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Desert Bandits

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Life out in the Thirsty Desert is really harsh. With barely any rain or soil to grow crops, and a lack of other natural resources, tiny desert villages can be really terrible places to live.

Because of this, many people living out in the desert only have the choice of thievery as a way of living. They prey on unsuspecting travelers crossing through the desert: hiding behind dunes planning an ambush, then making a quick strike to grab the loot. In most media, they're dressed in turbans and veils that both protect their faces and conceal their identities. They mostly appear either in Arabian-style stories, or as a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Arabian cultures. The American Wild West variation is also fairly common; they tend to wear black hats and bandannas around their mouths for the same reason as Arabian veils. Guaranteed to show up in any Desert Punk story.

Sometimes related to, and sometimes contrasted with, Bedouin Rescue Service.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Comes with the "Arabian Nights" Days-flavor of Blue Ramun. Bandits are a common hazard in the desert-spanning Silkdeep Empire, even right outside the densely populated Lezak District — merchants are in danger of losing their goods if they arrive after the city gates are closed for the night. When Jessie accidentally gets locked outside the city gates, she is almost immediately attacked by bandits and needs to be rescued by a whole squad of City Guards.
  • In the world of Desert Punk, after a nuclear war turns the entire globe into a desert planet, many are forced to make their living as mercenaries with a few operating as bandits in order to prey on travelers.
  • In Dragon Ball, Yamcha is first encountered as being a desert bandit trying to rob Goku and co. He is one of Goku's first opponents because of it, although he eventually joins the heroes afterwards.
  • Tiger of the Wind in Monster Rancher is introduced as this, leading a band of Tigers to steal from travelers.
  • Jane Buxton, her guide Sabri, and her butler Chambellan in Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water nearly get robbed and murdered by a couple of these bandits cum treacherous drivers. Jane manages to appeal to the good nature of the acolyte of the chief robber to save the skins of her team.
  • Parodied and then played straight in One Piece. In the anime, the crew encounters a gang of desert pirates who later fight a gang of desert bandits. Both groups believe that the desert will decide their fate in all matters, including an encounter with a large-dung beetle.
  • Photon: Three bandits waylay the lovestruck Aun en route to her idol, Laman, in the trackless sandy desert. They also have a weapon that can drop boulders on people, and decide to dispose of Aun with it after taking the Sacred Object from her. (Her brother, Photon, saves her.) These three bandits appear again later, cornering Princess Lashara against a rock wall where the desert gives way to the edge of town. Once again, Photon appears to make short work of them.

    Comic Books 

    Films — Animated 
  • The bandits in The Thief and the Cobbler live in the desert and wait for caravans to drive by. However, the caravans are so uncommon in their area that when they see one, they have to consult a special book that describes what to do in different situations that occur. For example, when a caravan comes, the instructions say "CHARGE!"

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Adventure in Sahara, the remote desert outpost of Agadez is under constant threat from Arab raiders. One of Lt. Dumond's legitimate complaints against Captain Savatt is that when Savattt takes most of the company for an 80-mile forced march through the desert for no reason except to punish them, he leaves the fort undermanned and vulnerable to attack.
  • In Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Lo leads a very large gang that preys on the Han Dynasty's trade routes through the desert. He meets Jen when he raids her caravan, swipes her comb apparently for the heck of it, and then leads her on a merry chase through the desert.
  • The main characters of The Fall turn into heroic versions of this when they attack the Big Bad's caravan in the desert.
  • All the factions in Mad Max: Fury Road given that it's a Scavenger World where the strong take from the weak, but the Buzzards probably fit the trope best.
  • Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears: A trio of desert bandits, who are Dangerous Deserters from the British Army, raid Shirin's village, kill everyone in it (apart from Shirin), and steal the emerald from the crypt.
  • The Tusken raiders from the Star Wars movies and the Star Wars Expanded Universe are native inhabitants of the desert planet Tatooine who make their living by robbing whoever else is currently occupying the planet.
  • Theeb: Theeb, an Arab boy in 1916, tags along with his older brother and a British officer on a mission to blow up the strategic Hejaz railway. They don't get there, because they're attacked by bandits and everybody but Theeb is killed.
  • The Taiwanese action film Treasure Hunter, set in the Mongolian desert, has legions of raiders, clad in skull-faced masks and riding horses, antagonizing the main characters for most of the first half. They disappear around the beginning of the second act after the action shifts to an underground mausoleum.

  • The forty thieves from Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves are bandits from the "Arabian Nights" Days; it's implied that they attack and rob caravans in the desert.
  • City of Bones by Martha Wells: Much of the setting is a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland where bands of pirates attack (and usually eat) travelers on the Waste roads between city-states.
  • In Cold Obsidian, a multiracial group of desert bandits ambushes caravans on the runestone road.
  • The D'regs from the Discworld series (who feature prominently in Jingo) are bandits who harass the merchants in the deserts of Klatch. Although they're honourable enough to provide a Bedouin Rescue Service to anyone who's lost in the desert (rather than simply travelling the roads) and pragmatic enough to avoid killing the merchants or robbing them too often (if they force them out of business, who would they rob?).
  • In Dune, the Fremen would raid Harkonnen patrols and spice harvesters and extract their water (including that in the personnel). But the real reason for those attacks was to keep them from stumbling across the Fremen's secret terraforming operations.
  • The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps: On their way to Mother of Waters, the brothers are ambushed by the Desperados, a gang of desert bandits who prey on merchant caravans and evidently thought that twenty-five mercenaries could be quickly dealt with.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Call of Cthulhu
    • Supplement Curse of the Chthonians, adventure "The City Without A Name". While traveling from Jerusalem to San'a, if the PCs travel by land they may be attacked during each stage of the trip by Bedouin bandits who want to rob them.
    • Campaign The Fungi from Yuggoth, adventure "The Sands of Time". When the PCs ride out to Doctor Galloway's dig site they will be attacked and captured by a group of desert bandits led by a man named Kemal. It turns out that Kemal is acting under orders from the Cthulhu Mythos cultists the PCs are opposing.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • 1st Edition Monster Manual, "Men" entry "Nomads". Desert nomads would attack and capture small groups (such as PC parties), taking their valuables.
    • 2nd Edition Ravenloft supplement Domains of Dread. Diamabel, overlord of Pharazia, at one time led his nomadic tribe in attacks on merchant caravans and even small cities in search of loot.

  • BIONICLE: The Bone Hunters, former Rock Tribe Agori who splintered off into their own species, who steal resources from other tribes except the Rock Tribe, as well as capturing Glatorian, Agori, and Vorox to sell to the Rock Tribe.

    Video Games 
  • Afrika Korps vs. Desert Rats: The game's very first mission (which is also a Forced Tutorial) has the German and British hero units briefly team up to have a chance of staying alive against some Libyan desert bandits who are out to kill them.
  • In Bravely Default, thieves in the desert country of Ancheim are cooperating with the merchant Profiteur: Profiteur bought the town's wells and put an exorbitant price on water, forcing the people to go to the oasis to drink, where the thieves can attack easily.
  • Most of the bandit raiders in the Borderlands series are found in the desert, setting up various shantytowns and hovels to wait out opportunities to rob, murder, and worse. Later games would introduce bandits in desert equivalents such as the empty, airless/waterless expanses of the local moon.
  • In Bug Fables, the bandits are very common enemies in the Lost Sands. They all wear hoods and are capable of stealing the player's items. In Chapter 4, they ambush Team Snakemouth in their hideout and attempt to sell them out to the Wasp Kingdom, but wasps refused to uphold their end of the deal, so when the team defeats Astotheles, their honorable leader, he allows them to go and grants them one half of the key to the Ancient Castle in hopes that they will defeat the wasps.
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition has the White Claw Raiders, who perhaps unusually dress neither in Bedouin style nor like Wild West bandits.
  • The Urutan-Yensa from Final Fantasy XII look like the Bedouin stereotype (sort of... they're hermit-crab men) but their motive appears to be less thievery and more making sure no one else sets foot in their territory.
  • The Fire Emblem games tend to have a Running Gag where there is a desert level spent fighting bandits who are led by a pair of twin brothers who are palette-swapped versions of each other.
    • One desert level where it doesn't have the bandit twins is the desert barbarians in Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem. Normally, they wouldn't be much of a threat for Marth and his company, had they not brought their much more dangerous wyvern pets.
    • The Kingdom of Plegia in Fire Emblem: Awakening is surrounded by mass desert. They make much of their time pillaging and harassing its neighbor Yllise.
    • In Fire Emblem Fates, Tarba is a bandit that leads a group where he ambushed Ryoma's son, Shiro.
    • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, there are a bunch of thieves in Claude's paralogue, "The Sleeping Sand Legends." They are seen robbing the desert of its treasure when they were dragged into a fight by Claude and the desert's guardian, the Wind Caller aka Saint Macuil. Killing them before the Wind Caller's phantom guardians will net you their contents.
  • Genshin Impact: The region of Sumeru introduced a group called the Eremites. While they hail from the desert, they can also be found in the rainforest. Deyha used to be a member of a faction of Eremites, but her character quest reveals that she was actually from the rainforest, and that the faction adopted her after her parents were killed by another Eremite faction.
  • Kingdom Hearts features Bandits, Fat Bandits, and Luna Bandits, all styled in a stereotypical fashion to look like classic desert bandits, complete with scimitars in their hands and turbans around their heads. Naturally, they'll only found in the desert world of Agrabah.
  • Kingdom Rush Frontiers: Many of the enemies in the first area of the game are these, which include the Desert Thug, Dune Raider, Desert Archer, Immortal (really just an armored bandit with two swords), and Executioner.
  • King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder! has bandits operating in the desert. In fact, Graham is even required to visit the bandit camp at one point in the game; an important item is there that he'll need.
  • The Gerudo race from The Legend of Zelda, starting in Ocarina of Time. They are a vaguely Arabian-style race of women (and one man) who live out in the desert and work as thieves. In The Wind Waker, this actually forms part of Ganondorf's stated motivation to take the Triforce, as he initially envied the prosperity of Hyrule as opposed to the harshness of the desert. By the time of Breath of the Wild, they have abandoned their thieving ways and are now a tribe of merchants instead.
  • Bandits from Nuclear Throne. While present in all levels, they appear first and most numerously in the desert area, with their leader acting as the Boss of that area. They also look the part as much as the post-apocalyptic setting allows, being wrapped in white cloth and having their faces covered.
  • Quest for Glory II has the Desert Brigands, who are pretty much that game's goomba. True to the Arabian Nights-inspired setting they wield scimitars and wear turbans (and throw daggers at you in the Fan Remake). A band of these guys assaulted and raped Julanar after luring her into the desert by pretending they were in need of a healer in the back story for one of the sub-quests.
  • RuneScape's Kharidian Desert is one of the only places where bandits can be found. (Elsewhere, they're more likely to be labeled "thieves", "rogues", "highwaymen", or the like.) They play a key role in several desert-related quests, and the Bandit Camp is one of the more prominent settlements in the area.
  • Bandits in the Super Mario Bros. series. They appear as common desert enemies in various games (notable Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi: Dream Team) and attempt to steal Mario and co's coins in battle.
  • World of Warcraft: The Wastewander bandits of Tanaris, originally pirates who had their ships stolen by other pirates and turned to capturing water sources and stealing from the Goblins of Gadgetzan to get by.

    Western Animation 
  • Some Sandbenders in Avatar: The Last Airbender make their living by stealing from desert travelers. One band was able to steal Appa from Aang and his friends, then sell him to a Fire Nation circus.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: The Crimson Waste is full of thieves ready to rob unwary travelers.


Video Example(s):


Bug Fables bandits

These bandit enemies appear in the desert area and ambush a merchant caravan, with some help from the Wasp Kingdom.

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Main / DesertBandits

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