Snake Kingdoms
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"I had laughed at the tales that many people of the Snake Kingdoms had both men and snakes among their ancestors. Why, there have even been cases of rural peasants in our own backwater villages becoming overly fond of their livestock, if you get my meaning - but I had never heard any proof of those unions producing offspring, either.
But now that I had actually reached Karos, it became harder to dismiss these tales - many of the surathi, an ancient bloodline which had inherited mysterious powers - had patches of scales where skin should be, or disturbingly elongated incisors that would have reminded me of the dreaded vampire, if they hadn't proudly walked the streets in broad daylight. And there seemed to be a fair number of people with even bigger deformities - while such people hid themselves in large, concealing robes, the movement of the limbs behind those clothes made my imagination to create all sorts of disturbing explanations…"
- Edmund Durnsten in: The Known Lands: The Snake Kingdoms, Avane Street Publishing (1415)

Population: 29,457,320 (surathi 56%, humans 35%, dwarves 4%, elves 3%, gnomes 1%)
Government: Surathi aristocracy
Imports: Slaves
Exports: Psionic artifacts, spices

This jungle region is well known for the multitude of poisoned snakes that call it their home. Yet it is named for a different kind of snake: The surathi, who maintain their greatest realms here. Their rulers scheme and plot to make the surathi the rulers of the entire world, and only their constant in-fighting and the occasional revolt of human slaves prevents larger conquests.



Most of the industry of the Snake Kingdoms is based on slave labor, and thus fairly inefficient. Slave produce most things that the surathi need, and thus the surathi have never seen much reason for changing this system, but the relatively cheap but advanced goods filtering in from northern regions are beginning to make slave labor unprofitable in some industries. It is unlikely that the slave plantations will be abandoned any time soon - the local infrastructure simply isn't good enough to transport the amount of food needed to feed the teeming millions of surathi - but those who use slaves to manufacture all sorts of items are coming under increasing pressure. The standard response to this has been simply to work the slaves harder, but many surathi with more foresight are contemplating other solutions.

However, there is one area where the Snake Kingdoms have a virtual monopoly on: The creation of psionic items. A few trinkets are exported as curiosities, but most items are created for domestic use. To help the manufacture of such items, the surathi have even devised something similar to nexus towers (which are incompatible with psionic energies): So-called death pits, where slaves too weak to work are put and slowly drained of their life energy to power the items. It is said that sometimes individuals can hear the screams of the slaves who died this way when they use psionic items made with the help of a death pit.

Life and Society

Government and Politics

Groups and Organizations

Surathi society seems to be inherently fractious. Numerous power groups and different philosophies have sprung up over the centuries, with their adherents warring with words, and, all too frequently, with force.


Important NPCs

Major Geographical Features

Important Towns and Cities

Important Sites

Regional History

This verdant region has been inhabited for a very long time. Small tribes of humans staked out stretches of jungle as their territory, viciously defending it against all intruders. But gradually, the first cities arose close to the rivers, allowing a first flowering of civilization.

But human civilization teetered close to extinction two thousand years ago when a dark warlord - some say a demigod - called Shargul arose. He gathered a force of orcs and kobolds from the Star Mountains and swept into the region, conquering all of it within a few short years. Any resistance was brutally crushed. He then took several decades to consolidate his holdings, building a vast network of paved roads (some of which are still in use today) connecting the newly fortified citadels in the center of his conquered cities. Most of these improvements were created by human slave labor, with kobolds and orcs working as overseers. He also created Yaragol, a dark and brooding fortress built into the sides of a volcano in the center of his territory.

Most humans did not try to resist, for even knowing a rebel could mean death after lengthy interrogation and torture. Still, a few brave souls dared to resist, and the most famous among those was Sarush, a human who wielded strange powers of the mind never before seen among that race. Over the course of several decades he fathered numerous children with several women, all of which became strong psychics in their own right. Despite the best efforts of Shargul's enforcers he managed to elude them and continued to be a thorn in their sides.

Nevertheless, the war machine of Shargul's empire grew, and his forces began raiding the elven empire of the Verdant Coast. But after several decades of low-level warfare and expenditure of a small but significant fraction of his forces, Shargul came to the conclusion that while he probably would win a war against the organized and magically powerful elves and their human subjects, his forces would be weakened and overextended, thus threatening the stability of his rule. He began to look for weaker targets and started to expand his empire to the west and northwest.

Eventually, he reached the Parginian Rim, and while the armies led by the city of Atalus fought fiercer than predicted, their resistance began to crumble in face of his overwhelming military and magical might. At this point, with most of Shargul's forces far away from the jungle, an old but unbroken and powerful Sarush made his move and journeyed to Yaragol, the fortress in which Shargul dwelled. What precisely happened then is unknown to this day, but the result was obvious to all: The volcano on which Yaragol was built exploded together with much of the land around it, forming the depression known today as Sarush's Bowl. The resulting release of dust and debris into the atmosphere darkened the skies around the world for many years, triggering a minor ice age and causing crop failures and starvation in most lands.

For the humans oppressed by Shargul, however, it was a day of joy, for Sarush spoke to his most loyal followers in their dreams, explaining that he had ascended to godhood and that the threat posed by Shargul was ended forever. The ability of his clerics to conjure large amounts of food saved many lives over the next few years, and together with the elves from the east they managed kill most of the now leaderless orcs (the kobolds, on the other hand, have proven more adept in hiding in the jungle, mountains, and other remote places, and thus remain in the region to this day).

The humans took control of the cities and began to rebuild their cities. The descendants of Sarush ended up as their leaders thanks to their powers and gratitude for the deeds of their ancestor. However, strife and warfare sometimes erupted between them, which kept their rule from expanding outwards. Only the threat of the Atalan Empire - with whom they fought a few inconclusive wars - served as a unifying force, and when the Atalan Empire began to disintegrate, so did their unity.

In the sixth century NA, Assoros, the ruler of the city of Kelzech, began experimenting with newly discovered psionic powers which allowed their users to crossbreed with other creatures - including snakes, which were sacred to the Cult of Sarush since many of the powers he manifested used snake symbolism. His children were half human, half snake hybrids, and demonstrably more powerful than ordinary humans. When his experiments came to light, most people were shocked, but he argued that he had found long-lost scriptures which claimed that it was the will of Sarush that his descendants should breed with other creatures, taking on their best abilities to strengthen the bloodline. So powerful was his charisma that many surathi (back then merely a term for the blood descendants of Sarush, and not considered a distinct race from humanity) were convinced of the truth in his words and started snake cults that created new hybrids.

When Assoros was assassinated by an unknown party, his followers called for revenge and triggered a civil war for the control of the region - today called the "War of the Snake". In the beginning, the hybrids were in the minority, but their ability to create lots of descendants with many creatures - not just snakes or humans - allowed them to swell their numbers rapidly (not to mention turning their descendants into grotesque monstrosities). In the end, the hybrids were victorious, with the rest of the surathi either falling in line and submitting to crossbreeding, fleeing the region (most of these ended up in the Hamajan Mountains), or getting killed by hybrid fanatics. From this day on, the region became known as the "Snake Kingdoms", with the surathi cruelly ruling over in their eyes inferior human slaves.

While this did not stop conflicts between the surathi, after a time their numbers were large enough to eye the outside world enviously. After a time, a target for conquest was decided upon: The dwarven realm of Gol Murak. While the war has proven long and costly, the dwarves are weakening by the year. Soon, the war will reach a turning point and this mountain range with its fortress cities will be theirs. From there, they can reach out to the Lake of Dreams - and from there, to the rest of the Known Lands.

Adventure Ideas

Traveling to the Snake Kingdoms is of interest to those who wish to learn more about psionic powers - or about the surathi, an insidious threat that has subverted more lands than most people wish to believe. Actually traveling through the Snake Kingdoms beyond the border city of Karos can be difficult for those who do not display psionic powers (and are thus recognized by the surathi as kin) - non-surathi only have those rights that the local rulers are willing to grant to them, which usually aren't many.

The best way of entering the Snake Kingdoms is probably by acquiring a letter of passage in advance from a local ruler or other high-ranking subject. This is not particularly difficult if the PCs have made a name for themselves as scholars, adventurers, or experts on any other subjects. Many individual surathi have an almost frightening level of knowledge about events and people in other lands, and by asking around it should not be too difficult to find a high-ranking surathi with similar interests who will be glad to extend an invitation.

Of course, the PCs then runs the risk that their host has rivals who seek to harm his guests as a way of getting back at him. And the odds are good that their host has ulterior motives in inviting them as well - does he seek to involve them in some sort intrigue? Use them against his rivals? Send them back as brainwashed spies to their cities of origin? Or does he see them as so impressive individuals that he considers them to be suitable mates for his children?

  • Letter from afar: One of the PCs - likely one of scholarly bent - gets a letter from a high-ranking surathi who claims that he has heard of his impressive reputation and wishes to invite him to his home to discuss matters of mutual interest from person to person. His letter is also accompanied by a generous stipend (sufficient for all party members) for the journey to the Snake Kingdoms, should he accept this invitation. If the PCs have any curiosity at all, an opportunity to travel to the mysterious and exotic Snake Kingdoms should be an irresistible lure. But if they aren't careful in navigating the local customs, they could make some powerful enemies among the surathi - and that's even without the mysterious spies and assassins that seem to follow their every move during the journey. What is the real reason for their invitation - and if things go sour, how will they get out of the Snake Kingdoms again?

Designer's Notes & Resources


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