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The following lists are meant to help Players and Presenters of the Ghastly Affair RPG conceptualize their Bandit characters, but will be useful for any game featuring brigands and outlaws. The suggested music might be used directly as Character Inspirations by Players (as per Chapter 2 of the Ghastly Affair Player’s Manual), or be played by the Presenters during scenes that focus on Bandit characters.
The fetishization of bandits in early Gothic and Romantic literature may remind many people of the prominence of outlaws of the later American Western genre. In fact, vampires and werewolves, today thought of as defining features of the Gothic, are scarce in the original stories. However, desperate bandits lurked everywhere, to terrify and arouse both the heroine and reader.
Obviously, the lists are limited by my own knowledge and preferences. If you have additional suggestions you’d like to share, indicate them in the comments. Also note that the art and entertainment on the list is not universally dark in tone, or drawn from the Horror genre. That’s because, in my opinion, a good Gothic story should feature as much beauty and joy as horror and fear. Classic Gothic novels (such as “Frankenstein” and “The Mysteries of Udolpho”) are filled with passages describing sublimely beautiful landscapes. If the whole world is only ugliness and despair, then characters have nothing to fear losing.
Some Historical Bandits:
Claude Du Vall
Lady Katherine Ferrers
Rahmah ibn Jabir al-Jalahimah
Eugène François Vidocq
Some Literary Inspirations:
Baptiste (The Monk – Matthew Lewis)
Captain Macheath (The Beggar’s Opera, Polly – John Gay)
Conrad (The Corsair – Lord Byron)
Ironheart (Justine; or, the Misfortunes of Virtue – Marquis de Sade)
Montoni (The Mysteries of Udolpho – Ann Radcliffe)
Karl Moor (The Robbers – Friedrich Schiller)
Zoto (The Manuscipt Found in Saragossa – Jan Potocki)
Some Bandits from Movies and Television:
Captain James Macleane (Plunkett and Macleane)
Will Plunkett (Plunkett and Macleane)
The Shadow (Blackadder the Third)
Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean)
A Few Inspirational Songs:
Bad Company – Bad Company, covered by Five Finger Death Punch
Blaze of Glory – Jon Bon Jovi
Breaking the Law – Judas Priest
Desperado – The Eagles
Gallow’s Pole – Led Zeppelin (also the original The Gallis Pole by Leadbelly)
I Fought the Law – Bobby Fuller, covered by The Clash
Knocking on Heaven’s Door – Bob Dylan, covered by Guns n’ Roses
Mack the Knife (Die Moritat von Mackie Messer) – From The Threepenny Opera. Versions by Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Elle Fitzgerald, Bobby Darin, Dee Snyder etc.
Midnight Rider – The Allman Brothers band
Renegade – Styx
Robbers – The 1975
Scum of the Earth – Rob Zombie
Stand and Deliver – Adam Ant
Whiskey in the Jar – Traditional. Versions by Thin Lizzy, The Dubliners, Metallica, & many, many more.
(Remember, if you like a song you can support the artist by buying a copy)
A Note on Using Modern Music in Historical Games
Some people might consider it jarring to hear modern music used as the soundtrack for entertainment set in the past. However, the music of the past was heard differently by its contemporary audiences than modern people hear the same music. What modern people contextualize as stuffy “classical music”, audiences of the time simply regarded as “modern” music. They had a whole different set of associations than modern people about the same sounds. Their emotional reaction to the music of their time was the same as our reaction to contemporary songs. The same music that today demands that its listeners sit down and be quiet in an auditorium, often made its original audiences want to get up and dance. In fact, the original performances of most symphonies of the period where as loud and rowdy as any rock n’ roll concert. The idea that music was supposed to be enjoyed in a quiet and restrained atmosphere (along with the concept of “classical” music itself) is a much later innovation of the 19th century. The music that a time-traveler would hear if he was transported to the the 1790s does not usually produce the same response in modern brains as it did during the 1790s. For that, you will often have to use more modern songs.