- "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:
-"the poison that is a cure":
- 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 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..