Tortle Species in Zheng-Kitar | World Anvil


The peaceful tribals from the tropics

Base Racial Traits

Ability Score Modifiers: (+2 Strength, +2 Wisdom) Tortles are a strong people, with powerful muscles designed to assist them in moving around with the extreme weight they all carry on their backs. They are also a very wise people, thanks to their simple and close-knit tribal lifestyle.   Size: Tortles are medium-sized creatures.   Type: Tortles are humanoid creatures with the Tortle and Reptilian subtypes.   Speed: Tortles are slow but steady, and have a base speed of 20 feet, but their speed is never modified by armor or encumbrance. Tortles have a swim speed of 40ft.   Vision: Tortles are native to tropical and naturally moist environments, and as such can see through mist, fog, heavy rain, and other water-based forms of concealment as if they weren’t there.   Languages: Tortles begin play speaking The Regional Language(See Languages of Zheng-Kitar) that reflects their origins, and Aquan. Tortles with high INT can select from the following bonus languages: (Common, Auran, Giant, Draconic, Sylvan, Baltairi, and Abyssal)   Shell Protection: A Tortle's Shell is responsible for their unnatural weight, body shape, and also for their safety and survival. As a move action that does not provoke AoO, a Tortle can retreat inside of its shell to grant itself DR 5/-, +4 natural armor(That stacks with their existing shell bonus), and a racial +2 on fortitude saves. However, they immediately drop prone, have their speed drop to 0 and take a -4 to all reflex saves made while inside of their shell. While they remain inside of their shell, the only action they can take is a swift action to emerge from their shell(This does not remove them from prone state.) Enemies do not gain a bonus to attack them for being prone so long as they remain inside of their shell.   Tortle Shell: Because of their odd body shape, Tortle cannot wear armor in the conventional sense and thus cannot benefit from armor bonuses to AC. Instead, they gain a racial +4 to their natural armor, which counts as an armor bonus for the purposes of feats and abilities like armor focus. Tortles, instead of covering themselves in armor, have a unique ritual to increase the durability of their shell and give them more armor using expensive oils, materials, and aromatics. See the table below for more information.
  • Each point of AC added costs 1,000gp and 2 days of uninterrupted meditation and work to add.
  • A Tortle's Shell may be enchanted/upgraded as if it were armor. However, it cannot be sundered, broken, stolen, or destroyed.
  • A Tortle's Shell can be treated with a special material, but doing so costs 20% more than normal.(Mithral for 'heavy armor' would cost 10,800 instead of 9,000). If the Tortle upgrades the category of their shell's armor with it already treated with a special material, they must also pay the difference if that special material has different costs between armor categories.
  • The Tortle must be proficient in the category of armor necessary to add a point of natural armor to their bonus. The Tortle must have the requisite gold to make the jump to the next category to advance. For example, The Tortle must have 2000gp and 4 days to advance from medium to heavy armor.
  • Light Armor: +5 bonus. Max Dex Bonus becomes +8, ACP of -2, and 10% spell failure.
  • Medium Armor: +6 bonus. Max Dex Bonus becomes +6, ACP of -4, and 30% spell failure. Speed Drops by 10ft if applicable.
  • Heavy Armor: +8 bonus. Max Dex Bonus becomes +4, ACP of -6, and 40% spell failure. Speed Drops by 10ft if applicable.
  Lords of the Ocean: Tortles are expert Seafarers, Sailors, and are overall highly experienced with water and the ocean. They can hold their breath for 1 hour, and gain a racial +4 bonus on Profession(sailor) checks, a racial +2 on Survival checks, and these are always class skills to them.   Snapping Jaws: Tortles have massively powerful jaws, and gain a bite attack that begins at 1d8 base damage(for a medium sized Tortle) plus relevant modifiers. When they hit with this bite, they can make a free trip attempt against the target of their bite.   Immovable: Tortles are naturally steady on their feet, and their immense size works in their favor when others try to move them or grab them. Tortles gain a racial +5 to their CMD, and are considered one size category larger for the purpose of using or being affected by special attacks that depend on size, such as swallow whole and trample.   Weapon Proficiency: Tortles are proficient with Tridents, Longspears, Longbows, Nets, and any weapon with the word 'Tortle' in its name.   Storm-Savvy: Tortles have a mysteriously potent connection to storms and calamity, and have an almost superhuman sixth sense when it comes to the weather. Tortles are always aware one hour in advance of a coming storm, and are otherwise always aware of a more sudden change in weather 15 minutes beforehand(Such as by a control weather spell), and if it was natural or magical. Tortles automatically reduce the wind level or sea roughness within a 15ft radius of them by one level.(Stormy Seas, Rough Seas, Calm Seas, Etc.)

Basic Information


Tortle are an odd people, and though they have two arms and two legs, their head is attached to a long neck that extends out from the central part of their torso, the eponymous shell that all Tortle are born with that they live inside of as a sort of 'Home'. The Tortle are one with their shells, and these shells, though heavy, are not simply an article of clothing nor armor they 'wear'. Indeed, a Tortle's shell is filled with blood vessels and nerves, and is fused to their such, a Tortle is eternally bonded to his shell from birth to death. Thankfully, the shells of the Tortle are incredibly thick and durable, capable of even deflecting sword blows and arrows quite easily...otherwise, their necks are long and almost serpentine to extend out of their shells, and along with other reptiles, will often spend a significant amount of time basking in the sun in order to warm their body up and increase their metabolism.   The shape and structure of a Tortle’s shell is often a reflection of the environment they lives in. Most land-based Tortles have high domed shells, whereas more aquatic-born and freshwater Tortles are more likely to have lower shells to reduce drag as they swim through water. Soft shelled Tortles are especially fast swimmers, partly because they have lighter shells but also because they have large webbed feet.

Biological Traits

The most common variance between Tortle tribes and often Tortles themselves is the shape and color of their shells. Tortle Shells can vary wildly shape, texture, and even color...some tribes may have shells with long tube-like protrusions on their shells, others still might have simply bulky shells while others still might have incredibly streamlined and aerodynamic and polished shells. Their shells and hair can range in color from bone what to a deep emerald or jade-color, with ocean or azure blue another rare but not impossible color.

Genetics and Reproduction

Tortles are an amphibious people, but it was not long ago that they were an entirely Aquatic one. Tortles in the modern era reproduce through sexual reproduction, with males and females getting together on somewhat rare occasions and, once the mating is finished and assuming both Tortles were fertile, the female will come down with eggs which will gestate within her for several months. Once the gestation is complete, the egg laying occurs on land, preferably in sandy areas; some Tortles can even lay up to 20 eggs at a time. The female covers the eggs in sand or dirt in a sunlit area, often in large Hatcheries the tribe uses to keep their young safe until they hatch. The eggs take between 80 and 90 days to incubate. After this period, the hatchlings are born.

Growth Rate & Stages

Tortles are rather famously slow-aging creatures, with biologies that much like the Tortles themselves are slow and inexorable. Tortles, thanks to this unique and incredibly robust biology, once hatched, reach full biology maturity at 40 years of age(though they are often mentally mature around 30). Once they become adults, they live long lives full of wanderlust and exploration and do not become middle-aged until they reach 150 years of age. They become old around age 225, and become venerable around age 300, where they can sometimes live an absurdly long period of time before dying - the most famous and longest case being up to 500 years old.

Ecology and Habitats

Tortles are creatures born for the tropics. Like all lizards and reptiles, Tortles prefer living their lives under the warm sun to boost their energy and metabolism, and they don't get along well withing cold climates at all, and often die or become comatose after extending contact with cold weather without ample protection. Tortles are a tribal people, and as such they have a very negligible impact on the environments they live in...they hunt, scavenge, and live in relative peace with the land and animals around them thanks to their natural predisposition for nature and the wild.

Dietary Needs and Habits

Tortles are primarily herbivores, and their bodies have a hard time processing excessive amounts of meat in single sittings. Tortles hunt for their food in hunting parties, and thanks to their naturally ordered and structured society they tend to use careful tactics and planning to take down their prey when they are required to hunt live prey. Fish are the most common source of non-herbivorous food Tortles usually consume, and Tortle villages often have large fishing navies that sprawl outwards into the nearby water to collect and trawl for fish...these navies are splendid sights to behold, thanks to the beautiful construction of the ships and the graceful nature with which the Tortles leap into the water and hunt their food.

Biological Cycle

As they age, Tortles begin to sprout long, flowing beards from their gnarled chins as their skin dries out and becomes wrinkly...most noticeably, a Tortle's age can be determined from their shell. As they age, a Tortle's shell begins to grow larger and larger, sprouting beautiful growths and attracting grass and little trees and crops sometimes to grow upon their backs. What little hair they do have usually turns bone-white as they approach extreme old age, and eventually Tortles become less and less mobile as the weight of their shell begins to weigh heavily upon them.

Additional Information

Social Structure

Tortle society is overwhelming tribal and even more overwhelming Lawful, and is generally ruled by a 'Chieftain' or similar figure of authority who oversees the tribe and is charged with keeping the tribe well-stocked, well-fed, and safe during all months of the year. Aside from the chieftain, there is a 'Matriarch' or 'Egg Seer' that serves as the Warden and Protector of the tribe's hatcheries, and the one who is charged with the spiritual wellbeing of the tribe. This Matriarch or Egg Seer holds a position of power that rivals the Chieftain, and in times of crisis or instability these figures can butt heads or become one position, depending on local conditions.   Otherwise, Tortles make little distinction between themselves as tribesman beyond Hunters who roam outside the village to protect the village for food, Fish-Catchers who prowl the waters around the village for food and scouting, and Sages, who practice the gift of the Arcane or Divine with the Tribe's Matriarch. In particularly large and powerful tribes, a third position of power can arise that is often referred to as 'Shellmaster' or some variant thereof...this figure is often on par with the Chieftain or Matriarch in terms of influence and power over and within the tribe, and governs and oversees the tribe's warriors and scouts as well as sees to the tribes safety and protection, leaving the act of leadership and vision to the Chieftain. This division of labor and simple structure, as well as a tight sense of unity, is the hallmark of Tortle society.   Rarely, a fourth position can arise in massive tribes that do not split up...this role's name can vary, but generally sees one figure govern and oversee the food supplies and resources of the village.   Finally, Tortles are inherently adventurous and filled with a burning passion for exploration and adventure within their chests, and Tortles often leave their tribes for years and even decades at a time to go and explore the world. They are all stricken with inherent wanderlust, and there is little a Tortle loves more than packing their things up and setting out to see the sights of the world.

Uses, Products & Exploitation

Tortles are hunted zealously for their shells, which are seen as highly valuable and sought-after intensely by all manner of nobility and warriors as special material to fashion armor out of...but, the practice of Tortle Hunting or Slavery is a costly one, as the Tortle villages are often near or on the water and force any who seek to capture them to fight them on their home terrain, where they are most deadly.

Geographic Origin and Distribution

Tortles are naturally found almost exclusively in the Tropic, Humid, and Coastal climates and locales of the world, and Tortle Tribes almost never set down outside of these places. Being natural born wanderers, Tortle can venture far afield and inland and often do, but are not natively found there.

Average Intelligence

Tortle are sentient and averagely intelligent creatures, and while not exceptionally dumb or brilliant they are incredibly wise.

Perception and Sensory Capabilities

Tortles have mostly normal vision compared to other races, but thanks to their oceanic lifestyle they have adapted to see perfectly well in conditions of mist, fog, heavy rain, and other water-based forms of concealment as if they weren’t there.

Civilization and Culture

Naming Traditions

Tortle names take inspiration primarily from the cultures of eastern island tribes and other primitive civilizations, as well as Eastern Naming Conventions such as Chinese, Korean, Etc. However, it isn't uncommon for Tortles to adopt new names or add new, foreign names onto their own as they travel as a sort of eternal 'souvenir' of meeting a particular tribe, culture, or nation.   Female: Kuwanyamtiaw, Macawi, Mituna, Talulah, Sikya, Sokow, Abetzi, Anna, Doya, Ehawee   Male: Dustu, Dahmu, Gad, Kanuna, Lanu, Mahkah, Nastas, Taheton, Grok, Aranck, Arre-Catte, Beshiltheeni   Family Names: Mwala, Mwezi, Nyanja, Tengo, Thanthwe, Anthu, Chilan, Dzuwa, Galu, Lanpansi

Beauty Ideals

Tortle find beauty in simplicity, order, and restraint first and foremost. They believe that a building made simply but in an orderly manner is a beautiful thing, while a blade made simply but is lavish and gaudy may be seen as ugly. They apply this same principle to those they encounter, and often find kinship with simple but ordered souls like themselves.

Gender Ideals

To Tortle, monikers like 'Male' or 'Female' hold no inherent meaning to them. There is simply the Tribe, and those that make it up. They believe in the self and individuality, but they make no distinction between Male and Female, and instead simply concern themselves with the 'We' and the whole of things.

Courtship Ideals

Tortle courtship is, much like themselves, a slow and ponderous thing. Months and even years are spent in quiet and peaceful friendship, embracing one another and 'going low and slow'(As Tortle would put it) in an effort to take things slow and enjoy them. Tortles love adventure and exploration, and traveling alongside their treasured companion seeing the world together is the greatest form of courting a Tortle can often imagine.

Relationship Ideals

Much like their courting, Tortle relationships are long, stable things. Tortles often continue adventuring and exploring with their partners even after the courtship has passed, and things most continue unchanged from their years courting their love as the Tortle and their partner(s) grow old and grey together, preferring to die or go out in one another company together than spend more years alone.

Common Dress Code

Tortles have their shells, which they mostly treat as clothing, but do enjoy wearing baubles and trinkets as necklaces, rings, and other bits of jewelry. They do often wear simple robes or leathers over their bodies other than their shells, but their unnatural body shape means they cannot wear most articles of armor or clothing.

Common Customs, Traditions and Rituals

Tortles follow an almost ritualistic belief and tradition of decorating themselves and their skin with ink and artwork as they travel and live their lives, decorating themselves with Tattoos as they go through life in a tradition that they follow zealously. For some, this many manifest as a love of trinkets and curios they take as mementos of their travel, but for many this means tattooing themselves for every notable action or event they go through, ever friend they meet, or any such action they see as notable enough to decorate onto them in some way.

Common Taboos

Nothing is more Taboo to a Tortle than displaying aggression or displaying violence against another without the other doing such onto them first. They are an inherently peaceful people, and to become violent against another is the highest of Taboos to them.

Common Myths and Legends

Tortle attribute their origin myth to the great Rakhmou-Dahmu, last of the Old Gods and from whose shell they spawned as tadpoles. They venerate him as a creator deity and their grand father, and treat him with great respect and reverence.

Interspecies Relations and Assumptions

Tortle are an inherently peaceful and non-violent people, and unless provoked or assaulted are more than happy to welcome any outsiders into their villages or confidence. They treat most they meet with amicable friendliness and give most the benefit of the doubt when they meet them, and get along extremely well with most other species unless the other party proves to them that they mean the Tortle or their village harm. They will almost never take up arms or fight others unless they have been provoked beforehand.
Alternate Racial Trait List:   Tortle Alternate Racial Traits  
Racial Feat List:   Tortle Racial Feats  
300 Years
Conservation Status
Tortle are one of the most populous races on Zheng-Kitar, and can be found almost everywhere along every coast and shoreline.
Average Height
4.9ft - 6.2ft (1.5 - 1.9 meters)
Average Weight
396lbs - 462lbs (180kg - 210kg) Can get as heavy as 782lbs / 355kg.
Average Physique
Tortles are generally fairly robust and strong, but most of their Physique is hidden within the confines of their shells. They have thick, powerful tree-trunk like legs and thick arms, both designed to support a creature bearing immense weight from its shell.
Body Tint, Colouring and Marking
Tortle bodies are generally green or other natural colors, and their shells generally range along various Earthy colors such as brown, black, green, etc. Rarely, some Tortles can have bright Jade or Azure-colored shells and bodies, but such a thing is the exception, not the rule. Tortles almost always decorate their bodies with intricate artwork and tattoos to have a record of their journeys.
Related Myths
Related Materials

The Children of the Old Gods

As one of the oldest races on Zheng-Kitar, the tortle are a race nearly as old as living memory, tracing their origins all the way back to the Age of Sapphires nearly 10,000 years ago - when the Sapphire Elves cracked open the prison of the last living Old God, the Tortle are said to have spawned from the shell of the great world-turtle himself as young tadpoles, literal products of Rakmou-Dahmu's own immense power finally released into the world after such a long time. And over time, as the first Tortle grew from Tadpoles into fully fledged Tortle and took on forms of their own, they spread throughout the world as the only children of the last of the Old Gods.   The Tortle are thus one of the most ancient races on Zheng-Kitar, and one of the few to originate from it and still survive into the modern day - they endured the calamitous final days of the Age of Sapphires and the nigh-total extermination of the continent through the grace of their father, Rakmou-Dahmu, and their own ingenuity, diving beneath the surface and living their lives beneath the waves to escape the extermination of the continent. True to their natures, they are one of the most ancient and historical races alive today, matching and (arguably) beating out even the likes of the elves for the length of their history - and though they may live much shorter lives in comparison, the Tortle have endured through time untold, trudging through history with slow and ponderous steps as they always have, enduring the worst the world has to offer and giving only kindness and innocence in return. When the last of the Tortle die, it is said, so too will die the last innocence in the world.

Sailors of the coasts

As one of the most populous races on Zheng-Kitar, one does not need to go far to find a Tortle colony - they can be found along almost every coastline in the world, and while they cannot be found in arctic climates, they can be found most everywhere else along the world's shores. They are, thusly, a race deeply in tune with the ocean and the weather - a Tortle is a valuable asset on board a sailing vessel for not only their amphibious natures but their ability to sense the weather patterns and tell when a storm is on its well as their natural talent for seafaring, having grown up and spent their entire lives in their colonies along the water's edge.   Those same talents also make the Tortle a terrifying threat at sea - with beaks that can easily break the hull of a ship, the ability to communicate with ships themselves, and the ability to exist underwater for extended periods, all combine to make the prospect of facing a Tortle on the sea one most sailors would prefer to avoid.


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