[5e] Tabaxi the Old and New

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gondar
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[5e] Tabaxi the Old and New

Post by gondar » Wed Dec 27, 2017 9:56 pm

Greetings and happy holidays everyone,

Earlier this year I picked up D&D again when a friend of mine brought together a number of old friends to play online. We started playing Tomb of Annihilation more recently and with Volo's out he mentioned the possibilty of monster races and I thought the Tabaxi looked particularly interesting.

Our group is not- except for a few exceptions- heavily into the role-playing character interaction part of the game but at some point my character got into a conversation with another PC about his background and I googled and read up what I could find which as many of you know is a deep rabbit hole where I learned about Forgotten Realms, Maztica, then the Spellplague and Sundering and the politics involved. It's exciting to become interested in world-building again and this particular spark has ignited that flame for me.

I saw this one question online: https://rpg.stackexchange.com/questions ... i-emigrate
Realizing I'm not alone and others would like to flesh out their new 5e Tabaxi characters I would like to just sort of brain dump the information we have (please correct me if I have some mistakes in here) and have some speculation/discussion about Tabaxi in Forgotten Realms beyond the second sundering (1486 DR? about- that is one question is when was the exact date Maztica returned?)

Some abbreviations just to make it clear:
Volo's Guide to Monsters (5e): Volo's
Tomb of Annihilation (5e): ToA
Fires of Zatal (2e): FoZ
Monstrous Manual (2e): MM

Tabaxi Names:
In FoZ, there is a Tabaxi named Chioptl which is presumably just a Nahuatl (Aztec language) sounding name. In Volo's the name convention of a sort of Native American inspired (possibly) naturalistic noun sounding name with "Cloud on the Mountaintop" as an example. To resolve this difference you could say the Aztec names simply mean the same things as the new names with the more common convention outside of Maztica to use the common language translation for non-Tabaxi- I prefer the new style because it gives a bit more flavor to the names that are easy for players to understand, but I could see some value of using more Nahuatl names in a Maztica campaign.

Tabaxi Morphology:
In FoZ, Tabaxi are 6'-7'tall, but in Volo's (and ToA) they are shorter, only slightly taller than humans. My guess is from a metagame perspective they wanted to do this so Tabaxi characters didn't tower over the other PCs in a party. It seems likely there would be a variety of subspecies (or at least breeds) of Tabaxi of varying heights though the shorter ones are more frequently seen in Faerun. One interesting explanation you could come up with is the shorter Tabaxi are the ones that live closer to the outskirts of the jungles, and are more likely to interact with other humanoids. I should also mention the larger Jaguar Lords in FoZ (or Tabaxi Lords in MM which are presumably the same)- the possibly magical mechanisms that make these creatures larger could possibly have a smaller effect on other more feral Tabaxi that also make them bigger.

Tabaxi Society:
Tabaxi live in lairs of wall-less huts built in FoZ of commonly a dozen to a few dozen individuals. This is an area I would be interested to see more variations and elaborations upon since there are probably different groups of Tabaxi that live in different ways- I would guess due to their fickle nature Tabaxi wouldn't spend much time constructing buildings but they probably do live in caves and other natural structures in addition to building huts (there is also an example in Volo's of clan names implying some clans live in/near mountains)

FoZ Tabaxi rarely interact with other sentients or even other clans but Tabaxi in Faerun seem quite social and according to Volo's may form traveling minstrel groups. In ToA they are also guides and hunters. In FoZ they also hate to trade and again contrary in Volo's they will trade usually in the name of curiousity. Keep in mind that Volo's also mentions Tabaxi outside of Maztica are specifically blessed with curiousity from the Cat Lord, the newer 5e religion of the Tabaxi, so individuals without this might dislike trade. It's also mentioned in Volo's after a life of sating curiousity, those wandering Tabaxi usually return home, which would also result in an interesting problem for Tabaxi stuck in Faerun during the Spellplague.

Speaking of religion, in FoZ a Tabaxi shaman might worship Zaltec, Tezca, Nula or Azul, Maztican Gods. There is a question of when Maztica left Toril if these Gods were no longer reachable during the Spellplague. The new religion from Volo's, the Cat Lord is a fairly large question mark and there has been various speculation how it fits in with older FR lore. Previous mention of a "Cat Lord" in D&D has referred to simply powerful mortal beings with catlike powers so I personally don't like the theories that incorporate the old versions of this character and like to think the Cat Lord is a new God introduced during the Spellplague, which would be consistent as a replacement for the old deities. From a metagame perspective I can't help but wonder if some wires got crossed at Wizards where the "Jaguar/Tabaxi Lords" were considered and merged into a God instead of the actual creatures that existed in Maztica (according to FoZ only 10% of Tabaxi clans were fealty to an evil Tabaxi Lord.)

Tabaxi History:
In MM there is the line "Legends tell of a great tabaxi civilization that was supplanted by other races" which is intriguing from a world-building perspective but is not really mentioned or referred to anywhere else. As of FoZ Tabaxi just lived in small clans scattered about the continent. Slavery seems a sore spot (no pun intended) for the Tabaxi and the plot of FoZ includes a captured Tabaxi. In ToA we learn (sorry for tangential spoiler) Tabaxi largely arrive in Chult by escaping slave ships. This implies that when Maztica returned, ships may have almost immediately set out to re-establish trade. If we estimate Maztica returned in 1486 DR, and that ToA takes place in 1492 DR, that means in just 6 years a slave trade was re-established between Maztica and Faerun. We can speculate Maztica had changed any number of ways while off Toril but one possibility is the jungles became more dangerous which pushed the Tabaxi towards the edges of it- this would then have the result of making them more visible to other humanoids which would make them ripe for the picking when the first Faerun ships rediscovered the continent.

What I like about this theory is that with the Second Sundering, great strife has come to the Tabaxi which would result in great change and more importantly for us, great stories. There are a lot of great fan theories, though I would like to see some canon suggestion of what has happened to Maztica during the Spellplague since that could be the precursor of a setting for some cool Tabaxi-centric adventures.

Thanks for reading- hope this post sparks some discussion or gives you some inspiration for playing or running Tabaxi characters in the new 5e Forgotten Realms.

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Re: [5e] Tabaxi the Old and New

Post by Seethyr » Wed Dec 27, 2017 10:33 pm

gondar wrote:Greetings and happy holidays everyone,

Tabaxi Names:
In FoZ, there is a Tabaxi named Chioptl which is presumably just a Nahuatl (Aztec language) sounding name. In Volo's the name convention of a sort of Native American inspired (possibly) naturalistic noun sounding name with "Cloud on the Mountaintop" as an example. To resolve this difference you could say the Aztec names simply mean the same things as the new names with the more common convention outside of Maztica to use the common language translation for non-Tabaxi- I prefer the new style because it gives a bit more flavor to the names that are easy for players to understand, but I could see some value of using more Nahuatl names in a Maztica campaign.

{snip}

Speaking of religion, in FoZ a Tabaxi shaman might worship Zaltec, Tezca, Nula or Azul, Maztican Gods. There is a question of when Maztica left Toril if these Gods were no longer reachable during the Spellplague. The new religion from Volo's, the Cat Lord is a fairly large question mark and there has been various speculation how it fits in with older FR lore. Previous mention of a "Cat Lord" in D&D has referred to simply powerful mortal beings with catlike powers so I personally don't like the theories that incorporate the old versions of this character and like to think the Cat Lord is a new God introduced during the Spellplague, which would be consistent as a replacement for the old deities. From a metagame perspective I can't help but wonder if some wires got crossed at Wizards where the "Jaguar/Tabaxi Lords" were considered and merged into a God instead of the actual creatures that existed in Maztica (according to FoZ only 10% of Tabaxi clans were fealty to an evil Tabaxi Lord.)

I've been wondering about how to explain these two inconsistencies away in particular, thank you for this, you made it make sense.

I definitely think that Maztica's time on Abeir would affect all its people's in some really serious ways. In my lore, I have had the gods "sleep" through the whole Spellplague debacle and reawaken when they returned to Toril. Of course some folk would abandon their gods, and it makes perfect sense with the tabaxi. Perhaps they found the Cat Lord's worship on Abeir itself, making it a relatively new religion. This could even explain away the new traditions such as their naming convention. If you worshiped the Azt...ermm Maztican gods, you took names like theirs, and when you switched to the Cat Lord suddenly you are Cloud in the Mountaintops or whatever.

I believe in Fires of Zatal, they mentioned that the tabaxi have different names for the gods - one I believe was Calor (for Azul)?
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Re: [5e] Tabaxi the Old and New

Post by Big Mac » Thu Dec 28, 2017 10:59 am

gondar wrote:Greetings and happy holidays everyone,
Hi Gondar,

Welcome to The Piazza and Happy Holidays!

You might want to pop over to the Introduce yourself here topic, say "hi" there and tell people a bit about yourself and the RPG stuff you like to talk about. (There is even a Merry Xmas all and a happy new year!! topic, in case you want to say "happy holidays" to anyone who might have missed this topic. :) )

This is an amazingly detailed first post. Thanks for making it. :cool:
gondar wrote:Earlier this year I picked up D&D again when a friend of mine brought together a number of old friends to play online. We started playing Tomb of Annihilation more recently and with Volo's out he mentioned the possibilty of monster races and I thought the Tabaxi looked particularly interesting.

Our group is not- except for a few exceptions- heavily into the role-playing character interaction part of the game but at some point my character got into a conversation with another PC about his background and I googled and read up what I could find which as many of you know is a deep rabbit hole where I learned about Forgotten Realms, Maztica, then the Spellplague and Sundering and the politics involved. It's exciting to become interested in world-building again and this particular spark has ignited that flame for me.

I saw this one question online: https://rpg.stackexchange.com/questions ... i-emigrate
Realizing I'm not alone and others would like to flesh out their new 5e Tabaxi characters I would like to just sort of brain dump the information we have (please correct me if I have some mistakes in here) and have some speculation/discussion about Tabaxi in Forgotten Realms beyond the second sundering (1486 DR? about- that is one question is when was the exact date Maztica returned?)
Nice spot. I didn't even realise the 5th Edition designers had done this.

I guess there could also be people* doing this the other way to work out how the Tabaxi in Maztica might work with the 5th Edition Era.

* = Maybe Seethyr or Jürgen Hubert will post a sister topic in the Maztica forum at some point.
gondar wrote:Some abbreviations just to make it clear:
Volo's Guide to Monsters (5e): Volo's
Tomb of Annihilation (5e): ToA
Fires of Zatal (2e): FoZ
Monstrous Manual (2e): MM
I took a look at the Forgotten Realms Wiki article for Tabaxi and they list other sources you have not mentioned here. The most notable one is that the Tabaxi appear to have originated in the 1e Fiend Folio before being turned into a Maztica monster in the 2e Era.

I know the 5e design team have spoken about looking at all the old school sources for monsters, before deciding on the 5e looks for them. So there might be some elements from FF that inspired the Tabaxi in 5th Edition. (Having said that, the 1e art makes them look more like pussy cats with faces than humanoid or larger cats. Perhaps that's why the art has moved more in the direction of big cats.)

Other products mentioned in the FR Wiki article are:
FOR4 The Code of the Harpers (2e) and
Volo's Guide to the Dalelands (2e)

I'm not sure if they actually include information on the Tabaxi...or just information relating to the regions the live in Faerûn, but perhaps someone who owns them could check.

EDIT: I dug out Volo's Guide to the Dalelands and went to the page listed in the FR Wiki article for Tabaxi (page 186) and it mentions that there is a tabaxi dancer in a tavern in Ashabenford called The Velvet Veil. So you have 2e canon that establishes tabaxi had already arrived in Faerûn well before the Spellplague. There isn't much on the tabaxi dancer, but there is a picture of her.
gondar wrote:Tabaxi Names:
In FoZ, there is a Tabaxi named Chioptl which is presumably just a Nahuatl (Aztec language) sounding name. In Volo's the name convention of a sort of Native American inspired (possibly) naturalistic noun sounding name with "Cloud on the Mountaintop" as an example. To resolve this difference you could say the Aztec names simply mean the same things as the new names with the more common convention outside of Maztica to use the common language translation for non-Tabaxi- I prefer the new style because it gives a bit more flavor to the names that are easy for players to understand, but I could see some value of using more Nahuatl names in a Maztica campaign.
That's good.

If someone can locate some Nahuatl names, it might be possible to build up a list of names that tabaxi PCs could pick from.

The Tabaxi article on FR Wiki says that there are twin tabaxi called "River Mist" and "Flask of Wine" in ToA. So maybe the tabaxi names would be everyday things in the Nahuatl language and these two are using the Common translations of their names. :?
gondar wrote:Tabaxi Morphology:
In FoZ, Tabaxi are 6'-7'tall, but in Volo's (and ToA) they are shorter, only slightly taller than humans. My guess is from a metagame perspective they wanted to do this so Tabaxi characters didn't tower over the other PCs in a party. It seems likely there would be a variety of subspecies (or at least breeds) of Tabaxi of varying heights though the shorter ones are more frequently seen in Faerun. One interesting explanation you could come up with is the shorter Tabaxi are the ones that live closer to the outskirts of the jungles, and are more likely to interact with other humanoids. I should also mention the larger Jaguar Lords in FoZ (or Tabaxi Lords in MM which are presumably the same)- the possibly magical mechanisms that make these creatures larger could possibly have a smaller effect on other more feral Tabaxi that also make them bigger.
I'm not sure of how the 5e rules work, but in some editions of D&D, making a character larger than a certain size shifts it from the medium size category into the large size category. That has implications on stats. It might force you to add monster HD (and a level adjustment in 3rd Edition) and it will make the critter work differently in combat. Making cat people that are closer to human size might stop them seeming "over powered" (to people who worry about that sort of thing). :?

Having said that, I like the idea of variety within tabaxi. It seems like some clans are already based on different big cats. It should be possible to go and look at a number of real-world cats (especially the ones that exist in Mezoamerica) for inspiration for tabaxi subraces. If there were no differences in game stats (just a difference in maximum and minimum height) you could look at the canon clans and their apperance and extrapolate other clans from there.
gondar wrote:Tabaxi Society:
Tabaxi live in lairs of wall-less huts built in FoZ of commonly a dozen to a few dozen individuals. This is an area I would be interested to see more variations and elaborations upon since there are probably different groups of Tabaxi that live in different ways- I would guess due to their fickle nature Tabaxi wouldn't spend much time constructing buildings but they probably do live in caves and other natural structures in addition to building huts (there is also an example in Volo's of clan names implying some clans live in/near mountains)

FoZ Tabaxi rarely interact with other sentients or even other clans but Tabaxi in Faerun seem quite social and according to Volo's may form traveling minstrel groups. In ToA they are also guides and hunters. In FoZ they also hate to trade and again contrary in Volo's they will trade usually in the name of curiousity. Keep in mind that Volo's also mentions Tabaxi outside of Maztica are specifically blessed with curiousity from the Cat Lord, the newer 5e religion of the Tabaxi, so individuals without this might dislike trade. It's also mentioned in Volo's after a life of sating curiousity, those wandering Tabaxi usually return home, which would also result in an interesting problem for Tabaxi stuck in Faerun during the Spellplague.

Speaking of religion, in FoZ a Tabaxi shaman might worship Zaltec, Tezca, Nula or Azul, Maztican Gods. There is a question of when Maztica left Toril if these Gods were no longer reachable during the Spellplague. The new religion from Volo's, the Cat Lord is a fairly large question mark and there has been various speculation how it fits in with older FR lore. Previous mention of a "Cat Lord" in D&D has referred to simply powerful mortal beings with catlike powers so I personally don't like the theories that incorporate the old versions of this character and like to think the Cat Lord is a new God introduced during the Spellplague, which would be consistent as a replacement for the old deities. From a metagame perspective I can't help but wonder if some wires got crossed at Wizards where the "Jaguar/Tabaxi Lords" were considered and merged into a God instead of the actual creatures that existed in Maztica (according to FoZ only 10% of Tabaxi clans were fealty to an evil Tabaxi Lord.)
If the tabaxi practice forest gardening they would need to be semi-nomadic to move away from parts of the forest they were leaving to grow back. That could give you a backstory for huts that get built, but are not designed to last hundreds of years.

Things like cave dwellings sound like they could be fun. IIRC, someone told me about some real-world Mezoamericans who live on the sides of cliffs. That sort of thing would be highly dependent on the geography of the land. (Or rather the land might present natural caves that are so "useful" that they pursuade individual tabaxi clans to settle down in one place.) I think that Mezoamerica has some long established salt mines, and caves where salt water was put into jars, for the water to evaporate. So if you are going to go with cave dwellers, you might want to think about some sort of back story that connects them to the caves. (Even if it is just that they live in the caves so that dinosaurs don't eat them. :o )

BTW: FR Wiki has the Cat Lord dating back to 1e. I'm pretty sure there was a similar being in the Gord the Rogue novels, so this might be an import from Greyhawk canon. Some sources were apparently already suggesting the Cat Lord was a minor deity before the Spellplague, but I guess you could have the Cat Lord gain more power during the Spellplague.

I think that Maztica could do with a few extra deities, to be honest. (And low powered localised deities would be a good way to "write between the lines".) AuldDragon has been working on write-ups for monster deities. I don't know if he has covered the Cat Lord, but it might be worth asking him if the Cat Lord is within the scope of his project.
gondar wrote:Tabaxi History:
In MM there is the line "Legends tell of a great tabaxi civilization that was supplanted by other races" which is intriguing from a world-building perspective but is not really mentioned or referred to anywhere else. As of FoZ Tabaxi just lived in small clans scattered about the continent. Slavery seems a sore spot (no pun intended) for the Tabaxi and the plot of FoZ includes a captured Tabaxi. In ToA we learn (sorry for tangential spoiler) Tabaxi largely arrive in Chult by escaping slave ships. This implies that when Maztica returned, ships may have almost immediately set out to re-establish trade. If we estimate Maztica returned in 1486 DR, and that ToA takes place in 1492 DR, that means in just 6 years a slave trade was re-established between Maztica and Faerun. We can speculate Maztica had changed any number of ways while off Toril but one possibility is the jungles became more dangerous which pushed the Tabaxi towards the edges of it- this would then have the result of making them more visible to other humanoids which would make them ripe for the picking when the first Faerun ships rediscovered the continent.

What I like about this theory is that with the Second Sundering, great strife has come to the Tabaxi which would result in great change and more importantly for us, great stories. There are a lot of great fan theories, though I would like to see some canon suggestion of what has happened to Maztica during the Spellplague since that could be the precursor of a setting for some cool Tabaxi-centric adventures.
Was Monstrous Manual supposed to be a generic thing, or was the depiction of the tabaxi there supposed to be localised to Maztica? The great civilisation from MM could either have been something from the ancient history of part of Maztica (before the migration of Mezoamerican humans into the region where the lost civilisation used to be) or...if MM was not referring to a specific part of Toril, it could be describing another world**.

** = Perhaps there is a "Tabaxispace" crystal sphere located somewhere in the Spelljammer multiverse. :twisted:
gondar wrote:Thanks for reading- hope this post sparks some discussion or gives you some inspiration for playing or running Tabaxi characters in the new 5e Forgotten Realms.
No. Thanks for posting it. It's a great topic. :mrgreen:
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Re: [5e] Tabaxi the Old and New

Post by gondar » Thu Dec 28, 2017 4:55 pm

Another page that had mentioned the Cat Lord: https://rpg.stackexchange.com/questions ... e-cat-lord

Thinking about it a little more (and with the thoughts tossed around here) I am going back a bit on my preference the Cat Lord may have no connection with the "Cat Lord" named characters of past incarnation- because the Gods cannot be contacted in Abeir it is possible then a demi-God planeswalking deity may served as a surrogate to the Tabaxi during Maztica's stay in Abeir for that very reason and then continued to do so even when Maztica was returned to Toril proper. This does seem like such a complicated explanation but it makes some sense.

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Re: [5e] Tabaxi the Old and New

Post by Seethyr » Thu Dec 28, 2017 5:43 pm

gondar wrote:Another page that had mentioned the Cat Lord: https://rpg.stackexchange.com/questions ... e-cat-lord

Thinking about it a little more (and with the thoughts tossed around here) I am going back a bit on my preference the Cat Lord may have no connection with the "Cat Lord" named characters of past incarnation- because the Gods cannot be contacted in Abeir it is possible then a demi-God planeswalking deity may served as a surrogate to the Tabaxi during Maztica's stay in Abeir for that very reason and then continued to do so even when Maztica was returned to Toril proper. This does seem like such a complicated explanation but it makes some sense.
You didn't make the complicated part though - sending a continent to another world and then bringing it back after 100 years can't be fixed with a simple explanation. This makes perfect sense and explains a lot.
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Re: [5e] Tabaxi the Old and New

Post by BlackBat242 » Sat Dec 30, 2017 10:10 pm

Don't forget the original appearance of Tabaxi in D&D/AD&D ... in the 1E AD&D Fiend Folio (page 86) (forward was dated August 1979 when the manuscript was completed - various negotiations etc delayed publication release to August 1981) - which precedes Forgotten Realms by several years.
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