“Those bastards. The first time they came they stole all my cattle. The second, all my giant salamanders. The third, they killed my husband because we didn’t have any more cattle…. I really do miss the cattle.”
Those who live by the code of “what’s yours is mine, or I’ll break your kneecaps” are called Bandits. Bandits steal, coerce, and, in extreme cases, murder to get what they need to survive. Bandits naturally form into large roving groups to increase their effectiveness and range, and are known to have certain routes or territory that they cover. They operate not unlike a protection racket on the hapless denizens of their territory. The bigger the territory, the more Bandits, and consequently the more resources they need and violence they will enact to get it. Bandits typically do not kill, however; it is far preferable to them that someone remain alive, so they can be cowed with intimidation and extorted later. Nevertheless, murder and violence are a part of the Bandit’s arsenal; they hesitate at nothing to sow fear in the residents of their realm. When you get right down to it, though, Bandits are just people — desperate, bad people, but still people.
In the case of Bandit Groups, Group Affiliation means a former member who left in good standing, since they are typically antagonists and that’s a bad precedent to set for PCs. You can still work with them in most cases.
“There’s your regular Bandits, they’re pretty bad. Then there’s the real badass ones, they’re worse. Then there’s the Atom Bombz…”
Bandits are bad news for sure, but they rarely invoke the the same level of fear that cannibals and Raiders cause. That is, of course, unless you’re talking about the Atom Bombs. The Atom Bombz exploded into Sokal from seemingly nowhere about five years ago and have since established themselves as the most dangerous group of Bandits Sokal has ever seen. They owe their success almost solely to one man, their leader and certified Badass, Tsar Bomba. The Tsar took control early and earned the loyalty and respect of his crew (a rare thing amongst the cutthroat ranks of banditry) through his ruthless cunning, intelligence, and reputation as a powerful fighter.
Under his leadership and utilizing his brutal tactics, the Atom Bombz have experienced unprecedented success. They rely on their shock troops, the now infamous Warheads, to sow fear and confusion amongst their enemies and break up any possibility of organized resistance. The Tsar is served by his most loyal lieutenants, the top three of whom are his triplet sons Raze, Haze, and Daze. Tsar Bomba has made his intentions in Sokal absolutely clear: he simply wants to dominate the entire region. From what everyone can tell, if he continues on his current path, he’ll pull it off. Communities that fall under his ever-expanding domain are given his now infamous “Join or Die” ultimatum. If they join, they swell his ranks. If they refuse, the village is found burned to the ground, a process now known as being “atomized”, and the Atom Bombs War Glyph is left as a calling card.
“Most Bandits actually want you to seem them coming, these guys…. they don’t give you the chance to get scared.”
If there was one thing humans were good at before the Fall, it was war. No where do the horrors of the past come full circle like they do with Charlie Company. A group of heavily armed and deadly skilled Bandits who have patterned their look and behavior off of the warriors of Sokal’s forgotten days.
Charlie Company Bandits wear distinctive pot helmets, gas masks or camouflage paint on there faces, combat fatigues, and necklaces of trophies. They’re particularly fond of taking ears and teeth from kills. They are heavily armed and disciplined when compared to other Bandits. Not a high bar for sure but the military efficiency of Charlie Company is terrifying in its own way. They handle their powerful weapons with skill and are experts at fire discipline, squad level combat, and overlapping fields of fire. Charlie Company hates wasting bullets so they’re all expert shots.
This same discipline is also a weakness. Their numbers are small because it’s hard to find other Bandits with the intelligence, patience, and mental fortitude to master their techniques. Those that fail, the less spoken of them the better, as Charlie Company is one of the most well known and feared groups of publicly known cannibals in Sokal. Charlie Company deals with their numerical disadvantage by sticking to deep forests and out of open terrain, which also serves to make them even more terrifying.
When not engaging in Banditry, Charlie Company is given a wide berth by all. These dead eye killers all have thousand yard stares that can bore through zinc siding. But conversing with them reveals deep knowledge of the past. They will speak of the great wars, Vietnam I and II, Desert Storm, Desert Shield, and Desert Anvil, the Annexation of Pakistan, Bali Wars, and more.
“I’m not even going to pretend to understand what they’re all about. They’re some sort of cult or fringe group. But they ain’t nice about it like a lot of others. They hunt you, and if they catch you, you either have to join them… or worse.”
Bandit groups come and go in Sokal. It’s the nature of large groups of violent people to destroy themselves over time just as new groups will take their place. Every rule has its exception, though. As far as anyone can tell, The Family has been around ever since the Fall itself, and they show no signs of disbanding or destroying themselves anytime soon.
What sets The Family apart is the strange religious-like dogma that all of the Family members follow. This belief, which they call The Revelation, drives them to roam all over Sokal looking for people of all types to convert. Those who don’t convert learn how such a large group manages to sustain themselves. The Family makes a practice of cannibalizing anyone who doesn’t join them. According to them, everyone will become part of the Family, one way or the other.
The Family is known for their unique behavior and mannerisms. When not out hunting for converts, or meals, they usually can usually be found engaging in their various religious rites, brewing potent moonshine, or playing a rather unique style of music on stringed instruments. They speak with a unique drawl, adopted from the spiritual mentor, Christopher Moon. Moon is an enigma though, while many have seen him in person because he often travels to preach the Revelation, no one knows for sure how old he is. Rumor has it that he’s been around since before the Fall. While most dismiss this as a crazy superstition few can deny that Moon lives up to his sinister reputation. He rules The Family with an iron fist in a velvet glove and maintains total obedience. He speaks only in riddles but is terrifyingly intelligent. While he keeps the numbers of The Family relatively small, very few have the courage to actively deal with them. The few who have tried have made the mistake of underestimating the intelligence of The Family under Moon’s leadership. They usually have paid the price and ended up as the main course on the The Family’s dinner table.
Bad Blood: The Family is nothing if not pervasive. When traveling overland let Staff know about this disadvantage, the Family may find you in the places most distant from others to take their revenge.
Favor Cards: The Family are a strange group to be sure, and few know what they are capable of. You can call in favors with the Family to obtain knowledge of things best forgotten.
Group Affiliation: The Family doesn’t allow anyone to leave it voluntarily. Don’t take this advantage for them.
“Yeah, I got captured by those…. things. It was awful…. They did…. things, horrible things, to me man…..with, blow torches and clamps and….. sauces….and I think….. I think….. OH GOD I THINK I LIKED IT!”
The Atom Bombz may be the most dangerous, the Magic Kingdom may be the most feared, but by far the strangest, least understood, and most bizarre group of Bandits in the wastes are the Phreaques. Based out of a former stock house between Bako and The Great Bay the Phreaques roam all over the central valley looking for prey and salvage.
What differentiates the Phreaques from other Bandit groups are their habits, and who can become a member. The Phreagues, unlike most Bandits, don’t need to be nomadic because they have the Stockyard. A massive structure that probably survived the fall because it was far too disgusting to be bothered with. The Stockyard was at one point a huge cattle rendering plant that has since been repurposed by the Phreaques for even more sinister purposes.
The Phreaques are also unique in that they don’t persecute mutants. In fact, those who have seen the Phreaques and lived say that they’re almost exclusively mutants. Why they seem to prefer mutants in their ranks, few know. The horror stories that come out of the Stockyard though are without equal and shed a little light on this bizarre group.
The Phreaques don’t kill and prefer to take captives whenever possible. These unlucky few are dragged back to the Stockyard and given two options. Join the Phreaques, or be rendered. This is a much more difficult choice than one would initially assume, as being part of the Phreaques involves tests of loyalty such as enduring strange tortures, and taking part in bizarre perversions. Failure usually means being turned over to the sinister renderers and made into leather, the Phreaques’ preferred clothing material.
The Rust Horde
“You think we have it bad here. Go further east and I’ve heard there’s these guys that can cross the whole desert in a few hours. There’s thousands of them, they practically own the whole place. I don’t know what’s stopping them from coming our way.”
Spoken of only as vague rumors or from a guy who knows a guy. The Rust Horde is said to be a group of Bandits so huge, well organized, fast and dangerous that they make most Sokal Bandit groups look like total assholes by comparison. Information on them in Sokal is minimal, beyond just their name and reputation and the fact that they’re prevalent beyond “The Great River”, but given how important these things are to Bandits the fact that their name has made it this far is both impressive and terrifying. The Rust Horde is too distant for anyone in Sokal to have had extensive dealings with it though.
“They see us rollin’, they hatin’….”
In the post apocalyptic wastes of Sokal, the only thing more toxic than the air, water, and food is the masculinity. Across the various Bandit Nations the drug of choice isn’t meth or alcohol, but testosterone. Everywhere you go Bandits seek to outdo each other with contests of yelling, fighting, and flexing. Enter the Sokal Skorchers.
A Bandit Nation unto itself, dominated by women and the gender non-conforming in its upper ranks. The Skorchers are experts at skimming talent from other Bandits who have been overlooked because they don’t fit the über-macho Bandit profile. Their loss becomes the Skorchers gain. Men are welcome too, but have a hard time competing against some of the toughest the Bandit Nations have to offer who don’t fit the typical mold.
Descended from some sort of women’s club before the fall, the Sokal Skorchers own the look, whatever it’s called. Pastels, leopard print, denim, and spandex mix well with bubble gum pop and the ever-extended middle finger. It’s as much an advertisement for new recruits as it is a ploy.
The Skorchers aren’t just a group of badass lady Bandits. They’re one of the most successful along with Aquinas Coven and Valkyries. The Skorchers are every bit as vicious as everyone else who survives in the Wastes through violence and intimidation. Their favored weapons are blunt instruments like pipes and chair legs, the most prized of which are the nasty, nail studded baseball bats.
Position within the Skorchers is determined by a brutal, bloody game that takes place in their headquarters east of Lost Angels, The Hell on Wheels. This game, whatever it is, is said to be the most physically and mentally demanding sport offered before the Fall. The Sokal Skorchers revere it and take their tradition with a great deal of pride.