Marauders - An Introduction
Marauders are one of the most prolific problems for Player Characters in the Twilight: 2000 RPG. Name an adventure from the game that didn't deal with them, even as a minor nuisance. Often, they were a major problem, being the focus of a major part (or the entire) adventure.
Marauders are in many ways, a problem that is a result of the collapse of civilization, rather than something that caused it. As one captured marauder said in Red Star, Lone Star. "A guy has to eat." And this is the driving force behind a lot of marauder bands: They gotta eat.
Many of these bands have little to no skills other than to kill people and break things, and many of them are, either because of the war, or pre-war experiences and predilections, too anti-social to be willing to hire themselves out as mercenaries to anybody. It's easier to rob the merchants and peasants..and that's if said merchants and peasants are lucky (I won't go into potential details, it's not germane, and I am not a lurid fellow for the sake of being lurid).
What does matter is how to reflect these marauder bands on the table top. I am going to use the TV show, The Walking Dead to illustrate further the loose "taxonomy" one can find with marauder bands in Twilight:2000, but by no means, is this taxonomy perfect at all.
We will also discuss how this works on a miniatures table.
Marauders - A Taxonomy
Marauders can be divided up into three rough groups, the first is what I call Brigands. These are your typical marauders, they're not nice folks, but they are clearly in it for what they can get. They're cowards at heart, because they aren't going to hit anyone they can't clearly handle, and will flee if they hit any sort of real resistance. Their roots are a mix of escaped prisoners (except clearly the most sociopathic, as they are "bad for business"), deserters, and embittered refugees and villagers forced into this life because they have nothing else and their pre-war world has been turned upside down (a large portion of former urbanites should fall into this category, see the adventure Allegheny Uprising for an excellent example of this).
Examples of this are most marauder groups found in the game's encounter table. They are usually small groups, though they can be larger (Baron Czarny's "army" from Ruins of Warsaw) and even grow into "kingdoms" (the Megapunks in Boston in Last Submarine come to mind), but are usually riven with infighting (enlightened self interest is not a feature of these bands). Another good example are pre-war biker gangs. All of these bands have one thing in common, they are callous and cruel to be sure, but not because they can be, but when it suits their "business model".
A good example in the Walking Dead is the Claimers. Joe is a cruel, hard, and merciless man with a twisted code of honor. But he is not above acts of shocking violence to get what he wants, or to exact what he considers "justice". Joe in Twilight: 2000 would be a very common marauder leader, and thus would be a very dangerous fellow to deal with.
The next type is the Viking model. These guys are the closest thing to "Robin Hood" you are going to find in Twilight: 2000, but they hardly limit their theft to the rich. Everybody pays tribute. If you don't, you get raided. They are in many ways, entrepreneurs in the new "scavenger and barter" economy. They are capable of relations with unincorporated communities, but those communities are often stronger then they are. They are shrewd statesmen, and aren't stupid at all. Often, these bands become full-fledged warlord kingdoms, there are laws, and everyone is expected to live by them..or else. Justice is often swift, and violent, but it is a form of law and order. The makeup of these bands are similar to brigands, but with less sociopaths, and more specialists and civilians (these Vikings often attract followers, as they tend to be a more acceptable lot to fall in with).
A good example from The Walking Dead is Negan. He is Machiavellian, but unpredictably brutal. His society has rules, though they are enforced capriciously, and often without regard for anyone on the wrong end of them. He does see value in people as assets and often spares their lives, and his prohibition against rape is something of an interesting twist for such a character. But the unpredictable level of violence is something that will eventually inspire a coup or a revolt. His tribute system, does however, keep the level of violence at a simmer, but the capricious nature of Negan would make this an unstable arrangement.
A third type is what I call the Reaver type. These are folks who basically have decided to throw their hand against all other men. Either they murder everyone in the aftermath of a raid, or they practice cannibalism, they are often a dangerous threat to all concerned. The makeup of these bands is rarely stable, and once the leader dies, the band often falls to infighting.
Makeup of these bands are to be honest, the worst of the worst, escaped pre-war prison and mental ward sociopaths, or those triggered by 18 months of war culminating in a limited nuclear exchange. These folks can and do justify any manner of behavior, and are some of the most dangerous folks to run into in Twilight :2000. They are often fanatics, and will stop at nothing for their next meal or toy for their creative tortures. A well-written example of these types is the band described from the Challenge magazine adventure Rifle River.
A good example from The Walking Dead is the community of Terminus. Their justification of becoming "hunters" and using guile and deceit to lure new victims into their community to be eaten is a very good example of what a Reaver band run amok can accomplish. They are large by Reaver standards, as most Reaver bands, due to their nature tend to reach a "critical mass".
A fourth and final example is just as deadly as the Reavers, and that is the Cultists. Cultists are formed around a religious or spiritual belief that has been corrupted beyond all recognition by the stresses of the apocalypse. They are often led by someone who has both a force of charisma, and an amoral sense of self. Their societies are formed from the weak, the desperate, and the lost, and every single one of those in the society are willing to kill and to die for them, fearing that the dangerous "outside" will one day come in.
Victims of these bands will often be given a choice, join or die. The choice, as it turns out, isn't much of one, as those on the bottom of the social structure live in slavery, and are not trusted with even their own lives. Families are broken up, and the entire society is set against each other to forestall a coup.
The real trouble begins when the leader invariably dies and either the entire society suicides, or the society breaks up into a religious war between various factions of the cult. (Satellite Down is an excellent example of a cult, and the trouble brewing).
In The Walking Dead, The Governor has something of a cult of personality going, he is amoral, and possibly quite insane and uses the "outside" as a moral cudgel against his own community. He stresses that his rule is as good as it gets. But when things turn bad for him in his war against Rick Grimes and his allies, he thinks nothing of shooting his own in the back. He lies, cheats, and, steals to get what he wants, and callously weaponized the undead, regardless of the risks.
So, What Does All This Mean on the Tabletop?
On the tabletop, a lot of the nuance can be reflected in the morale rules you use for a given scenario when using marauders. Reavers and Cultists will tend towards the more fanatical bent, but on the other hand, the given targets of their attentions will not be inclined to surrender, knowing their fate is worse than death, Brigands and Vikings are more likely to see a surrender, but their terms had best be generous, lest the defenders become ones that would do the ghosts of Stalingrad proud.
Another idea can be in the victory conditions. Reavers and Cultists want prisoners, but the Reavers should also get points for wanton destruction. Brigands are more classic raiders, and will most likely want anything that isn't nailed down, whereas Vikings will want as much intact as they can manage.
Some scenario ideas include:
- A Reaver band is about to overrun a lightly defended town, and the men have decided to stay behind and buy time for their women and children to flee to a neighboring town, can they, and a small band of American soldiers make a difference?
- A Viking band is facing an uprising, but what they don't know is a neighboring community fed up with said band's raids is backing the village that is in revolt.
- A coalition of communities is truly fed up with the antics of a bunch of Brigands, and catches them in camp. The brigands get points for each figure that escapes, and the coalition isn't in a prisoner taking mood.