In Nighthaven, no race in its dark depths can inspire as much fear or awe inspired reverence as the Serpent Shifters, chosen of the goddess Pasquirn; The Othar. Careful, patient, manipulative, and often incredibly calculating Othar slip into other societies to incite coups and overtake them. The Othar are masters of deception and work together to achieve their goals.
Rumors exist among the races of the above world that they are able to transform their limbs and bodies into serpents, the favored form of their goddess. Most Upworlder's have only heard of them in scary stories designed to keep children from sneaking about at night.
They are possessed of great magical power and the secrets of Nighthaven. The Othar are expert infiltrators, treading shadows with unparalleled skill. Othar prefer the company of their own kind but are more than capable of maintaining civilized company with others.
Othar are an ambitious race, aspiring to bring gains to their civilization by whatever means necessary. An othar rarely turns on their brothers or sisters. There are far greater threats out there that do not require them to squabble between one another like humans. Othar tend to be manipulative and a often vindictive toward those who would do them wrong.
They are not without their redeeming qualities however. Othar are very loyal to those they serve (particularly the goddess Pasquirn) and to those they would call friend. They delight in and much prefer the opportunity to build knowledge of the arts on their own. Othar do not take credit for inventing as humans do, choosing to share their knowledge with their kin.
Othar appear to be humans on a surface inspection. They range from 5 to 6 feet tall, with varied skin colors from pale white to deep tan hues. Hair colors range from platinum gray to coal black. They lack pigmentation for blond or red and have straight or wavy styles and lack facial hair. Close inspection reveals some differences in features. Othar chin lines are typically angular, coming to a hard rounded point giving the face a prominent oval shape but maintaining a hard brooding look. Their eyebrows are often thin, and is one of the first places to show shedding (the hairline too) when they molt.
Othar molt twice per month in a process that often takes anywhere from 4 to 10 hours. During that period, fine scales are visible through the skin membrane. This is their natural skin, hidden beneath the outer “disguise” layer. This outer layer is the last stage before molting, and consequently the most malleable. This skin feels thick, like hard leather all throughout their lives. Othar choose to display their scales whenever they are comfortable with their surrounding. In high magic societies they can often pass the scales off as magical augmentation.
An Othar's eyes range in spectrum from bright yellow and orange to dark blue. Their eyes have adapted to sight underground allowing them to see in the dark almost as though it were day. Upworlder's believe that Othar see in infrared which is mostly true, but their sight does not allow them to see through walls. When on the surface, Othari eyes adjust to their human color spectrum though the colors are much more intense, allowing them to notice the scales of other Othar beneath their outer skin layer.
Due to a set of fangs, most Othar have a slight overbite to their jaws disguising the larger than normal teeth.
Like snakes, Othar are capable of dislocating their jaws in order to eat, allowing them to consume larger than normal portions. This trait is useful when determining another Othar out of those who would attempt to infiltrate the infiltrators. If they attempt to dislocate another Othar's jaw, it will pop out of place with little trouble. For a non-Othar, this is incredibly painful.
Due to their shapeshifting abilities, an Othar's arm is capable of molding 2 separate bone structures. When in human form, the arm appears to be normal. If one were able to x-ray the arm though, it would appear to have tiny stress fractures beginning at the wrist and ending at the shoulder. When an arm is transformed into a snake, these 'links' quickly come together to form a singular backbone for the serpentine limb. Damaging the snake will effectively break the Othar's arm.
Othar tend to mingle with the races that are easiest for them to assume the form of. Humans and Elves are the closest matches, requiring the least amount of effort to blend in with (particularly for those lacking the greater shapeshifting abilities possessed by their race). Othar take meticulous effort to learn about a society prior to their engagement and tend toward infiltration as a group. When one Othar is discovered, it can be assumed that there are several others as well.
Othar make their home in the deep darkness of Nighthaven, the underground regions of Saratta that extend beyond the ancient dwarven kingdoms. Their cities are massive networks of tunnels that link deep chambers together. Homes are nesting dens tucked into small caverns. Othar do not lavishly decorate their homes, keeping them simple, often with worshipful artwork carved into the walls. Books and other important belongings are hung in sinew nets from the ceilings, though places of learning often keep shelves for books and tools much like humans (though the shelves are carved into the walls in the case of Othar).
Othar worship Pasquirn, goddess of Pestilence. According to legend, the Othar began as humans who had tread into the depths of Nighthaven. They were captured by a race called Yaun-ti who were then the goddess's chosen. Over the years the Yaun-ti bred human blood into their own so that they might take a form like the goddess. In their vanity, they began worshiping their Abominations (mixes between human and snake) as gods, giving humans to them as sacrifice while turning away from Pasquirn.
In her anger, the goddess gathered up the captured humans who had lost hope of ever being freed. She gave them serpents eyes, gold and yellow to pierce the dark. They praised the goddess and she stripped away their skin revealing scales where there would have been exposed flesh. They praised the goddess and she transformed their limbs into snakes and back again. Their teeth became fangs filled with lethal venom and their bodies became snakes and slithered through the prison bars.
Once free they returned to human form, crying out to their goddess in joy,
“Bya lo Oram?” How may we serve?
“Asaya Nuan Othar!” The goddess roared at them. You are my chosen children. When she said this, they spread great feathered wings of blue and green, their bodies became snakes once more and hissing filled the air.
“Sa Zeras Nuan.” Bring forth my Truth, the goddess told them. With a flutter of wings, the Othar descended into the depths where they appeared to the Yaun-ti as Abominations. When they began to prostrate they transformed again, taking humanoid form before their eyes. Their limbs became venomous snakes arching toward the open necks of the Yaun-ti, sinking deep. The Yaun-ti realized too late the duplicity and as they cursed their fate the Othar stole their form. They drove deeper into Nighthaven slaying the Yaun-ti as they went, praising their goddess all the while.
Othar speak Othari. The language is unique, spoken to them by the goddess Pasquirn. To the common ear it sounds like varied serpentine hisses and guttural calls. Smell plays a major role in the language as Othar release pheromones in addition to their speech, enhancing the visuals that the others receive. Othar are quick to take up the languages of other races, many times taking Human or Elven due to their common encounters with them.
+2 Dexterity, +2 Constitution: Othar are quick and hardy.
- Medium: Othar are Medium creatures and receive no bonuses or penalties due to their size.
- Normal Speed: Othar have a base speed of 30 feet.
- See in Darkness: Othar can see perfectly in darkness of any kind, including that created by spells such as deeper darkness.
- Bite: Othar have razor sharp teeth and fangs. Their bite is considered a natural attack and deals 1d6 damage. The bite is a primary attack, or a secondary attack if the creature is wielding manufactured weapons or has performed a Quick Shift (Arm).
- Quick Shifting (Arms): Othar can freely transform their arms into snakes. These serpentine limbs are able to feed and nourish the body, provide sight, and deliver a painful bite for 1d4 damage. Transformation is considered a supernatural ability, reforming the Othar's bones while transforming allowing for a reach of 10 feet. There is no time limit for how long a limb can remain transformed.
Languages: Othar begin play speaking Othari. Othar with high Intelligence scores can choose any languages they want (except secret languages, such as Druidic).
Advanced Racial Traits
As an Othar grows and ages, their abilities expand as well. Players may advance their character in a level of Othar to select one of the following traits. The Othar also gains 1 Hit Die (1d8) when leveling in this way.
Quick Shifting (Snake Form): Othar can transform their entire body into a medium sized snake at will. While in this form the Othar can deliver a powerful bite dealing 1d8 slashing / piercing damage. Poison is applied if the Othar has the Venomous Bite trait.
Infiltrator's Skin: Othar may change shape to assume minor details or features (skin color, eye color, pupil shape, facial bone structure, hair color, etc) allowing it to blend and mimic other races. The effect requires 1 day to complete during which the Othar is subjected to a molting period. The Othar may not take any shape that is not humanoid. While transformed the Othar receives a +10 bonus to disguise checks to appear as a member of a humanoid race.
Venomous Bite: The Othar’s bite attacks are laced with a deadly poison. Othari Venom Type: Poison (injury); Save: Fortitude DC: 10 + ½ Othar’s level Frequency: 1/round for 4 rounds Effect: 1d4 Con damage; Cure: 1 Save