Magic of Incarnum was a pretty interesting 3e supplement, introducing a new magic system based around shaping magical items out of soul energy. Along with this system were three new “soulshaper” classes, tons of feats and “soulmelds,” and several new races to make use of this system. It was flexible, adaptable, and in a lot of ways set up the class options system that would be seen in 5e–“Incarnates” and “Soulborns” both had to select an alignment dimension that would determine some of their class features.
Two of the races presented, the skarn and rilkans, were descendants of an ancient reptilian empire that had pursued incarnum as a way to gain “purity.” Wanting to update incarnum for the latest edition, I thought adapting them into a single race was the best idea, using two quite different subraces to emphasize their differences.
New Race Option: The Vishtan
Thousands of years ago, a race of reptilians discovered the secrets of soul magic and harnessed its power for conquest. Thanks to their magical knowledge, the vishtan required little in equipment for their soldiers, and their disciplined legions founded a continent-spanning empire. Having crushed all resistance, the vishtan began to explore other applications of soul magic, eventually learning to wield soulforms for preserving and recording knowledge of all kinds. It was the vishtan who first learned of soulshaping’s connection with the power of other planes, and devoted of all kinds served the empire faithfully. These different dedications united in the empire under the Conduit of Completion, a philosophy that saw in soulforming the chance to achieve both spiritual and physical purity, regardless of one’s personal ethics or ideals.
Soulforming was a carefully guarded secret in the empire, but as time passed a number of vishtan began sympathizing with the “lesser” races they ruled. Instead of the rigid philosophies of their brethren, they wanted a more individual and open approach to soulforming, and some even urged the training of other humanoid races under their control. In an effort to control these dissidents, the vishtan emperor enacted a magical ritual to purify the souls of both himself and all of his people. While many of the emperor’s servants agreed with his decision, many did not and withdrew their presence as the ceremony commenced. The ritual failed, destroying the vishtan capital in a vortex of soulformed energy and breaking their power over other races. Much of the vishtan’s magic was lost through the portal that was opened, and strange creatures found their way to the world for the first time.
The emperor’s death and loss of the capital spurred rebellions across the empire. What was left of the vishtan people collapsed further as different factions broke away to pursue their own goals, abandoning the Conduit of Completion to the orthodox. To this day, scholars debate whether the capital’s destruction was due to the emperor’s mistakes or the withdrawal of so many prominent vishtan. Certainly the empire’s successors do not agree on where to place blame: the taktai believe the empire could yet be resurrected if all would submit to the Conduit, while the rhekians believe their brethren’s pursuit a foolish and ultimately fruitless one.
Vishtan Racial Traits
As a vishtan, you have the following racial traits:
- Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 1.
- Size. Vishtan are roughly the size of most other humanoids, though it varies considerably by subrace. Taktai are tall and heavily muscled, while rhekians are slender and lithe like elves. Your size is Medium.
- Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
- Languages. You can speak Common and Draconic.
- Subrace. Two vishtan subraces exist. Choose the taktai or rhekian option below:
The taktai are the true heirs of the erstwhile Vishtan Empire. Their narrow eyes, rigid spines, and small torso scales betray their reptilian legacy. Descended mainly from the vishtan soldiers who founded the empire with both soul and steel, the taktai tower over their rhekian brethren. Continuing their long history of martial training, the taktai nobles have done their best to maintain the ancient empire’s boundaries through force. Holding fast to the Conduit of Completion, the taktai see soulshaping as a path to spiritual perfection as well as a weapon for the powerful, using soulforms to supplement their martial might. This proud people believes that the empire can be restored, but the vishtan must put aside their divisions and pursue it through self-discipline and sacrifice. Until that day comes, they will seek to bring the rhekians and other subject peoples back into their sphere through any means necessary.
- Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 2.
- Piercing Spines. You gain a natural attack that deals 1d6 + your Strength modifier in piercing damage. You are always considered armed. If a creature attempts to grapple you, it must make a Dexterity saving throw (DC equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Strength modifier) or take damage as if attacked by your spines.
- Mystic Strength. You gain 1 ki point, which can be expended to attack with your spines as a bonus action. If expended in this way, you regain this ki point after finishing a short or long rest.
- Taktai Training. You have proficiency with all martial weapons and light and medium armor.
In the ancient past, the rhekians’ ancestors rebelled from the Vishtan Empire, removing the bureaucrats and scholars who held the most magical knowledge and kept its administration running smoothly. Now, the rhekians seek to make their own way in the world independent of oppression and subjugation. To the rhekians, soulshaping is a gift to be used freely and for one’s joy, making the world a brighter place for all creatures, not just the vishtan. This philosophy, so at odds with the taktai’s pursuit of power, makes the rhekians a targeted people within the empire’s former borders. Undeterred, the rhekians pursue their independence with vigor, always ready to battle the taktai who hunt them. At a distance, rhekians are often mistaken for humans or elves. Their reptilian features are less noticeable than taktai; their most prominent are the small scales protecting their neck and other joints and thin tongues.
- Ability Score Increase. Your Charisma score increases by 2.
- Rhekian Diplomacy. You have proficiency in the Intimidation and Persuasion skills.
- Mystic Cunning. You gain 1 ki point, which can be expended to gain advantage on a single Intimidation or Persuasion check. If expended in this way, you regain this ki point after finishing a short or long rest.
- Racial Knowledge. When you make an Intelligence check, you can add double your proficiency bonus to the roll if you are already proficient. Additionally, you have a measure of ancestral combat knowledge, gaining proficiency with one martial weapon.