“Find the Queen, win a prize! Ten dollars to seek the lady in red, twenty and you can guess three instead!” the man I seek states before I can even introduce myself, his grey eyes piercing in their intensity as he gauges my interest and gullibility. A Ravnos through and through, he follows his own path, and from what I can see from his long brown leather coat and weathered jeans, it has been a long path indeed.
“Alright, I’ll play,” I say as I throw down a ten dollar bill, its creases holding it in place upon his pop-up table as I see him nod in agreement before turning the queen of hearts face down.
His hands moving with skill and precision many would call supernatural, but I know to be the product of practice he has honed since he was one of the Romani, he chants in time with the cards moving along the table, “White knight seeks the red queen. Will she be found, or locked in dread?”
My eyes watch his hands, years of being paid to be observant allowing me to follow the card I seek, though admittedly I can do little else as I watch. When the cards settle and his hands raise up as if to draw attention to a recently-created masterpiece of art, I flip the queen over and look the man in the eye like it is a challenge, a challenge he cannot resist, as I have done my homework on this individual.
“Oh, you think you got the visiune? Double or nothing, and I will get you this time,” he says with a smile. I watch as a nearby branch becomes occupied by a hawk, its eyes showing signs of being more than it appears.
Taking out another ten, I nod with a smirk as I am known to be a bit of a street magician myself. As soon as the money hits the table, the cards are flying again. This time he moves faster, his hands more deliberate and less relaxed.
I smile as I listen to his chant, “Gadjo banked the bani gheata. Will he bust or are my skills rust? I think his sight is not the one to trust.” I laugh at the rhyme, but try to follow the card in question. I am certain that it had moved from the first position to the third, then from the second to the fourth, to the first, to the third, to the fifth. I have him, and he knows it when he looks me in the eye.
I make my selection by flipping the card, only to find a queen of spades staring up at me. I look at him, incredulously, as he chuckles to himself. I watch as he takes my money, stating that, “The queen of hearts has tricked many men,” and holds it up, a quick raptorian sound emerging from his throat before the hawk grabs the money and flies up again. While he was doing that, though, I flipped the other cards.
When his vision returns to the table only to see a ten of hearts, king of hearts, ace of hearts, and a jack of hearts joining the black queen before me, he frowns and looks at me again. His illusion disappears, revealing the suit of the queen to be hearts as well. “Gadjo has the visiune indeed. How did you know?”
With a smile I point to the mark on his lapel, the symbol of the Ravnos hidden in plain sight as a Gothic cross, save there is no fluting on the bottom leg of the crucifix. “I just knew. Now deal again. We can play as we talk.” It feels good to get a leg up on one of the kindred for once.
About the Ravnos
Ravnos, what can I say about this rather nomadic vampire clan? Well, first off they are the first of the clans I have talked about that have no affiliation with the vampire sects of the Camarilla or the Sabbat. To put it bluntly, they care not for rigid structure or hedonistic violence, and thus walk a path onto themselves. This independence is part of what makes them who they are, and a large part of how to roleplay them. Beyond this, they are have a very tragic situation in their modern nights. What is this tragedy and road they walk on? Well read on and we shall see.
To start talking of the Ravnos, I should cover how the rest of the society of vampires views them. The Camarilla and the Sabbat alike see them as tricksters, vagabonds and pranksters not worthy of trust. They are at best treated with suspicion, and at worst greeted with violence. The reason for this is partly due to the nomadic independent lifestyle they enjoy. How can you truly trust anyone who does not pick a side in a war? Reminds me of why no one trusted Deadpool in the War of Hulks and Fall of Hulks series of Marvel Comics. When loyalty is absent, you are reluctant to get close to such. Any way, another reason the Ravnos are not trusted is because of leftover animosity toward the people they are made from. Finally, their very power and drawback render them as targets of distrust. I’ll get into those very soon.
Who are the Ravnos? Who are the vampires “affectionately” called the deceivers? Well, they are people who originally came from India, though the clan is far-flung and unorganized. They are more a collection of individuals with their own goals than a cohesive group. Though not all, many still hold the beliefs of rebirth of their mortal years very dear. In fact, it is this link that allows them to follow the Path of Paradox, a mix of Indian and European beliefs that despises stagnation, including in the vampiric unlife. A big part of said belief is to help others on their walk through life. They also believe in accepting what you are, and put down vampires who try to pretend to be mortal. Beyond the path of Paradox, many of the Ravnos vampire clan come from Romani (commonly referred to as Gypsy) stock and carry with them many of those beliefs. In modern days, they will even integrate those beliefs into their path of unlife beliefs.
The Romani are interesting people, and as such I just wanted to point out a few things I found in my research of them. See, I like to research the cultures I seek to roleplay rather than rely on Hollywood stereotypes. In the case of the Romani, a few of the stereotypes are true but they are so much more. For the Ravnos, this is tragic on so many levels. See, the Romani have very strong beliefs when it comes to the supernatural. One of those beliefs is that undead are the greatest of wrongs, that they should be put down if the opportunity arises and shunned if they are not doing any harm. Imagine if you are going about your life and get turned into a vampire only to find your entire family now pretends you don’t exist or acts as if you never did. Tragic indeed, in that the Ravnos are vampires surrounded by mortal ties that know they exist but refuse to acknowledge it. That has to be the loneliest fate of all. No wonder they are driven to wandering and vice. A few other bits of the Romani culture worth noting is that they refuse under any circumstance to lie in their own language, though they see no problem lying in the language of outsiders (Male: Gadjo, female: Gadji), and even use this to their advantage by chalking up dishonesty to being lost in translation. A very big part of the Romani is respect for women in their roles of givers of life, and as such every single path (other than the path of humanity) that is specific to the Ravnos has some caveat of never turning a woman into a vampire. As such, female Ravnos are actually fairly rare, but not for misogynistic reasons at all.
Powers of the Ravnos
All right, now onto their powers. Let’s start with the ones that have been described before. Like the Gangrel, they possess the disciplines of fortitude and animalism. Fortitude, as always, can fill someone with the confidence and swagger of knowing you are unable to be killed by most things. Of course they also use this to get away from those who do not appreciate their demeanor and trickery. The animalism also gives many opportunities for trickery and ways to defend (or attack) in the form of raptorian scouts, great beast warriors, and even rodentian thieves. Think beast master, but with ghoul powers on top of their normal abilities. I want to point out one really fun possibility: You can give the animal access to the unique power of the Ravnos clan and let the havoc begin as your animal can set up the fun alongside you.
Their unique power is the discipline of Chimestry. This power allows the creation of illusions that assail one or more of the senses. Now, this differs from dementation in that you need not say a word to set it up, and it differs from dominance in that you do not need eye contact to do it at all. The only way to resist it is to have strong enough will or do something that renders the illusion impossible, like walking through an illusionary wall or something. In some cases, such as illusions based on a spark of reality, this is very difficult to disbelieve. As you power up this discipline, you can make the illusions mobile, assail all senses at once, and even make them permanent until dispelled. The potent ones can even cause illusionary damage (that can’t kill but will disable — the damage goes away if others manage the difficult process of convincing you the damage is not real). Remember how I mentioned the ghoul animals having access to this? Well, right from the get go they can have access to illusions that are static and effect one sense. Imagine a tiger that you cannot see until it wants you to, or a bear that uses walls to block your escape. Now imagine a pigeon that is watching you at all times, but due to illusion you never catch on because it is always a new bird. Very frightening indeed. Now the weakness in this power is that it uses a lot of willpower until you are an elder. Speaking of which, one of the final abilities of this clan is the ability to imagine things into or out of existence. Unsoakable, aggravated damage as you blink out of existence is a truly frightening way to go. No wonder a large portion of the World of Darkness teamed up to kill the antidiluvian Ravnos. That kind of power is horrifying. Glad he is dead. He is dead, right? RIGHT?!
These combination of powers would lead you to live a life of the rogue quite well. In fact, you could enable yourself to live as you wish at the expense of those you trick.
Ravnos vampire weakness
Now the clan Ravnos has a weakness that is kind of unique. In fact, it varies from member to member in specifics but not function. Each of the deceivers of clan Ravnos are addicted to one vice, be it stealing, gambling, or something else. Each time they are presented with the option, they must endeavor to work hard to resist the urge to indulge. Now this does not have to be something you do all the time, but can be something that adds flavor to your character, like Gambit and his love of card games or Wolverine and his drinking. That which defines you may be good or bad, but they are a part of you.
I am sure you can think of many ways to use all of this to your advantage. I would love to hear of your Ravnos stories. Mind you, there is a caste (or casti if you want a bit of Romani) known as the Brahman that trades their fortitude for the supernatural senses of Auspex. The seers are from India more than anywhere else, but like the main branch have spread out to be fortune tellers and the like the world round. Furthermore, there is a cruel and malicious cousin of the Ravnos that have joined the Sabbat. Sharing powers and most motives with the main branch, these Rogues are actually the closest to politics and organization that the Ravnos get.
Well that is the Ravnos, probably my favorite clan of all, to be honest. Also one of the funnest clans to do the research for. Seriously, this is a fun beautiful culture to learn about. Nonetheless, I hope each and every one of you had a great holiday and New Years. I had a blast with my daughter on New Years, though I may have to clean up streamers now. So in this new year, I intend to try to get more side articles out, and am working on a series of short stories. I hope to see you all for that, and next week for our visit with the vampire clan of mages known as the Tremere. This should be fun, I am sure.
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Nubz hails from the American Pacific Northwest where he has spent the last 24 years living the gamer life and running campaigns of all kinds. Through this he has managed to sate his acting bug and entertain many. Now a father, he wishes to pursue writing to leave a legacy in Nerd culture for his offspring to enjoy.