The road bandit is a commonplace image of lawlessness on the poorly policed rural thoroughfares of yesteryear. Evildoers forced to locate their bases of operation far from population centers found the most heavily trafficked roads a sort of ATM from which they were entitled to withdraw as much precious metal and jewels as their personal needs required. It also can do an evildoer's reputation some good by association with the glamorous highway robbers of the past. Yet there is a certain peril to the unwary highwayman who faces something which he is unprepared. If one wishes to cut the proper figure while realizing a substantial profit, however, there are certain more or less obscure matters of craft which the prudent evildoer is well advised to familiarize him- or herself with ahead of time.
- Strike with the element of surprise. If you are are going up against ancient matchlocks and rapiers, the more sudden your attack the better, to deny any defending force the chance to organize much resistance. This is why blind corners in the badlands and dense copses adjoining lonely mountain passes are such popular hangout locations for a highway robber. Choose a spot where it is technically difficult or impossible to maneuver the coach, and a time when the fatigue of the road is most apt to let the victims’ attention slip.
- Knock out the muscle. Oftentimes you will find the sole defender of a tempting stagecoach riding in the shotgun seat, and it is actually quite rare that that individual will be carrying a loaded shotgun. Concentrate your first efforts against this individual and the driver, checking to see whether there might be any other forces secreted on top or around the back. Once all of these have been neutralized, you may then turn your attention to the lucrative contents.
- Menace them with style. The dashing highwayman is never one of those types with a plastic cannon gripped in two hands, like some ordinary thug. Instead, lead with a flamboyant costume featuring a cape and frills, wielding a cutlass in one hand and an exquisite antique firearm in the other, with a roguish glint in the eye and a devilish grin throughout. Even the most jaded of targets will have to admit that as a life experience, being the subject of this kind of violent crime has the great advantage of making for a great story afterwards.
- :Leave them dumbstruck. If you decide to leave your victims alive, so as to reduce the heat directed toward your roguery, do not allow them to come up with a clearly identifiable image of yourself and your allies. Plain, unadorned attire or armor, with plain speech free of any striking catchphrases, and a face-concealing mask are all good precautions to make.
- Melting away. Assuming you leave one or more survivors, the last impression you should plan to leave is of a tantalizing elusiveness. You may wish to enhance your getaway by using supernatural or technological effects which help sell the sense that you and your mooks can vanish into the night or disappear in a cloud of dust to some secret hideaway.
Strokes of genius
- Sex appeal. If there are members of your favored gender among the party of travelers, it is nearly expected of a daring bandit to single them out for special attention during the festivities. Whether the attention is of the flirtatious sort or of the degrading type depends of course on the personal chemistry you sense as modified by your particular branding. If you decide to take one or more individuals hostage, with a nastily worded warning to the rest against retribution, be sure to play up the lurid implications of the deed so that you will gain maximum points for villainy.
- Hijacking. Most villains are content to part with the valuables carried by the passengers of a stagecoach, and are little interested in the coach itself, the rationale being that one should travel in rough regions as light as one can. Yet there are a few who recognize the possibilities of absconding with the entire conveyance. For one thing, away from the road in the seclusion of one’s lair, one can devote more time to stripping it fully for precious items, decorative and otherwise. For another, when armored and modified to carry your heavily armed minions these sturdy vehicles can form the basis of a rather impressive war wagon if you have the facilities to make the changes. Finally, by depriving the victims of their means of transport, you slow down the process that may lead to pursuit by law enforcement and other do-gooders.
- Secret riches. When the hazards of the road become widespread, those traveling do their best to minimize losses by hiding their property in places the casual observer might overlook. False floors and compartments behind seats, jewels baked into bricks or sewn into undergarments, and the last haven of the desperate represented by the body cavity gambit are all best explored with a cool mind, once the excitement of the violent stuff has passed its course. It may be worth interrogating the victims separately, searching for personal rifts and opportunities to sell one another out.
Traps for mere fools
- Leaving tracks. School your highwayman minions to cover things up all nice and pretty afterwards, leaving nothing but perhaps your personal calling card in the form of a perfect gardenia perhaps.
- Hidden weaponry. This includes the possibility of booby traps secreted around the stagecoach in question.
- The cavalry. Make sure you locate your point of attack in a remote enough location that any aid must come a long way, over ground observed by your scouts.
- Being trampled.
Precious and needful
- Pocket cannon.
- Domino mask. Because if they can’t see the skin around your eyes, they will never be able to identify you.
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- Image credit Highwayman by publicenergy
- Image credit Sovereign Hill by aussiegall
- Image credit Post Apocalyptic Armor 2 by Camera John