Thursday, April 19, 2012

L is for Lizards

I like lizards.  In my line of work, I often come across native NZ skinks and geckos.  Cute little guys. And the odd tuatara. It actually has three eyes (one covered by skin but apparently reasonably functional) and is a survivor from the age of the dinosaurs.  Really.

A tuatara.
But that's not what this post is about.

Creature from the Black Lagoon?
It's about Lizard People (formerly Lizardmen, but we're PC these days...). They are an interesting subject in fantasy writing and RPGs.  Usually either dimwitted and slow, or magically gifted and special.  Moving away from the slow and cold-blooded trope, as that seems to have come from the old B grade movies, let's look at reskinning them.

Most little lizards (the afore mentioned skinks and geckos) are quite bright and active, although they do tend to lie in the sun, warming up, in-between periods of bright activity.  Larger creatures (around man sized) have more mass, and are able to retain their internal heat long enough so that they won't be frozen by, well, frozen weather.  And a variety of types and forms is good, to reflect the different things I like about real lizards.

A note here on fantasy races.  I don't see the need for too many species (e.g. orcs, goblins, hobgoblins, bugbears, thoul, and snotlings) when you can have one that just demonstrates a strange mutability and differences in personality and looks between different populations.  Kind of like humans, actually.

Anyway, the 'generic' lizardpeople are soft skinned, three fingered and three toed, and kind of like the guy to the left (from here - fascinating site...).  Cautious, curious and gentle. The example there looks a little buff for my guys, but when you search the interweb for lizard pictures, you get into some very worrying communities very quickly.

These were the original lizardpeople, that spread out and constructed exotic looking ziggurats and chambered caves across the world after the Ancients fell. This brought them into contact with the other surviving races. The humans of the time, escaping from slavery, probably gave them a wide berth, and the dwarves were burrowing deep in the distant corners of the continent. Which left the rather antagonistic elves, lost after their masters vanished.  This soon developed into a vast battle across many landscapes, with the elves mustering their forces, and forging their glass armour and wicked swords, and the lizardpeople 'hanging' their offspring to produce more heavily armoured and warlike beings.

A lizardman hunter by anagorrax - no other info...
The battle raged for centuries, with frightened humans watching from the forest eaves and presumably looting some of the battle sites.  Although the two sides were matched in size and strength, the ability of the lizards to produce new and outlandish warrior types each season to counteract the strengths and abilities of the elves gave them a slight but constant edge. Just when it seemed that the elven forces were about to break, and the lizardpeople armies would rampage through the Elven Homelands, the planet shifted slightly on its axis (assumed to be the final release of the vast energies released by the fall of the Ancients) and the continent began to cool, noticeably.

Although this was only a matter of a few degrees, the carefully specialised physiologies of the lizard warriors couldn't cope, and the decision was made by the Elders to retreat back to their vast southern island.  The elves considered this sudden withdrawal a cunning trick, and did not follow until too late. Along the long path of their retreat, though, many of the new forms that would not fit well into the carefully ordered traditional lifestyle were left or resettled at various suitable habitats along the way.

These areas were usually swamps, marshes, fens, or desert oases. That's why these types of areas may contain wildly different types of lizardpeople, some small and sneaky, some large and powerful, some very much in tune with the forces of magic, sometimes in close proximity. 

Well, that's a bit of history and a just-so story.  This alphabet thing is tricky, but a double post today to make up for lost ground!

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