I've recently been made aware that some 'deep lore' may imply the existence of canonically good Yuan-ti groups.

Is there an origin to this 'Good' group of Yuan-Ti? Graeme Barber implies this may be in Tomb of Annihilation:

This delved deep into Yuan-ti lore specific to the Forgotten Realms, building on the schism implied in the Tomb of Annihilation about Yuan-ti that weren’t evil (or at least weren’t hostile) and just wanted to exist. The idea was that good Yuan-ti were working to hasten the awakening of the World Serpent, the mother goddess of the serpentfolk, by recovering an ancient tome from the crypt in the old temple (from the story in the book). The evil Yuan-ti want to stop them. The Grippli are caught in the crossfire.

This is not just about individuals (see: Are there heroic or good Yuan-Ti?) but something canonical in lore about a group of Yuan-Ti.

I don't have Tomb of Annihilation to check if it's the origin of this, or if it covers any lore sufficiently well.


2 Answers 2


Your quote appears to be from an article Graeme Barber wrote where he complained about the alterations WotC made to an adventure he wrote, so the idea of "good yuan-ti" is entirely his own and was ultimately not included in the final product, but you might be referring to his comment about the Tomb of Annihilation. As I am actually DM-ing this campaign currently, I am in a good position to answer your question. I will try to stay light on spoilers, but anyone who'd rather not have Tomb of Annihilation spoiled for them at all should not read the spoilered part.

First of all, no yuan-ti in Tomb of Annihilation are presented as benevolent, and in fact all of them are presented as immoral and evil, even if not all of them have to be fought. His comment about a schism is partially correct, though. The yuan-ti presented are all part of a single faction that holds a hidden stronghold in the jungle and worships an apocalyptic deity. As part of their adventure, player characters have the opportunity to ally themselves with a yuan-ti character who is opposed to the leader of the faction, but that character's opposition is primarily a matter of ambition. The two characters have the same end goal, summoning their deity and bringing about an apocalyptic scenario. The player characters don't have to exterminate the yuan-ti because they are not relevant to their goal, which is stopping the Death Curse, and the yuan-ti can be convinced not to interfere with that goal, but that does not mean the yuan-ti are benevolent or even allies. This is consistent with their general depiction in 5e: "Humanoid emotions are foreign to most yuan-ti, which understand sentiment only as an exploitable weakness." Now, that description does say "most", so it is possible that some yuan-ti aren't like this, but even if they feel emotions, empathy might not be included among those. It is worth pointing out that player characters in the Tomb of Annihilation have the opportunity to transform into yuan-ti purebloods themselves, and the only change to their psyche listed is that they gain a random indefinite madness, so it is possible that neutral-aligned or even heroic yuan-ti might exist, but every single major yuan-ti society in the Forgotten Realms that has been presented so far seems to be actively and monstrously evil, and frankly this makes sense for a civilization whose progenitors deliberately transformed themselves through foul rituals that involve human(oid) sacrifice.

The very fact Graeme's idea was edited out of existence for the final product might imply that the very idea of a good yuan-ti society has no place in the Forgotten Realms in the minds of the WotC writers. Personally, I would agree with this assessment, for the most part. Consider the example of the drow, who are not innately evil, but who have such a dominant and cruel society (dictated by a very active goddess) that examples of good drow are rare. Now, the yuan-ti gods are typically far less active, but they do have innate psychological differences over most humanoids, and an equally (if not more so) dominant and cruel society. I would conclude that good or even neutral yuan-ti would be very rare indeed, and when accounting for the overall low population of yuan-ti in the Forgotten Realms, finding even a small society of non-evil yuan-ti would be almost miraculous. Now, the reason I keep mentioning the Forgotten Realms is because yuan-ti in other settings could have entirely different psyches and cultures. I think I saw Keith Baker (the creator of Eberron) talking about how the yuan-ti of Eberron could be influenced by Couatls and would thus have a predisposition for good alignments rather than evil ones.


Whilst never focused on, the idea that there are non-evil yuan-ti has been touched upon in some obscure D&D lore. In the AD&D splatbook "Elminster's Ecologies Appendix II", the section on the Serpent Hills does feature a redeemed yuan-ti NPC called Atad, essentially a yuan-ti Drizzt. The Forgotten Realms novels also contain both a trilogy (House of Serpents) and a stand-alone title (Venom in her Veins) that feature yuan-ti protagonists and yuan-ti centric plots.


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