Cult of Rakdos

Jace walked into the Rakdos club, pushing into a wall of scents and sounds. The ceilings were surprisingly high inside, draped with banners and spiked chains. An impish creature hooted as it dangled from a high wire while a man in leather chaps swallowed orbs of fire and breathed them back out through his snaggly teeth. Scarred, black-scaled drakes fought viciously in cages that swung from the ceiling, and the stink of sweat and singed flesh wafted from adjoining alcoves. Against the wall stood an enormous sentry, somewhere along the spectrum between rotund man and compact giant, dressed in what looked like the motley of a harlequin jester crossed with barbed wire.

— Doug Beyer, Return to Ravnica: The Secretist

Tomorrow is an illusion; everything is ridiculous. Members of the Cult of Rakdos have witnessed the grandiose speeches and self-important plans of other guilds and concluded that their rivals take themselves far too seriously. Since death comes for everyone, and since order tends inevitably toward chaos, the Rakdos believe that unrestrained, moment-to-moment hedonism is the only sane way to live. Of course, few other Ravnicans would describe the Rakdos as sane.

The Cult of Rakdos bears the name of the demon lord who founded it. As laid out in the Guildpact, the guild was intended to fill roles concerning entertainment, mining, and manual labor. Some argue that any effort to give a demonic cult a respectable role in society was doomed to failure, but the cult remains part of Ravnica’s social fabric nevertheless. The Guildpact prohibits the cult’s extermination, and its entertainments — even as dark and destructive as they are — hold broad appeal. From rowdy mobs who love to see the Rakdos skewer the powerful elites to decadent socialites who come to the Rakdos for illicit amusements, most of Ravnica’s people don’t really want the Rakdos to go away, as much as they might publicly protest otherwise.

Inside the Cult

As one of Ravnica’s original guild founders, the demon Rakdos has been part of Ravnica for millennia. Members of other guilds know Rakdos through his reputation for capricious cruelty and megalomania, but those who join the guild idolize him for his magnetic presence, which inspires art and encourages utter wantonness. Because Rakdos finds destruction entertaining, his cultists incorporate deadly acts into their performances in hopes of catching his eye and earning his favor.

Stages for Rakdos performances appear on streets and plazas throughout Ravnica every night, and they’re gone by morning — carried to and fro on the backs of giants. Permanent establishments that cater to dark desires are tucked away in the seediest neighborhoods of the city, such as the Smelting Quarter in Precinct Six of the Tenth District.

Goals of the Rakdos

The Cult of Rakdos is centered on a demon lord who exemplifies the concepts of chaos and evil. At its worst, the cult is driven by a lust for power, extreme selfishness, and a lack of compassion. Cultists take delight in causing pain to others to make sure they know their place, which is subservient to the powerful adherents of this self-centered philosophy.

The cult’s chaotic nature fuels its passion, impulsiveness, and obsession with freedom. A guild of unbridled hedonism, it does what it wants, driven by base desires and a strong streak of cruelty.

The Cult of Rakdos was originally recognized as a guild as part of an effort to channel the impulses of demons, giants, ogres, and humans into an acceptable direction. That effort has never been completely successful. Now, as tension builds in Ravnica and several guilds attempt to crack down on chaos and criminal activity, the Rakdos cult reacts to this building pressure with increasing violence.

The Cult of Rakdos already serves a megalomaniacal demon of chaos, so its members have no interest in seeing any other ambitious figure achieve supreme rulership over Ravnica. They fear that any other guild might gain enough power to overwhelm all the others and impose its own values on everyone. For this reason, they focus their efforts on subverting other guilds’ schemes, by undermining popular and powerful leaders and interfering — often violently — with any effort to build a centralized concentration of authority.

The Azorius Senate currently stands as the greatest threat to the Rakdos way of life. The cult targets Azorius senators and arresters for ridicule, harassment, and occasionally assassination. The Boros Legion’s zealous pursuit of order and justice poses a similar threat. Although Boros’s attention is focused on the Gruul at the moment, Rakdos cultists are well aware that any sufficiently disruptive performance with a high enough body count could bring the wrath of the legion down on their heads. The overreaching of the Azorius and the self-righteous wrath of the Boros engender true fear in the anarchic Rakdos cultists, and the Rakdos respond to fear with bloodshed.

Rakdos Characters

Alignment: Usually chaotic, often evil

Suggested Races: Human, goblin

Suggested Classes: Barbarian, bard, fighter, warlock

You might enjoy playing a Rakdos character if any of the following sentences describe you:

  • You enjoy mayhem.
  • You like playing showy, dramatic characters who are often the center of attention.
  • You’re drawn to bards or warlocks.
  • The idea of finding a heroic way to participate in a demonic cult sounds like a fun challenge.

Joining the Cult of Rakdos

The Cult of Rakdos attracts misfits and malcontents, who can’t abide the civilized norms of Ravnica, as well as wayward souls eager to idolize an ancient demon lord and partake in riots. However, what Ravnicans like most about the guild is that it has evolved into a roving circus that attracts hedonistic, anything-goes performers who really know how to put on a show.

By the time you start your adventuring career, you no doubt have a great act ready to go, and you’re champing at the spike-studded bit to get out there and show the world what you’ve got. But you must earn a place on the stage or in the ring, and that means first doing your part backstage to keep the show running. “Backstage” can also mean “out in the city,” carrying out a variety of errands for people who have more pull than you. And with the Rakdos, such errands tend to look more like adventures than like shopping trips.

What does your chosen form of performance look like? What skills do you aspire to learn? Spikewheel acrobats, lampooners, fire jugglers, puppeteers, pain artists, noise musicians, and hellbeast riders form the heart of the cult’s bizarre entertainments, putting on shows in guild-owned dark speakeasies and on portable stages in the streets. Performers called uncagers tend — and unleash — the variety of beasts and horrors used in Rakdos shows.

Other Rakdos performers are spellcasters of spectacular sort, using expressive, free-wheeling, and dangerous magic. These mages find inspiration in the responses expressed by witnesses of their magic. They can be equally gratified by howls of laughter or howls of horror — any attention, in their minds, is good attention.

Most Rakdos performers are fighters of the Champion or Eldritch Knight archetype, barbarians of the Path of the Berserker, or rogues of the Thief or Assassin archetype. Spellcasting performers are often bards of the College of Valor or warlocks of the fiend (the demon lord Rakdos).

Background: Rakdos Cultist

You’re an entertainer at heart, a performer with a flair for the dramatic and a love of the spotlight. You’ve spent years honing your craft, mastering a demanding set of skills so you can perform them with panache and make them look easy. The wild applause, the screams of the crowds, the mayhem and terror spreading into the streets — this is what you live for.

You’re also a member of a cult devoted to an ancient demon who delights in violence and chaos. It just so happens that Rakdos loves a good show, and your highest aspiration is to please the Defiler, the Lord of Riots, with your own performance.

Skill Proficiencies: Acrobatics, Performance

Languages: Choose either Abyssal or Giant

Tool Proficiencies: One type of musical instrument

Equipment: A Rakdos insignia, a musical instrument (one of your choice), a costume, a hooded lantern made of wrought iron, a 10-foot length of chain with sharply spiked links, a tinderbox, 10 torches, a set of common clothes, a belt pouch containing 10 gp (a mix of Azorius and Boros 1-zino coins), and a bottle of sweet, red juice

A Flair for the Dramatic

Rakdos performance styles typically fuse standard circus-style acrobatics with fire, wrought-iron spikes and hooks, and monsters. You can roll a d8 or choose from the options in the Performance Options table to determine your preferred style of performance.

Performance Options

d8Type of Performer
1Spikewheel acrobat
2Lampooning satirist
3Fire juggler
4Marionette puppeteer
5Pain artist
6Noise musician
7Nightmare clown
8Master of ceremonies

Feature: Fearsome Reputation

People recognize you as a member of the Cult of Rakdos, and they’re careful not to draw your anger or ridicule. You can get away with minor criminal offenses, such as refusing to pay for food at a restaurant or breaking down a door at a local shop, if no legal authorities witness the crime. Most people are too daunted by you to report your wrongdoing to the Azorius.

Rakdos Guild Spells

Prerequisite: Spellcasting or Pact Magic class feature

For you, the spells on the Rakdos Guild Spells table are added to the spell list of your spellcasting class. (If you are a multiclass character with multiple spell lists, these spells are added to all of them.)

Rakdos Guild Spells

Spell LevelSpells
Cantripfire bolt, vicious mockery
1stburning hands, dissonant whispers, hellish rebuke
2ndcrown of madness, enthrall, flaming sphere
3rdfear, haste
4thconfusion, wall of fire
5thdominate person

Your magic often produces a flashy spectacle, wreathing you or your targets in a mixture of harmless flame and shadowy shapes. When you manipulate an opponent’s mind, a flaming symbol of Rakdos might momentarily appear like a mask over the target’s face.

Suggested Characteristics

Members of demonic cults aren’t generally known as the kindest or most mentally stable individuals, so you’re likely to have something in your nature that distinguishes you from the law-abiding citizens of Ravnica.

Personality Traits

d8Personality Trait
1I revel in mayhem, the more destructive the better.
2When violence breaks out, I lose myself in rage, and it’s sometimes hard to stop.
3Everything is funny to me, and the most hilarious and bloodiest things leave me cackling with sadistic glee.
4I derive genuine pleasure from the pain of others.
5I enjoy testing other people’s patience.
6I can’t stand it when things are predictable, so I like to add a little chaos to every situation.
7I throw my weight around to make sure I get my way.
8I enjoy breaking delicate works of art. And fingers, which are sort of the same.

Ideals

d6Ideal
1Guild. My guild is all that really matters. (Any)
2Hedonism. Death comes for everyone, so take as much pleasure as you can from every moment of life. (Neutral)
3Creativity. I strive to find more ways to express my art through pain — my own as well as others’. (Chaotic)
4Freedom. No one tells me what to do. (Chaotic)
5Equality. I want to see Ravnica remade, with no guilds and no hierarchies. (Chaotic)
6Spectacle. People are inspired by the greatness they see in art. (Any)

Bonds

d6Bond
1I have belonged to the same performance troupe for years, and these people mean everything to me.
2A blood witch told me I have a special destiny to fulfill, and I’m trying to figure out what it is.
3I’m secretly hoping that I can change the cult from the inside, using my influence to help rein in the wanton violence.
4I own something that Rakdos once touched (it’s seared black at the spot), and I cherish it.
5I want to be better at my chosen form of performance than any other member of my troupe.
6I am devoted to Rakdos and live to impress him.

Flaws

d6Flaw
1My family is prominent in another guild. I enjoy my wild life, but I don’t want to embarrass them.
2I couldn’t hide my emotions and opinions even if I wanted to.
3I throw caution to the wind.
4I resent the rich and powerful.
5When I’m angry, I lash out in violence.
6There’s no such thing as too much pleasure.

Contacts

The Cult of Rakdos is anything but organized. Individuals frequently move from one performance troupe to another. Almost all members of the cult know former castmates now in different troupes, which allows for the possibility of a widespread network of contacts.

Roll twice on the Rakdos Contacts table (for an ally and a rival) and once on the Non-Rakdos Contacts table.

Rakdos Contacts

d8Contact
1I was part of a two-person act until my former partner moved to a different troupe.
2My sibling and I ran away from home and joined the Cult of Rakdos together. We’re very close.
3A childhood friend of mine is an attendant in Rix Maadi, the Rakdos guildhall.
4My parents brought me into the guild and taught me my trade.
5There’s a lesser demon in the cult who thinks he owes me a favor, and who am I to argue?
6The master of ceremonies in my troupe is well connected with other troupes.
7I had a romance with a pain artist in another troupe.
8Rakdos himself has witnessed me perform.

Non-Rakdos Contacts

d10Contact
1I know an Azorius elocutor who has a very amusing dark side.
2A Boros captain really wants to “redeem” me.
3I think a member of my troupe is a Dimir agent.
4I once convinced a Golgari medusa to participate in a show. We’ve been on good terms ever since.
5I came from the Gruul and still have relatives there.
6An Izzet technician provides pyrotechnics for my performances.
7An Orzhov oligarch has taken an interest in my career, like a patron of the arts.
8Roll an additional Rakdos contact; you can decide if the contact is an ally or a rival.
9A Selesnya healer attends my performances regularly.
10A Simic biomancer provides mutant monsters to add a taste of the bizarre to our shows.

How Do I Fit In?

The Cult of Rakdos encourages independent action on the part of its members. Its goal is fomenting chaos, and it firmly believes in putting its own house in disorder before carrying that mission into the larger city. So your role is to execute your vision of grand satire and disruptive performance art, as you aspire to outdo your guild mates and attract the attention of Rakdos himself.

You work as part of a troupe, with your artistic talents used in service to a ringmaster’s vision. But your performance is your own, and no one expects you to follow a script. In fact, if you go through a performance without doing something you haven’t done before, you’re clearly not trying hard enough.

A Rakdos Party

A Rakdos adventuring party could operate as a performance troupe, performing a variety of activities under the cover of its nighttime shows. The master of ceremonies (bard) is the public face of the troupe, with a number of performers (fighters, barbarians, rogues, or warlocks) doing their own unique acts. A blood witch (warlock) might take the place of a spellcasting performer or assume the role of the master of ceremonies.

Rank and Renown

The anarchic nature of the Cult of Rakdos — aside from the absolute rulership of Rakdos himself — makes rank a meaningless concept to the members of the guild. Nevertheless, renown matters: performers who are well known within the guild also tend to be well known outside the guild, which means larger audiences. Renown in the Cult of Rakdos is the difference between being a bit player in someone else’s performance and being the ringmaster of your own show.

Extra

Prerequisite: Renown 3 or higher in the Cult of Rakdos

You have proven yourself both useful and talented and have earned a place on stage. It’s a small place, and a dangerous one — bit players like you are as likely to suffer injury or death during a Rakdos performance as audience members are. But that’s the thrill of live theater!

Sideshow Act

Prerequisite: Renown 10 or higher in the Cult of Rakdos

You have gained a reputation both within the Cult of Rakdos and (to some extent) outside it, though you are still a long way from achieving top billing. You might stage performances in back alleys and abandoned warehouses, with a handful of other performers helping to bring your vision to life.

When you go on an adventure, you can call on 1d4 helpers — a mix of cacklers (see chapter 6 for the stat block), stage hands, or extras — to help you complete it. Use the stat blocks of cultists and thugs from the Monster Manual for the stage hands and extras, respectively.

Your status also means that you can venture into the depths of Rix Maadi, the lair of Rakdos, to petition for a Rakdos charm (described in chapter 5). Rakdos can grant a charm with barely a thought, but your station in the guild doesn’t guarantee safe passage to and from the demon’s presence.

Blood Witch (Special Role)

Prerequisite: Renown 10 or higher in the Cult of Rakdos, the Spellcasting or Pact Magic class feature

The aggressive tormentors known as blood witches are the closest thing the Cult of Rakdos has to ranking officials. You can’t personally mobilize large numbers of guild members, but individual performers, ogres, giants, and even demons are quick to obey your commands as long as they don’t contradict the ethos of the guild or the will of Rakdos himself.

When you become a blood witch, you are assigned to torment a particular enemy of the guild. This enemy can be an individual, a family, an organization, or even an abstract concept. Examples of blood witches include the Judge of the Judges, who targets the Azorius guildmaster; the Tormentor of the Wojek, who confounds Boros military intelligence efforts; and the Disintegrator of Law and Order, who undermines all efforts to uphold law.

Star Performer

Prerequisite: Renown 25 or higher in the Cult of Rakdos

At last, you have the opportunity to display your genius to the masses. When you perform, you’re the star of the show, the climax of a night of revelry. The rest of the guild regards you with admiration and more than a little envy, since crowds pack whatever venues you choose for your shows. Rakdos himself might even come to watch. You can count on the support of your ringmaster, and you can call on the aid of other performers in your troupe — just be careful not to turn your back on the ones who would kill in return for a moment in your spotlight.

You can bring 2d4 Rakdos performers and 1d4 Rakdos lampooners (see chapter 6 for these stat blocks) with you when you’re going on stage or heading out to riot on the streets.

Ringmaster

Prerequisite: Renown 50 or higher in the Cult of Rakdos

The show is yours to command. You determine what performers take center stage and when, and you design the exciting and bloody final act of the show — meaning that you decide who lives and who dies. You might adopt an ominous or overwrought title, such as Choreographer of Flame or the Dramaturge. A troupe of 3d10 + 20 Rakdos performers is at your service, and you can call on 2d4 blood witches to aid you with their magic (see chapter 6 for these stat blocks). You’re probably also considered a significant public enemy by the Azorius, but they can’t arrest you if they can’t catch you.

Enemies and Allies

A cult of demon worshipers doesn’t make a lot of friends. Ideologically, the Rakdos have the most in common with the Gruul and the Golgari; all three guilds have a desire to topple the structures of power in Ravnica. Of course, the guilds disagree about what (or who) should replace the existing structures.

Making the powerful look ridiculous lies at the heart of the Rakdos performance philosophy. The bulk of the guild’s aggression is directed toward guilds that have power and abuse it or guilds that make blatant bids for power. That’s particularly true when powerful guilds — especially the Azorius — try to use their power to suppress the Rakdos.

Making the ridiculous powerful is the flip side of the Rakdos philosophy. Usually, this means elevating the status of the Rakdos — and yourself — at the expense of others, but circumstances might lead you to cooperate with members of other guilds in pursuit of a common goal. For example, a power struggle in another guild can be an opportunity for you to install a sympathetic (or ineffectual) leader in that guild. Beyond that, other chaotic guilds have grudges against the law-enforcing guilds and would be happy to join your efforts to strike a blow against them.

THE RAKDOS VIEW ON OTHER GUILDS

The Cult of Rakdos serves a demon lord who is feared, if not respected, by most citizens of Ravnica. Its cultists express their zeal through riotous, bloody, and deadly performances and revels. To other guilds, they are a fearsome threat to the city. To the Rakdos, the other guilds invest too much effort in a vain search for meaning and might.

Azorius. “Insufferable killjoys, and every artist’s eternal enemy. Everyone thinks we are the guild of ultimate evil, but we’re not the ones who want to monitor, legislate, and control your every move.”

Boros. “We love a parade, but their demonstrations always come across as stiff. They’re the deserving straight man for our every punch line.”

Dimir. “They crave secrets, but there’s nothing they can get by eavesdropping that we won’t freely scream at the top of our lungs. They lurk in the shadows trying to look mysterious, practically inviting our mischief.”

Golgari. “We know they’re tired of being the downtrodden, misunderstood misfits. If they’re truly ready to anger the powers that be rather than lick boot soles, we invite them to run away and join our circus.”

Gruul. “Our well-meaning cousins in chaos! We want to take society down a peg, and they want to raze civilization to the dirt. That’s practically common ground!”

Izzet. “Every performance benefits from prop masters and pyrotechnicians. They can be useful backstage, but they lack the charisma for the spotlight.”

Orzhov. “The more the Orzhov try to coerce free people to act against their desires, the easier it is for Rakdos to gain recruits.”

Selesnya. “Such crowds! They would scarcely notice if they were missing a few by night’s end. They’d make the perfect audience, if only they had a better appreciation for bleeding-edge art.”

Simic. “Imaginative creators who nevertheless fail to appreciate the meaning of their living creations—nor do they appreciate the tragic irony of not knowing how funny that is.”