Noble Tortoise

Tortoises are a family of land-dwelling reptiles akin to turtles. Like other turtles, tortoises are shielded from predators by a shell. The top part of the shell is the carapace, the underside is the plastron, and the two are connected by the bridge. The tortoise endoskeleton has the adaptation of having an external shell fused to the ribcage.  Turtles are found in many parts of the world with temperate or tropical climates. Some kinds live on land, others in fresh water or salt water. Land turtles can swim, and water turtles breathe air and lay their eggs on land. They are usually diurnal animals with tendencies to be crepuscular depending on the ambient temperatures. They are generally reclusive animals.

Turtles are probably the longest-living group of animals, some living 150 years or more. Full-grown turtles vary in size from certain freshwater turtles 3 1/2 inches (9 cm) long and less than one pound (.45 kg) in weight to sea-living leatherback turtles 8 to 9 feet (2.4 to 2.7 m) long and weighing up to 1,500 pounds (680 kg). Most species of turtles grow throughout life, although slowly after the first 5 to 10 years.

Many species of tortoises are sexually dimorphic, though the differences between males and females vary from species to species. In some species, males have a longer, more protruding neck plate than their female counterparts, while in others, the claws are longer on the females. In most tortoise species, the female tends to be larger than the male. The male plastron is curved inwards to aid reproduction. The easiest way to determine the sex of a tortoise is to look at the tail. The females, as a general rule, have smaller tails, dropped down, whereas the males have much longer tails which are usually pulled up and to the side of the rear shell.

Most land-based tortoises are herbivores, feeding on grasses, weeds, leafy greens, flowers, and some fruits, although some omnivorous species are in this family. Certain species consume worms or insects and carrion in their normal habitats. Too much protein is detrimental in herbivorous species, and has been associated with shell deformities and other medical problems.

Female tortoises dig nesting burrows in which they lay from one to 30 eggs. Egg-laying typically occurs at night, after which the mother tortoise covers her clutch with sand, soil, and organic material. The eggs are left unattended, and depending on the species, take from 60 to 120 days to incubate. The size of the egg depends on the size of the mother and can be estimated by examining the width of the cloacal opening between the carapace and plastron. The plastron of a female tortoise often has a noticeable V-shaped notch below the tail which facilitates passing the eggs. Upon completion of the incubation period, a fully formed hatchling uses an egg tooth to break out of its shell. It digs to the surface of the nest and begins a life of survival on its own. Hatchlings are born with an embryonic egg sac which serves as a source of nutrition for the first three to seven days until they have the strength and mobility to find food. Juvenile tortoises often require a different balance of nutrients than adults, so may eat foods which a more mature tortoise would not. For example, the young of a strictly herbivorous species commonly will consume worms or insect larvae for additional protein.

Species Descriptions

Possessing the strongest natural armor in the animal kingdom, tortoises also possess the slowest speed. When threatened, most simply pull into their shells and wait until a would-be attacker gets frustrated and leaves. Of course, an adventuring noble tortoise rarely has that option. For this reason, they like to join parties with powerful and mobile fighters, so that they can hang back and provide magical support without ever leaving the safety of their shell.

Tortoises have extremely long life-spans, even without being noble, and some will form long-lasting friendships with elves, fairies, and even dragons.

Noble Tortoise Species Traits
  • Ability Score Modifiers: 4 Dexterity (Noble tortoises always begin play with a Dexterity of 4 — this can be increased through level advancement as usual), +2 Constitution, +4 Wisdom; while extremely slow, the noble tortoise is also extremely patient.
  • Size: Tiny.
  • Base Speed: 5 feet, Swim: 20 ft. A tortoise’s Base Speed is never affected by defensive attitudes.
  • Natural Weapons: Bite (1d3)
  • Natural Armor: +4.
  • Hold Breath (Ex): A noble tortoise can hold its breath for a number of rounds equal to 4x its Constitution score before it risks drowning.
  • Senses: Low-light vision (Ex).
  • Bonus Feat: Toughness.
  • Skills: +8 racial bonus on any Swim check to perform some special action or avoid a hazard. Noble tortoises can always take 10 on a Swim check, even if distracted or endangered. It can also use the run action while swimming, providing it swims in a straight line.
  • Family: Reptile.
  • Noble Animal Type: Noble tortoises have the noble animal type except where superseded by other species traits and features.
  • Social Group: None.
  • Automatic Languages: Crocodilian, High Fauna and Woodland.
  • Bonus Languages: Bat, Camel, Canine, Common, Crocodilian, Elephant, Equine, Feline, Herdspeak, Hyena, Lizard, Monitor, Raptor, Rodent, Serpent, Simian, Songbird, and Ursine.

Racial Feats

The following feats are available to a noble tortoise character who meets the prerequisites.

  • Linked Feat