Rakshasas are fiendish villains that appear in the 5e Monster Manual on page 257. A less powerful version, the Zakya Rakshasa, appears in Eberron: Rising from the Last War, p. 309. These creatures are named after evil beings from Hindu mythology. Though they share the same name, they have little in common other than their taste for human flesh.
According to the Monster Manual, these beings are fiends that have transferred their essence into mortal bodies to access the material plane. They use magic to disguise themselves and keep their true nature secret. In their true form, they are humanoids with the heads of tigers. Another distinguishing feature is that their hands are swapped right for left. They have a taste for the finer things in life, and prefer ornate clothing.
Rakshasas in Storytelling…
Rakshasas are a great choice for a mastermind villain. They would disguise themselves as a noble or member of the court and use their position to carry out their evil plans and find mortals for dinner. They would be at the heart of turmoil in a kingdom, and the player would need to track the trail of their schemes back to them. The players will need to do so without drawing the fiends attention, or they will use their influence against them.
According to the Monster Manual, when a Rakshasa is killed it returns to the hells while it’s body reforms. The agony of the return to hell, combined with the fiend’s cruel nature makes them likely to seek vengeace when they return. I would use the zakya rakshasa from Eberron as a low level villain, let the players kill it and have it return as the more powerful version, bent on revenge.
…and in Combat
Here’s the part that makes the Rakshasa really interesting:
Limited Magic Immunity. The rakshasa can’t be affected or detected by spells of 6th level or lower unless it wishes to be. It has advantage on saving throws against all other spells and magical effects.Monster Manual 5e, p. 257
This is powerful outside of combat, and will hamstring most methods of revealing this creature’s true nature. In combat this means that a wizard at 11th level will have one spell slot to spend on a spell that will effect the rakshasa. Other spellcasters will be similarly hobbled by this power. One of these fiends should be a hard encounter for a party of 4 level 11 PCs. That said, you can count on it being harder than that with almost all magic unusable against the creature.
The zakya rakshasa has a similar ability. It is much more limited in scope, only affecting spells of level 1 or lower. As I mentioned above, this creature would be a good first form for a rakshasa. This will give it he opportunity to grow into being the campaign’s Big Bad.
That’s all for now about Rakshasas. Check out some of the other monsters on Voivode’s Hotlist.