Known as wandering tricksters, mystics, and vagabonds, the Ravnos are incurable daredevils who gleefully pursue the art of unliving dangerously. Nobody in the west understood the old Ravnos, and now it is far too late to do so, as Zapathasura rose from his slumber in the Week of Nightmares; and in his death throes, wiped out nearly all of his clan. The remaining few were left without any connection to their true heritage and history, and have been forced to rewrite it themselves. But if they did not wander before, they no longer have any choice but to; or else they will meet the same fate as their progenitor.
Noddists say that in Enoch, Irad Embraced a thief named Dracian, to spy on the Third Generation. Dracian immediately betrayed his sire to the other Antediluvians, leading to the end of the Second Generation.
However, the Ravnos claim a richer prehistory, recorded in the Karavalanisha Vrana, "The Wounds of the Night's Sword". This epic poem details how angelic beings (probably Kuei-jin) betrayed their original purpose and became blood-drinking demons; to balance them out, the Gods brought back to life a man who had been wronged by these asuratziyya more than any other. This creature, named Zapathasura, was charged by the Gods to exterminate the asuratziyya and restore balance to the world.
In his quest for vengeance, Zapathasura Embraced five childer: Marizhavashti Kali, a seer; the Rakshasa, a shapeshifter; Chandraputra, a military leader; Ravana, who betrayed Zapathasura and may be the Yama King of the same name; and Ramessu, who served as an internal policeman for Zapathasura's war. These five methuselahs are the ancestors of all other Ravnos. They served Zapathasura for centuries in prehistoric India until they wearied of their sire's endless war and slaughter, abandoning him to his own devices as time passed. Ravnos eventually fell into torpor and the clan restructured.
The majority of the elders left India for the west, while Chandraputra remained in the subcontinent and reordered the clan along a more caste-oriented society. This culture faced two invasions around the time of Alexander the Great – western vampires following the conqueror, and Kuei-Jin on a crusade from China.
At this time, Ravnos society diverged. The Ravnos heading towards the west began to deviate from the philosophy of Zapathasura, eventually creating what would become known as the Path of Paradox. Meanwhile, the Indian Ravnos split into castes in a fashion similar to the Assamites, with multiple Jati fulfilling different roles in the war against the Wan Kuei.
The Path of Paradox is a degenerate form of the Mayaparisatya, the classic path as followed in India. Sybaritic Roman Ravnos changed the path into a license for self interest and wanton diableries without following the original tenets. This form eventually became the standard path of the western clan, while the eastern path remained in India. The path of paradox and the associated culture of the clan led to the low reputation that the Ravnos had throughout Europe.
Meanwhile, unknown to the other clans, Ravnos arrived with the Rroma; these Ravnos were chandalas, almost the Ravnos equivalent of Caitiff, but still felt superior to their mongrel cousins. The cultural interchange (with knives) that followed led to a predominance of eastern Ravnos in the western clan. As time passed, the Rroma Ravnos became the stereotypical Ravnos in the minds of western Kindred, and the Path of Paradox became the standard path for western Ravnos.
By the 15th century, western Ravnos were stereotypically seen as Gypsies, degenerate, and vermin.
This discovery, of course, changed nothing in the way Western Ravnos were treated and seen in Camarilla society. Contributing to this, many Ravnos saw the harsh and strict Victorian taboos and rules as obstacles and constantly attacked and overstepped them in order to further destabilize the establishment. Many also used the blossoming interest in occultism and mysticism in order to trick and fool other Kindred and mortals alike with "long-forgotten secrets" and therelike.
For the Ravnos, the Final Nights were just that. The entire history of the clan pivots around the Week of Nightmares.
In the 1990s, the cold war between the Kuei-Jin of the Infinite Thunders Court and the Ravnos of India heated up. The Ravnos eventually took a page from the Sabbat playbook and began mass-Embracing candidates, sending armies of neonates to be slaughtered by the Wan Kuei. The psychic backlash from these deaths reverberated up the lineages of the Ravnos, eventually waking Methuselahs who joined the fight, only to result in the eventual awakening of Zapathasura himself in 1999.
Zapathasura broke his fast on his own clan, then proceeded to attack everything in sight, including most of Bangladesh. His exact motivations were never clear, because by the time the dust settled, three Bodhisattvas, several packs of Garou, uncounted mortals and an awful lot of Technocracy ammunition had barely been able to stop the Antediluvian. With his dying curse, Zapathasura set off a psychic bomb within his own clan, resulting in the Ravnos devouring each other in a cannibalistic frenzy.
Most outsiders were aware only that the Ravnos spontaneously developed incredible powers of Chimerstry for about a week, then proceeded to attack and devour each other. By the time the Week of Nightmares ended, there were perhaps 100 Ravnos still this side of Final Death, and none of them was of significant generation or power. With their ranks significantly depleted and weakened, the surviving Ravnos of India sought shelter by other Indian Kindred in order to avoid what would have otherwise been the finishing blow from their Bijali enemies of the Infinite Thunders Court.
The Ravnos of the early 21st century are an endangered species trying to outpace their own ultimate doom. Now cursed to wander without being able to settle roots like others, those who managed to survive the fateful encounter with their Antediluvian just a few decades ago now (or managed to avoid his call altogether) have with their childer started a revival of the Clan by taking to their nomadic roots in earnest, using their experience to stay ahead of the new threats to Kindred existence. Some fight the curse by setting up multiple havens and using different masks in a single domain, but it is difficult work to maintain for long before something goes wrong for them.
Before the Week of Nightmares, the Ravnos were broken into western and eastern divisions. Western Ravnos are largely individuals without larger clan loyalties outside of perhaps tribal (and Rroma loyalties).
Eastern Ravnos have their own caste system, developed from the lineages that descended from Zapathasura. These Jati are effectively bloodlines with the clan:
- The priests of the Indian Ravnos were the Brahmin, who maintain mayaparisatya and advise the other castes. The Brahmin replace Fortitude with Auspex, and many learn Sadhana. The Western cousins of this caste, the Phuri Dae, are treated as a distinct bloodline due to their variant clan Disciplines. Clanbook: Ravnos Revised erroneously names this caste as "Brahman".
- The Kshatriya were the military leaders of the Ravnos and ran the war against the asuratizayya.
- Vaisyas maintained the equivalent of a Masquerade in India and also managed mortal resources. The Vaisyas were effectively a military manager caste.
- Chandalas were the Ravnos equivalent of Caitiff; and Caitiff in India were automatically classified as Chandalas. Demotion to Chandala status was a common punishment for heresy.
Since the Week of Nightmares, the Ravnos do not have much in the way of a clan organization, but more communally-minded members of the clan have established their own system of tradecraft in order to communicate and organize meetings.
Each Ravnos exodus had different views, values, and motivations, resulting in a multitude of branches (or castes) of the Indian main Clan within Europe, known as jati.
Bay't Mujrim is the Arabian term for the Clan of Deceivers (Mujrim literally means "Criminal"). They were no more welcome in the Islamic world as their vices lead them into many unwelcome confrontations with the Ashirra.
The Mujrim were mainly of three jati: Alexandrite, Bashirite, and Roma. While the Alexandrites managed to conduct themselves honorably, but were focused on mundane matters. The Bashirites worked well together with the Ashirra authorities, thanks to their shared monotheistic faith. Romani Ravnos, on the other hand, were regarded as troublemakers and plagues.
The Phuri Dae are the only remaining caste of the Ravnos. Claiming descent from the Rroma, the Phuri Dae (literally "Old Mother") are seers and collectors of lore within the clan. The Phuri Dae use the Discipline of Auspex instead of Fortitude. The Indian branch of this bloodline are thaumaturges known as the Brahmin in the caste system of that region's Ravnos.
There is also a family of power among the mortal Rrom known as the Phuri Dae; like the Ravnos Phuri Dae, they are renowned seers and lorekeepers.
The Ravnos antitribu is possibly the least "anti" as antitribu goes. They, too, revel in trickery and deceit. They too want to wander as they please, often joining nomadic packs. Sect notwithstanding, the Ravnos antitribu have a traditional code of conduct for dealing with their clanmates. This code may be difficult for those outside the clan to follow, but nonetheless, a Ravnos' word to his pack is the law. They follow the "spit and shake" rule of all Ravnos on verbal agreements, but the Rogues take this one step further. If a Sabbat member wants an agreement in writing, it will be signed in blood, the pen dipped in an open wound on the Ravnos' own arm. This binding in blood is as strong as the Vaulderie to the Sabbat Ravnos, and it can be broken only by Final Death. Violating the code costs the perpetrator a considerable loss of face with other Ravnos, which has been adopted by the sect at large. Few Sabbat Ravnos feel comfortable giving this guarantee to Sabbat members outside their clan, and most do get quite indignant should the other party suggest it.
In the Final Nights, the antitribu suffered the least of all branches of the clan, as many traveled in packs with various members of other Clans and could be put down by their packmates until their apocalyptic rages had died down.
- Alexandrites - A branch that originated with the descendants of Ramessu. They were initially native to Egypt, and were noted as being extraordinarily formal in matters of Cainite etiquette. Rumors also tell that they believed that Akhenaten was their founder, cursed by the gods for revering the sun over everything else with never being able to see daylight.
- Bashirites - A branch that originated in a Ravnos known as Bashir. They believed in a combination of Christian doctrine and the tenets of the false Path of Paradox, and saw themselves as harbingers of the Apocalypse. They believed that Judas was the first of their kind, cursed by God for his betrayal with eternal wandering. Many of them later joined the antitribu.
- Kalderash - A small family of traders that has insinuated itself into the Middle Kingdom and has managed to avoid clashes with the Kuei-jin.
- Phaedymites - A branch of chivalric Ravnos originating in the methuselah Phaedyme. The Phaedymites tried to manage to control the urges of their Beast and served mainly as couriers. Furthermore, they were sworn enemies of the Sybarites
- Rroma (also called Phralmulo) - The stereotypical Gypsies, the Rroma became the greatest of these branches and the most present until the Week of Nightmares hit them. They had very close ties to their mortal families and usually traveled with them. They claimed that Caine (whom they call Kaen), Embraced Ravnos as an act of kindness after he had left Cainite society, because Ravnos's father Tshurka had bidden him to accompany him. Ravnos, in turn, Embraced much of his family at the behest of his prophetic sister Laetshi. Many claim that Caine forgave them their sins for this act of kindness and they are free to lie and steal as they see fit. Other stories trace them back to the husband of Daenna, the mother of Gypsies, who was eventually killed by a vampire and his blood was given to young man named Ravnos. During the Holocaust, this branch suffered extremely. Today, they are nearly extinct because of their proximity to other Ravnos when they fell into the cannibalistic Frenzy that destroyed them.
- Sybarites - Decadents that first arose in the days of ancient Rome, these Ravnos are responsible for the corruption of the original path of Paradox and their excesses were one of the main reasons that the Clan was regarded as better criminals.
- Yoryari - The Yoryari were a small splinter group of the Sybarites who are said to have founded a number of now forgotten philosophical variants on the false Path of Paradox, namely a belief that the primordial energy of change (weig) is held in all things, and that it needs to be released in order to transform reality.
Western Ravnos, historically connected with the oppressed Rroma, maintained a strong sense of clan solidarity for a very long time. The most common manifestation of this solidarity was through a form of retaliation called "The Treatment". The Treatment was a vengeance attack where a mistreated Ravnos would contact fellows in the clan, who would then swarm upon the city where the original Ravnos was victimized. In general, a dozen Ravnos running amok could bring even the most experienced Prince to the brink, and well-placed exaggerations about the impact of the Treatment was the main weapon the Ravnos used to squeeze out what place they did have in Western society.
Past that, Ravnos culture was dominated by its religious role; the greatest division between Indian and Western Ravnos being the differences between mayapisatya and the Path of Paradox. In 1998, Ravnos elders began to "educate" (with knives) their heretical cousins, setting the clan back on the straight and narrow.
In India, the Ravnos dominated the continent, probably the largest concentration of a single clan in one country. In several ways, the Ravnos paralleled the Assamites – both clans had a caste system invisible to outsiders, and both clans were defined by a military role.
As with everything else in the clan, Embraces differed between Indian and Western Ravnos. Western Ravnos generally embraced only Gypsies (with the exception of the Ravnos antitribu who were noted for embracing gorgios) and generally embraced for any reason. Indian Ravnos viewed the Embrace as a means to fulfilling the fledgling's svadharma. In India, one's Jāti in life also defined one's Jati in undeath.
Due to their inherent clan weakness, the Ravnos clan are all criminals; each Ravnos has a specific vice ranging from plagiarism to mass murder. When the opportunity to indulge that vice is present, Ravnos must succeed in a self-control check to avoid indulging it.
20th Anniversary Edition
Vampire: The Dark Ages 20th Anniversary Edition distances itself from the stereotype of the compulsive criminality within the Ravnos by including other character traits, as well. Their compulsions can range from beneficial ones (like defending innocents or donating for the poor) to deviant ones (the aforementioned plagiarism or mass murder).
Doomed: A Ravnos' Bane is that the sun’s fire that incinerated their founder rages through the Blood of the clan, erupting from their very flesh if they ever settle down for long. If they slumber in the same place more than once in seven nights, roll a number of dice equal to their Bane Severity. They receive aggravated damage equal to the number of 10’s (critical results) rolled as they are scorched from within. This happens every time they spend the day in a location they’ve already slumbered less than a week before. What constitutes a location in this regard depends on the scope of the chronicle, but unless otherwise stated, two resting places need to be at least a mile apart to avoid triggering the Bane. Furthermore, a mobile haven, such as a movers’ truck, is safe so long as the place where the truck is parked is at least a mile from the last location.
Tempting Fate: The Ravnos vampire is driven by their Blood to court danger. Haunted as they are by righteous fire burning its way up their lineage, why not? The next time the vampire is faced with a problem to solve, any attempt at a solution short of the most daring or dangerous incurs a two-dice penalty. (Suitably flashy and risky attempts can even merit bonus dice for this occasion.) The Daredevil is free to convince any fellows to do things their way, but is just as likely to go at it alone. The Compulsion persists until the problem is solved or further attempts become impossible.
Clan Ravnos has been extensively rewritten in each appearance in Vampire. Initially, this was because of the inaccurate treatment of Roma in World of Darkness material (particularly through World of Darkness: Gypsies). Later editions are somewhat more accurate in that the Ravnos are now less of a "Gypsy clan" and more of an "Indian clan".
The First Edition of Vampire: The Masquerade gave the Clan a different Clan Curse. Instead of being compelled to a certain behavior, they radiated an aura of unease that made other Kindred wary of them, similar to the Bane of the Nosferatu in Vampire: The Requiem. When dealing with the kine, a Ravnos was treated as having half the Humanity she really does, thus limiting the amount of dice she can use in social interaction. Since Vampire: The Masquerade Second Edition, where the Ravnos were first given their close association with the Roma, the Clan Curse that has since been used in all editions was introduced.
The other major weakness of the Ravnos was the original version of the path of Paradox, which was a form of the Path Of What I Was Going To Do Anyway. The result was the Indian Path of Paradox, which was more rigorous.
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