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The Wildwood Reavers is a system-neutral Bandit Camp setting built to be dropped into your campaign at a moment’s notice, complete with characters, backstories, your choice of adventure tangents, and trader!

Foreword

Craving a low-level encounter with maximum flexibility? This article delivers a classic bandit scenario you can tailor to your campaign!

Display them as classic villains for a good old-fashioned brawl, perfect for introducing new players to combat mechanics, or if you crave a more nuanced story, explore the reasons behind the banditry. What made these characters become bandits in the first place? What if they’re just trying to survive? What if they are in fact victims but have taken things too far? This opens the door for negotiation, uneasy alliances, or even a shot at redemption.

This article minimizes the prep work required for a session, but leaves the combat balancing completely up to you! The downloadable map and tokens provide the foundation, while the easy-to-run bandit design makes it a perfect early-game quest. Plus, the scenario is fully customizable – ditch the backstory and craft your own narrative to seamlessly integrate it into your world. This adaptable encounter is a guaranteed win for any low-level campaign! 🙂 – James


The comforting crackle of a fire echoes amongst the tree trunks, a flickering glow hinting at its presence through the dense forest ahead. A muffled chorus of laughter, both male and female, carries through the air, a tantalizing promise of safety and camaraderie. As you draw closer, the full scene unfolds. A bustling group gathers around a crackling fire, well-fed and seemingly content. Plump cuts of meat dangle from makeshift drying racks, the air thick with the savory aroma of sizzling fat. As you approach, the jovial facade crumbles, revealing a grimmer truth. Bloodstains, both fresh and faded, stain their skin and clothing. Scarred faces, etched with a history of violence, contort into grotesque smiles as their laughter appears to curdle into a harsh and cruel harmony. A pungent, animalistic reek twists through the air, reaching your senses as you notice the way they prowl around the flesh-strewn pit, resembling a pack of wolves gorging themselves after a fresh kill. A fleeting sense of relief washes over you as you spot the abundance of animal pelts stacked and stretched across the clearing, perhaps they are simply hunters? However, the unkempt nature of the camp and its rough inhabitants quickly dispel any notion of friendly welcome. Friend or foe, your approach needs to be measured. This is no place for carelessness.

The Wildwood Reavers

As the wealthy nobles endlessly swallowed up land, squeezing the life out of the legal hunting trade, the existing hunters fractured. Some, unwilling to face the wrath of the nobility, bent the knee, becoming poorly paid servants on their former grounds. Others, hearts filled with a bitter wanderlust, simply left, seeking freedom in open forestland elsewhere. But a third group, a stubborn knot of men & women fueled by resentment, refused to yield. These were the ones who clung to their old ways, their anger hardening into a cold resolve. They found strength in numbers, forming various groups of poaching camps that sprouted across the land.

Fueled by the anger, resentment, and injustice they felt in the harsh realities of their new life, these groups slowly morphed into something more feral. Civility, once familiar, became a distant memory. They lived now for survival, for a twisted sense of flesh-abundant prosperity, and for the thrill of the hunt. The most murderous, talented, and unextinguishable of these camps became The Wildwood Reavers. They were infamous for their ruthless efficiency – leaving a trail of blood and bone in their wake, yet no tracks. The nobles’ once-pristine forests became a graveyard. None of their children dared tread these grounds, even their indoctrinated gamekeepers either fled or went missing, one by one. The noble’s greed had come full circle, the land they stole now echoing with the silent screams of vengeance.

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Bandit Leaders

Volak the Hidejacker

Poacher Co-Leader, Middle-aged, Male Human

Long tangled, crusted dark brown hair and beard, heavily scarred, dark beady brown eyes. 5ft. 6″, skinny-muscled build, barrel-chested with long skinny limbs

In contrast to the jubilant chaos of the other poachers, one man stands apart. At first, he appears to have the humble protective stance of a shepherd guarding his flock, yes, but this is quickly betrayed by the wolfish glint in his eyes. A predatory hunger dances on his gaze, a silent yet confident threat that he could, and likely would, snuff out any life here with a flick of his wrist. And the others…well, they wouldn’t dare intervene.

Before the nobles seized the land, Volak was a family man, he was a provider, a hunter who took life only to sustain his family. With a wife and son by his side, he sold pelts and animal parts, content in the necessity of the hunt and the comforts of his hearth. Then came the greedy fist of the nobility. Forests, still teeming with life, became forbidden zones patrolled by an army of lawmen. Volak, a man of peace, obeyed, but obedience couldn’t fill empty bellies.

Months of scraping by on whatever might wander from the forest left them hollowed. Then Winter, a cruel visitor at the best of times, arrived again with its unrelenting chill. This time it stole his wife, then his son, Volak watching helplessly as they each took their last, agonizing breath. Barely clinging to life himself, in the grip of despair, the last embers of the man he once was were snuffed out, and a new Volak emerged from the ashes. The gentle hunter was gone, replaced by a beast forged in grief and rage.

Likes

  • Exerting power over others
  • Heightening his authority through the suffering of his subordinates
  • The thrill of the hunt
  • Inflicting fear in wealthy folk
  • Taking from others, as everything was taken from him

Dislikes

  • Nobles, wealthy folk, people born into riches
  • Lawmen
  • Having his authority challenged
  • Being lectured on the morals of theft (This will set him off on a rage-filled rant about justice and injustice)

Rivena the Carrion Queen

Poacher Co-Leader, Adult, Female Human

Bright orange hair knotted and hardened by various substances, green/yellow snakelike eyes. 5ft. 8″, agile and lithe build, skinny with minimal musculature

A manic cackle rips through the camp, sharp and mocking as you see her – a woman with hair like a wildfire, caked in mud and gore. Her cruel laughter directed at a poacher, now clutching his earlobe where her dagger, clearly thrown with casual cruelty, had sliced off the tip. He cries out in protest before quickly stifling himself, realizing his mistake. The amusement in her eyes vanishes entirely and within a heartbeat, she crosses the clearing, her grip on his collar like a bear trap. Her manic glee curdles into a snarl, a predator daring its prey to make the first move. This isn’t a game anymore, you realize with a chill – fear hangs heavy in the air. She shoves him, sending him sprawling near the fire. The woman’s scarred face, furious and scowling just moments ago, twists back into a chilling smile. Her sharp cackle breaks the discomforting silence once more, her eyes, dancing with a dangerous playfulness, flickering across the camp. The poachers around her scramble to offer weak, unconvincing laughs, their eyes quickly darting away – each one of them desperately hoping to avoid becoming the target of her next cruel amusement.

Rivena’s past is a tightly guarded secret, even from her new family of poachers, in fact, especially from them. Unlike the others, Rivena wasn’t born to a life of scraping by. Shockingly, she grew up within a noble household, a titleholder herself. But the opulent life, the endless etiquette lessons, the suffocating expectations, it all felt like a cage to Rivena.

What started as harmless pranks, albeit with a cruel edge most children wouldn’t dare, quickly morphed into something darker. The day she sent a servant tumbling down the castle steps, her laughter echoing with a chilling glee at the resulting chaos, was the day Rivena truly understood herself. However, her noble blood couldn’t shield her forever. Her escalating cruelty disgusted even her own parents. Finally, banished from the castle and stripped of her title, Rivena found herself cast out, a predator with a taste for cruelty forced into a world that no longer recognized her.

Likes

  • Inflicting pain on others
  • Childish pranks with a cruel twist
  • Her many well-cared-for blades

Dislikes

  • Any protest towards her “fun”
  • Being ordered around
  • No one laughing along when she pulls off one of her “pranks”

Additional Bandits

Oskar the Fox, Adult, Male Human, Poacher Advisor

Elara the Fence, Adult, Female Human, Poacher Trader/Fence

Maddock the Skinner, Middle-aged, Male Human, Poacher Skinner & Tanner

Seasoned, wise, and patient. The only one who can wrangle the erratic gang leaders.

Fair & Reasonable, impatient, talented trader/law evader. Married to Maddock the Skinner.

Very talented skinner & tanner, average hunter. Married to Elara the Fence, frequent conflict with Kali the Flayer due to her bloodlust ruining the pelts.

Kali the Flayer, Young Adult, Female Human, Poacher

Rinn the Silver Fang, Young Adult, Female Human, Poacher

Lucky O’Malley, Young Adult, Male Human, Poacher

Cruel and bloodthirsty, high energy. Prefers to skin her prey while it’s alive to the protest of the other poachers.

Very talented hunter, calm, patient, reasonable. A hunter since she could walk, royalty buying up land robbed her of her trade.

Dimwitted, enthusiastic, easily manipulated. Seemingly unremarkable in every way, he consistently defies expectations by returning from hunts with a good haul.

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Opportunities

Two of These Things are Not Like the Others. Elara and Maddock are a married couple and appear to be holding onto their sanity, and perhaps aren’t quite as loyal to the gang as the other members. (True; The married couple have fallen on hard times and are doing what they can to get by, but aren’t willing to lose their lives for the gang.)

A Rare Beast. The poachers can be heard discussing their biggest challenge, some kind of enormous beast that repeatedly eludes them. (False; Though it’s true that the gang believes in the creature, what they don’t know is the beast is actually the beast-form of a powerful druid, and their attempts to capture or kill them are likely to continue failing. This druid, if found, may be willing to help the party eradicate the poachers if convinced of their threat.) Here are some handy druid tokens, and their potential beast-forms!

Cursed Gold. If you can manage negotiations with the poachers, they will tell you of the rumor that one of the nobles hides their treasure outside of the castle under heavily armed guard. (True; A local lord stricken with paranoia about his own staff betraying him, stores his treasures off-site in an old crypt once belonging to a currently unknown ancient people. If you make it past the guards and into the crypt you’ll find treasures now cursed by the disrespectful disturbance of the occupants’ final resting place, the one thing that remains untouched by the curse is a deed to the land.) Click here for some spooky crypt occupant tokens.

The Missing Gamekeepers. The nobility unanimously blame their disappearing gamekeepers on the wild poachers in the forest, making claims that they’re killing their hunter-servants in cold blood. (False; The gamekeepers do indeed go missing after encountering the poachers, but feeling a sense of kinship and empathy with their former hunting colleagues, the poachers offer them a choice to flee or die, and the gamekeepers gladly take the option to flee their oppressive lives indentured to the nobles.)

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Inventory

ItemCostDescription
Misc. Rodent Furs2 sp eachModest stack of rodent-sized furs, the largest of the skins belonging to a beaver-like creature.
Rabbit Furs2 gp eachLarge stack of soft and insulating rabbit furs.
Fox Furs4 gp eachMid-sized stack of varyingly colored fox furs.
Deer Pelts6 gp eachA haphazard pile of elk antlers laying discarded in the corner of the tent.
Elk Pelts8 gp eachLarge rolls of pelts standing upright inside various crates and barrels.
Elk Antlers3 gp each (pair)Haphazard pile of elk antlers laying discarded in the corner of the tent.
Wolf Furs10 gp eachA modest stack of large and very warm-looking silver-gray pelts sit on top of a large crate.
Bear Furs15 gp eachTwo very large and heavy-looking brown pelts lay slumped against each other at the back of the tent.
Assorted Creature Pieces1-8 sp each1 Sack (disorganized): Teeth, Fangs, Claws, Jaws (various sizes)
1 Sack: Small Creature Skulls
Poor Skins: Most of Elara’s stock includes poorly-skinned versions (Kali’s overzealous work). These sell for half the normal price. | Rare Skins: Some of the animal skins and furs are exceptionally valuable due to their size, color, or rarity. These sell for triple the normal price. | Feel free to expand her inventory to include reagents/animal parts your players may be after

Gameplay Tips

Increase the chance of players siding with poachers: With the backstory I’ve provided it can become quite clear that the nobles are the true villains of this scenario, though the poachers are certainly not blameless. To make it clear that the poachers aren’t simply expendable irredeemable “bad guys” I suggest laying heavy clues or even pieces of dialogue explaining that the nobles kicked these people out of their homes by force.

Lower the chance of players siding with poachers: If you prefer the poachers to portray a more black-and-white group of “bad guys” that need to be removed, you can communicate they have just recently moved into this area to continue poaching and the locals are innocent of the sins that created the poachers in the first place. Also, you may exaggerate their bestial nature and refusal to negotiate to show that even despite their sad backstory, they are no longer redeemable.

Consider letting one or more poachers surrender: Not all the poachers are inherently aggressive, the trader Elara and her husband are likely to surrender before death, and will make good allies to the party should they need their services. Volak and Rivena on the other hand, are more likely to fight to the death, and even enjoy it.

Add some variety to the classes of the bandits (For D&D 5e): Just because they’re poachers and hunters doesn’t mean they all need to be rangers and rogues, consider making Kali with all her bloodlust a barbarian for example, and Elara with her law-evading skills and trade-negotiating charisma could easily be a bard. Lastly, I suggest having a good mix of melee and ranged attackers for a fun and tactical fight.

I’m sure that you can find a use for this Bandit Camp in your game, we hope you’ll share your story in the comments below. 🙂

Downloads

You can use the button above to download The Wildwood Reavers map, and I have listed many of the map asset packs used below. You can also find many more on our Map Gallery.


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About the author

James

I help Ross with a chunk of the background work so he has more time for the part he loves, the artwork! When I'm not doing that, I'm working on my own maps & articles to assist you in your worldbuilding. :)

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