Given the right conditions, Criminals can gain a certain public respect. This is especially likely in remote rural areas, border towns, impoverished communities, and areas torn by civil war. In such environments, criminals might come to be seen as resistance fighters or folk heroes, even if such perspectives are laced with romanticism.
Categories of Social Bandit (and region or era that spawned them)
- Bandito (Mexico, 19th to early 20th Century)
- Cangaço (Brazil, 19th to early 20th Century)
- Hajduk (Balkans, 17th to 19th Century)
- Klepht (Greece, 15th Century to 19th Century)
- Narcocorrido (Mexico, 1930s to Modern Day)
- Outlaw (The Wild West)
- Pirate (On the oceans and seas of the world, especially during the Golden Age of Piracy)
- Rapparee (Ireland, 1690s)
- Uskoks (Croatia, 16th Century and 17th Century)
Of those, it's worth noting that the Hajduk, Klepht, and Uskoks were all local responses to occupation by the Ottoman Empire.
Famous/Historical Social Bandits
- Diego Corrientes Mateos
- Éamonn an Chnoic
- Jesse James
- Joaquin Murrieta (1829–ca. 1853), California
- Juraj Jánošík (1688-1713)
- Matthias Klostermayr (1736—1771), Bavaria
- Robin Hood
- Salvatore Giuliano
- Soapy Smith
- Hong Gil Dong
- Ned Kelly and Dan Kelly
- Louis Riel
- Pancho Villa
Game and Story Use
- The social bandit is a great character archetype, and works as the basis of an Adventuring Party. The big benefit is the melding of badass, wily rogue, and social reformer. You get to be the hero and the villain at the same time.
- The hero-meets-bandit concept could be a way to give added depth to your villains, or introduce some moral ambiguity to your game.
- A group of elvish or halfling brigands might raid across a border into dwarf territory to raid convoys going to and from mines. The Dwarven miners may hire the PCs to stop the raids. On chasing the bandits back across the border, the PCs learn that the outlaws are heroes here. The local populace hides and protects them. Perhaps the local area is impoverished, or it may be that the more nature-loving sensibilities of the elves or hobbits drove them to harass the strip-mining Dwarves.
- Or, if you don't like ambiguity, you could have a fraud exploiting the reputation of a social bandit.