Gruul Clans

Jace had never seen, or for that matter smelled, a Gruul war party at all. Their armor was made from animal hides and bones, and their weaponry was heavy pieces of scavenged city rubbish. Their skin was alive with tattoos, etched with a combination of magic, ink, and, Jace supposed, a considerable amount of pain. Each of them was a hulk of muscle, and Ruric Thar was the largest and mightiest of them all.

— Doug Beyer, Return to Ravnica: The Secretist

The Gruul Clans are a wild people in a civilized land, a loose affiliation of bands that squat on the fringes of Ravnican society. They shun the centers of civilization, which they see as a source of oppression and weakness, and instead haunt Ravnica’s alleyways, abandoned zones, and ruins. They want to see the edifice of civilization torn down so the world can revert to the pure wilderness that thrived before the city grew to cover everything. Then the true order of nature can be restored — an unbridled and brutal state in which only the strong survive and the strongest rule.

In a world covered with city streets and towering buildings, the Gruul are the most out of place, the most ill at ease, and the most eager to topple it all and start fresh. Constant ritualistic warfare reverberates among the clans, every skirmish reinforcing their doctrine of the survival of the fittest. They frequently send sorties into civilized areas to secure goods — and to wreak havoc.

The first leader of the Gruul was Cisarzim, a cyclops who was purportedly the ancestor of Borborygmos, the current guildmaster. Cisarzim was called the Lord of Chaos, and his guild’s original function as maintainers of Ravnica’s natural places meant keeping his faction as remote as possible from the civilized parts of the world. The gradual expansion of the city, however, has driven the Gruul into smaller and smaller refuges.

ITCHING FOR A FIGHT

Gruul goblins live in colonies scattered at the edges of Gruul territory and civilized neighborhoods. They fight fiercely when threatened, punctuating their attacks with hisses and growls. When battle fury takes hold of a Gruul raiding group, it typically starts with the goblins, and after the battle, the surviving goblins are still frothing at the mouth and looking for someone to hit.

Inside the Clans

As a collection of disparate clans, the Gruul have no single leader and no headquarters. But the Gruul respect strength and are willing to follow a strong individual who points them in a direction they want to go anyway. For several decades, that position has been held by the mighty cyclops Borborygmos, chief of the Burning Tree clan. His nihilistic anger inspires the rest of the Gruul, so when he calls on the other clans to join a raid, they usually agree. Even the fractious Gruul can see the benefit of banding together. The clans sometimes gather at Skarrg, a ruined palace in the rubblebelt adjoining the Tenth District. Here are descriptions of the clans:

Burning Tree Clan. The Burning Tree clan is the most fearsome of the Gruul Clans, as well as the largest and most diverse, with branches in several districts of Ravnica. The fear and awe inspired by Borborygmos unifies its diverse membership. The Ravnican populace regards the symbol of the Burning Tree clan as the symbol for the entire Gruul guild.

Ghor Clan. The Ghor clan is led by an ettin named Ruric Thar (or, perhaps more properly, Ruric and Thar, since the heads claim separate names). Of all the clans, the Ghor carry out the most frequent and savage assaults on Ravnica’s citizenry. The clan is known for its audacity in forging encampments close to heavily populated districts.

Scab Clan. Members of the Scab clan display scars and body modifications, which they view as expressions of the powerful rage they harbor within themselves. The clan has grown in influence by engulfing or destroying several smaller clans in recent years, but the leader of the Scabs, a corpulent giant known as Narbulg Nine Fingers, has not gone so far as to challenge the Burning Tree clan.

Slizt Clan. The Slizt clan is a clutch of sly, skittish warriors, consisting largely of reptilian humanoids called viashino (use the lizardfolk stat block in the Monster Manual to represent them), along with a few wily humans. This clan survives in the rubblebelts by taking up hiding places in high ground and ambushing its enemies with ranged attacks from above. Other Gruul regard the Slizt as skulkers and cowards, but nonetheless all are cautious when entering areas with elevated ruins. The home ground of the Slizt clan is the Husk, an area at the center of a vast rubblebelt featuring many large, ancient structures that have remained standing for generations.

Gravel Hide Clan. The Gravel Hide clan believes that resilience is the truest measure of strength. Though a relatively new group, its members have already earned a reputation (almost certainly exaggerated) for shrugging off devastating attacks. The clan’s leader, a hot-tempered goblin named Skorik Boulder Tooth, adorns himself with the shattered remnants of weapons that he has rent to bits with his own jaws.

Zhur-Taa Clan. The Zhur-Taa clan advocates an extreme interpretation of the Old Ways. Central to this view is its belief in the imminent awakening of an ancient boar god — Ilharg, the Raze-Boar — who will lay waste to the overcivilized world. Led by a centaur druid called Nikya of the Old Ways, the Zhur-Taa pile up skulls as offerings to this god, and their druids perform guttural chants before and during battle that are said to be in the language of the old gods.
Zhur-Taa druids are adept at summoning and training beasts as war-companions and mounts, and the clan’s warriors wade into battle alongside giant boars, other beasts, and even wurms or hydras.

Bolrac Clan. The most selective of all the Gruul Clans, the Bolrac clan denies membership to the smaller races. Its members are all enormous, lumbering brutes, primarily cyclopes, ogres, and giants. The clan’s leadership changes frequently — sometimes daily, since battles for supremacy are as common as meals. The Bolrac clan specializes in bringing down massive structures using mauls and battering rams. The only thing the Bolrac love more than destroying something smaller than them is toppling, overrunning, and destroying something larger than them.

Trogs. Some wandering hermits, known as trogs, find even the company of a clan to be too suffocating, so they spend their days alone in the wild places of Ravnica. These individuals are fierce, independent warriors who traverse the rubblebelts as apex predators. Trogs are notoriously short-tempered and impatient around others. Occasionally, they heed the call of the guildmaster to join in riots or festivals, but more often they conduct their own ceremonies and celebrations in private.

Goals of the Gruul

So far as any philosophy can be said to underlie the Gruul way of life, it is about living in the now, with little concern for forethought, planning, or speculation. Impulse drives the actions of the Gruul Clans. They want to live their lives unimpeded, and they lash out when something tries to stand in their way. Emotion and impulsiveness drive them as they seek to do what they want, take what they want, and smash what they want.

Gruul Characters

Alignment: Usually chaotic, often neutral

Suggested Races: Human, centaur, goblin, minotaur

Suggested Classes: Barbarian, cleric, druid, fighter, ranger

You might enjoy playing a character who belongs to the Gruul Clans if one or more of the following sentences are true:

  • You enjoy playing rage-mad barbarians and savage druids.
  • You want to throw off the shackles of civilization and indulge your inner beast.
  • You like being a force of chaos who keeps things moving in your adventures.

Joining the Gruul Clans

You might have been born and raised among the Gruul, like many of the guild’s members. Or you could be an outcast, a refugee, or a fugitive from civilized society, shunned for your violent ways or for fleeing the hand of justice. As long as you are strong enough to survive among the Gruul, you are welcome, no matter what secrets haunt your past.

The Gruul “guild” is actually a collection of different, independent clans loosely united under one powerful leader. When you decide to join the Gruul, you join a specific clan, not the guild as a whole. You can roll a d8 or choose from the options in the Gruul Clan Options table to determine your character’s clan allegiance.

Gruul Clan Options

d8Clan
1Burning Tree clan
2Ghor clan
3Scab clan
4Slizt clan
5Gravel Hide clan
6Zhur-Taa clan
7Minor or new clan
8Trog

The rites of becoming Gruul, whether you have come from outside the guild or are marking your entrance into adulthood, center around being buried alive. When you enter the shallow grave, the person you were before is dead. Your past wrongs and errors are forgotten, but so are your past accomplishments. No matter how well you proved yourself in battle before, when you rise from the earth you are untested. The clan leaders recognize you only when you earn glory in battle as a Gruul.

Most of the Gruul find their place among the fierce warriors of their clans. If you are a fighter, ranger, or barbarian, this is your natural role. Gruul fighters tend to adopt the Champion archetype, Gruul rangers usually adopt the Hunter or the Beast Master archetype, and Gruul barbarians follow either the Path of the Totem Warrior or the Path of the Berserker. Whatever your class, as a Gruul warrior you are devoted to tearing down the edifices of civilization, both physical and institutional. You lash out at a system that you believe is the root of corruption and weakness.

If you are spellcaster, such as a druid (usually of the Circle of the Moon) or a cleric of the Tempest Domain, you might adopt a more spiritual role in your clan. You practice what the Gruul call the Old Ways, a discipline that predates the foundation of civilization on Ravnica, to channel the primal energy that still pulses through the wild places of the world.

Background: Gruul Anarch

The entire world of Ravnica is a sprawling metropolis, but you are a native of the wild areas that still exist — the abandoned districts, the rubblebelts, the overgrown parks, and the crumbling ruins. You are part of a savage society that clings desperately to the Old Ways — attuned to nature, full of primal rage, and given short shrift by a world consumed with continuing civilization’s march of progress.

Skill Proficiencies: Animal Handling, Athletics

Tool Proficiencies: Herbalism kit

Languages: Choose one of Draconic, Giant, Goblin, or Sylvan

Equipment: A Gruul insignia, a hunting trap, an herbalism kit, the skull of a boar, a beast-hide cloak, a set of traveler’s clothes, and a belt pouch containing 10 gp (Azorius 1-zino coins)

Feature: Rubblebelt Refuge

You are intimately familiar with areas of the city that most people shun: ruined neighborhoods where wurms rampaged, overgrown parks that no hand has tended in decades, and the vast, sprawling rubblebelts of broken terrain that civilized folk have long abandoned. You can find a suitable place for you and your allies to hide or rest in these areas. In addition, you can find food and fresh water in these areas for yourself and up to five other people each day.

Gruul Guild Spells

Prerequisite: Spellcasting or Pact Magic class feature

For you, the spells on the Gruul 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.)

Gruul Guild Spells

Spell LevelSpells
Cantripfire bolt, produce flame
1stcompelled duel, speak with animals, thunderwave
2ndbeast sense, shatter
3rdconjure animals, conjure barrage
4thdominate beast, stoneskin
5thdestructive wave

Fueled by the fire of rage burning in your heart, your magic is almost always accompanied by fiery effects, such as flames smoldering behind your eyes or dancing over your hands.

Suggested Characteristics

Gruul ways aren’t the ways of civilized folk, and the Gruul have little patience for social niceties. But they do have cherished traditions and values, just as important to them as the different values held by the urban, cosmopolitan culture of Ravnica.

Personality Traits

d8Personality Trait
1Unlike people, the beasts of the wild are friends who won’t stab me in the back.
2Go ahead and insult me — I dare you.
3I scorn those who can’t survive away from the comforts of the city.
4Don’t tell me I’m not allowed to do something.
5Laws are for people who are afraid to face their inner beasts.
6I smear the blood of my enemies over my skin.
7I was, in fact, raised by maaka.
8HarrRRAAGGHH! [I rarely form a coherent sentence and prefer to express myself by breaking things.]

Ideals

d6Ideal
1Clan. My clan is all that really matters. (Any)
2Anarchy. No person or law or custom can tell another what to do. (Chaotic)
3Nature. We weren’t born tame or domesticated, so we shouldn’t have to live that way. (Neutral)
4Might. The strongest are meant to dominate the weak. (Evil)
5Rage. AAAAAARRRRggggh! [To live is to feel and express the rage burning in your belly.] (Chaotic)
6Tradition. The Old Ways must be preserved and upheld. (Any)

Bonds

d6Bond
1I am determined that one day I will lead my clan — or a new one.
2I would give my life for my clan chieftain.
3The chieftain of another clan has a grudge against me.
4I am devoted to a sacred site in the midst of the rubblebelt.
5My weapon is made from the first raktusk I ever hunted.
6GrrrRRAAAAGGHH! [I will do anything to prove myself greater than my siblings or ancestors.]

Flaws

d6Flaw
1If you question my courage, I will never back down.
2HrrrGGGAAAARRuuuh! [My anger in battle led to the death of a loved one.]
3I’m as stubborn as a batterboar.
4I’m so convinced of my superiority over soft, civilized people that I’ll take great risks to prove it.
5I’m easily manipulated by people I find attractive.
6I’m not actually all that angry.

Contacts

The members of the Gruul Clans rely on each other even as they vie for territory and glory. Their encounters with members of other guilds are more often violent than friendly, but occasional bonds do form.

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

Gruul Contacts

d8Contact
1One of my parents is a renowned warrior in my clan.
2My sibling has the ear of the clan chief.
3I have cousins in a different clan.
4When we were younger, I was romantically involved with a prominent warrior in my clan.
5A druid in my clan believes I have a destiny to fulfill.
6The warrior who trained me remembers me for my exceptional potential.
7My clan chief killed one of my parents, who had challenged the chief for leadership of the clan. Some combination of resentment and remorse stirs the clan chief to help me sometimes.
8I made a strong impression on Borborygmos.

Non-Gruul Contacts

d10Contact
1An Azorius arrester thinks I can be reformed.
2A Boros soldier gives me gifts in exchange for information about other clans’ movements.
3I once caught and released a Dimir spy.
4I consult with a Golgari shaman for spiritual guidance at times.
5Roll an additional Gruul contact; you can decide if the contact is an ally or a rival.
6An Izzet scientist blames the Gruul for the destruction of his life’s work in a raid, but seems to think that I’m not like other Gruul.
7I foolishly borrowed money from an Orzhov syndic to indulge a shameful vice.
8A close friend left our clan and joined the Cult of Rakdos.
9A distant relative is trying to recruit me into the Selesnya Conclave.
10I stopped a Simic biomancer from trapping wild beasts to perform vile experiments on them.

How Do I Fit In?

In service of a simple goal, you have a simple part to play: Fight. Unleash your rage. Flatten buildings and defeat those who stand in your way. Be Gruul, in your own way.

You will frequently be summoned to participate in a raid your clan is launching against the city or against a group of its defenders. Your clan leader might also send you on a special mission, though it would almost certainly still qualify as a raid. You might join a small group of Gruul warriors on a dangerous charge deep into the settled streets to plunder a certain location, retrieve an item stolen from your clan, or assault a Boros garrison.

Sometimes your objective might be more esoteric. With prophecies of the return of Ilharg the Raze-Boar spreading like wildfire among the Gruul druids, you might be asked to carry out some task that the druids believe will speed his coming. Such a task might involve collecting a sacred relic held in an Orzhov vault or collecting sacrifices for a grand ceremony in the Raze-Boar’s honor.

A Gruul Party

A group of Gruul adventurers can serve as a raiding party to pursue the goals of one clan or the guild as a whole. The combination of anarchs and berserkers (fighters, rangers, and barbarians) with druids of the Old Ways (druids or clerics) creates a powerful mix of muscle and magic. Such a party lacks the capacity for subtlety or stealth, but Gruul missions rarely require such abilities. (A ranger can provide them, in the rare case where they are necessary.)

Rank and Renown

Renown among the Gruul could also be called glory — when you prove yourself in battle, you earn the respect of your fellows. With glory comes acceptance of your leadership and warriors willing to follow you into battle. The Gruul have no formal holders of titles aside from the chieftains of clans and the guildmaster, but relative status within one’s clan is still important.

Proven

Prerequisite: Renown 3 or higher in your clan

With several battles under your belt, you have demonstrated service to your clan and earned the recognition of your peers. You have the right to tattoo your body to commemorate your triumphs in battle and demonstrate your loyalty to the Gruul. You don’t yet have authority over others, but when you go into battle with your clan, your fellow warriors fight near you, acknowledging your prowess. Your clan chieftain knows your name and might decide to single you out, offering you an opportunity to prove yourself by performing a special task. Depending on the nature of the task, the chieftain might send 1d4 anarchs (see chapter 6 for the stat block) along to help you.

Beast-Friend

Prerequisite: Renown 10 or higher in your clan

When you reach this level of renown, you develop a rapport with the beasts that haunt the rubblebelts. When you are in a rubblebelt area, you can summon one beast to be your mount: a batterboar (a giant boar as described in the Monster Manual), a ceratok (using the stat block of a rhinoceros), or a raktusk (equivalent to a giant elk). It doesn’t fight for you unless you have magic or another ability that can control a beast.

In addition, when you carry out a raid on the guild’s behalf, a druid of your clan gives you a Gruul charm (described in chapter 5) at the start of the raid.

Celebrated

Prerequisite: Renown 25 or higher in your clan

You are a hero in your clan, and your reputation extends to other clans as well. You can count on the aid of your clan in most situations. Your clan’s druids cast spells for you, and you lead a warband that consists of 3d4 anarchs (see chapter 6 for the stat block) plus three berserkers or ogres (see the Monster Manual for their stat blocks).

Your chieftain keeps an eye on you, aware that you’re a potential challenger for leadership of the clan.

Chieftain

Prerequisite: Renown 50 or higher in your clan

You can now rightfully challenge your chieftain in single combat for leadership of the clan or take the warriors loyal to you and form a new clan.

Enemies and Allies

By standing in opposition to the civilized ways of the other guilds, the Gruul Clans have made it practically impossible to establish alliances with those guilds.

Similar to the Golgari, Selesnya, and Simic, the Gruul respect nature and maintain a close relationship with animals — in the Gruul’s case, the monstrous beasts that stalk the rubble and ruins. But the Gruul would just as soon smash the sewers, gardens, and laboratories of those other guilds than cooperate with them in an effort to establish nature as a larger presence within the city.

Because they see all of the remaining guilds as cogs in the vast machine of civilization, the Gruul tailor their tactics toward breaking the machine, rather than directing their attacks at any particular guild. Any guild can be the target of Gruul aggression, as the opportunity arises. The fiercest assaults often come against the guilds that take it upon themselves to combat the Gruul, primarily the Boros and Azorius.

In certain circumstances, such as when some nightmarish horror rears its head in the heart of a rubblebelt, you and your clan could accept the help of members of another guild in putting an end to the danger. Or, when the schemes of other guilds pit one clan against another, there might be some benefit to you and your clan in cooperating with those efforts. But your truest allies are other members of your clan.

THE GRUUL VIEW ON OTHER GUILDS

Since every other guild participates to some extent in the establishment and sustenance of the civilization that the Gruul despise, the Gruul look down on all other guilds as soft, corrupt, or downright abhorrent.

Azorius. “Civilization is a disease, and the Azorius are its plague bearers. Once they are destroyed, Ravnica will reclaim its primal essence.”

Boros. “Puppets who are all too eager to kneel at the feet of their angel handlers.”

Dimir. “Skulkers, whisperers, and back-stabbers! They are an infestation of roaches. If they remain in the shadows, they will be crushed beneath the rubble of a city that we bring down on their heads. If they face us in open battle, well, then we’ll have a good laugh.”

Golgari. “Hermits and under-dwellers. They see that civilization must be brought to its knees, but they just want to replace it with another of their design.”

Izzet. “Like us, they respect the powerful. But they seek it in their gadgets and try to contain it in jars.”

Orzhov. “The schemers of the Orzhov are the festering wound on a limb that must be hacked away. They amass their power by preying on the weak, so how powerful can they be?”

Rakdos. “The guild of fools. They waste their potential on acts of mockery while the real work of razing the city remains undone.”

Selesnya. “The Selesnya would coddle a wolf, teach it to fetch sticks, and call it a dog. We prefer to starve the wolf, let it hunt for its food, and make it a stronger wolf.”

Simic. “The Simic enjoy twisting nature, but they will not enjoy it when nature twists back.”