Atlas   Rules   Resources   Adventures   Stories       FAQ   Search   Links



Lizard men (lizardfolk) in Mystara

by JTrithen

It had been instigated by a player wanting to play a dragonborn (5E class) in my Mystara world. But, not having dragonborn (and not allowing it), I was going to have him play a lizard man -- or lizard folk (the 5E term).

Anyhoo....
I did a bunch of work in researching lizard men across a few D&D editions and their presence (and versions) in Mystara (again, several editions).

And, I also found that a kind of template can be applied for 5E to play the lizard man as a race.

But, I wanted to share a bit about what I found out about the race on Mystara, in my research.
Here are the sources I researched, below....

5E Monster Manual
Rules Cyclodpedia Lizard Man monster
AD&D Monster Manual
'Thunder Rift' Lizard Man info. (from "The Dragon's Den" adventure supplement)
HOLLOW WORLD boxed set lizard man class (and race) (Also, Dragon Magazine #172, in the VotPA article, letters section)
"Shazak" lizard man race (VotPA, Dragon Magazine#185, in this article regarding the Squamous Kingdomes, and the Kingdom of Shazak)
AD&D Savage Coast "Shazak" playable lizard man race and Kingdom of Shazak (from the AD&D Savage Coast 'Campaign Books "Characters of the Savage Coast" and "An Atlas of the Savage Coast;" also checked the AD&D 2nd Edition version too, which had little to no differences)

Some findings and observations are below.

- Interestingly, in the Rules Cyclopedia, it states some lizard men speak a little Common; and (it states) that it's possible [for characters] to communicate with lizard men that can talk. This suggests that only some lizard men can talk.
- The HOLLOW WORLD boxed set states that the lizard man class is stated to be identical to the lizard man of the Basic D&D game.
- In the Dragon Magazine #172 reply to a letter (by Bruce Heard), it's again stated that the lizard man of the hollow world boxed set is the same as that of the normal lizard man. And, Bruce does on to give some adjustments for the abilities for the lizard man, using GAZ10 rules.
- In Dragon Magazine #185 (on the Squamous Kingdoms), the ability score adjustments are slightly different, and some special abilities are listed, for the lizard men of Shazak. An additional ability to hide in swamp vegetaiton and infravision are the 2 abillities listed.
Also, in the history of the Shazak (in both Dragon Magazine and in the AD&D Savage Coast products), it's important to note that all of the lizard men of Mystara came from the original stock of lizard men that were created by the wizards of Herath -- these lizard men disseminated all over Mystara. But the Shazak lizard men that evolved (staying behind in the lands of Shazak) become tougher and more cunning. So, this separates this type of lizard man as a separate breed or subspecies.
- The lizard men were created by the Herathians about 3,000 B.C.
- in the HOLLOW WORLD boxed set, it is very specific about webbing that the lizard men have [between digits on their hands and feet], and this differentiates them from the desert-dwelling species. So, again this suggests that there is another species besides the amphibious one. (Aaron Allston does such a great job of delineating all the races and cultures of the Hollow World, in these books. It is such a great product!) Most of the products describe lizard men as an amphibious type of lizard.
- Another interesting tidbit: In the "Basic" D&D and AD&D editions, the lizard man can swim 120' (40'), and has a land movement of 90' (30'). In 5th edition, the swimming movement rate is reduced to 30 (matching the land movement speed).
- Otherwise, there are 2 main other themes that are pretty common among several of the editions/products (if not necessarily in all of them; they overlap a bit, but differe slightly between different presentations):
Lizard men are very neutral, and often very mercenary, both literally and in their attitudes. They don't easily establish trust with other races, and actually are not very social at all from a "normal" humanoid perspective (quite an "alien" type of race). They are often driven by base instincts of needs of and rewards for food; their culture often involves great feasts (which may or may not include humanoids -- i.e., player characters -- as the main course).
[EDIT] This is one more unusual finding I omitted: In the section regarding languages in the AD&D Savage Coast product, it states that the Shazak language is nearly identical to the Malpheggi language used by the more civilized lizard folk in the rest of the world [emphasis added]. This contradicts the historical evoluation of the Shazak, indicated that they (the Shazak) were "more advanced" then their counterparts that had spread throughout the rest of Mystara.

Some conclusions or ideas that I have come up with are outlined below.

As far as the RC description, I would interpret the meaning to be that lizard men don't "talk" in the conventional sense. They have their own language, and it sounds very much like hissing, screeching, low guttural tones, and so on, to "humanoid" ears. This would be an interpretation by the humanoid races (humans, demi-humans, and probably also goblinoids, and similar races).

I think there are then 3 subspecies of lizard men.
The common amphibious lizard man: this is the one that disseminated over most of Mystara.
The more-evolved Shazak lizard man.
The desert-dwelling subspecies.

One question remains as to WHERE the desert-dwelling subspecies would be found, both in the Mystaran current year and in Mystara's past.
One way to determine this is to first establish where some major concentrations of lizard men society have existed, or currently exist.
These would include:
Ancient Nithia
Ierendi
Outer-world Malpheggi Swamps
Kingdom of Shazak
Hollow World Malpheggi Swamps

I would like to think that lizard men have existed or currently still exist in Thothia, too, or at least in regions thereabout.

Were the lizard men that existed in Nithian times the desert-dwellling type? This might make sense when looking at a Nithian cliimate that was VERY similar to our ancient Egyptian environment.
But, the lizard men that existed in Ierendi at the time of the disappearance of the entire Nithian Empire contributed specifically to the demise of the Nithians that had colonies in the islands of Ierendi. This is specifically stated in the HOLLOW WORLD DM's Sourcebook.
The lizard men of the Ierendi Islands are amphibious, as seems evident in the adventure scenarios that are setup in GAZ4.
Could there have been desert-dwelling species in the Ierendi region at the time of the Nithians' disappearance from there (500 BC)? Unlikely, since they ARE islands.
Were BOTH subspecies present, both in the ancient Nithian Empire (in the Alasiyan basin) and in ancient Ierendi? I am guessing this is probably a fair conclusion; partially because I am not sure where ELSE the desert-dwelling subspecies of lizard men would be. There are obvious potential locations such as the Great Waster and the desert(s?) of Davania, but I would like to have them placed or have existed in places with canon references to existing populations.

Because the products establish that the Shazak lizard men are more evolved than their counterparts elsewhere in the world, I established a difference of a +1 Int. modifier, for my 5E lizard man playable race.

[EDIT]Regarding the language information about the Shazak language being identical to the Malpheggi language used by "more civilized" lizard men, I am just assuming this was a mistake. I am not going to make any attempt to reconcile the statement. At least 3 other published references indicate that the Shazak were more evolved, so I'm going to default to those other references.

This is really fun to try to establish what has occurred and happened with this race, on Mystara.
I am not very intimitely familiar with all the changes in Mystara's history that I may have missed in my musings above, OR that may have influenced any of these ideas or development of the lizard man race on Mystara. If any other Mystara histophiles have some suggestions, please chime in.


Here is some information on the lizard men from "The Dragon's Den" product, below.

These lizard men call themselves the "Great Dragon Tribe." The follow the black dragon from the "Wild Dragon Den" adventure, in that adventure series (the first adventure of the 3 in the product).

 
Appearance

Face stones -- [QUOTE] "Wealthy members of the Great Dragon lizard man tribe wear their treasure on their faces. Using blue made from parts of gelatinous cube and green slime, the Great Dragon Tribe members cement colorful bits of quartz and rough precious and semiprecious stones to the thick, leather skin around their jaws and eyes and in lines along the top of their skulls. Females and whelps wear fewer and less valuable stones; warriors, chieftains, and clerics wear stones worth several hundred gold pieces."" Presumably, these are fairly easy to pry off of a (dead/willing) lizard man, since the text goes on to indicate ""...PCs may pry these stones from dead lizard men to gather as treasure." (Source: Dragon's Den Adventure Pack, Wild Dragon Den, p. 3.)

Culture/Technology

Hide-skin doors -- Heavy flaps of animal hides coated with a mixture of sand and slime. They look just like the sandstone bedrock. They cannot be locked and must be held open; they will not stay in an open position like a normal door. In other respects the hide-skin door works just like a normal door. (Source: Dragon's Den Adventure Pack, Wild Dragon Den, p. 2.)
Oil -- Crude oil is collected from a tar pit location in the adventure. They are put into sandstone bowls and used as light sources by the lizard men in their lair.
This would suggest that lizard men do not necessarily use infravision (it does not rule it out entirely, I don't think, but is evidence against it).
Cementlike substance/glue -- Hunks sliced from gelatinous cube, mixed/combined with harvested green slime; used to seal the lair sandstone walls and ceilings, bond unstable sandstone of the walls and ceilings, laminate hides for hide-skin doors and simple artifacts, and in lizard men's primitive crafts (like face stones). (Source: Dragon's Den Adventure Pack, Wild Dragon Den, pp. 8, 10.)
Face stones -- [QUOTE] ""Wealthy members of the Great Dragon lizard man tribe wear their treasure on their faces. Using blue made from parts of gelatinous cube and green slime, the Great Dragon Tribe members cement colorful bits of quartz and rough precious and semiprecious stones to the thick, leather skin around their jaws and eyes and in lines along the top of their skulls. Females and whelps wear fewer and less valuable stones; warriors, chieftains, and clerics wear stones worth several hundred gold pieces."" Presumably, these are fairly easy to pry off of a (dead/willing) lizard man, since the text goes on to indicate ""...PCs may pry these stones from dead lizard men to gather as treasure."" (Source: Dragon's Den Adventure Pack, Wild Dragon Den, p. 3.)
Face stones decoration (with gelatinous cube and green slime "cement" mixture)

In my Mystara, I decided that all of these cultural idiosyncrasies were unique to the "Great Dragon Tribe" and/or all the lizard men that were in and around the Thunder Rift region (again, which I placed in northwestern Brun).