Skraal (3.5e Race)
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Part human, part orc, part... something else, the Skraal are a cold-adapted humanoid race. In the Forgotten Realms, they inhabit the permanently frozen north coast of Faerun, beyond the Spine of the World mountains: a land entirely devoid of vegetation. There, they survive by hunting seals and polar bears, fishing during the short Arctic summer when the pack ice clears sufficiently, and trading with subterranean races. Once a year, a Skraal trade caravan crosses the mountains into northern Narfell and back, in the middle of winter when avalanches are less common (and the cold helps to deter bandits too). They are also rumoured to have colonies in the polar regions of other worlds, connected by portals: it is said that this accounts for Narfell's legends of an ice-free land to the north, stemming from Skraal trade goods of otherworldly origin.
Physically, the Skraal resemble half-orcs with white skin and dark blue-black hair. Their resistance to cold is demonstrated by their traditional dress, a sleeveless jerkin and knee-length trousers made of bleached seal hide. They are nomadic, living in tribal groups. They invariably wear tribal tattoos on their upper arms. Each adult Skraal owns a masterwork longspear bearing tribal runes: high-level practitioners of magic tend to enchant these.
The Skraal are a magically-created race, able to trace their ancestry back to Gorshak, probably the most powerful half-orc Wizard who ever lived. In addition to being his creations, they are also his progeny: seeking solitude for himself and his family, Gorshak modified his own children to create the first Skraal before doing the same for his followers. Culturally, the Skraal have little in common with others of orcish blood: they are predominantly of neutral alignment, and worship of orcish deities is rare among them (and only Luthic the Cave Mother, patron of all those of orcish blood, seems to care about them at all). Instead, the Skraal practise a form of ancestor-worship, believing that the spirits of the dead join with a "tribal spirit" that watches over the living and provides the power for Skraal Adept and Ranger spells (there are no clerics of this "deity").
Skraal Adepts gain access to the ranger spell list in addition to the Adept one, but neither Adepts nor Rangers can use plant-related spells. When within their homelands, Skraal Adepts and Rangers gain "place magic", the ability to cast their spells spontaneously without advance preparation. Elsewhere, use of this ability requires an item which maintains a spiritual link to the Skraal homelands: an amulet with a base value of 6,000 gp, created in the Skraal homelands using the Craft Wondrous Item feat, which will only function for its creator (and only on worlds where the Skraal have colonies).
In addition to Adepts and Rangers (and a handful of clerics of Luthic), the Skraal have a fairly strong tradition of arcane lore, with a number of cave libraries maintained by Skraal Wizards and guarded by all the tribes in rotation. Skraal Sorcerers and Bards are also well-respected. Magical goods are among the exports of this otherwise resource-poor people.
The Skraal have the following racial characteristics:
-2 Dexterity, +2 Constitution: The Skraal have a lower metabolic rate than other half-orcs, and have somewhat sluggish reflexes: they are built for endurance rather than strength. They also lack the mental weaknesses of normal half-orcs.
Medium Humanoid: As Medium creatures, the Skraal have no special bonuses or penalties due to their size.
Skraal base land speed is 30 feet.
Cold Resistance 10: Skraal characters are unaffected by normal extremes of cold, and disregard the first 10 hit points of damage from cold-based attacks. This is an extraordinary ability, and stacks with magical protections against cold.
+2 racial bonus on saving throws versus cold-based attacks, and +2 on checks to avoid slipping on ice (typically Balance checks).
Heat Vulnerability: while they are not especially vulnerable to fire, their cold-adapted metabolism causes the Skraal to deteriorate twice as quickly as normal humans in hot deserts and similar environments.
Darkvision and Low-Light Vision: Like other half-orcs, Skraal can see in the dark up to 60 feet. Darkvision is black and white only, but it is otherwise like normal sight, and Skraal can function just fine with no light at all. The Skraal can also see twice as far as a human in starlight, moonlight, torchlight, and similar conditions of poor illumination, and retain the ability to distinguish color and detail under these conditions. Skraal eyesight is adapted to cope with the long Arctic winter nights.
Place Magic: Spontaneous casting of Adept and Ranger spells within the Skraal homelands or with a Skraal amulet, Adept access to the Ranger spell list, inability to cast plant-related spells (including Barkskin).
Arctic Lore: Skraal characters gain a +4 racial bonus on Survival checks (including tracking checks) in snowy environments.
Weapon Proficiency: All Skraal characters are proficient with the spear, longspear, shortspear and javelin.
Literacy: even Skraal Barbarians are literate. The ability to read tribal sagas is taught to all.
Orc Blood: For all effects related to race, a Skraal is considered an orc.
Automatic Language: Orc. Bonus Languages: Common, Draconic, Dwarven, Giant, Gnome, Goblin, Undercommon. Due to their geographic isolation, Skraal characters do not automatically gain the "common tongue" of humanity, and are just as likely to speak the languages of the frost giants, white dragons, and subterranean races that are the only other significant inhabitants of their icy realm.
Favored Class: Any. When determining whether a multiclass Skraal takes an experience point penalty, his or her highest-level class does not count.
The Skraal don't mingle much with other races, but crossbreeds are possible if the other parent is at least part-Human or part-Orc (other racial characteristics generally aren't passed on: thus, a Half-Elf or Aasimar parent would be treated as Human). Such crossbreeds are Humans, Orcs or Half-Orcs with the Half-Skraal feat: a feat that must be taken at 1st level and which bestows half of the usual Skraal resistance to cold (i.e. Cold Resistance 5). Such characters also inherit the characteristic Skraal skin and hair pigmentation. If raised among the Skraal, such characters are also treated as Skraal with regard to Place Magic, Arctic Lore, Weapon Proficiency, literacy and languages.
The trait does not breed true: even if both parents are Half-Skraal, their children will not be. Furthermore, the offspring of a Half-Skraal and a Skraal will be a Skraal. Thus, there are no lasting communities or extended families of Half-Skraal, as there are for Half-Elves: such families either lose their Skraal characteristics or are absorbed into the general Skraal population.
Because of genetic incompatibility, most inherited templates cannot be applied to the Skraal. Natural lycanthropes are permitted, but a Skraal cannot be a Half-Celestial or Half-Fiend, or any sort of Half-Dragon except one: the White dragon (it is thought that the Skraal may already incorporate genetic material from white dragons). Similarly, a Skraal who becomes a Dragon Disciple must select the white dragon.