Asabi are a race of savage, dim-witted, warlike lizardfolk native to the deserts of the Forgotten Realms. They come in two species; the common asabi, and the much larger (and duller-witted) Stingtail, named for its prehensile tail armed with a venomous stinger. They are most common in the Anauroch desert, where they war against the native humans; the Bedouin expies called "Bedines". In fact, "Asabi" is the Bedine name for the race, and they originally called themselves Laerti, by which name they were referred to in AD&D - come 3rd edition, and the Bedine name for them replaced the Laerti name.
Stats for both subraces of Asabi/Laerti first appeared in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons splatbook "Anauroch", before being reprinted in "The Villains' Lorebook" and "Elminster's Ecologies". They were updated to Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition in "Monsters of Faerun", with expanded fluff being provided in "Serpent Kingdoms".
Asabi clearly resemble desert-dwelling skinks; they have rough, pebbly skin typically brown or gray in hue, with dun or light green underbellies and yellow, egg-shaped eyes so bright that they flash in darkness, with horizontal slit pupils. Its narrow skull features a sloping forehead that ends in protruding brows, with a tongue that constantly flicks out to touch interesting objects or just smell the air; earlier splatbooks describe their heads as sitting atop "thin, awkward necks". Their limbs supposedly stick out at right angles to their bodies, which combined with their natural quickness makes them seem quite ungainly as they move - this has never been really represented by the art, and is probably just a badly worded way to compare them to desert skinks. An asabi walks upright but hunched over, with a gait that wobbles to and fro. Both species can run on all fours if they need to, but the stingtail variant has a prehensile tail, which the common asabi lacks. Stingtails and asabi readily live together, with the common asabi usually leading due to their superior intellect. Both species can interbreed readily, with the resultant clutch containing a mixture of pureblood asabi and pureblood stingtails; in "Anauroch", it's said that the mix will be 90% asabi and 10% stingtails, whilst in "Serpent Kingdoms", the ratio is instead 50/50. In AD&D, they were described as surprisingly fussy omnivores, supplementing a diet of fungi and taproots cultivated in underground lairs with the soft internal organs of animals and humanoids killed on the battlefield.
They are disciplined, organized creatures (well, stingtails are more barbaric, due to being dumber and more emotion-driven), and mostly live as raiders and mercenaries; Serpent Kingdoms would expand their lore by explaining that their culture is literally built around warfare, due to their origins as a warrior slave-race engineered by the sarrukh to fight for them. Their outlook is surpisingly deep for what was originally a fairly one-dimensional "kill on sight" enemy:
- Asabis view warfare as a game, and they delight in slaying enemy creatures. They understand that death is the eventual outcome of a life devoted to warfare, but they believe that dying on the battlefield is the most glorious achievement to which an individual can aspire. Such a death ensures the asabi a place in the palace of her gods.
- While asabis delight in warfare, they are not hateful opponents. They know that their craft results in their own deaths as well as the deaths of their enemies, and they accept this outcome as part of the natural life cycle. When alliances shift and old enemies become new allies, they greet their former foes with open arms and march into battle side by side. Asabis make lifetime enemies only when allies betray them or when they are enslaved and forced to serve under a brutal master.
Off the battlefield, those asabi who aren't living in a mercenary band form small villages, where they raise their offspring collectively. A community is usually led by a council of elders and a war chief, with both wielding the same amount of power. The council of elders is made up of laborers representing the noncombatants within the group, including the young, the elderly, and parents who are currently raising young. The war chief rises to power by forging alliances with the warriors of the community and then taking command. Most disagreements that arise between the two centers of power are settled peacefully. Should an impasse occur, the issue is brought before the community, which decides the matter by majority vote.
As a "primitive" race, asabi have little access to magic, save for sorcerers and clerics, and even have a preference for steel weaponry over enchanted ones (which is just stupid). Sorcerers are both respected for their nature as battlefield assets and distrusted for their powers (what else is new?), which clerics are revered as spiritual leaders (again, what else is new?) and thusly they are usually kept off of the battlefield and back in the safety of the village. Those asabi clerics who still follow the sarrukh liches of Oreme still follow the ancient faith of Merrshaulk, dedicated the souls of asabi who fall in battle as sacrifices to this god, and presiding over the sacrifice of other scalykind races - typically troglodytes and lizardfolk from the neighboring areas - when times of peace fall over the region. Other asabi clerics tend to worship Semuanya.
One final aspect of asabi psychology bears mention: though they maintain something of a "slave mentality", and are happy to follow a master, they also expect decent treatment in return. A master who mistreats them stops being a master and becomes an enemy; asabi who find themselves tortured, overworked or otherwise abused immediately start plotting to escape - but not before they engineer the downfall of the tyrant. Many a cruel warlord who put a group of asabis to work has been surprised by a knife in the back from one of his “faithful” slaves.