Friday, May 3, 2013


We already covered the most powerful rakshasas, the maharajas, and their mad scientists, the marai.  But this is the factory-standard model, the classic backward-handed, mind-reading tiger-(or snake, or vulture, or whatever)-headed fiend.

Like oni, rakshasas are creatures of extreme appetites.  But whereas oni are spirits who have taken on mortal flesh, rakshasas were once mortals whose appetites held them so tightly to this world that they reincarnated as fiends—a level of gluttony and greed that would impress even a Runelord.  Now they exist in strange cycle of death and rebirth, attempting to climb the rungs of an ever more foul and self-indulgent caste system.

But you don’t care about that, right?  You care about how to use them in an adventure!  Well, they make outstanding guildmasters, pimps, and libertines of all kinds.  They are also emblematic of a self-indulgent aristocracy that cares nothing for the lower orders that support it.  So they make a great “Things are worse in Falcon Point than we ever imagined!” reveal, or a fittingly exotic adversary after a long trek to an exotic destination.

And again—they’re fiends…but fiends who live on this world.  So they’re literally a kind of Hell on Earth (though thankfully more interested in luxury and indulgence than domination and rule).  Killing one doesn’t even end the threat; it just sends them off to (eventually) reincarnate.  A rakshasa might even be a PC’s dad, if she’s a beastbrood tiefling (see Blood of Fiends).  If you need a mastermind, a behind-the-scenes player, or a surprise special guest, you could do a lot worse.

A woman’s sister has disappeared.  Following her trail means finding the paramour who seduced her and then sold her to the thieves’ guild to pay off his gambling debts…who in turn sold her to gillmen slavers.  From there, she was shipped to the Gnoll Pens, where she was bought by the harem master of Kul Khan.  Kul Khan is a rakshasa with ties to a strange city of jade constructs and a library staffed by syrinx diviners.

An upasanda (a kind of asura) insists that mortals are worthless in and of themselves.  She has founded a monastery to train those monks who wish to emulate her striving for perfection (and to test her own skills—once a year she secretly kills her most promising student in a duel).  Her rakshasa neighbor insists that mortals are delightful slaves, breeding partners, and food, and his thieves’ guild has stolen him a palace’s worth of gems, rare wood, and fineries.  Determined to settle the matter once and for all, monks and thieves battle in the streets for their leaders’ amusement, turning the city of Panruti into a war zone.  Local authorities need help.

A rakshasa has formed a dining club that hosts appallingly lavish—and just plain appalling—feasts.  The next menu features braised tengu, quarterlings (halflings halved and roasted), and unicorn in a mushroom sauce with brownie stuffing.  One of the brownies escaped (wearing nothing but the sausage casing he was stuffed into) and now seeks adventurers to help.  If they assent, they face not only the rakshasa but also his greedy dinner guests.  Their vast appetites have given them equally vast bulk and strange powers (use the ogrekin template for most of the guests, and the bloatmage prestige class for exceptional spellcasters).

Pathfinder Bestiary 231

It’s the letter R!  We covered Q quick, didn’t we?  By the way, the raccoon was handled here.

For D&D 3.5 fans, note that on Eberron rakshasas were even more fiendish, being some of the prime evil movers and shakers in that setting.  They were ancient enemies of the couatls and were currently trapped in Khyber and the Demon Wastes.  The Eberron Campaign Setting had one subrace; I believe Monster Manual III had at least one or two more.

Meanwhile, in Pathfinder we still don’t have much info on Vudra.  And India in general is pretty neglected in terms of RPG supplements.  Can any of you readers nominate some good ones?  My go-to is the old Hollow World module Nightstorm—Allen Varney packed an amazing fantasy take on India in very little space.  Highly recommended!  One day I’d love to work a shapechanger (rakshasas and doppelgangers) war vs. fey, genies, or oni into a campaign…

Today when I should have been working on this blog I was instead writing way too much about GMing for just one player.

More rakshasas on Monday.  Have a great weekend.


  1. Filby from Tumblr here. Normally I'd respond there, but their interface is being incredibly screwy right now.

    The best d20 resource for India-themed roleplaying I can recommend is Mythic Vistas: Mindshadows for 3.0, from Green Ronin Publishing, and its supplement, Monsters of the Mind.

    Regarding 3.5 rakshasa subraces, you were correct. Eberron Campaign Setting provides the warlike zakya subrace, while Monster Manual III gives us the necromantic ak'chazar and the stealthy naztharune. In addition, Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords gives us the shapeshifting naityan. I'd like to eventually convert them to Pathfinder on Monsters-a-Go-Go once I return from hiatus.

    Finally, "The Ecology of the Rakshasa" appears in Dragon Magazine #326 (Dec. 2006), and Dragon #337 (Nov. 2007) has an article on rakshasas in Eberron, including their demigod overlords.

    1. Excuse me, here is the correct link to Monsters of the Mind.

    2. Oh yeah, there's also a half-rakshasa template in Dragon #313.

  2. Also, don't forget about the Rakasha's origins in D&D 4e's setting, where they are members of the Deva race that went bad and started reincarnating wrong.

    If you don't know, 4e's Devas are basically Angels incarnated into human bodies to do good works on Earth, re-incarnating somewhere else instantly after they die without any of their memories. They're a lot like Pathfinder's Samsarans mixed with Aasimar, though oddly enough I think they came before the Samsarans.

  3. Thanks much for your kind words about my D&D Hollow World module HWA3 "Nightstorm"! I designed that adventure at a difficult time, toward the end of a painful 16-month writer's block. I'm glad the work still managed to offer some value.

    In 2009 (and to date) I discussed the HWA Blood Brethren trilogy with Mystara fans at The Piazza:

  4. Everyone's comments are about rakshasas and India and stuff but I can't get over 'quarterlings', myself.

  5. For an Indian-flavored RPG, check out Bedrock Games' "Arrows of Indra'."

  6. See also the beta version of "Against the Dark Yogi" by Tab Creations:

  7. Now that I'm no longer entertaining a houseguest, I've got a chance to thank you all properly for the great comments and links—both here and on today's post (here and on Tumblr). Keep 'em coming!

  8. In Ravenloft there was the domain of Sri Raji, which had the module Web of Illusion set in it, but I don't know how well the land was developed and defined.