Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs
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Well one and all wore the outlaws' brand
And the big bikes roared through the Great Northland
When you live on the edge of the law
You know, justice in Ontario

(from) Justice in Ontario Steve Earle

Basic Information

An Outlaw Motorcycle Club is a group of motorcycle enthusiasts who has formed a gang or 'club' but who has not registered with the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) or the Canadian Motorcycle Association (CMA). An Outlaw Motorcycle Club is not necessarily an Outlaw Motorcycle Gang, and vice-versa, though the lines do tend to blur in many instances.

As defined by the Provincial Court of Manitoba, an Outlaw Motorcycle Gang is "Any group of motorcycle enthusiasts who have voluntarily made a commitment to band together and abide by their organizations' rigorous rules enforced by violence, who engage in activities that bring them and their club into serious conflict with society and the law". The US Department of Justice defines Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs as "… organizations whose members use their motorcycle clubs as conduits for criminal enterprises."

Initially, four such gangs (the Pagans, Hells Angels, Outlaws MC, and Bandidos) were recognized and monitored by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, while the Attorney General of California has since added the LA-based Mongols gang to this list. The US Department of Justice has since issued a revised list of known and dangerous Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, as well. According to the FBI, the named gangs support themselves primarily by engaging in the manufacture and trade of illegal narcotics. Besides narcotics, biker gangs also have historical form for serving as mercenaries for other criminal organisations that require their talent for violence.

The usual process appears to be that a would be member, having made his desire to join known, is interviewed and, if accepted, becomes a "pledge". At this point he serves a sort of apprenticeship in the gang, undergoing hazing and tests of competence and loyalty until he has satisfied enough of the gang's opinion formers to be allowed to become a full member. There may then be an initiation ceremony - sometimes including a "beat down" - after which he is then entitled to wear the gang's marks of distinction: typically the "patch" or badge worn on the riding jacket and, where relevant, gang-specific tattoos. Some gangs require an act of criminal violence ("blooding") up to and including murder before a pledge will be made up, but this is not universal, and the apprenticeship period should include enough involvement in the gang's business that the new member is shown to be thoroughly committed and as criminally liable as the others. Traditionally few of these gangs allow female members but accord associate membership to women based on their attachment to actual members but this is far from universal and women members have been observed in some gangs. Former members may or may not be permitted to retain their "patches", sometimes dependent on whether they retain the respect of current members and appear to remain loyal to the gang.

A given gang may also have requirements about what brands and models of motorcycle they will permit members to ride - or at least to own (presumably they can steal anything they want … unless the gang's standards really are that high) - and suffice to say that, in the manner of horse nomads, a man who does not ride is not a man: a biker must own his own bike.

Although most bikers are fairly law-abiding, or at least don't go into crime professionally, many enjoy cultivating the "outlaw" mystique. There is, apocryphally, a saying that 99% of bikers are mostly law abiding, leading to the criminal element being nicknamed "1%ers" - although opinions vary as to whether this is an endonym or an exonym.

See Also


Game and Story Use

  • Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs are a real, present, threat to the PCs.
    • The PCs are undercover police officers sent to infiltrate the local chapter of an Outlaw Biker Gang in order to provide intelligence to authorities about a recent string of drug-related murders.
      • As noted, the period of pledge and initiation may make it hard for police officers to infiltrate without crossing the line of what is acceptable behaviour for a law office (unless, for example, the PCs can fake an incident liable to win the gang's immediate respect such as a staged firefight with a police patrol, apparently leading to them killing the officers).
      • Passing as already made members from elsewhere might be possible, but the gangs have extensive networks by which to check such claims, and even wearing the patch can be dangerous for a non-member, let alone actively trying to pass. A strong legend will be necessary, possibly with other assets able to intercept and queer the gang's validation process.
    • The PCs are members of an Outlaw Motorcycle Gang investigative unit, who have discovered that a local chapter of the Pagans is manufacturing amphetamines laced with an unknown, alien, compound.
    • An outlaw gang serves in place of traditional bandits, terrorising a small, local town - or even a larger area if law enforcement lacks resolve. An easy way to bring western tropes and characters into a modern setting.
    • Several instances of biker gangs at war with one another - up to and including the use of anti-tank weapons - in places as unexpected as Canada. A rural town with a war going on in it could be interesting, much more so in a city.
    • The motorcycle gang as bandits meme can be turned up to eleven in a Mad Max style After the End setting.
  • As noted, biker gangs have been known to subcontract as mercenaries for higher strata of organised crime - when the PCs manage to annoy a more cerebral sort of criminal, the bikers may be called in to deal with them.
  • Alternatively, individual gang members might be friendly towards the PCs and useful allies.
  • One or more PCs might be members of a gang themselves.
    • This could provide an ethical dilemma (e.g., the gang requires a PC to do something that puts him at odds with the rest of the PCs).
    • Or this could provoke unfriendly reactions from NPCs (e.g., "I'll be watchin' you, son; I don't want any of yer kind makin' trouble in my town!")
  • NPC townsfolk, especially in a small, conservative community, will likely assume that anyone who blows into town on a motorcycle wearing a leather jacket is a gang member. In real life in the 1950s, if Fonzie showed up at Richie's house, Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham would call the police.
  • Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer included several incidences of demon biker gangs.
  • Under suitable conditions, a motorcycle gang might make a suitable nucleus for a paramilitary group - for example, recent incidents in Denmark where Hell's Angels have been active in Counter-jihad fighting with Islamist gangs.
  • An identifiable biker patch might well confer some kind of bonus to intimidation skills, bearing the reputation of the gang by syndoche.
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