A selection of the creatures I’ve come up with for Swords of Maruzar. I’m organizing the bestiary by habitat, to make it easier for GMs to pick what creatures to use in an adventure.
Garzah are bipedal, flightless reptavians standing about four feet tall and weighing up to sixty pounds. They are raised for meat, eggs, and hide, and their metallic black or blue tailfeathers are often used as ornaments. They can be dangerous when cornered or alarmed, as they are capable of leaping twice their height into the air to come down kicking with their powerful claws. Because of this they are also called claw-cocks, kickbirds and clawstompers. They can also deliver crushing bites with their parrot-like beaks. Male garzah have kick-fights over mates, and garzah fighting is a common spectator sport often attended by heavy gambling. Wild garzah roam the Drylands in small flocks, and are hunted like gazelles.
The gekku or lizard-monkey is a colorful, active and intelligent feathered lizard with long, dexterous digits on both fore and hind limbs. It is trained to harvest thorncrown fruit, as it can easily evade the thorncrown’s poisonous spines, and is also popular as a pet for its beauty and its appetite for triscorpions and other pests. However, male gekku are irresistibly drawn to filching shiny objects, as they decorate their nests with these to attract mates. Both wild and tamed gekku are incorrigible thieves of jewels, coins, and anything else that sparkles.
Jakharans are a mad and violent lot, endlessly roaming the wastes in search of food, loot, and captives to sell for drugs. They wear a crazy, patched-together assortment of leather, furs, bones, scrap metal and chitin as crude light armor, and an even crazier assortment of scavenged, stolen, and repurposed weapons. Jakharans decorate themselves to intimidate, using bizarre face paints, piercings and insets of metal, bone or teeth, and scarification, and often hang body part trophies from their victims about their persons and mounts.
Aside from their usual assortment of big knives, falchions, axes made from cut-down halberds, and multi-armed blade boomerangs called zakra, many Jakharans carry one or more concealed or trick weapons: knives whose blades can be shot like darts, gauntlets with concealed blades or claws, boots with ankle or toe blades and the like, every tribesman trying to have a secret edge over their foes. Most ride gannors, while others prefer maulheads or even more exotic mounts.
The Karkushan Draco is a large reptilian predator with twin sailfins, finlike head crest, and erectile fins on throat and tail. It lurks hidden in high places, such as rocks or abandoned towers, using its color-changing ability to blend in with the surroundings. When it sees prey it spreads its sailfins horizontally to glide down on its victim, attacking with teeth and claws. When excited or angered, the draco changes to its brilliant fighting colors, revealing markings of malachite green, electric blue, gold and red.
Karkushan dracos are a popular import from the planet Karkush, as they are considered excellent hunting and provide a colorful, thrilling spectacle in the arena. They are the primary predators of the Glider folk, and some Imperial lords have imported them for release into the wild to drive wild-living Gliders into their domains.
The mace melon fruit is studded with a dozen or so short, fat spikes, making it resemble an archaic mace head. It grows on tough, thorny vines in oases and seeps, its extremely rapid growth allowing it to mature and fruit even in temporary bonanzas of moisture. Mace melons begin to ferment as soon as they are ripe, and if harvested at the right time yield a light, refreshing yellow wine straight out of the shell. Left too long, the melon’s juices become too potently alcoholic to consume safely in the desert — still good to drink, but dangerously intoxicating and dehydrating. The mace melon’s hard, waxy shell is impermeable, so they can remain good for months or years though growing more potently alcoholic over time.
Maulheads are very large, six-limbed reptilian herbivores kept as beasts of burden and for their tough hides. The males can reach up to 8,000 lb, and the females about 6,500, and the typical male stands 8 feet at the shoulder hump. They have large heads whose skulls are crowned with a bony hammer-like growth, a pebbly thick hide, six thick legs, and a stubby tail. They are normally calm and docile creatures, but when angered will attack repeatedly, swinging their heads like wrecking balls, until their perceived attacker flees or is killed. Maulheads are often fitted with howdahs for transport, and are used in warfare.
Ravaz are genetically engineered lizardhawks bred for hunting, carrying messages, guarding, and even scouting, for they are extremely intelligent. A ravaz can learn hundreds of words and their meanings, allowing it a limited power of speech and more importantly, the ability to take complex instructions and messages.
Very complex messages can be spoken to a ravaz by anyone, and then read from its mind with word for word accuracy by a telepath even if the ravaz cannot say the entire message itself (it balks at long words, and there are sounds it can’t reproduce). Best of all, a ravaz’s loyalty is for life — they will only ever acknowledge one master.
Purebred ravaz are extremely rare. They can hybridize with some other kinds of lizardhawks, but these hybrids lack the intelligence and abilities of purebreds. Most ravaz are kept and bred by professional hawkmasters, who are now a rare and dying breed themselves.
Sithans are one of Maruzar’s most widely distributed and successful predators. These warm-blooded reptiloids can reach fourteen feet from snout to tail, with a heavy, powerful build like a fusion of gorilla and lion. Their powerful arms end in clawed hands, and they walk on their knuckles like an ape. Their large skulls are felinoid, with long, dagger-like fangs, and the males have shaggy manes and a pair of curling horns. A ridge of spines runs down their backs to the long lizardlike tail. The hunting scream of the sithan is one of the most unnerving sounds of Maruzar, and is used to panic prey out of hiding.
A Sithan can leap over twenty feet horizontally and up to twelve feet straight up, and it is a good climber. Its powerful claws can rip through armor, can grasp like a hand, and strike clenched like a hammer. Sithans in captivity have been known to open their own cages with their claws. The powerful tail is also a weapon, lashed like a whip to distract or trip prey. The horns, however, are not used as weapons but only for sexual display. Their formidable appearance, power and cunning tactics make them very popular arena attractions, so many arena masters breed and train sithans for the games.
Sithans are solitary hunters that are equally at home in the Drylands, the ruins of a lost city, the mountains, and have even been found in the Karboulian Marshes near the north pole. They are intelligent predators, skilled at stalking and driving prey into natural traps. The sithan is monogamous, and pairs lair together. If one of the pair is slain, its mate will try to avenge it.
This desert palm has evolved so that its leaves are entirely in the form of long, sharp thorns bristling at the top of the tree, and the thorns are poisonous. The small, sweet purple fruit grow at the bases of the thorns, falling off only when overripe. Trained gekku are used to pick thorncrown fruit while they are at still their best, as the gekku is small and agile enough to avoid being pricked by the thorns.
Without a gekku, you will have to find some way around the thorns to reach the fruit; simply climbing to pick them risks getting pricked. Of course, you can just chop down the tree then chop off the thorns, but doing so is considered a capital crime by all nomad tribes. Aside from cultivated groves, thorncrowns grow wild in remote oases and in hidden pockets of moisture among the mountains. Thorncrown fruit is fermented into wine which is very sweet when young but mellows and becomes drier with age. Interestingly, the only known antidote to thorncrown poison is the thorncrown fruit itself.