Ithnagau (5e Race)
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"Behold! The remnants of a forgotten human folly, shaped to a new purpose by an alien god. Isn't it wonderful how nothing in nature is wasted."
The Spine of the World is not a hospitable place. A range of huge mountains whose peaks scrape the clouds, ‘the wall’ as it is called by many marks the end of the world to the peoples of Faerun, as far as they can see. The snow-covered peaks are approached only by the brave and the foolhardy, and prove deadly to all but the most tenacious life. Yet there is life there. Life that has learned to survive, that has learned to thrive, in a place which should be anathema to it. Freezing temperatures, great altitude and limited oxygen all conspire to make the highest peaks of the spine deadly. Yet still they are haunted by the specter of life. Unshakeable life, which persists despite everything. Among these life-forms are the monstrous Ithnagau.
The Ithnagau are related to gnolls, the savage hyena-like humanoids devoted to the Demon Lord Yeenoghu. Their origins are much stranger than a mere quirk of evolution, however, and while they bear a close resemblance to gnolls there are a few distinguishing features. An Ithnagau’s fur is pure white, with dark markings on its back, and a pair of short antlers sprout from its forehead. Most Ithnagau are emaciated, the skin of their bellies pulled tight against their ribs, for while a gnoll can sate its endless hunger through constant hunting, the Ithnagau must subsist on the meager pickings that the spine of the world can provide. The Ithnagau’s canines are particularly long, curved and wickedly sharp, and the creature is a horrifying sight when it feasts on live prey, tearing its skin and flesh to shreds with those terrible teeth.
By far the strangest thing about the Ithnagau is only revealed when its antlers are cut off. When this happens the creature undergoes a brief and painful transformation, going from monstrous hyena to wild-eyed human in a matter of moments. While it loses none of its instincts in this form, the Ithnagau is otherwise largely indistinguishable from an ordinary, if bedraggled, human being. The transformation lasts until midnight on the next night, at which point the creature changes back equally quickly, with a new pair of antlers sprouting from its forehead. The Ithnagau is uncomfortable and on-edge in its human shape, eager to return to its usual form.
Humanity, in all of its infinite ambition, has had many empires. It is the nature of humankind to hope, to believe that the world can be made better, and this dreaming is often corrupted into a belief that human rule is best for all. Such empires are often short lived, however, torn apart by squabbles for power. Different influential individuals, each with their own vision, frequently pull in different directions, believing that theirs is the only way forward. Caught in the middle of their struggling, the empire collapses. The college of Ith were part of one such human empire. A collective of scholars, thinkers and nobles, they had heard legends of a land beyond the spine of the world. A fabled utopia, this place was blessed with bounteous, abundant life. Furthermore it was supernaturally conducive to learning and higher thought, with the water from its streams granting mental clarity and the fruit of its trees sparking philosophical ideas. In this time the continent was little explored and the college of Ith, believing these stories to be true, split apart from the rest of the empire, aiming to cross the spine and settle in the paradise they found on the other side.
The college were not fools and they made the journey well-prepared and with contingency plans in case of disaster on the peaks. When they were some way up the mountain, however, the harsh conditions proved more challenging than they’d expected and they found that they could not cross the mountain range before winter struck. Rather than try to climb further into the teeth of the cold, the college wisely elected to build a small but serviceable fortress on the mountainside. They took stock of their supplies and prepared to outlast the winter. Their fortress secure, the college of Ith discovered a pack of gnolls that made its home in the mountains. The college observed these gnolls closely and discovered that they did not worship Yeenoghu but rather a god that they called Nagauthis, which they believed was trapped inside the mountain. The college believed that Nagauthis was simply a primitive understanding of their own god of winter and took control of the gnoll clan by posing as divine messengers of their trapped deity. The gnolls believed them and the college abused their belief to extract offerings of food from them, which helped to supply their larders.
In the middle of winter, however, a disaster struck which the college of Ith had not foreseen. A gigantic avalanche, so huge that it annihilated the college’s fortress completely. The only survivors were a small group who had been receiving offerings from the gnolls. They returned to find their shelter gone. Struck with panic, the college went to the gnolls for aid. The pack believed that Nagauthis had sent the avalanche out of anger. They promised the humans that if they took them to the summit, where the presence of their god was strongest, all would be well. They would be made whole. The remnants of the college were increasingly delirious, increasingly desperate to reach the promised utopia on the other side of the mountain. They followed the gnolls blindly into a monstrous blizzard.
Neither the pack nor the college were seen again. It was at this time, however, that the Ithnagau first appeared on the spine of the world. Search parties from their former empire were sent after the college of Ith. When all that was found on the peaks were these strange creatures, the other humans were left to speculate on the fate of their fellows. The strange ability of the Ithnagau to change into human shape hinted at the bizarre fate that the college of Ith had suffered at the whims of Nagauthis. The Ithnagau tell a warped, confused version of this history. To them, they have found their promised utopia on the spine of the world. To them, they were created by the will of the glorious god Nagauthis.
Ithnagau packs are made up of tight family groups with none of the gnolls’ usual competitiveness over food. They understand that strength exists in numbers and they work together to ensure the survival of the collective. Their pack mentality only lasts up until a point: once an Ithnagau is too old to help hunt, it is left to die in the frozen wastes. Ithnagau reproduce naturally and cannot be born from transformed hyenas, as gnolls can. Young are taught to hunt early and are expected to become functioning members of the pack within a year. Any that don’t suffer the same fate as the elderly.
The Ithnagau believes that their god Nagauthis guides them in everything they do. They watch constantly for omens from their god, which they see in the flights of birds and patterns of snowfall and hear in the howling of the wind. It is easy to dismiss this as superstition, but these omens often allow the Ithnagau to predict and avoid the spine’s most pressing dangers, such as avalanches, blizzards or predators too large and dangerous for the Ithnagau to take on. The leader of each pack is a shaman responsible for constant observation of the signs, the only Ithnagau exempt from hunting and the only hope of a pack member who cannot supply the group with food. Despite their relatively primitive life on the slopes, many Ithnagau tribes can read, write and speak common. When they find a cave in the mountainside, they leave a message indicating that they have passed through for other Ithnagau packs, including warnings about threats in the area. Packs keep their distance from one another, not wanting to compete for food. Conflict between packs is rare but when it does happen it only ends when the only one remains. The Ithnagau use spears and knives carved from the bones of large animals but are just as likely to pursue their prey on all fours and leap on them with their fangs and claws bared.
While motivated primarily by hunger, the Ithnagau are also considerably more intelligent than gnolls. They can restrain their urge to kill long enough to implement advanced hunting tactics unknown to their brutish cousins. They often forgo a feast now if it means more food later and they know to store supplies for the coldest, harshest times of year. All these things the spine of the world has taught them. The morality of the Ithnagau is also more blurred than that of gnolls. While their brutal hunting tactics might be seen as a necessary pragmatism in the face of difficult conditions, they do take a certain cruel pleasure in inflicting suffering on others. At the same time they are dedicated to the wellbeing of their pack and are fiercely loyal. They take no joy in casting out those who can’t serve the pack, and hold lengthy mourning rituals for any of their kind that die. Those that are left to die accept their fate, understanding that it helps to secure the future of the group. Despite the difficulty of life there, the Ithnagau are loathe to descend from the spine of the world. It’s their utopia, where they are closest to Nagauthis. Sometimes, however, one of the pack might have reason to descend the mountain and travel into more civil parts of the world. A gnoll pack might allow an Ithnagau into its ranks, thinking the creature to be a strange member of their own kind. If they ever discover that the Ithnagau doesn’t worship Yeenoghu, however, it’s likely to be torn apart.
Sometimes an Ithnagau will willingly remove its antlers and enter a city disguised as a human, making sure to cut off its antlers again each night to retain its disguise. This is an uncomfortable existence for them, always hiding their true shape, but for some Ithnagau it is the only option and they learn to adapt to and even enjoy the life of an ordinary human. Should their monstrous form ever be discovered, however, the Ithnagau can expect as much mercy from most humans as they will get from the gnolls.
Ithnagau separated from the pack are therefore often drawn to the adventuring life, where people of all sorts are bound together by a common cause, with appearance secondary to companionship. An Ithnagau can learn to put aside its predatory instincts and will treat its new adventuring family with the same undying loyalty as it did its pack. The Ithnagau must be kept well-fed or it will prove easily distracted and unpredictable. If its needs are met, however, it will prove a reliable ally once its trust has been earned. All Ithnagau, no matter how far they are from the mountain, however, believe that Nagauthis is always with them. Whether they rejoice in this or come to reject their god’s constant presence, they believe that they are always watched.
Ithnagau names are usually a series of guttural growling sounds, which they believe Nagauthis chooses for them at their birth. These names are obviously difficult for any other creature to replicate. Some Ithnagau use gnoll names, while those that enter human society and attempts to disguise themselves are often forced to take on a human one. In the rare places where an Ithnagau can exist in its true form amongst other humanoids, it creates a name for them to use, usually based on its role in the group or its former role in the pack and often short and memorable. Whatever name it uses, the Ithnagau never forgets the one that Nagauthis gave it.
Names: Augur, Claw, Creeper, Cutter, Dagger, Feaster, Flame, Follower, Fury, Gutter, Healer, Hunter, Keeper, Leader, Lightning, Listener, Runner, Seeker, Seer, Serf, Sneak, Speaker, Spear, Spiker, Storm, Thunder, Tracker, Tooth, Watcher
Hyena-headed inhabitants of the spine of the world, their lives devoted to survival and the service of their monstrous god.
Ability Score Increase. Your Constitution score increases by 2 and your Dexterity score increases by 1.
Age. Ithnagau mature quickly, are ready to hunt within a year of birth and are considered full adults by the age of 3. They can live to be around 50, though on the spine of the world they most often live to around 40 before they can no longer compete and must be thrown out of their pack to die.
Alignment. Learning from a young age to demonstrate absolute loyalty to their pack, Ithnagau tend towards lawful alignments. Their cruelty towards prey and outsiders means they are often evil, though an Ithnagau that has existed in human society for a long time is more likely to be neutral or even good.
Size. Ithnagau are tall, though thinly built. They usually stand between six and seven feet. Your size is medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can't discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
Child of the Peaks. Your insulated fur, along with generations of learning to survive in the coldest part of the world, means you have resistance to cold damage and you’re acclimated to high altitude, including elevations above 20,000 feet. You’re also naturally adapted to cold climates.
Bite. Your fangs are a natural weapon which you can use to make unarmed strikes. If you hit with them, you deal piercing damage equal to 1d6 + your Strength modifier, instead of bludgeoning damage normal for an unarmed strike.
Guidance of Nagauthis. You are constantly aware of the omens all around you that are marks of the influence of Nagauthis. Your god warns you of imminent danger and helps you face future threats. You can cast the alarm spell once per day requiring no material components. When you reach 3rd level you can cast the augury spell once per day, requiring no material components unless you are unable to observe the movements of birds. If this is the case you must provide the marked tokens that the spell requires.
Shapechanger. When both of your antlers are severed from your head, you involuntarily polymorph into a human form. Your statistics are the same in each form, except that you cannot use your bite attack while you are human. At midnight on the next night you involuntarily polymorph back into your true form, with your antlers restored.
Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common. You can also speak Gnoll, which has no written language.
Random Height and Weight
|Base Height||Height Modifier||Base Weight||Weight Modifier|
|5′11"||+2d6||210 lb.||× (2d4) lb.|
When creating an Ithnagau character, you can use the following table of traits, ideals, bonds and flaws to help flesh out your character. Use these tables in addition to or in place of your background's characteristics.
|1||I'm constantly hungry, even when I've eaten recently, and am always on the lookout for more food.|
|2||I never do anything without consulting the signs from Nagauthis first.|
|3||I laugh raucously when I'm excited, especially when adrenaline hits me. It's an unnerving sound.|
|4||When I'm scared I mimic the mannerisms of my packmates so I feel that they are close to me.|
|5||When I think I'm alone I tell Nagauthis all of my thoughts, fears and hopes.|
|6||Life on the spine of the world is hard, so I never let my guard down anywhere that I go.|
|7||My first thought, on seeing any living thing, is to wonder what it tastes like.|
|8||I've come to prefer human form to my true shape and am horrified by my Ithnagau reflection.|
|1||Community. To survive and thrive in life, you need a pack. (Lawful)|
|2||Cruelty. Hunting is for more than just food. It's sport. (Evil)|
|3||Freedom. Far from the mountains and Nagauthis, I do what I like. (Chaotic)|
|4||Survival. Everything that I do, I do simply in order to keep on living. (Neutral)|
|5||Servitude. My duty is only and always to Nagauthis. I live and die at its whim (Lawful)|
|6||Discovery. The world beyond the peaks is huge. I want to see it all. (Any)|
|1||My first duty is to my family, whom I trust more than anyone. I would die for them and they for me.|
|2||I am certain that Nagauthis has a special purpose for me specifically, though I don't know what.|
|3||My new, non-Ithnagau pack doesn't know how to hunt or survive without supplies. I'm going to teach them.|
|4||I'm a creature of instinct, thinking only about my immediate needs and never planning ahead.|
|5||One of the mountain's many monsters took my whole pack. I want to grow strong enough to avenge them.|
|6||I want to learn to be human, to enjoy my human form without discomfort and to live peacefully.|
|1||My hunter's instincts means that I see everything as a threat and am constantly paranoid.|
|2||I react with open hostility to the adherents of any god that isn't the glorious Nagauthis.|
|3||I obsessively follow the omens that I see, even if I'm clearly reading too much into them.|
|4||Having lived on the spine of the world for so long, I believe that I can survive anything.|
|5||Once I've started to eat, it's impossible to stop me from tearing my prey to bloody strips.|
|6||I have no concept of betrayal and do not think that anyone I trust could possibly fail me.|