Being a no-nonsense compendium of legitimate folklore & outright fabrication.
- Aghori Mystics
- The Four Arms of Vishnu
- God-Men & Tulpas
- Hungry Ghosts
- Shiva's Dancers
- Tibetan Exorcism
Perhaps no living person understands the rakshasa better than an Aghori mystic. These ascetic monks reject notions of ritual purity, believing instead that all dualities are an illusion. To prove their point, they live in cremation grounds, wear burial shrouds, and hollow out human skulls for use as begging bowls.
All of this association with death often brings Aghori into contact with bhuta, vetala, and ghouls. Though not necessarily enemies, Aghori do possess the spiritual powers necessary to confront such creatures when innocent people are threatened. In fact, some rural communities depend on Aghori for protection.
Shiva's Dancers are spiritual cousins to the Aghori and they often work together, while the Four Arms view them as common fakirs.
See also Siddhi.
This term has many meanings, but the bodhisattvas most active in Occult India are those who've turned back from Nirvana to help others reach enlightenment. They're good guys with a capital GOOD.
Following the Eightfold Path is no easy task, especially for your typical roleplayer. It means no...
Vowing to help all humanity reach Nirvana doesn't exclude monsters, criminals, or anyone who gets in your way. A bodhisattva always tries to resolve situations by helping everyone understand each other and become better people. Sometimes, that can mean dislocating a few joints, but you can't end suffering by causing it.
Naturally, bodhisattvas have access to the Greater Siddhi. Most prefer not to use them, but they've definitely peaked behind reality's curtain and learned a few tricks.
Their most significant power, however, is their extreme mindfulness. No cannibal-sorcerer can cloud the mind of a bodhisattva, period. They are immune to rakshasa illusions and vetala cannot invade their minds, but this goes beyond spiritual armor. A still mind can see the safe path through a hail of gunfire.
The Eightfold Path does not forbid wealth or property, but few bodhisattvas have any use for material things. They live as mendicants, rub elbows with untouchables, and tangle with monsters from time to time.
The most degenerate path to spiritual power involves the eating of human flesh. It prolongs life, but corrodes the soul and makes savage the body. Bad karma is both the wind in a cannibal-sorcerer's sails and an anchor holding them down.
They can conceal their appearance by clouding the minds of others, but it's an imperfect art. If their attention is not focused, their true faces may appear in reflections or on film. The same power can render them invisible or allow them to impersonate specific people. Calling out in the voice of a loved one is a time-honored hunting tactic.
In the past, rakshasa have used their powers of illusion to mimic more substantial abilities, like telekinesis or many of the Greater Siddhi.
Spiritual training can provide significant protection from these mind powers. Shiva's Dancers and Bodhisattvas are particularly well-known for this. It makes them even better monster hunters than the Four Arms of Vishnu.
Cannibal-Sorcery is used by rakshasa, ghouls, and vetala.
A major organized crime syndicate in India since the 1980s, D-Company is a multi-billion dollar enterprise spanning Southeast Asia and the Middle East. It's connected to terrorist groups such as al Qaeda and LeT, but also includes several legitimate banking and real estate businesses. D-Company wiseguys produce Bollywood films, sell designer drugs, kidnap for ransom, run protection rackets, and do pretty much anything else that makes a quick buck.
There are countless other organized crime groups in India's cities, to be sure, but D-Company is the godfather of them all.
Originally a group of muslim sufi ascetics, "fakir" has become a general term of any street beggar who claims to possess spiritual powers. The fact that many of them are, in fact, holy men does not preclude them from being liars and charlatans as well. Though many do have access to the lesser siddhi, at least, most claim far more power than they really have.
The visibility of fakirs on India's city streets is a constant irritant to The Four Arms of Vishnu, who have resigned themselves to pretending that it's all just a con. The Lotus would love nothing more than to hose them off the curb, but political realities make that impossible... for now.
Their position in the urban landscape puts fakirs in contact with vanara, ghouls, and criminals of every stripe. They are known to participate in cons, organ smuggling, and drug trafficking. Though capable of fighting ghosts and monsters, your average fakir is willing to live and let live.
The Four Arms of Vishnu
When monsters hear things go bump in the night, the Four Arms are the bogeymen they fear. Backed by a cabal of anonymous billionaires, their conspiracy spans all branches of government. Police are particularly well represented, but their ranks also include mystics, techs, and even lobbyists.
Their mission is to "contain" the supernatural, lest it scare away foreign investments. When spooks are spotted near the rich and powerful, the Four Arms sweeps them under the rug. When flesh-eaters prey upon the wrong co-ed, the Four Arms hunts them down like a rabid dogs.
When Dancers and Bodhisattvas and monkey-men make too much noise fighting the good fight, the Four Arms puts them in their place. They are equal parts hero and villain, depending on your point of view.
The Chakrais the covert intelligence branch. Its agents are high-tech spies and surveillance experts. When they identify an occult threat, they assemble a cross-functional team to track, capture, or usually execute the target.
The Conchis a loose affiliation of hindu mystics who act as the conspiracy's occult consultants. Their spiritual powers also make them useful on strike teams, since they can see through illusions and resist possession.
The Lotuspulls strings in the halls of power, but they also take point on operations that involve a confidence game. They are masters of the cover-up, handling police and the press with equal ease.
The Macetakes most of its "encounter specialists" from civilian law enforcement. These are dangerous, violent men and women, heros only in comparison to the monsters they put down.
Not all cannibal-sorcerers are evil, if you can believe it. There are whole communities who eat only the flesh of the dead. They get all of the same powers as a rakshasa, just at a lower amperage.
Ghouls aren't immortal, but they age very slowly. Their bodies grow feral, but they don't become as monstrous as rakshasa. Sharp teeth, canine snouts, and wicked claws are all very common. They collect a lot of bad karma, but they don't befoul their environment and their touch is not poisonous.
Like other cannibal-sorcerers, they can cloud the minds of the unenlightened. This allows them to walk among normal humans, though cameras and reflections give them away if they're not paying attention. They can also create illusions, become invisible, and impersonate specific individuals. Anyone with access to the lesser siddhi is immune to ghoulish illusions.
The Four Arms allows ghouls to live in peace as long as they're registered and monitored. They tend to work as butchers, gravediggers, and fakirs. Many are involved in organized crime, a natural outgrowth of their illicit trade in cadaverous body parts.
God-Men & Tulpas
Since the 1990s, a syncretic mix of Tibetan mysticism and Jungian psychology has arisen in Occult India. Its yogis promise a quicker path to spiritual power through the personification of a mystic's own weaknesses. The mystic then confronts these thought-forms to overcome them.
However, the unscrupulous have found less savory uses for their "tulpas," creating tailor-made henchmen for every conceivable purpose. They don't even need to be human; anything the mystic can imagine, they can create.
Many of these new God-Men, or "gurus," continue to pursue their spiritual advancement while their tulpas manage criminal networks, wage war on rivals, and generally make a mess of things.
There are two tulpas that every god-man must create, and confront, as part of the Jungian journey...
Animus/Anima- An opposite-sex version of the mystic who provides access to perspectives and personality traits otherwise repressed.
Shadow- An "evil" version of the mystic that embodies everything they fear about themselves. This tulpa has access to all the same siddhi as the mystic, so approach with caution.
Other tulpas are created to serve specific purposes...
Proxies- An exact, physical replica of the mystic is handy when you need to spend 3 weeks in deep meditation and don't want to be disturbed. They're also great decoys when enemies come knocking.
Guardians- Who couldn't use an eight-armed war god as their personal bodyguard? Or how about a rakshasa as a guard dog?
Companions- Yes, you to can create your very own sex slave to love you unconditionally (you sick fuck). Bollywood is full of them. They also make great spies, assassins, and blackmailers.
Any of the above may possess any Greater Siddhi known to their creator.
God-Men can read their tulpas' minds and unmake them with a thought, but it requires concentration. While the mystic is deep in meditation or focused on other tasks, their tulpas are on their own.
Tulpas have free reign to betray their masters, but they only get one chance. Most god-men tell their tulpas that they'll just cease to exist if anything ever happens to them. This may or may not be true.
Unhealthy attachments bind us to the material world, sometimes even after death. When people are not properly buried or cremated, their attachments can linger on in the form of a bhuta, or "Hungry Ghost."
Manifestations vary, but exaggerated features are common: freakishly wide mouths, distended stomachs, narrow throats, backwards-pointing feet, etc.
Watchful observers will note that bhuta never touch the ground, either appearing on upper stories or floating just an inch above the earth. The Four Arms use shotguns packed with fresh soil to temporarily dispel them. Dancers hold stones in their fists for pretty much the same effect.
Such tricks don't solve the problem for long. Bhuta are driven by their psychotic desires for food, sex, revenge, or just to remain in the lives they knew. Of course, these needs can never be met, so the Bhuta grows angry and violent, lashing out at anyone who displeases it.
They can move objects, possess the living, change their appearance, and generally act like psychokinetic serial killers. Tibetan exorcists can bind them, and certain Greater Siddhi can control them, but the surest way to get rid of a Hungry Ghost is to burn or bury its corpse.
These flesh-eating demoniacs are popular villains in hindu folklore and with good reason. They are walking plagues whose spiritual impurity befouls everything they touch. Though immortal, they must live their lives in squalor, for any place they inhabit festers within days.
Rakshasa are humans who have become monsters by practicing cannibal-sorcery. It twists their bodies into atavistic shapes: tails, glowing eyes, leathery skin, etc. No two are exactly the same, but poisonous claws and fangs are extremely common.
By clouding the minds of others, they can conceal their hideous appearance, become invisible, or create elaborate illusions. These are often imperfect, giving those with a keen eye or spiritual training a fighting chance.
Though monstrous, rakshasa are extremely intelligent can have complex motivations beyond the killing and eating of their victims. Many began their lives as mystics or scholars before taking the low road to immortality. It is possible to have a conversation with a Rakshasa, just not over dinner.
Long before the Four Arms appointed themselves India's supernatural police, the holy warriors of Tamil Nadu hunted the things that hunt us.
Their secret martial arts techniques are without peer. Dancers can punch through walls, kick down trees, skip across rooftops, dodge bullets... the whole wuxia schtick.
Consequently, they haven't much updated their weapons since the twelfth century: katar, urumi, bagh nakha, and good old-fashioned swords.
Most are untouchables, either by birth or by trade. They pose as beggars and fakirs, but have been known to make extra cash selling off the mystically potent portions of their kills. Rakshasa teeth have many practical applications.
The Four Arms views them as reckless interlopers, often more disruptive to business interests than the creatures they put down. Their opposition has forced the entire order underground in recent years. They have no homeland, no training grounds, and no one to call for support. Skills are passed down from master to student. Communication is covert and infrequent.
Nowadays, a Dancer is always on their own, which is pretty much how they like it.
Along the path to enlightenment, a mystic realizes just how much of what we call reality is an illusion. These realizations can unlock what the rest of us would call "powers," but the enlightened view them as distractions. Those who seek such power for its own sake are already burdening themselves with bad karma, and it's just going to get worse once they can bend others to their will.
The Still Mind, or "lesser" siddhi, comes from a mystic's realization that pain and desire are all in the mind. They become free from hunger and discomfort, able to meditate for days at a time, sleep on a bed of nails, or walk over hot coals.
It is difficult to cloud the mind of someone with this level of self-mastery. They can see through the illusions of cannibal-sorcerers and resist possession by hungry ghosts or certain Greater Siddhi.
Greater Siddhi are more profound powers that must be unlocked independently. They are commonly wielded by God-Men and Bodhisattvas, through even lowly fakirs have been known to achieve them from time to time.
Illusions of Mass- The mystic can become as light as a feather or as heavy as a mountain. This has more to do with inertia than mass; the question is "how easy is it to move you?" Go one way and skip over rooftops like a wuxia hero. Go the other and both bullets and locomotives will bounce off your skin.
Illusions of Scale- Space is an illusion. The mystic can cause themselves and/or their environment to grow or shrink. This isn't a physical change, more like looking through a peephole. The space expands or collapses, changing the relative sizes of things.
Access to All Places- Similarly, one's location in space is illusory. The mystic can change their position at will, appearing even in places they've never been before. (They do need a specific destination, though. No teleporting to "wherever that Rakshasa is hiding.")
Absolute Lordship- The separation between people is an illusion. The mystic can read and alter the thoughts or memories of others. This is a devastating power and best reserved for villains, but anyone with spiritual training can attempt to resist.
Limitless Wealth- In much the same way that a god-man can create tulpa, this siddhi allows a mystic to create physical objects out of nothing. But what kind of monk is interested in such things?
Turning Back the Wheel- By meditating on the wheel of Dharma, a mystic can gain knowledge of the future. When used by a player, this power allows you to replay events as if the first time around was just a premonition in the mind of the mystic.
Transmutation of Matter- Turning lead into gold is just the beginning. This siddhi can reverse (or cause) disease, regrow limbs, disintegrate steel, or freeze your blood.
Transmigration of the Soul- The mystic can switch bodies with other humans, animals, or even ghosts. Using this power to cheat death is just a hop and skip from becoming a Vetala, so beware!
The Buddhist monks of Tibet have developed excellent tools for dealing with hungry ghosts. They have become quite common in India since the 1950s.
Phurba- A three-sided stake or knife often made of brass or iron. It's used to fix immaterial beings to a specific point in space and time. This alone may be enough to neutralize a harmful spirit, but someone with spiritual powers can also use the phurba to "ground out" the spirit and unite its consciousness with the earth.
Phurbas are also effective against Tulpas, even ones that possess lesser siddhi or have been made invulnerable in other ways. Destroying a tulpa in this way draws the immediate attention of the God-Men who created it.
Spirit Traps- Simple devices made of string and colorful cloth, spirit traps are often built on rooftops or hung in trees to catch ghosts as they approach a haunted place or person. Once ensnared, the spirit can be put to rest by simply burning the trap and scattering the ashes.
Anyone from a Bodhisattva to an Aghori Mystic can use these tools effectively. Lay people can set up spirit traps, but success is far from guaranteed.
The vanara are an unrecognized ethnic and cultural minority who also happen to be monkeys. Marginalized for over a century before the Four Arms came down on them like a hammer, the vanara have learned to pass unnoticed among the untouchable castes. They live the lives of beggars and thieves.
You could walk right past a monkey-man on the street without a second glance. Millions do it every day.
There's the fur, of course, which can be made to look like a shaggy beard or overgrown hair. Their prehensile tails are easily concealed, but more useful when not tucked into pants. Vanara faces won't win any beauty pageants, but they hardly look inhuman.
The stereotype, based on the Ramayana, is one of amiable pranksters with many magic powers. For the most part, it's pretty accurate. Modern vanara survive by their wits, but the line between prankster and con artist is permeable. They've developed a wicked sense of humor after generations of oppression and like few things more than making fools of the foolish.
Varana can attain any level of spiritual power available to humans. There's even been a varana Bodhisattva or two. Monkey-man tulpas are quite common, as such things go. Some are even made to think they're Hanuman.
A hungry ghost who uses cannibal-sorcery to possess a corpse is called a Vetala. They are far more intelligent than bhuta, known for protecting the places they haunt from criminals, bandits, and invading armies. Mostly, though, they drive the living mad.
Vetala are not vampires, though they may drink blood. Few consume flesh the way Rakshasa or Ghouls do, but they can fuel their sorcery with a variety of substances: from spinal fluid to feces. There's no accounting for taste.
Most Vetala haunt a particular place or bloodline, feeding off its members even while protecting them from harm. It's tempting to view this as a shepherd guarding his flock, but the truth is rarely that simple. Vetala are highly intelligent; their motivations are complex and personal.
Whatever the reason, Vetala are infamous for clouding their victims' minds with vivid hallucinations and bizarre compulsions. Spiritual training can impart resistance to these attacks, but no one is immune. In rare cases, victims have claimed the abuse made them better people.
Vetala are difficult to destroy. Tibetan exorcists can bind them, and certain Greater Siddhi can control them, but they'll slip away and crawl into a new corpse at the first hint of real danger. Most of the time, the best you can do is scare it off and leave a warning for future generations.