View Full Version : D&D 3.x Other The Tselu: A Small Arthropod Race [WIP / PEACH]

2014-11-24, 06:06 PM
The Tselu

At first glance, an adult tselu could pass for an outsized praying mantis: a slender low body some three feet long, with an oddly rigid neck bearing a valentine-shaped head with soulful compound eyes.

But stray too close and the forelimbs flash out in a jackknife blur, their chitinous razor-edges flensing flesh from bone. The tselu are predators, at home in deep forest and open grassland; but they are also curious, intelligent, and all too aware of their humble stature in a vast and threatening world.

Personality: The tselu are carnivores and relentless hunters, but they are not unduly savage, and their approach to other races is a cautious blend of interest and timidity. While their curiosity may be tinged with suspicion, most tselu would rather observe strangers from hiding than attack them outright.

If approached carefully, a tselu may be willing to respond to nonthreatening overtures--but communication is a substantial challenge, since the tselu language relies on buzzing clicks and stridulations, virtually impossible for most humanoids to reproduce. If communication is established through some other means, the tselu present a sometimes incongruous mix of indifferent pragmatism and impish humor, though always with a wary respect for large and unpredictable creatures.

Physical Description: The tselu body superficially resembles a praying mantis, with the body braced on four jointed legs and a long neck bearing the head some two feet above the ground. The jackknife claws are held folded to either side of the neck, while two smaller limbs are tucked below the hinged base of the cephalothorax.

A tselu's long abdomen is covered by narrow folded wings, and while the tselu cannot fly, the wings can be spread for a short but graceful glide. Most tselu are naturally camouflaged with hues of forest-green or savanna-tan, although rare color morphs are occasionally seen.

Relations: Tselu are shy, reclusive and sometimes xenophobic, preferring to live in deep expanses of ancient forest or in high grasslands, canebrakes, or dense reedbeds on coastal margins. Most tselu live out their lives without ever seeing a humanoid--or at the least being seen by one. In the rare instances where communication is established, the tselu are willing to trade in handicrafts and textiles on a limited basis, with the proviso that their tribal territories are not intruded upon.

With their affinity for the deepest recesses of wilderness, the tselu are most likely to come into contact with elves, with whom they sometimes share practical concerns of forest health and game management.

Religion: The tselu rarely if ever discuss their spiritual lives with non-tselu. From rare glimpses of tselu culture, it can be inferred they venerate a divinity of nature--although which one, not even the elves can say.

Language: The tselu language is partly ultrasonic and involves a complex array of trills, clicks, rustles, buzzes and sawing stridulations, sometimes emphasized by a rapid fanning of the wings. Deciphering this language would be the life's work of a dedicated linguist, and only possible once he or she had earned an unprecedented acceptance into a tselu tribal group.

Fortunately their wide range of vocalizations, together with their innate curiosity, allows a very few tselu to approximate humanoid language, usually in a whispery rustle or murmuring hum.

Names: On the rare occasions when introductions are in order, tselu names quickly prove almost impossible for humanoids to manage. As a result they are almost always given ad hoc nicknames, which they resign themselves to using when they must.

Material Culture: Both metallurgy and stonework are unknown to the tselu, who are often fascinated by the one and boggled by the other. They are masters at weaving from natural fibers of every kind, and they are reported to produce mistlike nets of remarkable strength, which they sometimes employ to protect their arboreal homes.

The tselu work almost exclusively with their natural tools: their razor-sharp jackknife claws for cutting, and their smaller limbs for more delicate manipulation. Tselu handicrafts are sometimes mistaken for the work of elven masters in the minimalist style, not always to the pleasure of the elves.

Owing to their natural armament, tselu weaponwork is basic and functional, primarily intended for hunting and defense from cover. The typical weapons of a humanoid--a sword, a crossbow, a mace--are simply not made for a tselu to comfortably hold, let alone fight with.

However, the tselu are remarkably effective with small weighted nets, and some tribes have developed ingenious blowdarts propelled by inflated pouches. Other tribes are known to use their jackknife claws to fling small javelins with surprising force and accuracy, although how this is achieved has never been closely examined.

The tselu are not known to use armor; they have no skills to work metal themselves, and they find even leather armor to be cumbersome and restrictive. One elven lai makes mention of a tselu wearing what might be a uniquely crafted mithril coat, although this may only be an ancient bard's invention.

Magical Lore: Arcane magic is apparently unknown to the tselu, and even divine spellcasters are evidently rare. There are isolated instances of tselu druids cooperating with elven champions of the wilderness, but these alliances are sporadic and fleeting at best.

Adventurers: Despite the profound differences between tselu and humanoids, "curiosity killed the cat" is an expression the tselu understand very well. While most tselu remain secluded in deep forests, or out of sight in dense grassy reaches, there are always a few whose interest in the wider world overpowers their hesitant nature. Although never famed for feats of strength, rare tselu wanderers may occasionally approach intriguing humanoids, usually shadowing and observing them for some time before allowing themselves to be seen.

Racial Traits:

+2 Dexterity, -4 Strength, -2 Charisma. The tselu are nimble and graceful, but their light bodies are not designed to apply much force. Due to their natural caution, tselu are a touch skittish around larger races, and their chitinous features lend them an alien, unreadable air.

Small: Tselu gain a +1 size bonus to AC and attack rolls, a +4 size bonus to Hide checks, plus the corresponding drawbacks to lifting and carrying.

Tselu base land speed is 20 feet.

Tselu gain a +8 racial bonus to Climb checks, and a +4 racial bonus to Hide checks when in natural vegetation.

Flutterfall: A tselu can deploy its wings and wing-covers like a membranous fan, allowing it to drop up to fifty feet without taking falling damage. A tselu may also choose to glide ten feet for every ten feet of vertical distance it descends.

Wide Vision: With large sensitive eyes on opposite sides of a broad head, the tselu have both excellent depth perception and a panoramic field of view. A tselu gains a +2 racial bonus to Spot checks and cannot be flanked.

+1 Natural Armor. A tselu's chitinous exoskeleton provides limited protection.

Jackknife Blur: Once per round a tselu may make a double attack with its jackknife claws; each attack should be rolled separately. On a successful hit a jackknife claw deals 1d4-1 points of damage.

Bonus Feat: Weapon Finesse.

Language Barrier: Owing to the difficulties of bridging the chasm between tselu and humanoid speech, a tselu learning a humanoid language must spend four skill points rather than the ordinary two, reflecting the extraordinary mental and physical challenges involved. A tselu gaining a humanoid language from an intelligence bonus must still spend two skill points to acquire the bonus language.

Automatic Languages: Tselu. Bonus languages (with two skill points): Elven, Sylvan, or by region.

Character Classes and Spellcasting: The tselu body and lifestyle naturally lend themselves to classes at home in the deepest wilderness, as well as those reliant on deft hands and fine skills. The mystic ranger and wilderness rogue are especially well-suited for the tselu, although scouts and fighters are also common. Most tselu spellcasters are druids and clerics of their unknown divinity, perhaps with an occasional mystic or shaman.

The tselu are not known to have monastic traditions, and they have no organized martial ethos that would give rise to knights or samurai. Likewise the concept of taking up arms for an abstract cause would be so foreign as to make paladins nearly incomprehensible, and favored souls hardly less so.

Wizards are completely unknown in tselu culture. The tselu have no heritage of arcane research to draw upon, and the barriers of language and range of movement--so essential for verbal and somatic components--effectively prevent them from learning arcane magic by traditional humanoid methods. Although tselu bards and even spellthieves are possible, the tselu approach arcane magic most readily--if rarely--through the paths of sorcerer and beguiler, with the latter especially suited to a race that values stealth and careful observation.

The tselu have a combination of features from the praying mantis and the mantis shrimp, Squilla empusa. With eight limbs they're not strictly insectoid, but they have very little in common with arachnids and most likely represent a separate branch of arthropod life.

There are a few aspects of tselu biology I wasn't sure how to represent. The jackknife claws are based on the spearing claws of mantis shrimp, which are notorious among divers for being able to lay a thumb open to the bone. The strike of a mantis shrimp is incredibly fast--less than ten milliseconds, which translates to a velocity of ten meters per second. I'd like to incorporate some benefit from that, although I'm not sure what it would be.

I'd also like to do a little more with tselu vision, again referencing the mantis shrimp and their polarized eyesight. The eyes of mantis shrimp are exquisitely sensitive, but they're designed for the benthic marine environment, and I'm not sure how much of that can (or should) be translated to a terrestrial forest or grassland setting.

And finally, I'd appreciate any comments on the overall feel and balance of the tselu. I'd like this to be an LA +0 race, and I'd especially appreciate feedback on whether or not I've hit that mark--and if not, what needs to be tweaked.

Admiral Squish
2014-11-24, 06:49 PM
Very interesting flavor, I love races that are nonhumanoid like this.

Some mechanical concerns, though.
They have a +8 racial bonus to climb, but no climb speed. I feel you could add one in without too much concern.
I feel flutterfall could just be expanded to non-magic slow fall/glide. A couple of LA 0 races have that.
I'm not sure how jackknife blur works. You don't indicate an action, or if they're natural weapons, or what a double attack is. I believe you're saying it's a free action once per round, which is problematic.

I would say the jackknife blur thingie could be rewritten to give them two natural claw attacks (1d4 damage). Then mention they can use these claws while carrying items in their hands. And finally, I'd say just add a line that says they can attack with both claws as a standard action.

2014-11-24, 09:08 PM
Originally Posted by Admiral Squish
They have a +8 racial bonus to climb, but no climb speed. I feel you could add one in without too much concern.

I wondered about that. Does a climb speed of 10 seem reasonable? Or maybe just 5?

Originally Posted by Admiral Squish
I'm not sure how jackknife blur works. You don't indicate an action, or if they're natural weapons, or what a double attack is. I believe you're saying it's a free action once per round, which is problematic.

I'm not very good at writing up natural attacks. :smallredface:

So, something like this?

Natural Attacks: As a standard action, a tselu can attack with both jackknife claws, rolling each attack separately. On a successful hit a jackknife claw deals 1d4-1 points of damage. The tselu may make this attack while carrying an item in its manipulator limbs.

I'm also wondering if the extreme sharpness of the claws could have a follow-on effect, maybe an extra 1 point of damage per subsequent round from blood loss.

Originally Posted by Admiral Squish
I feel flutterfall could just be expanded to non-magic slow fall/glide. A couple of LA 0 races have that.

Including the hadozee, right? I'll take a look and compare, thanks.

Originally Posted by Admiral Squish
Very interesting flavor, I love races that are nonhumanoid like this.

Glad you like them, and thanks for the comments--the feedback is very welcome.


Admiral Squish
2014-11-24, 09:30 PM
No prob, happy to comment on a cool creation.

Eh, honestly, anything less than 20 kinda defeats the purpose, as you could move that fast with climb checks anyways.

Jackknife Blur
I'd write it like this:
Natural Weapons: A tselu possess two primary claw attacks that deal (either 1d4 or 1d3, the extra -1 will just get confusing in relation to strength) points of damage. The tselu's claws are on specialized limbs, allowing them to be used even while the tselu's hands are occupied. As a standard acton, a tselu can attack with both claws.

I could see some sort of bleed feat, but I don't think you wanna put too much into the race itself.
Heck, maybe you could add a feat that says you can attack with one/both claws as a swift action, but the attacks take a -5 penalty.

Hazozee, raptoran, and dragonborn. Though, the latter two build to flight later.