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I'm writing a short story (just for fun and my DnD players) and I need advice. The world is classic medieval fantasy (and little witcher) with only the human race. (No elves, no dwarves.)

One mage created a hybrid of humans and lizards (dragons, but similar to dinosaurs. No fire breath or wings, and are long extinct) in an effort to create perfect warriors. The result was not satisfactory for him, so there is only one specimen.

I need advice on what weaknesses and strengths it might have. I don't just want to copy fantasy clichés like big power, big teeth, and camouflage. I would like something more realistic about how lizard DNA could benefit humans (and vice versa.) What makes lizards better than humans?

  • The method of creation is similar to sci-fi genetic engineering only with the help of magic.
  • The hybrid must be humanoid (two arms and two legs) and stand upright like a human.
  • Female gender (the mage's mistake, not intentional) She doesn't have to be sexy :D
  • Height and weight similar to humans or slightly larger (but max 80-100 kg and 210-220cm)
  • Hybrid should be a little better (stronger) than a human but not invincible/overpowered. (The mage was unsatisfied with the result, he wanted much more powerful creatures.)
  • (It doesn't have to meet) I would like the hybrid not to be cold-blooded or warm-blooded, but rather something in the middle. Like maybe some dinosaurs.
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding! We can't know strengths and weaknesses unless you tell us details. Does the hybrid have scales, a tail, claws, or hands, etc. What about intelligence? Human or lizard head? $\endgroup$ Mar 12 at 17:00
  • $\begingroup$ The Komodo dragon might be a good source of inspiration $\endgroup$
    – Alex bries
    Mar 12 at 17:27
  • $\begingroup$ dinosaurs are archosaurs like crocodiles, not lizards. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Mar 12 at 18:34
  • $\begingroup$ Chasly: That's the question, would a tail be advantage for such a creature? The same head that would be better for such a creature? Which would give him advantage. Claws probably yes, I personally do not see the disadvantage there. Intelligence is probably the human level. Alex: Komodo looks interesting, especially its poison and body warm-up for fast running. Thanks for inspiration. $\endgroup$
    – LittleZ
    Mar 12 at 18:36
  • $\begingroup$ @LittleZ Claws? It might make it more difficult to use a smartphone. $\endgroup$
    – NomadMaker
    Mar 15 at 19:46
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There are some considerable advantages available.

I am assuming a mammal like energy levels (lower than birds better than crocodiles) which may similar to what dinosaurs did, keep in mind dinosaurs are warm-blooded endotherms, just like mammals. A hybrid system is useless on an intelligent creature, large brains demand a lot of energy and demand it consciously, a large brained creature needs lots of calories just like an endotherm so reducing its activity level will just make it starve. A large brained creature gains little advantage from reduced activity levels, and actually suffers quite badly for it.

Some of the simple benefits archosaurs (crocodilians and dinosaurs) have over mammals: (only 1-4 apply to lizards)

  1. Continuously grow new teeth, no worry about cavities, you may want to look at dinosaurs if you want them to be able to chew however.

  2. Conserve water much better than mammals, many don't even produce urine instead making small amounts of uric acid (the white bit in bird poop) you are talking 50-80% less water needs than a mammal. This is the reason I often make lizardfolk desert people instead of swamp dwellers, note they will still need cloth to protect form the sun and cold nights.

  3. Scales and scutes make for better armor but worse insulation, of course humans have far less need for insulation.

  4. Better color vision, base 4 instead of base 3. Most reptiles and archosaurs can see colors you and I will never see. This includes seeing into the ultraviolet.

  5. Crocodillians have better diving physiology since they can reduce oxygenated blood flow to many organs wile diving, but this is unique to crocodiles.

  6. Mammals and archosaurs have very different breathing systems, archosaurs actually have 2 different breathing systems, some have air sacs some use a hepatic piston or use muscles attached directly to the lungs, while mammals use negative pressure to inflate the lungs. so if you give her air sacs she can have a much more efficient breathing system than mammals. If you combine archosaur-air sac breathing with mammal style blood you end up with a respiratory/cardiovascular system combination much more efficient that anything else on earth. Your creature will be able to tolerate lower air pressure and get more from each breath than anything alive. Humans are already endurance masters, combine that with air sac breathing and you have the greatest long distance runner in the animal kingdom by a large margin Something that can run marathons at full sprint instead of just at a jog like humans. She won't outrun a horse but she can easily out distance one. In a fight she just won't get winded, she won't get tired until she depletes the bodies store of calories which takes a long time, of course once she reaches that point she will barely be able to move.

  7. Archosaurs have ribs in the neck making it stronger and more resistant to choking as an attack, they can still chock on food just like mammals though.

Some of the disadvantages they have

  1. much worse hearing (1 inner ear bone vs 3) humans can hear a much wider range of frequencies than any archosaur, and are much better at picking up faint sounds.

  2. Mammals handle blood loss slightly better than archosaurs becasue mammalian red blood cells are more efficient and mammals have lower blood pressure. In addition mammalian blood is more efficient at moving oxygen, (anucleate red blood cells)

  3. Archosaurs have a stiffer torso (specifically in horizontal bending) than mammals because all archosaurs except crocodilians have ribs all the way down to the pelvis, on the other hand this does make it much harder to injure their internal organs. Many even have belly ribs, (gastralia).

Egg laying would be a decent disadvantage for an intelligent species, to feed a large brain the egg would be absolutely massive (like yoga ball sized a a minimum) or the young born extremely immature. of course fir a single individual this may not matter.

Notes.

  1. all archosaurs only have claws on the first 3 digits on the forelimb.

  2. If your creature has a tail it should not have a human like butt, our butt is made of the muscles that swing the leg backwards, archosaurs just attach those muscles to the tail. A tail could also make it a much better swimmer.

  3. Strength is all about muscle mass, and muscles is basically the same across vertebrates, unless you give them reduced fine motor control they will be exactly as strong as a human with similar musculature. so if you want it to be stronger you need to handwave it with magic.

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  • $\begingroup$ Pretty good, +1 but you might want to add some references, since these are striking claims (but mostly pretty accurate).sciencemag.org/news/2018/10/… and lizardplanet.com/2020/01/02/do-lizards-have-20-20-vision/… and sciencing.com/skeletal-system-mammals-8562381.html and biology.stackexchange.com/questions/65950/… $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Mar 12 at 23:40
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you very much for your comprehensive answer, you helped me a lot. Especially 4 and 6 are very interesting, along with notes and disadvantages. This way, my hero (and players) can't afford to waste too much time during a fight, they have to hit it fast and finish it before they get tired. Likewise, the hybrid does not hear well. That's a good weakness. DWKraus: Thanks for the links $\endgroup$
    – LittleZ
    Mar 13 at 15:15
  • $\begingroup$ @LittleZ actually she can waste time during a fight since she can outlast any human, I am talking hours of fighting while a normal human is winded after only a few minutes. it is just when she hits the wall she hits it hard, but hitting the wall requires depleting the bodies entire store of calories which is not easy, day of activity. of course she can offset this by snacking or carb loading. so you can make her a big eater or opportunistic snacker. you can easily have her just pass out at some point if she skips a few meals. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Mar 14 at 1:34
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I would like something more realistic about how lizard DNA could benefit humans (and vice versa.) What makes lizards better than humans?

A realistic answer is difficult, maybe impossible, since humans are mammals and lizards are reptiles. I don't see an easy merge of the two metabolic systems.

However, your character might have a slightly lower body temperature (not too lower or the human omeothermic systems will shut down, or give trouble in other ways) and need less food. Or be able to remain perfectly still for extended periods; that is a distinct advantage in many scenarios.

Muscle cells could be able to contract faster and more strongly (not too much, though).

She might be able to effect partial regeneration (not to the level of replacing a lost limb like tritons can).

She might be able to see in the near infrared, which requires some cold adaptation of the whole visual system, but would give her a kind of thermal night-sight.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you. I understand that such a hybrid is unrealistic. But I try to make my creation look believable with the skills it could theoretically have. However, this is an area in which I do not have much knowledge. (Reptiles, snakes, lizards, dinosaurs, it's all the same to me. :D) $\endgroup$
    – LittleZ
    Mar 12 at 19:01
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    $\begingroup$ It's not really SO unrealistic. The differences between humans and reptiles is semantic; humans, birds, and modern reptiles all descended from ancient reptiles, and are thus related. The mammal disadvantages come from having bottlenecked and descended from small shrewish ancestors. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Mar 12 at 22:06
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I have a few things I'd like to say, so here we go:

1. Explanation: Your mage is probably a genetic expert (plausible for any Witcher-inspired story) and alchemist. According to Google Dictionary, one of the definitions of alchemy "is a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination." Every two animals are distantly related, and if you look back far enough, has a common ancestor their species diverged from.

Thus, your mage was smart and found some therapsid bones-therapsids are reptilian creatures, but they're also the ancestors of modern mammals. He'd just have to mix in some human and primate blood, then throw in a dash of alchemy and a spark of life (maybe even his own) to combine them. At this point, you'd have a magical zygote, a blob of reddish-gray ooze.

Your mage, being the magical equivalent of a genetic engineer, would then use his magic to "scan" the creature and then alchemically alter (read: fine-tune) its DNA until he got what he wanted.

2. Advantages: A common trope in fantasy is that the more ancient something is, the stronger it is. This is probably inspired by IRL examples such as chickens (which evolved from T. Rex) and today's anaconda (a modern relative of Titanoboa), animals which are clearly inferior to their predecessors.

Thus, your Dragana (that's what I choose to call this, you can change the name if you like) is stronger, faster, and tougher than a human (think of Jurassic World's velociraptors and you should have the idea). Due to reptilian genes, she also has tough, scaly skin, venom and fangs, razor-sharp claws, and a long, strong, prehensile tail. She may even have horns.

Basically, take a regular human and give them the greater strength and agility of an ape (a gorilla, perhaps), the speed of a Velociraptor, the venom of a viper (preferably in the saliva and fangs, maybe even the claws, tail-tip, and blood), and the toughness of an anaconda and/or alligator. One is all muscle and is very resistant to cutting, the other has hard scales that would definitely be worthy of a draconian.

If you want more dragon, make her venom caustic so it "burns" through things-skin, leather, bone, stuff like that-give her wings and a razor-sharp stinger at the end of her tail, and make her spunky. Think Amazon, like Wonder Woman, or perhaps simply fierce, like Starfire.

3. Possible Plot Twist: There's a movie called Seventh Son based off a tale much like the Witcher Series, The Spook's Apprentice. In it, seventh sons of seventh sons have the ability to see and fight supernatural creatures. The plot twist is in the second book, where the protagonist learns that the Spook (AKA spook-fighter) he's apprenticed to (as an aforementioned 7th son of a 7th son) is married to a lamia witch, which is a very big no-no.

If you made Dragana kind and shy, she could end up being your protagonist's love interest, which would definitely make for an interesting spin on things and introduce some lovely tension.

4. Possible Inspiration: If you want further inspiration for reptilian humanoids, you can look at:

  1. Lizardfolk, Dragonborn, or yuan-ti from DnD

  2. Vipers from XCOM

  3. Estelle, Reed, or Ch'en from Arknights

I hope this helps!

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you very much for your answer, you helped me a lot. Especially plot twist could well serve as a surprise for the DnD campaign, and as a bittersweet epilog if the players killed Dragana ((We know players, sometimes they kill first and then they talk.:D ) $\endgroup$
    – LittleZ
    Mar 13 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ Glad I helped, LittleZ! I agree that the plot twist would serve as a nice surprise....a reptilian enemy is one thing, but a reptilian enemy that starts crushing on the fighter attacking her is quite another! $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Mar 13 at 22:56
  • $\begingroup$ @LittleZ: Hi there, I would like to ask how things went at your table with Dragana if that's alright. Additionally, I'd like to thank you; I had a human/reptile species named Reptorgs, and your question and its answers served to help me flesh them out. So, thank you, thank you very much! $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Sep 9 at 22:48
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It can depend a lot on what lizard or lizards you used

You see, lizards are a very, VERY diverse group. It includes from the gecko to the Komodo lizard and different lizards evolved to fill different niches in different habitats, so let's see some traits of various lizards to see what can be done (I will note though that I'll use mostly traits observed in the komodo dragon, due to its size, and in other monitor lizards, and I greatly suggest you check this video for more ideas):

1-teeth: yeah yeah, you said you wanted out of the cliches, but unless you want to add in magical powers, you'll have to stick to some of them, because claws and teeth are the main weapons of several lizards. A lizard-like head the size more in proportion to a humanoid body like you mentioned will easily be the size of a komodo dragon, and while their bite isn't the most brutal you'll find out there, their centimeter long serrated backwards pointing teeth will do a number on your flesh of it gets to bite you (especially since they don't just bite, they bite and pull, slicing and tearing the flesh), with additional damage being dealt by a second trait you can have:

2-Venom: various species of lizard, including the komodo dragon, are known to possess venom, which seeps through the teeth into wounds created by their bite. The venom is nothing like the one found in the cone snail and is slow-acting, but it can prevent your blood from clotting and lowers your blood pressure, aka that bite you suffered a few hours earlier that didn't seem like anything too bad? It's not gonna stop bleeding like a normal cut, and the bacteria, while not nearly as critical, will still make it worse, putting you at risk of blood poisoning, not that you'll have to worry about it unless you stop the bleeding before you go into shock. Also, you haven't escaped yet, because your foe has another advantage.

3-enhanced olfactory capabilities and sight: Komodo dragons have an incredible sense of smell that allows them to smell carrion up to 4 kilometers away, which they often used to find the corpses of the inhabitants of the island (which is an actual issue they face, having to take extra measures to ensure the dead stay buried) and the prey they let escape after giving them a proper bite. Thanks to this, they don't need to worry about letting their prey escape, because they can just track them, patiently waiting until their prey can no longer fight back. Monitor lizards can also spot prey from up to 300 meters, so your lizard warrior can also see pretty well.

4-claws: yep, back to the basics. Monitor lizards use their powerful claws to a variety of tasks, from inflicting damage to competing males and prey, to climbing trees and to dig both for carrion and to make places in which they'll lay eggs. Your lizard person, with enough strength and durable claws, could potentially use them both to fight and to climb surfaces, giving it greater control over the terrain, especially in a forest with large trees.

5-Parthenogenisis: remember how your mage made your lizard person a female and then abandoned it? Yeah let's just say it's potentially no longer alone. Be it due to their lifestyle and aggressive behavior or other factors, Komodo dragons can reproduce via parthenogenisis, aka the females can lay eggs which give birth to males, which can mate with the female to produce more eggs, which makes both more males and females and I think you get the grasp. While it can result in problems related to inbreeding in the long run, for now you still have to worry about the fact that there's more than a single lizard, and if most of the human intelligence and tendency of hunting in groups stayed, you might be more screwed than you know.

5-armor: komodo dragons possess a group of complex osteoderms under their scales, which basically funcion like a chainmail made of bone covering the majority of their bodies. Why do they have it? Most likely to protect themselves against other komodo dragons, point is: below their scaly hide, they have natural chainmail to protect themselves from other members of their species, and so it'd make sense that your lizard people made for combat would also have armor.

6-a more realistic camouflage: a last visit to cliche Town, the ability to turn completely invisible is not something you can get with normal biology, with the closest being an animal that's mostly transparent. However, komodo dragons hunt primarily using stealth, and so it's no wonder if your lizard too was similar in color to its surroundings. It won't make them disappear like an octopus, but it will allow them to get a free first attack if your players don't roll a good enough perception check.

7-Ectothermy: while being cold blooded naturally means you hate winter days, if you live in a tropical region where the cold is not a major problem you'll have one main advantage: you're not having to spend energy to stay warm, and you can naturally go longer without food before you starve to death, meaning you can afford to let your prey escape and wait until the venom does its job without having to fight an unnecessary battle.

Now, is it realistic that you could splice genes between a human and a lizard to get a humanoid creature with the best of both worlds? No, not by a long shot, but the guy who made the thing is a mage, so we can automatically write off all problems with this without having to use a semi-magical virus or anything similar.

The result/potential lore: your mage simply deemed the komodo-monitor-humanoid a failure because it couldn't lift a carriage and thus just trapped her away and essentially forgot about her. After a few months he wondered what had happened to it, and went to check out, only to find that the experiment had dug its way out through the wooden floorboards. He tries to find the animal in the dense woods that surround his secret lab, only to step on something that makes a cracking sound.

He stepped on egg shells, and the owner of those shells spring from nearby, giving him a vicious bite. He escapes and runs, but the lizard seems smaller. He doesn't give much thought and locks himself in his lab. He patches the wound (because realistically forcing his would to heal with magic would make it heat up drastically), but the bleeding won't seem to quit. He starts to get agitated and somewhat distant, but ignores it and goes back to work. A few hours later he's on the floor, his skin pale and his consciousness fading to the point he can't even muster the strength to cast a single spell. That's when a small group of monitor people invade the lab through the tall windows. They bit, they waited, and now, they'll eat.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you very much for the extensive answer and link. I know I can't avoid clichés, but sometimes it seems to me that in fantasy they have creature skills they shouldn't have. But I'm glad humanoid reptiles aren't the case I really like the effects of the poison and also the armor that it can have under skin on certain parts of the body. Parthenogenisis sounds like a perfect horror element and a possible threat to humanity. (reason to hunt her) $\endgroup$
    – LittleZ
    Mar 13 at 15:56
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She is either parthenogenetic or extremely long lived.

Your mage crossed a human (and it was the mage himself, the old perv!) with long-extinct dragons. Long-extinct things generally don't go in much for the crossing so I take this mage was "active" in the remote past back before the dragons were extinct.

And here is your singular lizard lady. Maybe she is very old which would be a sweet power though it could get lonely. Or maybe she is parthenogenetic. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/asexual-lizards/

Some lizard ladies can make eggs with no males. Maybe that is how this hybrid individual has perpetuated her kind over the years since dragons roamed the earth and her mage daddy begot her. Maybe each lizard lady has an egg which she raises.

It seems like ancient age is more likely. If your lizard lady can reproduce why is there only one? Usually an egg laying creature can have more than one over a lifetime. Maybe there were more at one time but there is only one now, because of sad misfortunes.

I like the parthenogenetic lizard lady better than the crusty old one, because ever since V I have been thinking about hybrid human lizard babies and what they might be getting up to.

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