Like many, I was excited when the Tortle Package dropped. This came for several reasons. First, I always love new Dungeons & Dragons material. But my main reason was I remember being obsessed with the tortles in 2nd edition in the Mystara books. Having come off the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles generation of the 80’s, it was a natural inclination I would have for the race.
I was satisfied and not disappointed…but I wanted more.
Tortles are some sort of amalgam of tortoises and turtles. Tortoises are found on the land, in diverse climates. Turtles spend some portion of their lives in water. I wanted to capture that difference. Seeing how D&D has subraces, this was the obvious route to go: make a water based tortle subrace, suitable for coastal living, and a desert focused subrace, suitable for suitability in extreme circumstances.
There is precedent for this distinction. Going back to second edition’s Mystara Monstrous Compendium Appendix, tortles are described as “land-dwelling, humanoid tortoises.” While that seems to exclude the turtle part, there is a further section on Snappers, stating they “are marine nomads related to tortles…adapted for swimming.” I think this distinction can provide a diversity to the tortle and in turn make for some interesting role playing encounters (such as the coastal dweller realizing the desert dweller has never eaten a fish).
That said, I did want the names to be a bit more than just “tortle” and “snapper.” Looked into the Latin names for various species and came up with the following: Morafkai and Olivacea, the latin for Sonoran desert tortoises and olive ridley sea turtles, respectively.
Here is what I cooked up:
(only changes are noted, everything else is the same as in the “Tortle Package.”)
Ability Score Increase. Your Wisdom score increases by 1.
Age. Young tortles crawl on all fours for several months after hatching before learning to walk upright. They reach adulthood around 20 years and live an average of 500 years.
Subrace: due to the drastically different environments and climates that tortles live in, they have developed into two different subraces: the desert native morafkai and the island dwelling olivacea.
Ability Score Increase. Your Constitution score increases by 2.
Desert Dweller. You have advantage on all checks to resist gaining levels of exhaustion.
Metabolic Efficiency. Morafkai can go for for up to a month without drinking water and up to three months without eating before testing for exhaustion.
Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 2.
Stay Afloat. You have a swim speed of 25 feet. While not ideal swimmers, the olivacea learn to swim at an early age, often before they can walk.
Breathing Efficiency. You can hold your breath for up to 4 hours. You may speak and use spells that have verbal components while holding your breath, but not raise your voice.
Tortles retain most the features in their original incarnation for 5th edition (size, speed, claws, hold breath, natural armor, and shell defense), but this variety, I feel, gives more approaches to a tortle character. The features added to the tortle via the subraces are largely situational. In my home campaign, the Skull & the Eye, our tortle bard, Haiko is of the olivacea variety. The only element of that subrace that has come up are their swim speed and breathing efficiency, during an elaborate underwater exploration and combat encounter. No one found it game breaking, but it certainly gave an opportunity for Haiko to shine and set themself apart as a hero of that encounter.
I want to hear from you, whether you have played with or just looked at these rules, your thoughts on my home brewed tortle subraces. Hit me up on Twitter @OnlyPlayWizards
— John Bultena (@OnlyPlayWizards) December 23, 2017