The first warning sign greets you as you row to shore, though you initially mistake it for a jetty of rock. For these stones are not a natural feature of the island. Each one is a finely detailed statue, terror literally etched on to their faces. Their eyes stare out to sea for a ship they never reached. You scan the stony, windswept island of tough scrub and twisted trees and sigh. A tropical vacation this is not.
Not a Jungle
The first thing we wanted to do with the reptilian antagonists of the Saurian Isles adventure was to set them apart from other lizardmen, starting with their locale. It makes sense that so many games place them in steamy jungles given their endothermic nature, but reptiles span a huge range of habitats. The island of Ao-Tse, home of the saurians, is less a tropical island and more akin to the Galapagos: hot, rocky, and vegetation is limited to hardy scrub and the occasional tree. Oh, and its beaches are absolutely crawling with big lizards. Instead of the harmless marine iguanas found on the Galapagos, though, visitors to Ao-Tse will be greeted by aquatic basilisks in a variety of sizes.
The more intelligent saurians won’t be found soaking up warmth on the beaches, though. In fact, you won’t find them in the sun at all. To put another new twist on lizardman tropes, the saurians were designed as subterranean creatures. Long ago, Ao-Tse was actually the highland crest of a mountain chain which has since sunk into the ocean, leaving only its steep, rocky pinnacle visible above the waves. The remaining cliffs are riddled with caves that criss-cross the island and act as a lightless highway of sorts for the saurians. The multiple openings allow them to sneak up on intruders to the island despite the lack of cover while also protecting them from the sun’s rays. Years of living underground have bleached the color from their scales, and their red eyes are perfectly suited for seeing in total darknessdarkess.
But saurians weren’t always nocturnal boogeymen. Centuries ago, before their home collapsed into the ocean, they were humans. Their shamans foretold the coming of a great calamity and attempted a blood magic ritual in order to save themselves. The cost was incredibly high, though, with most of the populace going under the ritual knife. In the end, only the warrior and shaman castes remained, and they became the saurian warriors and skirmishers respectively.
Religious zealotry is still a core trait of saurian society, only now they worship an entity they call The Golden Wyrm. This is, in fact, the powerful dragon Ghaundal who sleeps beneath the island. So strong are his dreams that they reach the saurian shamans who interpret these visions as directives from their new god.
These dreams are particularly strong in the area directly over his resting place, and the saurians guard it ferociously. Warriors are regularly fed a potion that lets them fight with unmatched savagery, allowing them to keep fighting even after sustaining what would ordinarily be mortal injuries. The magical calamity that sank the island also mutated its population of giant spiders, allowing them to phase in and out of reality. The saurians have since tamed some of these spiders and use them as venomous mounts able to scale Ao-Tse’s jagged, stony cliffs and attack interlopers from above.
All of Ao-Tse’s inhabitants are available now in the Saurian Isles collection, including the playtested Saurian Isles 5e adventure. Plus, you can also get a free saurian warrior by visiting our website. Basking rock not included.