The Serpent Lords: "how do you like your magic poison, you son of a dragon?" (remake of Nagas and Couatl. several variants included)
similar to the entries for the Barghest and the Gargoyle, the Naga and other serpentine creatures also has a rich history in legends, folklore and more (eastern and African cultures mostly, from my little research). as i saw it, i looked for other serpentine monsters, and noticed some liens of similarity with the Couatl. from here on the creation process rolled on, until i brought the Nagas into their new incarnation, as a single species (sort of) known asThe Serpent Lords. i hope my attempt to unite the monsters doesn't offend anyone.
one more note: as before, some of the following draws inspiration from the Eberron setting, and fit it better. but as before- all here can easily be adapted to any campaign world.
Naga (MMI), Couatl (MMI) and Bone Naga (MMII)
(note: from here after, the term Serpent Lord represent all 3)
Bad Street Rep: Nagas (bone included) have a mishmash of abilities, no coherent outlook, and the variants in MMI all resemble each other strongly, lacking any singularity. the Naga also looks awkward, with no explanation. in short, the Nagas jsut fall through the cracks, DM choices wise... it doesn't have any role or niche it fits well enough to be worth the effort. the Couatl is quite decent however, with the obvious role of mystic-fights-for-good. it resembled Nagas on several aspects though, and their joining is hopefully a fruitful one.
i like it because at first i didn't. but legends about Nagas (where they are often portrayed as guardians of knowledge or treasure, their bite deadly, their cunning fierce) have sparked my imagination. i then remembered the many real world myths about serpentine/ snake creatures, and decided to focus this on the Naga. the Eberron connection of the Couatl to dragons have cinched it for me. i knew how marvelous Nagas could be, how versatile, and how pivotal and centric they could be to legends. i decided to make them grander, more unique, more memorable, with an aura of awe and mystery as those of weaker dragons.
And now, presenting to you the new and improved Serpent Lords:
Perception and Concept
- Perception:in this new incarnation, the Serpent Lords have a closely tied history to dragons. in a way they tried to compete with them, envied them, sought to gain power like them. bound to their own forms however they are weaker, and so the Nagas have improved their cunning, and deadliness of their poison. the Serpent lords have some unique roles for the DM:
- various encounters for various levels, relying on the serpent lords progression routes.
- a scheming power behind the scene, adept at stealth, manipulation and information extraction
- a deadly combatant, with a poison for every cause.
- a most fitting powerful minion or sidekick. even a recurring one.
- center for legends, and intrigue with dragons.
- two unique challenges in the form of Ascendant Serpentine lords (Couatl and Bone Naga). who gained far more power than their kin, and are parts in the greater struggle between good an evil.
- Concept: the Serpent Lord species describes the growth of Nagas, and their progression. after maturity the Naga can choose between 3 paths, two of them leading to Ascension transforming to either Couatl or Bone Naga, depending on the path chosen. (note to those who read Barghest: don't worry, not nearly as complicated as that was). the Nagas moral choices (alignement) have a significant role in this, but not the only role.
the Serpent lords powers focus on several fields- mastery of poison (the ability to change it, and use several kinds), spell casting as dragons (not much change there), and various powers that focus on manipulation and information gathering.
The Serpent lords are more vulnerable than dragons, and far less powerful, but do posses an impressive arrogance and sense of entitlement. due to their weakened states, they are far more resourceful and scheming however. Nagas are in a very real way, Dragon wannabes.
Place and Interactions
- Place in the world: no one knows when it happened, but Serpent Lords seem to have been very close to dragons some time in the paths. maybe when dragons were simpler, and not the immensely powerful beasts they are now. legends and scholarly research suggests that in that forgotten past, the bodies of the two species was similar, and that the Serpent lords wore serpentine faces. in fact, some even theorize that it was one species, that split into the two very distinct species known today!
it seems that this separation came with a curse, or a bane on Nagas: they were cursed with ever shifting faces of the lower races, as well as no legs (or perhaps the dragons gained legs?), but perhaps most irritating of all is the vast difference in power and respect between the two species. the Nagas resent the dragons deeply for that.
in the time that passed since, Serpent lords have often sought of ways to increase their power and influence. they gained access to tombs, ancient ruins, and other places of import and power. many time the "guardian" Serpent lord isn't so much a guardian, as a looter, mimicking dragons with their desires for wealth, treasure, and more.
Serpent Lords evolve in the following manner, in their pursuit for power:
- Youngling Nagas require a moist environment, and are often found in lakes, swamps, jungles and more. at this stage they are very vulnerable, and often congregate in small hunting groups. the scales are greenish, like algae.
- Mature Nagas developed tight knit scales and can now venture from the watery surfaces. their powers grow, but are yet far from impressive. Nagas of this stage usually travel in pairs, for companionship and protection, and procreation. many travels to dry areas, liking the difference from their childhood. this is the focal point of a Serpent Lord's life. from here the Naga can choose one of 3 paths, in it's quest for power. their scales are usually brown or earth toned.
- Power Naga is a term describing the next stage in the possible paths. the powers grow again, and become more unique. the paths reflect the Alignment and power choices the Naga took. it's an evolution of personality as well as power.
- Guardian Naga: is a power naga of neutral or good alignement, who chose to give up it's hatred for the dragons, and try and imitate them. the scales grow brighter, almost blinding. the name comes from their tendency to guard places or goals of import.
- Venom Lord: is a power naga of any alignment, who decided to not choose any of the extreme paths. it focuses on becoming stronger physically, and improving it's mastery of poison. the scales remain in earth tones, though with flecks of red and gray.
- Dark Naga: is a power naga of neutral or evil alignement, who chose to pursue power at any cost, wanting to live as long as the dragons, or more. they develop a new poison which increases their powers of manipulations. their scales become dark gray to dark black.
- Ascendancy: no one except ascendant Serpent Lords knows how to complete this final transformation. it is not a matter of gaining experience or gaining HD, but something more profound, more subtle. Venom lords cannot achieve Ascendancy.
- Couatl: is an ascendant good Guardian Naga. the name meant something on the lines of "sublime" in ancient Draconic, but the meaning was lost. the scales turns to all the colors of the rainbow, and indeed some of the Couatl's forces are tied to it. good dragons relinquish their hostilities with Couatls, often working together for common goals. Couatls are known as champions of good, great sages, but also quite elusive.
Couatls breed together to bring a new young Couatl (though wise beyond their years). but a Couatl and a naga breeding will always bring out a Youngling naga.
- Bone Naga is an ascendant evil Dark Naga. it completes a dark ritual, transforming it's body to an undead husk, from which the serpentine skeleton emerges. bone nagas can posses another creature through their poison (that remains active, even in the undead state), as well as grow more powerful in their spell casting abilities. the bone naga is undead, and a most scheming and dangerous creature, often plotting for more power, usually at the expanse of dragons. it is quite an exemplary of evil, similar to many liches are.
Serpent Lords (other than Ascendant ones) posses a humanoid face (Couatls posses a draconic face, and Bone Nagas posses no face). each time the face is part of their curse/ nature: each time they bite humanoid creautres their face turns to resemble it, though is a stretched out and somewhat distorted way. Nagas generally hate this, but some do like the horrified expression on their opponent's face. if the Naga succeeded to Delve into Memory with it's bite, (will be explained later), then the similarity is even more striking, mimicking facial traits and expressions.
Nagas posses the ability to glean into the memory of their opponents when biting them (as i said- explained later). this makes them excellent information gatherers, and superb combatants. Dark Naga has even further powers to influence memories and more. many Nagas become connoisseurs of memory, enjoying and savoring it. some dislike it, but all find it useful.
Serpent lords moves from place to place when the need calls for it, but they are often reluctant to. similar to dragons, a Serpent Lord will alter and protect it's lair, either with its Telekinesis, it's spells, or services from other creatures (rended willingly or not). unlike Dragons, the Serpents lords rely less on their own personal power (they are arrogant and proud, but also realistic), but rather on minions, traps, superior terrain, information gathering, or any other advantage they can get their coils on!
Eberron note: in this setting, the nagas are called "the worms of Eberron", and are believed to have been on both sides in the age of demons. some went to the dragons aid and became Couatl's (ending with their great sacrifice), while others either stayed neutral, or came to the Rakshasa's side. when many of the Rajahs were imprisoned, some of the lower demons, Naga's amongst them were bound to different location or under Khyber. the Daelkyr however played with these creatures, and gave them their faces (and some claim also some of their powers). the Serpent Lords since then escaped, but their aberrant nature is still hunted down by the various druids.
A clarification by Classy One: The feathered serpents were nerver considered inferior to dragons, even if they are less powerful. In fact, many dragons admired the couatl or even viewed them as superior to dragons due to their knack for psionics (which you failed to mention) and their natural immortality.
When the couatl gave up their lives to seal the rakshasa rajahs, the dragons even had survivor guilt (since they thrived afterwards) and many devote their entire life and future generations to guarding the peace that couatls brought with their own life force. If that isn't blatant respect then I don't know what is.
- Interactions: the Serpent Lords are quite willing to deal with whomever they need to. most are skilled negotiators and their powers sometime give them an edge. it is quite common for a Naga to demand she bite lightly whomever it is making a deal with, so it could Delve into it's Memory, and make sure they are not lying. Dark Nagas are even more dangerous in that respect.
Serpent Lords usually seek the most powerful position possible in any organization, but they will conceed to a lower one, if a more powerful applicant rise. nagas are very aware of the power hierarchy, and almost always scheme to move ahead, but only when appropriate.
different power and ascendant serpent lords react and deal depending on their own personality, and should be regarded on a case by case basis.
even so, there are several special cases:
- youngling Naga: all Serpent Lords are fiercely protecting of the young ones, believing that their survival trumps nearly any other consideration. this blind species protectiveness might even be the one case that Guardian nagas and Bone Nagas work together. this trait has no real explanation, except for the strange blief held by nearly all serpent lords that their species is on the verge of extinction... always.
- power nagas and mature nagas: many time a power naga will try to take a mature one under it's scales, sort to speak. they try and be their mentors. the relationship is a unique one, and lasts only until a transformation occurs.
- serpent lords of opposite paths: if they meet, or learn of the other one existence, then they seek to destroy (or evade, if the other is too powerful) each other. the hatred is immense, and both sides might go to great lengths to exterminate the other.
- Yuan Ti: somewhat similar in nature, many Naga's find refuge and a home in a Yuan-ti temple. alliances quickly develop. the Yuan Ti are the only race who managed to refine a Naga's poison and keep it potent. temples who have a naga assisting them are far more dangerous. the temples naturally welcome only neutral and evil nagas
in Eberron there is a Benevolent Yuan-Ti race, worshiping couatls. (one locations is in the south east of the blade desert). Guardian Nagas may find the same companionship in these places.
- Dragons: the great animosity between the dragon race and the Serpent Lords one is hard to breach. other than the Couatl there is no known example of dragons working together with nagas. nagas usually flee any direct confrontation, and might leave an are alltogether if a dragon arrives, but many (especially the Dark and Bone Nagas) scheme to get rid of the dragons.
if young dragons are found in the area, the naga will usually hunt them down fiercely, reveling in the delight, knowing full well that once they grow, that opportunity is lost. dragons in turn go to great measures to hunt down nagas in their area close to hatching.
Gaurdian Nagas usually try and help young good dragons in need though. adult dragons don't reciprocate, and many of them will hunt down Guardian Nagas non the less...
- half dragons: Serpent lords usually feel about these offsprings the same way they feel about the draconic parent. guardian nagas try to protect and guide them usually, while dark nagas and venom lord try to destroy them. a special dark and sadistic pleasure of dark nagas is to try and turn half dragons against dragons (maybe by their special powers).
- liches wannabe: the transformation of a dark naga to a bone naga is a mysterious one. many believe it is an earleir versions of the transformation to lich process (though the two differ greatly). some casters, seeking to become liches, seek out Bone Nagas, and broker dark deals with them for exchange of the information (including letting them "ride" in their bodies... will be explained later). some scholars claim that the Bone Naga's poison can enhance a lich's abilities greatly...
- constructs, and unintelligent undead: most Serpentine lords fear them, since some of their powers (poison included) don't affect them. a serpent lord hate what it can't reason with.
- outsiders: the Couatl is an outsider itself. furthermore, all evil and good outsiders consider it firmly as one of them, in terms of the greater battle between good and evil. other Serpent lords don't receive the same treatment, not even the Bone Naga (which prefers to stay out of that business anyway).
- half celestials/ half fiends: these are most commonly treated exactly as outsiders by the serpent lords, and vice versa. some mortals however, and some half fiends/ celestials, believe that the ascendant transformation processes can also benefit them, to reach more "celestial/ fiend status". these might og to great lengths to capture either power nagas or ascendant serpent lords and try to find out the answer. half celestials though usually prefer to talk things through, though some have been known to act more urgently in times of need.
- reptiles, especially snakes. including dire forms: All the Serpent lords exude some sort of influence on these creatures. they all treat the serpent lords with respect, or at least healthy caution. the Venom Lords are especially renown for this, with their powers to command reptiles (will be detailed soon). many times, the Venom lords lair will have a few such critters lairing about as added guardians.
- Game mechanics: as with my other entries, the following is mostly suggestions, and a blue print. i didn't get to the actual numbers. however, i do believe this could be done easily with these guidelines, by someone more inclined to it.
i will now detail the developmental paths of the Serpent Lords, with the powers and changes that accompany them.
1) general abilities:: all serpent lords posses these abilities. they are detailed fully here, new powers , or improvements are detailed in each developmental stage:
- Detect thoughts: always active, as the spell
- guarded thoughts: no one can read or scry a serpent lords thoughts.
- immunity to poison: all poisons, even those of other, more advanced serpent lords.
- Delve into Memory: when a Naga bites an opponent, however lightly (even without injecting poison) it might gain a glimpse into the opponents memory. the opponent roles a will save- if it succeeds, the serpent lord only learns basic information- name, class, and tactics of that person for the fight. the Serpent's lord initiative immediately becomes one higher than the opponent's. if the opponent failed it's saving through, the serpent lord gets a longer glimpse into the opponent's memory, learning all that happened in a specific time(detailed in each stage), including the names of friends, strategies and tactics, and the plans for this fight. the initiative becomes one higher than the highest initiative amongst those in the opponent's memory (or +4 generally. what ever is more comfortable)
- multiple poisons: the serpent lords have multiple poison glands. the nage decides which poison to inject upon biting (only one!).
- Morphic Poison: the primary poison of the naga, causes it's damage to whichever ability score the naga chooses (slight variations in the gland). it is the same ability for the initial and secondary damage.the DC is moderate.
- Paralysis poison: moderate DC, initial damage paralysis for 1 minute. secondary damage paralysis for 1 hour.
- Truth poison: moderate DC. initial damage target can't lie. secondary damage target must tell the truth. (slightly different)
- skills: diplomacy, bluff, gather information, sense motive, intimidation, hide, move silently, swim, all knowledge skills and climb are all class skills. the serpent lords get a significant bonus on the conversational skills as well as swim, and a small bonus to the stealth skills.
- speak with animals: always active, usually used to talk with reptiles.
- dark vision to 60 ft.
- thin body: the serpentine body enables the serpent lords to move through tunnels fit for a tiny creature (standing up). serpents lords usually dig many tunnels through their lair- too small for most creatures the naga fight, but small enough for it to move through.
2) Youngling Naga:
- 4 HD, medium size, swim speed 50, land speed 30, low natural armor.
- spell casting: like a level 3 sorcerer.
- Delve into Memory: can delve to 1d4 hours on a failed will save.
- Morphic poison: 1d6 ability damage (initial and secondary)
3) Mature Naga:
- 7 HD, large size. swim 60. land speed 40, +3 natural armor.
- spell casting: like a 5th level sorcerer.
- Delve into Memory: can delve to 1d4 days on a failed will save.
- Morphic Poison: 1d8 ability damage (initial and secondary)
- improved grab+ constrict: as the feat and the special attack.
- Telekenisis: a new ability, like the spell. the serpent lord can use only the sustained force version of the spell. the force is used to alter and shape the lair mostly, as well as inter act with simple objects.
- this is the pivotal moment. from here on the serpent lord can either gain levels or HD, or go by one of the paths.
4) Power Naga, Guardian:
- this stage can only be acquired by a neutral or good mature naga.
- +2 HD, +2 natural armor.
- spell casting: like a 7th level sorcerer. can cast from the clerical list as well, including the Good and protection domain.
- Delve into Memory: can delve to 1d4 weeks on a failed will save.
- no improvement on the morphic posion.
- Cleansing poison: a sort of "anti poison"- it has the effects of Heal, without the cured HP. (it cures poison, and all kinds of ailments)
- Bright Scales: 3 times per day, the Guardian Naga can make his scales blindingly bright. everyone with opened eyes must succeed at a reflex save (moderate DC) or be blinded for 2d6 rounds.
Power Naga, Dark:
- this stage can only be acquired by a neutral or evil mature naga.
- +2 HD, +2 natural armor.
- spell casting: like a 7th level sorcerer. can cast from the clerical list as well, including the evil and trickery domain.
- Delve into Memory: can delve to 1d4 weeks on a failed will save.
- no improvement on the morphic poison.
- Memory altering poison: low- mid DC. initial and secondary damage: minor memory loss- the character is regarded as having two negative levels, but without it being negative energy. the posion stays in the system. if the target is unconscious, the naga can speak and try to alter the target's memory. if it fails a will save (moderate DC), it comes to believe the Naga's version of events about the past 1d4 weeks (months for Dark Nagas)
- devotion poison: initial damage- the target is charmed. secondary damage: the target is devoted to the Naga, (similar to the effects of quest/ geas, only unknowingly so.) and will do it's best to aid it's cause! the first affect wears off after 1d6 hours, the second after 4d6 days!
Power Naga, Venom Lord:
- this stage can only be acquired by a mature naga.
- +3 HD, +3 natural armor, +4 con (which also affects the poisons DCs)
- spell casting: like a 7th level sorcerer. can cast from the druid list
- Delve into Memory: can delve to 1d4 weeks on a failed will save.
- morphic poison: 1d10 ability damage (both initial and secondary). only the Venom lord amongst the power Nagas improves this poison
- spit poisons: all poisons become also contact poison. the naga can spit it to 30 feet as a ranged touch attack. no range increments.
- command reptiles:as command animals, but only or reptiles. the caster levels equal to the HD for this affect.
- cannot continue on evolving by paths, just HD and levels.
5) ascendent, Couatl:
- this stage can only be acquired by a good guardian naga.
- +2 HD, +2 natural armor, +2 con. type outsider (native, good). the couatl gains feathery wings. fly 60 (good).
- spell casting: like a 9th level sorcerer. can cast from the clerical list as well, including the Good and protection domain.
- Delve into Memory: can delve to 1d4 months on a failed will save.
- morphic poison: 2d6 ability damage (initial and secondary)
- ascendant powers: plane shift, ethereal jaunt, detect any alignment. all at will.
- prismatic Scales: 3 times per day, the Guardian Naga can make his scales to shimmer in all the colors of the rainbow. the next one hit by the Couatl (by touch attack or regular one) is affected as if hit by a prismatic spray.
ascendant, Bone Naga:
- this stage can only be acquired by a evil dark naga.
- +2 HD, +2 natural armor, +2 con. type undead.
- spell casting: like a 11th level sorcerer. can cast from the clerical list as well, including the evil and trickery domain. the Bone Naga sacrifices other forces compared to the Couatl, to gain this levels of spells.
- Delve into Memory: can delve to 1d4 months on a failed will save.
- morphic poison:2d6 ability damage (initial and secondary)
- Live in the Poison: the transformation the naga takes lives her body a skeletal form, strong in itself, but still but a vessel to the real home of the Bone Naga's life force- the Poison. when a Bona Naga bites an opponent, it can try to inject itself into it. there is 1 saving throw. if the opponent fails, the naga now curses in it's veins, dominating it as if by a magic jar. further more- all the victims memories, skills and abilities become available to the Naga.
- accompanying husk: the skeleton provides a sort of a phylactery. if the host of the naga dies, the Naga's life force returns to the poison gland in 1d3 days. if the husk is destroyed, the bone naga (in it's host) must find a new naga from which to create it's husk (any mature or above will suffice. but not a youngling, or a Couatl).
the skeleton can also accompany the naga, as an intelligent skeleton, with a +4 turn resistence. most Bone Nagas do so only if they need to relocate far, or if they need another combatant desperatly, and there is no one near. the skeleton can still use it's poisons! (though the Bone Naga needs to use a move action to change types)
- powers within host: the naga retains all it's powers not requiring the naga's body (poisons, constrict and so on). it can use all of the host powers that are not psionic or solely mental based super natural abilities.
- avoid detection: the Nagas presence inside a host body is very hard to detect. any attempt to do so requires a caster level check, against the Naga's HD.