however, and are usually quickly abandoned once civilization is left behind.

Culture and Society: Slaa'kar live in small tribal groups which normally consist of physically similar individuals - for instance, all members of a tribe will usually have the same color scales. While the Slaa'kar are aware of their racial identity, and even share many of the same values, beliefs, and myths, there appears to be little loyalty to anyone outside of the individual's immediate tribe. Warring among tribes is a common occurrence, and in some cases, seems to be a veritable way of life.

Some Slaa'karn tribes dwell in caves, while others makes their homes in odd, dome-shaped huts called d'tan. Constructed from mud, d'tan are surprisingly smooth and seamless. While appearing very primitive, these huts are actually quite weatherproof, and can last for decades. The secret of their construction is not shared with outsiders. Perhaps due to the near-xenophobic attitude of many Slaa'karn tribes towards each other, there are no known major settlements in existence.

Slaa'kar are omnivorous, and will eat almost anything aside from carrion. As a civilization, they do not seem to have progressed much beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, so diet often depends largely upon whatever is available at the time. There are numerous tales of humanoid travelers being captured and eaten by Slaa'karn tribes; despite the sensationalist nature of these stories, they should not be lightly regarded, as there is a fair amount of evidence to support them. Some Slaa'kar have been known to supplement their diets by taming swamp fowl and harvesting their eggs, but this sort of activity seems to be the exception, not the rule.

While they do use tools, Slaa'karn technology is virtually nonexistent; their weaponry tends to consist of spears, simple bows, and other primitive armament that can be made from local resources. However, outside items are recognized for their value; steel weapons are particularly prized, and influential members of the tribe will usually carry better armament than the common Slaa'k.

Gender roles seem to be virtually nonexistent among the Slaa'kar. Tribal leadership is provided from the strongest, most able member of the tribe, and powerful, respected members of the tribe can challenge for leadership at any time, though certain rituals must be observed. Ability and strength dictate what responsibilities other individuals may have - strong individuals become warriors, hunters, and workers; the weaker Slaa'kar cook and care for the tribe's young. Family is an alien concept; males compete for the right to mate with the tribe's females, whose young are then cared for by the tribe as a whole.

All knowledge, religious beliefs, and learning are passed vocally from generation to generation. Each tribe has at least one lorekeeper, called an ac'turna, whose job it is to retain the old learning. On nights of the full moon, the tribe gathers together to socialize and share news, and the ac'turna will tell a story of the old days. These lorekeepers are usually easily distinguishable, as they wear feather necklaces to signify their station; they are among the few Slaa'kar who are permitted to travel from tribe to tribe without fear of molestation. Ac'turnar are considered to be something akin to holy, and no Slaa'k will willingly harm one.

Notes - due to lack of a written language, wizards are unknown among the Slaa'kar, though d20 sorcerers (those with innate spell abilities) do occur. Slaa'kar may be druids or clerics, as well.

Trade and Commerce: Slaa'kar have very little economy, in the traditional sense. Trade is hampered by their distrust of those who do not belong to their tribe. However, some barter does occur between members of non-hostile tribes.

There have been occasions of Slaa'kar trading with travelers, though on a strict barter basis, as they have no currency. Weapons, food, and decorative items are all valued by the Slaa'kar, who will in turn provide medicinal plants, exotic animals, and the like - items unavailable outside of the swamps. Again, travelers are warned; while some Slaa'karn tribes are friendly, others can be quite dangerous.

Religion: Slaa'kar are very superstitious, as a race, and attribute all unexplained bad happenings to evil spirits. They view the world as teeming with spirits - animals, plants, even rocks have spirits according to Slaa'karn ideology.

The spiritual needs of Slaa'kar are seen to by a ka'tol, the tribal shaman. Ka'toln interpret the actions of the spirits, and advise the populace on the proper ways to mollify them - most often in the form of minor sacrifices of food or other goods. Naturally, ka'toln garner a very similar level of respect to that granted ac'turnar.

In the cosmic view of the Slaa'kar, there are a few great spirits that overshadow the multitude of lesser ones that inhabit virtually every crevice. Some ka'toln are dedicated specifically to one of these great spirits, and wield abilities comparable to clerics of other cultures. Important great spirits include:

She who Always Steps on Stones
(Shinara)- the spirit of good fortune, often prayed to by Slaa'kar

He who Rules the Skies (Solanis)- Slaa'karn name for the spirit of the beloved sun

She who Brings the Darkness
(Tyrannis)- universally feared, and seen as a bringer of all evil

He who Rides the Storms
(Anskar)- viewed with a mix of respect and healthy fear

He who Stills the Heart
(D'hurgen)- the spirit who comes for each person at life's end

She who Sweetens the Hunt
(Vilathera)- the great huntress who guides game to the Slaa'kar

She who Birthed All People
(Lysora)- the great mother spirit

He who Holds the Secrets
(Jusarin)- the spirit of knowledge, study, and wisdom

Values and Taboos: Slaa'karn society is fairly organized and peaceful, aside from occasional quarrels over leadership or mating. Aside from ac'turnar and ka'toln, who hold special positions within society, individual worth is measured almost exclusively through physical strength and cunning. The good of the tribe is considered to be above the good of the individual, and all members are expected to either do their share or leave the tribe. As other Slaa'karn tribes are not likely to be friendly to outsiders, those that leave the tribe usually resort to becoming loners, or seeking the company of other races.



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Thanks to Olan Suddeth for this contribution!

 


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