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I have a few ideas of an adventure involving a large group of Yuan-Ti.

The backstory of the adventure would include two Yuan-Ti falling in love with each other, and hence trying to get whatever is necessary to stay together in order to consummate their love.

The Monster Manual (p. 307) describes the Cold of Heart trait of the Yuan-Ti as :

Humanoid emotions are foreign to most yuan-ti.

Emphasis added

I am thinking that human emotions can still happen because the book uses the word, most, but maybe love is much more than what a Yuan-Ti could really feel.

The lovers are a 'Pure Blood' (appearing mostly human) and a 'Malison' (having more serpentine traits). So they are not 'Abominations' (the most snakelike), which could be relevant. After all, snakes do not seem to have love-like relations, the same as with most reptiles.

I'm more interested by existing D&D 5e lore, but if that has happened in older versions of D&D, it would be enough for me to consider this has a possibility in my world.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ related: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/76787/… in that a lot of the answer also happen to answer this question. Like the current second answer. \$\endgroup\$ 2 days ago
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ah alright. This might be an interesting read, though it pertains to normal snakes (if you are wondering from a biological standpoint) reptile.guide/can-snakes-feel-love \$\endgroup\$ 2 days ago
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    \$\begingroup\$ To answerers: Frame challenges are generally better when they also answer the question asked (in this case, about the yuan-ti lore) in addition to skipping past it to respond to the perceived real actual problems. \$\endgroup\$ 2 days ago
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    \$\begingroup\$ To that effect, once the question can have bounties posted, I'll be posting a bounty for authoritative answers that actually discuss yuan-ti lore. \$\endgroup\$ 2 days ago
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TheDragonOfFlame There is this one too: biology.stackexchange.com/questions/105370 which mentions one species as being a little more advanced in their bonding. \$\endgroup\$ 2 days ago
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In Lore: It's complicated.

Firstly, there are smatterings of evidence here and there, and it's hard to pull together all the pieces, but none of the lore I've found proves that it would be impossible. Regardless, there is no reason you should constrain yourself to existing lore, rather than creating your own, even if it subverts your players expectations.

However, below are some lore-inspired reasons for Yuan-Ti to be capable of 'love', or other human emotions.

All quotes are from the Forgotten Realms Wiki, unless stated otherwise.

Human origins

Firstly, from a lore perspective, in the forgotten realms at least Yuan-Ti originated as humans:

The yuan-ti were once human.1,2 [...] bred [...] by magically experimenting with and breeding men with snakes.

emphasis added

Simply put: Humans are capable of love, and you might argue so are some Yuan-Ti.

What is love? Baby don't hurt me

Yuan-Ti are communal, so they clearly understand the value of societies and relying on others rather than being purely solitary.

They also have the concept of 'friendliness', as per this FR Wiki excerpt:

Yuan-ti call themselves vrael olo (which means "favored ones"). Daily use typically uses the shortened "vrael", and can be modified to "auvrael" (meaning friendly or known yuan-ti) and "duthrael" (unfriendly or unfamiliar yuan-ti).3

emphasis added

Also, at least outside of FR Lore, the concept of love itself is nebulous at best, and even animals (as a counterexample to Yuan-Ti) are considered capable of emotion.

Even the fact that Yuan-Ti typically lay broods:

Female yuan-ti lay eggs in brood chambers, marking each clutch with its parentage, then abandoning them to the care of broodguards.

no source given in the wiki

Doesn't necessarily mean that they are not able to pair bond with one or more (as monogamy is not a requisite for love) individuals.

This behaviour seems all too similar to the rigid structure of Drow society, which has been comparatively expanded on much more than the Yuan-Ti. Despite that rigid structure though, and some people assuming all Drow are cold and heartless, there are examples of them experiencing emotions like love.

Logical, captain.

Though Pureblood and Malison are both described as 'wicked', 'arrogant' and 'self-centered'4, 5 that doesn't necessarily preclude feelings of genuine love (merely conflicted and complex emotions).

Despite being thoroughly wicked, the majority of purebloods had magnetic personalities. Like all yuan-ti, they tended to be arrogant and self-centered.

Like most yuan-ti, [malison] tended to be self-absorbed and arrogant.

Indeed, it's even hinted that they can have affections towards each other:

Prospective partners will coldly measure one another and if both agree that the match is promising, they usually mate, regardless of their personal affections towards each other.5

emphasis added

This seems to hint, that although they may be Cold of Heart, they merely look past their emotions to logical conclusions, not unlike Vulcans from Star Trek.

Exceptions that prove the rule

Just as Drizzt (and others) prove that not all Drow are evil, there are examples (though less clear cut) of Yuan-ti 'pair bonding' or 'becoming interested in other', either Yuan-ti or other species. All these are featured in the novel series 'Forgotten Realms: House of Serpents':

As you can see, the Yuan-Ti are a complicated bunch. Often portrayed as being cold, the above bits of lore should show it's not as simple as that.


Outside of Lore: It's your choice.

As others have argued, even if none of the above evidence existed, it's entirely your pierogi if you want to write or re-write lore, as per the 5e Monster Manual:

The alignment specified in a monster's stat block is the default. Feel free to depart from it and change a monster's alignment to suit the needs of your campaign. If you want a good-aligned green dragon or an evil storm giant, there's nothing stopping you.

Until Drizzt came along, we didn't have any examples of 'Good aligned Drow' (they probably existed in-universe though). And yet here we are now, with a more complicated and nuanced view of that race. The same logic can be applied to any species portrayed in D&D lore. Just because the authors of the lore have not 'put the head on the robot' so to speak, does not mean that the 'robot' can't be used for good, rather than doing harm by oversimplifying the portrayal of sentient creatures.

It's perfectly reasonable to say, these Yuan-Ti tend to be evil aligned due to societal/environment/magical factors, but outside of that, they are actually free to be any alignment.


References copied over from the Forgotten Realms wiki:

  1. David "Zeb" Cook et al. (1989). Monstrous Compendium Volume One. (TSR, Inc). ISBN 0-8803-8738-6.
  2. Gary Gygax (August 1983). Monster Manual II 1st edition. (TSR, Inc), p. 130. ISBN 0-88038-031-4.
  3. Ed Greenwood, Eric L. Boyd, Darrin Drader (July 2004). Serpent Kingdoms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 10–11. ISBN 0-7869-3277-5.
  4. Reynolds, Forbeck, Jacobs, Boyd (March 2003). Races of Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 151-152. ISBN 0-7869-2875-1.
  5. Skip Williams, Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook (July 2003). Monster Manual v.3.5. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 262. ISBN 0-7869-2893-X.
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Monsters Are Individuals

The Monster Manual (pg. 7) gives you explicit permission to make the monsters what you need for your story.

The alignment specified in a monster's stat block is the default. Feel free to depart from it and change a monster's alignment to suit the needs of your campaign. If you want a good-aligned green dragon or an evil storm giant, there's nothing stopping you.

This idea is the basis for a lot of the newer content, where Fizban's Treasury of Dragons talks more about this idea that monsters aren't just their stat block. While it is talking of dragons, the concept is something that really applies to any and all monsters you choose to include in your world — even if you're using a canon world like Forgotten Realms:

Dragons are complex creatures with varied personalities, goals, priorities, and mannerisms. In that respect, they’re much like mortal folk—but dragons are also shaped by their specifically draconic characteristics, including incredibly long life spans, fundamentally magical biology, and the sheer enormity of their power.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Also: Adventurers aren't the average. Average beings don't go adventuring. So it is a fair assumption that of the few <monster race> that have <unusual feature>, there is a higher chance of them becoming adventurers, so your adventurer having (in this case, the emotion of love as a yuan-ti) is not too far fetched \$\endgroup\$
    – Hobbamok
    2 days ago
  • \$\begingroup\$ I’d just add that from a story telling perspective, protagonists being special in one way or another is a pretty common and useful device. The pacifist orc cult, cowardly/fearful dragons etc. can all add spice to a campaign \$\endgroup\$
    – Dave
    2 days ago
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You're the DM - you tell us.

You have the power. It doesn't matter if TSR or WotC or I or anyone else says they can or they can't; it's your adventure, if you want it so, make it so.

What other people have said (like you should care)

Since their original origin story in Dwellers of the Forbidden City where they were created from humans in a dark ritual involving the sacrifice of 1,000 human babies to a demon lord, Yuan-ti have been reinvented several times over.

This is still their history in the World of Greyhawk but they have a completely different genesis in the Forgotten Realms. So, right there is your unneeded justification for blazing your own trail.

Purebloods pretend to be human - why wouldn't they pick up human foibles? Halfbloods not so much but it's your story, you tell it how you want.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I would be more comfortable if there was precedent. I think there are limits to what you can do with existing monsters, even if it's my own world and not Forgotten Realms or such. \$\endgroup\$ 2 days ago
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AlexisWilke There are literally and explicitly no such limits. All published material is yours to change, remix, mash-up and modify however you see fit. It’s 100% your game to run however you want. \$\endgroup\$
    – Marq
    2 days ago
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Marq: To be fair, some arbitrary changes could create unforseen contradictions with other things down the road, perhaps requiring more work homebrewing how things interact if your campaign diverges from published materials. Like if dragons in general in your world work significantly differently from the standard books, that might have implications that ripple out to affect more of your world than you expected. Hopefully that's the kind of thing Alexis had in mind for creating limits, or in terms of how much work you're willing to do homebrewing a consistent campaign setting. \$\endgroup\$ 2 days ago
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes Sure, and individual play groups will vary in how much they care about continuity like this. But even if next year's big adventure book is Yuan-Ti: The Snake Empire Where there Is No Love, Ever, it's still pretty easy to say something like "Well, except for these ones" and move along from there. Or just not use that sourcebook. \$\endgroup\$
    – Marq
    2 days ago
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Marq: Yes, that's why the answer in this case is an easy "go for it". \$\endgroup\$ yesterday

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