Zhiji

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Although their homeland is deep in the jungles of Lyzots, the zhijis can be found all across Ealdremen and tend to bring their traditional beliefs of spirits and gods with them. Even zhijis that assimilate into other cultures may place great emphasis on these unseen beings, seeking to offer them tribute to ensure good fortune in the future. Shrines or temples dedicated to forgotten gods are most usually tended to by zhijis even if it is not a god indigenous to their culture; to a zhiji, any forgotten deity can become wrathful if not appeased.

Etymology and Other Names

Though the exact origins of the race's name are hotly debated among linguists, the most popular theory is that the word zhiji comes from a Piperspeech word, ziini, that means tributer in reference to the traditional zhiji customs of leaving tributes or other offerings to the spirits and gods that govern the world. Some other Gerualdian languages instead call them after their homeland in some way, such as Nicta-slio's tolescuro meaning jungle-climb.

Biology

Zhijis' bodies are naturally adept at climbing, as their splayed, four-toed feet have a natural adhesive on the bottom that lets them cling to even the most unyielding and vertical of surfaces. Some zhijis that specifically train for it are even able to climb across ceilings upside-down, and the rounded face of a zhiji, often with tall spikes, is sometimes used as a shorthand symbol for dangerous climbing conditions in locations such as cliffs. Zhijis' hands, which also have four digits like their feet, do not have this natural adhesive, though their claws let them find purchase on most surfaces. A zhiji's long, often-whip-like tail assists them in balance to some extent, though as zhijis can detach their tails at will and grow them back over time, many zhijis learn to not rely too much on their tail.

Of the Ealdremen races, zhijis are among the most naturally vibrant in coloration. Their scaly skin often has a bright base color, such as light green, blue, yellow, red, or orange, and they typically also have equally colorful patterns all across their bodies. It is rare for a zhiji to be completely symmetrical in their patterns. Spots or other repeated blots of color are especially common among zhijis, with an estimated fifty percent of all zhijis having spots or spot-like patterns somewhere on their body. Stripes are also common, though most zhijis will have either one or the other, not both. Patterns are generally not genetically compatible with one another, though zhijis with more than one biological parent may inherit color from one parent and the pattern from another.

Zhijis are unique in that their offspring can have anywhere between one and three genetic parents. Many female zhijis can have offspring on their own, with such children being close to genetic clones of their sole parent, if not outright genetically the same. Zhiji reproduction is also capable of drawing from three different genetic donors, with the zhiji that carries the eggs contributing about half the genetic material and the other two zhiji each contributing a fourth. It is thought that this ability may have been an evolutionary adaptation to encourage more genetic variability even within a group of siblings.

Sociology

Zhiji culture has an endless supply of spirits and minor gods that they believe linger in various parts of the world. Specific locations have particular gods and other supernatural beings that reign over such places, bequeathing fortune and misfortune equally according to their whims. A god's domain ends where their territory ends, as other lands are controlled by other gods and spirits. The least powerful of these spirits may only rule over a solitary site, whereas the most mighty of deities could hold an entire country. Zhijis may go to great lengths to discover ruling spirits and gods in a new region to offer them tribute. Altars and other shrines are common sights in zhiji communities, as it is expected anyone within that area will pay proper tribute to avoid invoking the ire of wrathful spirits.

Enigma and mystery are crucial components to zhiji folklore, as zhijis believe that iihan, the "other-world" where spirits and gods exist out of mortal sight, cannot be understood by a mortal's mind. The true nature of this world is incomprehensible, but out of necessity. When something is understood, it loses its power; understanding can range from pure empirical evidence to more superstitious beliefs about knowing a creature's true name and denying their power in that way. Zhijis consequently do not tend to believe in the physical, proven-to-exist gods that have been documented throughout Ealdremen's history, and they instead contend that these gods must be some other manner of creature. They similarly shirk "overly academic" approaches to magic, as they believe understanding magic's limits makes it inherently weaker, for the mortal mind will focus too much on what magic cannot do rather than what it can do.

A given zhiji likely believes in the notion of there being safety in numbers. Many of their legends focus on individuals who strike out on their own and never return, lost to the jungles' tangled roads. In spiritual senses, more tributes tend to garner favor from the ruling local gods, and it is easier for larger groups to appropriately tribute to even the most capricious of gods. Larger groups can also weather misfortune much easier, and zhijis tend to plan ahead for future misfortune, as they believe luck is inherently cyclical. A famine will be endured with the belief that it means future fortune, and years of good health will be seen as a sign that a disaster is around the corner. Zhijis are stereotypically most busy when they are most well-off, as they know their good fortune could end the very next day.

Racial Traits (D&D 3.5e/Pathfinder)

Whenever a creature is considered helpless, unconscious, or dead, as a immediate action, a zhiji may offer that creature as a Cabalistic Tribute them to a specific deity or nearby spirits. They may also mark themselves as a Cabalistic Tribute as a move action even if they are not considered helpless, unconscious, or dead. If the target is another creature, the zhiji must be able to see, hear, or otherwise interact with the creature to mark it as a tribute and must be within 20ft of the target. Once a creature is marked as a Cabalistic Tribute, it cannot be tributed again by the zhiji for the next 24 hours. After making a Cabalistic Tribute, the zhiji gains a number of temporary hit points equal to the HD of the creature they tributed for the rest of the day. If they tributed themselves, this effect is doubled. The zhiji may not tribute another creature until the previous effect expires either by time or by taking damage and removing the temporary hit points.

A zhiji character is considered a Scaler and receives +2 Climb and has a climb speed equal to their base land speed. They also have +2 Escape Artist from being Elusive.