Preview: Against the Reptile God

Posted on August 31, 2010

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Against the Reptile God is a forthcoming series of three adventures for 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons by Eternity Publishing for levels 25-36, yes that Level 36 is not a typo. The title is of course an homage to the 1982 TSR adventure module: Against the Cult of the Reptile God. While our adventure pays homage in name only it is not a follow-up or sequel to the original — nor could it be, due to legal copyright issues of course. However, the titular villain of the original module was *SPOILERS WARNING* a naga, which sort of segues into one of the sub-plots of Against the Reptile God which features a back story revolving around the civil war amongst the Nagas which led to the splintering of the Naga Kingdoms.

Naga Kingdoms

The nagas were/are actually a tripartite serpentine race. Composed of three sub-races each of which was originally under the control of the primordial Sesha, empress of the entire race. To distinguish between nagas (meaning the tripartite race) and nagas (the most pure of the three serpentine sub-races) in all cases where the entire race is noted the term tripartite-race will accompany it. The tripartite-race was born from the scale shedding of the elder being Sesha, a thousand-headed primordial. Sesha is thought to have birthed three daughters…Surasa, Kadru and one other, whose name is lost in the annals of history (some speculate it was the goddess Cihuacoatl). They shaped the scales that Sesha shed, in their own image, formenting the races we know today. As with all children of chaos the threat of violence between the sub-races was always brewing. Yet through sheer power and ever watchful gaze, Sesha’s grip on the tripartite-race never loosened…until her defeat that is.

  1. Nagas: The most pure of the three sub-races are the nagas; highly magical, intelligent serpents often with multiple heads but no arms or legs (where multiple heads are concerned, odd-headed naga are male, while those with an even number of heads are always female). Following the subjugation of Sesha the true naga race were fractured into eight seperate clans. Of those, one of the Princes (all of whom dubbed themselves Kings within their own court), Vasuki was perhaps the most powerful, but he lacked the power to exert his authority and influence over the others.
  2. Pannagas: The most humanoid of the races, zealous serpent men (also known as the Yuan-ti) servants of the god Set sometimes whipped, often literally, into a religious fervour. Its unknown if Set /Zehir was originally one of the race himself or simply supplanted an existing noble in order to gain control of the race. Most immortal scholars believe the latter, with many suggesting the name Kadru as a possible candidate. The pannagas kill or enslave other races on a whim but often try to corrupt prisoners to their faith first, those so tainted slowly but surely gaining more serpentine  features. These poor creatures are known as the malison caste (or half-pannagas).
  3. Uragas: The most corrupted of the sub-races were those most easily tainted by the evil of the Abyss, for even prior to the Abyss they were a motley collection of mishapen monsters. Perhaps the most physically powerful of the races whose numbers include monsters such as the Gigantes, Hydra, Peluda and Marilith among others. Known demonic nobility with suspected roots in naga society are: Sch’Theraqpasstt (a former exarch of Set who commands renegade Uragas/Yuan-ti); Sertrous (possibly a deposed naga prince); Shaktari (Queen of the Marilith) and Yibyiru (Lady of Poison, once a consort of Set’s). Though the progenitor of this sub-race is suspected to be the goddess Cihuacoatl.

Naga Civil War

The naga civil war happened sometime during or shortly after the Dawn War between the gods and the primordials. Naga society was, like much of the elemental chaos corrupted with the creation of the Abyss by the mad god Tharizdun. But also twisted by the opportunistic immortal Set, known to some as Zehir, perhaps this was part of the immortal’s strategy or perhaps just Set’s own scheming came to fruition at just the right time. This pulled the race in three directions testing Sesha’s hold over them to the limit. Many royal nagas succumbed to the lure of the Abyss becoming demon lords, others poisoned by the insidious words of the immortal Set becoming his original exarchs. However, the key event was the imprisonment of their primordial figurehead Sesha, who was defeated by the Hindu Trimurti (the gods Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu) and placed in a trance-like state becoming little more than a puppet.

Naga Society

The current disposition of the tripartite race is as follows:

  • Nagas: The naga home realm (Patala) within the Elemental Chaos is divided into 8 clans or fiefdoms. Each ruled by a Prince or Princess.
  • Pannagas: Ruled by Set/Zehir from his divine realm in the Astral Plane.
  • Uragas: No single ruler, but various Demon Lords of the Abyss will bind various Uragas to their will from time to time.

Naga Hierarchy

The nagas are children of chaos but generally adhere to the following hierarchy:

  • Empress: Sesha…equivalent to an Elder God(dess).
  • Monarch: Surasa (former queen of the nagas; slain by Demogorgon); Seth/Zehir (became monarch of Pannagas; after he deposed Kadru); Cihuacoatl (mother of the Uragas)…equivalent to Greater God
  • Prince (Clan Chief): Vasuki (among others)…equivalent to Lesser God/Demon Prince.
  • Noble: Yibyiru (among others)…title equivalent to a Demigod/Demon Lord.

Natural Enemies

The naga have several high profile enemies:

  • Rakshasas: The tiger-demons. The Rakshasas are an incredibly powerful race of demons under the yoke of their great master, Ravana. However, powerful as they were, Ravana and the race at one point were defeated and enslaved by the tripartite race. Unable to free himself or his race, Ravana turned to the gods, his most hated enemies, for salvation.
  • Suparnas: The bird-demons. The Suparnas were a race of avian elementals, swift and cunning. Prior to the Dawn War they had become enslaved by the powerful tripartite naga race (ruled by Sesha) and used as slaves. During the Dawn War, the gods freed the leader of the Supernas; Garuda, and he pledged his loyalty to them. However, this created a schism in their ranks as many Supernas did not want to follow the gods and they fled to the Abyss were they became corrupted again and again over time (many becoming Vrocks). The closest thing to a ruler the Suparnas have now is the Demon Prince Pazuzu.
  • Varunas: The ape-demons. The Varunas were a race of primate-like elementals; brutal and ferocious. They fought many wars against the tripartite race including one vicious war where Demogorgon ripped the naga queen Surasa in half. During the Dawn War the Varunas fully embraced the evil of the Abyss. Although the race itself has further evolved/mutated through the eons, the Barlgura and Nalfeshnee are still testament to their origins, as are their rulers such as Demogorgon and his brother Mandrillagon.

Against the Reptile God

Part One: The Serpent Riders

The first in the trilogy of adventures covers levels 25-28 of the epic tier. The adventure is designed in the delve format with four primary encounters (in typical double page 4E adventure format) for each of the four chapters/delves, as well as four secondary/optional encounters. Virtually all the monsters and villains in the adventure are totally new. So as well as the adventure itself you also get a sizeable monster book.

This expanded delve format is the preferred style of Eternity Publishing, giving Dungeon Masters (DMs) four different approaches to integrating the adventure:

  • Use the individual delves as standalone mini-adventures which can be played in one gaming session — a quick drop-in and play approach. 
  • Alternatively, each delve can be further fleshed out using the secondary/optional encounters to give a more immersive adventure — with the ability to give characters enough experience to play through one level to the next.
  • Each of the four delves have distinct themes, but with each also leading pretty much directly into the next allowing DMs to set them back to back for a longer campaign style adventure.
  • Lastly, the Serpent Riders is part one of a trilogy, or more specifically part two of a decadilogy (if that’s even a word) of what is essentially the most epic adventure path ever conceived.

Part Two: No Chance In Hell

The second installment covers levels 29-32. This will be designed to incorporate elements of the Immortal Tier (Levels 31-40) rules Eternity Publishing is working on, but will also work without those rules as simply a very tough epic tier adventure.

This adventure plunges the heroes into Hell itself. Though as to why they go there and what obstacles and foes they will face we’ll keep under wraps for now — no point getting ahead of ourselves at any rate.