If dragons are sometimes asked to do too much in RPGs—fighting machine meets powerful sorcerer meets string-pulling manipulator meets steed/spell component/treasure provider—dragon turtles are asked to do too little. Over the years, they’ve gone from being the toughest aquatic beasts in the Monster Manual to today’s CR 9 mid-level menaces (the same as a young bronze dragon). And when they’re mentioned in supplements, their roles are almost always the same—“dragon turtle haunts shipping lane or harbor, demands tribute” or “dragon turtle jealously guards cave.” In short, they’ve gone from dragon to turtle—a move even reflected in the illustrations, in which they’ve grown progressively more snapping turtle-esque. And while sometimes you want a simple bad guy, don’t be afraid to boost your dragon turtle’s size, intelligence, and ambitions. Its creature type is Dragon, and it deserves to be treated like one. At the very least make sure you describe it having a dragon’s head…
Cartographers limn the unexplored seas and coastlines of their maps with dragon turtles and other ferocious behemoths. This is no mapmaker’s cliché. There is a continent to the west, one whose existence is a secret closely guarded by the dragon turtles.
Jezebellus Crackjaw is an advanced dragon turtle whose bulk is matched by her wit and ambition. She has enslaved several locathah tribes and seeks tribute from any merfolk or bronze dragons that stray into her realm. She regularly sinks ships in strategic locations to create temporary lairs and sponsor reef growth. Now she seeks to be invited to the next draconic conclave. She’s not likely to attend, but the recognition would be worth more than platinum to her.
Fey standards of handsomeness and beauty differ from mortals’. Amalphi and her sister, two nereids, lure sailors into the waiting maw of Amalphi’s one true love, a corpulent dragon turtle.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 112