Serpopard
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Basic Information

Serpopard is a relatively recent portmanteau for a very old concept / monster. (Prior to the creation of this neologism, academics tended to just call them "serpent-necked lions".) There are depictions of this creature on ancient ruins, artifacts, and hieroglyphs, indicating that this was a beast of Egyptian Mythology and Mesopotamian Mythology.

The serpopard has the body, head, and limbs of a lion or leopard. Between that body and head, there is an extremely long neck, as flexible as a snake. Most depictions also show them with a long serpentine tail, similar to the tail of a feline but much longer than is normal for a cat of that size.

1200px-Cylinder_seal_lions_Louvre_MNB1167.jpg

It is believed that (for the Egyptians) the serpopard was "a symbol of the chaos that reigned beyond Egypt's borders"[1]. What it meant for the Mesopotamians is unknown, but it appears on some cylinder seals (pictured above) that are believed to be sort of an analog to a notary in marking clay tablets as official. So, Egypt saw it as a sign of foreign chaos, but it's possible Mesopotamia may have seen it as a sign of order or law.

It's also possible (but unlikely) that it came about because someone got a brief view of a giraffe, completely misunderstood what they were seeing, and brought the story of their encounter further north where the tail grew in the telling. It seems unlikely, because Egyptian artwork of the period usually does a very good job of depicting the species that make up their composite monsters - they cared quite a bit that you not mistake their hawk-headed guy for a crane-headed guy or vice-versa - so they probably very much intended this blend of cat and snake to be exactly that. Also, the nubian giraffe may have still roamed the southern highlands of Egypt at the time, so local artists (in Egypt at least) should have known a giraffe isn't a cat-snake.

Sources

Bibliography

Game and Story Use

  • Such a creature might be encountered in Babylonia, Egypt, Elam, Sumer, or just about anywhere in Mesopotamia.
    • The serpopard is a great cryptid for that region, or a colorful mythological creature for games set in the Ancient World.
      • Especially appropriate near Uruk1 Uruk is where that cylinder seal (pictured above) was from.
      • It appears in Egyptian art and myth, but it's more of a foreign element, so maybe it's natural range is regions bordering on Egypt, instead of Egypt proper.
  • It's weird and alien, but appears enough in ancient artwork that you can easily find a few classical depictions of it in copyright-free artwork to hand out as a prop in your game.
  • With the sleek body of a fierce feline and that long neck, the serpopard is probably extremely well adapted for catching birds and other creatures that shelter in trees. It's almost certainly an excellent ambush predator.

Building This Character

Character Level

  • Could range anywhere between:
    • a low-level mindless beast. just slightly more interesting than a normal wild animal. Colorful wandering monster encounter.
    • to a high-level embodiment of chaos sent to hunt the PCs by some god or titan

Attributes

  • Likely to be agile and fast.
  • Many depictions look taughtly muscled, so I'd guess strength is high.

Skills

Special Abilities

  • As far as I know, there's no existing tales of serpopard magic or special abilities, but it doesn't mean you can't give it some.
    • Some sort of camouflage would make sense. Maybe a serpopard can change it's spots.
    • If the serpent part of the critter is legit (i.e.: not just a long neck or a metaphor) then:
      • it may have venom.
      • It may be able to constrict with the winding neck or tail.
    • If especially strong, it may be able to lock it's jaw on the target and shake it's head back and forth. This would be like the "worrying a bite" that a rat terrier does, except the PCs would be the rat. With such a long neck, it could smash the victim into terrain as well as rip the bite wound open wider.
    • If nothing else, the long neck should give it a long Reach so it can strike a target from much further away than most melee opponents.
      • Combine that with the pounce of a cat, and it's going to threaten a large area.
      • Given that reach, it probably favors its' bite over its claw attack.
    • Some sort of Chaos aura if in Egypt, or a lawful effect in Mesopotamia.

Flaws and Hindrances

  • Such a long neck probably makes it vulnerable to a vorpal sword or critical hit.
    • (Note that beheaded snakes can sometimes still deliver their venom by reflex, so it's possible the serpopard may get one last attack the same round it gets decapitated. This would be easy to justify if you gave it the "worrying" power mentioned in the special abilities section, so it's jaw was already locked on the victim.)

Combat Role
Here's a few that seem likely, depending on attributes and abilities:


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