A to Z: B is for Bandits!

Today’s letter is ‘B.’ B is for ‘Bandit.’ I’m not talking about the dog who accompanied Johnny Quest… nor am I referencing the CB handle of Burt Reynold’s character in “Smokey and the Bandit,” but unlawful types who lurk in the wild places of the world and rob others.

In OD&D, Bandits were listed under “B” as they should have been. Later, in the AD&D Monster Manual, they were moved from “B” to “M” (M as in “men.” This did not mean that bandits are exclusively male… but “men” is fantasy speak for “hu-mens” as opposed to dwarfs, elfs, gnomes, etc.). But Bandits will always be a “B” monster to me.

Looking at their entry, I see they are common, encountered in groups of 20-200 in number and have 1-6 hitpoints each. They are encountered in their lair “20%.” Does that mean if I am wandering through the forest and find a bandit lair that they will only be in it 20% of the time? Or does that mean that only 20% of the bandits will be at home at any given time? Or, does it mean that if I am the DM and I randomly roll for monsters and come up with ‘bandit’ as my result, it is 20% possible that the bandits encountered will be in their lair? I don’t know. All three sound plausible but I am leaning towards answer #3. Movement rate and armor class and damage are all listed as ‘see below.’ In the entry we read that they will be armed variously with swords, daggers, spears, different kinds of armor, bows and arrows, etc., and some will be mounted on horses. They are listed as having 1-6 hitpoints each but leader types (who might be magic users, clerics, fighting men, etc.,) will have more hitpoints. Brigands (which also start with a B) will be just like bandits but chaotic evil instead of neutral.

The other day I watched the movie version of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” (one of my favorite books). There are a lot of desperate characters in that book, some of whom (especially the ones who have gone cannibal) definitely seem like evil ‘brigands.’ Then again, in the movie Krull, Liam Neeson plays a likeable ‘bandit’ who is more Robin Hood than cannibal, so I suppose that the ‘bandit’ can be a variable quantity.

In medieval times (if I remember correctly), someone who had gone “bandit” was an outlaw. I suppose some of them were “bad” people (what with the murder and whatnot). All of them were criminals since at that time (like most times), lighting off of your own and trying to live without paying taxes or oweing fealty was considered a ‘criminal’ act. And it strikes me that in all of my days of play I have almost never encountered ‘nice’ bandits… so maybe I need to keep that idea for the future.

One Comment on “A to Z: B is for Bandits!”

  1. Nice post (Same goes for A's post). I'm a child of Moldvay so it's B for Bandit for me too. You know I'd never really thought about D&D Bandits being Neutral and what that could mean in terms of how encounters might play out.


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