Humanoid fiends with the heads of a tiger or other creature
Rakshasas were a dignified race of duplicitous outsiders that mostly dwelt on the Material Plane. They were reviled as devious sorcerers, political puppeteers and thought to be an embodiment of evil.
The true form of a rakshasa was almost never seen due to their ability to assume almost any humanoid figure, but their lavish taste ensured they were almost always wearing the finest garments and most precious jewelry. Their true forms were most commonly humanoids with the heads of tigers and luxurious fur to match their attire, although it was not unusual for them to possess the heads and features of carnivorous apes, crocodiles or mantises, with high ranking rakshasas being rumored to have multiple heads.
The eyes of a rakshasa could range from gold and black slits for felines to protruding, multifaceted spheres for insects but always contained a fiendish glimmer of disturbing, infernal intellect. However, their most unnerving and unique feature was their reversed hands. The palms of a rakshasa faced out from the body when the arms were at rest and the finger joints bent backwards to grasp and manipulate objects.
Rakshasas stood 6‒7 ft (1.8‒2.1 m) tall, with those of lower rank being shorter. Their build was typical for a human of their size and they weighed between 250‒350 lb (110‒160 kg).
Unsettling others with their eerily structured hands demonstrated a mere fraction of a rakshasa's true maliciousness, as their wickedness rivaled that of devils and their avarice surpassed them. Their animalistic appearance disguised a sophisticated personality with an unstoppable lust for influence and material wealth.
They combined the habits of a predatory aristocrat with those of an indolent cat, savoring the finest art, music, literature, clothing, weapons and armor while spending large amounts of time lazily resting in their comforts and prowling unseen. Powerful magic, lost spells, arcane tomes and secret lore, particularly those of the evil variety, were of special interest to the born sorcerers. Slaves were collected the same as any other form of art, and were expected to indulge every whim of their cruel master. This served to bolster the already overinflated ego of the rakshasa, a haughtiness they displayed to all who knew their true identity.
Rakshasas used their transformative abilities to appear as nobles, cardinals, merchant princes, crime lords and other beings rich in power. They used their natural charisma to form vast arrays of minions, lackeys, servitors and henchmen, and despite their pride were masters of deceit. Rakshasas disguised not only their forms, but their very involvement in events, pulling political strings, creating vast intrigues, and instigating government corruption to secure their safety. Their innate cleverness was enhanced by their supernatural abilities, and yet countered by their strange sense of honor, as like devils they would hold to the letter of an agreement while ignoring the spirit to double-cross their supposed allies.
Rather than steal from other powerful beings, rakshasas favored robbing the poor and needy, using their assumed authority to obtain riches and items from those that needed them most. Their ability to gain dominion and rise to power while causing others to fall was a source of pride and joy for them. They would plot the death of a mortal's family, take everything they had, and ruin their reputation through vicious slander, but nothing brought them more pleasure in this activity than turning a model citizen's society against them by exposing hidden truths.
Even when not in one of their myriad of alternate forms, rakshasas were not as they first appeared. Rakshasas were, in truth, immortal, fiendish spirits that bound themselves to the Material Plane within the guise of flesh, so intrinsically deceptive that their very essence could be used in potions of delusion. Despite their immortality, death was excruciatingly painful for a rakshasa as it meant wandering the Lower planes as an incorporeal being, waiting in unending agony for their bodies to reform.
Rakshasas suffered no loss of memory, power or vitality from death but the process landed them in a random spot and could take somewhere between days and years, by which time mortals who had wronged them may have already passed on. When unable to take vengeance upon their killers, rakshasas often avenged themselves upon their kin or allies. Slaying a rakshasa banished to the Lower Planes permanently destroyed them but it was said they could be killed on the Material Plane by driving blessed weapons through their hearts. Every century, a new rakshasa generation would be born to replace their fallen progenitors and the race had been known to spread.