These semi-divine beings are known best on the Indian Subcontinent and throughout the Far East of tropical Asia, from the Brahmaputra valley to the Banda Islands. Inconsistent myths exist in both the Hindi and Buddhist traditions; naga were more common in the millennia before the incarnation of Krishna. Early in the time of Hammurabi, the creator deity Brahma banished the naga to the nether regions of Pandemonium, commanding these snake creatures to bite only the truly evil or else perish. Since that time, naga have reappeared among upon the Prime Material Plane, often serving as advisors, itinerant holy persons and—particularly in the case of female nagas—as consorts who rule lands through a puppet king. This is possible because of the naga's natural shape-shifting ability.
The naga will appear in three forms, none of which should be considered their "natural" or true form (for additional discussion of the naga's powers, see Advantages below):
- Vasuki: a large, rearing cobra snake, up to 9 ft. tall with a body 18 ft. long. Much thicker and heavier than a cobra, it weighs between 650 and 700 lbs. In Vasuki form the naga is able to snap at enemies with its huge cobra head with terrifying speed. This is the most dangerous form of naga.
- Takshaka: possessing humanoid upper-bodies with a large cobra head and a curling tail that supports the creature's swaying body and allows rapid movement in any direction. In this form, the naga is 7 ft. tall, weights about 325 lbs. and is able to wield weapons and command other snakes.
- Shesha: with human appearance and anatomies, immune from detection spells of less than 5th level, such as penetrate disguise.
These three forms, Vasuki, Takshaka and Shesha, derive their descriptions from three great nagas that were birthed at the time of creation.
Though most naga will display goodwill towards Earthly creatures, they are prone to act impetuously or forcefully. Many naga, though not all, are vindictive, murderous and zealously ambitious. Naga may exist as Shesha for decades without any witness being the wiser, as they are able to make themselves age at will.
The naga is able to shape-change at will, from one form to another, though they will transform into a Vasuki form only during rituals, or if it means to kill its opponent without mercy. It is more likely in combat to transform into its Takshaka form; then, if winning a battle, it will offer quarter, rather than killing its opponent. If the naga is found in its Shesha form, it will avoid combat to the best of its ability, until circumstances force it to act otherwise.
In any form, nagas that have trained in spellcasting are able to rise to the 6th level as clerics, illusionists or mages. For these naga, spells are performed as any other caster. Nagas usually choose non-threatening spells, often chosen to bring aid to those who suffer. The naga may cast spells while in any form. Most nagas do not possess spells.
Nagas also possess abilities that are only available when in a particular form:
- While in Vasuki form, they are deadly poisonous. The naga receives a +4 bonus to initiative and if it hits, it will release enough poison into a victim to cause 10 damage per round, for nine rounds (1–10 damage per round if a save is made). The poison type is quietus. If the naga rolls a natural 20 during this attack, it will swallow any opponent up to half its weight (max. 325 lbs), causing a critical hit AND an additional 2–12 damage as the victim's body is twisted into the naga's throat.
- While in Takshaka form, the naga will receive two attacks per round with weapon. The naga is proficient in six different weapons. Preferred weapons are the ankus, the khatvanga (a club with skull), the tulwar, the gada (a mace), the kukri (a thrown long dagger) and the bow. While in this form, the naga cannot be attacked by reptiles of any form, and will be able to command snakes at will. If encountered in this form away from humans, most likely it will have 2–5 cobras in attendance.
Contrary to myth, nagas do not spit. They cannot constrict opponents and they cannot charm their opponents, except with spells. Nagas do swim very well, however, while either in Vasuki or Takshaka form.