Fantasy role-playing has tons of ancient powers determined to rise again (serpentfolk, liches, and aboleths spring to mind). And it has tons of once-great races now clinging to the shreds of their former majesty (elves, dwarves, and mummies, anyone?). But there has to be a place for the never-weres and never-will-bes. And that’s what I think royal nagas are.
The naga race never really had their great moment. In Forgotten Realms, they were tools of the sarrukh. In Golarion, they’re doing much better in the nation of Nagajor specifically (see the Dragon Empires Gazetteer)…but anywhere else royal nagas are solitary individuals tending (as the Bestiary 3 notes) “lost cities and forgotten kingdoms, guarding ancient treasures for their own inscrutable reasons.”
Of course, “inscrutable reasons” is just another phrase for “adventure seed” and “motivation for an antagonist.” And with five alternate forms, blinding and deafening gazes, and sorcery, royal nagas have the tricks to supremely frustrate and mislead a party while doggedly protecting their secrets.
Also, I know I whip out the arguing heads or even the multiple personalities trick almost any time we get a multiheaded creature. But c’mon…with five alternate forms, the royal naga is begging to have a personality per head, at least for certain traumatized members of the species…
A family appears to tend an ancient shrine. In reality, every member of the family is another form of the shrine’s royal naga guardian, who once ruled the sunken city whose gate the shrine guards. Any supplicant who sees and understands too much is summarily deafened and blinded.
Resurrected by magic when his tomb was breached, Camessiss the Ancient witnessed the last splintering of the naga race. He loathes the foul spirit nagas as a result. He will aid respectful seekers of lore, but if his five heads sniff the stink of (respectively) necromancy, transmutation, demonology, the Chaos domain, or witchcraft on the would-be archaeologists, he will have his nagaji fanatics slay them.
Amphitiron is a four-headed royal naga; its fifth neck is a stump. It is also quite mad. In a never-ended chase that has spanned a continent, three of its alternate forms desperately hunt the fourth, a half-elf assassin they claim killed the fifth form, a halfling maid. Amphitiron has no memory of this when it is in naga form, but since it changes shape when it dreams, the humanoid personalities can take over for weeks at a time, leaving the naga form lost and confused when it comes to.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 3 198
What’s that? You’re a disgusting monster? Then you’ll be pleased to know I didn’t forget the rot grub swarm; we covered it way back here.