Yulan-Tai People (/yulɒn-taɪ/)
The Yulan-Tai are descendants of an ancient people, descendants of the long-lost Yulan-Tai Empire. They have been scattered to the winds in the events of the later days of their homeland from the ascension of the first Yuan-Ti to the apocalyptic War of Frozen Scales, and the chaotic collapse of their empire. These days the remaining Yulan-Tai often survive in the underworld of the lands they once ruled, hiding away from plain sight in a, perhaps unfounded fear of being persecuted for the crimes of their ancestors. The Yulan-Tai are themselves an ancient culture, with their own predecessors lost to the sands of time, and the influences of their lost days of glory beginning to fade in modern societies that have long since moved on in the fifteen hundred years that have passed after the collapse of their empire. Still some societies, particularly those close to their own homelands retain influences from Yulan-Tai culture even if as an ancient boogeyman, or inspiration, and a source of nearly endless old, and incredibly dangerous ruins rife with powerful artifacts made with magic long forgotten. The ancient Yulan-Tai were a heavily maritime culture with Yulan-Tai sailors reaching far and wide, though there was seemingly some cultural taboo on sailing to the south. Based on ancient legends the ancient Yulan-Tai possessed a cosmopolitan, and relatively mercantile culture initially, with the upper class especially becoming increasingly hedonistic as their civilization became more powerful over time. Eventually worship of Hessetal spread throughout the culture leading to a series of bloody purges of 'heretics' and the ascension of the first Yuan-Ti in their empire, and indeed the whole of the world. Most surviving Yulan-Tai, especially members of the Yuan-Ti "ascended" are descendants of the Hessetal worshippers, though many have turned against the beliefs that led to the downfall of their civilization, and some communities of heretics survived the purges and maintained at least some elements their culture to this day.
Yulan-Tai names are typically assigned when a child reaches an age where death by early childhood illness is unlikely. Those who are given masculine names are, usually assigned male at birth, but those who exhibit archetypically masculine traits are exhorted to adopt a masculine name. During the ascendancy, many Yulan-Tai names included strong -s and -z sounds to better accommodate more serpentine features. Typically, gendered naming conventions are marked as by how they end, with masculine names ending in e or n. Typical feminine names include: Anara, Bezi, Cestla, Dosani, Eztli, Gazla, Hadana, Iuliasa, Prospini, Rasna, Sosana, Tiantasa, Yaza
Yulan-Tai names are typically assigned when a child reaches an age where death by early childhood illness is unlikely. Those who are given masculine names are, usually assigned male at birth, but those who exhibit archetypically masculine traits are exhorted to adopt a masculine name. During the ascendancy, many Yulan-Tai names included strong -s and -z sounds to better accommodate more serpentine features. Typically, gendered naming conventions are marked as by how they end, with masculine names ending in e or n. Typical masculine names include: Andon, Basse, Carlasan, Danae, Fasgon, Helason, Irise, Kalan, Laze, Nasse, Osse, Tossan
Yulan-Tai names are typically assigned when a child reaches an age where death by early childhood illness is unlikely. As a result, children are often able to have some agency in choosing their own name, and may pick one that does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth. This was common among Yulan-Tai before the ascendancy of Hessetal and became more common as the Ascendancy removed many of the secondary sexual characteristics that were recognized by the previously human Yuan-Ti. During the ascendancy, many Yulan-Tai names included strong -s and -z sounds to better accommodate more serpentine features. Those who take up gender neutral names often indicate their status with names ending in o, u, or x. Typical gender neutral names include: Bex, Dassu, Felassex, Grex, Hasso, Ialax, Kalo, Masanu, Nazux, Qex, Tessu, Yisox
The topic of family names is a rather contentious one in Yulan-Tai circles. During the ascendancy of the Yulan-Tai, there was a significant push to de-emphasize the importance of family, and engendered a sense of importance in the self, and family names were steadily replaced with epithets indicating important personal achievements. Many Hessetalists, especially those that became Yuan-Ti have slowly lost their family names entirely, and instead epithets are given to identify between people with the same given name. Those who are descendants of Heretics, and many who have since abandoned the ways of the Hessetalists have clung onto familial names. As a result, many familial names remain unchanged by the linguistic changes that were wrought with the rise of Hessetal. Common family names include: Andal, Bardai, Czardal, Daidact, Hindalon, Natact, Vardai, Tastal, Zardalon
Much more common after the ascendancy was the adoption of Epithets to distinguish between people with the same given name. Epithets are markets of great achievements and are only given out after the bearer has accomplished something. Those who have reached adulthood without obtaining any epithets are seen as lesser, and in Hessetalist communities often results in significantly worse treatment. Often, a person who has lived and achieved much will receive multiple epithets, in which case they will pick one to be addressed with.
Major language groups and dialects
Historically, the Yulan-Tai people had their own language, appropriately known as Yulan. This language changed significantly throughout the historic period of the Yulan-Tai, and some communities, those most disconnected from the Imperial core, tended to follow older dialects of the language. The written language was slower to evolve and many of the characters in the ancient tongue are shared between older and more modern dialects, and trend which has continued in the fifteen hundred years since the fall, as many Yulan-Tai fight to preserve their mother tongue. Despite these efforts however, the Yulan language is a dying one as many Yulan-Tai are forced to integrate into foreign communities and adopt their language, the younger generations often forget Yulan. Many Yulan dialects have gone extinct as a result, and some scholars believe that the language as a whole will disappear from the world within a few centuries.
Shared customary codes and values
Yulan-Tai peoples break down into two major camps regarding social values. Hessetalists, which represent a slight majority of the survivors favor a more callous outlook on the world with the acquisition of power, and securing dominance and pleasure for oneself is the highest aim, and indeed others, particularly those deemed "lesser" are naught be stepping stools in achieving one's aims. This particular mindset, in its fullest is relatively rare however, and most people within Yulan-Tai community fall somewhere along a spectrum of Hessetalist thought. Those who rejected the Cult of Hessetal, though still fairly cold have a more communitarian mindset with a code of ethics centered around the mutual benefit of the community best being achieved through competition, and though the individual is encouraged to pursue their own betterment, they are also encouraged to remain mindful of the world around them.
Average technological level
The Yulan-Tai were one of the earliest advanced human civilizations developing agriculture, seafaring, and relatively advance architecture in the ancient past, being one of the oldest city-building civilizations in Galisea. They maintained this technical edge throughout their history, adopting metallurgy as early as the conception of the first known Yulan-Tai cities, and continually advancing in that field until the collapse of their Empire. possibly even beginning to use steel shortly before the fall of their Empire. They even managed to tap into the ancient magics and were potent spell casters, at least before the ravages of the Frozen Scales cost them so dearly that they never properly recovered. In the present era, as wanderers in foreign lands, the Yulan-Tai often adopt locally available technologies rather than their own.
Common Etiquette rules
The Yulan-Tai, despite a relatively lasseiz-faire attitude in a number of ways do expect certain measures of politeness. There is a focus on emotional control, and cool headedness. Those who lose control over their emotions are seen as weakening themselves, and doing so entirely unnecessarily. Such weakness, in the eyes of the Yulan-Tai is an action that will be punished, if not by the world, then by the gods themselves. Questioning authority, is usually frowned upon, as one is generally expected to obey their betters, though if one is willing to try and prove the unworthiness of their superior's station that are allowed to challenge them so long as they are prepared to meet an inevitable reprisal with strength and courage. More specific etiquette tendencies are more regionally specific as the scattering of the Yulan-Tai people has seen a lot of cultural influence in that regard.
Common Dress code
Yulan-Tai tend towards a state of blunt practicality when it comes to clothing, those who are members of the group are, more or less allowed to dress how they will, with the main objective to find some way to demonstrate status. Some particularly good looking individuals are encouraged to show off as much as their bodies as is feasible, others will take up elaborate dress to show off ostentatious wealth. Others will be wearing armor nearly perpetually to demonstrate combat prowess. Those who are seen to dress above their capabilities or station must expect however that they might face challenge as to their worthiness of their garb, and more than a few duels have been fought over the matter of dress.
Art & Architecture
The Yulan-Tai's tradition in art and architecture has shifted significantly throughout the history of the Empire. The earliest known artifacts display a certain simple, and elegant style with clean, flowing lines present throughout almost all surviving examples of art and architecture. Slowly, and in an accelerating pace after the ascendency of Hessetal the presence of serpents came to dominate the artistic theme of Yulan-Tai art, and later depictions are utterly covered in ophidian imagery. This is especially noticeable in religious art where the various mostly humanoid deities steadily transformed into increasingly snake-like versions of their former selves if they continued on at all.
Common Customs, traditions and rituals
Yulan-Tai cultural traditions are based on an ancient, unknown precursor culture that is believed to have been the common progenitors of all of human civilization, and the first humans to develop agriculture. Despite numerous differences between the various communities that have been scattered throughout Galisea, Yulan-Tai do believe certain shared customs. Yulan-Tai all favored competition, and the chance to engage in, at least somewhat honorable combat is a source of pride with Yulan-Tai disproportionately joining into gladiator games and to hone their skills and win glory for themselves. There are also a few holidays that have survived the ancient days, with the largest of these being the day of the star, marking what is widely believed to be the first day that the Bright Star shone in the skies above the known world.
Birth & Baptismal Rites
The Yulan-Tai have never historically placed a strong emphasis on birth, with almost now important rites occurring around the moment of birth, and most associated rites occurring when the child has lived a few years and proven that it can survive at least the ravages of infant disease. This is especially true of Yuan-Ti members who see their young as virtually irrelevant until they reach adulthood, and taking any care to protect the young out of the simple need to preserve the species. Those who are so inclined may offer a few prayers to the ancient gods of the hearth for protection in the hopes that newborns will survive until they can be given proper rights when the child has reached an appropriate age.
Coming of Age Rites
The first rites that are taken seriously are those that pertain to coming of age. The Yulan-Tai, have in most cases come around to similar traditions as a result of their diaspora. As a young Yulan-Tai reaches the age where they are ready to become an adult they are cast into the wider world to make their own way. They must survive for a year, thrive even without any assistance from other members of their community. Those that make it through this ordeal are welcomed back after a year as fully adult members of the community. Those that do not, do not live to tell the tale. The major difference between Hessetalist and anti-Hessetalist thought in this regard is that anti-Hessetalists will, usually ensure that the situation where adolescent members of the community find themselves is not inimical to their survival and occasionally a helping hand may be offered discreetly. Hessetalists as a rule, do not, leaving their young to sink or swim with little regard for their survival.
Funerary and Memorial customs
Another area where the Yulan-Tai share fairly consistent beliefs is the matter of death. There is little respect for the dead, at least in comparison to many of the Yulan-Tai's successors. Some may offer a brief ceremony speeding the souls of the damned onto their final destination, but beyond that there is little need for pomp and circumstance. The body of the deceased can be made to serve once more, with bone jewelry being a common status symbol, certain other parts used as alchemical components, and in the most heartless of Hessetalist communities, the flesh of the dead is used to feed the young in certain circumstances, passing the strength of the past to future generations.
There are relatively few cultural taboos common to all the Yulan-Tai peoples, and individual communities each have their own specific set of taboos, often partially adopted from the surrounding communities. There is one that is nearly universal however. As Yulan-Tai society is quite competitive, one must present a front of strength and poise at all times. In light of this, showing one's weakness, and allowing oneself to be attacked through that weakness is a serious faux pas, one that could potentially be fatal in particularly ruthless communities.
Beauty ideals are somewhat unique in Yulan-Tai culture among Galisean nations. Even before the ascendancy of the Yuan-Ti, gender norms were relatively lax and loosely enforced. These trends continued, and even accelerated after the first Yuan-Ti came into existence. As a result, Yulan-Tai have historically favored an androgenous appearance, and most communities still do, and gender differences in beauty, although they can be vaguely said to split into genders based loosely on biological sex, are minimal. Among human members of the ethnic group, traditional beauty standards include lightly bronzed skin, dark eyes, and shoulder length dark hair. Idealized body types are typically lanky and tall. Certain other members of the Yulan-Tai, particularly those descended from non-Hessetalists were darker skinned, and this is not seen as abnormal. Yuan-Ti are naturally relatively hairless, and many have light discoloration of the skin from small scales, or indeed are outright covered in scales, and this is seen as beautiful, at least to other Yuan-Ti, though some human members of the Yulan-Tai find the appearance of their serpentine brethren disturbing. More to the point, Yuan-Ti, especially those given over to Hessetalist thought tend to see the acquisition of more snake-like features to be the most beautiful of all, and outright reject their more humanoid origins.
Gendered expressions among the Yulan-Tai were never very strict, nor particularly tightly enforced, and even when made to integrate into outside communities the Yulan-Tai maintained a certain lasseiz-faire attitude to gender roles. However, when made to associate ideas and values with gender, many would say simply "Too be brutal is masculine too be devious feminine", or perhaps "to be tough is masculine, clever feminine". In short, masculinity that is strong, that protects the weak, or takes what it wants by force, and femininity is intelligent, coming up with novel solutions, or planning to undercut opponents. Such short sayings have deceptive depths, and most Yulan-Tai would agree that people often express multiple genders, often changing their expression within their own lifetimes. Some would imply that there are many genders, each associated with a personality trait, and others would insist that gender is a balance between masculine and feminine traits.
The process of courtship is a short one among Yuan-Ti. Simply, Yulan-Tai have very limited concept of romance, and marriage, or its approximation is a pragmatic affair. A suitor would pursue a possible romantic interest largely by offering up something of value to their interest. This could be some form of expression, or something of sentimental import, but more often than not is an object of economic value, or a guarantee of economic support. If the suitee accepts, they would reciprocate this offer, solidifying the partnership. When interacting with people outside their own communities, particularly with romantic intent, Yulan-Tai will try to adopt or at least pantomime the values of their host culture, some earnestly, some with ulterior motives.
Yulan-Tai have typically little use for relationships, seeing romance as a more pragmatic affair. When in a relationship, there is no expectation of loyalty, particularly for Yuan-Ti, who are so few in number as to need to breed with as many people as possible to increase their numbers. The most important thing of all however, is that the relationship maintain its value, though what a relationship is valued for can change, both members must benefit. If this is not maintained, the relationship is expected to end as quickly as possible. Those who have not taken on a snake-like mindset are not immune to such concepts as sentimentality however, and often this perfect paradigm of brutal practicality is not met.
Though the Yulan-Tai no longer can claim to be powerful movers and shakers in the known world, they once possessed an empire that stretched across a vast expanse. The Yulan-Tai Empire was once one of the most powerful in the known world, threatening even the giants in their latter days. However, in modern days, they cannot claim to be the masters of the world. Instead, those still committed to advancing the cause must do so through subtler means, with many Yulan-Tai integrating into extant societies, seeking high ranking positions in those organizations, and using their influence to move things in a favorable direction. Others integrate, intermarrying with local notables, using the connections brought to advance themselves regardless of any higher cause. It is said that among Hadar and Aeillan nobles there is not a family that can truly claim to not have any Yulan-Tai heritage, though such connections are rare to link back to living members of the Yulan-Tai.
Recommended DnD (5e) Traits:Note: These are rough guidelines, and not strict rules for those wishing to roleplay as Yulan-Tai.
If using Getninia Human• +1 to Intelligence, +1 to Strength
• Proficiency in Athletics, Deception, and Insight
• Recommended Feats: Actor, Dual Wielder, Eldritch Adept, Human Determination, Keen Mind, Linguist, Poisoner, Prodigy, Skill Expert
If using Getninia Yuan-Ti• +1 to Strength or Charisma
• You may elect up to four Serpentine Traits