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The yuan-ti are a fictional species of evil snakemen in the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. The species comprises a number of castes. In some campaign settings, the yuan-ti are descended from evil human cultists who mixed their bloodlines with those of serpents. They have formidable psychic abilities.
- 1 Publication history
- 2 Licensing
- 3 Description
- 4 Society
- 5 Associated creatures
- 6 Yuan-ti in various campaign settings
- 7 Other media
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Additional reading
The yuan-ti were introduced to the D&D game in the first edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition (1977–1988)
The original yuan-ti castes were the abominations, the halfbreeds, and the purebloods, which first appeared in the module Dwellers of the Forbidden City (1981), and were all later featured in the first edition Monster Manual II (1983).
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition (1989–1999)
The yuan-ti first appear in Monstrous Compendium Volume One (1989), and is reprinted in the Monstrous Manual (1993), along with the abomination yuan-ti, the halfblood yuan-ti, and the pureblood yuan-ti.
Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 edition (2000–2002)
The broodguard yuan-ti, the human broodguard yuan-ti, the tainted one yuan-ti, and the human tainted one yuan-ti for the Forgotten Realms setting appeared in Monsters of Faerun. The pureblood yuan-ti and the tainted one yuan-ti were presented as player character races in Races of Faerûn (2003).
The yuan-ti was detailed again in Dragon #305 (March 2003), in "Venom and Coil: The Secret Life of the Yuan-Ti". The yuan-ti abomination, the yuan-ti halfblood, and the yuan-ti pureblood are presented as player character races in this article.
The yuan-ti anathema appears in the Fiend Folio for this edition (2003).
The broodguard yuan-ti, the human broodguard yuan-ti, the tainted one yuan-ti, and the human tainted one yuan-ti appeared again in Ghostwalk (2003).
Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition (2003–2007)
The yuan-ti, broodguard, pureblood yuan-ti, and tainted one were presented as player character races for the Forgotten Realms setting in Serpent Kingdoms (2004). This book also included the yuan-ti holy guardian and the yuan-ti mageslayer.
Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition (2008–)
The fourth edition Monster Manual mentions three types of yuan-ti, offering a total of five creatures. The origin of the yuan-ti is never discussed, but their patron is confirmed as Zehir. It offers the yuan-ti malison sharp-eye, the yuan-ti malison incanter, the yuan-ti malison disciple of Zehir, the yuan-ti abomination and the yuan-ti anathema.
Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition
The yuan-ti appears in the Fifth Edition Monster Manual (2014). Volo's Guide to Monsters (2016) offers aditional information, as well as the traits for Yuan-ti Pureblood player characters.
- Purebloods appear mostly human, with minor reptilian features, such as slitted eyes, a forked tongue, or patches of scales on their skin. They serve as diplomats and infiltrators, pretending to be human, both because of their skill and to avoid yuan-ti of other castes, who look down on them.
- Halfbloods (or malisons in fourth and fifth editions) are humanoid in shape but have a wide variety of noticeable serpentine features, such as a snakelike tail in place of legs, a complete covering of scales, a hood like a cobra, a snake's head, or snakes in place of arms. Halfbloods serve as warriors and temple assistants.
- Abominations are almost completely snakelike, with only a few human features, such as arms or a humanoid head. They are the most venerated within the yuan-ti society, serving as clerics and in other roles of power.
In addition to the three main breeds, other breeds have been described as well:
- Tainted ones are human agents of the yuan-ti who have willingly undergone a ritual of transformation to make themselves yuan-ti, gaining a venomous bite and slight psionic ability. They retain their human appearance but often develop reptilian mannerisms, such as frequently licking their lips or drawing out sibilant sounds as they speak. They first appeared in Monstrous Compendium: Monsters of Faerûn.
- Broodguards, also known as histachii, are humans who have undergone the ritual of transformation but have been found unworthy, degenerating into hairless, near-mindless reptilian monsters. The yuan-ti employ these wretches as watchers over egg-broods and other demeaning tasks. They first appeared as the histachii in Dragon Magazine #151 ("The Ecology of the Yuan-ti" by David Wellham, 1989).
- Holy guardians are a rare breed specifically bred as temple guards; they are also sent on missions to obtain needed goods for abomination priests. Holy guardians are naturally servile and follow their superiors without question. They uniformly have a serpentile tail in place of legs and a snakelike head. They first appeared in Serpent Kingdoms.
- Mageslayers, another rare type of yuan-ti, are bred for the special purpose of battling or hunting down human magic-users, and most of their abilities are magical rather than psionic. Mageslayers have a humanlike head but a snakelike tail instead of legs. They first appeared in Serpent Kingdoms.
- Anathemas are by far the most powerful and loathsome of yuan-ti, worshiped as divine incarnations of Merrshaulk. They are truly bizarre in appearance, with a body made of hundreds of snakes entwined together to hold up a gargantuan snake head. An anathema's power dwarfs even that of an abomination, but since they represent such unfettered chaos, they are usually found away from yuan-ti cities, establishing cults that worship Merrshaulk through them. They make a common practice of grafting yuan-ti body parts onto humans and other races for use as personal servants. Anathemas are extremely rare, however, and only a handful are likely to exist on any world. They first appeared in the Third Edition version of the Fiend Folio.
- Ignans are another rare subspecies of yuan-ti that dwell in hotter climes of the world, including in volcanoes and on the Elemental Plane of Fire. Ignas are similar to yuan-ti halfbloods, except they are slightly more powerful due to some of the fire spells they wield. Ignans were first described in Monster Manual IV.
- Wretchlings are pathetic creatures created out of humans and used as guards and expendable shock troops by the yuan-ti. They are unintelligent and wander throughout the jungles of Xen'drik. Wretchlings have no memory of their former human lives and have a savage desire to kill, though they lack the intellect for complex strategies unless carefully instructed by their masters. Wretchlings look like scaly humans with fangs, reptilian eyes and patchy hair. They first appeared in Secrets of Xen'drik.
In addition, there is a sub-faction of Yuan-ti, the Vanguard of Sertrous (outlined in Elder Evils), who follow the teachings of the ancient obyrinth Sertrous, sometimes known as the first heretic, who wish to assist him in reconquering his layer of the Abyss.
Yuan-ti society as described The Ecology of the Yuan-Ti, Dragon #151, 1989 was divided into the pureblood, halfbreed and abomination castes. The histachii were described as the progenitors of the yuan-ti. It was necessary for the yuan-ti to acquire human captives to turn into histachii, as breeding between any of three yuan-ti castes resulted only in abominations, while histachii could produce purebloods and halfbreeds.
In 5th edition, there is no god who patrons the yuan-ti, but the Monster Manual lists Dendar, the Night Serpent, Merrshaulk, Master of the Pit, and Sseth, the Sibilant Death, as their gods, and reinvents them as a transhuman species who originally viewed snakes as the epitome of logic and stoic behavior, building cults to the serpent gods who gave them the knowledge to ritually breed with snakes, creating their race. They seek to rebuild their ancient empires through manipulation, such as awe, pleasure and terror, promising wealth and power. They build cults and seek to achieve great power in order to devour and supplant their gods.
There are several reptiloid creatures closely associated with the yuan-ti that are not yuan-ti themselves:
- Extaminaars are the result of interbreeding between yuan-ti and humans and have so far only been seen in the Forgotten Realms setting. They came to be after human cultists of the snake-goddess Varae began consorting with yuan-ti in the region surrounding the city of Hlondeth. Members of the leaders of the two groups, the yuan-ti of House SeSehen and the humans of House Extaminos, intermarried, producing more yuan-ti, who quickly came to dominate House Extaminos and Hlondeth itself. To create a corps of loyal troops, as well as to ease relations with their human subjects and serve as the house's public face, the Extaminos yuan-ti created the extaminaars, a new race blending human and yuan-ti abilities. Extaminaars are born resembling scaled, armless human babies with undefined facial features, but grow to resemble thin, pale humans with straight black hair and brownish spots on their neck and back. Extaminaars outside Hlondeth serve as diplomats, spies, and interrogators for their yuan-ti creators. They excel at stealth and deception and often form cells to undermine governments and organizations antipathetic to their masters. Rogue extaminaars are often found as crime bosses and information brokers. Only the second generation of Hlondeth extaminaars has come to maturity, and other yuan-ti houses are starting to create extaminaars of their own. Extaminaars first appeared in the Forgotten Realms sourcebook Champions of Ruin.
- Ti-khana are reptiles, such as snakes, lizards, and dinosaurs, that have been altered by the yuan-ti. Ti-khana are far more intelligent than the creatures from which they are created, and possess both the psionic abilities and cruel disposition of their yuan-ti creators. They appear more snakelike than their mundane ancestors, appearing somewhat elongated, with venomous fangs. The ti-khana first appeared in the Third Edition version of the Fiend Folio, with a ti-khana deinonychus showcased as an example. Ti-khana elasmosaurs are also mentioned fleetingly in Serpent Kingdoms.
- Ophidians are an unrelated race of serpent-people who are nonetheless commonly associated with the yuan-ti. In the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, the ophidians are said to be snake-worshiping human cultists who discovered a powerful yuan-ti relic that transformed them into degenerate reptilian humanoids. Ophidians are not very intelligent, and are easily impressed by shows of power by yuan-ti, evil nagas, and dragons, whom they frequently serve as willing slaves. Their most potent weapon is their venom, which can change humans into degenerate ophidians. Most ophidians worship their yuan-ti masters as gods.
- Histachii are savage creatures who were once human prisoners, but were transformed into reptillian-humanoids by their yuan-ti captors via the drinking of a potion of yuan-ti venom mixed with other ingredients. The resulting savage and mindless creature serves no purpose other than as fodder for the yuan-ti; to run headlong into opposing foes, to guard the brood chambers, to tear apart any non reptillian creature they see. Those too old or stupid to be of any use, or those too powerful for the yuan-ti to control, are left on the surface to rot and die.
- Ssvaklors are a type of serpentine dragon created by yuan-ti using special rituals on a dragon egg, typically that of a black dragon. Ssvaklors are less intelligent than even humans and, like true dragons (a group of which they are not a part), have a breath weapon: a cone of poisonous gas. They are typically green and black in colour. Greater ssvaklors also exist, though they are simply a more powerful version of the "standard" ssvaklor with the ability to spit globs of poison to their foes. Like yuan-ti, ssvaklors' serpentine nature makes them natural swimmers. They are normally met in the company of yuan-ti and are often used as guardians by them. Ssvaklors first appeared in the Monster Manual III.
Yuan-ti in various campaign settings
Yuan-ti in Eberron
While the yuan-ti do not feature as prominently in Eberron as in some other settings, they still have some significance and influence, especially in Xen’drik. Yuan-ti in Eberron worship the Devourer.
Yuan-ti in Khorvaire
Yuan-ti in Xen’drik
The yuan-ti have many forest and underground bases in Xen'drik, since it is their main power base on Eberron. The yuan-ti of Xen’drik create wretchlings, ssvaklors and magebred vipers to guard their strongholds on that continent.
Yuan-ti in Argonnessen
After fleeing from the Inspired in Sarlona, many yuan-ti settled in Argonnessen, with the approval of some dragons. It was this union that gave rise to the ssvaklors. After a while, the yuan-ti were banished to Xen’drik, where they became evil and corrupt.
Yuan-ti in Sarlona
The yuan-ti native to Sarlona fled before the Inspired, sailing to the other three continents. Whether or not there are still yuan-ti in Sarlona is unknown.
The shulassakar, or feathered serpents, are a race of lawful good-aligned yuan-ti native to the ruins of Krezent in the Talenta Plains. The shulassakar revere the couatl and the Silver Flame. They resemble yuan-ti, but are covered with feathers (and, in some cases, wings), emphasising their connection to the couatl. Pureblood shulassakar are called bloodsworn, halfbloods are called flametouched and abominations are called transcendents. It is unknown if other kinds of shulassakar exist.
Notable yuan-ti in Eberron
The shulassakar transcendent paladin Sesstaria wanders Xen’drik, seeking out and killing yuan-ti, considering it her holy mission.
Yuan-ti in the Forgotten Realms
Long before humans dominated the continent of Faerûn, the Creator Races ruled Toril. The reptilian Creator Race, the sauroids, or sarrukh, were foremost amongst these and built up empires such as Okoth, Isstosseffifil and Mhairshaulk. They bred the first yuan-ti by magically experimenting with and breeding men with snakes. This way they also created nagas, and through a similar process, lizardmen. The sarrukh eventually fell from power and the resourceful yuan-ti rose up to claim their Creators' power vacuum, even for while sustaining the empire of Mhairshaulk. Of the fragmented World Serpent deity that the sarrukh had worshipped, the yuan-ti venerated the strongest aspect, a cruel and despotic deity, Merrshaulk, who grew distant and aloof.
As the yuan-ti's power became less visible on Faerûn, and they instead fell to infiltrating human and demihuman society through their organisations (such as the Coiled Cabal and the various tribes and Houses) and long-sighted plots, Merrshaulk had sunk into a slumber, ignoring his followers. Eventually, around the time of the collapse of the human empire of Netheril, Merrshaulk himself was also reborn as a winged yuan-ti avatar named Sseth, who led the yuan-ti into reclaiming the empire of Mhairshaulk as a new yuan-ti empire—Serpentes—became the yuan-ti's new primary deity. In the end, though, Sseth too sank into somnolence.
At this point some sarrukh, long suffering a heavy war on other planes or sunken in hibernation in their ruins, began to return in some numbers. They crucially needed help from their deity, but Sseth was not answering prayers in his slumber. So for aid in their endeavors some of the sarrukh made a bargain with the Mulhorandi deity Set, that put Sseth into a deeper sleep but allowed Set to assume Sseth's mantle and grant the sauroids their aid. Most yuan-ti do not even know of this transaction, though now that Sseth struggles at his bonds some are being made aware of it.
Famous yuan-ti in the Forgotten Realms include Zstulkk Ssarmn of the ruthless trade and slaving consortium the Iron Ring; his nephew Nhyris D'Hothek, one time possessor of the Crown of Horns; the Serpent Sibyl, whose body was used as Sseth's avatar during the Time of Troubles; the ruling House Extaminos family of Hlondeth, and the very powerful Scion, Zelia, who was featured prominently in the trilogy, "House of Serpents."
Yuan-ti in Greyhawk
In the World of Greyhawk campaign setting, the yuan-ti are found mainly on the continent of Hepmonaland, where they dwell in a number of ruined cities. They are said to have been created from the human Olmans by a snake-headed god named Tlaloc, whose relationship with Merrshaulk is unknown. Yuan-ti play a significant role in the adventure, Dwellers of the Forbidden City.
Yuan-ti play significant roles in various Dungeons & Dragons computer games. In Neverwinter Nights, a Yuan-ti is one of the four creatures the player must recapture to create a cure for a disease that is rampant across the city. They also play a major role in Icewind Dale, where they are ruled by a marilith named Yxunomei. In Icewind Dale II they are a late game enemy who have overrun the town of Kuldahar and must be repelled, back through the portal they arrived in, as well as being present in the 'Dragon's Eye' cave system. There is a side quest that involves a yuan-ti researcher who requires help in modifying the histachii transformation to retain his mind so he may examine the yuan-ti at close quarters. Yuan-ti appear as the main villain group in the expansion Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir.
Yuan-ti also appear in the Dungeons and Dragons Miniatures Game.
Yuan-ti also have a full region series of sidequests in the Ringing Mountains in Dark Sun: Wake of the Ravager.
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