After covering Death Cults, it seemed appropriate to cover street thugs. Why, because they too are really the bully losers of life. Please understand - There are bullies that make great lives for themselves. Many CEOs are bullies, as are a huge number of people who have upper management positions in bureaucracies. Think those IRS folks who have spent the last year or more lying to Congress and the people of the USA are mice? No way - bullies who found their niche. But the street thugs are the bullies who didn’t find a good spot. Oh, they think they have a good spot. Their bosses allow them to bully people and feel powerful, but they are pawns.
Modern street thugs are most stereo-typically gang members. OK - let’s admit my bias. I grew up in a neighborhood where the mob was still in control. No random crime happened in my neighborhood, because the street thugs were terrified that the little old lady who’s purse he was stealing would turn out to be some major gangster’s mother. Only the mobsters got killed in my neighborhood (by other mobsters). Well that whole town has been in the news for years now because of the gang violence in the streets. Is it the fault of the IRS putting away all the major mob bosses? Well, partially. But let’s focus on the street thugs. They drive down the street and shoot as many bullets as they possible can without ever learning to shoot straight. In truth, I think they do it while terrified that someone is going to get a shot off back at them, and this ruins their already crap aim even more. How do we put these guys in fantasy terms?
I don’t think you can. Not directly. Without guns, the thugs need to be completely different “archetypes”, but we can still carry forward some ideas. First, I think a fantasy era gang leader would be looking for guys who are huge - not bright, huge. So whatever your game does to give the advantage to guys with near max Strength and Endurance, yeah, these would be those guys. But whatever your game does to grant benefits due to skill, these guys won’t have. I’m not suggesting these guys don’t know the sharp end of a sword, but I would think they should be near the minimum when it comes to training. The main reason for this is that these guys really are more for show than for go. You send a weaselly collector out with two huge goons, and the shop keepers will quake in fear. You put the thugs up against a trained soldier, and they’ll fall like wheat. But, if they score a hit on that soldier, expect damage modifiers.
My main reasoning for this is that these thugs are a dime a dozen. Any plow boy with a huge frame and broad shoulders can be made to look like a dangerous thug, but training takes money and time. To a gang leader, these guys aren’t worth that. Should a few of them get killed, he will find some trained killers to avenge them and protect his reputation, but those trained killers are likely to be a lot more “normal looking” than the brute squad. Want to jazz them up a little more? Give them some manner of flashy weapon. Remember, the idea is more in the intimidation factor then in the usefulness. If they have a sword that’s too big to use or a billy club with the end dipped in copper or silver, these will make an impression. If they have to use them, people might start figuring out how useless they are.
So what happens when your adventurers fight them? Well, the oversized Strength and Endurance stats should make them far more dangerous opponents then if they were more normally attributed, but the skills and skill levels still need to be low. In many games, high attributes are worth quite a bit more than “mid-level” skills, so it should work out. (You know your game better than I do and can adjust in the best ways!) Now once the good guys (players) start fighting the bad guys (thugs), soon enough the far more challenging guys will start to make an appearance, at least they will if there is any organization to the criminals. Organized criminals are dangerous! Street thugs are not! Need more convincing? Think of who their normal prey is. If they prey on shop keepers and farmers in the market, they are probably the dregs I’ve described here. If they are extorting huge sums from bankers and politicians, well then they aren’t.