Wallara

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Wallara, also known as Chameleon-Men, are a species of Lizardfolk native to the Orc's Head Peninsula of the Savage Coast in Mystara, one of the oldest settings of Dungeons & Dragons. One of the oldest races in Mystara, if not the oldest, these seven-foot-tall reptilian humanoids descend from Mystaran dragons, and have become arguably the most obscure of the Mystaran PC races, as playable stats for them only ever appeared in an issue of Dragon Magazine and in a single obscure splatbook.

History[edit]

The Wallara once possessed a mighty civilization, but fell afoul of the paranoia of the aranea of the Herath Empire. In those primeval days, the wallara prized the collection of knowledge for its own sake, and so had become aware of the fact that the lords of Herath were sorcerous spiderweres. Terrified that the wallara would reveal this information, the aranea sought to cast a spell to wipe this information from their minds. The spell's effects exceeded its intent, reducing the wallara to Stone Age primitives. Until it was retconned in the first Orc's Head sourcebook, they were intrinsically unable to advance beyond that state, due to the lingering effects of that mind-altering spell. Even with the retcon, they spent many centuries incapable of rising above their lot and now they exist as nomadic hunter-gatherers or primitive agrarian villages in the northern grasslands of the Orc's Head Penninsula.

Incidentally, the spell's potency was way more than the aranea of Herath had intended, and it's one of those historical things that they feel pretty bad about. They even destroyed all copies of the spell of forgetting they used so it couldn't be used again. Mind you, the fact it pissed off The Great One, Immortal Patron of Dragons and Wallaras both, so much that he sent an army of dragons to level Herath and would have killed them all if their own patron, the Immortal Korotiku, hadn't pleaded with the Great One for mercy probably convinced them it was wiser to destroy that particular spell.

Biology[edit]

Wallaras stand seven feet tall, and their spindly arms and legs make them look quite thin. Some folk think that they resemble tall, slender humans, although this has vacillated for...reasons. They move with a stride that other races find gangling and awkward. Wallaras have multicolored, somewhat scaly skin with stripes of various shades of red, blue, indigo, green, yellow, violet, brown, orange, black, and white. Few wallaras have every hue; most have three or four predominant colors. The colors seem to shift and swirl when they walk; the colors can actually deliberately shift at a wallara's will, which fuels their ability to blend into the background and become virtually invisible - hence their nickname of "Chameleon-Men". Sadly, this chameleonic skin actually endangers them; ruthless artificers aware of the fact that wallara skin can be used to make Robes of Blending or other camouflage-related magical clothing have been known to murder wallaras for it. It's possible that wallaras may be willing to trade shed skins that fail to turn into eggs, but it's never discussed in any canon source; a DM could decide that this works, or they could decide that such old skins just aren't magical enough any more.

TSR tended to refer to various humanoid races by the suffice "men", because that was the general linguistic norm where "man/men" meant "people". That's no longer in fashion, but Wallaras would still warrant their nickname of "Chameleon-Men" as they are, biologically, an all-male race. Unlike satyrs, though, they're actually asexual, as they propagate through a magical ritual. Once a year, when a wallara sheds his skin, he bundles it up and carefully places it within his clan's tookoo, a mystical shrine formed from a magical place in nature. There's a chance that this shed skin will respond to the tookoo's power and transform into an egg, which hatches a new wallara within 8 weeks of being created; this wallara will be a fully functional adult within a year of hatching. This magic-based propagation keeps the wallara's numbers quite low and encourages them to protect the delicate magical balances of nature - the Mystara Monstrous Compendium Appendix states that a skin-bundle has a 60% chance of being transformed into a new wallara, whilst the Savage Coast version instead states that they only have a 5% chance of producing a son each year.

Exactly how or why the wallaras ended up reproducing this way is never explained, which makes it odder given their reputed connection to the dragons, who themselves don't reproduce like this.

Wallaras can live for up to 250 years. In AD&D, wallaras over the age of 200 develop a minor level of magic resistance, but this is not reflected in their PC stats.

Initial artwork for wallaras was very unusual; despite their reptilian nature, wallaras were presented as looking extremely close to humans, complete with big heads of bushy hair. Their most visually inhuman trait was their skin, which was a vibrant, chaotic array of streaks of different colors. In hindsight, this... might not have been such a good idea; rather like the infamous "Polynesian Orcs" from the adventure module "Drums on Fire Mountain", people complained about its perceived basis in racial caricatures. Even TSR thought that this wasn't one of their better ideas, and officially retconned the wallara's look in Savage Coast Monstrous Compendium Appendix, depicting them as colorfully skinned, tailless lizard-like humanoids, averaging 7 feet in height and with slender, almost gangly builds, sporting small three-clawed feet and dainty, human-like hands, a blunt, expressive reptilian snout for a face, and a short fin-crest running a vertical line down the back of its skull.

Culture[edit]

Whilst TSR tended to just rip-off real world cultures and slap them into all of its settings, as Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms will both attest (hello, Maztica, Kara-tur and Al-Qadim!), they were particularly prone to doing this for Mystara, due to its strong pulp fantasy influences. For the Wallaras, they decided to basically use the culture of Australian Aborigines wholesale for them.

Which in hindsight might not have been one of their better ideas, given that similar treatment led to panning of the American Indian-based Atruaghin Clans, and this might have led to the wallaras being shoved quietly under the rug, but that's not what we're here to talk about.

Wallara culture is, fundamentally, a Stone Age tribal society, crafting the goods they need to survive from wood, bone and rocks. They are divisible into the traditional nomadic clans, who wander steadily across the arid grasslands they call home whilst hunting and foraging, and the agrarian clans, who stake a central living space and grow crops there, whilst hunters and foragers still go out into the bushland to look for supplementary food as well.

They live in familial groups based on lines of descent; a patriarch and his sons, grandsons, great-grandsons and so forth. Larger groups consist of multiple families who share the same tookoo; as you might expect, these places of natural power, which can take many forms (a grotto that glistens with arcane crystals, or an ancient and weirdly shaped tree that hums with power, for example), are the foundations of their settlements. Nomadic wallaras will migrate between tookoos, whilst agrarian wallaras build their settlements - clusters of bark huts - around their tookoo. Even agrarian wallara clans are still semi-nomadic, packing up and moving to every few years - depending on how hospitable the land around them is, they may just move to a fresh fertile patch of land still close to their tookoo, or they may move on to another tookoo.

As you might expect, given their reproduction literally revolves around places of nature-power, they are a highly spiritual people, with pronounced meditative customs and elaborate ceremonies of devotion based on music, song and dance. They worship a pantheon of Immortals consisting of The Great One (whom they call Agundji, the Rainbow Serpent), the God of All Things, Calitha Starbrow (in their culture Barramundje, the Mother), Goddess of Water and Forests, Ka the Preserver (Genjoo the Crocodile Spirit to them), Lord of the Earth, the Land and Magic, and Ixion (who they know as Warruntam, the Eagle Spirit), patron of hunters, god of speed and bravery, lord of fire. Each of these immortals has a spiritual servitor; the Sky Heroes of Agundji, who seek to guide the wallaras into rediscovering their past; the Guwarris of Barramundje, shapeshifting nixie-like creatures that guard rivers and billabongs; the Neemes of Genjoo, invisible rock spirits that instruct the wallaras on how to protect nature by speaking to the medicine men, and the Namarkons of Warruntam, living thunderclouds that bring rain and wind.

In addition to this overarching pantheon, wallaras are totemists, believing that in ancient times, their ancestors walked with their gods, but many of them changed themselves into animals, birds, plants or even landscape features during a time of great evil and suffering. Every wallara tribe claims a totem spirit that guards them, and even the nomadic tribes stick to a specific region to wander; each tribal region is believed to be home to their spirits of their ancestors, transformed and otherwise. As they are still living, it is their duty to look after their departed kinsfolk, which furthers their strong spiritual sense of connection to the land. Only those who succumb to the phenomena of "walkabout", a intense wanderlust that all wallaras acknowledge and respect, will leave their familial grounds and go roaming as they please.

Leadership amongst the wallara is functionally a gerontocracy; they establish leadership based on perceived wisdom, and the eldest members of the tribe are seen as the wisest, which makes sense when you consider they can live for two and a half centuries. The wisest wallara, as selected by the tribe as a whole, rules as a headman, assisted by a council of elders. Obedience to one's elders is backed by a deep superstitious fear; wallara believe that disobedience summons divine retribution in the form of a punishing spirit, the Kurdaitcha Man, who will wreak havoc until appeased and sent back to the nightmare lands from whence it came.

Wallaras generally don't need much leading, however. When a clan needs to make an important decision, everybody gathers at the tookoo, carefully disussing the issue and all of its ramifications, refusing to leave until they've made a decision that everyone can agree is for the best. Even dwarves would consider wallaras to be rather slow to act.

Though perceived as a serious, even stoic people, most wallaras have good senses of humor and can easily laugh at themselves. They have a great sense of fun and fair play, enjoying games of all sorts, especially races and war games. In fact, it'd be honest to say that wallaras don't really know how to wage war; whilst they have a tradition of settling disputes through combat, their method of doing so is very ritualized:

The two individuals who want to fight (or, if the dispute is between different clans, each member of a group of agreed upon size) meets at a designated spot. A line is drawn in the sand to separate the two sides, with anybody not fighting gathering to watch. Each combatant is armed with a shield, six blunted spears, six boomerangs, and six clubs (or "nulla-nullas" in their tongue). The combatants will first take it in turns to throw spears at each other, with the defender seeking to deflect the spear with his shield. Then, they take it in turn to throw boomerangs at each other - these are thrown low and slow, with the defender seeking to jump over the projectile; actually throwing the boomerang in an attempt to wound or kill is tremendously bad sportsmanship, and everybody present will immediately gang up on the scoundrel and give him a thorough beating for such misbehavior. Once the projectiles are all used up, the combatants grab their clubs and cross the line to attack; each club is dropped after one swing has been made with it, whether that resulted in a hit or not.

The fighting stops as soon as all eighteen weapons have been used or a serious injury is dealt. The winner is whoever was left in better shape, with the dispute settled in their favor. To show there are no hard feelings, the wounded are patched up and the tribe will have a corroboree (a great festival, with eating, dancing, singing and storytelling).

As innocent as this may make them sound, wallaras do take some things quite seriously indeed. For example, there is a very strict protocol to approaching a wallara encampment; a person who wishes to approach in peace is expected to make noise by clapping sticks together or approach from downwind whilst carrying a torch made from a strongly aromatic plant. Upon being seen, they are expected to sit down in a place that is within sight of the village, but far enough away to make attack difficult, and wait for a delegation to be set out to meet them. Failure to do this is seen as a sign of hostile intentions.

Another prominent taboo? Don't smile when you approach or enter the village. As the wallara see it, a stranger has no way of knowing if the village has befallen some difficult, so failing to approach with a grave expression until informed otherwise is a sign of disrespect and apathy; it marks the individual as very bad-mannered and it's a grave insult.

The other major taboos of wallara culture are simple:

  • Their ritual dances, chants and sacred objects are not to be seen by the uninitiated.
  • Wallaras shy away from pointed sticks or bones, as their medicine men use these as makeshift wands during rituals of cursing. Anybody brandishing such a thing will engender great fear and hostility.
  • If somebody else's shadow falls on you, it's a harbinger of bad luck. Carelessly letting your shadow cover another person is malicious behavior and deserves a corrective beating.

Publication[edit]

Wallara first appeared in Dragon Magazine #186, under the Basic D&D system, which is when their territory and culture were first detailed as part of The Voyage of the Princess Ark. Player character rules for them under BECMI appeared in the same article. They were updated to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition as monsters in the Savage Coast Monstrous Compendium Appendix, and as a playable race in the Orc's Head Sourcebook. They haven't appeared since and WotC seems determined to ignore that they ever existed.

This is a real shame, as even if the cultural aspects and original appearance were on the nose, they are still one of the more unique races from early D&D. Lizardfolk often tend to have an association with primitivism and druidism anyway, but the wallaras actually had a rationale for it that wasn't "our god Semuanya is stupid and we're fanatics", and their magical method of propagation was quite unique. Together with their connection to dragons, you could easily spin wallaras into something more grounded and well-built than other noble savage archetypes.

Basic D&D Stats[edit]

The original Wallara is the one on the right.

Because of how Basic/Expert worked, with race and class being the same thing, Wallaras were presented with two writeups; one for your standard wallara, and one for the wallara medicine man, who was the spellcaster version.

Wallara[edit]

Racial Ability Maximums: Strength 17, Intelligence 16, Wisdom 18, Dexterity 18, Constitution 18, Charisma 18 (-1 penalty with non-wallara humanoids, -2 penalty with humans and demihumans)
Racial Ability Modifiers: -1 Strength, +1 Dexterity

Table 1: Chameleon Man Levels[edit]

Level XPHDSpecial abilities
-1 -2,000 1d8
0 02d8 Vanish /td>
12,0003d8
28,0004d8
317,000Mimic/td>
434,0005d8
572,0006d8
6144,0007d8
7300,000Dream/td>
8600,0008d8
9900,000*+2 hp**
* +300,000 XP per extra level
** + 2 hp per level, constitution bonus no longer applies

Note that constitution bonuses should be added only when the PC is created and every time it gains a new level, up to level 8.

Vanish: As a full action and by passing an Intelligence check, a wallara can teleport 120', as per a Dimension Door spell, but with no risk of materializing inside a solid object.

Mimic: At will, the wallara can become invisible - he must remain absolutely quiet and motionless when doing so (he cannot cast spells, talk, attack, dodge, move, vanish, etc). A wallara can mimic his surroundings for up to an hour per experience level. Mimicry only fools other races; wallaras can always see one another.

Dream: Once this ability has been used, it cannot be used again for seven days. The dream allows the wallara to tap into mystical knowledge of Wallara spirits. At the wallara's option, the dream can imitate the effects of one of the following clerical spells: speak with animal, speak with the dead, speak with plants, commune, or speak with monsters. Dreaming requires the wallara to meditate for 1d6 rounds, plus the time spent communicating. The meditation requires live embers (from a small campfire for example). Dreams cannot be used against hostile creatures unless such creatures are restrained in some manner.

Wallara Medicine Man[edit]

Racial Ability Maximums: Strength 17, Intelligence 16, Wisdom 18, Dexterity 18, Constitution 18, Charisma 18 (-1 penalty with non-wallara humanoids, -2 penalty with humans and demihumans)
Racial Ability Modifiers: -1 Strength, +1 Wisdom

Table 2: Medicine Man Levels[edit]

Level XPHD 1 2 3 4 5
-1-3,0001d8—————
002d81————
13,0003d82—
212,0004d821———
324,000—22———
448,0005d8221——
596,0006d8222——
6192,0007d83221—
7380,000—3322—
8680,0008d833321
9980,000*+2 hp**33332
* +300,000 XP per extra level
** + 2 hp per level, constitution bonus no longer applies

Note that constitution bonuses should be added only when the PC is created and every time it gains a new level, up to level 8.

Vanish: As a full action and by passing an Intelligence check, a wallara can teleport 120', as per a Dimension Door spell, but with no risk of materializing inside a solid object.

Mimic: At will, the wallara can become invisible - he must remain absolutely quiet and motionless when doing so (he cannot cast spells, talk, attack, dodge, move, vanish, etc). A wallara can mimic his surroundings for up to an hour per experience level. Mimicry only fools other races; wallaras can always see one another.

Dream: Once this ability has been used, it cannot be used again for seven days. The dream allows the wallara to tap into mystical knowledge of Wallara spirits. At the wallara medicine man's option, the dream can imitate the effects of one of the following clerical spells: speak with animal, speak with the dead, speak with plants, commune, or speak with monsters,, or one of the following druidic spells: control weather, or creeping doom. Dreaming requires the wallara to meditate for 1d6 rounds, plus the time spent communicating. The meditation requires live embers (from a small campfire for example). Dreams cannot be used against hostile creatures unless such creatures are restrained in some manner.

Spellcasting: Wallara medicine men cast Cleric and Druid spells, but cannot Turn Undead. In order to cast a spell, medicine men need a small piece of quartz or opal that is consumed when the spell is cast. Supplies of these minerals can usually be acquired in caverns, near great rocks, or in the Forbidden Highlands. They must perform a corroboree (fire ceremony) to recover their spells.

Servant of the Immortals: Medicine men can always sense if a place is often visited by spirit servitors of their chosen Immortal patron (60' radius). As an option, adult medicine men also acquire special clerical powers specific to their chosen Immortal patron, as described on page 13 of the "Codex of the Immortals" in the Wrath of the Immortals boxed set. If the Star Dragon is the chosen patron, give the medicine men a permanent protection from evil rather than a +2 bonus to turn undead.

Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition Races
Basic Set: Dwarf - Elf - Hobbit - Human
Creature Catalog 1: Brownie - Centaur - Dryad - Faun - Hsiao
Leprechaun - Pixie - Pooka - Redcap - Sidhe
Sprite - Treant - Wood Imp - Wooddrake
Creature Catalog 2: Faenare - Gnome - Gremlin - Harpy
Nagpa - Pegataur - Sphinx - Tabi
Creature Catalog 3: Kna - Kopru - Merrow - Nixie - Triton
Dragon Magazine: Cayma - Gatorman - Lupin - N'djatwa
Phanaton - Rakasta - Shazak - Wallara
Hollow World: Beastman - Brute-Man - Hutaakan
Krugel Orc - Kubbit - Malpheggi Lizard Man
Known World: Bugbear - Goblin - Gnoll
Hobgoblin - Kobold - Ogre - Troll

AD&D Stats[edit]

  • Ability Score Minimum/Maximum: Strength 6/18, Dexterity 6/18, Constitution 6/18, Intelligence 6/18, Wisdom 8/18, Charisma 3/18
  • Ability Score Adjustments: -1 Strength, +1 Dexterity or Wisdom (Wallara clerics get +1 Wis, all others get +1 Dex)
  • Racial Class & Level Limits: Fighter 12, Ranger 15, Wizard (Abjurer, Diviner, or Necromancer only) 10, Cleric 10, Thief 11, Bard 10, Psionicist 9
    • Multiclass Options: None
    • Kits: Mendoo, Defender, Savage Warrior (Fighter, Ranger), Wilderness Warrior (Fighter), Mystic, Savage Wizard, Savage Psionicist, Filcher, Scout
    • Mandatory Kits: Clerics must take Mendoo, Wizards must take Mystic or Savage Wizard, Thieves must take Filcher or Scout
  • Racial Thieving Skill Adjustments: -20% Open Locks, +5% Find/Remove Traps, +10 Move Silently, +5% Deect Noise, -5% Climb Walls
  • Vanish: Can Dimension Door (120ft) as a full action by passing an Intelligence check.
  • Mimic: Requires 3rd level to access. A wallara can functionally turn invisible at will, and maintain it for up to 1 hour per experience level. However, whilst using mimicry, a wallara must remain absolutely quiet and motionless - he cannot cast spells, attack, dodge, move or vanish. Additionally, mimicry doesn't affect other wallara.
  • So long as a wallara is within 10 miles of their home or encampment, he can always find his way back.
  • Bonus Proficiencies: Tracking, Ancient History, Local History
  • Wallara only suffer a -3 penalty when tracking, not the usual -6 penalty.
  • Natural Armor Class: 9
  • Cannot Vanish or Mimic when in armor.
  • -1 penalty to Charisma when dealing with non-wallara humanoids, -2 penalty with demihumans and humans.
  • Must spend a skill slot to learn how to swim.
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