The Burnt World of Athas

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Ssurran - extended writeup

Thanks to Kamelion for contributing this article with expanded information on the reptilian Ssurrans


The Ssurrans are reptilian humanoids, whose appearance is similar to that of heavy-set lizard men. They roam Athas, living their lives as traders, raiders, hunters and scavengers. While some Ssurrans are markedly more primitive than others, they have spread throughout the Tablelands. Those that dwell in the region of Lava Gorge, on the Scorched Plateau, have benefited from the seclusion and attendant safety that has allowed their tribes flourish, and they often join into great Ssurran nations that sweep across the Plateau.

Personality: While they are viewed as brutal savages or leery scavengers by many other races of the Tablelands – and even hunted as beasts by some – the Ssurrans boast a complex culture that is quite visible in the way they live their lives. For the Ssurran, the conceit that places “civilised” races above the beasts does not exist. To the Ssurran we are all beasts and we all must all do what we can to survive. Those who have land, have safety. Those who have safety can prosper. Those who prosper can create better tools. Those with the best tools can claim the best land…

Intertwined with this simple philosophy is a rich body of religious belief and legend. Thanks to this body of common tribal knowledge, the Ssurrans display great practicality. Life is a struggle and each Ssurran must learn the skills needed to endure. Ssurrans are no-nonsense, individualistic survivors – traits that make them valued as scouts and guides amongst their fellow races.
Despite their individualism, Ssurrans are most comfortable when surrounded by their allies. When outnumbered or threatened, they are cautious, even cowardly. They will seek to flee or bargain their way out of most overmatched contests, only fighting if cornered. When forced to fight, however, they are savage, rending and biting until an opening to flee presents itself.

Physical: Ssurrans range from 4 to 6 feet in height, weighing anything from 180 to 225 pounds. They are reptilian, even crocodilian in appearance, with pronounced toothy snouts, scales and a long tail. A Ssurran’s mouth seems perpetually curved in a slight, sly smile. The Ssurran tail is not prehensile and is used for balance, posture and communication.
A Ssurran’s claws are extremely sharp, hardened from long years of tramping across rugged lava flows and the blasted terrain of the Scorched Plateau. They also have a snapping bite, but use of this is considered threatening behaviour in Ssurran society. A Ssurran who bites means business.

Ssurran hide is thick and heavy and protects the creatures from the heat of the athasian sun. Their natural resistance to heat even allows the Ssurrans to thrive in the immediate surrounds of Lava Gorge.

Relations: The Ssurrans are seen as savages, raiders or poor traders by most other species. For their part, the Ssurrans view most civilised races as pretentious fools, lost in their tools and forgetful of their kinship with the beasts of the wilderness.
The Ssurrans dominate those whom they can and will seek to forge cordial relationships with those they cannot. If threatened, Ssurran tend to leave, only to return later and strike from ambush, usually with gruesome results.
Ssurrans are carnivores and will eat anything that they think will taste good and fill their bellies. The less civilised among them will eat intelligent life and have a particular fondness for halfling flesh, claiming it is soft, sweet and ever so spicy. These Ssurrans mark their food, either with claw marks or urine, and have been known to do this to foes they slay in battle, only to return and eat them later.

Alignment: Ssurrans tend towards the chaotic or the neutral. The elder the Ssurran is, the more she tends toward lawful alignments, as the ties of tribe and family grow stronger.

Lands: The Ssurrans are a nomadic people, who live as hunter-gatherers when they are not raiding or trading. Each tribe claims an area as its own, and roams throughout that area during the year, herding its kwilit and fortress beetles with it as it moves. Through their amassed practical lore, the Ssurrans know how to preserve their ecosystem and will move on before the land itself begins to suffer. Because of their natural resistance to heat and fire, the Ssurrans favour terrain that other races find uncomfortable, or even deadly. The craters of volcanoes, shores of lava seas and the hearts of blazing wastes are all sanctuaries for these creatures, and they have learned to make the most of such environments. Ssurrans who dwell in these locations tend to have a greater degree of sophistication than their brethren do elsewhere and will go to great lengths to defend their homes.

Religion: The more sophisticated amongst the Ssurrans have adopted worship of the elements and para-elements, along with most of the rest of Athas. They favour Magma and Sun, with Fire also being popular. Clerics of the Earth element are also welcome amongst the wandering tribes.

Those Ssurrans of a more ancient heritage believe in ancient gods that they claim watch over them. The Ssurran’s oldest legends hold that their progenitors were hatched from the World Egg, which they equate with Athas herself. They baked for aeons within the egg, until they were ready to hatch. The Egg cracked and the first Ssurrans came forth. They found a baked and burned world waiting for them and, slipping across the surface between the sand and the shadows, they began to make a new home for themselves in the world their gods had prepared.

Are the Ssurrans really subterranean in origin, as their tales claim? Beginnings amidst geothermal wellsprings might explain their unusual resistance to heat. Furthermore, they have no record of the Cleansing Wars and if their stories are to be believed, they did not emerge from the world below until the devastation of those conflicts were complete.

Psionics: The Ssurrans have a fair understanding of psionics, but would appear to have only recently begun to explore the Will and the Way. Metacreation and Clairsentience are favoured, due to their direct applications in exploration and survival, and Telepathy is common amongst scouts and traders, for ease of communication with strangers and with each other.

Magic: As with psionics, the Ssurrans seem still to be discovering magic as a species. They are quite aware of the difference between preservers and defilers, and do not treat the latter kindly. Defilers are forced off Ssurran lands and only attacked if victory seems certain and retribution unlikely.

Language: The Ssurran language is an elegant one, composed of sibilant tones, counterpoised with basso rumblings from the chest cavity. Tail posture and attitude add depth and texture, resulting in a language that is quite impossible for creatures without tails to learn properly.

Ssurrans have difficulty themselves pronouncing other languages and their voices often have a hissing, polytonal quality that is not unpleasant to the ear.

Male Names: Chavesh’ess, Ithoriss, Ssuss’ess, Thuuuss, Uss’ule’ess, Zath’ess

Female Names: Ashess’uess, Iieth, Isth’uess, Ithissa, Ula’nis’uess, Uthiss’uess

Adventurers: Ssurran adventurers tend to be from more civilised tribes, for no other reason than these Ssurrans have an easier time relating to the other races and hence tend to be more successful. More primitive Ssurrans do take up the adventuring life, but theirs is a hard road, and they have many preconceptions about their kind to overcome.

Ssurran adventurers soon become aware of the bestial reputation that their species has and treat it with varying degrees of wry acceptance. They know that supposedly more civilised races are beasts as much as they are – they just have better tools. Out in the wild, however, the Ssurran is in his element, and other adventurers soon find themselves grateful for the presence of their perpetually smiling scaled companion.

Role-playing Suggestions
You are a child of the earth, born from its bosom and released to roam across its surface, making what you will of what you find. You have no conceits about your station in life – you deserve only that which you can earn yourself. Your tribe will care for you as you care for it, but your life is your own and no-one will care for you when the water is gone. You are a beast – nothing more, nothing less – but this is a meaningless distinction, as all creatures are beasts beneath the sun. You have a somewhat callous attitude to personal rights. That which cannot be earned and kept should not be given freely.

Keep an eye open for opportunity at all times and be aware of any hidden dangers that may threaten you when you are weak. Be sure to have an escape route planned at all times, or be sure that you can devise – or buy – one at short notice, if needed. The resourceful Ssurran is the long-lived Ssurran.

Ssurran Traits

  • +4 Strength, -2 Dexterity, +2 Constitution, -2 Charisma. Ssurrans are strong and hardy, but their squat posture and thick hide makes them slightly clumsy. They have a reputation for savagery that makes it difficult for them to interact with other races.
  • Medium size. Ssurran have neither benefits nor penalties due to size. As monstrous humanoids, ssurran characters start with 3d8 hit dice, Base Attack Bonus +3, base saves: Fort +1, Ref +3, Will +3. Ssurrans receive (2 + Intelligence modifier) x6 skill points and their class skills are Appraise, Craft, Handle Animal, Profession, Ride and Survival. A ssurran begins with two feats. Note that Ssurrans do not receive the x4 modifier when taking their first class level.
  • Speed: Ssurran base speed is 30 feet.
  • Darkvision out to 60 ft.
  • Skills: +8 racial bonus on all Survival checks and +4 racial bonus on all Appraise and Profession (trader) checks.
  • Natural Armour +3. Ssurran hide is scaly, tough and resistant to blows.
  • Natural Weapons: 2 claws (1d4), bite (1d4).
  • Heat Tolerance (Ex): A ssurran’s scales regulate its body’s temperature in the sun. Ssurrans suffer no ill effects from hot temperatures under the sun, though fire affects them normally.
  • Automatic Languages: Common, Elven, Gith, Halfling, Pterran, Thri-Kreen, Yuan-Ti.
  • Favoured Class: Cleric or Druid.
  • Level Adjustment: +1