Khaastas are a race of fiendish lizardfolk native to the Outlands and the Chaotic planes of the Great Wheel in Dungeons & Dragons. They were invented for the Planescape setting and migrated to Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition first through the Fiend Folio, and then through the splatbook "Serpent Kingdoms" for the Forgotten Realms. They are essentially an entire culture of mercenaries and raiders, who migrate across the planes in search of loot and plunder. They also have become enemies of the sarrukh due to that race of elder serpentfolk arrogantly trying to enslave them when they first met, which has seen them develop a presence on the sarrukh's homeworld of Toril.
The khasta are raiders, slavers, and smugglers who plague the Outlands and the chaotic planes. They’re vicious, unreliable cutthroats and cross-traders who’ll turn stag on a cutter as soon as look at him. Only two things really matter to a khaasta: prestige and wealth. Wealth is fairly easy to accumulate and display, but the khaasta code of prestige is a convoluted and twisted set or rules of conduct that rewards backstabbing, conniving, and deceit. To a khaasta, there’s nothing so wonderful as peeling a powerful enemy and living to give him the laugh.
Khaasta bear a passing resemblance to lizardmen of the Prime Material Plane. They’re humanoid in form, but their bodies are covered with tough, small scales, and they have long, powerful tails. A khaasta’s face has a blunt, lizardlike snout and its head is crowned with a flaring crest. A khaasta’s colorful scales create intricate, unique patterns that’re never repeated from individual to individual. Unlike their more primitive relations, khaasta dress in bronzed plate armor and wield exotic weapons.
Khaasta typically travel in roving trader-bands, although the trade of any particular group can turn to extortion, kidnapping, or smuggling at a moment’s notice. Since they have no innate planewalking abilities, khaasta are forced to walk the Great Road to get from plane to plane and must rely entirely on portals or conduits.
All khaasta, both male and female, consider themselves warriors and hold themselves ready for a fight at any time. Their tough scales provide a natural AC of 5, but khaasta typically wear bronze breastplates, greaves, and half-helms that improve their AC to 2. Khaasta are capable of delivering serious damage with their bites, and typically wield a large two-handed sword, halberd, or battle axe; their considerable Strength gives them a +1 to damage rolls. They can both bite and attack with a weapon in the same round.
Khaasta often use giant lizards as mounts and prefer to fight mounted whenever possible. Fighting mounted gives the khaasta a +1 bonus to hit characters on foot and also provides them with the additional combat power of their mount.
Note that a khaasta cannot use its bite attack while fighting from a mount. Whether on foot or mounted, khaasta are excellent archers, and almost all khaasta can use composite long bows in addition to any other weapons they may have.
A khaasta’s home is its band. Typically. a khaasta band wanders caravan-style across the planes, seeking opportunities for trade or pillage wherever it goes. There’ll always be a number of giant lizards equal to half again the number of khsasta present as mounts and pack-beasts.
Khaasta bands are notoriously chaotic and disorganized. They believe in the rule of the strong, and there are constant challenges of authority and schemes for advancement among the khaasta. Long ago they learned to resolve these differences by ritualistic, nonlethal combat; in ancient times the race almost dueled itself to extinction.
While dealing with a khaasta band is a dicey thing. it doesn’t always have to turn out badly. Khaasta can be excellent sources of information, muscle, or illicit goods, as long as a cutter can meet their price and demonstrate (forcibly) that he’s too tough to challenge or turn stag on. See, the khaasta code demands that they just take from the weak instead of dealing with ’em, and if a khaasta perceives itself to be in a position of strength it’ll try to take what it wants.
One last note: Never assume that a khaasta’s going to do what it promised it would. Another part of the khaasta code is the challenge of the strong by any means available. Even if a khaasta doesn’t think it can take a basher on today, it’s likely to plan an ambush or stack the odds somehow in a fight tomorrow.
Khaasta don’t have many friends out on the planes, and in some of the places thes travel they’rw the low sods on the food chain. Consequently, they take any opportunity to live well today. There’s nothing too good for a khaasta cockpot, including fellow travelers or the local natives if that’s the easiest meal at hand.
Khaasta young are carefully guarded by their parents until they reach 7 to 10 years of age. In an average band, a group of young equal to half the number of adults can be found tending the pack lizards or acting as noncombative scouts and sentries. Usually, about half the adults remain to guard the caravan while the rest raid or deal with outsiders.
The leader of a khaasta band is usually a warrior of exceptional size, strength, and cunning. Typically, a khaasta chieftain has 4+4 to 6+6 Hit Dice, a THAC0 of 15, and a useful magical item or two to help it stay on top. Khaasta chieftains gain a +3 damage bonus with weapons due to their Strength.
A band of 15 or more khaasta may have a wise one with them (50% chance). Wise ones are counselors and shamans to the khaasta chieftains, existing outside the code of challenge. Khaasta wise ones have the spell abilities of a 4th-level cleric and are defended by 2 to 4 khaasta warriors. Although the wise ones claim they are uninterested in the khaasta power struggles, it’s not unusual to find bands where the wise one is pulling the strings of a chieftain it advises.
Khaastas superficially resemble lizardfolk, and they may have descended from them long ago. However, khaastas are considerably larger, tougher, and more aggressive than normal lizardfolk. Khaastas have tough, small scales and flaring crests that are colored in intricate, wild patterns unique to each individual. They have long, powerful tails that are used for balance rather than combat.
Most khaastas travel in nomadic bands in the Outer Planes, where they look for loot, slaves, and combat. They hire themselves out to anyone that seems powerful (and in their eyes, worthy) enough to command them, but they backstab their patron at the first sign of weakness.
Khaastas speak Draconic and Common.
Khaastas look for ways to dive into combat. Some begin by peppering their opponents with arrows, while other khaastas charge into melee with their halberds. A khaasta can make a bite attack while wielding a weapon, and it relishes tasting blood during a fight. The creatures make use of giant lizards as mounts.
Khaastas plan and execute ambushes that focus on hindering dangerous foes until they can be brought down in melee combat. However, khaastas have a strong cowardly streak and run when the combat turns against them.
Among the roving bands of khaastas, might makes right. The pecking order of any band is in constant flux, and challenges are common. Khaastas once determined status by having duels to the death, until they almost drove themselves to extinction. Since then, disputes and challenges have been resolved through a nonlethal form of ritual combat.
Khaastas have a convoluted sense of honor that is impossible for outsiders to understand. Treachery, betrayal, theft, and murder are all acceptable methods of advancement in khaasta society.
Females are just as strong and tough as males and are just as likely to be found in marauder bands. Some foes have seen a female khaasta wading into battle with a young one strapped to her back. Despite this seeming disregard for the safety of their children, khaastas defend their young with incredible ferocity.
3e Forgotten Realms Lore
Sometimes mistaken for powerful lizardfolk, khaastas are extraplanar creatures native to the Abyss. On their home plane and the Barrens of Doom and Despair (where many have migrated), khaastas are mercenaries and fighters who impose their will on others by force of arms. In Abeir-Toril, however, they take a much more cautious approach, staying on the outskirts of society and interacting with the natives only when they need to acquire specific information.
The khaastas are nomadic creatures by nature. Like many of the other lizard races, they were bred for war and have an unusual talent for waging it. When not doing battle with their own enemies, they are happy to fight on behalf of anyone else willing to hire their services.
Though physically similar to a lizardfolk, a khaasta appears considerably more imposing. Its scales are small, and each individual sports a colorful, flaring crest that is unique in color and shape. Its long powerful tail is used for balance rather than combat.
Sometime in the distant past, the demon prince Demogorgon created the khaastas as servitors—specifically, to serve as warriors in his armies. As the demon lord’s power increased, scores of demons joined his army, and the best and brightest of them quickly rose to leadership positions. These demonic generals found the khaastas difficult to command, and in many cases, not as effective in battle as true demons. When they complained to Demogorgon, he pondered the khaastas’ thousands of years of loyal service and, in a brief moment of generosity, decided to free them.
The khaastas wasted no time establishing alliances with other demonic powers. They offered to help defend the domains of several demon lords in return for permission to hunt there, and most of those they approached found wisdom in such an arrangement. Such deals forged close relationships between the demons and the khaastas, and eventually both sides agreed to help one another in case of attack. Over time, the khaastas became particularly friendly with Sess’innek, a demon lord who sought the mantle of divinity.
When the sarrukh who survived the fall of the Okothian Empire sought allies in the Abyss, their eyes fell upon the khaastas. Erroneously assuming that these creatures were no more powerful than the lizardfolk they had created in Faerûn, the sarrukh immediately tried to enslave them. Not only did their efforts fail, but the attempt offended the khaastas to such a degree that they immediately declared war on the sarrukh.
The sarrukh called on what few reinforcements they could muster from Faerûn, including an army of lizardfolk led by yuan-ti masters, and war was joined. Not understanding that the Okothian sarrukh were actually refugees from Faerûn, the khaastas hatched a plan to corrupt what they believed to be their enemies’ base of power in that world. They petitioned Sess’innek for aid, and he sent demons to take control of the lizardfolk tribes throughout Faerûn that the khaastas believed were supporting the sarrukh invasion. Though this demonic incursion had no effect on the war between the sarrukh and the khaastas, the demons did stay long enough to breed extensively with the lizardfolk, giving rise to the half-fiendish lizardfolk known as the lizard kings.
The war dragged on for centuries, often spilling out into some of the outlying planes. Although it had long since become a war of attrition for both sides, momentum finally built in favor of the khaastas under a ruler called Maadar’il. A brilliant tactician whose family had been slaughtered by the sarrukh, Maadar’il proved himself capable of uniting several khaasta factions against the sarrukh. At last, he led his forces to victory, crushing the sarrukh’s remaining yuan-ti and lizardfolk allies in the process. The defeated sarrukh returned to Okoth.
Despite their victory, the khaastas had come to hate the sarrukh with a vengeance for killing so many of their kind. Upon following their fleeing enemies to Faerûn to complete their destruction, they learned that the race was nearly extinct on its home world. Unable to locate their quarry, they returned to the Abyss, where Maadar’il decreed that the war would not be truly won until the last of the sarrukh had been destroyed. To that end, he sent out khaasta scouts to gather information about the sarrukh. They returned with news of a few areas where the sarrukh had existed thousands of years ago. Maadar’il ordered the khaasta armies to invade those areas and destroy any sarrukh they found there, but most of these forces returned with neither news nor any trail to follow.
At last, Maadar’il decided to scale back the number of khaastas he committed to Faerûn and send the more civilized and intelligent members of their race to gather information instead. Several small groups of khaastas traveled to numerous points throughout Faerûn, eventually unearthing a trail that led to their sworn enemies. Raids followed, and though the sarrukh managed to defend their strongholds in Faerûn, they grew worried enough to strike a deal with Set. In exchange for help against the khaastas, they agreed to help him bind Sseth, the aspect of the World Serpent that they worshiped. Set created the wereserpents as a symbol of this pact, and he also managed to secure some werecrocodiles from his ally Sebek to send against the khaastas. This aid prevented the khaastas from inflicting heavy casualties upon the sarrukh, but the attackers were forced to withdraw from many of the locations in Okoth to the underground crypt of Sar’Rukoth. In this stronghold, they were protected not only by their minions, but also by miles of subterranean tunnels. Although the khaastas continued to send out raiding parties, they no longer knew where the sarrukh were hiding, so they began making random strikes throughout the area in hopes of uncovering them. In the meantime, the Okothian sarrukh’s betrayal of Sseth made enemies of the yuan-ti and sarrukh of Serpentes, who chose to remain loyal to their god.
The sarrukh struck back at the khaastas by using polymorph to turn a yuan-ti assassin into a khaasta and sending him to the Barrens of Doom and Despair. This agent infi ltrated Maadar’il’s camp and slew him by slipping poison into his food. The khaastas correctly assumed that the sarrukh were responsible, so they renewed the intensity of their attacks on Faerûn.
Currently, the khaastas and the sarrukh are at a stalemate. The sarrukh are in hiding in a heavily fortified position, and the khaastas have only vague clues as to where this stronghold might be. Meanwhile, the khaastas are becoming more and more entrenched in Faerûn, where they have staked out territorial claims in Okoth, the Heartlands, the Unapproachable East, and Mulhorand.
The khaastas view Faerûn as a tremendously challenging place, where they must fight their own instincts to wage war against the native inhabitants while gathering the information necessary to hunt down the sarrukh. Since most of the scaly races inexplicably refuse to betray the progenitor race, the khaastas face the daunting task of gathering this information from humanoids and other civilized beings of Faerûn—groups that in fact know very little about the sarrukh.
The khaastas have always been willing to exploit weakness whenever they encounter it—even within their own species. Shortly after they were freed by Demogorgon, they fell to squabbling and nearly drove themselves to extinction through constant infighting. The reasons for such confl ict ranged from simple dislike of their fellows to power struggles in which rival factions tried to oust leaders and assume control of various tribes. But the khaastas were no fools, and when they realized what a toll this infi ghting was taking upon their numbers, they instituted ritual combat as a method of handling disputes. Though khaastas continue to fight and murder one another, this arrangement results in far fewer deaths. Furthermore, because ritual combat forces each khaasta to stand up for itself when wronged, laws are virtually nonexistent.
Khaasta society in Faerûn, however, takes on a different form. Because the khaastas living there must remain focused on their main goal of eradicating the sarrukh, they tend to focus their combat skills on ridding their territory of menacing creatures rather than on engaging in glorious battle with one another. In addition, the highly magical nature of Abeir-Toril forces many to undertake training they would not otherwise have pursued simply to ensure the survival of their forces.
Khaastas bear little love for one another under any circumstances, though they are disciplined enough to join forces when needed. They choose mates based primarily on battle prowess. Though unions are usually for life, mates rarely like one another and spend as little time together as possible. True friendships are likewise rare, since any personal alliances tend to dissolve in the next perceived insult or ambitious power play. Khaastas do, however, honor their parents and other mature relatives—albeit sometimes grudgingly.
Unlike many scaly races, khaastas are born alive, normally in litters of three or four at a time. Within a year of birth, each newborn’s family gives her an ornate masterwork scimitar, which she is expected to keep and use in battle for the remainder of her life. Should a khaasta’s blade ever be lost, she is expected to explain why her birth scimitar is no longer with her.
Khaastas begin training their young to fight at an early age. The females of the race are just as aggressive as the males, and they often carry their young into battle with them. During the ten years it takes for a khaasta to mature, she learns swordsmanship, armor use, and the art of ritualized combat.
As soon as a khaasta comes of age, she must enter a ritualized battle to first blood with a peer of the same age. The loser owes a blood debt, or favor, to the victor. Blood debts are almost always collected within the first year after the battle, and they normally involve some kind of combat—most often protection of the winner’s person during a raid. Since failure in such a duty means immediate exile from the tribe, young khaastas are quite willing to fight to the death to fulfill a blood debt.
Virtually every khaasta that comes of age is a combatant. Because so few ever reach old age, their true biological lifespan remains uncertain, but most die before the age of thirty, with elders commonly living no more than ten years beyond that. Because khaastas consider it shameful to die of old age, many elders place themselves on the forefront of raiding parties and undertake dangerous missions against their enemies.
When a khaasta dies in combat, her tribe holds a great feast to celebrate her departure. At the conclusion of the meal, the body is burned in a great bonfire, and the charred bones are interred in a shallow pit in the tribe’s burial mound—usually a small hill in the Barrens of Doom and Despair. Journeying to the burial mound to inter the dead is a sacred duty offered as a reward for notable accomplishments in combat, and no more than five khaastas may escort any one deceased individual.
One per year, the khaasta migratory pattern takes each tribe to its burial mound. Upon arrival, the tribe holds a great feast and sacrifices one of its captive enemies in honor of the dead. The birth scimitar of each khaasta slain in the last year is passed down to the next individual born into that family. Should there be no young to receive the blade, the family name is inscribed upon the hilt, and the scimitar is left at the burial mound. A typical khaasta burial mound sports a ring of swords at the top, commemorating clans that no longer exist.
Khaastas are not naturally inclined toward arcane spellcasting— in fact, in the Barrens of Doom and Despair, khaastas that can use arcane magic are almost unheard of. Normally, the khaastas simply call upon their demonic allies to provide magic for them when needed. The demons typically oblige such requests more out of hatred for whatever beings the khaastas are fighting than any loyalty they feel toward their allies.
The war with the sarrukh, however, has caused the khaastas to revise their way of thinking to some degree. Their strategy of placing near-permanent settlements in Faerûn while raiding sarrukh strongholds from their home plane has created a need for magic that allows them to move between the planes. Sess’innek initially provided them with such magic, but they have since acquired a large number of magic items that allow planar travel as well.
In Faerûn, khaasta wizards and other wielders of arcane magic are beginning to appear. But because the khaastas are superstitious folk by nature, those who have learned to use magic are often rejected by their tribes upon returning to their planar homes. This practice has led a few small groups of khaastas to carve out permanent homes for themselves in Faerûn. Such outcasts normally find work in mercenary bands of other races, but a few have discovered lizardfolk tribes and taken up residence as their shamans.
Khaastas venerate the demonic Sess’innek rather than an actual deity. The worship of Sess’innek has more to do with the arrangements previous generations of khaastas made with him than with any actual respect on the part of those currently living.
The khaastas are not particularly religious, which is fine with Sess’innek as long as they fulfill the minimum requirements he sets forth—namely a certain number of sacrifices in his name. The khaastas sacrifice approximately one out of ten prisoners to Sess’innek. Clerics exist, though they do not receive their spells from Sess’innek, and their value is measured by their ability to fight and restore the wounded to health rather than by the spiritual guidance they can provide.
On the other hand, the khaastas venerate their ancestors almost as gods. Each khaasta learns the names and deeds of past generations for as far back as the older clan members can recall. Such information is passed down in the oral tradition and never written down. Before going into battle or facing some other trial, the khaastas call not upon the favor of Sess’innek, but upon the blessings of their ancestors. Periodically, each clan performs ceremonies of remembrance to honor the lives of their ancestors.
Despite their innately vicious nature and traditionally short tempers, the khaastas have mounted no attacks on the civilized regions of Faerûn. In fact, they have taken care to maintain amicable relations with all the civilized creatures they have encountered, so as to prevent splintering of their power through local conflicts. A few orcish tribes ousted from their territory by the newcomers have attempted to strike back, but their attacks have been both costly and ineffective.
In addition to their birth swords, khaastas prize fine weapons and armor above all else. Though khaastas rarely make their own magic items, many sport magic weapons or armor that they have taken from enemies or received as gifts from their demonic allies.