Rakshasas are one of those foes that work much better outside of a purely combat-focused scenario, I always thought. More than anything, they seem like scheming manipulators, being more inclined to extort, blackmail, and otherwise make others do their bidding without ever having to spill any blood. Despite their monstrous nature, that level of subterfuge can be tempting to a PC who wants to run the same sort of character. With the release of A Necromancer’s Grimoire: Faces of the Rakshasa, that path is now open to PCs everywhere.
Faces of the Rakshasa comes in two PDFs. The first is the full book itself, and the second is its printer-friendly counterpart. While I applaud the Necromancers of the Northwest for including a printer-friendly version at all – something that gets ignored all too often – its implementation here is imperfect. For one thing, the color cover is kept, as are all of the interior illustrations. What’s changed here is that the full version sets the background to a cream-colored parchment look, whereas the printer-friendly version is set on a while background.
Both files include full nested bookmarks, which is handy. However, the Necromancers still don’t seem to have licked that problem with copy-and-paste. The printer-friendly file doesn’t have it at all, whereas the main file does, but the pasted result has weird symbols and characters, resulting in a copy whose usefulness is limited at best.
After an opening piece of fiction that does an adequate job displaying the evil narcissism of a rakshasa, the book can be largely divided into three sections. The first deals with the rakshasa PC class.
A sidebar covers the basics of how this works, but what’s basically here is a 20-level base class designed to emulate the powers of a standard rakshasa from the Bestiary. Note that it achieves this in about fourteen levels; the remaining six levels add new powers to better make your rakshasa a paragon among its kind.
The second portion of the book is devoted to dealing with rakshasas in society, which spends a good deal of time talking about how to play a rakshasa PC. There’s some good advice here, talking about what to do with a PC that has mad powers to read minds, and also how rakshasas are typically evil creatures. However, I wish at least some time had been devoted to talking about how to play a creature that clearly looks inhuman (with their animal head and all). The rakshasa PC does get some disguise-based ability, but not right from the get-go, and it takes several levels before they can permanently disguised. This is something that should have been dealt with more.
The final part of the book is a bestiary of nine new rakshasas. Ranked in ascending CR, each is given an impressive amount of discussion for their tactics and their caste – this latter idea is one that’s explored more heavily in the book’s previous section, discussing how each rakshasa reflects a various form of sin among mortals, whether lust, greed, sadism, etc.
My major complaint with this section wasn’t about anything that was here, but because it makes the rakshasa PC racial class seem somewhat rigid in comparison. That class will let you advance as a standard Bestiary rakshasa, but what if you want to play as a sadistic makari rakshasa instead? There’s no support for that, and it’s disappointing – this would have been a good place for archetypes to come into play. Hopefully a further supplement will expand on this.
Overall, Faces of the Rakshasa does a lot for these classic foes. It gives depth and coverage to how they function in the game world that you won’t find anywhere else. The nine new rakshasa do an excellent job of fleshing out the myriad forms that these creatures can manifest in, and the addition of a rakshasa PC racial class is excellent for those who want to take a walk on the dark side. It’s unfortunate that the lack of expanded materials, and a few technical failings, hold this product back from being a five-star book, because the potential is clearly there. Hopefully we’ll see another face to these rakshasas to round things out.
[4 of 5 Stars!]