There has always been something particularly scary about snakes. They figure into the mythology of numerous cultures around the world, and seldom in a positive way. More often, they show up as destructive, corrupting influences out to prey on the innocent.
This fearful fascination with serpents has extended into other creatures in mythology, playing into the inspiration for everything from the dragon to the Medusa. Reptiles – and monsters that have reptile parts – just trigger something in our mammal brains.
And, of course, D&D has played on fear of reptiles, and in particular snakes. There are obviously several species of giant snake, but also various monsters (again, such as the Medusa) that play on those serpent fears in some way.
And one in particular checks all the boxes of our instinctive fears – furtive, scheming, heartless, and chasing an evil purpose, secretly attempting to dominate and destroy. Let’s take a closer look at these frightening creatures – the hidden, calculating snake people of D&D, the Yuan-Ti.
The Yuan-Ti are the remnants of an ancient, vast human civilization from the earliest eras of recorded history. Their empire was rich, strong, and gifted in the sciences, ruled dispassionately by leaders espousing a philosophy of detachment, of separating emotions from thought and decision-making.
Envious of the snake’s cold detachment, lightning agility, and merciless predation, they held them as sacred totem animals. And they worshipped abhorrent serpent gods devotedly, praying often for more of these “superior” qualities they perceived in snakes.
And while this stoic, brutal civilization flourished, expanding both its reach and its wealth, the people remained unsatisfied. Craving ever more power, they threw themselves with increasingly zealous abandon into the worship of their dark gods – until at last the gods responded.
Under the direction of these abominable deities, the people that would become the Yuan-Ti descended into increasingly foul, fanatical rites including sacrifice and cannibalism – and worse. Through unspeakable magics, they bred themselves into human-snake hybrids even more emotionless, cruel, and cunning than the humans they’d been.
But while they saw this transformation as a kind of sacred ascension, it came at a price. Their new decadence – and the increasing demands of their gods – taxed the prosperity of their empire, and the humans and other races who’d suffered at the hands of the Yuan-Ti rose up and hastened their collapse. In the aftermath, the remaining Yuan-Ti were left scattered and hidden in the far-flung ruins of their great cities, distant from – and forgotten by – the civilizations that endured.
The Purebloods are the lowest caste of Yuan-Ti, the first sort created by those ancient rites. Above them are the also humanoid (but much less human-like) Malison – and at the highest cast, the monstrous Abominations.
Purebloods are humanoid with mostly human features, though any Yuan-Ti Pureblood will have some “tell” as to their actual nature. Forked tongues, serpent-like eyes, visible scales, or other reptilian traits are common marks for a Pureblood.
They can pass for human at a short distance, especially in poor light or when shrouded in cloaks or other concealing clothes, but even a moderately close look reveals them for what they are. Still, they are far more human-like in appearance than the other castes, and thus are frequently used to infiltrate human lands in service of their various dark agendas.
Like the other castes, Purebloods see the Yuan-Ti as the apex of all intelligent life. All other beings, simply put, are livestock – just tools to be used or meat to be devoured. The overarching goal of the Yuan-Ti is the subjugation of all other races by a rebuilt Yuan-Ti Empire, and any actions they undertake are usually in pursuit of that agenda.
But while they intend on conquest, they are cunning enough to understand the limits of brute force. Rather, the Yuan-Ti work through manipulation and fostering corruption to gain power. They know that, with only a fraction of their ancient numbers, they’ll never again rule openly – but they’re more than willing to rule over the “lower” races from the shadows.
As the only ones suited for missions that take them among human populations, Yuan-Ti Purebloods are especially adept at manipulation and deception. And whatever they do, no matter how sincere or selfless it appears to be, is merely a means to an end for these cunning, purely transactional operatives.
This cold-blooded cunning means the Yuan-Ti don’t genuinely care about issues of order or chaos – no philosophy, act, or ideal is any more important to a Yuan-Ti than any other. They are all simply means to the Yuan-Ti’s desired end. As such, they seldom align on the side of either Law or Chaos but tend strongly toward Neutral Evil.
While they do form mated pairs, this is as bloodlessly transactional as just about everything else with the Yuan-Ti. Females lay clutches of eggs, which are swiftly abandoned to the care of servants called broodguards.
Purebloods produce other Purebloods, unless breeding with a higher caste – rare, since few in a higher caste would risk producing offspring of lower status. Yuan-Ti Purebloods would never choose to mate with a “lesser” species – unless of course, they’re doing so as part of a scheme of some kind.
Yuan-Ti Pureblood 5e Stats
In terms of mechanics, the standard D&D 5E stats for Yuan-Ti Pureblood are as follows:
Armor Class: 11
Hit Points: 40 (9d8)
Speed: 30 ft
|11 (+0)||12 (+1)||11 (+0)||13 (+1)||12 (+1)||14 (+2|
Yuan-Ti Purebloods have immunity to poison (and the poisoned condition), 60 ft darkvision, and advantage against spells and other magical effects. In addition, they can innately cast Animal Friendship at will (but only on snakes) and can cast Poison Spray and Suggestion three times a day. They also have Multiattack, allowing two attacks per round.
Yuan-Ti Playable Race 5e
But while usually encountered as monsters in 5E, Yuan-Ti Purebloods can also be a 5E playable race. The rules for a playable version of Yuan-Ti Purebloods (among other monsters) are found in Volo’s Guide to Monsters.
As a player character, Yuan-Ti Purebloods receive a +2 to Charisma and a +1 to Intelligence. They still have advantage on saves against spells (and similar magic), and still have 60’ darkvision and their immunity to poison and the Poisoned condition.
However, the player version tweaks somewhat the Yuan-Ti Pureblood’s innate spellcasting. Player character Purebloods know the Poison Spray cantrip and can still cast Animal Friendship (snakes only) at will. At 3rd level, they can still cast Suggestion, but only once per long rest.
They are medium-sized creatures with a walking speed of 30 feet. They can read and write Common, Abyssal, and Draconic. Their base height is 4’8”, with a +2d10 height modifier. Their base weight is 110 pounds, modified by the height modifier x 2d4.
Names for Yuan-Ti Purebloods tend to have sibilant (i.e., “hissing”) sounds, like “s”, “sh”, and “zh”. Yuan-Ti also tend to “modify” their birth names to add even more of these sounds. This altered version is generally accepted as the “real” name among Yuan-Ti.
The Best Classes for a Yuan-Ti Pureblood
The Intelligence/Charisma bonus combination isn’t the best, in terms of class optimization, but there are still some good options for a Yuan-Ti – not to mention, with their magic resistance and immunity to poison (one of the more common damage types), they still at least have the potential to make a strong character no matter what their chosen class. But for true optimization, what character class choices make the best use of the Yuan-Ti’s abilities?
Top Tier Classes
Yuan Ti Bard:
The Pureblood’s stat bonuses line up perfectly with the bard’s strengths, not to mention the bonus of their innate spells and magic resistance. One of the best choices.
Yuan Ti Paladin:
With at least reasonable physical stats, the Charisma bonus of the Yuan-Ti Pureblood taken with their resistances, can make a good if perhaps more spell-focused paladin.
Yuan Ti Sorcerer:
Of course, the Charisma bonus plays into a Sorcerer built, along with the innate spells. And the resistances of the Pureblood make a spellcaster class less vulnerable.
Yuan Ti Warlock:
Just as with Sorcerer, the Yuan-Ti’s traits play well into this class, for all the same reasons.
Yuan Ti Wizard:
The +1 Intelligence bonus is better than nothing, and again the defensive traits of the Pureblood improves a wizard’s odds in a fight.
Yuan Ti Artificer:
Another class that can make the best of that +1 Intelligence. And as an added bonus, it gets added to saving throws – including spell saves – at 7th level with the Flash of Genius trait, making it even more unlikely your Yuan-Ti will end up on the bad side of a spell.
The Just OK
Yuan Ti Barbarian:
It would take a good Strength to be worthwhile, but it’d be nice for a heavy damage dealer to also get the benefit of a Yuan-Ti’s defenses.
Yuan Ti Fighter:
The INT bonus works for Eldritch Knights, but again it would take decent physical stats for this to make sense.
Yuan Ti Rogue:
Arcane Tricksters could use the INT bonus, but this choice only works with a good DEX.
Yuan Ti Monk:
The stat bonuses are of no use for a monk. Defensive abilities aside, there’s nothing much here.
Yuan Ti Cleric:
Clerics rely on a number of traits. None of them are the ones with bonuses for Yuan-Ti.
Yuan Ti Druid:
Without a Wisdom bonus, not a particularly optimal choice.
Yuan Ti Ranger:
Again, the bonuses don’t line up. You’d need to have a decent DEX or WIS to be effective.
A Yuan-Ti Pureblood will generally fall along the lines of Neutral Evil. Of course, there are always outliers – and player characters can be whatever alignment they want.
Yes, there are Yuan-Ti Pureblood males and females. The 5E stats for female Yuan-Ti Purebloods (height, weight, etc.) are the same as for males.
Purebloods lack the shapechange ability found in the Malison and Abomination castes, making them unable to transform into snakes as these other castes do.
The best use of Yuan-Ti Pureblood abilities tends to be as a paladin (assuming good physical stats), bard, sorcerer, or warlock. Wizards and artificers are also good choices.