Yuan-Ti Species in Kobos | World Anvil


"The snake people give me the creeps. At least the non-scaly elves don't eat their own wounded."   ~Archmage Dulacar, of the Brass Tower   "The Yuan-ti are an interesting study in what can be achieved with the right combination of hubris and humility. The arrogance to supply your own apotheosis at the expense of hundreds of lives, and the humility to know when to skulk about or ask favors from those more powerful than yourself. A dangerous combination indeed."   ~Grandmaster Jeren, of the Golden Tower

Basic Information


The bodies of all yuan-ti have a mix of elflike and snakelike parts, but the proportion varies from individual to individual. After the initial metamorphosis of the elves, their society quickly coalesced into a caste system based on how complete a person’s transformation was. The vast majority of yuan-ti fall into three categories—abominations, malisons, and purebloods—while the Mutated broodguards and exceedingly rare anathemas have their place in the Hierarchy as well.   All yuan-ti can interbreed. Females usually lay clutches of eggs, which are stored in a Common hatchery, although live births aren’t uncommon. A mating between yuan-ti of different types almost always produces eggs that hatch into yuan-ti of the weaker parent, so most choose partners of the same type in the interest of maintaining the Strength of their personal bloodline.   The yuan-ti have abandoned their elvenhood and consider non-serpentine Humanoids to be lesser creatures, barely more civilized than Common apes. Although some purebloods are able to reproduce with humans and elves, most are disgusted by the idea and would do so only if seduction is necessary for a pureblood to preserve a role as a confidant or advisor in warmblood society. The very rare offspring of such a union are always purebloods, although they may appear fully human, elf, or half-elf at birth and for several years afterward.   The yuan-ti know Rituals that can transform an individual into a more powerful type. The cost and time required to perform the ritual is prohibitive, and as a result most yuan-ti never get the opportunity to undergo such a transformation. Every use of the ritual must be modified to suit the individual undergoing transformation, and requires rare herbs, exotic magical substances, snakes, and one or more elves to be sacrificed and eaten as part of the procedure.

Biological Traits

Yuan-ti Anathemas

  The exceedingly rare yuan-ti known as anathemas look much like abominations, but larger, with clawed hands, and six snake heads sprouting from where the head should be. Each anathema is the product of a unique ritual that alters its original abomination form, increasing its size, power, and Intelligence. Other yuan-ti treat anathemas like demigods, and they naturally assume a leadership position over all others in the area.   An anathema’s aggressive presence brings about a transformation in a yuan-ti city, pushing it to become more warlike and expansionistic. The anathema directs the yuan-ti to wage small-scale wars on Humanoids, usually through proxies such as cults and allied creatures, and uses these conflicts to gather riches and slaves until it has enough resources to establish the yuan-ti as the rulers of a region.   Due to the power they wield on all fronts - physical, magical, and social - the dragons of a given region tend to regard anathema as rivals and often seek to ensure their swift demise.  

Yuan-ti Abominations

  Mostly ophidian, but with humanlike arms that can wield Weapons and use tools, abominations closely resemble the perfect form that the serpent gods envisioned. Absent the presence of an anathema, yuan-ti abominations are the leaders in most yuan-ti cities.  

Yuan-ti Malisons

  The various kinds of malisons are imperfect compared to abominations but still a step above humankind in the eyes of the serpent gods. Malisons tend to be receptive to Religion, seeking Insight about how they can improve toward the serpent ideal, and many of them become leaders in the Worship of one of the serpent gods.    

Yuan-ti Pureblood

  The most numerous of the yuan-ti, purebloods are also the most humanlike, exhibiting only one or two snakelike features such as slitted pupils or patches of scales on the skin.   In yuan-ti cities, purebloods are treated fairly but live in an Environment where their wants and needs are eclipsed by those of the malisons and abominations.   Because purebloods can easily pass as human, their most important function is as agents of the yuan-ti in the outside world. They can live incognito among Humans as diplomats, infiltrators, and spies. Because they get to wield power and influence while playing such roles, some purebloods surround themselves with luxury in their human guises and then become resentful when they have to return home and live under the caste system again.  

Yuan-ti Broodguards

    The devolved creatures known as broodguards are created by feeding Humanoids a Special elixir, which gives them scaly skin and a Compulsion to follow orders. Because their minds are crippled by their transformation, broodguards are less useful than slaves for many tasks, but because of their unwavering loyalty they make capable guardians for yuan-ti eggs.   Broodguards are technically slaves, but because of their loyalty and the expense of the potion that creates them, they have slightly higher status than Common slaves—meaning that a pureblood is more likely to give a suicidal order to a slave than to a broodguard.

Growth Rate & Stages

Young Yuan-ti often resemble either elven babies or particularly helpless snakes, and grow to something in between as they age. All Yuan-ti shed their skin in a sheath as they grow, molting regularly as their bodies change.

Ecology and Habitats

Yuan-ti prefer jungles and woodlands. Most see manual labor as beneath them, so ophidians slaves build their homes out of large stone blocks for them.

Dietary Needs and Habits

Yuan-ti are omnivores, but they prefer to eat live meat. When they can take their time on a meal, they will swallow it whole.

Biological Cycle

Many of the Yuan-ti are among the most cold blooded of the Scalykind, particularly the abominations. The most snakelike of the hierarchy often sleep the entirety of Midwinter in a short hibernation. The purebloods have the benefit of being closer to their Elvenkind ancestry and are unaffected by winter's chill beyond most warmbloods.

Additional Information

Social Structure

Yuan-ti occupy the priestly caste of the Pyramid. They answer to high priests that deal directly with their god-kings. Anathema are considered divine avatars for this purpose and in the rare event that one exists they are revered as much as the dragons. Beneath them, the more snakelike Yuan-ti occupy the upper echelons, the abominations act as holy knights and templars, and the purebloods exist near the bottom as priests, shepherds and clerics.

Facial characteristics

Yuan-ti that lack serpentine faces tend to have thin or weak chins, large exotic eyes, and if they have ears they are likely to be pointed.

Geographic Origin and Distribution

Yuan-ti are concentrated mostly in Shelor. Those encountered outside of their home continent are most likely pureblood spies.

Average Intelligence

Yuan-ti tend to be smarter than the average human.

Perception and Sensory Capabilities

Yuan-ti have excellent eyesight, average hearing, and like most of Scalykind cannot detect smells passively. They can actively 'taste' the air to detect scent, and have the ability to detect a heat source within 45 feet if it is at least 20 degrees warmer than the ambient temperature.

Symbiotic and Parasitic organisms

Yuan-ti work closer than most Scalykind with the ophidians treating them like property and slaves.

Civilization and Culture

Naming Traditions

Yuan-ti names have meanings that have been passed down through the generations, although spellings and inflections have changed over time. Most began as elf names, but have been as warped as the ones being named.   Some yuan-ti add more sibilants to their birth names to create an exaggerated hissing sound, based on one’s personal preference and whether an individual’s anatomy can more easily pronounce the name in this altered form. An adopted name of this sort is recognized as a variant of the birth name, rather than a unique name unto itself. A yuan-ti might refer to itself by its birth name, by its adopted name, or (especially among purebloods) by a name it borrows from the local populace.

Beauty Ideals

Yuan-ti value serpentine features. The more snakelike they can become, the more beautiful their society believes them to be.

Relationship Ideals

Yuan-ti breed carefully, to preserve bloodlines. A weaker Yuan-ti seeking a stronger's offspring will often have to promise favors and concessions for months preceding.   Offspring are hatched and raised in the communal broodery.

Major Language Groups and Dialects

Yuan-ti speak Draconic. They are the most likely of the Scalykind to also speak common.

Common Dress Code

Yuan-ti dress more to display their wealth and status than out of any sense of modesty.

Common Customs, Traditions and Rituals

As the Saurians did to their ancestors, Yuan-ti spies identify human and elven nobles that might be susceptible to corruption. They offer the power and 'perfection' of the serpent in the form of knowledge of the ritual that made the first yuan-ti. In this way they insinuate themselves into the courts of their enemies.   Some warmbloods believe that not only are the yuan-ti superior to other mortals and worthy of emulation, but they are also the blessed emissaries of the god-kings. From these entwined beliefs are born the serpent cults, groups of devout mortals who serve the yuan-ti either directly or in foreign outposts. Fanatical in their ideals, these cultists are willing to die for the yuan-ti and their gods, whether from an enemy’s weapon or at the point of a sacrificial knife.   The yuan-ti use the cults devoted to them as a steady supply of willing minions and sycophants. Many yuan-ti establish or encourage cults to gather the special herbs and magic they need to perform the ritual for evolving into a more powerful form. And just as the yuan-ti have Rituals to transform their own bodies, they have a ritual that can change a human or elf into a pureblood.   In civilized society, cultists ingratiate themselves into the local populace, usually by promising perfection of the flesh (sometimes including the healing of afflictions), freedom from the ideas of sin and guilt, and hedonistic delights to those who join the cult. The leader of a cult is usually advised by a pureblood that relays orders and information between the cult and a yuan-ti city. Ever since the discovery of the appeal, purebloods have been unable to lead these cults themselves as even that is too much exposure to risk.   Yuan-ti have no sense of honorable Combat. They are naturally stealthy, and if they can sneak up on enemies, either in an ambush or to murder them in their sleep, the yuan-ti will do so—and they actually prefer these tactics to open warfare. Because abominations and malisons can change into the shapes of snakes, they can keep their presence hidden and get into places their normal forms couldn’t enter.   Their immunity to poison gives all yuan-ti a tactical advantage in dealing with other creatures. A pureblood serving as a food taster for a royal Family could poison a meal and declare it “safe” after taking a bite.   Yuan-ti are likely to retreat or flee from Conflict if they don’t believe they have a reasonable chance of success. This Reaction isn’t out of cowardice, but practicality—yuan-ti value their own lives much too highly to risk them when the odds aren’t in their favor. A short retreat might be just the thing to reach a better tactical position, find allies, or to allow the yuan-ti the opportunity to study their opponents and implement better Tactics. Any enemy who chases a group of fleeing yuan-ti might be on the victorious side of a rout or could be heading into a trap; if the enemy has been encountered before, it is likely that the yuan-ti have prepared a Special Ambush at the end of the pursuit.   Yuan-ti put little value on Humanoid lives, even those of their own slaves and Cultists. They would poison children to carry out a threat against their Parents, or turn one person into a broodguard in order to show her Family the consequence of Resistance. They might refrain from provoking others’ feelings if doing so could adversely affect the yuan-ti’s plans, but they understand Humanoid psychology well enough to know that they can get away with this casual disregard for life almost anytime.   Furthermore, in the yuan-ti caste system, a greater yuan-ti’s life is worth far more than a lesser one’s. Weaker citizens are expected to lay down their lives to protect their betters. Leaders rely on this zealotry in their plans, and although they don’t needlessly waste the lives of purebloods on futile Actions, most strategies include a fallback option in which mobs of purebloods and slaves are Thrown at opposing forces in the hope of allowing the malisons and abominations time to escape.   Almost all actions taken by an individual Yuan-ti are in the service of the ritual of Serpentine Apotheosis. They are always at least indirectly working towards their next evolution, even when they are working on it for a superior.

Common Taboos

The ritual that produced the first yuan-ti required the human subjects to butcher and eat their human slaves and prisoners. This act of cannibalism had several ramifications. It broke a long-standing taboo among civilized Humanoids and set the yuan-ti apart from other civilizations as creatures not beholden to moral values. It corrupted their flesh, making the yuan-ti receptive to dark magic. It emulated the dispassionate viewpoint of the reptilian mind, a trait the yuan-ti admired.   Today, cannibalism is practiced by the most fervent of yuan-ti Cultists, including those who aspire to transform into yuan-ti themselves. In yuan-ti cities, the activity persists in the form of human sacrifice—not strictly cannibalism anymore, but still serving as a repudiation of what it is to be human and a glorification of what it is to be yuan-ti.   Yuan-ti don’t have a taboo against eating their own kind; a starving yuan-ti would kill and eat a lesser without a second thought, and a group of them would choose the weakest among them to be killed and eaten. Under normal circumstances, however, they bury or cremate their dead rather than eating them, but a great hero or someone of status might be ritually consumed as a form of tribute.   The objective of the yuan-ti as a race is to conquer and enslave others; they don’t espouse the sort of evil that calls for them to butcher or eradicate all who oppose them. In keeping with their goal of domination, the yuan-ti would rather capture potentially useful opponents than kill them. They use many methods for capturing enemies, such as poisoning, knocking out an opponent instead of making a killing blow, throwing nets, using magic such as Suggestion, or restraining them in the coils of a giant snake.   To force their compliance, enemies might be brainwashed, Charmed, tortured, or transformed into broodguards. Those that prove intractable still have their uses, either as sacrifices to the gods or as food.


The elf civilization on Shelor that gave rise to the yuan-ti was among the richest in the mortal world. It rapidly progressed in metalworking, using keen intellect and magic to discover the Secrets of making steel. Its military shattered rival tribes and developed advanced tactics for fighting in forests and open plains. The civilization grew into a cluster of allied city-states. Conquered neighbors were allowed to keep their leaders and culture so long as they paid tribute, swore allegiance to the victors, and incorporated their conquerors’ Saurian gods into their religions. These victories sent a constant influx of food, ore, and slaves back to the home cities.   The wealth of the empire allowed the ruling elite plenty of time to focus on intellectual pursuits. These nobles turned to philosophy and prayer, offering gifts of magic and animal sacrifices to their serpent gods, paying homage to the perfection of the ophidian form. The Saurian gods taught the elves how to take on aspects of the snake, but the cost of the change was high, requiring many sacrifices for each person to be transformed. Entire households of slaves in one city-state were killed and eaten to create the first yuan-ti, and once the news of how to perform these rituals spread to other leaders, the call for slaves to fuel the process increased. As the serpent gods began to demand more and more sacrifices, the yuan-ti stepped up their raids on bordering settlements to meet this need.   The physical and magical prowess of the yuan-ti empire allowed the former elves to retain their holdings for several hundred years, until a combination of drought, attacks by enemies (including the dragons and Grimlocks), civil war, defeat of the Saurians, and the development of iron weapons by the some of their conquered enemies finally loosened the yuan-ti’s hold over nearby lands. The serpent people were forced to submit to the new overlords, and were allowed to retain their position among the Scalykind.
Genetic Ancestor(s)
60-100 years.
Average Physique
Yuan-ti tend to be thin, with long, lean muscle and graceful movements.
Body Tint, Colouring and Marking
Yuan-ti have pale skin from which sprouts fine yet hard scales.

Yuan-ti Pureblood

  Yuan-ti Pureblood Traits   Your Yuan-ti Pureblood character—called a pureblood for short—has the following Racial Traits.   Ability Score Increase. Your Charisma score increases by 2, and your Intelligence score increases by 1.   Age. Purebloods mature at the same rate as Humans and have lifespans similar in length to theirs.   Alignment. Purebloods are devoid of emotion and see others as tools to manipulate. They care little for law or chaos and are typically neutral evil.   Size. Purebloods match Humans in average size and weight. 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.   Innate Spellcasting. You know the Poison Spray cantrip. You can cast Animal Friendship an unlimited number of times with this trait, but you can target only snakes with it. Starting at 3rd Level, you can also cast Suggestion with this trait. Once you cast it, you can’t do so again until you finish a Long Rest. Charisma is your Spellcasting Ability for these Spells.   Magic Resistance. You have advantage on Saving Throws against Spells and other magical Effects.   Poison Immunity. You are immune to poison damage and the Poisoned condition.   Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common, Abyssal, and Draconic.

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