The Ravagers

"Your pleas for mercy only make me more angry"

Fortunately for the more civilized areas of the world, the total number of individual Ravagers, a tight-knit group of deadly marauders, remains relatively small, numbering perhaps one hundred at most. However, these unrepentant slayers make up in sheer ferocity what they lack in numbers. Gathering in warbands from as few as three to as many as two dozen, they strike without warning, descending on unsuspecting towns, villages, and hamlets and sometimes even upon isolated farmsteads or traveling caravans. Their violent depredations are made all the more horrible by the fact that their principle motives seem to be maiming and killing, rather than theft or kidnapping or some other more understandable (if detestable) reason.

The Ravagers visit upon their unfortunate targets a whirlwind of death and destruction that apparently lacks any identifiable rationale. Their merciless attacks are often mistaken at first for the work of common brigands or bandits - that is, until their distinctive facial tattoos are visible. Then their disheartened victims know that they face the Ravagers, but by then, it is already too late. The slaughter has already started, and the defenders must look to their lives as well as their property

Survivors of Ravager attacks are few, but occasionally someone escapes, usually through sheer luck. They invariably report that the slayers attacked with unrepressed enthusiasm that borders on sadistic glee, but without any other sign of what prompts them to undertake such wholesale slaughter. A few survivors claimed that their communities attempted to surrender to the marauders, only to have their overtures completely ignored. The Ravagers are said by survivors to depart from the scene of their crimes as rapidly as they arrived, leaving death, despair, and devastation in their wake. Indeed, some speculate that the spread of terror itself might be the Ravagers' chief objective, for as like as not their warbands leave behind any treasures or valuables that might have been theirs for the taking.

Who are the Ravagers? That question always passes the lips of their surviving victims, and lies upper-most in the minds of many a noble or monarch whose lands have suffered their depredations. If any have the answer to this pressing question, or indeed any detailed knowledge of these killers, they are not talking. (And if they did, the very slayers whose secrets they revealed might well silence them.

The Ravagers make a point of trusting no one outside their own warbands, and it is thought that, given the nature of their deeds, trust between individual Ravagers exists but rarely. What little is known of the Ravagers has yet to save a single community from their murderous intentions. Some good folk and rulers have considered attempting to infiltrate their ranks but they admit that such a plan remains unlikely to succeed until something more is known about the group's motives and whereabouts. Certainly any attempt to spy on the Ravagers from within their number would be hazardous in the extreme to the agents who try it, but some might consider the risk worth the danger if the loss of life this group inflicts could somehow be reduced or eliminated. Certainly the reward for doing so would be nothing less than spectacular.

Some say that the men and women who join the Ravagers do so because they no longer revere life and this speculation is true, as far as it goes. Hatred, malice, and bitterness toward all other folk indeed seem to be the core of the Ravager's beliefs and behaviors, but underlying reasons for this truth are even more dire. The Ravagers are nothing less than an instrument of Erythnul, Deity of Slaughter, sometimes called "The Many". Some of the most thoroughly evil and foul acts the world has ever known can be laid squarely at the feet of the Ravagers, all perpetrated to further Erythnul's despicable ethos. Among their number are found some of the most irredeemable and vile persons ever to walk free under the sun. Soldiers who betrayed their country and oaths for profit, kidnappers who murdered their victims though the ransom was paid in full, mass murderers whose crimes are too heinous to mention; these the Ravagers accept into their warbands eagerly, for they are the ideal candidates to carry Erythnul's message of chaos and destruction into the world. The Ravagers serve their master by fostering panic, malice, and ugliness wherever they go. They attack random targets, killing, maiming, looting, and destroying at random, leaving behind as much chaos and horror as they can. Only the Ravagers know of any purpose behind their terrible acts of malignant aggression.

Since they would be hunted down and attacked at once if they exposed themselves freely, the Ravagers do not maintain a central base of operations. Indeed, most places of worship dedicated to Erythnul are hidden for the same reason. Communities of larger size sometimes have a small cult of his followers hidden somewhere in the rougher parts of town, and occasionally these places function as safe havens for a Ravager warband, but such permanent locales are rare.

The warbands usually lead a semi-nomadic existence, establishing more or less permanent encampments hidden away in the wilderness and other remote areas, from which they plan their savage raids. They occasionally enter towns and cities in which they know a secret temple dedicated to Erythnul can be found, but they do so clandestinely, lest they be recognized and attacked for the murderous rogues that they are. On these occasions, the Ravagers often receive supplies and equipment from the local clergy, and sometimes the clerics give them special assignments that single out persons or places that The Many would grant his very personal attention. Those who are unfortunate enough to come across a Ravager encampment usually meet the same fate as the Ravagers' intended victims: The Deity of Slaughter plays no favorites, and neither do his instruments.

This life of secrecy, skulking in the backcountry and maintaining a low profile, makes locating the Ravagers difficult nor only for their would-be opponents, but also for those who might seek to join them. Finding the Ravagers and living long enough to make ones intention to join them clear are two very different enterprises, and the small total number of the organization serves as testimony to the difficulty of both tasks. Though some folk whisper of Ravager warbands that function as press gangs, kidnapping new recruits from remote villages or stealing young children from their beds to raise as new members, these rumors are unfounded. The Ravagers have no need of resorting to such extreme measures in order to secure new recruits. The sad fact is that the Ravagers know that the infamy of their deeds inevitably attract those like-minded individuals for whom the deeds of the Ravagers seem an appealing way of life.

When a prospective member approaches a warband and makes his intention known, the Ravagers' standard tactic involves attacking him en masse. If the newcomer holds his own for a predetermined period of time (usually between 3 and 10 rounds, depending on the size of the warband and the relative ruthlessness of the leader), he earns a shot at becoming a Ravager; otherwise, he earns only a shallow grave. The warband then chooses one of its own at random to meet the applicant in single combat, no holds barred with the exception of spell casting, for they firmly believe that any Ravager should be able to win a place through force of arms alone. If the newcomer wins - the fight is always to the death - he is accepted as a potential Ravager and subjected to the final segment of his initiation: The Fire Sacrifice.

While the candidate waits on his knees, praying to Erythnul to fill his heart with hate and malice, other members of the warband acquire a suitable sacrificial victim (preferably human, but in a pinch an elf, dwarf, halfling or gnome will do). The would-be Ravager must sacrifice the victim in accordance with the unholy rites of Erythnul, which involve blood- letting followed by burning the sacrifice alive. Following this cruel and horrific act, the warband applies a distinctively repulsive set of tattoos to the applicant's face, which forever marks him as a Ravager. Once the ceremony is complete, the only escape is in death.

Note: To join the Ravagers means leaving behind all that is good and decent. No redeeming features of this organization or its members exist. Those who seek to join their number should be prepared to participate fully in their divine mission of wanton malice, or face destruction at the hands of their fellows. The Ravagers work best in a campaign not adversely affected by an atmosphere that is more grim, perhaps even oppressive, than the norm, as the inclusion and presence of the Ravagers may lead to just such conditions.

DMs should feel free to make the Ravager initiation ceremony as morally and ethically repulsive and physically arduous as her imagination (and her playing group's shared sense of good taste) allows.

Organizations of Faerûn
Lands of Faerûn