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5E Rakasta

by JTrithen

I wanted to implement the rakasta race.

But, I also want to make the rakasta breed options available, that are in the Dragon Magazine #247 article named "Rakasta of Mystara" that Bruce Heard wrote (back in 1998), for 2E. And, bring it forward into 5E.

First, note that for the 17 breeds presented in the article, there are a lot of bonuses and penalties to ability scores that are assigned to the breeds.
And, also note that there are a lot of other abilities (or features or traits) outlined in the article for rakasta, too, along with the weakness (for most breeds, to varying degrees) of aversion to water. Some of the new abilities include the ability to roar for some breeds, different claw damages for different breeds, infravision, bilnd fighting, etc. Some of the abilities and traits in this article may have already been implemented in the previous presentation of the rakasta, in the RED STEEL supplement (such as infravision); I didn't check.

So, to bring this convert to 5E, one must consider that 5E usually doesn't assign a lot of ability score adjustments to the available races in the game. So, I think it was a good idea to pare down how many adjustments that each breed would have. I have made some choices and outlined them in a chart below. Also, since the race (as presented in the 2E article) has quite a few abilities, it's not a good idea to combine a lot of improvements to ability scores in addition to the other traits. This is, of course, assuming that all of the traits will be used in 5E. I have not tackled those traits yet. I am just starting out looking at the ability score adjustments first.









Cave Rakasta +3 -1   -1   +1 RW Equivalent: Cave lion
Rakastadon +3     -1     RW Equivalent: Smilodon/sabre-toothed tiger
"Greater Rakasta"              
Fast Runner   +2     -1   RW Equivalent: Cheetah
Jakar +2       -1   RW Equivalent: Jaguar
Mtn. Rakasta   +2     -1   RW Equivalent: Mountain lion/puma
Pardasta   +1         RW Equivalent: Leopard
Sherkasta +2       -1   RW Equivalent: Tiger
Simbasta +2       -2 +1 RW Equivalent: Lion. These adjustments were not changed at all from the Dragon Magazine article.
Snow Pardasta +1   +1   -1   RW Equivalent: Snow leopard
"Wild Rakasta"              
Caracasta +1       -1   RW Equivalent: Caracal
Cloud Pardasta +1 +1     -1   RW Equivalent: Cloud leopard
Jakarundi   +1     -1   RW Equivalent: Jaguarundi
Lynxman     +2   -1   RW Equivalent: Lynx (probably close to/same as bobcat, too)
Ocelasta   +1     -1   RW Equivalent: Ocelot
Servasta   +1     -1   RW Equivalent: Serval
"Domestic Rakasta"              
Alley Rakasta         -1   Variable: Roll 3d12; 3 through 5 means there is a -1 adjustment to one ability -- player's choice; for 6-9, there is no adjustment; 10 through 33 means +1 adjustment, again, player's choice; 34-36 means a +2 adjustment ('player's choice). After adjusting for -1 for Wis. with any adjustments from 3d12 roll above, then... a bonus of +1 or higher means the moggie has a high fear of water; if the adjustment is -1 or more, there is no fear of water; otherwise, with an adjustment of 0, there is a moderate fear of water.
Basic Rakasta   +2     -1   This is the race from the RED STEEL supplement. The Dragon Magazine article suggests that this is just ONE variation on an alley cat. In other words, this is one possibility of the alley cat ability score variations above.
Domestic Rakasta   +1     -1   This is the "city" or "civilized" breed of rakasta that would be found in most settlements.
"Other 'Breeds'/Races" (for Comparison)              
Tabaxi:     +2   +1   From Volo's Guide to Monsters; listed for reference.

Dragon Magazine suggested rakasta class

-1 +1 -1 +1     From Dragon Magazine#172, from the letters section of a VotPA article. Listed here for reference. These are suggestions from Bruce Heard at the time, using GAZ10 rules. If I were to consider this for one breed that existed in Mystara, using 5E rules, I would just apply a +1 to Dex.; and, of course, include all the abilities, traits, and weaknesses put forth in the Dragon Magazine#247 article. One could also just say this is another example of an alley cat, as was suggested for the "Basic Rakasta" above.

As mentioned above the chart, I usually only kept a couple of ability adjustments from Bruce's article.
If there was an adjustment of +2, I sometimes pared it down to -1. Some breeds had adjustments of +2 to one ability, and -2 to another. This was too much for 5E, I think. So, I made some judicious choices, and pared down the adjustments.
There were some breeds with adjustments for 4 abilities! So, I just dropped some of the + or -1 adjustments, deciding which I would keep for that particular breed that seemed to fit.

Several considerations and thoughts:

Ancestors Rakasta
I kept the large +3 adjustments to the 2 "primitive" races at the top above; this is to differentiate them significantly from the rest of the breeds. They really would be quite a bit more powerful than the modern breeds in comparison. However, it would also make them a little too OP, unfortunatley, if a player really were going to play one, such as one coming from a "Lost World" area. It might be a good idea to try to balance them with some kind of cultural bias/inhibition rules about armor and weapons, borrowing ideas/guidelines used in the Hollow World rules.

A penalty of -2 to Wisdom was applied ACROSS the board for all breeds. I can see some reasoning in this, by Bruce. Curiosity killed the cat, right? This overrides their intuition (or wisdom), right? Cats are often reckless and too proud to be too reserved; that's the argument FOR the penalties, anyway. I'm not sure I agree with such a harsh penalty across the race. One must also remember that cats "have 9 lives." How far do we want to want to carry those thoughts or ideas. I think that cats in general do have some sense of self-preservation, though, represented by instinct. I think this represents wisdom, and it would actually be fairly high (or average) in rakasta. So, most of the breeds still have a -1 penalty to the Wisdom, and this helps off-set a common +2 bonus to Str., on many of the breeds.

However, I did take exception and decided to remove the Wisdom penalty entirely from the pardasta breed, which represents the leopard. This is to keep my "conception" of the leopard as being similar to the "Bagheera" character, the black panther (leopard) from The Jungle Book. I like that idea of a "wise" panther. This would be the panther/leopard that lives in the jungle, and not the cloud or snow leopards that live in more solitary areas, and not so much in the social jungle where many other animals are, and where a higher wisdom would generally evolve and/or be needed.
The pardasta breed as originally listed in the 2E article also has a +1 bonus to Strength and a +1 to Dexterity (in addition to original -2 to Wisdom). I took off the Strength bonus, to even things out, since there is already a Dex bonus (and NO Wisdom penalty, at this point); it's hard to not to want to include both, though, to try to represent what the breed should be. Maybe an Intelligence penalty of -1 could be applied(?). I decided to go with the Dexterity bonus, but a DM might want to keep both. There just aren't very many races in 5E that have adjustments to 3 ability scores; that is pretty unusual.
There one or 2 rare races that have adjustments to 3 scores in 5E; one example is the triton in the 'Volo's Monster Guide.' And, there are quite a few examples of races with a +2 to one ability, and a +1 to another, in the guide. But, remember that the rakastas have quite a few racial traits, too, so too many ability score adjustments will begin to be OP.

Alley and Basic Rakastas
In the rakasta Dragon Magazine article, there are instructions for rolling for random ability score adjustments for the alley rakasta. I simplified those rolls a little, and reproduced most of the same idea intact above in the "Alley Rakasta" NOTES. Also, I listed that Dragon Magazine rakasta above from issue #172.
For the variable ability score adjustments for the Alley Cat in the original article, it talks about whether the adjustments are a total of +1 or higher, -1 or less, or an adjustment of 0. It's not clear in the article whether those total adjustments are supposed to include the -1 that was already listed for the alley cat, or not. And, it's not clear whether the random variable roll is supposed to ALSO include the -1 Wisdom penalty, or not.

For purists, there was also, once upon a time, a rakasta class listed on a paper that was included with the 'Heroes of Dungeons & Dragons boxed set' (see here). It did not have any ability score adjustments. But, for me (a purist), it's something I look at to consider if I want to adopt anything from it, when converting to 5E, and see if it might be a special breed (or anything from it used for that breed) that would have be in some unique place in Mystara somewhere.