Naga: A Guide for Players & DMs

D&D is full of creatures ready to challenge adventurers. However, not all of these creatures have the wit to put themselves into a position of power.

Many monsters in D&D represent roving threats, motivated by instinctual desires rather than foresight or thought. 

While wandering monsters make for exciting battles, a cunning foe like nagas can create a sense of fear and intrigue for the players. Let’s take a look at what D&D nagas are like and how a DM can get full use out of their stats and lore. 

What Is A Naga?

Nagas are intelligent serpent-like creatures created long ago by an ancient humanoid race. Once this race died out, the naga left behind felt that they were the sole heirs to the ancient knowledge and power left behind. In a naga’s mind, they are the sole authority within their chosen domain. 

Thankfully, not all naga seek to rule over their domains with an iron fist. Let’s take a look at the highest-CR naga, the Guardian Naga: 

Guardian Naga

Large monstrosity, Lawful Good

Armor Class: 18 (natural armor)

Hit Points: 127 (15d10+45)

Speed: 40 ft.

STR: 19 (+4)

DEX: 18 (+4)

CON: 16 (+3)

INT: 16 (+3)

WIS: 19 (+4)

CHA: 18 (+4)

Saving Throws: Dex +8, Con +7, Int +7, Wis +8, Cha +8

Damage Immunities: Poison

Condition Immunities: Charmed, poisoned

Senses: Darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 14

Languages: Celestial, Common

Challenge: 10 (5900 XP)

Rejuvenation: If it dies, the naga returns to life in 1d6 days and regains all its hit points. Only a wish spell can prevent this trait from functioning.  

Spellcasting: The naga is an 11th-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Wisdom (spell save DC 16, +8 to hit with spell attacks), and it needs only verbal components to cast its spells. It has the following cleric spells prepared: 

  • Cantrips (at will): Mending, sacred flame, thaumaturgy
  • 1st level (4 slots): Command, cure wounds, shield of faith
  • 2nd level (3 slots): Calm emotions, hold person
  • 3rd level (3 slots): Bestow curse, clairvoyance
  • 4th level (3 slots): Banishment, freedom of movement
  • 5th level (3 slots): Flame strike, geas
  • 6th level (1 slot): True seeing

Bite: Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d8+4) piercing damage, and the target must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw, taking 45 (10d8) poison damage on a failed save or half as much damage on a successful one.

Spit Poison: Ranged Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 15/30 ft., one target. Hit: The target must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw, taking 45 (10d8) poison damage on a failed save or half as much damage on a successful one.

Guardian nagas exist as protectors and wards for the places they claim as theirs. While they will treat their charges with respect or dignity, don’t make the mistake of thinking the naga shares their domain with anyone.

Guardian nagas are proud of their positions and will remind their allies of that power. 

On the other side of the alignment coin is the spirit naga: 

Spirit Naga

Large monstrosity, Chaotic Evil

Armor Class: 15 (natural armor)

Hit Points: 75 (10d10+20)

Speed: 40 ft.

STR: 18 (+4)

DEX: 17 (+3)

CON: 14 (+2)

INT: 16 (+3)

WIS: 15 (+2)

CHA: 16 (+3)

Saving Throws: Dex +6, Con +5, Wis +5, Cha +6

Damage Immunities: Poison

Condition Immunities: Charmed, poisoned

Senses: Darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 12

Languages: Abyssal, Common

Challenge: 8 (3900 XP)

Rejuvenation: If it dies, the naga returns to life in 1d6 days and regains all its hit points. Only a wish spell can prevent this trait from functioning.  

Spellcasting: The naga is a 10th-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Intelligence (spell save DC 14, +6 to hit with spell attacks), and it needs only verbal components to cast its spells. It has the following wizard spells prepared: 

  • Cantrips (at will): Mage hand, minor illusion, ray of frost
  • 1st level (4 slots): Charm person, detect magic, sleep
  • 2nd level (3 slots): Detect thoughts, hold person
  • 3rd level (3 slots): Lightning bolt, water breathing
  • 4th level (3 slots): Blight, dimension door
  • 5th level (2 slots): Dominate person

Bite: Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d6+4) piercing damage, and the target must make a DC 13 Constitution saving throw, taking 31 (7d8) poison damage on a failed save or half as much damage on a successful one.

Much more sinister than guardian naga, spirit naga claim domains that will grant them the power to control the area and creatures nearby.

Spirit naga are conquerors but not warmongers. A spirit naga seeks to win the day with subterfuge and strategy, using brute force only when needed. 

Finally, the yuan-ti have created rituals that allow them to pervert the life cycle of a naga and create an undead thrall for their societies. These creatures, called bone naga, have this statblock: 

Bone Naga

Large Undead, Lawful Evil

Armor Class: 15 (natural armor)

Hit Points: 58 (9d10+9)

Speed: 30 ft.

STR: 15 (+2)

DEX: 16 (+3)

CON: 12 (+1)

INT: 15 (+2)

WIS: 15 (+2)

CHA: 16 (+3)

Damage Immunities: Poison

Condition Immunities: Charmed, exhaustion, paralyzed, poisoned

Senses: Darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 12

Languages: Common, plus one other language

Challenge: 4 (1100 XP)

Spellcasting: The naga is a 5th-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Wisdom (spell save DC 12, +4 to hit with spell attacks). It has the following cleric spells prepared: 

  • Cantrips (at will): Mending, sacred flame, thaumaturgy
  • 1st level (4 slots): Command, shield of faith
  • 2nd level (3 slots): Calm emotions, hold person
  • 3rd level (2 slots): Bestow curse

Bite: Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 10 (2d6+3) piercing damage plus 10 (3d6) poison damage.

This statblock is based on the Guardian Naga. The Bone Naga variant for the Spirit Naga replaces the prepared spells for the Spellcasting feature with this list: 

  • Cantrips (at will): Mage hand, minor illusion, ray of frost
  • 1st level (4 slots): Charm person, sleep
  • 2nd level (3 slots): Detect thoughts, hold person
  • 3rd level (2 slots): Lightning bolt

Ultimately, a naga is a smart and fierce creature that will use magic and strength to defend its home and expand its influence. 

Notable Features

No matter what kind of naga you face, you can expect some spells to come your way. All naga, as the keepers of ancient knowledge, have access to spells from the wizard or cleric spell list. 

For guardian naga, the high-level spells on their spell list can cause massive disruption to your players.

Banishment can remove one or more players from the battlefield for a turn, allowing the naga to focus fire on the squishier targets, while fire strike lets the naga get a high-damage opening salvo on the first turn of combat when the party is grouped together. 

Meanwhile, spirit naga can ravage the party with arcane spells like lightning bolt and blight. The spirit naga can lock down the adventurers as well, using either hold person or, if you’re feeling sinister, dominate person

The other standout combat feature is the bite. While the two main types of naga have cantrips, their bites do more damage on average, even if the target saves against the poison.

So, unless the naga can’t reach anyone in melee or it really wants to protect its concentration on a spell, the bite of the naga will do more than any of its other basic options. 

Finally, naga can make for great recurring villains via their Rejuvenation feature.

If your party happens to defeat the creature, it can resurrect a week later and hunt down the interlopers that dared intrude on its lair.

Perhaps along the way, it could recruit stronger allies or delve into a hidden part of its ruined lair for a long-planned emergency option.

Using a Naga in Combat

With the combat features laid out, let’s talk about how to best use a naga to challenge the players: 

Allies for Nagas

As intelligent and charismatic creatures, naga won’t have a hard time recruiting or conniving their way into some allies. For the most part, you can justify almost any creature as a partner or minion of a powerful naga. 

However, there are some standouts. Golems and other constructs in the service of a spirit naga could show how the naga guards the secrets to golemancy or artificial life.

Likewise, you could play into the evil alignment and massive amount of summoning spells wizards get and pair the naga up with an entourage of demons. 

A guardian naga could call upon the aid of almost any celestial or humanoid creature and make sense. A knightly order might serve a guardian naga that has taken residence on a holy site or hallowed ground, for example. 

Still, some creatures won’t make a lot of sense. Yuan-ti have a difficult time forming long-term relationships with naga of any kind according to the standard D&D lore.

Both naga and yuan-ti view themselves as the apex of the serpentine form, leading to rivalries and feuds if a more dire circumstance hasn’t troubled the two parties. 

Best Terrains and Environments for Naga

As a large serpent, naga will work best when they can use their fast movement speed to outmaneuver opponents.

However, since they don’t have limbs, the naga won’t be able to climb over some terrain features like walls or trees. Mountains can also pose a problem to a naga not prepared for steep cliffs. 

Thankfully, most nagas keep themselves holed up in ruins and other remnants of civilization, using walls as a source of cover rather than as a hurdle to the players.

Forests or other natural terrains with natural cover could make for a good battlefield for nagas. 

Tactics for Naga

As a spellcaster, naga should take a page out of the playbook many player spellcasters use.

Naga will want to cast impactful concentration spells on their first turn and find somewhere to get cover if they can. That way, the naga can get value out of their spells while also protecting their concentration

If the party starts grouped up or the naga goes early in the initiative, an area spell for some big damage can play well too. 

After that, it’ll be up to the naga whether they want to engage in melee combat or sit back and cast some non-concentration spells.

Things like lightning bolt and command make for great filler turns, especially when upcasting command for some crowd control. 

If the naga gets caught in melee, the creature can either use its mobility to get out of the way or lean into the conflict and use its bite to knock out an approached foe. 

Overall, naga will play through combat in a tactical way. Rather than blindly charging in, nagas should consider their options and use the best tool for the job round after round. 

Naga in Classic D&D Modules – N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God

As one of the most well-known classic modules, Against the Cult of the Reptile God stands out due to both its history with DnD and its use of a naga as the villain. 

The module first came out roughly 40 years ago, back when DnD was still getting its footing.

Most modules involved the adventurers going out to some ruins, slaying monsters, and returning to town with loot and stories. It was basic but fun.

However, Against the Cult of the Reptile God introduced something rarely seen at the time: town intrigue.

Instead of blindly setting out into the wilderness, the players first had to interact with the townsfolk and feel the shift from normal to abnormal. 

All of this is to say that the buildup of the cult, the troglodyte lackeys, and the reveal of the spirit naga at the end of the journey make the module stand out as a great story of mystery, exploration, and danger. 

Explicita Defilus, the spirit naga villain, sends out threats and dangers if the players take too long to figure things out.

Consequences like losing a favorite NPC can force the players to hasten their investigation, making the players feel like they are on the clock without directly hurting them. 

It’s a module well worth checking out as a DM or a player.

DMs will get a better idea of how to run intrigue in their games, while players will get to see the kinds of challenges that can await them when facing off against a strong and intelligent foe. 

Summary

Naga can make for compelling villains and interesting NPCs, depending on how you want to run them as a DM.

Like other intelligent monsters, naga can be a part of complex stories by the way they influence the world around them and the allies they keep in their social circle. 

If you want to use a naga, find a place in your campaign that would hold ancient power and put a naga as its charge.

No matter which naga you select, you’ll soon have the foundation for a fun adventure there by thinking about its allies, tactics, and motivations.