The cartels have transitioned from being OC into a regional if not national force. To use the cartels in a setting, you would need them to have a highly illegal cash flow and a weak, ineffective government, with a neighboring nation who will effectively oppose an overt assumption of power by the cartels. .You're making a great case for the use of organized criminals in games because those all sounds like excellent adventure hooks to me. The cartels in Mexico don't seem to be afraid of a fight when bribes, threats, and other options fail them.
Proof of cultist behavior is usually self-evident, and assumes that being a cult member carries a death sentence.Isn't this applicable to just about anyone the PCs kill? If they're in Baldur's Gate there's a good chance those cultist came from the local area, right?
Tubman smuggled slaves in ones and twos, through deception. Not an undertaking well-suited to a fantasy setting.Again, that sounds like a fantastic adventure hook. And Harriet Tubman did it in real life so I don't see we can't do that in a fantasy game.
Bear Cultists lead by a Ranger, who is the head of an organized crime ring, after he personally eliminated the picnic basket swiping leader who didn't realize the picnic baskets was a cult of organized crime gangster mimics.
Not at my table. That's what Undead are for.IMHO cultists are a go-to enemy for the same reason Nazis end up one in modern games--there's no moral ambiguity there. When your enemy literally wants to sacrifice people and bring about the destructive re-ordering of the world (or outright wants to end it), there's no real question about whether you're doing the right thing fighting them.
The difference being that cultists are usually religious, and that's exactly what Nazis don't like.Cultists are fantasy Nazi. I do like fanatic bear cultist idea. I may break that out in a session just to see the player faces. I will just play it straight and let them guess why and what is going on.
I'm going to give an entirely different take.D&D has too many cultists in their adventures. Let’s give them other ideas to replace cultists
Don't forget resources.I disagree.
Cultists are perfect, because they are fanatics, committed unto death, and normally have a deadline to meet.
Organized criminals are nothing more than businessmen with a violent bent. If faced with a tough group of outsiders, they will simply try to buy them off, frame them for something, bribe officials to harass the PCs, or lure them away with false (or real) rumors. They have no reason to stand and fight. They are part of the community, and can simply wait out any storm the PCs can bring, until the PCs leave.
If the PCs (outsiders) start killing locals (criminals) the local authorities are going to take a dim view, especially if they are on the payroll.
Pirates are all right, but heavily used.
Slavers have been used a lot, but they only work if they are in a place where slavery is illegal, and they have a market where it is illegal. If slavery is legal, then the PCs will have a serious problem.
Political groups are good, but they are in practice little different from cultists. The problem with political groups is that the line between terrorist scum and freedom fighter depends solely upon your point of view. Which, as history teaches us, can change 180 degrees extremely quickly.
Historically nations go to war over wealth, religion, or political structures.
Replace all cultists and organized criminals with bears
LOL. I was going to say awakened bears lead by a mad druid intent on replacing human society with their own, a la Bearmageddon!Bear Cultists lead by a Ranger
OMG - you can’t just go and start killing gypsies and taking their stuff, they’re not Orcs!!!How about gypsies? They can have the elements of a cult (fanatical loyalty to the clan) and a criminal organization. They could be a foe in some adventures or provide rumors, gossip, or services and goods not available from more law abiding shopkeepers.