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Wallara and the Chameleon men
The arid, grassy outback of Wallara is the homeland of the primitive wallaras, who may be among the eldest races on Mystara. Also known as chameleon men, these tall, spindly beings have lived on the northern coast of the Orc's Head Peninsula for many centuries. The wallaras of Wallara are different from those of other lands, being slightly less primitive.
Related to dragons and once the companions of the Immortals, the wallaras degenerated into a more primitive society due to a Herathian spell gone awry. Today, they have struggled back from a nomadic hunter-gatherer existence and have begun to relearn from the past. Many wallaras have settled in small villages, but most now reside in the ancient city of Risilvar, where clues to their past abound.
Appearance: Wallaras are humanoids of many colours whose 7-foot height is emphasised by their extremely slender build. They have spindly arms and legs and walk with a gangling gait that appears awkward to other races. Their skin is slightly scaly with multicoloured mottled red tiger stripes, interrupted by blue, yellow, green, orange, brown, black, and white spotting. Hair is found only on their heads and may be a single colour or as mottled and colourful as their skins. They wear loincloths or simple shifts, usually carry net or kangaroo bags with their personal necessities, and occasionally don jewellery.
Personality: The wallaras are a wise people who value the land and their place in it. They are physically active, sometimes walking all day while hunting or gathering food. They are also meditative and spiritual, honouring their Immortal patrons through dance and song. Wallaras can be quite serious but most of them have a humorous side as well, laughing at themselves as easily as at their fellows. Level-headed and practical though they may be, wallaras can be very superstitious, following rituals and customs that seem nonsensical to outsiders.
Wallaras are usually good, but quite a few are neutral. A very few of them are evil. Because most wallaras follow tribal customs and taboos, lawful alignments predominate.
Lifestyle: Wallaras can be nomadic hunter-gatherers, settled villagers who raise crops in addition to hunting, or residents of the ancient city of Risilvar. The latter study the old paintings and try to piece together clues from their past in addition to their other pursuits. Each village has a population of 20 to 80 wallaras led by a headman chosen for his wisdom. He rules along with a council of elders.
All wallara settlements have a magical site known as a tookoo. These special caves, grottos, singular rocks or ancient trees radiate magic and provide the wallaras with a +2 bonus to attack and damage rolls. When fighting for their tookoos or homes, wallaras' morale rises to Fearless (20).
Risilvar supports over 9,000 wallaras who live in the remains of buildings and caves composing the ancient city. They are ruled by Bakaloo Sunskin, the overchief of all wallaras. There are no female wallaras; new generations are budded from the cast-off skins of elder wallaras and reach maturity in just eight weeks. Often several generations of wallaras from a particular line will live close together and make up a family grouping.
In addition to food gathering, hunting, and fishing, wallaras make their own tools, weapons, and clothing. Some carve or paint stones, and many are honoured for their storytelling abilities. Those who live in Risilvar have taken their turn at mining at one time or another. All wallara are expert trackers and can survive in the wilderness near their homes for weeks, even if abandoned with no food or water.
Each tribe claims kinship with either an animal or a plant, which they believe guards them and grants them wisdom. They believe that their ancestors walked the earth along with the Immortals, but when evil times came, some of them grew afraid and changed themselves into animals, birds, rocks, or plants to escape destruction. Most wallara see it as their duty to care for their changed brethren who no longer walk in the original shape the Immortals gave them.
Wallaras revere their elders, and leaders are chosen for their wisdom, proven ability and adherence to wallaran customs. Those who disobey the elders and chosen leaders of their tribes bring evil down upon all in the form of a punishing spirit known as the kurdaitcha man. This terrifying "bogeyman" kills those responsible for failures and may wreak havoc until it is appeased and sent back to the nightmare lands.
Land is very important to the wallaras, but not in the sense of ownership. What is provided by the spirits is to be shared by all and no single person can own the land. Furthermore, though some tribes of wallaras are nomadic, they stay within certain defined territories in their wanderings because those lands are believed to house the spirits of their own changed kin and the ancestors from whom they sprang. Individual wallaras, however, sometimes succumb to a form of wanderlust known as a walkabout. Those on walkabout travel wherever their fancy takes them.
Possessions are few and considered a necessary burden, for even settled villages uproot every few years and move to more fertile ground. For this reason, homes are not built to last. Most are crude bark shelters or huts known as wurlies.
Wallaras have a great sense of fun and fair play. They enjoy games of all sorts, particularly races and war games that show off their weapons, skills, and agility. Even their feuds and wars are conducted like games. When a disagreement arises between two tribes or villages, they meet to decide the issue, choose a certain number of people to fight, and provide them all with the same kinds and numbers of weapons to be used. Then everyone else forms a circle around the combatants to watch their adeptness.
Strict rules are followed in war. Each side begins standing behind a line drawn in the sand. Each warrior receives six of each type of weapon to be used. From behind the lines an individual warrior throws a spear at his counterpart, who tries to deflect it with a shield. After all the spears have been thrown once, the warriors throw boomerangs at one another. These are meant to be jumped over by the warrior on the other side. If a wallara actually throws the boomerang to harm or kill, all present set upon him for his unfair behaviour.
When all the boomerangs have been thrown, the warriors may cross the lines and engage in hand-to-hand combat with their nulla-nullas (war clubs). As in the previous weapon matches, each club may be used only once. Warriors must drop the club after one swing whether they land a blow or not. Once all the weapons have been used or whenever anyone is seriously hurt the war is stopped. Whichever side is in better shape is declared the winner and the dispute is settled in their favour. The wounded are now cared for, and everyone joins in a corroboree (a celebration that includes dancing, singing, and storytelling).
Not all of their practices are so light-hearted. There are strict procedures for entering a village or city of the wallara. Strangers are expected to announce their presence by clapping two boomerangs together or moving downwind and carrying a lit branch from an aromatic tree or bush. Once the strangers have been noticed, they are to sit within plain sight of those in the village, but far enough away to make attack difficult, and wait for a delegation to be sent out to meet them.
It is also considered very bad manners and gravely insulting for visitors to approach or enter the village smiling. Since visitors have no way of knowing if illness, injury, or some other difficulty has befallen the village, they should keep a grave expression until they learn that all is well. To do otherwise shows both disrespect and a lack of caring for those who would offer hospitality. Once it is clear that everything is well, smiles and greetings may be exchanged.
Three other matters are considered very serious by the wallaras. First, the dance steps, chants, and sacred objects used in their rituals must be shown respect by all present; these may not be seen by the uninitiated. All steps and rites must be performed correctly.
Secondly, pointed sticks or bones are items used in laying curses; they engender great fear and hostility. Wizards with wands should take particular care not to point them toward wallaras.
Finally, the wallaras have a superstitious dread of other beings' shadows. From the earliest age, young wallaras are taught to stoop or to stand far enough away from someone to keep their shadows from falling on anyone else. Most consider it a harbinger of bad luck to come and believe that those who carelessly let their shadows cover another person deserve punishment.
Wallaras as PCs
Wallaras are distantly related to dragons. From them they inherited several innate magical powers. An adult tribesman has the ability to vanish, which is roughly equivalent to the dimension door spell. It has a shorter range (120 feet instead of 360 feet), and since it is a racial ability, wallaras never accidentally materialise into solid objects. Use of this ability counts as a full action and requires an Intelligence check every time it is used. They may use this ability each round, and usually utilise it to avoid combat or surround opponents.
At 3rd level, a wallara can truly mimic his surroundings. The Wallara effectively turns invisible like the wizard spell. Although a wallara can use this ability at will and any number of times in a day, he must remain absolutely quiet and motionless while doing so (he cannot cast spells, talk, attack, dodge, move, or vanish).
Wallaras have perfected the ability to remain motionless for extended periods of time (up to one hour per experience level), mimicking their surroundings. Mimicry only fools other races-wallaras can always see one another.
All wallaras have an uncanny ability to find their way back when within 10 miles of their homes or encampments. Keen powers of observation allow them to notice tracks, note the position of the stars, find landmarks. With a highly developed sense of smell, they are even able to utilise familiar odours for tracking and location finding. They all have the tracking non-weapon proficiency and receive only a -3 penalty rather than the usual -6. All wallaras gain ancient history and local history as bonus proficiencies as well. _Language: Wallaras speak their own language known as Risil, a curiously inflected lingo with many strange-sounding words. The changing colours of their skin reveal feelings. Proper usage of colour and shade is a sign of wisdom and social status among wallaras. Although modern wallaras do not use a written language, an ancient pictographic form of Risil often found in old wallaran ruins is used by a few wallara wizards. Some few of their Mendoo also speak Common or Verdan, because of the proximity of the Colony of the Horn.
Character Classes/Kits: Because of wallaras' insular society, special breeding requirements, and racial memory, they are born with certain societal knowledge. It is very rare for a wallara to be raised outside his homeland and those who are never fit into other societies enough to take their kits. Wallaras know little about raising children, so people of other races are never raised in wallara society; any children they might find are returned to their homes or given to the phanatons of Jibarú to raise. Wallaras may be fighters, rangers, wizards, priests, thieves, or psionicists. No wallara may be multiclassed. Wallara wizards must be diviners, abjurers, or necromancers.
There are only a few kits available to wallaras, and even those wallaras who are not raised in their homeland must take those kits. Wallaras gain no initial Legacy, as their land is unaffected by the Red Curse. Though one might choose to take the Inheritor kit, most wallaras have no desire for power and it would be an unlikely choice. Warrior kits available to wallaras are Defender, Savage warrior, and Wilderness warrior. Their wizards must take either the Mystic or the Savage wizard kit, while thieves may choose to be Filchers or Scouts. The only priest kit available to them is the Mendoo (medicine man), detailed in "Character Creation."
Equipment: Wallaras carry bags in which they stock their few possessions. Most contain a spare spear head or two, a grinding stone, sinew or twine, a few pigments such as ochre and sepia, and beeswax or sticky gum. Other than their weapons, many carry a sharpened stick for digging roots. Medicine Men might also carry bones, small stones, sharpened shells, herbs, and other secret or sacred objects in their bags. Those wallaras who have reached adulthood often carry bullroarers (a thin piece of wood threaded with string or sinew that makes a low, throbbing hum when swung around the head), the symbol of their initiation into the tribe.
Miscellaneous: Wallaras are poor swimmers (requiring a skill slot to learn how to swim), but those who learn the skill become quite adept at gleaning edible sea life from the barrier reefs that line Trident Bay. Lacking infravision, wallaras nonetheless seem to have an uncanny sense of where they are when within a few miles of their homeland and can navigate their way home even in the dark. Their natural Armour Class is 9. They harbour a strong aversion to armour, since it cancels both their abilities to vanish and to mimic.
Wallaras use stone or bone daggers, spears with stone edges that are given extra impetus through use of a spear-thrower called a wommera, clubs known as nulla-nullas, and, typically, boomerangs. Wallaras' racial modifiers are as follows: All wallaras take a -1 penalty to Strength. All but Mendoo receive a +1 to Dexterity; Mendoo receive a +1 to Wisdom instead. Though they can have a Charisma score of up to 18, this applies only among wallaras; penalise Charisma -1 when dealing with other humanoids, -2 for demihumans and humans.
Wallaras are descendants of an ancient native tribe of hunter-gatherers. There was a time when the wallaras walked side by side with the spirits that created them. They were in tune with the land, so much so that wallaras equated their life and well-being with that of the land and its wealth. The wallaras viewed themselves as the protectors of nature, which had been entrusted to them by their creators. In their small city of Risilvar, which they built in the hills to be close to their Immortal patrons, they flourished and learned much about the universe.
They were a wise people, a race that could pierce mysteries that other races did not even suspect existed. Although they were a peaceful people, the wallaras soon attracted the enmity of the Herathians, who had many dark secrets to hide. The wallaras knew of the aranean nature of the Herathian wizards, for they had often watched the intelligent, giant spiders from afar, but the wallaras saw the creatures as just another incarnation of nature, not as a threat. The Herathians never understood the wallaran way of thinking, and as the years passed the aranean's discomfort, believing their concealment was at risk, grew to be unbearable for them.
A frightening psychosis arose among the araneans as a result. At greatest risk were the older creatures, often the most powerful ones. These great wizards created a spell to remove all knowledge of the araneans' true identity from the minds of the wallaras. The mental uneasiness prevalent among the Herathian wizards at the time caused them to miscalculate the severity of the spell's effect.
The result was catastrophic. While removing knowledge of the araneans from the wallaran minds, the spell backfired. The wallaran racial memories kept shifting-over and over, distorting and nearly wiping them from their minds. The Herathians were at a loss to halt the spell, and the hapless wallaran civilisation fell back to the stone age. Only obscure, jumbled memories and legends of their past survive in their minds.
This tragedy caused the Great One-the Immortal patron of the wallaras-to seek revenge. A plague of dragons attacked Herath. The araneans were experienced and organized enough to survive the wrath of the Great One, although at a dreadful cost to their nation. Herath faced such horrendous devastation that Korotiku met with the Great One and explained the error of his aranean followers. It cost the Trickster dearly to persuade the Great One to halt the attacks, in addition to a promise from Herath never to interfere with the wallaras again.
Aranean priests were informed and soon Herathians began rebuilding their nation. The Herathian priests also destroyed all traces of the spell of forgetting, and forever banned further research on its effects, for fear that some day it might be used against Herathians too.
Meanwhile, the wallaras were condemned to become primitive nomads, seeking the secret of their past. They believed that, indeed, spirits once walked the land, but that was during the Time of Dreams, the time when the Immortals created them. They thought for a long time that the spirits lived in the rocky hills and no one was allowed to go there. Centuries later, when the Mendoo discovered the lost city of Risilvar, they found pictorial stories of their past and opened the city as a hallowed place for all wallaran tribes. Many took up residence there. Others settled in small villages in the outback, and a few returned to their nomadic ways.
Today the wallaras are slowly relearning the past and fragments of their ancient civilisation are beginning to reappear. The remainder of the Forbidden Highlands, mostly south of the Forbidden River, is still taboo. No one enters that region for fear of the evil spirits living there. Wallara Mendoo have received messages from the sky that beyond the river lies the land of the balandas, the evil spirits that steal people's souls. In truth, this reference is to the Herathians.
The wallaras are still not as close to the Immortals as they used to be. The Immortals are convinced that closeness to them is not necessarily a good thing, as this proved to be the wallaras' undoing. Wallaras are still a wise people, but they no longer have the curiosity to see through mysteries other than those of their own land and people.
The land of Wallara is presently at peace. Other than the Herathians, Wallara has two neighbours: the gator men of Gurr'ash at the northeastern end of the outback, and the phanaton people at the western edge. The phanatons are friendly and some trade exists between the two races-the wallaras trade opals, quartz stones, emu eggs, giant termite larvae, and crocodile skins for phanaton goods.
For wallaras, gatormen are an embodiment of Genjoo, the Crocodile Spirit. Because of this, wallaras respect the gatormen, despite their occasional savagery. They maintain a curious trading system with the gatormen, but only the wiser tribesmen may enter the Wallaroo Grasslands bordering the gatormen's bayou, and always under the guidance of Mendoo and bardic traders.
The Land of Wallara
Capital: Risilvar (Pop: 9,500 wallara)
Ruler: Bakaloo Sunskin, son of Woy The Reamer.
Patron: Agundji, The Rainbow Serpent
Flora and Fauna
The land of Wallara lies to the south of Trident Bay, which is known to the wallaras as the Great Billabong. White sand beaches along the shore give rise to dunes and to grasslands where most of the wallaras' small villages are located. Though Wallara boasts several beautiful and surprising geological features, most of its terrain consists of a long, temperate plain covered with tall grasses and small clumps of forest. At intervals, the gnarled branches of a lone baobab or gum tree offers shade in the middle of the outback.
For the most part, the plains area is dry, with small streams, seasonal rivers, and a few ponds and watering holes providing most of the accessible water. During dry seasons streams disappear, rivers become trickles, and smaller ponds dry up. No large rivers flow through Wallara itself, though the Xingá River forms part of Wallara's western border. The indigenous animals and wallaras know how to locate many underground sources of water, and several artesian wells, available for all, have been marked across the grasslands.
In rainy times, the grassland comes alive with dozens of varieties of wildflowers. Spreading colourful carpets across the face of the outback, they attract small animals and insects to the area in droves. Streams fill out. Ponds overflow their banks, and gullies among the few rocky hills become access ways for seasonal brooks and tiny waterfalls.
Farther inland lies a light woodland, primarily of eucalyptus trees, with mountain ash, acacias, mosses, and ferns proliferating where the woods grow more dense. Known as the Kookaroo Forest, these woodlands border the Forbidden Highlands. Farther east, the forest becomes more dense and is called the Woods of Mullawong.
Though this stark land might seem to be desolate and all but uninhabited, several types of animals and birds make Wallara their home. Noisy flocks of galahs (pink and grey parrots) and budgerigars (brightly coloured small parrots) flit through the grasslands, gathering at watering holes. Crocodiles lurk beneath the surface of the billabongs, awaiting the unwary. Brightly coloured cockatoos abound in the forested areas, while game birds live in the grasslands alongside tiny insect eaters. Snakes, shingleback lizards, and scorpions bask in the fierce sun. Kangaroos-nomadic grey, large red, and tiny rat varieties-leap through the grasslands and forests. Small rodents swarm through the grasslands, especially during rainy seasons. The most feared predators of the outback are dingoes, the wild dogs that form vicious packs and attack travellers and even small villages.
The Forbidden Highlands are mostly sandstone, laced with the forgotten caves of the ancient wallaras. The red sandstone of the highlands is striated with gold, orange, black, and brown, creating an ever changing panorama of round domed hills and jagged, upthrust rock formations. The mountainous expanses thrust up from the forests below or rise in stark splendour from the cracked, rocky desert that forms the foothills.
Some vegetation struggles to grow in the rocky hills of the highlands including patches of porcupine grass, saltbushes, and rare, stunted trees. These take advantage of the fresh water that occasionally flows close enough to the surface to feed the plants' roots. The source of the Forbidden River, the main provider of water in the highlands, lies in salted grounds. Its muddy, brackish water remains inadequate for consumption.
A few creatures survive in the water-starved highlands by adapting to the arid conditions and lack of greenery. Lizards, snakes, insects, birds, and small rodents gather wherever food is available. Most lair underground or in the tangled foliage of dwarf bushes or trees, emerging as the afternoon sun begins its descent.
The Lost City of Risilvar
The lifeless landscape of tortured sandstone formations and crazed, broken wastelands that are the Forbidden Highlands have long served as a holy ground for the wallaras. This is the setting of the ancient lost city of Risilvar. Located above the Kookaroo Forest and north of the Forbidden River, Risilvar was built by the ancient wallaras as a link between them and their Immortal patrons.
Taking advantage of a natural network of caverns, the ancient wallaras built much of their city below ground. Though they linked several central caves together via easily traversed tunnels, most outlying caverns were left separate to provide private quarters or meditation areas. Many wallaras believe that Risilvar once served as the place where their ancestors could meet and walk with the Immortals. They theorise that the city was actually more like a great temple, where only Mendoo dwelled.
Many of these caverns contain quartz and opal. Unlike the minerals found in the nearby mines, these have never been harvested, nor will they ever be. They emerge from the surface of the cave wall and have been polished to bring out their beauty. The wallaras believe that they are the thoughts of the Immortals given solid form and, as such, are not only sacred but serve as foci for Mendoo meditations. As light is brought into the caverns where they grow, the polished crystals and gems glitter and flash.
Where these are not in evidence, ochre-coloured paints were used to decorate the walls with such eclectic artwork as the outlines of dozens of hands and elongated figures like wallaras with rays emanating from their heads and hands. Whether these are depictions of their Immortal patrons clothed in wallara form, drawings of ancient, wise leaders, depictions of spirit creatures, or pure fancy, no one now knows.
As in their villages, some cave complexes house several generations of wallaras, living as an extended family, with the elders teaching the youth. Unlike in the villages, however, a great many Mendoo dwell in Risilvar.
In ancient days, the small city of Risilvar served as a place of worship and learning. The ancients painted runes and symbols in their caves and homes that depicted stories of spirits, sky heroes, and Immortals. They complemented the stones already in the caves by decorating with quartz shards, gold nuggets, and polished opal, which they uncovered in the mines at Tooburra and Wirrawa.
Lost along with the wallaras' memories, the city of Risilvar was rediscovered by medicine men on walkabout and today serves as a hallowed place where all the tribes may visit. Indeed, the largest tookoo or sacred place of the wallaras can be found in Risilvar. It is a glittering upthrust rock in a quiet cavern where pure, cool water bubbles up around it. Bakaloo ("Sunskin"), leader of the wallaras, rules from the city and serves as the chief Mendoo for his people. Thousands of other wallaras have taken up residence in the city as the first step to reclaiming and relearning the wisdom from their past.
Immortal Patrons of Wallara
Agundji, The Rainbow Serpent (also called the Great One): Agundji is the chief Immortal of the wallaran pantheon. Wallaras are an ancient subspecies of dragons, which explains their magical abilities (vanishing and mimicry at higher levels). Most wallaras honour Agundji as lord of all creatures and the patron of sky heroes. Agundji's sphere of interest includes the sky, the element of air, colours, and mimicry. Individuals occasionally honour other dragon rulers, depending on their alignments, local customs, and circumstances. For example, those working in the Forbidden Highlands' opal mines are often followers of the Sun Dragon. Wallaras know the lesser dragon rulers as the Sun Spirit, the Moon Spirit, and the Star Spirit. Most wallaras believe their souls join their Immortal patrons after dying on Mystara.
Barramundje, The Mother (also known as Calitha Starbrow): Barramundje's main concern in Wallara is that of the rivers and billabongs in general and fertility in particular. Her sphere of interest includes the element of water and all things that grow, such as trees and grass. Her symbol among wallaran Mendoo is a fish. One who harms her forests, abuses the wealth of her rivers and billabongs, and befouls the land runs the risk of her curse, becoming a gondaman, a frilled lizard condemned to wander the outback to perish under the hunter's boomerang.
Genjoo, the Crocodile Spirit (also called Ka): Genjoo's sphere of interest lies in the earth, the land, and magical places. Wallaras say that the rocky outcroppings of the Forbidden Highlands and the great rounded monoliths dotting the outback are the scaly warts on Genjoo's back. Such huge rocks are thought of as places of powerful magic and entrances to Genjoo's world. Paintings left by the ancient wallaras can often be found there. Medicine men who honour Genjoo often come to these places to meditate. Legends also say that when someone dies in the jaws of a great saltwater crocodile that Genjoo has claimed that person's soul and requested it to become his servitor.
Warruntam, The Eagle Spirit (known as Ixion): Warruntam is the patron of hunters, speed, and bravery. His area of interest is the area of fire. Wallaras have rarely invoked Warruntam as a patron of war, since they are a peaceful people, but the Eagle Spirit comes closest to this role among all Immortal patrons, should an actual conflict ever occur. Legends say that those who die from lightning have been claimed by Warruntam and become his servitors.