Now, bandits are staple villains; some people, like Bryce Lynch, call for bandits to replace many of the orcs, hobgoblins and so on of adventure modules. I've done that in the past - my high school games involved many groups of bandits as a "so we need a combat this week" quick fix.
My feelings on bandits is mixed. They're very flexible and easy to swap out, and a bandit encounter can vary from negotiation to combat quickly. A defeated bandit makes for a henchman in a pinch, even if he's not going to be left alone much. And they are fond of ambushes. But at the same time, uninspired bandits are even less interesting than the cursus honorum of humanoids. To do bandits well, particularly in a published module, I think that they should have some differentiating factors. And of course, if you've been paying attention to the themes of this blog, that means charts.
Even in a fantasy role-playing game, the things that motivate a bandit can still be complex. I'm thinking that there are four types of bandit, some of which are better at working together than others. There are the bandits who are "honest" thugs and have no illusions about what they do, who see survival and enrichment as goals in themselves or means to a fairly base end (women and wine, et cetera). Other bandits are "realists" about their activities but harbor hope that they will eventually be able to return to an honest living. A third type of bandits are "social" bandits, who picture themselves as Robin Hood types, but in many cases wind up falling short of a standard of "rob from the rich and give to the poor." Finally there are the "megalomaniac" sorts, who view banditry as a way to become a bandit leader and eventually carve out some bandit kingdom all their own.
Different types of bandits will occur in the same group; the leader is probably an "honest" or "megalomaniac" type, while the newer recruits are "realist" or "social" in disposition. Note that social bandits, even ones who are genuine in their beliefs and actions, may not cooperate with PCs - especially if they are seen as members of the hated upper classes. Megalomaniacs may seek cooperation if the PCs align with their grand schemes, while realists may react differently depending on whether the PCs may have known them in pre-bandit life. And of course, megalomaniacs often disguise themselves as other motives, particularly social bandits, playing at Robin Hood while taking their cut.
Here's a chart to determine bandit types. Roll 1d10 and consult the following:
|Roll||Normal Bandit||Bandit Leader|
And ... just in case you need some musical inspiration for some banditry...