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Basic Information

A bandit is, crudely, a "land pirate" - someone who commits acts of armed robbery on land, usually as part of a group.

Groups of bandits may vary from a few starving outlaws with sticks to a virtual army operating from a fortified base - usually depending on the rule of law in the area (although even an anarchy can be bandit free if the locals are prompt about raising a posse to hunt them down). The worst banditry is traditionally found in war-torn areas where groups of stragglers and deserters, aided by military weaponry and training, come together to prey on the local civilians (and maybe even poorly guarded military convoys) … and feudal societies with a weak king were prone to the depredations of "robber knights": magnates who took it upon themselves to engage in banditry around the borders of their own fief. Annoyingly, a robber knight (or robber baron) may do their robbing under colour of law - presenting their exactions as a toll or tax (or at least do so with less sarcasm than the average bandit demanding a "toll"), which can make such things hard to tell from a legitimate revenue collection.

Generally bandits can be expected to prey upon travellers in remote parts of the countryside where there are few witnesses to report their activities, although powerful, bold or poorly opposed groups may raid in the approaches to settlements (just as their victims are starting to relax) or even attack settlements themselves. Attacks will often develop at obstacles which slow travellers down or spilt up groups - bridges, fords and areas where the road bed is broken up are common.

Any force of bandits that manages to stay in a fixed location for any length of time without devastating it or being forced out is likely to become a de-facto form of government (indeed libertarian thought tends to hold government as at least partially emergent from the settling of various kinds of bandit) and may end up being recognised as such by their neighbours.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • A very common enemy in RPGs, can be anything from a wandering monster to a local villain, depending on need and scale.
  • These people can be fitted into any campaign in any era - from classic medieval/fantasy bandits into the modern era (and probably in sci-fi as well).
  • Likewise, skills and equipment can be scaled for effect - a weak party may be jumped on a couple of ragged-assed chancers, whilst a stronger one may be attacked by a small army.
    • That said, a well armed party that doesn't seem to be hauling a lot of wealth may only hear a rustle as the bandits run away - stupidity and criminality are not always correlated.
    • Running into someone like Christman Genipperteinga is best saved for special occasions.
  • Like with pirates, war is a common source of these people: a soldier gains experience fighting, and then come peacetime struggles to return to civilian life. (Specific reasons may include: thinks the war is still going on, trauma or other veteran's disabilities, having spent years practicing violence while other skills atrophy, or having been stranded in a foreign land and possibly cheated out of pay.) Approaches to dealing with this might range from packing off the veterans on a "glorious" campaign someplace far away. to skills training like the GI Bill.
    • Where circumstances are less tolerant of freelance crime, ex-soldiers have also been known to drop out into gangs.
    • See also dangerous deserter … medieval warfare was particularly prone to gangs of soldiers, essentially abandoned after a campaign, to turn to banditry.
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