Zombies aren’t the only problems survivors have in the wastelands. Hell is other people, but some folks don’t neatly sit on one side or the other of the “undead abomination” line. There are those who aren’t quite undead, but aren’t quite living either. These cannibalistic raiders comprise another collection of antagonists for your player characters to struggle against.
In nearly all creatures that walk the wastelands, a spark exists that enables them not only to survive, but to do so earnestly, with eyes facing the future despite the sins of their past. But in this bleak world, desperation grows paramount. One tragedy can lead survivors on paths riddled with horror, and tragedies are all too common nowadays. In the face of that agony, eating people becomes a little more convenient. Then the question of searching for bodies is answered by hunting them down instead, with other like-minded things that are not truly animals but definitely not people.
These “survivors” go on to develop heinous conventions about how to eat flesh, how to harvest it, and how to process it. But the entire time, their brains are ill-equipped to perpetrate these horrors. In a final search for amity, they unite with others who have fallen into this abyss, to turn such acts into conventions, and then to turn conventions into dark and terrible cultures of rage and hate.
In the dark depths of their minds, that spark to survive goes out. It is replaced by a drive to do nothing more than exist, and in the wastelands, existence is monstrous. Therein lies the truth of the matter; that you are one bad day away from becoming just another terrifying raider.
Across the wastelands, individuals and communities alike are regularly assaulted by the unreasoning cannibals known as raiders. Driven insane by the weight of their deeds and the infection inside the meat they consume, they are warped into a force of nature, comprised of countless beings who are beyond redemption. Bestial, ravenous, utterly amoral, and downright petrifying, entire clans are composed of these genetic abnormalities. Within the cultures they have grown, each clan is unique in expression, traits, and tactics. Those who deviate are killed and eaten. But those who survive can transform their clans into something worse than before.
As cannibalistic people, their diet of infected meat is crucial to survival. Without it, raiders cannot heal over time and perish from starvation. But if they eat enough, they are remade with forms like the Strains, allowing for more insidious plots to hatch among their clans. Due to their reliance on the infection though, they do not pass through the Grave Mind like survivors. They are remade without consequences and view those who return with trauma as a greater threat than the undead.
For all their crimes, raiders cannot be redeemed. Due to the concentration of the infection inside their bodies, raiders have become reliant on it and will die if they do not eat enough. All attempts to reform them have failed, for they are now different from all the other strains. No longer people, they are the monsters of the wastes, wholly separate from the all-too-common undead.