Ophidians (pronounced: /oʊˈfɪdiɑːnz/ o-FID-ee-anz, also pluralized as ophidia and also known as snakemen) were a cruel race of serpentfolk that often served as slaves to the yuan-ti or spirit nagas. With the pterafolk, they were counted among the "Hidden Folk".
Ophidians had snake-like bodies, except that they were neither long nor thin, with short and stubby humanoid appendages.[note 1] They stood upright. They had forked tongues like serpents. They had the ability to change their scale color to match their environment, but their natural color was a spotted green or yellow, with some individuals having some black, brown, or red scales. The greens could range from dark-brownish green to pale blue-green and black scales could also be a faded gray-black.
Besides their ability to change color, ophidians had a poisonous bite that was also cursed, similar to the bite of a lycanthrope. Any humanoid bitten by an ophidian was in danger of magically morphing into an ophidian, beginning within one to five days. A victim would also lose his or her memories and would be filled with an urge to return to wherever the bite occurred. This process usually took fourteen days but could range from eight to sixteen days. The spells remove disease or remove curse, could stop the transformation, but they would not reverse the process. That required the power of a heal, regeneration, or stronger spell. If the change was already complete, only a wish or miracle could restore the victim.
Ophidian poison became inert and lost its magical curse only a few minutes after leaving the snakeman's body.
Ophidians were capable climbers and swimmers, and like true snakes had the ability to unhinge their jaws to allow them to swallow larger prey. By this means, some ophidians would swallow halflings whole.
Ophidians took a natural delight in destruction and torture of others.
Ophidians were not very intelligent creatures. They seemed quite content to follow the orders of their more intelligent masters. Magic was of no interest to the ophidians, nor were they usually skilled enough to master it, though there were some exceptions to this rule.
Ophidians were fond of snakes and sometimes kept giant constrictor snakes as companions.
The yuan-ti used ophidians as front-line troops. Ophidians usually armed themselves with weapons, preferring scimitars, swords, clubs, or maces, but occasionally using battleaxes or scourges. About half carried shields. These weapons were always provided by their masters or scavenged; they did not have the skill to craft their own weapons. They strongly disliked the use of ranged weapons.
Ophidians were generally a subservient race, acting as slaves to yuan-ti, dark and spirit nagas, or black or green dragons. As such, they had little culture of their own. If an ophidian's master was slain or lost, it was likely to seek another one out.
A family of ophidians typically would adopt an ophidian created by one of their own bites.
Mating season for ophidians was year-round. Mating was always initiated by females, with a hypnotizing dance. Females laid between two and seven eggs roughly two months after mating, placing them in a shallow hole and covering them. After depositing the eggs, the mother would abandon them. Eggs took about three months to hatch. Young ophidians would swarm about looking for food unless directed by another creature. A brood surviving adulthood together tended to go on to form its own family group, although ophidians did not form strong bonds with their kin.
Ophidians living as slaves under the yuan-ti had their mates chosen for them by their masters as part of breeding programs.
They did not have their own religion, but sometimes worshiped the powerful beings they served by offering gifts. Some even worshiped giant constrictor snakes. Clerics were almost unheard of among the snakemen, although some became adepts. Enslaved ophidians, of course, worshiped whatever gods they were instructed to worship.
Yuan-ti legends claimed that ophidians all descended from a single human tribe in the Shining Plains that had followed the snake cult of Varae. These cultist eventually found a powerful artifact from the Netherese House Orogoth within the ruined sarrukh city of Ss'thar'tiss'ssun located in the Forest of Wyrms that transformed them into ophidians and gave them the curse to pass on to their victims. This transformation was said to have occurred in 375 DR, yet ophidians were already a part of the kingdom of Najara, which fell in 90 DR, so this story could not be entirely true.
In truth, ophidians were created twice. The human ancestors of the first ophidians came from servants of House Orogoth. Around −2300 DR, during the Silver Age of Netheril, the wizards of the House accidentally placed the "Serpent Curse" upon their servants.
For centuries, these early tribes of ophidians fought amongst themselves and against other races, such as lizardfolk and gnomes. During this time, they worshiped dragons and lived primarily in the High Moor and the Serpent Hills.
From there, they migrated to the Forest of Wyrms in −361 DR, where they discovered Ss'thar'tiss'ssun. The ophidians found the Naja Fountain and after the fall of Netheril helped establish Najara under the rulership of a ha-naga king named Terpenzi and a group of yuan-ti nobles, the Hss'tafi tribe, which were summoned to Najara by magics taught to the ophidians by Terpenzi.
A second group of ophidians were then created in 361 DR. A large migration of humans from the Shoon Imperium and Cormyr brought new settlers into the Shining Plains, and Varae-worshipers from among these immigrants indeed rediscovered Ss'thar'tiss'ssun and the artifact of House Orogoth, which turned the entire group into ophidians as had happened so many centuries before.
- Sources and images conflict as to whether an ophidian's appendages include legs or only arms.
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- Brian R. James, Ed Greenwood (September 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. Edited by Kim Mohan, Penny Williams. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 33. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
- Ed Greenwood, Eric L. Boyd, Darrin Drader (July 2004). Serpent Kingdoms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 112. ISBN 0-7869-3277-5.
- Ed Greenwood, Eric L. Boyd, Darrin Drader (July 2004). Serpent Kingdoms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 148. ISBN 0-7869-3277-5.