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Rakshasa, the Devourers of Heaven

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  • Rakshasa, the Devourers of Heaven

    Rakshasa are a variant Mage-creature developed by Isabella for my game. All the setting is written by her, as is the drawing -- mechanics are by myself. I use a somewhat different mechanical system for Mage (based on Gutter Magic) but I've applied a quick conversion. Broadly speaking, Rakshasa are able to use Supernal magic without fear of Paradox, but this is balanced out by a truly ruinous system for regaining Mana.

    I also use a system for Paradigm, but feel free to ignore that if you like and treat True Form as just a pure 'fluff' thing.




    Rakshasa, the Devourers of Heaven



    This is a story told by ancient epics: At the end of the Age of Truth, the first Rakshasas were spawned from the breath of the sleeping god Brahma. At the instant of their creation, they were filled with such insatiable bloodlust, they began to eat Brahma alive. Brahma shouted "Rakshama!" - Sanskrit for "protect me!" - and Vishnu came to his aid. Vishnu banished all Rakshasas to Earth, and their race was thus named after Brahma's cry for help. They are demons, liars and illusionists, and they are well known to be unrepentant maneaters.

    This is a story told by foreign mages, researchers from England and other countries: The rakshasa are a disturbing blight, Abyssal in origin and hard to detect. They act like spirits in their natural form, or perhaps might more accurately be compared to Strix. When they find an appealing target, they pounce on the unsuspecting mortal, destroying their soul and effectively replacing it. The mortal might try to maintain their former personality, as they're slowly corrupted from the inside out, but in the end they must inevitably succumb to cannibalistic bloodlust. Rakshasa should be destroyed when found, as all things born of the Abyss should be. This is the accepted truth. And yet, some mages have become uncomfortable with this conclusion. The treatises on these creatures are riddled with colonialist sentiments. The magic that Rakshasas use resembles nothing of the Abyss. Indeed, it seems to exactly match the magic Awakened mages use... only without the backlash of Paradox.

    This is a story told by the Awakened of South Asia: Rakshasa were Mages in a past life, who lost their way on the path of Wisdom. Having fallen so far, their souls could not find peace in death, and thus were reincarnated - and reincarnated as lower life forms, to address the imbalance. But the soul, having once touched Truth, cannot let it go so easily. And so, these creatures have Awakened souls, but not Awakened minds. They are animals, or twisted demons, but use their magic to transform themselves back into human form. They are not inherently evil, and can be set back on the path to Wisdom once more, but such things are often too dangerous to attempt. They lost their way due to base, selfish urges, and now they are ruled by them.

    This is a story told by the Rakshasas themselves: They are immortal souls, eternally Awakened, reborn into new bodies after the old ones die. They once lived in a great kingdom in Lanka, under the pure Rakshasa king Vibhishana. But Lanka was colonized, and jealous foreign Mages began their purge of the rakshasa. They were unable to bear the sight of the perfect rakshasa soul, which was able to cast magic untainted by the Abyss. Of course, the rakshasas could not truly die. Their kingdom is gone, but Vibhishana still lives, and so do his subjects. They have spread far and wide throughout South Asia, and they wait. The mages will one day crumble and fall, but the rakshasa kingdom will rise again. They are patient. They have all of eternity.

    And this is a story told by Anuravani, a rakshasi who came to speak to foreign mages before suddenly vanishing: When the Abyss cut the Fallen World off from magic, there were many attempts to reverse the fall. One group of mages from South Asia, however, had a different idea. Inspired by the Watchtowers, this suggestion was put forth: suppose instead of reconnecting the Fallen World to the Supernal, a chunk of the Supernal was brought down to the Fallen World? They began to experiment, seeking out those on the brink of Awakening. Their attempts at bringing back Supernal objects failed, and so they tried a more extreme solution. Their candidates were infused with magical rituals, sent into a trance in hopes they would Awaken, and told to bite off and consume a piece of the Supernal world itself.

    Perhaps it worked.

    Rakshasa are liars and shapechangers. It's hard to say what the truth of them is. Indeed, it's hard to say if there is a real truth to them. Here's what is known: They do not reproduce in a direct fashion, but rakshasa only are spawned from people who had a rakshasa in their ancestry. In practical terms, this means people with South Asian ancestry, though Shri Lanka alone has a great deal of ethnic groups, and immigration means that rakshasa can appear in a variety of places. Rakshasa begin their lives as human, or like enough to humans that there is no real difference. They experience something akin to an Awakening, only instead of Mages, they become Rakshasa. They visit a random Watchtower, but always seem attuned to the same Mysteries. They use a brand of magic indistinguishable from Awakened magic, but they do not appear to suffer from Paradox. They likewise do not seem to need a paradigm to cast spells. They instead fuel their spells by consuming living things - all things in the Fallen World are a reflection of perfect Supernal truths, but that reflection of truth is enough to fuel rakshasa magic. They are not all cannibals, nor are they predisposed toward evil, but humans are the most numerous and convenient power source available to them. Their "true forms", if they can even be said to still have one, are no longer human. They instead appear as demonic humanoids, pitch black in color and slightly shadowy, with glowing eyes, and both upper and lower canines extended and viciously pointed. Many have tiger or serpentine features in this form, although this does not seem to have always been the case historically - rakshasa often accentuate these aspects and transform into tiger-men proper, often fooling others into thinking that is their true appearance.

    Here's what is theorized: The rakshasa are an ancient Legacy of mages, who attempted something very unwise and partially succeeded. The magic proved so powerful that their descendants, widely spread proximi families, Awaken straight into the Legacy. If Anuravani's words are taken as true, the rakshasas bit off a piece of the Supernal world to take with them, instead of simply leaving their mark upon it. This seems to have worked, but had unintended consequences.

    Organized rakshasa society effectively ended with the colonization of India and Shri Lanka. They still band together against outside threats, but no longer have any massive overarching authority figures. The rakshasa seem to accept this, aware their power has waned, but believe things will one day come back around again. As India begins to gain prominence in the global economy, the rakshasa watch it carefully. In the meantime, most rakshasa are left to take their own paths in life. Some ambitious rakshasas attempt to rebuild their past glories. Others join Mage Consiliums, assuming the Mages allow them. Others sit patiently and wait.

    Of special note to the Walking Shadows campaign is the city of London. Containing one of the largest South Asian immigrant populations in the world, it's no surprise that rakshasas have moved in alongside them. These rakshasa tend to keep a low profile. The ruling Mage faction, the Guardians of the Veil, is huge enough to cause any number of rakshasas trouble. However, London is a big city, and the Guardians have their hands full policing it. They can't afford to make more trouble for themselves than they already have. Translated, this means the Guardians aren't usually prone to attacking something for the crime of existing. Thus, where most cities would hunt the rakshasas as Abyssals, the Guardians usually leave them alone unless provoked. This tends to leave London with a higher population of rakshasas than might be expected, given how rare they are outside of South Asia.



    Mechanics

    Mechanically, Rakshasa are variant Mages. They possess a Gnosis stat, possess Unseen Senses, and can improve their spellcasting with Magical Tools and so forth. They have Affinity for the Arcana of Life and Prime.

    They do not have the Paradox Bane, nor do they recharge Mana by way of Oblations. Instead, they possess Divine Hunger. Their Paradigm and Nimbus are also altered, as covered under the True Form Aspect:

    Aspects
    Divine Hunger: Rakshasas can only regain Mana by devouring higher-order life forms (that is to say, birds, mammals, lizards, fish, but not plants or insects). For a Rakshasa's purposes, an animal usually contains Mana equal to it's Size, while human beings contain Mana equal to Size+Willpower. Beaten down, listless, emotionally drained animals or people contain less Mana (a pig that has never known the outside of its cage is a much less filling meal), while sacred or particularly vibrant creatures (the rats at the Karni Mata Temple, or a rescue dog) contain more. Supernatural creatures or Extraordinary Mortals add their Power Stat to the Mana they contain. Dead creatures retain their Mana 'charge' for a time after death, but it wears away rapidly. About (Size x3) minutes after death, the creature's Mana 'charge' halves (rounded down), and then continues to drop by 1 Mana per further hour.

    In order to gain the Mana, the Rakshasa has to eat the creature. For larger animals or people, this doesn't necessarily have to be the entire creature, but some symbolically important organ such as the heart or brain can count as representative of the whole. In any case, it's necessary that the victim die for the Rakshasa to gain their Mana 'charge'.

    Rakshasa consumption is not soul-eating, and victims of Rakshasa can and do return as ghosts, or reincarnate, or what have you. Quite a lot of people are not willing to make such fine distinctions, however.

    Consequently, many Rakshasas haunt slaughterhouses or graveyards, either attempting to use fresh animals or the remains of human Mana to feed themselves (the Sanctum Merit tends to represent easy access to such a place for Rakshasas). The temptation for a quick and easy Mana recharge by eating some tramp's heart is one that has lured many Rakshasas off the path of Wisdom, though.

    True Form: Every Rakshasa possesses a natural, true form, the appearance of their nature as opposed to their human mask. These vary between Rakshasas, and can be quite outrageous (particularly at high Gnosis), with multiple heads and arms, tusks, animal heads, and so forth, but the most commonly seen variety is that of a black-skinned humanoid with extravagant canines. For a Rakshasa, a True Form is simply more comfortable than their human guise, which to them feels tight and constraining.

    Their human guise is that of their pre-Awakened life. They look the same, age at the same rate (subject to magic), and so forth. Rakshasas who wish to shapeshift further need to invest in shapeshifting magic the same as any other mage.

    A Rakshasa can shift between its human and natural guises as a free, Reflexive Action. Regardless of whatever extra accouterments a Rakshasa's True Form has, it does not grant them additional powers or abilities.

    The True Form manifests as both the Rakshasa's Nimbus and Paradigm. Rakshasas Nimbuses tend to resemble exaggerations or manifestations of their True Form. Meanwhile, Rakshasas do not have a Paradigm in the sense of having prescribed tools or forms for their spellcasting, but instead suffer a spellcasting penalty if they are not in their True Forms when using magic.



    GM of the Walking Shadow Campaigns
    New System and Setting Material
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