Monster Monday #24: Makara
Updated: Mar 4
The time has come for another Monster Monday post! I really do love making these so much, and I can't believe how many of them I've managed since I started doing them! This week I am continuing on the zodiac theme for inspiration, this time basing my chosen creature around Capricorn! This is usually represented by the Sea Goat, a half goat, half fish hybrid creature of Babylonian myth! After a little research, I found a fun alternative. The equivalent in Hindu astrology is Makara, the legendary sea creature that serves as a vehicle, or a Vahana, for various Hindu deities - notably Ganga the river goddess, and Varuna the sea god.
Many accounts differ on what exactly this creature resembles, though most heavily agree that a crocodile is involved thanks to the etymology of the word! In fact the Mugger crocodile's English name comes from the Sanskrit word 'magar', meaning crocodile, which originated from the word Makara. It is consider a hybrid creature that consists of many animal parts, all of which change dependant on the region that is depicting the creature. The most commonly referred to are of course the crocodile, or sometimes a water monitor, but others include an elephant, a peacock, a lion, and a swine. The Makara does very little other than ferry around the previously mentioned Hindu deities, but has associations with guarding temples as it often is depicted in the stonework around these places (similar to a Gargoyle).
There are a fair few comparisons to be made between this fascinating hybrid creature and various other mythological beasts around the world! Some attribute depictions of both the Makara and the Chinese Dragon (also known as the Loong) to Kētŏs or Cetus of Greek mythology. This huge hybrid sea creature also has many parts - a boar, a greyhound, a whale, and a fan-like tail. Also, while not a sea creature, I cannot help but draw some comparison to Ammit or Ammut. A bestial Egyptian goddess of the dead, she is also known for her chimeric nature with the head of a crocodile, the forepaws of a lion and the hindquarters of a hippopotamus. The Cipactli of Aztec myth also draws some comparisons - its association with the divine, and the fact that it is made up of many different aquatic creatures being the most notable.
Giant crocodiles are of course found everywhere in modern media and pop culture - Hook shows the corpse of one killed previously by Captain Hook that ultimately becomes his downfall; Monster Hunter has the terrifying Lagiacrus and Royal Ludroth enemies to fight; and Resident Evil 2 sees the player being chased by an enormous mutated crocodile in the sewers. But finding hybrid crocodiles is a little harder, though not impossible. I love the Catgator in the Avatar: The Last Airbender universe! It combines the scale reptile with a catfish, but also resembles some of the artistic depictions of the Makara. The video game series Shin Megami Tensei contains an interesting direct depiction of the Makara - it contains attributes of a crocodile, stag, fish, and bird.
So now for some stat blocks! The usual order applies, so let's start with Wizards Of The Coast for inspiration!
I think that my first choice might be a little obvious, but makes this creature a very accessible but challenging encounter for a lower level party - the Giant Crocodile (Basic Rules, page 132).
I always like to look at the stat blocks for individual beasts when dealing with hybrid creatures because they can provide a lot of inspiration. In the case of the Huge CR 5 Giant Crocodile it stands pretty well on its own without too much influence from other beasts. Its Multiattack means that it can pack a nasty bite and tail attack for those that get in its way. Like a crocodile, once its pray is clamped in those jaws, they'll have a hard time escaping. The look of the creature can really be flavoured in any way you like, and feel free to have a look though Wizard Of The Coasts giant catalogue of Beasts to maybe add some extra abilities beyond Hold Breath.
My next suggestion might actually be my favourite and one that I haven't got to use up until now, but it is so versatile - the Category 3 Krasis (Guildmasters' Guide to Ravnica , pg. 212).
This Huge CR 16 Monstrosity is a massive step up challenge wise from my last choice, and given the Makara's role as a divine guardian and transport, it makes a lot of sense being at this level.The best thing about it though is the stat block is designed to be a customisable hybrid creature of the aquatic variety. You choose the look of the creature for flavouring, and then roll on a table for a major and minor ability that the Category 3 Krasis has. Some great suggestions include Armored Hide, Regeneration, Aquatic, Cryptic Skin, and Heightened Awareness, but you could really choose from most of these. If you wanted to lower the CR, a Category 2 Krasis (Guildmasters' Guide to Ravnica , pg. 211) is CR 6! It is quite a drop but does a good job of rebalancing for a lower level.
One from Kobold Press now - Ammut (Creature Codex, page 15).
The creatures in this particular hybrid are more land-based, and the lore is very obviously routed in the Egyptian deity that it is based upon. That being said, this CR 9 Large Celestial still has a lot going for it that the previous choices don't. Firstly, I DO think that if you are making Makara then it should be a Celestial as it is a creature of the gods. Secondly, there are a LOT of fun abilities and actions to play with! It has Magic Resistance, and also a Prison Belly ability which gives it great potential to allow it serve as a form of transport. I also like that it has the Swallow ability on top of Bite. If I were making a stat block based on this one, I'd probably increase it's size category to Huge so that it could fit more creatures within itself and give it some more aquatic abilities!
So are there any other great stat block ideas fo this creature? Well D&DWiki have a CR 13 Gargantuan stat block for the Whale Pishacha that is a reference to the Makara and has some interesting abilities worth a look. I enjoyed the Undersea Chimera also from Metal Weave Games's Atlas Animalia and accompanying Statbook (page 44 & page 48). They do a great job of taking a creature and coming up with some interesting variants, and its easy to see why an underwater variant could be flavoured! Dragonix's Monster Manual Expanded III also has a great stat block for a Crocosphinx (page 231), a CR 9 Large Monstrosity that works really well! I love the Death Roll, Hiss, and Bellow actions as they really convey 'crocodile' so well! I'd probably remove the Fly speed and turn it into a Huge Celestial instead but I think this one is a strong contender!
So now it is time for some plot hooks!
In a dream, a character that has formed a relationship with the realm's river, sea, or water deity encounter this creature in some form or another. It regards them peacefully and could be incorporated as a mode of transport, or a sign that their unconscious spirit is in the deity's realm.
A local ruler has captured this rather bizarre creature and is keeping it as a pet in they royal abode. When meeting it, the party will clearly see that it is unhappy.
While travelling by boat, the party are approached by a strange sight. A lone figure sitting on the back of a huge crocodilian hybrid. The figure only regards them briefly, smiling before disappearing into the mist.
The party are tasked with travelling to a mysterious island that is said to hold an ancient artefact. The only method of transport is said to be a Makara, that will allow them to travel safely within its belly if they find a way of earning its trust.
A water based temple, half-submerged, is guarded fiercely by a terrifying creature that is said to resemble many different creatures. Each account varies on what it looks like, and all hold an element of the truth.
I hope you enjoyed this post on the Makara! Next week will mark my final zodiac inspired creature AND the twenty fifth Monster Monday post I have ever written! Had you heard of this creature before reading? Let me know!