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    Kol Korran's Avatar

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    Feb 2008

    Default Re: Monster Compedium for the maligned, forgotten & misunderstood monsters

    Serpent Lords, continued

    Mysteries and the Unknown

    -Mysteries and the Unknown: Nagas keep their secrets, and little is know about them. they are creatures of secrecy and obscurity. amongst the greatest mysteries are the origins of the conflict with the Dragons. neither race is willing to talk about that schism, but it is evident. though Dragons hoard treasures, Nagas hoard secrets and knowledge. their abilities make them especially capable of extracting information, and guarding it. however, a naga will never trade such treasures without a price... a steep one.
    another mystery is the paths to ascension. since even the non ascendant Nagas know these secrets, the mystery is well kept. legends tell of people who found out the secrets, but could not use them on themselves- the process was tied to the Serpent lord Species. the same legends also claim however, that the processes can be changed to produce different results. some say that it's the one way to become half celestial or half fiend without being born into the situation.
    another more direct application of the transformation process of the Dark Nagas to bone Nagas is typically associated with the transformation to liches. what connection there is, if any is unknown.
    special guilds and craftsmen tried for ages to refine the poison of Nagas, especially the Cleansing poison of Guardian Nagas. their poison quickly become inert soon after extraction. the only success was achieved by Yuan Ti, who managed to preserve the poison for days at a time. many believe that this is because the Nagas alter their poison to that affect exactly. of course, no Naga ever confirmed that.

    Playing at a D&D table near YOU!

    - "what is your poison of choice?": i'll begin with a simple melee encounter to show how the Serpent Lords improved from the original concept. first of all- a Naga will almost always fight in circumstances that favor it. Mature Nagas power of telekinesis allows it to prepare the terrain- making tough ground, creating covers (good for casting spells), creating ponds that limit movements to others (but not itself) perhaps even digging tunnels through the battle area, allowing for easy concealed and protected access to any part of it (the Naga's thin body allows this). if possible, the serpent lord will gather what information it can about it's enemies before hand. and use it.
    when battle commences, the serpent lord will use it's detect thoughts, and Delve into Memory in order to learn of the party's strategy, as well as boost up it's initiative. if it is succesful, then it can now target each opponent with the most suitable morphic poison (either one that incapacitates the target by hitting it's lowest attribute, or one that harms their main attribute). if the target is hard to hit, the Naga will try to grapple it, perhaps even pin it, and then bite.
    Nagas nearly always have a way to retreate (even if it's just a hole to a flooded tunnel), and will usually do so before they reach critical HP levels. Nagas believe strongly in the saying "run to fight another day".

    - guardian of the tomb: Nagas excel at protecting their own lairs. the naga will usually have long tunnels dug through out the lair, enabling it to appear nearly everywhere. a naga will strike soon, trying to Delve into memory to learn about the party of invaders it will then retreat, and strike at various opportune time. a Naga's lair is typically very well trapped, either to harm/ incapacitate invaders, to just make them vulnerable to another attack. Power nagas, who can cast healing spells as well as arcane ones usually prefer this method of harassment/ attrition.
    be warned that since the serpent lord is smart, so will be their traps, and their ambushes. if it succeeded in it's information gathering, it will usually use the party's weaknesses to devastating efficiency.
    all Nagas are likely to have some creatures working for them. they either lured them, created a favorable habitat for them (simple creatures), or made bargains with them (mature Nagas and above). or perhaps they are allies (especially with guardian nagas), charmed reptiles (venom lords), or charmed/ persuaded thralls (dark naga, using it's devotion poison, and subtle suggestions with the memory altering poison).
    ascendant serpent lords go to far greater measures, especially the Bone Naga protecting it's husk.

    - interrogator supreme: a naga might work for any organization or group who wishes to uncover secrets. the nagas abilities makes it a prime information extractor, one who can be cruel and terrifying. if the characters are captured and are interrogated for their knowledge, a naga can come, detect their thoughts, and use it's Delve into Memory ability to glean the needed information. the face changing to that of the characters, with mannerisms to match only makes it all the creepier.
    The Dark Naga makes an even more terrifying interrogator. it can make you devout to it (by the use of it's devotion poison), wanting to tell it everything, to please it, make it proud of you... then later, when your real self resumes, you still remember.
    have the naga as part of a larger force. it will hold the place of a specialist- torturer, recruiter, healer, magical assistance, infiltrator, spy, or more. this slithering monstrosity should be played as it is- mysterious, arrogant, and terribly, terribly efficient.

    - "the fangs that pull the strings": Dark Nagas, with their special poison, fit the role of schemer, or the power behind the throne (sort to speak perfectly). they have the ability to make others do as they wish, and to tamper with memories. this last ability is especially useful as a plot tool- the NAga can make fake impressions, make allies turn against the PCs, make their actions suddenly forgotten (or replaced with other actions), they can create false impressions, start wars, cause betrayals, and so much more!
    all of this goes to serve the naga's purpose- usually more power, or eliminating threats. this is especially true for dragons.

    - "those are strange looking eels" youngling nagas make suitable opponent for low level parties. though they don't have much casting skills, they use it to their best advantage (true strike followed by a bite for example). this is also one of the few times when they will be met in groups. Youngling nagas usually make "deals" with simple animals and creatures, and may be found working together with many kinds. they usually \refrain from dealing with more intelligent ones, do to the inherent danger (even this little they act like little dragons)

    - "that's a strange looking druid": Venom lords have access to druidic spells, and combned with their form and command of reptiles, many groups might think this is a druid in (a weird) animal form. Venom lords are the most likely to remain in pairs when reaching the Power Naga stage, and are the most likely to be in a wild location. with their swim ability, and spit poison powers, they usually try to stay at a distance from their enemies while using summoned critters and the reptiles to busy the group.

    - "that really reminds me of a lich": Bone Nagas can perform as well as a lich, but with vast differences: the Naga uses a different body each time it faces the characters. it can have a "companion" skeleton snaky thing, with a potent poison. and it doesn't have a phylactery, in the traditional sense. where Dark Nagas were schemers and hidden powers, Bone Naga actually go even farther- a Bone Naga can replace, and use the powers of whomever it controls. it can take control over a king, a powerful Wizard, or even a Dragon! (the ultimate joke, as the Bone Nage see it!)
    if the PCs find out about the deception, they may fight and attack the possessed being, but the Naga won't be destroyed. it will come again, but in a different body (and perhaps with a devout follower as well). this may happen a few times, the Naga even using the PCs friends. the PCs might think it's a ghost, or a special magic (the Knowledge DC for this ability should be high), until finally they find out the real way to end this- kill the skeletal body.
    only even that isn't the end, as the Naga (possessing a creature who eluded the party), just needs to find another Naga to kill, and turn into a Husk. hey, it might even hire the PCs to do so! (the PCs might be all too eager to kill any Naga they meet now, after the last experience, not knowing they might be helping the very fiend they thought they already destroyed)

    -"the silent war": taking a grander look at things, you could pit the Nagas in your Campaign, in a secret war against some dragons in the regions. the Naga try to remain hidden and gain power to vanquish the "hated ones" (perhaps even scheming for the party to battle one of the dragons, or at least gather information about it), while the dragons mostly remain aloof, but some of them may at times try to "control" the nagas population in the area. as both sides have both good, evil, and neutral, and many motives and moralities, the players may end up on either side (if they choose a side at all)
    a few ideas/ encounters/ plots/ adventures to that effect:
    • parental care:a couple of Mature nagas (or power ones) try to fight and kill a young dragon in their area, who hunts their offspring. they may offer secrets or treasure for any help. the dragon known that more nagas in the area will mean it's doom (since it ages slower), so it may offer similar, yet different prizes.
    • a Dark Naga: uses it's powers to send people to fight the Dragon, and harass it. it might even send one "devotee" with the party, on pretense that the dragon is dangerous and evil and so on... when the party fight meet the surprisingly good dragon, the devotee suddenly charges and destroys the eggs, in mad fanaticism. if the party don't act quick, the maddened dragon might end them quickly.
    • which path to take:some mature Nagas try to choose a path. there may be various influences in the area, including nagas and dragons. the PCs actions, and the development of events may influence heavily which power path the nagas will choose. this in turn can shift the balance of power in the nagas world, and the fight with the dragons. a good dragons ask the PCs to provide a good example to the nagas, and advocate tolerance to dragons (hoping they will turn to Guardian nagas). but other dragons (probably younger ones), jsut seek to destroy the aberrations, thus driving them more towards the dark path. in the end some nagas will turn to each path, the numbers will depend on the PCs and events. the PCs might gain a valuable ally or enemy due to this.
    • race for power: both Powerful serpent lords and dragons race to gain access to some power, artifact, or the like. the serpent lords are most likely to be more numerous, and with allies, but the dragons have their own power and resources to match the odds. the PCs either join one side, or are on a third side altogether, trying to beat them both.
    • birth of a couatl: a guardian naga is heralded to come close to it's moment of transformation. as this gets known, both evil nagas and evil dragons seek to prevent the occasion. the good dragon/s helping the couatl is incapacitated/ murdered, and the pcs must protect this unique occurrence and marvel while the powers try to destroy it and them (a fit quest for a paladin if there was one).

    -"the poison that is a cure": the only cure for some exotic/ magical ailment is the Cleansing poison of a guardian naga. however, the poison cannot be retained or purified. the naga agrees to make the subtle needed alteration, in return for some quest... after the party returns, they receive the vials of poison/ cure, but then they are hunted by various groups coveting it (everyone has someone who needs it, or they just want to find a way to refine serpent lords poisons). the party may even find itself in a serious predicament, where there are several worthy subjects for the poison, but there is only one dose... who will they choose?

    - "quick path to ascension":a half fiend (or a half celestial with a pressing need) starts capturing power and ascendant serpent lords, trying to coax them to reveal the secret, or experiment with them until it is revealed.
    as many nagas (and perhaps a couatl) come under attack, the PCs may be called to action, to fight against this foe. this is amongst the only times the PCs may all with serpent lords of an opposite path, and explore their world more intimately..

    Bonus section! Reactions with the other monsters in the compendium!

    - Strige: no real reaction. the serpent lords find the critters to be an annoying pest. (their natural armor is usually high enough for them not be a threat). however, youngling and mature nagas often arrange for comfort habitats for stirges in their lair, as added guards and security.

    - Stone Giants: the two species tend to leave each other alone. the stone giant's high fort save means that most of the venom doesn't affect them. nagas sometime broker deals for mutual protection with the giants (bringing spell casting ability from their end), but that is rare.
    stone giants do however greatly respect Couatls, and sometime even give them tribute and offerings.
    Thunder Claps have no special relations with the serpent lords, but often keep detailed records of lairs and sightings, mostly weary of Dark Nagas. the giants is a good source of information if a naga is looked after.

    - Barghest: the two species may exist in a tenuous relationship at best. both are clever, both are scheming, and both have strong motivating powers (hunger for barghest, pride for serpent lords), and they both know it. the barghest ability to broker a deal makes some interactions fairly safe, but even that is tense.
    barghest would most prefer to deal with Venom lords, as the guardian nagas usually find it morally objectionable to deal with a barghest, and the dark naga are too dangerous with their awareness altering poisons.
    Bone Nagas never inhabit Barghests- something in their essence repels the bone naga deeply...

    - Yeth Hounds: most serpent lords highly dislike the Yeth hounds. they might have been good allies or minions if they showed but a bit more discretion- a quality serpent lords value very much. Guardin nagas especially seem to hunt these abomination down. they use their blinding scales power to force the beasts out of light and into the ground, where the advantage goes to the naga.

    - Gargoyles: serpent lords, as frequent inhabitors of ruins, often meet Ruin Gargoyles, and associate with them. in fact, a naga would often travel a great distance to a new lair if it knows of gargoyles there. the gargoyles add to the security, and their Gargoyle Script is poured over hours and hours by the eager serpent lord. the gargoyles demeanor and outlook is soon deducted, and the serpent lords conform to it willingly. the only hindrance is that sometime the gargoyles sometime block the serpent lord's tunnels with their Alter worked stone power.
    there are two special cases however. the first are the draconic gargoyles. the gargoyles show no special reaction to the new presence. but the serpent lords find the presence of the draconic form irritating, and usually either leave the place, or try to destroy the gargoyle (note, that is if they are aware of it's presence at all, do to fade out). guardian nagas and couatls are usually fine with the draconic gargoyles.
    the second exception are the serpentine gargoyles. serpent lords see these as a sort of monuments to their own power, and very pleasing. there is usually some competition in a place that boast such gargoyles, and it might even come to house several serpent lords. if the gargoyle is part of a Yuan Ti temple, than all the better.

    - Wights: serpent lords hate these creatures, unless they can make them to be tools. (which is rare). imprevious to poison and deadly, serpent lords will usually try to find someone to fight these abominations for them.
    Bone Nagas are more accepting, since they are no longer a target for the Wight's hunger. they are known to work with them on occasion, maybe even making small armies of them, if it suits their purpose.

    in conclusion: i hope that this remake made these monsters more playable, more fun, and more intriguing. the naga is a sort of an underdog, but a vicious, cunning, and moderately powerful underdog. hopefully, this entry has given more depth to the creature, as well as a place in any campaign world. has it found it's way to yours? hope you enjoyed,
    Last edited by Kol Korran; 2010-10-15 at 12:15 PM.