Raiders and Robbers in the Sea of Stars (A to Z)

21 April, 2021

Raid for plunder, profit and  . . . patriotism?There is an illusionary calm to the Sea of Stars, an impression that a Pax Dracona has ended war and conflict, nothing could be further from the truth.   While under dragonrule, open war between states has become vanishingly rare, as such invites war between the Draconic houses, so armed conflict is waged by other means: raid, skirmish, reconnaissance in force, chevauchée, backing of rebel factions, hiring bandits and pirates, and other such tactics.  Life can be very dangerous in the borderlands between two ambitious realms even if war is never declared, in fact, it may be worse than war if such raiding is left unchecked.

Those who raid often do so under some vague authority or authorization from the powers that be, though the legality of such things is questionable at best without a formal declaration of war.  Privateers operating under a Letter of Marque, soldier on an extended “scouting missions”, such actions tend to dissolve into raids, counter-raids and reprisals.  It is a messy business when soldiers act as raiders and looters, they can quickly become barely distinguishable from bandits and brigands without a strong commander who can maintain discipline.

Bandits, robbers and pirates are there to get money and goods, rarely they have some other purpose as well, but in general, they are are very focused on the money.  They usually operate in small groups or bands, it requires an exceptional leader to gather together multiple bands into a large group (or, for pirates, ships into a flotilla) as the bands tend to be very idiosyncratic in their organization and, especially, in their leadership.

From the point of view of the people being overrun and plundered, the difference between raiders and bandits, privateers and pirates, is not likely to even be of academic interest.  Depending on the cultures involved, those captured by the raiders may be enslaved and taken away as additional plunder, others have no interest in people except as a source of valuables and will leave people alone once their aims have been achieved (as long as the people are not foolish enough to attack them), only the worst of the worst engage in destruction and slaughter for that purpose alone.  Those working, in theory at least, for a state or noble usually seek to preserve the physical structure of lands that they might wish to add to their portfolio as some point.

Robbers, thieves and bandit gangs are a local threat and therefor a problem for the local government to deal with, as is usual for such problems, the task is often forced down to the lowest level that can be expected to be able to cope with in.  This provides mercenaries and venturers work in hunting down and killing or dispersing gangs of robbers as they are often more competent in such tasks than the soldiers of the regional sheriff or the town militia (and there will be many few tear shed it they do not come back).  Of course hunters of robbers must be vetted and usually are required to swear an oath, backed by some sort of magic, to defeat the robbers and not join or supplant them (hey, it happens).

Demobilized or unpaid soldiers often go into the robbery or extortion game to get the money and foot they need to survive, a sorry state of affairs but such is the world.  Failed rebels and deposed nobility forced to the fringes of society also turn to robbery.  Even hard working peasants and farmers can be forced to rob and plunder their neighbors when times are rough, when you need to feed yourself and your family, sometime you will use whatever means are available to get that food.  Not all robbers are evil, but many, if not most, are desperate and willing to do terrible things to survive.

While the one of the few tasks set to the Imperial Navy is the suppression of piracy, as a problem that is a dispersed threat that can be hard for any one realm to focus upon it, however the Imperial Navy is small and the Sea of Stars is ridiculously large.  So while Imperial forces seek to crush ship-borne raiders and pirates as a threat to trade, until the pirates become a major threat they are unlikely to attract the attention of the Imperial Navy.  Most pirate groups dissolve before they become large enough for the Imperium to send a punitive expedition.  Occasionally, smaller powers plagued by piracy request Imperial assistance in the suppression of such robbers, such aid is always given and always comes with a price.

Notes: Hunting robber bands, being chased by bandits, defending against raiders and pirates are the bread and butter of many a party of venturers but there is a bigger pictures these people are part of.  Robbers are people too, many of them are bad people, but they are still people and some of them may be able to be redeemed.

Images “The Dutch Raid on the Medway and the Capture of the Royal Charles, 1667, Mathias de Sallieth, 1782” by Mathias de Sallieth is marked with CC0 1.0

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