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Rakshasa

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Rakshasa (common type)
A rakshasa dancer.
(Creature)
Type Outsider
(native, rakshasa, shapechanger)
CR 10
Environment Any land
Alignment
Images of rakshasas

Source: Bestiary, pg(s). 231
Rakshasa (race)
Bernaditi, a crocodile-headed rakshasa.
(Creature)
Type Outsider
(native, rakshasa, shapechanger)
CR Varies
Environment Any
Alignment
Images of rakshasas

Source: Bestiary 3, pg(s). 224

Rakshasas, the "earthbound evils", are spirits of truly debased and abhorrent evil who take on humanoid-like form.[1][2][3]

History

The origin of the rakshasas lies long ago, in the land of Vudra. The human sorcerer Mahka Abihcara, obsessed with his own mortality, desired to continue his enjoyment of material pleasures for all eternity, and so he resolved to live so much that his essence would continue on past death in a cycle of reincarnation. Mahka became a patron of the arts, a conqueror, and ultimately a cannibal, consuming the bodies of his foes to absorb their life forces. Finally, when he grew too old for his magic to keep him alive any longer, he and his chief generals partook in a feast in which they each devoured a totem animal that, he said, would guide them to their next lives as more powerful beings. Mahka himself consumed a tiger, and ate himself to death.[4]

Twenty years later, a young sorcerer named Purusav Vagbha appeared, seeking out Mahka Abihcara's generals and killing them and their totem animals. Purusav reconquered Mahka's empire, and it soon became clear that he was in fact Mahka's reincarnation, and far more evil and powerful than before. Ultimately, Gopa Citrasena, one of Mahka's generals who rejected his master's evil ways, slew Purusav in an great battle in which it was revealed that Purusav was a tiger-headed monster with backward-bending hands: the first rakshasa.[4]

Unfortunately for Vudra and the world, Mahka and his generals continued to reincarnate, and as Mahka's foul philosophy spread, more evil souls have come into being as rakshasas. The earthbound evils continue to plague Golarion.[4]

Types of rakshasa

Domitian, a two-headed rakshasa.

While there are many different types of rakshasas, from the lowly raktavarna to the powerful rakshasa maharaja, the most commonly encountered members of this race are not known by any other name save simply rakshasa—they are more powerful than some members of their kind and less powerful than others, and represent the ideal midpoint between servitor and master.[2]

The known "species" of rakshasa are as follows, from least to most powerful: raktavarna, dandasuka, marai, common rakshasa, tataka, and maharaja. A rakshasa's physical species is independent from its caste, or role in society (see Society).[5]

Appearance

Common rakshasas can be recognized by their animal heads (those of great cats, snakes, crocodiles, apes, and birds of prey being the most common) and backward-facing hands. Feral traits and strangely reversed joints are a hallmark of all types of rakshasas, in fact, features that most rakshasas can hide through their supernatural ability to change shapes or by means of powerful illusions.[2] More powerful rakshasas often have multiple heads, grown during horrific rituals in which the rakshasa steals the soul of another fiend.[6]

Ecology

Rakshasas are born on the Material Plane, but they are not of it. They possess the powers and shapes of fiends, but their fates are inexorably tied to the mortal world, and it is there that they seek to rule. The reincarnations of manipulators, traitors, and tyrants obsessed with earthly pleasures, rakshasas embody the very nature of materialistic evil. After dying violent deaths, these spirits are so tied to worldly decadence and selfish concerns that they take shapes that better reflect the baseness of their lives and are reborn as fiends.[2]

A rakshasa cannot impregnate another of its own kind, and so new rakshasas come into being via the coupling of a rakshasa and a non-rakshasa or, rarely, that of two non-rakshasas. A rakshasa born to non-rakshasa parents generally only occurs when one or both of the parents commits a great evil during the mother's pregnancy, allowing the disembodied spirit of a previously slain rakshasa to reincarnate into the world by usurping the unborn offspring's body. Rarely, such blasphemous births afflict good or innocent parents, typically in cases where the parents are exposed to great evils beyond their control. A rakshasa grows to maturity more quickly than a human, and often functions as a full-grown adult earlier than age 14. Despite this quick maturation, a rakshasa can live for 500 years or more before dying, at which point its spirit seeks a new host to be reborn in, continuing the vile cycle of fiendish reincarnation over and over again.[2]

Society

Rakshasas believe that each and every creature in the universe has a proper role to play, and that success comes from understanding one's position and working to improve it.[2]

Early life

Rakshasas born to non-rakshasa parents (or to a mixed parentage in which its rakshasa parent keeps its nature secret) seem like normal children at birth, but are aware of their nature as spirit creatures even before they can speak. Vudrani greatly fear such parivaka (devil-children) and use divination to ensure that their children are clean of soul, but such prognostications are not foolproof, and rakshasas are master deceivers even as children, leading to a high rate of survival. Such mortal-born rakshasas are quickly sought out by other rakshasas and brought into the fold.[7]

Rashasas born among their own kind, on the other hand, grow up similarly to normal mortals, but are instilled with hatred for non-rakshasas and unyielding loyalty to their parents. They are encouraged to emulate and deceive non-rakshasas as practice for adulthood.[7]

Caste system

A rakshasa rules over lower beings.

Rakshasas do not see castes as good or evil, but rather as purely pragmatic. Creatures of higher caste should be respected for their great power, and those of lower caste should be pressed into willing service to expand the holdings of those of higher castes as their betters seek greater wealth and influence.[2]

The rakshasa caste system is as follows, from lowest to greatest. The system encompasses not just all of rakshasa society (regardless of the rakshasa's physical type), but all of life—although only rakshasas can attain the stations of darshaka and above.[2][8]

  • Pagala: Traitors. This caste is reserved for rakshasas who have become chaotic or good, and is the most shameful form of life to rakshasa thinking. Pagala are allowed to live only if they can be swayed back to the proper lawful evil way of life; otherwise they are hunted and killed.
  • Goshta: Food. Almost all non-rakshasas fall into this caste. Goshta exist to be manipulated—or even eaten—by rakshasas.
  • Adhura: Novices. A temporary caste made up of all juvenile rakshasas, adhura are expected to remain loyal to their family elders while they learn to function in rakshasa society. At the age of 50, a rakshasa leaves the adhura caste and joins the caste of its parent.
  • Darshaka: Servants. This is the lowest caste adult rakshasas may be born into. Darshaka faithfully serve higher-caste rakshasas, but are also expected to carry out far-reaching plans of their own, and may be highly wealthy slave-owners in their own right.
  • Paradeshi: Rakshasa-kin. This caste is reserved for powerful evil non-rakshasas who have proven themselves worthy of commanding rakshasas. A non-rakshasa's status as rakshasa-kin is subjective, and a rakshasa who considers a paradeshi to be goshta is duty-bound to destroy it. Most paradeshi are devils, though dragons, hags, efreet, and rarely mortal spellcasters can also rise to this caste.
  • Hakima: Lords. This caste is made up of rakshasas who count others of their kin as servants. Hakima are kings among rakshasas who spin grand plots that encompass entire nations or religions.
  • Samrata: Lords of lords. The emperors of the rakshasa race, to which only the most powerful hakima can ascend. Even then, a rakshasa rarely remains a samrata for long without challenge.

Religion

While rakshasas are forced to admit that the gods have powers greater than their own, most rakshasas scoff at the concept of divinity as a whole. The gods are among the most powerful beings in existence, to be sure, but too many examples of powerful, ambitious, or merely lucky mortals attaining divinity exist for rakshasas to pay religious homage to such creatures. Rakshasas see their own transitions from mortals to otherworldly beings as marks of their own fathomless potential and their initial steps on the path to godhood. Thus, as a race, rakshasas deny the worship of deities, although they welcome alliances with the servants of such peerlessly potent beings when it serves their purposes.[2]

Standing above all others of their kind are the rakshasa immortals, beings of such perfect, fathomless cruelty that they have transcended the cycle of reincarnation and become truly immortal. Rakshasa immortals are practically gods themselves, standing on equal footing with other demigods like archdevils and empyreal lords. Of all the immortals, Ravana is the oldest and most potent.[2]

Abilities

All types of rakshasas (save the debased raktavarnas) are capable of potent spellcasting. They possess other supernatural powers as well, including the abilities to read minds and shapeshift into the form of mortal humanoids.[3] The skin of a rakshasa is remarkably resistant to physical damage and can ignore or greatly reduce the effectiveness of most weapons. Holy weapons capable of piercing this skin, however, can reach a rakshasa's vitals and do significant harm. As a result, in lands where their kind are well known, rakshasas take great pains to disguise themselves with magic when they are among enemies.[2]

References

Paizo published a major article on rakshasas in Escape from Old Korvosa.