Athas features many races beyond those detailed in the Dark Sun core rules. This blog takes a look at the jozhals – diminutive reptilians with a love for magic. A pdf at the end of the blog also covers several other new races, including dray, ssurrans, tareks, and tari.
Jozhals are small, lightly built reptilian creatures which may be distantly related to crodlu. They are known for their curiosity, timidity, and their ability to change the colouration of their hide at will. In some areas, jozhals are seen as pests, but they are in fact an extremely intelligent species, who strive to live in harmony with the land and make the most of what meagre offerings Athas has to give.
Jozhals are naturally shy and secretive creatures. Jozhals avoid combat if at all possible, fleeing or using their chameleon-like skin to hide. If forced into combat, a jozhal will attempt to defend itself first with psionics or spells, then with any magical items it currently possesses. If left with no other option, the jozhal will attack with its claws.
Standing about four feet tall, the jozhal is a small, two-legged reptile with a skinny tail, a long flexible neck, and a narrow, elongated snout. Its mouth is filled with needle sharp teeth, and its lanky arms end in small, three-fingered hands with an opposable thumb. Although the jozhal’s hide is covered with scales, they are so small as to be unnoticeable at first, and it appears more akin to a man’s skin or a boneclaw’s rough hide. The jozhal can change the hue of its skin at will, either to match the colour of its environment, or stand out against it.
Jozhals are so insular that they rarely learn the languages of other races. The leader of a family will learn the common tongue, so that he or she may communicate with outsiders on the rare occasion that interaction is necessary. When around those they do not know, especially other races, jozhals become very withdrawn and are unwilling to even speak to outsiders unless necessary.
They will often travel days out of their way just to avoid encountering non-jozhals, especially elves and humans, whom they consider destructive. If forced to interact with members of another race, jozhals will attempt to make the experience as short as possible.
Jozhals do not normally form permanent settlements, but travel in nomadic family groups between the fertile areas of the Tablelands and Hinterlands, beyond the Ringing Mountains. These families forage for roots, nuts, and small reptiles and insects.
Jozhals always make use of every little bit of anything that they find, to the point of extremes, practicing cannibalism and fashioning the bones of their dead into weapons and tools. The only time a jozhal family will permanently settle in one area is when a member of that family becomes a druid of great power and takes custody of his guardian lands.
Jozhal is a language composed of clicks, pops, and whistles. Due to its unusual nature, many who are not familiar with the tongue will not even recognise it as a language. Most jozhals do not keep a written form of their language, and the pyreen alphabet is the only known writing system that can be adapted to writing the jozhal tongue.
Jozhals live in small family groups of four to five creatures. They are extremely intelligent and cunning, but regard humans or demihumans as foolish, dangerous creatures and will rarely tolerate them.
Jozhals are attracted to magic items of all sorts, believing them to hold the power of the land. They will often track passers-by and attempt to ascertain if the group is carrying any magic items. If they are, the jozhals will try to sneak into camp and steal them.
Jozhals forage for food (roots and tubers), and eat almost any sort of small reptile, snake, or insect. They favour the magic of elemental clerics because it is not destructive to the environment.
Despite their curiosity, jozhals are deeply suspicious of all arcane spellcasters. They will tolerate preservers, but watch them closely for any signs that they may defile, and criticise them harshly if they use magic wantonly or carelessly. Jozhals do not tolerate defilers in any way. A jozhal may even put himself at risk to stop a defiler from damaging the land.
Jozhal children are taught from a young age the proper use of magical items, both arcane and divine, so even non-spellcaster jozhals will be comfortable with most magic items they come to possess.
Jozhal adventurers are rare. Only a few are able to overcome their natural shyness to mix with strangers and fewer still are willing to be separated from their families for long periods of time. Those who do follow the adventuring path have usually had their families wiped out by raiders or some natural disaster. A few have allowed their obsession with magical items to overwhelm them and see adventuring as the quickest, easiest way of finding and possessing such items.
Why are you an adventurer? What compelled you to leave the relative safety of you home and set out into the world where more or less everything is larger and more ferocious than you are? For a jozhal character, this question is at the heart of their identity.
This is because timidity, shyness, and an aversion to interaction with other creatures are all key elements of the jozhal psyche. They are the traits that have allowed the diminutive species to survive in the uncompromising Athasian wilderness. Even when you have made the choice to become an adventurer, these aspects of your personality do not simply go away.
You remain averse to conflict and will seek to avoid it if possible or hide if it becomes inevitable. This does not mean that you are a coward – only that you have no desire to seek your own death for reasons of appearance. Should you be cornered and unable to escape, you will turn on your enemy with vigour.
In the wild, jozhals use their claws and bite when pressed. An adventurer will have far more devastating options in their arsenal, and you do not shy away from deploying these.
Jozhals are uncomfortable around other Athasian races and this colours all your interactions with other Athasians. Due to their insularity, jozhals are not fluent or even conversant with other cultures. Simply put, they frighten you and it will take time for you to understand the ways of other Athasian races.
Humans and elves are a particular source of concern for you. You have seen how these two races behave and consider them destructive and alarming. If you cannot avoid them, work to change their ways so that they are less wasteful and more considerate of the world they share.
Always remember your curiosity, particularly for magic. It is an embodiment of the planet’s life force and you consider it almost sacred. Those who abuse magic – defilers – come in for open criticism and mockery from you. If you are able to convince a defiler to give up his ruinous ways, you consider this a great victory in life.
The other great jozhal trait is practicality. Do not allow resources to go to waste. Scavenge whatever you can and steal what you cannot more easily obtain. Waste not, want not.
Your ability to change the colour and pattern of your scales is not merely a defensive ability. It is more often a method of emotional expression and artistic creativity. You enjoy changing your appearance for pure pleasure, forming patterns and shapes in the same way that others enjoy tattoos.
The following game statistics apply to the jozhal player character:
Ability Adjustments: –2 Strength, +2 Dexterity, –1 Constitution, +2 Intelligence, +1 Wisdom.
Movement Rate: 18.
Natural Armour: +2 natural Armour Class bonus.
Claws and Bite: A jozhal can use its talons to attack twice per round and bite once per round, each for 1d4 damage.
Camouflage: A jozhal can change the colour of its hide by concentrating for one round. If used to hide, a Wisdom check is required to spot the jozhal.
Magic Resistance: Jozhals have 10% magic resistance.
Surprise Attack: When attacking from camouflage, jozhals impose a –2 penalty on surprise rolls.
Jozhal Racial Ability Requirements
Jozhal Class and Level Limits
Jozhal Rogue Skill Adjustments
Climb Walls: -10%
Detect Magic: +10%
Detect Illusion: +10%
Detect Noise: +5%
Escape Bonds: +5%
Find/Remove Traps: –
Forge Documents: -5%
Hide in Shadows: +10%
Move Silently: +5%
Open Locks: –
Pick Pockets: –
Read Languages: +5%
Jozhal Height and Weight
Base Height in Inches: 48/46
Base Weight in Pounds: 60/55
Starting Age: 15
Base Maximum Age: 120
Jozhal Aging Effects
Middle Age: 60
Old Age: 80
As mentioned above, here's a pdf with ten other new Dark Sun races for use in your game, including the jozhals!