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In a post-apocalyptic world, survival is often difficult. In the first few decades after the apocalypse, living in permanent settlements was dangerous because of roaming creatures and bandit gangs, which can wipe out an entire population in a single battle. So, some people chose to steal what they needed instead of making it. The Cobras, a raider gang, is one of the most powerful gangs in the former state of New York. For multiple generations, they have raided, pillaged plundered, and raped and were not completely against slavery and cannibalism. They are known as the most fearsome gang on the eastern seaboard.

But after 500 years, most people in the wastes have at least partially rebuilt their societies. The really isn’t a scarcity of food, as people can make their own, and there aren’t as many bandits and roaming creatures as there were hundreds of years ago. So my question is, what might be a good motivation, if any, for the Cobras to remain nomadic raiders?

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    $\begingroup$ You have this questioned a bit reversed...if society wasn't rebuilt and there was nothing to raid, then there is a good reason to abandon the nomadic lifestyle. There being more settlements and presumably more wealth to raid would be an excellent reason to continue the lifestyle...'why would they give up raiding when there is more to raid' would be harder to justify. $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Feb 16 '18 at 22:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Twelfth Settlements aren't just places to raid and steal from, they're places to recruit from. Settlements mean laws or at least rules, and with that come law breakers, people that would have to face punishment. How better to avoid punishment than with a fearsome gang like The Cobras? $\endgroup$ – nagamani Feb 16 '18 at 22:45
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    $\begingroup$ @Twelfth Quite right. For a raider culture to continue there must be somewhere to plunder. The classic example is China and the various nomad cultures that plundered: Mongols, Huns, and others. China was settled with industry and agriculture. They had something worth stealing. Nomads typically live in environments incapable of supporting organized agriculture. Low rainfall, poor nutrient soils etc. $\endgroup$ – a4android Feb 17 '18 at 2:23
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    $\begingroup$ Beware of the combination of "New York", "Post apocalyptic", "raider gangs" and "Cobras" because for some reason my immediate thought was "Snake Plissken" and I might not be the only one $\endgroup$ – A_A Feb 17 '18 at 11:04
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Because they can't.

For multiple generations, they have raided, pillaged plundered, and raped and were not completely against slavery and cannibalism.

Why would any town or village let these people settle down? Townsfolk would get ready fight at the first sight of The Cobras, there would be no question of coexistence. And if The Cobras founded their own settlement they'd surely be attacked by every nearby polity. If nearby settlements weren't strong enough they would hire mercenaries, and they would ask for troops from other, stronger, towns and villages. And those other places would join the campaign against The Cobras because why wouldn't they? Why would anyone let bandits settle down and potentially grow even stronger?

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  • $\begingroup$ this. If you read up on how most of the wild west outlaws ended up the way they did it started with getting caught for something benign like horse thievery. The gilded era placed such a huge taboo on crime after getting caught committing one there was practically no way to have a normal living. Most of the wild west outlaws couldn't go back to a regular life if they wanted to, too many people were trying to hang them for them to settle down. $\endgroup$ – TCAT117 Feb 17 '18 at 1:57
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    $\begingroup$ / In 1993, Jozsef Pacai, the mayor of the Slovak village of Medzev said, "I'm no racist, but some Gypsies you would have to shoot."/ culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/…. After 500 years the Cobras are recognizable as such, and they cannot assimilate. And they do not want to - they are proud of their cultural heritage and hard life on the outskirts. $\endgroup$ – Willk Feb 17 '18 at 3:08
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So I fought ISIS and the Taliban in the middle east and its a bit similar of a situation. You see these guys and go "why would they choose a life like that? When hellfire missiles are falling like rain why wouldn't they just go home?" Its easy to say "oh it's just religion" but its actually a bit more similar to your raider's dilemma. The people we saw fighting in the Taliban or ISIS were typically younger males (teens to 20's) coming from utterly destitute backgrounds. I'm talking dirt floors mud huts and totally illiterate. So your terrorist (Raider) has a choice. He can slave away 14 hours a day on a farm, sleep in the dirt, and die at age 40 having earned nothing in his life except maybe enough to eat every day. Or...... He can run off and join these guys with guns. Once he's got an AK-47 he can have anything he wants. Women, money, drugs, property, cars, anything at all. He just has to take it away from anyone who gets in his way. Now he's not just a backwards illiterate dirt farmer, hes somebody with power and access to wealth.

So then a bunch of guys like me show up and start wrecking it all, so why wouldn't he run away from it once the bombs start falling and angry Marines are blowing holes through the walls? Quite simply put he cant. He has been outcast by his family, clan and tribe and there is nowhere to go where his past wont catch up to him. No matter where he tries to run somebody will find out and an angry mob will string him up, and that's if he's lucky. If he's not they will take their time with him, set an example, and maybe work out some of the pent up grief and hatred they have after he and guys like him came through and took away everyone's daughters to be prostitutes, killed their sons, and took what little wealth they had. I've seen whats left when less developed societies decide to set an example. Its extremely unsettling. Its also paradoxical since such actions actually heavily dissuade anyone in the terror (raider) groups from deserting. Especially since when deserters are caught their own people will do the same to them as well.

So I guess that gives you a reasonable motivation for why people would join such a group and why they wouldn't leave once it got tough or they started losing.

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  • $\begingroup$ By “make an example out of them” you mean torture, correct? $\endgroup$ – DT Cooper Sep 3 '18 at 5:48
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    $\begingroup$ What were you expecting? A stiff fine? $\endgroup$ – TCAT117 Sep 3 '18 at 5:54
  • $\begingroup$ Why doesn’t anyone just change identities and run about 100 miles thataway. It would be real hard to find them then, no? $\endgroup$ – DT Cooper Sep 3 '18 at 15:21
  • $\begingroup$ Its a tribal societey based on family, clan, and tribe. $\endgroup$ – TCAT117 Sep 3 '18 at 22:21
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, I’m not the most knowledgeable person on this subject $\endgroup$ – DT Cooper Sep 3 '18 at 22:43
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After 500 years there would still be plenty of motivation for malcontents, misfits and people banished from settlements to leave society and join the gang just as there is no shortage of gang members and affiliates in many countries today.

Nothing extraordinary needs to happen, the extraordinary part is that a single gang endured for 500 years as an entity. There have been plenty in history but usually when they're big enough they establish their own kingdom on conquered territory and eventually have gang/raider issues of their own.

Most of the Norse conquests were basically big raider gangs, the middle east and north India olden day kingdoms are basically all built from what were essentially the same thing.

So for them to remain as a raider gang they would need constant losses to keep their numbers and power down, and constant recruits like outcasts banished from other places, outlaws basically.

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  • $\begingroup$ I dong know, I was kinda thinking the OP meant that the raider “gang” was more a tribe, like the Mongols. $\endgroup$ – DT Cooper Sep 3 '18 at 15:23
  • $\begingroup$ @RobertPaul Mongols weren't a raider gang, they were herders who raided, then turned to empire building. They didn't live off raiding $\endgroup$ – Kilisi Sep 3 '18 at 16:56
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Well, one thing that the Cobras could do to keep their lifestyle going is set up a protection racket which makes the raiding lifestyle safer and easier for everyone.

They most likely protect their territory from rival groups already, so they can go to each settlement and trader, telling them that for protecting the area the people need to pay a tax. Pay the tax and everyone is happy, they don't pay, well... bad things will happen.

Now, most people will pay because this large raider group could do a lot of damage even for the strongest settlement. Even if the walls and militia are too strong, the Cobras could attack every trader, traveler and work party that is out of sight of the walls. Paying the protection money, as long as the Cobras don't get too greedy, is safer for everyone.

If a settlement is too poor to pay up in food, tools, supplies or horses/vehicles, they can pay with people. In fact, they'll probably demand some people from the weaker settlements. Depending on how the society works, the larger settlements might hand over criminals, debtors or malcontents to the Cobras so that they don't have to pay anything of real value. If these people show they're worthy they can join the gang officially, if not they stay slaves. A few people might volunteer to be tribute just for the chance to join up while sparing their community the tax.

There may even be a few settlements that base their economy around the Cobras. The Cobras come in with their wealth and they can gamble, drink, sell and buy slaves, and whatever else they want as long as they pay. Not paying would make the townspeople repay the damage in kind while the Cobras in question are in a drunken and drugged up stupor.

So long as the Cobras have the manpower, keep other raiders out, and don't act like wild dogs getting enough people to oppose them would be difficult. They would be the local gang that everyone grumbles about but everyone expects someone else to deal with.

With that kind of racket, there is no reason for the Cobras to settle down.

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Mobile food source

You never said that your Cobras get their food by farming. What if they don't?

Three options:

  • The Cobras move in convoys to take advantage of seasonal crops in different areas.

  • The Cobras can keep their own livestock, and migrate around finding their livestock.

  • The Cobras don't make their own food, instead they steal from others. In this case, they move around to steal food from different groups as it becomes available.

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    $\begingroup$ They steal food from others $\endgroup$ – Bryan Feb 16 '18 at 22:49

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