The Cho’zhar are a race of medium power, native to sector 31 and found primarily in the eastern half of Andreemea. They’re part of the GAE (Grand Aunarriviant Empire), though much of their race is scattered and factionless as well, roaming the galaxy as mercenaries and pirates. Most races have a healthy fear and distrust of them, thus they don’t mix very well, except with pirates and other outcasts that can’t afford to have the same prejudices. Their main rivals are the Madronean, who they are locked in near-constant conflict with.
Cho’zhar are reptilian humanoids. Both genders are around 8 feet tall and are naturally muscular in build. Their legs are digitigrade, with three toes on each foot and four fingers on each hand, including a thumb. Each finger and toe has a short, thick claw at the end. Their skin is covered in scales which are bigger and harder on their back and more tough and pliant on the front. Their natural scale color ranges from light green to dark brown, and the scales on their back are slightly darker than the ones on the front.
They have little holes in their head that serve as ears and small beady eyes that are green, brown or yellow in color, with slit pupils. They have two elongated, slanted nostrils where a human’s nose would be. Their jaws are aligned vertically instead of horizontally and jut out like an animal’s snout, comparable to this image. Their mouth is lipless and filled with two rows of sharp teeth. Because the jaws can rotate at the base and have no “cheeks” to hold them together, they can open surprisingly far.
Besides having lungs, there are two sets of gills on the sides of their neck. In front of the gills are two fin-like skin flaps that flatten against their neck to protect the gills whenever they’re out of the water. Underwater, the fins will come loose, allowing the gills to do their job. Because of this, Cho’zhar can breathe in both air and water.
There is very little sexual dimorphism between male and female Cho’zhar, leaving most outsiders unable to tell them apart. Instead, they identify each other’s gender mostly by smell. Both genders emit different pheromones, which are barely noticeable to most other species, but play an essential role in sexual attraction among Cho’zhar.
Despite their reptilian appearance, they are sort of warm-blooded. Their temperature control is more advanced than that of Earth’s mammals, as their heat generation turns on or off depending on the outside temperature. Thus, they do well in both hot and cold environments without overheating or becoming sluggish.
Cho’zhar can live for 70 years on average. They remain in their physical prime until the age of 55, after which they start physically weakening. The most notable sign of aging is the appearance of subtle grey spots on their scales, which first appear around 55 years old and increase in number and intensity from there on.
Like humans, Cho’zhar procreate through internal fertilization. Two months after fertilization, the female lays 2-3 eggs, which are twice the size of an ostrich egg and have a dark brown, leathery shell. Six months later, the eggs hatch. Cho’zhar are born without scales, claws or teeth. For the first year of their life, both the mother and father feed the children by coughing up pre-digested food, similar to some of Earth's birds. By the end of the first year, the children have developed teeth, claws and a juvenile coat of scales, and are ready to learn how to hunt small animals themselves. The children reach maturity at the age of fourteen.
Life on their home planet of Chuu’thur has made the Cho’zhar tough in mind as well as body, thus why most are gruff, quick-tempered and prideful. They tend to have problems getting along with other races, especially when it comes to taking orders, but are not entirely deaf to reason. They are violent and brutal in nature, and most seek out a life of thrill and violence, the thing that evolution has engineered them for. They tend to consider other races inferior to themselves, though they will occasionally acknowledge their usefulness.
The Cho’zhar are a scattered species, thus it’s difficult to speak of a single culture. Instead, they are usually separated into two general groups: imperial Cho’zhar and wandering Cho’zhar. The imperial Cho’zhar are those who live on Chuu’thur or any of the other Cho’zhar controlled planets within the GAE. They have no central government, but are semi-united by their loyalty to the GAE and share a basic culture that’s more or less consistent among all tribes and planets. The wandering Cho’zhar, on the other hand, are those who have left their planet behind and taken to traveling the galaxy. Because of their separation from their home world and constant exposure to other races, many have lost their native culture and adopted the culture of those they associate with.
Despite their status as a space-faring race, the imperial Cho’zhar culture is a relatively primitive one. Their population is split up into many large and small groups, called tribes in English. The term tribe doesn’t refer to their lifestyle, as they do live in modern cities, but rather to their primitive political system. Their concept of authority is largely based in the right of the strongest. Usually, the leader of a tribe will be the individual, male or female, who has proven themself strongest.
The specifics of becoming lord of a tribe differ between tribes, but it almost always involves defeating the current tribe lord in single combat. Nowadays, the majority of clans hold non-lethal fights, either unarmed or using blunted melee weapons, though some still fight to the death. Even among the ones that don’t, the fights are rather brutal. Bloodshed and broken bones are almost guaranteed as both fighters will push themselves to the limit in order to gain/retain leadership over the tribe. The combatant still standing after the other surrenders or loses consciousness is the winner of the challenge and becomes/remains lord of the tribe. Due to this system, Cho’zhar politics tend to be highly volatile, with the current leader sometimes changing suddenly and frequently.
That being said, ever since the Cho’zhar’s introduction into galactic civilization, they have slowly gained the realization that brawn and brain are not always the same thing. While the tradition of authority by strength remains, they have somewhat learned from the other races, as nowadays every tribe lord is surrounded by a small council of advisors, specially selected for their wisdom and intelligence. While the tribe lord retains full power, this council will advise him and occasionally, upon his command, take over part of his duties, usually when it comes to non-martial matters.
Imperial Cho’zhar follow an unofficial caste system, where one’s worth is decided not by their birth, but by their profession. Tribe lords are of course in the highest, most respected position. Below them is the warrior class, which includes most military personnel. Of course, within the warrior class, individuals of a higher rank still receive a higher amount of respect. Below them is the worker class, which includes miners, construction workers, military engineers and other professions that the Cho’zhar consider “heavy and important work”. They are looked at as more cowardly than the warrior class, but are still respected to some extent.
The lowest caste is the peasant class, which includes most professions not included in any of the higher classes, such as farmer or merchant. These jobs are considered to be for those who lack strength and courage. While their contribution to society is acknowledged, they gain little respect for it. The few Cho’zhar scientists and scholars that exist are considered part of the peasant class, but most Cho’zhar will admit that they are deserving of respect, albeit a different kind.
Cho’zhar care little for the esthetic value of everyday clothing. They rely on their scales to protect them from the elements, so usually only wear pants to cover up their privates and nothing else. Whatever they do wear is simple, practical and dull in color.
There are several Cho’zhar languages, full of rasps, clicks and guttural sounds that are unpleasant to human ears and hard to reproduce by other races. As a result, most learn Anolo to communicate with outsiders. Many Cho’zhar who grew up away from their home world never learned any of the Cho’zhar languages and simply speak the language of the races they associate with.
The Cho’zhar are very divided when it comes to their beliefs, so there is no central religion among them. They don’t tend to argue about it with each other or other races a lot though. After all, they don’t really need another excuse to show aggression anyways. They’re thought to have the highest percentage of Grorx worshippers of any race, namely 5-10% of the population.
Due to their size and build, a Cho'zhar is easily twice as strong as a human with comparable training, and can run considerably faster. Their natural healing factor is more potent, halving the healing time of wounds and allowing them to completely regrow entire organs over time. As a result, most wounds don’t leave scars, only exceptionally grievous ones. Their tough scales protect them against a variety of minor hazards, including punches and dull blades, but are of little use against firearms.
Some can use hot or neutral magic, but usually not on a high level.
The Cho’zhar aren’t the most technologically advanced race around. They tend to rely on other races for spacefaring technology, mainly the Aunarri. They can recreate such tech if they have the blueprints, but have no cosmodrive designs of their own. Much of their own technology, such as the chainsword, is regarded as crude and brutal by other races, but the Cho’zhar wouldn’t have it any other way.
In combat, Cho’zhar are viciously cunning and cunningly vicious. They tend to split their army up into many small groups, which are, among themselves, far more organized than one would expect from such a brutal race. They are particularly fond of using ambushes and other guerrilla tactics whenever they can, and have on many occasions managed to defeat far larger armies this way. Short ranged fighting is their specialty, and they do best in forests, swamps and dense urban areas, anything that’s cramped and difficult for a larger force to navigate through.
The Cho’zhar come from the planet Chuu’thur, which consists almost entirely of jungles and swamps. It’s a nexus of environmental hazards, dangerous plant life and most of all dangerous animals, fighting to outhunt and out-evolve each other in a primal chaos of life and death. One of such animals was the Cho’zhar. They evolved to a mixture of physical strength and cunning in order to not only survive but thrive in this chaos.
Upon reaching the industrial age, surviving in the dangerous environments of Chuu’thur became easier and the population began rapidly expanding. Because fighting spirit is hard-wired into the Cho’zhar, they couldn’t be content with long periods of peace and began turning against each other more and more as their power and population grew. Tribes would war against each other almost constantly over land, resources or simple disagreement. Over the course of hundreds of years, they tore apart their own planet with their constant warring, turning over 60% of what was once fertile soil into wastelands.
Meanwhile, the Aunarri, who at that time were still fighting for control against the more hostile races of the eastern sectors, had been watching the Cho’zhar from a distance for many years. While many Aunarri scorned them for their primitive nature, the military recognized potential in their strength and savagery. They were long considered unlikely to serve as an ally, but when it became apparent that the Cho’zhar were on a path to their own extinction, the Aunarri saw an opportunity. A group of ambassadors made contact with the Cho’zhar, who at the time had no spacefaring technology and had never made contact with extra-terrestrial life. The Aunarri offered them spaceships and new planets to colonize, in return for their loyalty to the growing Aunarriviant Empire. The Cho’zhar were distrusting of these strangers, but in the end the majority agreed to accept the offer.
The Aunarri allowed much of Cho’zhar culture to remain untouched, as long as all tribes individually swore loyalty to the Empire and were willing to put their rivalries with other tribes aside in case of an interplanetary war. Over the following years, the Cho’zhar were taught how to construct and handle modified Aunarri spacecraft and were integrated into the unified Aunarriviant army. They were put to use as shock and ambush troops against the GAE’s enemies, with great success.
Over time, the Cho’zhar were rewarded a few conquered planets to populate as they see fit, in return for their service to the Empire. They turned out harder to control than expected, however, as many Cho’zhar had developed such a taste for violence that they deserted the Empire in order to live the life of wandering mercenaries or pirates. Some groups near the edges of Empire territory even went into open rebellion against the Aunarri and managed to separate themselves into independent tribes again. Thus why they are nowadays such a scattered race, quite fitting of their chaotic nature.