Ryan was 6'3", about 240 pounds, with a mop of curly black hair, a single ice-blue eye (the other is covered by a patch), and a muscular build. He has a long scar running from the corner of his right eye down across his cheek nearly to the mouth; it gets white when he becomes angry.
Ryan Cawdor is the undisputed leader of the group. He was born in Front Royal, Virginia, the second son of Baron Titus Cawdor and his first wife, Lady Cynthia, who died a year after Ryan was born. When he was 14, his older brother Harvey killed his other brother Morgan, making it look like a bandit attack. The following year, Harvey and his sec men tried to kill Ryan directly. Harvey himself attempted to blind his brother with a knife, destroying his left eye, but when he tried to gouge out Ryan's right eye, he missed, leaving the aforementioned scar. Ryan managed to escape, though Harvey killed their father.
He ended up wandering around Deathlands for several years before joining up with Trader somewhere out west. He rode with Trader for ten years and worked his way up to war captain before the events in Pilgrimage to Hell.
Ryan is nothing if not pragmatic. Very little matters to him beyond himself and those he names friend; he doesn't kill indiscriminately, but will never hesitate if doing so means saving himself or his friends (though due to Krysty's influence, he is gaining a sense of compassion for those being exploited). He never leaves a live enemy behind him if he can help it. He has a quick temper and doesn't tolerate incompetence, stupidity, or backtalk, even from his companions.
Ryan fathered a son, Dean, during a short fling with Sharona Carson shortly after joining Trader's convoy. He didn't even know about the boy until Dean was 10, when he went to New York City and a friend of Sharona's, who was taking care of Dean for her, told Ryan about him (Seedling). He rescued Dean from an army of scalies, and the boy joined the group.
Ryan has gone through several weapons over the course of his career; he started the series with a LAPA machine pistol and had an H&K G-12 caseless rifle for a time, but gave up the rifle with much regret due to the difficulty of finding rounds for it. He now carries a Steyr Scout rifle, a Sig-Sauer P-226 pistol with a baffle silencer, a panga (a machete-like weapon), and a flensing knife.
- Ryan's scarf, as originally envisioned by Jack Adrian, was red. When James Laurence took over the writing, it mysteriously changed to white and remained that colour thereafter. (To be fair, there is only a single reference to it being red in Pilgrimage to Hell. Most likely, we can chalk this up to an editorial oversight.)