Rippers Resurrected: Collateral Evil
Origin of the Rippers
While the organization itself is comparatively new, heroes who fight monsters the way Rippers do have saved mankind from the shadows for centuries. From the valiant Twilight Legion to the mysterious Sons of Solomon, countless secret orders have been dedicated to protecting humanity through the ages. Many of the legendary Rippers and the foes they still fight today have histories stretching back into that distant past, recorded by Ripper historians and preserved, so that new members might understand the dangers they face and the bravery of those who went before. This is their story.
The Monastic Knights
The tale of the organization now called the Rippers begins with the monks of the Hospital of St. John. This order, also known as the “Hospitallers,” was founded during the Crusades for Benedictine monks, dedicated to providing shelter and healing for pilgrims to the Holy Land. One fateful day, they took in a “pilgrim” who turned out to be blighted by a foul curse. A learned member of the order called the thing “vampire.” After losing many brethren to the creature, they defeated it and re-dedicated themselves to the destruction of the undead.
Now an order of monastic knights, the Hospitallers took their battle to the monsters spawned by the horrors of the Crusades. Unfortunately, they were unprepared to face these creatures and losses were great. They were driven from one base after another including Jerusalem, Cyprus, and Rhodes, and were eventually reduced to renting the island of Malta from Emperor Charles V at the cost of one trained falcon per year (the so-called “Maltese Falcon”).
The Hospitallers of northeastern Europe, frustrated at the Order’s inability to battle the undead, formed their own order called the Teutonic Knights, and concerned themselves with hunting witches and other less powerful creatures. After the horrors of the Inquisition, the Catholic faction abandoned its military mission, and the Lutheran faction died out everywhere except the Netherlands.
With the invention of the printing press, alchemists, Quabbalists, and other practitioners of magic were able to share their ideas without having to copy their notes by hand. Despite this, they still lacked any sort of central organization, and performed their experiments in secretive solitude, fearful of persecution should their activities be discovered.
All this changed in 1582 when Doctor John Dee, court astrologer to Queen Elizabeth of England, had a chance encounter with a werewolf, accidentally slaying it with his silver-tipped walking stick. Horrified to see the corpse return to human form, yet simultaneously intrigued, Dee brought the body back to his lab for study. Though Dee was content to do nothing more than dissect the werewolf, his research partner, Edward Kelley, went further. Kelley removed body parts from the werewolf and implanted them into other animals. These animals assumed many of the werewolf’s characteristics, gaining strength, speed, and cannibalistic ferocity. Kelley christened his invention rippen-transferre, roughly meaning “tear and transfer.”
Alarmed, Dee suggested they stop. But the charismatic Kelley convinced Dee this discovery could provide the money needed to fund their research into angelic magic, which was Dee’s primary field of interest. Dee agreed and their grisly experiments continued.
Originally, they planned to sell their secrets to the Queen, giving England the ability to create “super soldiers” in exchange for vast sums of gold. Queen Elizabeth found the whole idea repulsive and dismissed it out of hand. Humiliated, Dee was banished from court.
Enraged by his monarch’s rejection, Dee became obsessed with perfecting his ripping techniques, taking ever-greater risks to discover more about the monsters he found.
Dedicated to the betterment of mankind, Dee went out and recruited like-minded individuals, organizing them into a secret fellowship of wizards, alchemists, and astrologers. He named the organization “The Brotherhood of the Rose Cross” to remind its members of their dedication to both peace (represented by the rose) and faith (represented by the cross).
Despite his best intentions, though, Dee’s fanatical zeal to prove himself right frightened those around him. Alarmed by Dee’s fervor, Kelley tried to leave the order. Cursing him a coward, Dee struck him dead with the same silver-tipped cane he had used to slay that first monster.
Horrified at what he had done but refusing to abandon his work, Dee faked his own death, leaving behind forever the Rosicrucians, who dedicated themselves to angelic magic. Under the assumed name of Dr. Jack, Dee continued his research with a fearful determination.
A New Direction
Over the century that followed, Dr. Jack brought a number of young scientists and wizards under his wing including Victor Frankenstein, Dr. Henry Jekyll, the infamous Dr. Moreau, and the mysterious Griffin.
This group of young, idealistic scientists and adventurers was dedicated to learning from Dr. Jack and discovering how to defeat the monsters they hunted. Together they perfected methods of prolonging their lifespan unnaturally and were able to achieve near-immortality, ripping the essence of life itself from their prey.
The last convert to this core group was a brilliant scientist, Dr. Abraham Van Helsing. He and Dr. Jack, along with the others, formed a new organization less learned and esoteric than the Rosicrucians. This new group was dedicated instead to the defense of mankind and the eradication of the creatures of darkness, aided by their newest “Ripping Technologie” discoveries. They called themselves the Rippers.
The Order of St. George
In 1798, the Hospitallers lost the island of Malta to Napoleon and were left with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and a handful of relics. The order relocated to St. Petersburg and would have dwindled to nothing more than a social club, but for Victor Frankenstein, the first of the early Rippers to lose his way. He chose that same year to begin his experiments into the reanimation of dead tissue, and his many attempts at creating the “perfect” creature sent hordes of “failed” experiments rampaging across Northern and Eastern Europe.
Frankenstein’s experiments continued. The doctor vanished to carry on his research in secret and more and more of his monsters surfaced across Europe. Under pressure, the Rippers approached both the Hospitallers and the Teutonic Knights for assistance in fighting these terrible creatures. The two ancient orders combined, calling themselves “The Order of St. George,” and joined the Rippers to combat the monstrous threat. Since then the Order has expanded, taking in monks, nuns, hermits, and holy folk of many different denominations and faiths. Regardless of their personal beliefs, all members of the Order share a deep devotion to the protection of mankind from the horrors of the night.
The Rippers’ most dangerous challenge came in 1876 when Van Helsing and a team of amateur vampire slayers attempted to defeat the notorious Count Dracula. Dr. Van Helsing destroyed Dracula’s concubines, while Dracula himself was nearly undone by Jonathan Harker and the American Quincy Morris. It was Morris who termed Dr. Jack’s supernatural enhancements “rippertech.” The more modern-sounding name has stuck among the younger Rippers, though it made Van Helsing wince. Despite their best efforts, though, Dracula managed to escape.
Things Fall Apart
Realizing the dangers they faced, Dr. Jack urged the group to make increased use of rippertech to give them an edge against their foes. He assured them that Frankenstein had been weak, and that his failures were not the result of the use of rippertech. To prove his point, he had numerous experimental implants installed, none of which seemed to harm him in the least.
In truth, these implants weakened an already unstable mind and sent him over the edge. Worse yet, Jack started suffering from organ failure as the implants conflicted with each other and threatened to shut down his entire body. Somehow, he managed to keep all of this hidden from the Rippers for years, searching for fresh body parts to replace his own all the while.
Though Frankenstein was the first, long exposure to the effects of their monstrous experiments took its toll on all the founding Rippers. In time, each of these individuals, except for Dr. Van Helsing, used ripping technology for evil or terrible ends.
Victor Frankenstein created an artificial life from a combination of dead bodies and animal parts and the creature ended up a serial killer. Dr. Henry Jekyll attempted to purge the evil from his body but succeeded only in transforming himself into the sinister Mr. Hyde. Dr. Moreau became intrigued by the possibilities of transformative surgery and mutilated normal animals into half-human hybrids who worshipped him as a god. Griffin discovered a method of achieving true invisibility but used it for nothing more than common crime. Only Dr. Van Helsing seemed more interested in the theoretical underpinnings of the technology rather than its practical applications and managed to retain his ethical compass.
Van Helsing became convinced that rippertech led toward inevitable corruption. Since science was a morally neutral pursuit, he argued, mixing it with magic seemed to degrade the ethical discipline necessary to prevent practitioners of magic from sliding down a path toward evil. He called this inevitable moral decay “ripping psychosis,” and compared its effects to those of a serious mental disorder.
Jack the Ripper
Angered by Van Helsing’s suggestion that he was insane and his methods flawed, Dr. Jack left the Rippers in a violent rage and once again disappeared.
He soon reappeared in London, this time mockingly calling himself Jack the Ripper. He began killing prostitutes with abandon, salvaging their body parts to repair his own failing form.
Suspicious of the timing of Dr. Jack’s disappearance and the emergence of this foul killer—and of his chilling nickname—Van Helsing ordered the Rippers to hunt down their erstwhile leader. As the net tightened Jack was almost caught but though forced to abandon his rampage, he escaped from the Rippers again. The organization spread farther afield, establishing bases called lodges around the world, hunting for Jack with instructions to bring him back—dead or alive.
From that time on, Dr. Jack made the destruction of the Rippers his aim and he set about forging an alliance between the supernatural beasts he once pledged to destroy.
Jack knew if he could bring together or manipulate creatures from around the world he could eventually overwhelm the Rippers. He traveled the globe learning all he could about these monsters, seeking out covens of witches, secret sects dedicated to evil magic, worshippers of foul gods, mindless beasts, and every supernatural monster he read about.
He wove these disparate groups into a powerful network of evil called The Cabal. Under its broad span were many smaller groups or factions. Rotting mummies, bestial werewolves, zombie masters, sorcerers, and witches all rallied to support him in his nefarious scheme. Each had its own evil agenda and individual cruel goals, but this collection of monsters and madmen united in their hatred of the Rippers.
Van Helsing’s Heroes
For all Jack’s efforts, the Rippers kept fighting, extending their organization to match their nemesis at every turn. Despite Van Helsing’s misgivings about magic, the Rippers united with the Rosicrucians, eager for any advantage against their supernatural foes. Under Van Helsing’s guidance, the Rippers took the fight to the Cabal; the two sides locked in a secret struggle to the death.
Then came the turning point. A small band of Rippers thwarted Jack’s grand scheme to unite the Cabal with the ancient vampires led by Count Dracula. In a series of calamitous struggles that shook the Rippers to the core, Van Helsing was killed, giving his life to aid in the defeat of Dr. Jack and Count Dracula. His sacrifice was not in vain as both villains were slain. Decapitated, the Cabal began to crumble.
Despite this, Abraham Van Helsing’s heir and successor, Johann, was tragically doomed to die before witnessing the end of his hated foe. Convinced that angelic magic held the key to ultimate victory Johann had his rippertech removed and placed himself in the hands of the Rosicrucian mages. Within a year, he was dead.
Many Rippers turned against their erstwhile Rosicrucian allies, citing Abraham Van Helsing’s earlier suspicions, blaming them for Johann’s death and accusing them of incompetence, betrayal, or worse. Grief-stricken at the loss of their leaders, the Rippers gave vent to their sorrows in a merciless crusade against the reeling Cabal. In a few short bloody years the Cabal was in disarray. The Rippers had won.
A Troubled Peace
In the aftermath of the bloodletting, the Rippers took pause. Many members drifted away from the organization, horrified by what they had witnessed or by what they had become. These troubled souls were desperate to reclaim some part of their lost innocence or cling to the last vestiges of their humanity.
With the evil driven back and seemingly under control, the imminent danger appeared to have passed. Ripper membership dwindled across the globe, lodges closed as they found fewer monsters to battle, and the factions within the organization began to debate how to proceed.
With this introspection came division. Once again the subject of the use of rippertech and of magic came to the fore. Without doubt the technology had been instrumental in defeating the Cabal, but at what cost? And why had Johann put his faith in the magic of the Rosicrucians when his father had been so against it?
Wild claims about eternal damnation and devilry were put forward and rejected, and the controversy threatened to split the Rippers apart. In the end, the Rosicrucians once again broke away from the Rippers in a bitter feud about religion, magic, and rippertech. Many Rosicrucians claimed their angelic magic had failed, leaving them bereft of power. Others claimed this was impossible as their power was divinely inspired. Whatever the truth of the sudden reversal of their fortunes, their departure from the Rippers caused speculation to run wild. What could have caused such a calamity, and were the Rosicrucians ever to be trusted?
Some members of the ancient order remained in touch with their Ripper friends, with whom they had fought side by side for years, and it was through these individuals that the lodges began to hear rumors of a dark power rising in the east. These reports were treated with suspicion, however, and in such a climate of fear and hostility, most Rosicrucians could not overcome the deep rifts in the once tight-knit group and severed all ties.
In a desperate effort to keep the organization together, the remaining factions reached a contentious compromise in Vienna that allowed refinement of existing rippertech, but strictly controlled the research of new implants. Gone were the days of wanton experimentation on captured creatures in the hope of stumbling across something useful.
The Vienna Accords also outlawed the use of magic by Rippers in an effort to preserve their eternal souls and protect them from the perceived dangers of mixing rippertech and magic.
A New Breed of Heroes
Having streamlined their organization and settled many internal disagreements, the Rippers turned their attention to eradicating the last remnants of the Cabal. What was left of the monstrous alliance fragmented and the various bands of monsters and maniacs lost any semblance of joint purpose. Instead they fell back to pursuing their own ends, terrorizing the hapless mortals who lived in ignorance of their existence.
With renewed determination and courage, spurred on by the thought that the end of the struggle might soon be at hand, the Rippers set about hunting and destroying the creatures of the night.
For their part, the last lieutenants of the Cabal and their monstrous minions made every effort to vanish, slinking back into the darkness, retreating to remote fortresses, and hiding out in the wildernesses of rural areas. The world was a safer place with Dracula and Dr. Jack gone, but ridding it of the monsters forever is an ongoing task made all the more difficult by their renewed caution.
As a result, the Rippers face increasingly difficult situations as the weakest monsters have been trapped or killed, leaving the most violent, cunning, and powerful terrors still to be faced.
End of an Era
It is in this new world that the Rippers operate, defending mankind from the shadows against terrors most don’t even know are out there. As the century draws to a close, technology races onward, social institutions are threatened, and even the long-established world order seems as though it may be upset.
A typical Ripper lodge is usually a much smaller affair these days, with fewer staff, less ostentatious appointments, and a more secretive group of
members. There are many notable exceptions, of course—throwbacks to a bygone age of the Rippers. These are well-funded, fully staffed, and have numerous impressive facilities at their disposal. Such lodges are now few and far between, and well-known by other Rippers, acting as hubs in important cities where important meetings and research can be conducted.
The decline of the Cabal means that Rippers don’t typically engage in open combat with Cabal groups any more, though most Rippers still refer to their enemies as the Cabal. There are still bastions and strongholds of Cabal support where Rippers must tread carefully and the villains can still muster a threat, but engagements these days are more likely to be hunts for a single creature.
That said, the creatures the Rippers do fight are those powerful or cunning enough to have survived. They are more likely to be powerful werewolf elders, for instance, than a pack of scrappy young shapeshifters. These foes are wily and far more dangerous than their more numerous progeny, and the fight likely to be far more deadly.
To that end, more Rippers have turned to the use of rippertech in an effort to level the playing field. The Vienna Accords standardized many of the more common pieces of rippertech. Such devices are now easier to implant and more reliable, and therefore less likely to do the recipient lasting harm. Distancing themselves from the supposed magical dangers of this potent technology has made Rippers more tolerant of the use of approved rippertech.
Of course, grafting the living tissue of monsters into one’s body still involves risk, and Rippers who take the matter too lightly can still become that which they once sought to destroy. These outcasts are hunted without mercy by their former friends and pay the ultimate price for their recklessness.