Libris Monstrum #15: Rakshasa Revisited
Tonight we go back to the rakshasa! Last time we talked about the origins of the rakshasa and what makes them recognizable at the D&D table. Today we take a stronger look at their various forms over the years, and explore the real world version of the deity they are said to worship. Finally we take a quick look at another version from television wish provides a little twist on the monster and an idea for what weapon can really kill them. In couple weeks we’ll be taking another look at kaiju so stay tuned!
Rakshasas Of The Realms
Today we’re going to dive right into rakshasas as you might find them in the Forgotten Realms. While the rakshasas of Pathfinder come in a variety of shapes and forms, the fiendish creatures of Dungeons & Dragons are almost always tigers. The most common of these are orange, just like the tigers most of us will recognize from the Jungle Book or other children’s stories. However, some subraces have different fur coloration. There are two major types which can be found there aside from the standard: the Naztharune and Ak’chazar.
The Ak’chazar have the coloration of white tigers and are especially good at spellcasting. Often they become necromancers, hiding in graveyards and old battlefields. Smaller than their cousins, and having less direct combat capability, these rakshasa keep an even lower profile than most. Luckily for them, rakshasas are powerful creatures that can inspire minions and they will have the bonus opportunity to raise undead allies. The Naztharune, on the other hand, are more panther-like with black fur. More so, these individuals are not as ambitious as their cousins. Rather than gaining power and ruling over others, the Naztharune tend to prefer acting as scouts and assassins. Interestingly enough, this type of rakshasa is also not very good with magic and tends towards the combat arts. Essentially, these two subraces are less well-rounded rakshasas. One has a knack for combat and the other magic, both skills the average rakshasa is well-versed in.
Rakshasas Of Eberron
Some may be yelling at me about the fact that the rakshasas above should have been brought up here, talking about Eberron. Okay, okay. Maybe you’re right, but the reason I separated them is because those two subraces, in their basic forms, are part of the Realms thanks to the 3.5 Monster Manual III. The important part of Eberron rakshasas is not in their subraces but in other parts of their lore. In the world of Eberron, rakshasas took part in a war between demons on the one side and dragons and couatls on the other. This race was much more bound to the material world than others and, as such, were troublesome for the couatl to push back. Another interesting thing about Eberron is that it has half-dragon rakshasas as the result of some Taimat worship going on. I can’t imagine the surprise on a parties face when they find out the rakshasa they have been chasing has wings and can breath fire! As a final note, Eberron is a good example of how deeply a creature not often used in games can be ingrained within a campaign world.
In looking for more examples of rakshasas, I discovered a mention within the D&D world of the worship of the ten-headed god Ravana. As is often the case, this is based off a real-world mythological figure. Ravana is an entity of Hindu myth with ten heads and up to twenty arms. This being was said to be a devout follower of Shiva, as well as a scholar and ruler. His heads represent the knowledge he hold of the six shastras and the four Vedas of the mythology. The Vedas are the written, supernatural text of the belief and represent the oldest of the religious texts. The shastras are more mortal manuals or guides, and in modern English language would be represented by things like biology or ecology. In proving is devotion to Shiva some say that he would present one of his one heads as proof each year. In the end there would be but one head left, the true head of Ravana, and this act would deemed an acceptable sacrifice.
Personally, I am curious how such an entity could be represented in the world of Dungeons & Dragons, especially given the direct leaning of rakshasas to evil. If anyone knows were more can be found about this entity in that regard please let me know!
Rakshasas In Supernatural
One of the great things about the TV show Supernatural is their ability to pull on some more obscure mythological beings and throw them into one episode of the show. This was especially well done in early seasons. While the overall development of their own mythos is fantastic, the earlier episodes have some really good examples of taking monsters many have only heard around a table covered in dice and giving them a succinct and unique modern existence. The rakshasa is one such example from season two. Supernatural may not give the most elaborate or in depth lore to the creatures that are hunted, but they do have some pretty explicit rules. The rakshasa of Supernatural can shapeshift into anything, often appearing as humans, dogs, or large birds. It also has the ability to become invisible, superhuman strength, and heightened senses. Luckily for us we also learn some of the weaknesses of the rakshasa. The first is an interesting one that is more often associated with vampires: the inability to enter a building uninvited. The second is one I like a little more, especially given my bias to using materials like silver for werewolves. In Supernatural, the only thing that can kill a rakshasa is a knife made of pure brass.