Even if the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica has been released already and I actually have it with me as I write this article, I think it’s appropriate to finish what I started: «10 Weeks of Ravnica» may last a little longer than initially scheduled, but given that the setting has been unlocked also for the DM’s Guild, it may turn into a regular feature here at Codex Anathema. Today, we’ll talk about the Gruul Clans. Their members live moment by moment and they encourage everyone else to do it that way.
More than a guild, the Gruul are actually a loose affiliation of savage clans who squat in Ravnica’s alleyways, abandoned zones, and overgrown ruins. Warfare among the Gruul warriors and shamans that have come to occupy the Rubblebelt (some war-ruined land and settlements beginning near the outskirts of Ravnica’s Tenth District) is constant and almost ritualistic, as they believe that only the strong should survive and rule. The Gruul are the most anti-civilization and disenfranchised of all of Ravnica’s guilds, and as such are the most ill at ease in a world covered by such an expansive city.
History of the Guild
Before and for a short time after the signing of the Guildpact, the Gruul Clans were a wild and noble guild charged with maintaining the wild places on Ravnica. They were supposed to keep civilization in check. Civilization and the other nine guilds, however, overran every wild place on the plane. This made the Gruul evolve. As the wilds were torn down, so too were the Gruul’s responsibilities taken from them. The Simic claimed jurisdiction over nature’s future. The Selesnya preached about nature in order to bring it into its conclave. With their responsibilities taken over by others, they were seen as outside of the Guildpact and the Azorius began to write them out of the law. Outside the law, the Boros were not required to protect them and the Orzhov were free to enslave them.
The Gruul decentralized, lacking any sort of real leadership. Now the guild is nothing but a loose affiliation of clans. They have been exploited and ignored. They take any reason to cause chaos, any reason to destroy a symbol of civilization. Most Gruul hold contempt for those outside the Clans, referring to them as «cobble roaches». It is common for Gruul clans to raid an area, destroy it, and live there until the resources gleaned from the destructive raid are used up. Once that happens, they move on to a new area, leaving smoldering ruins in their wake. They observe few consistent traditions but love to celebrate Rauck-Chauv, an irregular festival characterized by several days of rioting, feasting, looting, and destruction.
Borborygmos is the largest and angriest of many large and angry clan leaders. He is not the official guildleader of the Gruul as there is little official about the guild, but when he gives orders, the Gruul listen. As his orders are in line with the rage of the abused guild, they are happy to do so. There is also Ulasht, the Hate Seed. Though it isn’t a part of any clan, it is revered by many Gruul as a natural embodiment of pure destruction and mindless rage.
There are six Clans that currently make up the Gruul (an extra one, the Gravel Hide is mentioned in the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica). New clans occasionally form under ambitious Gruul warlords, and meanwhile other clans are occasionally challenged, defeated, and wiped out.
- The Burning Tree Clan is the most influential in the guild, and is also the home of Borborygmos. They make sure that everyone in the Clans remembers who has held them down and destroyed their guild and then lets that rage loose on civilization. They are often tattooed with the crest of the guild.
- The Scab Clan is the most violent of the Gruul Clans. This is because every member of it has been tortured, mutilated, or crippled by the organizations of civilization. The members of this clan make up for physical deficiency by cooperating with each other.
- Of all the clans, the Ghor Clan execute the most frequent and savage assaults on Ravnican citizenry. The clan typically creates encampments close to heavily populated Ravnican districts. Their leader is Ruric Thar.
- The Bolrac Clan (named after an ancient ravnican word for heavy hammers) is mainly composed of Ogres, Cyclopes, Trolls and Giants, who share a love for bringing down massive structures using mauls and battering rams.
- The Slizt Clan, in contrast, are more skulkerous and trust stealth attacks and using high ground to their advantage. The other clans call them cowards, but are cautious to avoid Slizt territory.
- The Zhur-Taa Clan (also called the skull bleachers) is the most religious of the six Clans, claiming to practice pre-guild rites. They worship the Utmungr, «gods of the deep earth,» and await the awakening of Ilharg, an ancient boar god who will mount a fiery rampage and raze the over-civilized world once and for all.
And about that Guildmaster’s Guide…
We need to start saying that the Gruul Clans is an ideal guild for barbarians, druids and rangers of chaotic alignment. A new background (the Gruul Anarch) and a location (an encampment site in the Rubblebelt) have been included in the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica and its Maps & Miscellany accesory. Soon, we’ll create the following ones here in Codex Anathema:
- A subclass: a savage brute barbarian that focuses on a single enemy.
- A feat linked to bloodthirst or bloodrush.
- A location: Skarrg, the Reunion Turf. In the gutted, cratered remains of a massive palace, a great bonfire burns, marking a place of tradition for the Gruul. Skarrg is not exactly neutral ground for the Gruul clans, as no truce is called, and old grudges tend to lead quickly to bloody combat. But Gruul clans periodically converge on Skarrg from every corner of Ravnica. Giant boars are roasted and great battles are fought, and here the Gruul find something akin to camaraderie.
- NPCs: Borborygmos, Alpha of the Clans; and Ruric Thar, the Unbowed.
- A monster: Ulasht, the Hate Seed (a hydra), a scorchwalker (an elemental) and the Skarrgan Firebird (a phoenix).
- An artifact: the War Plow.
What else would you like to see from the Gruul Clans to play in D&D? Let us know in the comments!