Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Bandit Ecology

They want your money, and they are everywhere. The hills are full of them, leering brutes and sneering cougars, with almost as much body hair as body odor. The forests are full of them, caves and shacks (and treehouses?) teeming with stupid but aggressive thieves. The highways are full of them, men and women brandishing stolen weapons and shouting to "stand and deliver!"

Scum and Villainy
How did the gameworld become so infested with these lazy louts?

One quickly gets the sense that there are more outlaws than law-abiding citizens, sometimes FAR more. A province may have one major town, surrounded by scattered villages and fields, but bandit hideouts dot every crag and thicket. That the sparse fields would support even the town alone is doubtful, but the entire province, bandits and all? No way. The brigands of the wilds must subsist as hunter-gatherers, as there is neither trade nor agriculture enough for all of them to prey upon.

And, who do they prey upon? Citizens and travelers like yourself, yes, but there are few enough of those compared to the swarming plague of banditry. Mostly, a bandit robs from other bandits, and a bandit gang robs from other bandit gangs. With all this internecine strife and violence, the death rate of a garden-variety bandit must be grim. How do they maintain their overwhelming numbers? If you're ambushed by a bandit gang, you may see women, more often than not, but never are they pregnant. (Strange, given bandits' well-known proclivity to lewdness.) Raid a bandit den, and you never find children - at least, not BANDIT children. Maybe some captive town children, if the raiders have been particularly bold. Bandits are not born, they are joined. 

And so, we have a picture of a prolific socio-economic group (or even separate culture), outnumbering the other major demographics, but maintaining this numerical superiority only by having an influx of poor, desperate, thuggish outcasts that rivals the prodigious outflux of dead bandits (victims of all causes from homicide to disease to wandering adventurers). Imagine what life must be like in the towns and villages that the nasty, brutish, and short life of a bandit is a preferable alternative.

The alternative to banditry?
(This post inspired by some nostalgic replaying of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. But, as we gamers know, this post could be speaking about any number of other games, D&D included!

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