The ophiduan are an ancient race of serpentine humanoids, whom legend states have walked the earth since before the rise of mammals. In more recent times (though still ancient history), they have mystically crossbred with humans and other humanoids, mixing their blood and abilities, the better to understand, infiltrate, and eventually destroy the civilizations of the modern world.
Although largely humanoid in form, the ophiduan still have the mentality of reptiles. Concepts such as mercy and compromise are unknown to them. They are utterly ruthless, and have little concept of honor. Survival and victory are their only goals, though they are fully capable of employing subtle or deceptive methods to obtain them.
Although ophiduan are intrinsically chaotic, their great intelligence and innate cunning allow them to make use of traps and tactics that are extremely ordered, almost lawful, in their design. They eschew direct confrontation, preferring ambushes, traps, feints, and the like. Where possible, they focus on ranged attacks and spells, if necessary sending mercenaries or slaves into close range while remaining distant from the foe.
All ophiduan have the following abilities, regardless of type.
Immune to Poison (Ex): The ophiduan have strong constitutions, and are immune to any form of natural poison. When exposed to magical sources of poison (such as the poison spell), the ophiduan may make two saving throws, and choose the greater of the two results.Even if they fail both their saves, they suffer only half damage.
Speak with Serpents (Su): Ophiduan can speak with snakes at will, as per the speak with animals spell.
The favored class of the anguineum caste is the paladin of slaughter, an optional chaotic evil paladin (for those without access to the relevant book, replace this class with ranger). The favored class of the semiferum caste is rogue. The favored class of the hominis caste is cleric, with access to any two of the following domains: Animal, Chaos, Destruction, Evil, Magic, and Trickery. Although not a favored class, wizards are also quite prevalent among the hominis caste, and very nearly equal clerics in number.
The ophiduan have a strict caste system, enforced not by societal laws but by physiology. Each of the three subraces has its position in society,and any attempt to rise above it results in swift reprisal from the paranoid ophiduan above them.
The hominis caste is the most recent creation of the ophiduan, the final result of centuries of crossbreeding and experimentation. Due to their enhanced abilities, they were swiftly able to rise to a position of leadership of the ophidian nature, becoming both secular and spiritual leaders. The mighty palaces of the ophidian imperatoris (emperors) double as temples, the imperatoris as priests. They preside over rituals of dark prayers and blood sacrifice, conducted in the name of gods unheard of in civilized lands. Their cities stand in the midst of thick forests, wild jungles, hidden mountain passes, and anywhere else they can hide from the eyes of humanity. Should anyone draw near enough to see, however, the high walls and sweeping arches of their temples are unmistakable. As befits a race of snake-like creatures, their architecture favors tight spaces, ramps or shallow steps, and rooms built with floors and ledges at various heights. Their tools and weapons are similarly built, favoring flexibility and speed over brute force.
In addition to their role as leaders and priests, the hominic caste serves as the face of the ophiduan in their rare political dealings with other races, as only they can pass as humans.The anguineum caste occupies the roles of low-level politicians, military officers, elite soldiers, bodyguards and craftsmen, while the semiferum caste serves as manual laborers, foot soldiers, and gladiators.
Over the course of many centuries, the ophidian have adapted many crafting techniques to suit their unusual natures and specific needs.The prime example of this is ophiduan scale. Built to take advantage of the unusual muscle movements of the ophiduan, this armor shifts and bends with their bodies in ways that armor made by other races cannot.
Ophiduan scale functions as scale mail in all respects save one: It does not reduce the wearer’s speed. Ophiduan scale functions only for an ophiduan of the caste for which it was built. When worn by anyone else, the fit is not precise enough to grant this ability. Similarly, ophidian scale cannot be made for any creatures other than ophiduan; the internal muscle movements do not allow for it.
Ophiduan scale is always masterwork, and costs a total of 500 gp.
The Iconic Bestiary: Classics of Fantasy Copyright 2005, Lions Den Press; Author Ari Marmell