The Yuan-Ti Purebloods: Serpentine Spies
The Yuan-Ti are serpentine shapechangers who were once human at the dawn of time, but severed their ties with humanity and underwent dark rituals to become more serpentine in appearance and mind.
Currently serving the winged-serpent Sseth, the Yuan-Ti were well-known for their ruthless pragmatism and cold, unfeeling devotion to the acquisition of strength and power.
First detailed by scholar Volothamp Geddarm sometime between the late 1480s and early 1490s DR, the Yuan-Ti Purebloods are members of the serpentine Yuan-Ti race.
Though the Yuan-Ti, at the time, were most well-known as monstrous snake-like psionics, the Yuan-Ti Purebloods appeared mostly human.
The Yuan-Ti Purebloods were a far cry from their serpent brethren and were often sent out as diplomats and spies for the Yuan-Ti as their disarmingly humanoid appearances allowed them to infiltrate other societies with ease.
Though their life cycle begins exactly like any other Yuan-Ti – they hatch from an egg and reach adulthood at 12 years of age – they set themselves apart from their scalykind kin with their distinctly humanoid appearance.
Once they reach the adult stage of life, they can easily take the persona of a human adult and their aptitude for mimicking humans was well-documented by those who had the privilege of knowing one for who they truly were.
Viewed as distinctly less valuable than their Halfblood and Abomination kin, the Purebloods rarely utilise their ability to mate with Yuan-Ti Halfbloods or Abominations.
Their psionic powers, whilst not missing, are significantly weaker than that of their more monstrous family members. Thus, they do not hold high standing within the castes of the Yuan-Ti’s social society.
Though the Yuan-Ti would much rather stay on the edges of the battlefield, if a close-combat battle came to blows, the Purebloods would be the first to go in and the last to come out.
Purebloods make up the majority of the Yuan-Ti’s frontlines, armed with scimitars and heavy shields, whilst their more valued siblings wait in the backlines.
Despite this, they are still held in higher regard than true lesser Yuan-Ti races, the Broodguards, and Tainted ones.
The whole Yuan-Ti race has a deeply perfectionistic society. The Purebloods are no strangers to the arrogant and self-centred personalities that are common amongst their people.
Despite this, the Purebloods tend to have magnetic personalities, which aids them in their role as diplomats, liaisons, and assassins.
Their ability to impersonate humans with ease made them perfect for the position of infiltrating other societies where Yuan-Ti would be looked down upon as degenerates.
Despite their low standing in Yuan-Ti society, they are much closer to their scalykind family than they are to humans in all aspects besides appearance.
Cold and calculating, Yuan-Ti Purebloods have lost their touch with humanity.
Despite their characteristically humanoid appearance, the Purebloods maintain the pragmatic and emotionless mindset characterizing the Yuan-Ti race.
The Yuan-Ti view kindness and sentimentality as weaknesses best exploited for grander purposes, and the Yuan-Ti, Purebloods included, never act for any good besides their own.
As the diplomats and spies of the Yuan-Ti, the Purebloods’ charming and magnetic personalities shine. A trait that helps them deceive and manipulate the humanoids around them.
Many make the, often fatal, mistake of trusting a Yuan-Ti, forgetting that the Yuan-Ti will act honorably or make offers only to serve their plans and desires.
Yuan-Ti Pureblood Traits: The Making of An Infiltrator
Ability Score Increases: Charisma +2, Intelligence +1
Speed: Walking 30ft.
Darkvision (60ft): You can see in dim light as if it were bright light and in darkness as if it were dim light. You cannot discern colour in darkness, only shades of grey.
Innate Spellcasting: You know the Poison Spray cantrip. You can cast Animal Friendship an unlimited number of times with this trait, but you can only target snake with it.
Starting at level 3, you can cast Suggestion with this trait. Once you do so, you cannot cast it again until you finish a long rest. Your spellcasting ability for these spells is Charisma.
Magic Resistance: You have advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.
Poison Immunity: You are immune to poison damage and the Poisoned condition.
Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common, Abyssal, and Draconic.
Ability Score Increases
An extra 2 Charisma and 1 Intelligence gives these snakes up to 20 Charisma at level 1 and up to 19 Intelligence at level 1, which offers a bit of a boost to those looking to cast, particularly Charisma casters like Sorcerers, Warlocks, Bards, and Paladins and some minor synergy to Wizards and Artificers with an extra 1 intelligence.
A straightforward and pretty common trait that certainly fits with the snake-bloodline theme. You can see in the dark for up to sixty feet, though you can’t see colour in total darkness.
Certainly, an exciting trait, though not exactly the strongest due to its limitations, the Yuan-Ti Pureblood’s innate spellcasting gives access to Poison Spray and Animal Friendship.
However, they can only cast Animal Friendship at will on snakes. The access to one daily use of Suggestion at level 3 provides a powerful ability for compulsory diplomacy with NPCs.
A compelling race feature, Yuan-Ti purebloods have advantage when making saving throws against spells and magical effects. This trait makes them highly effective against many late-game enemies; many of them rely on either spells or magical weapons and items to provide their “oomph”.
At early levels, Magic Resistance doesn’t have as big of an impact as the common low-level threats of the Forgotten Realms tend to have relatively low intelligence and aren’t armed to the teeth with magical items.
At a higher level, Magic Resistance really can be the difference between dying and living as your enemies hurl fireballs and slash at you with enchanted sabres left and right.
It completely nullifies many early-level threats like Giant Spiders whose real danger comes not from their initial damage, but the subsequent poison damage dealt on an attack hit and the following disadvantage on all attacks and Ability check rolls from being poisoned.
Not quite as powerful late-game as Magic Resistance, but acts as a robust early-level survival tool and, when given in conjunction with Magic Resistance, set up a great defensive wall for both early and late game.
Additional languages are a highly straightforward trait. You can speak more languages. Draconic, in particular, tends to be highly useful in a lot of core campaigns.
Career Choices For The Successful Serpent Person
(Suggested Heading Change: Career Choices For The Successful Serpent Person ; I also suggest moving this to be the last heading)
Perhaps the true marriage of the Yuan-Ti Pureblood’s lore and mechanical design is the Yuan-Ti Warlock. A Charisma based casting class takes full advantage of the Yuan-Ti’s racial Charisma bonus.
It synergizes well with the Yuan-Ti’s tendency to stay on the outskirts of the battle to the best of their abilities.
In terms of other lore, the Purebloods being considered “less” Yuan-Ti than their kin and blessed with lesser psionic powers might make one seek out more outstanding battle prowess from the scaly heavens to prove themselves worthy to themselves if no one else.
Dendar, The Night Serpent is listed as an example for The Great Old One patron in the Players’ Handbook and, though it is somewhat uncommon, is one of the deities worshipped by the Yuan-Ti.
Players looking for a more modern Yuan-Ti patron may look to Sseth, the winged serpent who appeared to the Yuan-Ti claiming to be their original patron deity, Mersshaulk, reborn.
Those worshipping Sseth will most likely be taking the Fiend as their patron as Sseth’s abilities and concepts align better with The Fiend than the Great Old One.
An easy choice for the Yuan-Ti Pureblood is the Bard class. The apparent synergy of the Bard’s Charisma casting with the Yuan-Ti Pureblood’s Charisma score increases.
Not to mention Expertise applied to your Persuasion and Deception skills will make you a powerful diplomatic force in your party. Having both Poison Immunity and Magic Resistance can help alleviate the fear when it comes to being in close-quarter combat as well.
In terms of flavour, the College of Whispers and College of Eloquence will fit most in line with the Yuan-Ti Pureblood’s role as a spy or diplomat. College of Whispers plays more on the psychic force of the Yuan-Ti’s psionic powers, while Eloquence gives you more options when it comes to schmoozing your way into positions of power.
Sorcerer is another easy choice for the Yuan-Ti Pureblood as another Charisma casting class that takes advantage of the racial Charisma increase.
The Sorcerer also gets access to Sorcery Points and Metamagic, allowing for even more spellcasting power, especially if you start the game with 20 Charisma.
Unearthed Arcana’s Psionic Soul feels like a solid roleplay option to play into the Yuan-Ti’s psionic powers for subclasses.
For core options, Shadow Sorcerer will allow the player to lean strongly into the Pureblood’s role as an infiltrator giving access to Shadow Walk at the 14th level and Umbral Form at the 18th level. Those wishing to play a more supportive role may look to go Divine Soul.
Though not as strong in the roleplay category, the Paladin class has great potential for the Yuan-Ti Purebloods. Another Charisma caster that is, honestly, underrated as a caster.
Paladin will allow you to really utilize the Yuan-Ti Pureblood’s Magic Resistance and Poison Immunity by putting yourself on the front lines.
Unearthed Arcana’s Oath of Treachery is a strong “oath” for your Yuan-Ti Paladin, offering good flavour in your Oath Spells with Charm Person, Greater Invisibility, and Passwall to use in your reconnaissance duties.
Core players will probably be looking at the Oath of Conquest as it provides similar spells as Treachery and doesn’t have any tenets which strongly conflict with the Yuan-Ti’s outlook on life.
In a core setting, Yuan-Ti Paladins will likely be worshipping Sseth, as he is the God of the most prevalent Yuan-Ti religion. Paladins looking for a more outcasted experience may consider worshipping Varae or a demon.
Rogue is a great flavor class for the Yuan-Ti Pureblood. While it lacks the optimization of picking a casting class, it makes up for that by giving your Yuan-Ti more classic spying capabilities from Rogue class and the Expertise bonuses for Deception and Persuasion.
The Assassin class is fantastic for the Pureblood in terms of flavour, as assassination is well within the job description of the Pureblood.
For those looking for a bit more optimisation, Swashbuckler provides the Pureblood with a powerful dodge-and-weave capability that is both on-brand for the Pureblood’s racial traits and also an extremely well-rounded damage dealing class.
Yuan-Ti Pureblood Appearances: Shapes & Shades Of Scalykind Splendor
The Yuan-Ti Purebloods are the most humanoid in appearance amongst the Yuan-Ti.
While Halfbloods and Abominations may hold a higher position within the Yuan-Ti society, they are regarded harshly by the outside world.
Thus, the Yuan-Ti Purebloods hold a unique position in Yuan-Ti society, acting as agents of reconnaissance and diplomacy for the Yuan-Ti.
Yuan-Ti Purebloods are mostly humanoid in appearance. At first glance and to the untrained eye, they are often indistinguishable from other humanoid raises.
Purebloods present only minor serpentine features such as slitted pupils, forked tongues, and small patches of scales in their otherwise humanoid skin.
Outside of these slight differences, Purebloods appear no different from humans.
They stand within the same height ranges as humans, ranging from around 4’7″ to about 6’6″ on average.
Once they reach adulthood, they age at about the same rate, living to be about 80 to 100 years old, though Purebloods documented growing as old as 120.
Other than the slight difference in physiological characteristics, the Purebloods appear primarily human.
Because of their lack of major serpentine features — and their subsequent lower social standing — the Yuan-Ti Purebloods were the most likely to modify their bodies by grafting new features to their skin.
Ever perfectionists in their craft of disguise, so long as they could easily hide their newly grafted serpentine parts, the Purebloods will happily go under the knife to become more serpent-like.
Yuan-Ti Pureblood Names: Nomenclature of the Serpentine
Yuan-Ti names have been passed down through generations, though the spellings and exact pronunciations have changed.
Yuan-Ti names are gender-neutral, and due to the lack of family structure in their society, they do not have surnames or family names, but it is not unheard of for a Yuan-Ti to take a surname of their own accord.
Believing that their serpentine physiology makes them superior to all other races in the Forgotten Realms, the Yuan-Ti’s naming conventions follow along with their devotion to serpent-hood.
The connecting syllables often bear some similarities to the Nahuatl language, but the most notable trait of the Yuan-Ti naming conventions is the hissing sounds.
The Yuan-Ti are known to add sibilant hissing noises to their birth names. They will even go so far as adding extra letters in writing to emphasize the hissing noise.
Letter combinations of “Ss”, “Ts”, “Zh”, and “Sz” are well-documented in Yuan-Ti nomenclature.
Notable Yuan-Ti NPCs include Sisaspia, a Yuan-Ti druid hailing from the Chultan city of Omu and Zstulkk Ssarmn, a member of the Iron Ring.
Some Yuan-Ti styled names for consideration: