"Ssurran lack the majesty of their draconic ancestors, but they lash out with equal rage and twice the spite." -Avatar of Io
Only a fool looks at the Ssurran and sees nothing more than scaly humanoids. Their physical shape notwithstanding, Ssurran have more in common with crocodiles or dragons than they do with humans, dwarves, or elves. Ssurran possess an alien and inscrutable mindset, their desires and thoughts driven by a different set of basic principles than those of warm-blooded creatures. Their dismal wasteland homes might lie hundreds of miles from the nearest human settlement, but the gap between their way of thinking and that of the smooth-skins is far greater. Despite their alien outlook, some Ssurran make an effort to understand and, in their own manner, befriend people of other races. Such Ssurran make faithful and skilled allies.
The Ssurran's reptilian nature comes through not only in their appearance, but also in how they think and act. Ssurran experience a more limited emotional life than other humanoids. Like most reptiles, their feelings largely revolve around fear, aggression, and pleasure. Ssurran experience most feelings as detached descriptions of creatures and situations. For example, humans confronted by an angry troll experience fear on a basic level. Their limbs shake, their thinking becomes panicked and jumbled, and they react by instinct. The emotion of fear takes hold and controls their actions.
In contrast, Ssurran see emotions as traits assigned to other creatures, objects, and situations. A Ssurran doesn't think, "I'm scared." Instead, aggressive, stronger creatures register to the Ssurran as fearsome beings to be avoided if possible. If such creatures attack, Ssurran flee, fighting only if cornered. Ssurran aren't scared of a troll; instead, they understand that a troll is a fearsome, dangerous creature and react accordingly. Ssurran never become angry in the way others do, but they act with aggression toward creatures that they could defeat in a fight and that can't be dealt with in some other manner. They are aggressive toward prey they want to eat, creatures that want to harm them, and so on. Pleasurable people and things make life easier for Ssurran. Pleasurable things should be preserved and protected, sometimes at the cost of the Ssurran's own safety. The most pleasurable creatures and things are ones that allow Ssurran to assess more situations as benign rather than fearsome.
Most humanoids describe cold-blooded folk as lacking in emotion and empathy. The same label serves as an apt depiction of Ssurran. Lacking any internal emotional reactions, Ssurran behave in a distant manner. They don't mourn fallen comrades or rage against their enemies. They simply observe and react as a situation warrants. Ssurran lack meaningful emotional ties to the past. They assess situations based on their current and future utility and importance. Nowhere does this come through as strongly as when Ssurran deal with the dead. To a Ssurran, a comrade who dies becomes a potential source of food. That companion might have once been a warrior or hunter, but now the body is just freshly killed meat. A Ssurran who lives among other humanoids can, over time, learn to respect other creatures' emotions. The Ssurran doesn't share those feelings, but instead assesses them in the same clinical manner. Yes, the fallen dwarf might be most useful as a meal, but hacking the body into steaks provokes aggression in the other humanoids and makes them less helpful in battle.
The Ssurran mindset might seem unnecessarily cruel, but it helps them survive in a hostile environment. The wastelands they inhabit are filled with a staggering variety of threats. Ssurran focus on survival above all, without sentiment. Ssurran assess everyone and everything in terms of utility. Art and beauty have little meaning for them. A sharp sword serves a useful and good purpose, while a dull sword is a dead weight without a whetstone. Ssurran see little need to plan more than a season or so into the future. This approach allows them to maintain their current level of influence in the world, but it limits their growth. Ssurran have no interest in developing writing, making long-term plans, or cultivating other methods to progress beyond their simple existence as hunters and gatherers.
At their core, Ssurran view other humanoids with an indifference verging on pity. Born into the world lacking stout scales and sharp teeth, it's a wonder they have managed to survive for so long. The typical human would barely make it through a day in the wastelands. Still, if other creatures prove useful to Ssurran, those creatures can trigger a protective response made all the stronger by their apparent weakness. The Ssurran assess such beings as hatchlings, young ones incapable of protecting themselves but who might prove useful in the future if they receive care.
In the hissing wastes of Athas, the Ssurran possess a crocodile form. They form self-organized groups referred to as thrashes. The Ssurran are warriors that have survived in the hissing wastes by using three tactics: ferocity, brutality, and savagery. The Ssurran settle in the highest portions of ruins and ambush foes with a flurry of arrows from above. Others regard the Ssurran as skulkers and cowards, but all are cautious when entering areas with elevated ruins. The home ground of the Ssurran is the hissing wastes; an area at the center of Athas that has many large and ancient structures that have somehow remained standing amid the sands for many generations.