When this month ends, we’ll be officially at the half of the year, and I really want to finish the quick overview of the guilds of Ravnica before that happens. Today, let me talk about the Cult of Rakdos.
Founded by the namesake ancient demon, the Cult of Rakdos attend to menial labor and the services industry, which includes some very immoral offerings (such as assassination) as well as more civic ones (such as the catering and entertainment). Members of the demon-worshipping guild are referred to as cultists.
Like extreme utilitarians or hedonists, the Cult of Rakdos are a guild that places a premium on personal pleasure, or «fun», even if it cruelly causes pain and suffering to others and themselves. Some of the crueler, more evil, and more sadistic members of the Cult directly and intentionally inflict pain on others. Other than being a guild of miscreants, the Cult of Rakdos does have a civic function in Ravnican society per the Guildpact; some members work as manual laborers and even slaves, and the guild overall has a niche as Ravnica’s entertainment industry, such as clubs.
Rakdos is the undisputed center of attention of the Cult when he is awake; when the demon is hibernating, however, there is an acting guildmaster. At the time of the Decamillennial, the acting guildmaster was the human sorceress Izolda (or Lyzolda), which was a bloodwitch. The Bloodwitches are a cadre of powerful witches who reside in Rix Maadi and are the closest thing to advisors Rakdos has. Exava currently wields the most power, although she has to work hard to keep it.
Formally, the guild has no structure, and is not organized; however, members used to be affiliated with loose groups referred to as «rings», each of which was led by a ringmaster and with its own sphere of influence, commodities, and cult followers. There were nine major Rings of Rakdos. The Rings had territories based around the physical locations of their clubs, and they enforced their control over these territories with violence when necessary. Each Ringmaster employed spiker gangs to handle any violence — whether it was controlling it or instigating it.
- Five Rings serviced diversion clubs. The clubs sold all manner of food and drink, and provided twisted circus entertainment, bathhouse amenities, and burlesque revues. Roustabouts were the cult members who staffed the diversion clubs and debauchery clubs or assist riot mages during festivals. Madcaps were the entertainers of Rakdos, often smaller humanoids who couldn’t survive in the Rakdos cult on their own.
- Three Rings serviced debauchery clubs or carnariums. These offered a variety of entertainment, tattooing and scarring, pit fighting, and erotic services.
- One Ring was composed of the pain-inflicting Torturers, controlled by bloodwitches and their masochistic minions and toadies. This was the most depraved Ring, with sacrificial murders both voluntary and involuntary.
Riot Mages lead Rakdos festivals. These festivals are dearly loved by Rakdos members and hated by the general public, who are left to clean up the rubble and hold the funerals afterwards. Rakdos festivals are not only a reward to cult members, but also a pretense for Rakdos thieves to steal anything they can get their hands on while the residents are distracted. As the Orzhov have bought up more and more of the city’s profit center, the rings have given way to troupes, informal casts of fanatical stage performers. The Cult’s performances range from satire and mocking the leaders in their shows to having special shows that end with the killing of the individual. Additionally, the Rakdos have a reputation for unleashing monstrous horrors onto the streets of Ravnica, and the uncagers are their wranglers. They sometimes work with the performers to provide animals or monsters to participate in performances, but they also do the bidding of the Bloodwitches of Rakdos himself.
At the time of the Decamillennial Celebration, the acting guildmaster, human bloodwitch Izolda, procured spinal fluid from a dragon, blood from Jarad, and blood from Jarad’s son Myc to rouse Rakdos from his sleep. Rakdos awakened and wreaked havoc in the streets of Ravnica until the demon crossed the path of Project Kraj. After Project Kraj absorbed Rakdos into its body, sustaining injuries, the comatose Rakdos was thrown back into his lava pit, Rix Maadi, by the Boros angel Feather, uncertain of his return. Sensing her weakness after the defeat of their demonic guildmaster, Izolda’s followers summarily devoured her alive.
Rakdos is still alive, though, and the guild transformed from an orgiastic cult into a roving band of hedonistic anything-goes circus entertainers. The Cult has no interest in seeing another megalomaniacal tyrant gain supreme power over Ravnica. Their greatest fear is that some other guild might gain enough power to impose its own set of values on everyone. For this reason they destabilize authority by mocking and undermining the other guilds and their leaders («Ridicule the powerful, empower the ridiculous»).
And about that Guildmaster’s Guide…
We need to start saying that the Cult of Rakdos is an ideal guild for barbarians, bards, fighters and fiend warlocks of neutral and evil alignment. The things we got in the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica are:
- A background: Rakdos Cultist
- A location: a notorious nightclub
- Some monsters: Cacklers, lampooners, a blood witch, a shadow horror and Rakdos himself.
- A magic item: the Rakdos Riteknife, keyrune and signet.
And the things we didn’t get and that we will eventually create here are:
- A subclass: College of Hedonism, for bards.
- A feat or a spell: Hellbent (which can enhance your cantrips as long as you have no more slots), Unleash (which can gives a bonus to attack and a penalty to AC and makes you unable to take the dodge or disengage) and Spectacle (which can improve a spell effect as long as a previous one dealt damage the previous round).
- A location: Rix Maadi, a grotesque palace in a dank par of the Undercity. Very few guild members have sen the indise of the palace. Many who manage to emerge are too incoherent to describe it, though.
- NPCs: Izolda, Rakdos bloodwitch; Iv’g’nork, half-demon slaver; and Judith, the violent diva.
Since these were not included in the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica, we’ll create them here at Codex Anathema. What else would you like to see from the Cult of Rakdos to play in D&D?