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History and Origins of the Rakastaby Giampaolo Agosta from Threshold Magazine issue 5
History and Origins of the Rakasta
The feline rakasta, originally introduced in the X1 “Isle of Dread” module as tribal, sabretooth tiger-riding hunters, have evolved to become one of the setting-specific player character races for Mystara. They appeared, still as monsters, in X2 “Castle Amber”, as part of André-David Ambreville’s “Wild Hunt” party, along with the first Lupins, and in the “Rage of the Rakasta” Thunder Rift module, but their bid to playable status and setting-wide relevance came with Bruce Heard’s Voyage of the Princess Ark series on Dragon Magazine, where the Empire of Myoshima, entirely populated by this feline near-human race, was introduced, as the series eponymous skyship travelled outside the planetary atmosphere and to the invisible moon of Matera. Along with that off-world Empire, another nation of rakasta, Bellayne, was soon introduced in the series.
The extent of the rakasta diffusion on (and off) the planet of Mystara was finally delineated in the “Rakasta of Mystara” article on Dragon Magazine 247, which introduced several rakasta subraces, and revealed a large rakasta presence on the southern continent of Davania, where the powerful simbasta culture appeared as the strongest rakasta presence outside of Myoshima.
History of the Rakasta
The origins of the rakasta are lost in the prehistory, well before the Great Rain of Fire. In this article, an exposition is presented of two mainstream theories about the origins of the rakasta conceived by Known World scholars. These are not necessarily “true” within the context of the setting, but can be used by the DM as plot devices for adventures pitting academic or explorer PCs against rivals looking for proof of such theories, Indiana Jones style.
The “modern” history, on the other hand, is fairly well established. This article provides a consolidated timeline starting from 3500 BC, five centuries before the Great Rain of Fire.
The origin of rakasta
Excerpt from "An essay on intelligent feline species", by Herr Franz Löwenroth, Baron of Adlerturm, Klarmont 1000, Glantri
"...as we could verify from accurate interviews of natives of the Khurish Massif, the rakasta do not have a clear memory of their history, believing to be autochthonous to the mountains they inhabit today. This is all but accurate, as we have been able to establish through the accurate analysis of the rakastann migratory fluxes that their origins must be located in the southernmost jungles of the continent known as Skothar, which lies in the Far East, beyond the Empire of Alphatia.
We were able to obtain clear evidence of this, thanks to two valiant contributors, who prefer to remain anonymous. They brought from that region the skull of an outstanding specimen of the rakastann kind, a giant among the felines, whose race is clearly extinct from the most ancient times, as no record of a similar being can be found even in the oldest chronicles of Skothar.
From this primordial progenitor, the mighty sherkasta came, who ranged far in the eastern regions, reaching the mountains which form an impassable border to the steppes of Skothar. There they thrived, giving birth to new breeds. As they moved northwards and later westwards, these proud felines adapted to the frigid climate of the arctic lands, and the lynxman was born, a Rakasta able to cross the frozen wastes to the Norwold, were they currently live.
This lynxman must be, we have no doubt about it, the ancestor of the common rakasta found here in our mountains, and adapted to a warmer but somewhat drier climate."
Confidential report by Herr Berndt Von Staufenberg, AC 1016, Vanya's Rest.
"...since the last forays of Heldannic explorers in Norwold, we have proof of the existence of rakastan tribes in Northern Brun. We were already aware of the presence of these felines in Southern Brun and Ochalea, though this information was usually considered useless.
Now, we are able to link all those rakastan tribes to a single root: the simbasta of the Davanian Savannah. The lesser breeds of Brun are, apparently, the regressed descendants of the simbasta. The clue which leads us to this conclusion is a custom deeply rooted in the simbasta traditions, that is the ousting of known cowards.
We believe that groups of outcast simbasta, unable to join other prides, due to the simbasta habit of cutting the cowards' tails, the equivalent of branding among humans, were forced to move outside the borders of the ancestral lands of their kind. There, they had to adapt to different conditions, and some more successful groups were eventually able to survive, acquiring physical forms which resembled their lifestyle and low moral fibre.
Eventually, a growing fear of their former kind pushed these tribes to overcome their innate fear of water, and cross the Sea of Dread to Ochalea and Thanegioth. From there, they moved on to the continent, but were dispersed by the more powerful human tribes."
The two Theories
Both theories are inherently flawed, in that they miss the dual origin of the modern Rakasta from both the descendants of Ba-stet and Kum-rah, the original rakasta couple created by the Immortal Ka.
Löwenroth's theory fails in the end, where it does not explain well the origin of mountain rakasta of Glantri. Moreover, it is unable to explain the origin of western Brun rakasta, who are clearly unknown to the author.1
On the other hand, the second theory describes the Davanian migration, though the Heldannic writer is unaware of the westernmost rakastan population. The major migratory route was through the Arm of the Immortal, while the Sea of Dread migration was slower, and most rakasta remained in Ochalea. Also, it fails in explaining the origin of the lynxmen, who came from northern Skothar.
[Sidebar: Rakasta Immortals]
During the course of history, several rakasta have reached Immortality, but they are all young, as far as the Immortals reckon. The most ancient rakasta Immortal is Bastet herself, the first rakasta. Her companion and former master, Kumrah, is now an Exalted servant of Ka. Bastet is known as Bao Tian-niang, the Heavenly Maiden, in Ochalea, and as Ayatori, the Cat’s Cradle, in Myoshima. She is also recognized by most other rakasta cultures, with the notable exception of Bellayne.
Kata Ng, the White Sherkasta, is the second oldest Immortal. This follower of Ssu-Ma had a huge influence on the rakasta of Selimpore, Rajahstan, and Tangor. He is also worshipped as one of the Six Immortal Heroes, Byakko no Kata2, along with Kitahara Hirameki, Kitahara Jiro, Nekotakai Myojo, Daishou Sennin, and Kyriogami.
Kyriogami is the name given by the Myoshimans to Ninfangle, or Ning Feng-Li, a roguish rakasta Immortal from Mystara, whereas Daishou Sennin is the Myoshiman name of the Eternal General. While this Immortal was originally the human warlord Guthbrand, he was reincarnated as the rakasta Sohei3 Abbot Shingen.
A Gazetteer of Myoshima, Hollow Moon Exploration
A Gazetteer of Myoshima, Hollow Moon Exploration
A Gazetteer of Myoshima, Hollow Moon Exploration
A Gazetteer of Myoshima, Hollow Moon Exploration
Prehistory of the rakasta
The first rakasta appeared in the Isle of Cestia, before the Great Rain of Fire and the Varellyan invasion. The tale of their creation by Ka is exposed in "Rakasta of Mystara".
When the Varellyans arrived, the rakasta breeds had already differentiated enough, with proto-Simbasta (essentially advanced Cave rakasta) leaving for the western continent of Davania, and proto-Sherkasta (an advanced breed of Rakastodons) navigating through the daedalus of islands north-east of Cestia.
The ancestor races still lived on Cestia, but were hunted to extinction by the Varellyan colonists.
This first migration started from the coastal region near Cestia (which before the Great Rain of Fire was connected to the continent), then it moved to the Meghala Kimata plateau, to the northern regions of Davania and to Ochalea. Meanwhile, wild rakasta species started appearing in the northern regions, as the offsprings of outcast simbasta, as explained by Von Staufenberg.
From the Meghala Kimata, the rakasta moved to Izonda and the Arm of the Immortal. As the northermost species reached the sea, they developed into the Domestic and Mountain pardasta breeds, which crossed from Ochalea and Northern Davania to Bellayne and the Known World.
A few Davanian rakasta later crossed the seas to Bellissaria, and then moved to the Steppes of Jen, where they became the local fast runner breeds. The northernmost tribes then mixed with the Skotharian rakasta coming from Nentsun.
This migration started from the south-western Tangor, then moved north and east. As they reached farther, the rakasta were subjugated by the rakshasa – evil, rakasta-like spirits4. By this time, the sherkasta had fully evolved from the original Rakastodon Fatalis breed, and struggled to break free from the fiends' control.
Many weaker sherkasta, unable to fight the rakshasa, were pushed north-west, toward Nentsun, giving origin to Wild rakasta breed. From there, they moved west, mixed with Davanian rakasta coming through Alphatia, and developed into the lynxman and snow pardasta subspecies, who then crossed the frozen seas to Norwold.
Timeline of the rakasta
Beastmen fleeing the Blackmoorian crusades reach the land that will become Ochalea. They find an existing pardasta population, which arrived from Davania centuries before.
The pachydermion Immortal, Ssu-ma, brings knowledge of writing and magic among the sherkasta of Skothar, as well as the means to contact the pachydermions of Kompor-Thap on the invisible moon, Patera.
Skotharian sherkasta and pachydermions from Kompor-Thap build a magical gate, the Svargadvara, that links Mystara to Patera. The Northern sherkasta Tagh culture arises.
The Great Rain of Fire obliterates the Blackmoorian civilisation. In Skothar, the sherkasta sages gather their people and use the Svargadvara to transport them to Patera, where the sherkasta settles in the jungles south of Kompor-Thap.
As a result, Kata Ng, the White Sherkasta, becomes Immortal, but the Svargadvara is destroyed.
The land around modern Ochalea is flooded, separating the island from Brun. Pardasta and beastmen tribes are blocked in Ochalea by the rising waters.
The Great Rain of Fire also affects the border between the material and spirit worlds - spirits find it easier to reach the material world in the forests, lakes and mountain of Ochalea.
On Patera, the wilder sherkasta rebel against the Tagh leaders and the Ssu-ma pacifist teachings. They migrate to nearby islands and found the nations of Surabayang and Malacayog. Many pachydermions retreat to the mountains of Kompor-Thap.
The more peaceful sherkasta remain in the area now occupied by Rajahstan.
Despite the differences, the Beastmen and rakasta cultures in Ochalea have grown closer by this time, thanks to the influence of the nature and animal spirits. They speak variants of the same language, and steady trade exist between ogre magi settlements and rakasta towns.
With the prompting of Ssu-ma, rakasta and pachydermions on the Far Side continent of Patera begin to trade and share ideas with one another. The sherkasta tribes begin adopting many of the ways of their pachydermion neighbours.
By this time, the Plaktur civilization, a rakasta culture centered in the city of Plaktur, dominates the Yazak Steppes.
The ogre magi send slave armies against the coastal rakasta towns of Ochalea. They are slaughtered by the well-ordered tactics of rakasta archers and tiger-riders.
The destruction of Taymor causes a tsunami. Foreseeing the disaster, and hard pressed by a renewed attack of the Ogre Mage kingdom, pardasta sages open gates to other places, including Myoshima and the Savage Coast, saving most of their population. Only a few pardasta clans remain in Ochalea.
The massive invasion of hordes of goblinoids destroys the Plaktur civilisation and forces the rakasta to escape southwards. Powerful sorcerers and nobles instead use a collective spell to escape en masse and are transported to Myoshima, where they lay the basis for the foundation of a rakasta empire.
1500 BC - 1000 BC
Wogar’s goblinoid hordes sweep the Yazak Steppes and the Savage Coast, forcing rakasta tribes, survivors of Plaktur, to migrate closer to the coast.
The rakasta adventurer Ninfangle reaches Immortality. He brings to Myoshima a number of his descendants.
Danel Tigerstripes is given command of the Rakshasa by Atzanteotl. He sends the evil spirits to corrupt Sind. Weakened by the desertification, the rakasta civilization of Sind dies out slowly in the following centuries.
Outcast simbasta mercenaries, formerly in the service of the Milenian Empire, migrate to Patera following a priest of Ninfangle.
In Myoshima, a central government is formed in the city of Mara. The Shujin, or clan masters, define the policies for their own lands, but take nation-wide decision by majority. A Shogun, or military leader, is elected to lead the nation in wartime.
The survivors of the Sindhi rakasta move to Patera in a bid to survive the demographic pressure of the humans and shapeshifters of Sind.
The Milenian Empire becomes corrupted. More simbasta mercenaries leave the Empire, which falls within the next 150 years.
The Kamakura Shogunate imposes central control over the aristocrats in Myoshima, but is overthrown by a rebellion of the Great Houses.
The Yazakan goblinoids settle in the Yazak Steppes, displacing the local tribes. The rakasta settle along the Savage Coast in the land that would later become known as Bellayne. The rakasta tribes come into contact with the elves, and are introduced to the cult of Calitha and Ordana.
120-435 AC The Three Hundred Years War rages among the Great Houses of Myoshima, until daimyo Kitahara Hirameki unifies the land under his imperial banner.
During the early years of the war, the southern Great Houses also repel attacks from Malacayog raiders.
The Lawful Brotherhood, a missionary order originally sponsored by the Way of Law, a major religion in the Kavkaz and Midlands regions, sent numerous missions to convert the tribes of the Savage Coast. They met significant success with the rakasta, converting many of them to the worship of The Judge5.
House Nueteki matriarchs opposed to daimyo Kitahara leave Myoshima by sea, landing in what now is Selimpore.
Minrothad merchants bring lycanthropy to Sind. Taking advantage of the situation, numerous shapeshifters already present in Sindhi society, including rakshasa, begin to subvert control of the land to their own ends.
Hirameki is proclaimed first Emperor of Myoshima.
The Sindhi rise up against their oppressors. Many rakshasa flee to Patera, where they land in the realm now known as Rajahstan. They bring stronger elements of Sindhi culture to Patera. Rise of the “Sindhised” Kingdoms in Rajahstan.
A four-class system is instituted in Myoshima by the newly ascended third Emperor
Myotori. Kakureshi Kuromaru becomes the Shikken (prime minister), and institutes isolation policies, closing the Empire’s frontiers.
The matriarcal nation of Selimpore is established by Domestic rakasta from Rajahstan, Myoshima and Surabayang. Ruled by a dissident branch of House Nueteki, it quickly becomes a trade hub among the Pateran nations.
On the Savage Coast, a plague hits the elves and humans of Bellayne, leaving the kingdom in the hands of the rakasta.
The Shikken is revealed to be the son of evil Rakshasa Dvapinakumara. Clan Kakureshi is disgraced, Kakureshi Kuromaru is neutered and retreats from public life.
Shotohai Uprising. Groups of impoverished ronin rebel against the imperial rule in Myoshima.
The Myoshiman hero, Nekotakai Myojo reaches Immortality in the Sphere of Thought.
Kakureshi Kuromaru, now a lich, sends a massive undead army to conquer Myoshima. He is defeated by loyalist armies led by Abbot Shingen6 and crown prince Myomura at the Battle of Inada.
Kitahara Hirameki attains Immortality in the Sphere of Energy.
On the Savage Coast, the Code of the Honorbound is developed by merging the rakasta, human and elvish traditions.
By this time, the power of the daimyos is firmly entrenched, and the feudal age of Myoshima reaches its climax.
Guthbrand, the Eternal General, reaches Immortality in the Sphere of Matter after being reincarnated as the Myoshiman war priest Shingen.
Myoshiman Prince Kitahara Jiro attains Immortality in the Sphere of Matter.
The noble houses usurp much of the power as a young, weak-willed descendant of Hirameki sits on the Imperial throne of Myoshima.
A renovation movement (Shinsei) begins in Myoshima aiming at the restoration of imperial power and a change in foreign policy.
A stronger Kitahara clan member, Myotomo, takes the throne of Myoshima. He ends the period of isolation and institutes a new campaign of expansionism.
Along the Savage Coast, contact with Thyatian missionaries and merchants colours the Bellaynish language with a number of Thyatian loanwords, as well as leading to the adoption of the worship of Belbion7.
The Myoshimans lay claim to the nation of Selimpore and send an expedition corps there, but is defeated by a coalition of Rajahstani city-states and Selimpore.
First contacts between Myoshima and Bellayne.
The Myoshiman Empire attemps a colonization of Malacayog, but the fierce headhunting Sherkasta that inhabit the land repel them.
Bellaynish rakasta first reach Patera, and open a trading outpost in Selimpore.
Responding to increasing aggression from surrounding nations, the various city-states
of Rajahstan agree to an alliance proposed by the priests of Ganetra8. Together, they form the Spiritual Council.
Emperor Myotomo dies. His grandson, Myotaro ascends to the throne. Daimyo Ashai Kamaggi named Sessho (Regent) for the young Emperor.
Myoshiman forces intercept an unknown flying vessel, a Neh-Thalggu skyship, and assault it. The brain collector vessel, heavily damaged in the attack, crashland on Mystara. In light of a possible alien invasion, Ashai Kamaggi assumes the role ofShogun right before the Emperor comes into age.
Heldannic Knights, exploring beyond the Mystaran Skyshield, discover the invisible moon of Patera. Landing on Near Side, they encounter the Myoshimans.
War is declared between the the Heldannic Knights and the Myoshiman Empire.
Shogun Kamaggi is confirmed in his position to lead the war against the Heldannic Knights, who are soon expelled from Patera.
Prince Haldemar of Haaken arrives in Myoshima, and establishes the first formal contact between the empires of Myoshima and Alphatia.
Ashai rebellion in Myoshima. The ultra-conservative Ashai clan tries to force the emperor to reinstate the isolationist policies, but is defeated by the combined forces of the Katayama, Kojima and Do families. Shogun Ashai Kamaggi, the head of the main branch of the family, flees his province with a large number of followers9.
Settlers from the Heldannic Territories establish themselves in the vicinity of Vanya’s Rest, the tomb of that Immortal’s mortal form. They soon meet the simbasta.
The Heldannic Order wars with the simbasta, who capture the Star of Vanya. The Heldannic warbird fleet is destroyed by the simbasta Great Shaman. As the outcome of the war, the Heldannic Order in Davania becomes a vassal of the simbasta Chief Ikwanza.
The Myoshiman Empire stages an invasion of the Heldannic Territories. They are defeated at Freiburg by a combined army of Heldannic knights, simbasta and Wyrmsteeth dragons.
Bruce Heard, "Rakasta of Mystara, "Dragon Magazine #247, May 1998
David Cook and Tom Moldvay, X1 "Isle of Dread," 1981
Tom Moldvay, X2 "Castle Amber," 1981
Tim Beach and Bruce Heard, "Savage Coast Campaign Book," 1996
Bruce Heard, Heldannic Knights - Historical Timeline, Part I http://www.pandius.com/hk1000.html
Bruce Heard, Heldannic Knights - Historical Timeline, Part II http://www.pandius.com/hk2000.html
Andrew Theisen, Patera Timeline, http://www.pandius.com/pat_time.html,
Giampaolo Agosta, Origin of the rakasta, http://www.pandius.com/rak_orig.html, 2000
Giulio Caroletti, Rakasta, Ochalea & Myoshima (...and Makai!), http://www.pandius.com/romm_eth.html, 2004
Giampaolo Agosta, Gazetteer of Myoshima, http://www.pandius.com/Myoshima.pdf, 2007
Giampaolo Agosta, Gazetteer of Ochalea, http://www.pandius.com/Ochalea-rev.pdf, 2007
Simone Neri, History and Evolution of the Rakasta, http://www.pandius.com/rakhevol.html, 2008
1 For a “Skotharian origin” option that takes into account Davanian rakasta, see “History and Evolution of the Rakasta”, by Simone Neri.
2 Kata of the White Tiger.
3 War Priest.
4 Rakshasa are not available in the BECMI/RC iteration of D&D. They can be converted from other versions of the rules with little difficulty, or they can be modeled on the Evil Spirit from GAZ12 The Golden Khan of Ethengar. It is worth noting that the original Rakshasa of Hindu mythology are more similar to Ogre Magi than to the D&D monster. In this article, Rakshasa are assumed to conform to the D&D description, i.e. tiger-like humanoids (similar to Sherkasta), with inverted hands (palms outside).
5 The non-culture-specific name given by the Lawful Brotherhood to the Immortal Tarastia.
6 Actually the fourth and final reincarnation of the Polymath Guthbrand, the Eternal General.
8 By this time, Ssu-ma is known as Ganetra in Rajahstan.
9 Kamaggi and his followers flee to Thunder Rift, where they cause the events described in “Rage of the Rakasta”.