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Basic Information

A gang is a cohesive group of people, gathered for an indefinite period with a common purpose. Strictly the word is value neutral1 and can be used to refer to a standing group of workmen (most obviously preserved in the chain gang or the role of the gangmaster) and similar things, but in common usage will usually refer to a group whose common purpose is criminal.

This would include bandits and outlaws, but would often describe a modern urban gang - a significant, pseudo-tribal criminal organisation, often with territorial ambitions. Appropriate to their tribal character, urban gangs typically have a definite hierarchy2, uniform and set of ceremonies to mark significant events as well as forms of initiation and mentoring for recruits. Many are also male only3 - or only offer full membership to men - and often thrive in environments where boys are denied positive male role models. Tribalism may also extend to being ethnically exclusive - this is not always the case, but may be a shtick for some gangs4.

Similar, but more mobile, is the outlaw motorcycle gang or "biker gang" - usually defined by their use of motorcycles and frequently nomadic in character rather than territorial.

See Also



Game and Story Use

  • Urban gangs are a fact of life in many major cities - low end residential areas are highly likely to be the territory of some gang or the other, although the degree of enforcement of that claim may vary.
  • Gangs will tend to be most hostile to other gangs, but are liable to be involved in all sorts of crime, especially theft, black marketeering and extortion - as well as petty offences like vandalism and public order crimes such as disturbing the peace. Potentially characters can run afoul of them by just living in the area - especially if they pick on PCs to harass or invade a party or event that they are present at.
  • The tribal nature of gangs and their uniforms could be considered a form of modern heraldry, allowing those in the know to identify gang members, their territory and the graffiti used to annotate it. Gang tattoos can also be a study in themselves.
  • Likewise, many gangs develop a limited gesture language to allow their members to communicate useful concepts in full view.
  • Street level gangs are also prone to being managed by higher forms of organised crime, which may recruit their most promising members but are otherwise prone to use them as enforcers and general hired muscle.
  • Gangsters will, in general, be amateurs in most useful skills5 - their combat skills in particular are likely to be sub-par, especially given the prominence they might be thought to possess in their job role. Getting good is likely to be too much work - but there may still be the occasional prodigy, or someone who has had professional training before dropping out into a gang.
  • Historical gang membership can also be a factor for a PC - some militaries in particular have a tendency to recruit gang members as the same camaraderie that drives a gang can be found in a platoon of soldiers and so the young man's affinity can be put to better use. How the PC left things with the gang in question will be an issue, as will relations with (and indeed relations as) extant members - a man could easily be drawn back into "the life" if a younger relative becomes involved and gets out of his depth.
  • Gangs are likely to show up when the authorities either can't or won't protect a certain group - or when the group needs to protect itself from the authorities.
  • As stated at the beginning, "gang" can be a very ambiguous (and unevenly-applied) term. If the PCs run afoul of the authorities, it can be thrown around even if nothing else sticks.
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