Psychopomp, Yamaraj

Habitat: Underlands, Prime

Alignment: Neutral

Challenge Rating: 20 [PF1e, PF2e]; 22 [5e]

In the centre of the Underlands, there reign a handful of figures of awe-inspiring majesty and dread—the yamaraj. They’re immense, dragon-like beings, their bodies not covered in scales but in black feathers as dark as the void itself. With a stature that commands both fear and reverence, the yamaraj presides over the realms of death as a judge, a dispenser of ultimate justice.

These grave magistrates, cloaked in the guise of gargantuan crows, glide with an authority that is equal parts regal and terrifying. They are known by many names among the living —final judges, grave magistrates, dragons who eat men’s souls—but each title speaks to their profound role in the cosmic order. They command flocks of lesser psychopomps, tolerate the squabbles of devils and angels over noteworthy souls, and order the endless procession of petitioners.

Yamaraji serve not only as judges but also as diplomats and military commanders, always with the primary goal of maintaining the flow of souls and the balance of the multiverse. Each yamaraj operates with autonomy within its own courtroom, answering in theory to the gods of death but in practice reigning supreme in their judicial domain. They oversee the pre-sorting of souls and direct the activities within Purgatory, ensuring efficiency and safety in the realm of the dead.

These beings are ancient, often originating from lesser psychopomps or the souls of legendary mortals. Despite their massive size and sedentary duties, they move with a grace that belies their form. Yamaraji indulge in lavish banquets in their rare moments of leisure, where beings as varied as solars and pit fiends vie for their favour.

However, yamarajes are not mere automata of the afterlife; they possess individual personalities and interests. Each yamaraj develops affinities for certain types of mortals based on their worldly interests, which can influence how they shepherd and judge the souls under their care. Some may favour certain souls, guiding them gently through Purgatory, while others may despise particular types of mortals, subjecting them to torment and advocating for harsher judgments.

Yamaraji typically become experts on specific worlds, gathering insights from the souls that pass through their courts. This knowledge makes them valuable sources of information, and they may leverage this in negotiations with mortals, seeking assistance for the psychopomps’ cause in exchange for their wisdom.

When roused to action, yamaraji unleash decay in the form of swarms of carrion-eating insects, and their venom saps the very youth and vitality from living creatures.

The yamaraj stands as a symbol of the ultimate authority over death and the afterlife. Their idiosyncratic nature and vast knowledge make them unpredictable yet vital players in the cosmic game, ensuring that the cycle of life and death continues unimpeded and in accordance with the unfathomable complexities of fate.

See Also:

Sources and Stats:

  • Bestiary 4 [PF1e] p222, here
  • Bestiary 2 [PF2e] p211 here
  • D&D conversion by d’Artagnan [5e] here
  • Origin: Based on Yama, the Hindu god of death and justice. More on this here.

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