So I painted up these scorpion-man figures from the Age of Mythology board game (I just bought a few sprues of the pieces for a project a couple years ago) and of course they need to go into the Telengard setting.
I’m willing to overlook the fact that they are from Akkadian/Sumerian/whatever Near Eastern mythology, and assume they are in Telengard for one of the usual reasons you have monsters in D&D — magical experiment gone awry, interdimensional invasion, alien life form, etc. But I’d like to keep some of their original flavor, making them guardians of some kind, and give them powers similar to their mythological forebears.
My old standby Wikipedia doesn’t have a lot of information, apart from a couple of references to their vernacular names and the fact that they also appear in Enuma Elish (I was familiar with them only from the epic of Gilgamesh and various works based on it).
In the translation of Gilgamesh I read (the Penguin Classics edition) they appear very briefly and mainly serve as harbingers of worse to come.
In Robert Silverberg’s adaptation of the Gilgamesh myth (Gilgamesh the king, a decent read and reasonable attempt to de-mythologize the story), the scorpion people appear to be suffering from leprosy and/or ectrodactyly, and posed no physcial threat.
I understand from Wikipedia that there was a D&D monster called a “Stinger” that was basically a scorpion man, but they must have been 2nd edition or later; there is nothing in my MM, MMII, or Fiend Folio on that. I remember a man-scorpion in the DragonStrike! game and the accompanying video, so maybe they made it into the Monstrous Manual. I think they could have been in the basic D&D Creature Catalog but I don’t have that. I also know they were prominent monster in RuneQuest, although I don’t have that either.
My guys have the claw hands so they can’t very well be archers like the illustration above. A poisonous sting is obvious but that doesn’t really set them apart from a million other poisonous monsters…like, for instance, giant scorpions. Also, although I think D&D scorpions are save-or-die poison, real scorpions just paralyze their prey with poison so they can eat them slowly.
Since real scorpions are fairly scared of light, we might give them light penalties and/or darkness spells. Real scorpions also do all of their digestion outside their bodies (like Brundlefly, secreting digestive juices and drinking the liquefied food). So maybe they spit acid? But the human torso would give them internal digestion, maybe. Also, fun facts: some scorpions can reproduce asexually (laying unfertilized eggs that develop anyway) and their slow metabolism lets some go up to a year between feedings before starving to death. More weird scorpion stuff here.
Wikipedia mentions that the in the myths, “their glance is death,” so adding a gaze attack would make an unexpected danger; I’m kind of thinking that they could charm, paralyze, hypnotize, or otherwise neutralize their prey with it.
Since my figures are very impressionistic, with tiny little legs, I don’t see them being very fast, although they might be good at hiding, like real scorpions.
I am also having trouble deciding if they use magic or even language. I imagine one origin for them to be something like a twisted use of the “universal combiner,” in which case they pretty upset about their current form. They could have been driven mad by the whole ordeal and gibber incoherently (I thought about making them mutter continuously in low tones, or maybe a demihuman language, pleading for mercy or release even while they viciously attack. I kind of like the image of them as monsters where the human parts are actually unwilling ‘passengers’, to add a little moral gray about slaying them.)