Basic Information

Triad is a term that describes a version of Organized Crime that started in China and has spread to many cities with large Chinese populations. Like many organized crime traditions they appear - at least in some cases - to arise from the remains of previous power structures, whether revolutionary movements or governments. These supposed ancestors include the Manchu aristocracy, the Nationalist Republican government, the regimes of several of the warlords displaced by the Republican Government and rebels such as the White Lotus and the Boxers. This was particularly amusing for the government of Hong Kong as succeeding waves of lost-causes arrived to set up triads in exile.

Their criminal activities include drug trafficking, contract killing, money laundering, gambling, prostitution, car theft, extortion, and other forms of racketeering. A major source of triad income today comes from the counterfeiting of copyrighted and trademarked goods. They also trade in endangered species as well as bootleg tobacco and alcohol products.[1]

Triad culture is fond of numerology, with various ranks and roles being assigned a number, based on the I Ching, as well as a title.

Somewhat related to Triads are Tongs, Chinese Secret Societies that are not always criminal in nature.



Game and Story Use

  • Triads provide a flavorful alternative to the Mafia in a setting with Asian roots. They can also be a third party in a game that already has cops and mobsters.
  • Because of the blurring between Triads and Tongs (especially in Western eyes), the GM can use them as a Red Herring. Someone might have a reputation of being a dangerous Triad, when in reality he's only a member of an exclusive Chinese businessman's club.
  • Easily recycled in almost any setting. Especially the lost-cause to organised crime transformation mill.
  • Presumably the various origins of the Triads help feed conflict between them as each wave sets up in the face of the triad formed by the regime they had previously displaced from the mainland.
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License