For many ages, it has been customary for man to offer up the finest of his soldiers and the most cunning of his officers to death in the grand pageant of battle. But to some this seemed a terrible waste when the dungeons were teeming with thieves and murderers, and the thunk of the ax fell all to often for the pious, but not yet enough for the blood-hungry commoner.
This call would rattle about, but to no avail. There was no way to efficiently force criminals into battle, and such units that were put together invariably collapsed from lack of discipline, and very low morale. Some began to choose the ax over a painful and uncertain death, possibly at the hands of another criminal, or slaughtered between the blades of the regular army.
It would remain this way until a crafty Baron with a penchant for blacksmithing and sorcery happened upon the answer. While so called slave-collars existed, they were large, and were almost always made out of a precious metal. Wouldn’t do for the concubine-princess to skulk about in cast iron manacles. He found a way to enchant iron manacles with the bondage of duty. Experimentation with some hardened criminals from his own dungeon gave the Baron all ther information he needed.
Armed with a starting batch of criminals clasped, he set about campaigning. The contracts were small, and the men discovered that it wasn’t certain death they faced. Losses were high, but there were always unwilling recruits for the nascent company. similar to the era of the roadside chain-gang, other mercenary companies soon found themselves loosing contracts to the Oathbreakers. They simply couldn’t offer the same rates for service, real mercenaries had to be paid, the Oathbreakers only had to be fed.
Tactics and Strategy
There are two main sects within the company, the expendables and the necleus of hardened and seasoned mercenary-criminals. The expendables, the Walking Dead Men suffer horrific casualties but most think a small chance of surviving and possibly earning freedom is superior to a zero percent chance of surviving decapitation. Those who are less than enthusiastic often die on the weapons of their own companions. This absolute brutality often disheartens potential adversaries.
In battle, the Company uses maximum force, though its main objective the maiming and wounding of soldiers and rival mercenaries, rather than their outright deaths. Weaponry is a mix of spears, pole-arms, axes and maces. Generally only the few officers are armed with swords. Armor is piecemeal, usually scavenged off of the dead, or crafted of odd materials such as horse barding, serving trays, and the like. Shields are very common, as the Company has to be able to survive hailstorms of arrows to close with and destroy their foes.
Before ‘joining’ the Company of the Broken Oath, each applicant is tattooed with marks indicating their alliegance to the Company and are offered a non-magical oath of duty. Those who accept it without hesitation have better chances of becoming officers, those who do not, and are forced to take the magical oath are often used as front line troops, intended to die rather than plague the unit with poor dressage. The last step is the iron manacle, in it is bound a spell of obedience to the spirit of the Company and to it’s Captain. The manacle can be removed, but it is rarely done as removing a manacle is grounds for immediate execution, for the criminal, and for the removing party.
Cadence - The PCs are given a choice, death at the ax, or a chance to prove their mettle by serving in the local lord’s personal mercenary company. Better for low level characters in a nitty-gritty setting.
One of their Own - The PCs are placed as liason between their employer and the Company. The PCs see heavy combat, and the best and the worst of humanity in the face of war. The Men of the Company can show amazing compassion to save women and children during their assaults, or can be shown for the desperate criminals they may truely be. How do the PC’s actions compare to the actions of such men, clinging only to a thin thread of hope?