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Monster Minute: Rakshasas

YakshaganaRakshasa in Real-World Mythology
The Rakshasa is a demon or evil spirit in Hindu and Buddhist mythology.  In the Hindu scripture, Ramayana, Rakshasas were created from Brahma’s (the hindu god of creation’s) foot.   Much of legends say that Rakshasas are the reincarnations of particularly cruel and wicked humans. These man-beasts are said to feed on human flesh and have venomous fingernails.  They are also known for their shape changing abilities and are cunning illusionists and sorcerers.

In the Ramayana, the most notable Rakshasa is Ravana, the Ten-Headed King of the Rakshasas and mortal enemy of Rama, the hero of the Ramayana.  Ravana kidnapped Rama’s wife, Sita.  Rama laid siege to Ravana’s stronghold with the help of the Monkey King and his army.  In the end, Rama killed Ravana and rescued his wife.

RakshasaRakshasas in D&D
Rakshasas first appeared in TSR’s newsletter in 1975 and in AD&D first edition, were printed in the 1977 Monster Manual.   In 1989, they were reprinted in the Monstrous Compendium Volume One for AD&D 2nd edition.   D&D 3.5 expanded the Rakshasa types to include:

  • Ak’chazar — The white tigers of the Rakshasa. They are powerful spellcasters even by Rakshasa standards and specialize in necromantic magic.
  • Naztharune — The black tigers of the Rakshasa. They are considered the assassins of their race. They have few magical powers but compensate by being strong fighters.
  • Naityan — Rakshasa who are adept at shape shifting and freely use their abilities as a form of supernatural martial arts combat styles based on their various forms.
  • Zakyas — Rakshasas who focus in martial arts mixed with sorcery. They are skilled melee combatants and weapon masters and use their magical powers to supplement their martial prowess.

In all D&D campaigns, a Rakshasa is 6 to 7 feet tall and weighs 250 to 300 pounds.  They appear as tiger headed humanoid beasts. Their most unique, and somewhat disturbing, feature is their backward facing hands – meaning their palms are located on the back of their hands.   They are considered evil outsiders and in 4th edition D&D they are the reincarnated souls of Devas who have turned to evil.

Rakshasas in Eberron
Ten million years ago, Khyber gave birth to fiendish offspring; the most prominent of his creation were the Rakshasas. The Na-Vakihti or Rakshasa Rajas (who were equivalent to Demon Princes in power) burst forth from the domain of the Dragon Below and transformed the surface of Eberron in to a hellish nightmare where they reigned supreme. And thus is marked the beginning of the the Age of Demons.

After a millions of years of oppression the Dragons of Argonessen forged an alliance with the Dragons of Syberis and the Couatls. Legends say that under their combined powers, the dragons and couatls were able to create the Silver Cataclysm. This event sealed away all the powerful Rakshasa Rajas and banished many of the fiendish forces back to Khyber. The remaining Rakshasa survivors fled to the Demon Wastes, in the continent of Khorvare.  There remains the last remnant of the ancient Rakshasa civilization.

Today, the Rakshasas remain powerful but are paled when compared to their ancestors. Many of the Rakshasas belong to an organization called the Lords of Dust. They are perhaps the most important power group in the Demon Wastes and are devoted servants of the imprisoned fiends. While some among the Lords of Dust seek to channel the imprisoned rajahs’ power to enhance their own, most strive to break the bonds of the fiend-lords and usher in a new Age of Demons.

DDO Rakshasa

  • Nice! Thanks for taking the time to write this 🙂


    May 12, 2010