Rakes are randomly recruited from entertainment buildings throughout a region. The more entertainment buildings there are, and the higher their level of construction, the more likely it is for a rake to spawn there. Rakes are also more likely to spawn if their parent nation had recently lost a lot of rakes through natural causes or capture and execution. Nearly all Western factions begin the Grand Campaign with one rake.
Rakes have several functions. They are invisible to any faction on the world map, which makes them ideal for scouting out general locations of armies. For more detailed information of armies, rakes can attempt infiltrate them, revealing the army's unit composition and strength. The chance of a successful infiltration varies wildly, from less than 10 percent to over 80 percent.
When ordered, rakes can also assassinate targets. Assassination targets include gentlemen (and eastern scholars), missionaries, generals, other rakes, hashashins and thugees (the latter three are only available if they are caught in an act of failed subterfuge). Perhaps the most useful assassination targets are generals, as successful assassinations of good generals can make ensuing battles much easier. Successful assassinations generally have a 5-45 percent chance of happening, depending on the skillfulness of the rake and the traits of the target.
Rakes can duel gentlemen, but only if they are challenged to a duel by gentlemen. This is rare as rakes can only be challenged if they had failed an act of subterfuge on the turn before and thus be made visible. Rakes are significantly worse (by default, a rake without traits dueling a gentleman without traits has a 1:3 chance of winning) than dueling than gentlemen, but still stand a small chance of winning. The ability to duel is the only thing that sets rakes apart from thugees or hashashins, who cannot duel. This puts rakes at a disadvantage, since duels usually end badly for them. A discovered rake could be killed or at least chased away by gentlemen; discovered thugees and hashashins may only be assassinated, not dueled to death.
Finally, rakes can sabotage enemy buildings. This may hurt their economy, cause unrest, delay research, or prevent the training of units. Rakes usually have a 10-50 percent chance of a successful sabotage mission.
Rakes can only attempt one act of sabotage, infiltration, or assassination per turn. After they attempt their mission, rakes can still move around on the world map, but will not be able to do any further damage. Successfully completing missions increases a rake's skill in subterfuge and increases the chances of successful future missions, while unsuccessful attempts may cause rakes to lose these positive traits.
Whenever a rake attempts any sort of subterfuge (which is everything they do short of walking around on the world map), they face the risk of detection or death. The risk of detection is much higher than death. A detected rake simply is unable to complete his mission (and appears temporarily on the world map for other factions to see), while an executed rake is removed from the world map.