Welcome to the second Random Monster Monday where I crack open my copy of the 4e Monster Manual and see if I can come up with a scenario or use for whichever beastie lays before me.
This time around, the pages turn and land on: Rakshasa Dread Knight!
I like Rakshasas. These feline shape-changers might be said to have been spawned by demons (not to their face though), but they’re entirely a breed apart with a style all of their own. They originate from Hindu and Buddhist mythology rather than our “Western” mythoi, and that opens up a whole load of opportunities for the GM. I say jump right in when using Rakshasas and describe the fine silks, ornate architecture, clothes, music, sights and smells of the surroundings. They’re not just another monster, but a gateway to a whole new culture, so use it! Plus they have freaky hands which earns them the distinction of being the only race in D&D unable to operate a digital watch.
The Dread Knight is the epitome of their kind. He is suave, sophisticated, charming and debonair – not to mention cunning, powerful, sinister and downright evil. Ok, that’s my time with the thesaurus used for today.
What I’m saying is that amid all the other high-level foes in the book who exist primarily to rend you limb from limb, the Rakshasa Dread Knight stands out. He’s not an engine of destruction, but a classic Bond Villain complete with ornate and lavish lair, Dire Shark infested swimming pool and a bowler hat wearing mini Tarrasque as a bodyguard.
Oh, and add in a white cat which also has claws on the wrong way round, because that’s even freakier than it is on the Rakshasa, and that’s all the reason you need.
That’s exactly how I’d use the Dread Knight – as a Machiavellian villain who has been pulling the threads behind the scenes for several levels before the PCs finally confront him in his palatial lair. There will be death traps and the PCs will be captured only to escape (Skill Challenge!) or die trying. Give him a harem of Catfolk Ninjas and loyal Rakshasa entourage to keep the PCs busy before the final, fateful (and doubtless explosive) encounter, and your work is done.
The temptation (as with many high-level monsters in 4e) is to turn the Dread Knight a Solo creature – he’s not just a Dread Knight, but the Dread Knight. That’s ignoring the nature of Bond Villains though; there’s always another one waiting in the wings. The particular Rakshasa Dread Knight might be the top of the silk pile right now, but he’s only a sword-swing away from being replaced by one of his “loyal” lieutenants. That’s where the PCs come in – as patsies for the ambitious subordinate who has left just enough clues for them to follow and open up the career opportunity he desires. The poor dears probably won’t even know they’re being set up. Bless.
That’s the nature of international espionage, I guess.
“The name is Elrond. James Elrond.”
Till next time!