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Notes on Skotharian Rakastaby Arnden Quartzspar from Threshold Magazine issue 20
A Treatise on Skotharian Rakasta taken from the Field Notes of Arnden Quartzspar
“I have taken it upon myself to document my anthropological study of the Continent of Skothar, specifically with this entry concerning the elusive rakasta. This will be a study of their physical characteristics, as well as their interactions with other races and cultures during a very informative tour of Skothar.” Arnden wrestles with some papers. His riding dog, Roady raises his head for a moment before resettling. Arnden continues with his presentation.
Contrary to what their name seems to imply, cloud pardasta are not greater rakasta. This wild felid type remains one of the best examples of arboreal rakasta, and somewhat of a legend as well. Cloud pardasta live in the forests of Skothar, along the Minaean Coast, Tangor Bay, and the Tangor Peninsula. On Skothar, they call themselves Rimau-Dahan – literally, fork-of-branch tigers.
Cloud pardasta gained their name from the large spots on their backs, which look like cloudy blotches. Their base coats vary from brown to pale or rich yellow, with white or light tawny on the inner limbs, throat, and chest.
The odd name also comes from their unusual ability. When using their energy burst, cloud pardasta can harness natural magical forces pervading the forest and blend away into its mist, fog, or clouds. In effect, cloud pardasta can cast dimension door to a distance of 10’ per experience level, at which point the energy burst ends. Cloud pardasta may invoke this power at any time while the energy burst still lasts. Cloud pardasta must be in contact with forest mist when they perform the dimension door.
Cloud pardasta’ clans are tucked away in small villages built on the branches of very tall trees, virtually invisible from the ground. Cloud pardasta suffer no movement penalty when in a tree. They have been observed by some hunters to sneak or run down tree trunks head first, without any difficulty whatsoever. They can hang from branches using only their legs, or run underneath one with ease. Jumping from one branch to another is a native game, which they do without requiring Dexterity checks or the use of a Jumping general skill, unless the distance exceeds 15 feet (horizontally or downward). Cloud pardasta receive the general Jumping skill for free, as can be expected of arboreal creatures. To accomplish these feats, the cloud pardasta’s long tail must be free to help balance movements. On the other hand, they lose two points of Dexterity when caught on the ground.
Cloud pardasta also have a +15% bonus on Climb Walls checks when climbing on trees.
AL: any (non-evil).
The fast runners dwell on the dry grasslands of the southern Steppes of Jen on Skothar.
The coat of a fast runner is coarse, varying from yellowish-gray to golden or reddish-fawn with small dark spots. These tall, lanky rakasta often stun observers by their running speed and their agility when pursuing a prey. This alone makes them the most successful hunters among rakasta. This notoriety and the ensuing attention has been a curse to them for centuries.
The life of the fast runners remains indeed a difficult one. On Davania, where they call themselves Msongo, they must beware of the Simbasta who view them as annoying pests. Elsewhere, Thothian monarchs and Jennite warlords who wish to bolster the ranks of their armies often seek their services, often with less than amicable terms. The rich and the powerful covet them as household hunters and status symbols. Unfortunately, fast runners are too few truly to challenge these difficult neighbors.
When using its natural energy burst, fast runners can run at a much faster pace than other bipeds: fast runners can run at quadruple speed (instead of triple speedy); they can go five times normal speed when succeeding a normal Strength check; six times normal speed with a –4 penalty on the check. Finally, with a –8 penalty, they can accelerate to seven times its normal movement rate, but for one round only, after which the energy burst ends. Time normally allowed to keep the running speed is counted beginning from the end of the fast runner’s energy burst.
AL: any (non-evil).
These strange rakasta claimed the coldest regions of Mystara. On Davania, these nomads travel as far as the southern tip of the Brasol Range. On Skothar and Brun, they do not venture past the Nentsun Plateau, the Hyborean Reaches, or the Wyrmsteeth Range.
Recognizable by their tail, shortened as a protection against extreme colds, tufted ears, stocky bodies, and big broad paws, lynx-men are notorious for their thick neck ruffle when angered. Their pelage varies from reddish-tawny or cream with faint spots and facial lines in Davania forests, to gray in Skothar and Brun woodlands. In frozen regions, lynx-men turn pure white to blend in with the icy background.
These hardy rakasta travel the dark frozen expanses of the polar rims leading to Mystara’s Hollow World. Their natural instinct guides them through these treacherous lands. lynx-men travel between the two worlds according to the cycles linked to the clans’ own totems, signs in the skies, or divinations from their priests. Davanian clans know the way to Hollow World’s Nithia, while their northern kin travel instead to the land of the Antalians. On this route, the latter compete with Norwold Malamutes (a lupin breed dwelling in northern Norwold). Lynx-men can move across snow at a normal speed.
When using their natural energy burst, lynx-men can shake off the effects of any cold-based attack, or survive a situation where natural cold would be fatal. For example, a lynx-man accidentally falling into the sea in polar conditions might crawl out and still survive with one hit point left instead of freezing to death. It could also shake off all damage from a magical cone of cold. The energy burst ends immediately after any one such situation occurs.
These clever rakasta can be found almost anywhere on Mystara, away from heavily populated centers – that is, regions with few human or demi-human settlements. Small tribes have been discovered fairly close to human settlements, but these rakasta are elusive and sneaky enough that people often fail to notice their presence at all. Their natural habitat includes any sort of woodland, savannas, semi-deserts, and rugged mountains. Pardasta tribes exist especially on Skothar, Bellissaria, Ochalea, Cestia, and Davania, in regions stretching roughly between the 30th parallel.
Their pelage can be fairly short and sleek in warmer climes to deeply furred in the north. Base color varies from pale straw, tan, or gray-buff to bright reddish-yellow, or jet black for natives of heavily forested regions. Small spots cover their head and necks, turning to larger rosettes on their back and flanks. The base color of their throats, inner limbs, and belly remains white.
Pardasta are smart and strong enough to live near other rakasta or human settlements without too much difficulty. They often outwit the powerful simbasta, they know how to avoid angering the mighty sherkasta, and if threatened by humans they always find a way to exact a terrible revenge against their aggressors. Pardasta are supreme stalkers and always seem to find their quarry. They excel as thieves, spies, and rangers. They generally dislike tabaxi, unless they share the same alignment.
When using their energy burst, pardasta are immune to all mind-altering attacks (fear, sleep, hypnotism, charm, etc). This does not affect their natural fear of water or spells that already had been cast upon them before they used their energy burst. They also have a permanent +2 bonus to their initiative rolls.
Pardasta have a +10% bonus on Climb Walls checks when climbing on trees.
AL: any non-lawful.
Mightiest among the greater rakasta, sherkasta prowl the forests and swamps of southern Skothar. Some have also claimed the mountain forests of northern Skothar. The southerners, who call themselves the Harimau-Belang, remain the most common. Their base color runs from reddish-orange to reddish-yellow, with dark stripes and white or cream fur inside their limbs. Their northern cousins, the Tagh, show a thicker, light-gray or white pelage, with brown or black stripes.
The more reclusive sherkasta form small clans and shun contact with other races. Other individuals sometimes mingle with neighboring human or demi-human populations. Sherkasta, because of their size and ferocious appearance are normally considered evil monsters, or at least dangerous predators by other races. However, with time, a few become more accepted by the local population.
The sherkasta loathe the rakshasa evil spirits that resemble them. For centuries, individual rakshasa have subjected clans to a despotic rule or slavery. These spirits resort, to magic, fear, or blackmail to maintain their hold over the clans and influence their minds. Sherkasta can only unmask rakshasas for what they really are when attacking and realizing fangs and claws aren’t hurting them. rakshasas delight in pitting their feline slaves against humankind to further their own schemes. This has done great harm to the sherkasta clans and their relations with human populations. The power of the rakshasas over sherkasta clans can last decades, but usually a sherkasta escapes to return later, when it has reached a sufficient experience level to challenge the spirit and free its clan.
Sherkasta and were-tigers, on the other hand, get along fairly well and sometimes ally against a common foe. Sherkasta can also maintain an empathic link with common tigers.
When using their natural energy burst, sherkasta can virtually shake off the effects of magic previously cast upon them. A successful Wisdom check dispels a first-level spell, provided it originated from a lower-level spell-caster sherkasta cannot alter the effects of area spells or spells that are not cast directly upon them (fireballs, explosive clouds, phantasmal forces, etc). For example, a 10th level sherkasta can dispel a charm cast by a 7-HD rakshasa, but not one cast by a rakshasa maharajah (13th-level spell-casting ability). Furthermore, at every fifth additional level, the sherkasta may increase its spell immunity one level (second-level spells at 6th level, third-level spells at 11th level, etc).
AL: any (non-evil).
Snow pardasta tribes are scattered above forest lines on the northern mountains of Skothar (Nentsun Plateaus).
Their thick, long fur protects them from the intense cold of their natural habitat. Small spots cover their heads and neck, becoming large irregular circles on their back and flanks. Their pale gray fur makes them difficult to detect against the bleak background of high mountain rocks.
Hardly anyone competes with the snow pardasta, considering how remote their homelands are. There, they hunt the ibex, the markhor, and as opportunities present themselves, marmots and other small mammals. Occasionally they wage sporadic wars against encroaching yetis or sasquatches. Their villages, often built around temples, include a few freestanding buildings made of stones and slates, and walls covering the entrance to natural caves.
Snow pardasta can tread ice and snow without movement penalties. Although they cannot boost their Dexterity ratings as mountain rakasta do, snow pardasta benefit from the same leaping abilities. Furthermore, a snow pardasta can blend into a rock big enough to contain the whole creature or into a large chunk of ice for the duration of its energy burst, after which it reappears outside. While doing so, it can see and hear what happens outside, but it cannot communicate or cast spells. The snow pardasta is at a disadvantage outside its natural terrain. When exposed to warm weather or less mountainous terrain, the snow pardasta suffers a –2 penalty on all saving throws, ability checks, and attack rolls.
“I have met representatives of all the differing types of Rakasta in my travels around Skothar, and have a cloud pardasta as a traveling companion. We have helped each other over the last several years, and I have found that they can be great friends or terrible enemies, depending on how they perceive your intentions and actions.” Arnden motioned to the rakasta sitting off to the side with Roady.
CREATING A RAKASTA CHARACTER:
Rakasta can be played using normal human character classes (including druids, paladins, mystics, etc.). Each rakasta starts with 2 HD at first level, using the type of dice corresponding to the chosen character class, and a one-time penalty of –2,200 XP that must be overcome before any of the class abilities can be used. The rakasta suffers a permanent 30% experience penalty (rounded up to the nearest 100) on all experience points gained thereafter during adventures.
For example, a 1st-level magic-using domestic rakasta gains an extra 1d4 hp in addition to his initial 2 HD when reaching 2nd level; he must have first gained 2,200 XP to qualify as a 1st level magic-user, then 3,600 XP (–30% penalty = 2,500 XP) for 2nd level. Rakasta share some ability score adjustments (including maximum and minimum scores) according to their breed and must respect all limitations that are normally part of the chosen class. They have no level limitation; Constitution adjustments apply only once per class level up to 9th level. Rakasta fight and save as their chosen character classes or as 2 HD monsters, whichever offers the best score.
Size and Weight
Size and weight are based largely upon the rakasta’s breed and Strength score. Should you decide to make female characters smaller, a –10% size difference is recommended for rakasta up to 70 inches tall, –20% for taller specimens. Weight is calculated accordingly.
The basic lifespan of a rakasta is 90 years (maximum longevity is 90 + 2d8). Middle age for a rakasta comes at about half its base lifespan (45 years for a generic rakasta). Old age comes at two-thirds its base lifespan (or 60 years, minimum 40 years), and venerable age at its base lifespan (90 years, minimum 60 years). A middle-aged rakasta loses a point of Strength and Constitution, but gains a point of Intelligence and Wisdom. An old rakasta loses two points of Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution, but gains a point of Wisdom. A venerable rakasta loses a point of Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution, but gains a point of Intelligence and Wisdom.
Only domestic rakasta can be clerics or magic-users. Wild, greater, and ancestor species cannot choose any of the spell-casting classes save the druid (it’s suggested you use the rules found in the Players Handbook, or Red Steel Campaign book to have them start as druids since 1st level) and the bard (if you allow this class to cast spells at all in your campaign).
Wild, greater, and ancestor rakasta can nevertheless take the Wokan (or Wicca) and Shaman options described in GAZ10 - The Orcs of Thar by B. Heard (TSR 9241, 1988, “Dungeon Master’s Booklet”, pages 5-10) and later supplements; use the rakasta’s chosen class as its normal progression, then apply the additional XPs to be earned to advance a level in the Wokan or Shaman class.
Most rakasta share the following special abilities. Please read carefully these entries and confront them with Tables 2 and 3 to understand an individual breed’s abilities. Most rakasta breeds also have their own special abilities which are listed in their individual description, later in this paragraph.
Most ancestor and greater rakasta have a roar powerful enough to affect their foes (see Table 2 for individual listing). The roar must be used in the first round of any combat encounter to be effective and counts as an action. Table 3 lists the effects of the roar.
Fear of Water
See Table 2 for each rakasta’s rating. Entering open water requires a successful Wisdom check, else halve the rakasta’s Strength and Dexterity ratings (rounded down) until out of the water. Halve Charisma as well until dry. Rakasta listed with None are immune to this limitation. Moderate fear requires a normal Wisdom check. High fear adds a +4 penalty to the check.
All rakasta can gather their strength and release it in a sudden burst of activity. When doing so, a rakasta may temporarily increase its Strength as follows: subtract half the rakasta’s normal Strength score from 10; add the result rounded up to the rakasta’s Strength. The Strength burst cannot exceed 19.
This burst of energy lasts a number of rounds equal to half the rakasta’s Constitution score (rounded down), or until the rakasta decides to calm down, whichever comes first. Each time this ability is used, the rakasta must rest for as many turns as the number of rounds the burst of energy lasted. rakasta must sleep 12 hours each day in addition to these cat naps, although not necessarily at one time or during night hours. If a rakasta fails to complete either, its Strength, Dexterity, and Intelligence scores are all halved (rounded down) until properly rested. Felines normally rest 16 hours a day, but rakasta can limit their rest to 12 hours when adventuring.
All rakasta are light sleepers. They can wake up at any suspicious sound, provided they make a successful Detect Noise roll. Add a 20% bonus for each subsequent sound. For example, a snoring companion does not affect a sleeping rakasta. A companion waking up and rummaging inside a backpack does. An approaching thief will too, unless the thief makes a successful Move Silently roll. Use common sense in adjudicating these situations.
Wild rakasta can conceal themselves when hiding or moving slowly within their natural environment (see individual descriptions). Greater rakasta have the same ability, but all chances are halved. Table 3 lists the chances of success. Ancestor and domestic breeds don’t have this special ability.
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 as the 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.
Part of all rakastas’ Dexterity comes from their vibrissae, which act as air-current detectors. Should these be damaged or cut off, the rakasta loses 2 points of Dexterity, and both the blind fighting and detect invisible proficiencies. These whiskers regrow in 1d4 weeks.
Weapons and Armour Limitations
Rakastas have no limitations on what weapons they can use, other than class related or campaign setting restrictions. Ancestor and greater rakastas never use missile weapons other than hand thrown weapons (stones, javelins, hand axes, etc). The former weapons are either too complex, out of character, or simply deemed cowardly. Hand-to-hand or unarmed blood lust is more in their natural style. Some rakastas will not use any missile weapons at all due to their Warrior Honor. Paladins and wild rakasta never use firearms. There are no further weapon limitations.
More lightly built rakastas stay away from heavy armor as a matter of racial preference. Rakastas listed with a weight divider of 4.6 or more (see Table 2) avoid armor whose standard encumbrance exceeds 250 cn. Rakastas with a weight divider of 4.1 or more avoid armor whose standard encumbrance exceeds 400 cn. Rakastas with a weight divider of 4 or less have no armor restrictions, other than those usually imposed by the chosen character class or the particular campaign setting.
Increase the weight of armor for larger rakastas, as follows: for rakastas up to 70” tall, use the normal armor encumbrance. For every extra 4” size (or fraction thereof), add another 10% (retain fractions). For example, normal plate mail is listed at 500 cn. For each extra 4” size, add +10% (+50 cn). For an 80” tall rakasta, this armor should weigh 50 + (3 x 50) = 650 cn.
Generally speaking, rakasta favor swiftness, maneuverability, and aggressive tactics over cautious or defensive approaches (such as heavy armor). Ancestors never wear armor other than hides and bones. Greater and wild rakasta do not normally manufacture metal armor of any sort, but they might wear it if made available to them.
From History and Evolution of Rakastas by Simone Neri, http://pandius.com/rakhevol.html and
From the Original article RAKASTAS OF MYSTARA by Bruce Heard
Rakasta of Mystara, in “Dragon Magazine” #247 (vol. XXII, no. 10, May 1998)
The Voyage of the Princess Ark, Part 28: In the Eye of the Cat, in “Dragon Magazine” #181 (vol. XVI, no. 12 , May 1992).
Table 1: Rakasta Species on Mystara
Table 2: Racial Modifiers & Other Statistics
Table 3: Special Abilities & Weaknesses
Clouded leopard face, close up. Date14 July 2007, Source Flickr. Author Frank Wouters.
Acinonyx jubatus (Cheetah) in ZOO Olomouc, Czech Republic
English: Eurasian lynx. Author Bernard Landgraf.
Shot in Guwahati Zoo, Assam, India. Date 28 January 2016, Author R4robin.
Cathay, South China Tigress, in Africa. Date September 2007.
Author Save China's Tiger.
A snow leopard (Uncia uncia). Date 29 January 2005. Author Bernard Landgraf.