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Friday, January 16, 2009

The Bandits of Lope

This bandit gang featured prominently in a series of adventures I ran as part of an AD&D campaign a few years back. I'll be using them in subsequent posts.

Main Characters

The main NPCs in this series are bandits operating outside the law. The bandits are lead by three men, Timon, Juro and Renis. They command a well organized group of ruffians who prey upon any convenient target within a few days ride of their base of operations. The victims fall into one of three general categories:
  • Travelers - The bandits recognize most of the locals and will be more inclined to rob those passing through instead. An adventuring party could fit the bill quite well. Hard currency, horses, weapons, armor and valuables will be their goal. Since travelers are usually just passing through, the bandits will take as much as they can carry. Occasionally the bandits will pack up their valuables and offer them for sale to a passing trader, exchanging items with little practical value for currency, weapons or armor. This may leave the trader with stolen goods that are identifiable, a potentially sticky situation when they reach town.
  • Frontiersmen - The bandits offer the local prospectors and trappers protection in exchange for a share of their takings. The leaders of the group are wise enough to realize that robbing the frontiersmen blind will drive them away so they set a reasonable price for their protection. They've even been known to defend the prospectors that pay their protection from claim jumpers or other threats.
  • Locals - The bandits usually leave the local farmers alone. Some of the rank and file are locals and have family in the community. Men from the gang will often buy food from outlying farms.
Timon - The eldest of the bandit leaders, and the most reasonable. Timon is an army deserter, a former sergeant. Falsely accused of theft by an officer, he fled service to avoid facing a penalty he didn't deserve. He is a disciplined man with a good grasp of tactics and leadership. He knows he cannot return to his homeland, and is trying to accumulate sufficient wealth to cross the border and make a new start in one of the neighboring kingdoms. Timon suggested the tactic of collecting protection money from the local prospectors and trappers rather than robbing them blind. He is uncomfortable with the bandit role, but resigned to his fate.

Timon is middle aged, with close-cropped graying hair and a sturdy build. He is missing the pinkie of his left hand. He is soft-spoken, but his steady gaze reveals inner confidence. Timon has a Good sword, bow and heavy mail and has accumulated a Good stash of coin and valuable trinkets, which he carries with him or leaves with his woman Karla. Skills: Great swordsman, Good bowman, Fair group tactics, negotiation, Average woodcraft.

Renis - A hot-tempered, passionate man, Renis has led a troubled life. As a youth his drunken temper earned him repeated visits to the stocks. Eventually he was forced to flee when he nearly killed a prostitute in a fit of drunken rage. Life on the road was hard, and eventually Renis ended up in the city of Lyme just as the plague struck. He contracted the disease, and only the expensive intervention by a priest of Yullic (god of disease and decay) saved his life. His rescue from certain death proved a turning point for Renis and he became a devout follower of the disease god. An unfortunate choice since worship of Yullic is outlawed in most civilized realms.

Renis, with the fiery faith of a new convert, seeks to legitimize his god no matter the cost. He views banditry as a means to an end, a source of wealth to build shrines and garner support for Yullic. He is a fiery orator and will go to great lengths to achieve his goals. He is less involved in the day to day operations of the gang's activities, spending his time indoctrinating the troops with his message or worshiping at his private shrine. Renis does have access to healing magic which assures him a position of power with the bandits.

Renis is in his 30s and has black hair and dark eyes. His pale complexion is pockmarked with pits and scars left by the plague. He is constantly in motion and given to fits of anger. Renis has a sword and light mail of Average quality, and a Fair stash of coin which he stores in a hollow beneath his personal altar to Yullic. Skills: Great healing / disease magic, Good diplomacy, Fair swordsman, intimidation.

Juro - The younger brother of Renis, Juro was crushed when his brother fled without a word of goodbye. Once the clamor for his brother's blood died down, he set off in pursuit. If life on the road was hard for Renis it was terrible for Juro. With a week he had been robbed, beaten,and left for dead. Only the kindness of strangers saved him. A passing merchant train found him near death in a roadside ditch and one of the guards threw him into a cart. A week later Juro was in the employ of the merchant as a drover and laborer. A few years on the road taught Juro the survival skills he needed as he sought for his brother, and he developed some small skill in magic and a broad streak of self-preservation. He is loyal to his brother, but the rest of the band means little to him.

Juro is in his 20s and has black hair and dark eyes like his brother. His impulsive nature has been tempered by hard experience, though he remains overconfident. Life on the road has made him callous and hard. Juro leads most of the attacks on travelers along the road, delighting in the violence and action they often entail. Juro has a Good sword, bow and leather armor, and a Fair stash of coin and a trinkets, which he generally carries and wears or keeps buried under his bedroll. Skills: Good swordsman, bowman, intimidation, Fair illusion / concealment magic, stealth, hide.

Rank and File - For the most part the rank and file bandits are either military deserters, frontiersmen seeking an easier path to wealth, or outlaws and adventurous youngsters from the local town. There are about 25 men in the band, with one or two members joining or leaving each month. A core of 12 military deserters loyal to Timon maintain a solid foundation of power in the organization. Five or six men have gravitated to Renis and often join him in worshiping Yullic. The remainder are a motley collection most loyal to Juro. Most of the rank and file have Average swords, bows and leather armor and carry a handful of silver Skills: Average swordsman, woodcraft or military tactics

Camp Followers - A dozen non-combatants, wives, lovers, children and prisoners, can be found in the camp. They tend to most of the drudge work in the camp, and do some gathering from the surrounding woods to supplement the camp diet. Prisoners are kept under guard and most are manacled or hobbled. Most of the camp followers have a Mediocre knife and no wealth beyond what their protector of the moment gives them. Skills: Mediocre brawling Average survival

Setting

This group was originally based in the region near Lope, a small agricultural town in the thinly populated borderlands between two rival kingdoms. A major road passed through the town, connecting two cities, one in each kingdom. A river provided access to a third kingdom, making the town something of a trade hub. The recent discovery of gold in the nearby mountains provided a draw for miners and prospectors, creating a pool of local wealth ripe for the plucking. The town was pretty safe but the road and wilder surroundings were not.

The primary setting requirement for this series are:
  • An area with weak law enforcement and poor protection from outlaws and thieves
  • A well known road and a reason for travelers to use it
  • A wealth draw for frontiersmen such as prospectors, trappers or other opportunists.
  • Uncontrolled wilderness to hide a base of operations

The bandits base of operations is located in an isolated valley a day's ride from the main road and two days from the nearest town. Dozens of trails wind through the surrounding woods, creating a maze that few can thread. The base itself is situated around a small cave system that provides shelter from the weather and has a good spring. The cave system has three separate exits and could easily house thirty men and horses. The camp spills into the woods surrounding the largest of the cave entrances. Several crude huts provide shelter for the lowest ranked members of the band. Prisoners are forced to the deepest, dankest cleft of the cave and kept under guard at all times. Camp supplies are kept in the upper caves, which are drier than the lower caves. Horses are stabled in a large cavern near the main entrance or picketed outdoors.

There are two or three men on outer watch day and night. Another two men rove the camp, keeping an eye on supplies and prisoners. The level of alertness varies depending on who is watching. Timon is fond of surprise checks on watchers and has killed a sleeping sentry more than once, so discipline is fairly good, if resented.
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