Manscorpion

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Manscorpion MM 2e.png

Manscorpions are what they say they are, in Dungeons & Dragons. The concept (as Neutral-aligned) was introduced White Dwarf, issue #16, so (barely) too late for the Fiend Folio; but they did get into the Companion Set (as "Chaotic" ie evil). The notion, as you can see, caught on like wildfire in the main settings. So they're in the 2e, 1993 Monstrous Manual.

Essentially the scorpion counterpart to driders, manscorpions generally have an appearance similar to a centaur, with the upper torso of a humanoid replacing the head of a giant scorpion. Eberron takes this similarity to its ultimate conclusion by having "drow-scorpions" called Scorrow instead of the traditional drider.

In the general move toward gender-neutral language, the name "manscorpion" fell out of use in 3.x / Pathfinder, replaced with names like "scorpionfolk" and "girtablilu". If you use the term "manscorpion" in mixed company you reveal the beard on your neck. Still, they retain common usage in Mystara, Greyhawk, and Forgotten Realms. Perhaps especially Greyhawk, not just because that setting is dominated by old farts, but because they are so in-your-face unnatural in that setting.

Mystara[edit]

Manscorpion Orc's Head cover.jpg

Here known as Nimmurians, the manscorpions were a race of primitive, brutal, barbaric savages known as the Sohktars, until they were defeated by the ancient Nithians and driven westward toward the savage coast. There, they came to the land of Nimmur, home of the enduks - a race of priests and scholars who just happened to be winged minotaurs. At the time, the enduks were at war with the orc tribes of the Dark Jungle, and because both races ostensibly worshipped the Immortal Ixion (by the name of Idu), they formed an alliance and drove the orcs back.

The Sohktars began to learn from the enduks, assimilating into Nimmurian culture and learning its language, writing and customs. This gave the dark Immortal Atzanteotl, known to both Nimmurian races as Menlil, a chance to infect the Sohktars with his poison, filling their hearts with hatred of their enduk allies and an envious desire to claim Nimmur for themselves.

So, the manscorpions turned on the enduks, and ultimately drove them away; it was only the aid of the Ee'aar, the winged elves of Mystara, that kept the flying minotaurs from perishing. For this act, Ixion cursed the manscorpions with a lethal allergy to sunlight, causing them to try and claim Nimmur as their own from underground homes and through the use of special makeup that blocks out the deadly rays of the sun.

Still... by the "present" of Mystara (as in, the Orc's Head sourcebook for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition), a growing band of manscorpions has turned from its evil ways and earned redemption, allowing for players to come from this race.

Appearance[edit]

Originally, Nimmurians had dark skin and sandy-colored chitin, but now only the UmShedu, the redeemed manscorpions, look like that; those who still labor under Ixilon's curse have transparent flesh, which reveals pulsing organs and flowing black blood. To hide this repugnant sight, and protect themselves from the sun, they slather themselves in a thick layer of enchanted makeup, the color of which depends on the manscorpion's caste; workers wear brown, warriors wear red, gold denotes a noble, and priests wear black makeup with mystic runes painted on with silver makeup. All afflicted manscorpions wear monstrous-looking masks that conceal a visor of dark glass to protect their sensitive eyes.

Personality[edit]

All Nimmurians possess a fierce and angry spirit, for all they try to appear aloof or reserved, and they are naturally inclined to be competitive and aggressive.

The Um-Shedu have managed to harness these traits and turn them towards a positive goal, but the typical Nimmurian manscorpion is greedy, self-serving and brutal. Traits that are only made worse by their curse, which has left them paranoid, secretive and frustrated. When both of these are added together, it's no wonder they tend to be warlike and lacking in empathy.

Stats[edit]

All PC manscorpions are believed to be the redeemed Um-Shedu, who have weaker venom but who have lost the sunlight vulnerability of their evil kinsfolk. The sourcebook makes some token acknowledgement of the idea of playing a cursed manscorpion seeking to win redemption through adventuring, but no hard rules are provided.

Ability Score Minimum/Maximum: Strength 3/18, Dexterity 3/18, Constitution 8/18, Intelligence 3/18, Wisdom 3/18, Charisma 3/18
Ability Score Adjustments: +1 Strength, +1 Constitution, -1 Intelligence, -1 Wisdom
Racial Class & Level Limits: Fighter 12, Wizard 12, Cleric 12, Thief 7, Bard 10, Psionicist 7
Multiclass Options: Fighter/Thief, Fighter/Priest, Fighter/Psionicist
Racial Thieving Skill Adjustments: +5% Open Locks, -20% Move Silently, -5% Hide in Shadows, +5% Detect Noise, -25% Climb Walls
Cannot become Specialist Wizards
Um-Shedu Clerics must wiorship Ixion or Ilsundal
Available Kits: Inheritor, Noble, Swashbuckler, Defender, Honorbound, Militant Wizard, Mystic, War Priest, Scout, Bandit, Spy
Sting Attack: This attack forces the victim to roll a save vs. poison. For an Um-Shedu, the victim suffers a -1 penalty per three levels of the PC, to a maximum of -4. On a failed save, on the second round after being stung, they fall asleep for 2d8 rounds and cannot be roused until they receive a Neutralize Poison spell.
Um-shedu manscorpions re immune to the venom of other manscorpions, and receive a +2 bonus to saves vs. poison from other sources.
A manscorpion receives a bonus proficiency in either art (sculpture, painting, etc) or charioteering.
A manscorpion cannot begin with proficiency in astronomy or astrology.
Manscorpions cannot swim, although they can hold their breath as long as a human.
Infravision
Natural AC of 7; armor inferior to this only improves the manscorpion's AC by 1 point, whilst with superior armor, use the superior value +1.
Charisma penalty of -1 when dealing with humanoids and -4 when dealing with demihumans and humans (-2 and -5 for non-Um-Shedu manscorpions).

Forgotten Realms[edit]

Manscorpion 5e.jpg

In the Forgotten Realms, manscorpions have gone by many names. Their official name is the tlincalli, as this is the name they were introduced by in the Monstrous Compendium Forgotten Realms Appendix II (MC11). In the article "The Known World: Fantastic Heraldry" in Dragon Magazine #199, they are called "Scorpionmen", whilst in the Monster Compendium: Monsters of Faerun for 3rd edition, they are called "Stingers". Finally, in Volo's Guide to Monsters for 5th edition, they were given the name "Scorpion Folk". In fact, the Monstrous Manual's "Manscorpions" are, based on their artwork, clearly a copy of MC11's Tlincalli entry, only cutting out the few titbits of Realms-specific lore.

The MC11 depiction of the Tlincalli is fairly sparse on lore; they're one of the countless one-page monsters whose entries are largely dominated by their combat stuff. Tlincalli are native to the Maztica region, where they inhabit the Underdark that lies below the northern deserts and enslave humans and desert dwarves to serve them. They resemble centaur-style hybrids of a dark-skinned human and a six-legged scorpion, with bony plates covering their chest and stomach, protruding ribs & backbones, and red, glowing, pupilless eyes adding to the inhumanity of their appearance, for all that their features are quite handsome. Unlike most scorpionfolk, tlincalli lack the scorpion's claws at their waist; instead, their humanoid hands are tri-digited affairs with two thick, taloned fingers and a long, claw-tipped thumb - these clumsy appendages bear a pronounced resemblance to the classic scorpion pincers.

Their culture features both warriors and spellcasters, which are a mixture of hishnashapers (the crappy evoker-equivalentof Maztica) and clerics of Zaltec, Plutoq and Nula. They inhabit underground cities that are built in a weird mirror-image of Maztican cities; they dig downward-plunging pits instead of erecting buildings, and their "pyramids" are inverted into great step-sided hollows. Whilst not very dexterous, they are fine sculptors, although they rely on their slaves for mining and any crafts that require fine manual dexterity, such as forging. They are implied to be quite militaristic, as the most common tlincalli encounter is with a patroling squad of soldiers, known as a "swarm".

In the Al-Qadim splatbook "Secrets of the Lamp", it is mentioned that the City of Brass is home to a legion of 2,000 tlincalli slave-warriors known as the Black Darts.

In Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition, their lore is much larger, and now they take up over a page of Monsters of Faerun to cover. Described as mixing "esoteric religious mysticism with murderous tendencies and the stinger of a giant scorpion", they are now crimson-skinned rather than black-skinned, and seem to have both lost the claw-like hands and gained a fourth pair of scorpion-like legs, without gaining the scorpion pincers, at least if you judge by the artwork. They are said to possess "an extremely sophisticated culture, full of strange philosophies that filter deviant human notions through multifaceted insect eyes", but what that actually means, we're not told. There is no mentioned of the inverted pyramids and towers in their hive-cities, but we do gain two new cultural quirks.

The first is "stinger racing": on random occasions, groups of 2d10 stingers (each individual stinger is 90% likely to be a male) will sometimes come charging out of their hive-cities and race on and on, refusing to stop until they die of exhaustion. Nobody knows why they do this, they just do it.

The second is that tlincalli practice a strange ritual of divination, which involves burying themselves just below the surface and waiting to feel creatures moving above through their tremorsense ability. As part of this process, they create a "mystical grid" of their territory within the range of their senses, and the movements of creatures through this grid serve as the basis of their divination results. Once again, we're told nobody knows the actual details of how this works or even what the tlincalli seem to use it for.

Other tweaks of note are that tlincalli now have a racial trait called "bolthole magic" that lets them teleport 20 feet straight up or down through solid earth, that tlincalli hunting parties are usually composed of equal numbers of males and females, and that a tlincalli hive-city used a massive ritual spell that took three years to cast to teleport themselves into the Underdark beneath Amn, where they have colonized the ruins of the dwarf kingdom of Xothaerin and are now looking to expand.

The tlincalli most recently appeared in Volo's Guide to Monsters for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. Now much more inhuman looking, and with their eight-limbed scorpion body using six legs and a pair of pincers, their lore has changed drastically once again. Now the tlincalli are described as a proud race of nomadic tribal hunters who explicitly don't build cities or any goods other than crudely reforging scavenged metal weaponry. A very far departure from the highly civilized tlincalli of 2nd and 3rd edition! They've lost their bolthole magic power, and their tremorsense, and just basic bruisers. Oh, and they no longer practice slavery... they just capture fallen foes to feed them to their voraciously predatory newly-hatched offspring.

Greyhawk[edit]

Manscorpions are a feature, arguably the feature, of the Bright Desert. Anthony Pryor introduced them in WGR3: Rary the Traitor (1992), p. 15 then the appendix.

"Over 2,000 years ago" so circa 1500 BCY - better, 700 FT - the Bright Desert hosted a Flan kingdom called Sulm. Its rulers made deals with dark powers, in a ceaseless struggle against unincorporated nomads. The last human king, ShattarielShattados, pled from one of these maleficent deities to be crowned "his people's unquestioned ruler"; receiving, in return, a crown shaped like a scorpion. So, um. It worked!

From The Shat's ruined palace his subjects, driven by self-loathing, have plagued the Desert's tribes ever since. Since the Greyhawk Wars, Rary now "the Traitor" has to put up with these belligerent bugmen too. Rary wants the crown foremost to bend the scorps to his will, not (yet) knowing it will make him into a Master Scorpion too. If the crown (an artifact) is destroyed, all the manscorpions and monarch scorpions perish.

Scarred Lands[edit]

The Scarred Lands setting is home to two races of manscorpions.

That first Creature Collection bugfest floated the Sandmaskers. These were (taking that leaf from Pryor) created artificially by a renegade Exemplar named Tarkun, who used a black magical ritual to conjure the entire race into existence as a weapon against his fellows. Ever since that day, these scorpion centaurs have roamed the deserts, seeking to kill any Exemplars they encounter... but willing to settle for anyone else they encounter, as they are voracious predators. They lead swarms of giant scorpions as pets, and in battle they wield both claws, poisoned stings and weapons. They also have a number of magical abilities; they leave no tracks in sandy terrain, they can create mirages, and they can use Mirror Image (1d4 duplicates) twice per day. Also, they can sense the presence of a djinn from up to a mile away. Sandmaskers have the traditional manscorpion appearance; pincered scorpion body from the waist down, humanoid torso from the waist up.

The Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition revival revived those Sandmaskers... and a second manscorpion race: the Skerrai. The latter live in the arctic, of all places!

Skerrai are the primary evil race plaguing the Frostlands of Fenrilik, and were introduced in the splatbook of the same name. They appear as bluish-white colored androgynous manscorpions whose faces sport multiple eyes and insectile mandibles for jaws. They appeared over 150 years ago, and have been a plague on the Frostlands ever since. Rumor has it that they were brought from some other world through eldritch portals in the Underdark and twisted into their present state, which might explain why they seem to be in search of something out there in the tundras and taigas. Of course, in the meantime, they are perfectly content to dominate and destroy whatever else they come across.

In a sense, skerrai could be considered Scarn's equivalent to illithids; they possess a racial affinity for psionics and even have the illithid's Mind Blast ability, a telepathic stun-burst. They even go so far as to emulate the parasitic nature of illithids; the skerrai reproduce asexually by implanting eggs into victims with their sting, which subsequently hatch and eat their way out.

Skerrai society is bustling, industrious, and also a constant struggle for status and dominion, a complex and confusing caste structure meets meritocracy that ultimately boils down to "might makes right". They are also incredibly arrogant; the idea that a "lesser race" could defeat a skerrai is unthinkable, and those who manage to slay skerrai are prized above all others as hosts for skerrai eggs. Known skerrai castes include the brutish bonebreakers, who act as slave overlords, and the powerful mindsingers, who are the skerrai's most powerful psions.

The primary slave race of the skerrai nests are the Krampek, who are one of the playable races of Fenrilik.

Gallery[edit]

Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition Races
Core: Dwarf - Elf - Gnome - Half-Elf - Half-Orc - Halfling - Human
Dark Sun: Aarakocra - Half-Giant - Mul - Pterran - Thri-kreen
Dragonlance: Draconian - Irda - Kender - Minotaur
Mystara: Aranea - Ee'ar - Enduk - Lizardfolk (Cayma - Gurrash - Shazak)
Lupin - Manscorpion - Phanaton - Rakasta - Tortle - Wallara
Oriental Adventures: Korobokuru - Hengeyokai - Spirit Folk
Planescape: Aasimar - Bariaur - Genasi - Githyanki - Githzerai - Modron - Tiefling
Spelljammer: Dracon - Giff - Grommam - Hadozee - Hurwaeti - Rastipede - Scro - Xixchil
Ravenloft: Broken One - Flesh Golem - Half-Vistani - Therianthrope
Complete
Book of X:
Alaghi - Beastman - Bugbear - Bullywug - Centaur - Duergar
Fremlin - Firbolg - Flind - Gnoll - Goblin - Half-Ogre - Hobgoblin
Kobold - Mongrelfolk - Ogre - Ogre Mage - Orc - Pixie
Satyr - Saurial - Svirfneblin - Swanmay - Voadkyn - Wemic
Dragon Magazine: Half-Dryad - Half-Satyr - Uldra - Xvart