PC Race: Rakasta

Here is a new PC race for 4E, hearkening back to the olden days of D&D and Mystara –  the Rakasta.

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First Some Background

The first place that I saw the rakasta was in X1 – The Isle of Dread (1981).  I’m pretty sure that is their original appearance and they were given a bit of an indigenous feel (Native American) in their campsites, but the artwork made them feel more Persian or Arabic, even depicting a female wearing a belly dancing outfit.  I think initially I was confused (and probably others) that these were intended to be the same as the rakshasa as both the name and the appearance were similar.  Quickly, though, it was obvious they were a unique race.

They were described in at module as such:

The rakasta are a race of nomadic, cat-like humanoids. They walk erect, much like humans, but are covered with soft, tawny fur and have feline heads and features. The rakasta fight with special metal “war claws” fitted over their natural claws.

Sounds pretty neat.  With one minor exception.  They are 2HD creatures that ride sabre tooth tigers (8 HD).  The rakasta have the same problem as goblins & worgs.  Who wears the pants in the mounting relationship?

Obviously, they reappeared again in the reprint of X1 (1983) and again in AC9 – Creature Catalogue (1986).  The X1 reprint was the same module with newer artwork (see above), orange cover, cleaner maps, and packaged with the revised Expert Rules.   I personally prefer the original cover art, but the new maps were definitely appreciated.  The new look rakasta appear more human in their appearance and face, rather than cat-like in all things other than their bipedal bodies.  And can I just say that the sabre-tooth tiger above has a sort of melancholy look in his eyes – I just want to give him a hug.

Moving on several years, my favorite appearance was in the short Thunder Rift series – Rage of the Rakasta (1993).  Here they were re-stylized as a tigers in a feudal Japan culture.  Tiger samurai?  Tiger ninjas?  I loved them immediately.

They were also offered as a PC race.

Rakasta walk upright, like humans.  They stand some 5 1/2 feet tall and weigh about 130 pounds, giving them a slender, graceful build like that of an elf.  They are strict carnivores, eating only meat.  On rare occasion, they will sample herbs, grasses, or similar plants, but only for their exotic taste or medicinal value.

Rakasta adventure not in the hopes of finding treasure but rather to seek to prove their own valor and skill in combat.  Although not an evil race, they are proud and love combat.  They also place a great value on personal honor and reputation.  Thus, rakasta are quick to fight if they feel that they have been insulted or wronged.

In fact, it inspired me to re-envision the entire island of Ochalea as a kingdom of rakasta, just to get them more exposure in my campaigns.  And since this module (and particularly the brilliant cover art by Roger Loveless), they have been a favorite race of mine.  They later appeared in the 2E Monstrous Compendium: Mystara in 1994 and again in Dragon Magazine #247.

In this artwork, they looked decidedly more like a rakshasa (except of course for the backwards hands, you know, the little things).  Their society was greatly expanded, departing from the Thunder Rift incarnation.  In fact, under the guidance of Bruce Heard the race expanded in … wait for it … EIGHTEEN sub-races of every imaginable breed of feline – ranging from alley cats to lions to jaguars to weasel-jaguar crossbreeds.  And the tiger version of the rakasta are called ‘sherkasta’ … as if to make the allusion to Shere Khan from the Jungle Book as obvious as possible.

And in that very same Dragon article, you had this doozy:

Catnip: Called nepeta rakastaria by some Known World sages, this plant of ancient Ochalean origins has a powerful effect on all Mystaran felines. Unless making a successful Wisdom check, the rakasta feels an uncontrollable and immediate urge to rub and roll on the plant, displaying a state of utter ecstasy (licking, biting, chewing, rubbing its cheeks and chin, shaking its head, purring, growling, leaping in the air).

The victim never actually eats catnip but only enjoys its contact and smell. This display persists for as many rounds asthe rakasta failed its Wisdom check, during which time it can make no action (attacks, spell casting, etc). If attacked at this time, the rakasta retains all magical, armor, and Dexterity bonuses to AC, while the attacker sustains a -2 penalty to its attack rolls against this rakasta due to its unpredictable twists and rolls.  There must be a fresh patch of at least a foot-square in order to affect a rakasta.

Catnip?  Really?  It is this kind of intellectual disdain by some of the authors for Mystara that makes my skin crawl.  If only Aaron Allston could have written everything.  And then later they were misappropriated in retroactive zeal by Greyhawk in the Dungeon Isle of Dawn adventure arc with supporting Dragon magazine articles.  Along with Warduke and a bunch of other Original D&D staples.  Shame on you, Mordenkainen!

So with such a long and varied history in the game, why not bring them into all the way into 4E?

Just as a disclaimer, I created this race primarily as Asiatic tigers (in the spirit of Thunder Rift) with the creation of a home empire that was culturally symmetrical to the Chinese … which I placed in Ochalea.  You can place them wherever it suits.  Also, if you use Dragon #247, then I’m focusing solely on the Sherkasta.


The Rakasta

A thoughtful and contemplative nature masks the true beast within.

RACIAL TRAITS

  • Average Height: 6′ 6″ – 7′ 4″
  • Average Weight: 320 – 500 .lb
  • Ability Scores: +2 Strength, +2 Dexterity or Charisma
  • Size: Medium
  • Speed: 6 squares
  • Vision: Low-light
  • Languages: Common, Rakasta
  • Skill Bonuses: +2 Perception, +2 Athletics

Claws: Your unarmed attack gains a +3 proficiency bonus and deal 1d6 points of damage from retractable claws.

Rakasta Weapon Proficiency: You gain proficiency with the kasa or ‘war claw’.

Predatory Advantage: You may roll a Perception check to avoid being surprised.

Leaping Shift: You can use leaping shift as an encounter power.

Leaping Shift Racial Power
You pounce across the battlefield seeking your prey.
Encounter
Move Action * Personal
Effect: You shift three squares. You can pass through enemies squares on your shift, but must end in an unoccupied space.

Rakasta (sherkasta) are a race of intelligent, catlike humanoids. They are a proud race with a dedicated monastic tradition of warrior philosophers and nomadic warriors. Their ancient kingdom fell long ago, but they continue to survive in small communities.

Play a rakasta if you want . . .

  • to be reserved and introspective with an undercurrent of primal ferocity.
  • to be a dedicated enemy of Alphatia and their magic.
  • to be a member of a race that favors monk, ranger, and cleric.

Physical Qualities
Rakasta walk upright, much like humans, with an agile, feline grace. They have feline heads and are covered with soft, thick fur.
The rakasta have distinct markings that vary quite dramatically across the breed. Some bear prominent black stripes, like a tiger, while others resemble leopards, lions, or even house cats.  It is a sign of their lineage and it is proudly displayed. Their fur begins as a fiery orange or tawny in color, but as they age it eventually fades to white. Their black stripes or spots remain throughout their lives.

Rakasta have catlike eyes that are mostly emerald green. They possess the tapetum lucidum which reflects back light with an eerie glow. A rakasta has a non-prehensile tail 4 to 6 feet long.

Rakasta have a comparable lifespan to humans.

Playing a Rakasta
The sherkasta are highly regimented race that seeks tranquility through personal insight and contemplation. They are measured in both their thoughts and responses. This does not mean that they are not fierce enemies when provoked.

Rakasta are comfortable in silence and their long unblinking stares often unnerve to their human companions. They are not concerned with wealth or possessions. The only measure that matters in society is one’s honor. Honor is accumulated by holding true to the highest conduct of behavior and through self-sacrifice.

Family is extremely important in rakasta society, so much so that generations of the same family will all dwell within the same home. The eldest of the family, white-furred, is the de facto leader of the rest. The experience and wisdom gathered over a long life is valued far more than passion and charisma.

Rakasta Characteristics: contemplative, fearless, law-biding, loyal, patient, reserved, respectful, thoughtful, vigilant, wise.

Male Names: Anh, Da, Delun, Enlai, Fang, Gen, Gui, Hai, He, Hsin, Jian, Jiayi, Kang, Li, Liqin, Nianzu, Qiang, Renshu, Ru, Shi, Tak, Wei, Wen, Xiaowen, Xin, Yan, Ye, Yuan, Yuman, Yun, Zhen, Zian, Zixin.

Female Names: Ai, Baozhai, Biyu, Chyou, Daiyu, Fan, Genji, Guan-yin, Heng, Hua, Huan, Jia, Jiao, Jiayi, Juan, Lian, Lin, Liqiu, Liu, Meili, Meixiu, Mingxia, Niu, Qiao, Suyin, Xiaodan, Xiulan, Yu, Zhu.

Surnames, which come first in order, are formed by hyphenating their family name with their father’s name.

Rakasta Adventurers
Three sample rakasta adventurers are described below:

Zian has chosen the Way of the Endless Road. After studying intensively for many years in the abbeys of the Tianzi Hills, he is ready to travel the world to learn even more. His claws have hardened into iron and his spirit is unbreakable.

Huang-Le Hsin is a hastra rider on the Grasslands of Chi. His keen senses guard the land from the wasteland demons that rise with each night. He uses a barbed lance when mounted, but his primary weapons are his gilded kasas with which he can shred iron.

Zao-Be Genji is a learned priest that has long studied the traditions and lore of his people. Her clerical studies have prepared her for a long life in bureaucratic service. Soon she will travel to the mainland armed with the wisdom of his people and his divine magic against the treachery in Thyatis City.

Creative Gallery

Here are some rakasta-inspired images to help with your imagination in building your next rakasta character, focusing primarily on the sherkasta (tiger), but also a Simbasta (lion), as well:

NOTE: HalfBlogre.com did not create these images.  We do not own their copyright.



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