Whereas the mustered soldiery of an army wear the same fighting colors and carry the same basic weaponry, Mercenaries range from blending in with normal troops to exotic looking and often uniquely frightening beings armed with strange weapons, odd fighting styles and strong sentiments of individuality and commercial combat.
For as long as there has been gold and organized combat, there have been mercenaries. As outside parties fighting in wars that are not their own in exchange for financial gain, mercenaries are not given the same level of treatment as regular soldiers. This often vicious men and rare women are as often executed on sight when captured as they are held as prisoners or interrogated. This lack of rights protection means that mercenaries do not lay down arms and surrender, unless they are facing other mercenaries and then it is a matter of professional curtesy.
The biggest thing that haunts the merc profession is the perceived lack of integrity on the part of mercenaries hired. Indeed the very name brings to mind the image of the gritty opportunistic soldier of fortune who sells his service to the highest bidder, even switching side in the middle of a conflict. While it cannot be said that this never happens, it is far less common than is thought.
In the generic fantasy setting, Mercenary Guilds, the medieval counterpart to modern Private Military Companies or Security Contractors, regulate such behavior. An additional boon to there being a guild would be the chance that the guild would 'purchase' or ransom mercenaries back from their captors, though even this would not make killing mercs on sight any less common.
Trying to list the basic equipment of a merc would be very difficult as each merc operates in a unique fashion, ranging from heavily equiped ex-patriots from other militaries to ethnic bounty-hunters, and masters of a certain weapon hot and ready to try their skills against living foes.
1. Captain-at-Arms Kjarri
The Captain once served proudly in the army of a distant kingdom, where he was given many awards and many honors. However, dark times fell on the Captain when his kingdom was overthrown in a violent coup d'tat and he went from state hero to a public enemy. Exiled by his own efforts, Kjarri is an ethnic warrior who wears the armor and the shield with great dignity as the only avenue left to an old warhorse like himself is to be a mercenary. Kjarri bears a heavy single-bladed sword, a round shield, a brace of dagger and full plate armor. He likely has a small cohort of other ex-patriots from his fallen homeland.
2. Drill Commandant Chaban
Not all half-orcs are fur clad barbarians screaming into bloody battle with whetted axes and no sense. Chaban was raised in obscure poverty, raised by a single human mother who never blamed her strange looking child for the rape that produced him. At an early age Chaban entered the military and found that there was a ceiling that limited how far a half-blood could climb in the ranks. After discharge, Chaban took his natural brutality, mixed it with his training in the King's heavy infantry and turned himself into a spittle slinging, grunt terrifying, straighten the corners of that bad private or I'll split your skull like a ripe fragging melon Drill instructor. Seldom armed with more than a short sword, Chaban makes a living training local garrisons, peasant militias, and doing basic training for Mercenary Guild-Houses.
3. Obergfell the Mighty
There are a few words to describe the six foot, six inch bulk of Obergfell of the Northlands. One of them is BIG, another one is INCOMPETENT, and another is OAF. Despite his impressive size, Obergfell is a terrible warrior, and suffers from bad luck that borders on being cursed. Combined with this manic ill-fortune, Obergfell festoons himself with as many lucky charms as he does pieces of slap-dash armor or accumulated weapons. Despite his often comedic faux pas, he is able to just barely stay in a given company and out of the gaol.
4. Rihanek the Wage-Mage
Not all mercs are muscle-bound thugs, some are slender and highly intelligent thugs. Rihanek grew up in an artisan community of half-elves and unlike his mixed-blood brethern, he felt the pull of his burning human blood more than the idyllic blood of his elfin mother. Rihanek learned the bow and the sword as well as the more murderous aspects of the arcane arts. Other mercs get nervous around this whip thin mage as his pleasure isnt gold, it's killing, be it with sword or with spell. Rihanek has a longsword, an elfin longbow and a vest of elfin chainmail. His repetoire of magic leans towards ripping thorns, conjuring quicksand, and summoning swarms of poisonous serpents, stinging wasps, and choking noxious clouds.
5. Stitgen the Legalist
As a religiously educated man, Stitgen is a stickler for contracts, technicalities and loopholes. Rather than the standard contract of kill those guys, get GP, he will wrangle out contracts that allow him to avoid any pretense of danger, get paid the full amount of the contract and the entire time come off looking like a shining example of the virtue of a hired sword. Other soldiers hate Stitgen as he foists his work off on them, in the process often making the other regular soldiers or mercenaries look bad in the process. He wears ceremonial armor and carries a rarely if ever used broadsword.
6. Souvannakhiry the Healer
Another Half-orc, this one born among the tents of the tribe before being sold to a human slaver, Souvannakhiry was trained to be an herbalist and salve-maker. It was later when she demonstrated some skill with a mace and beat her master's brains out. Now a free woman, she sells her skills as a first rate field medic to other mercenaries and mundane companies as well as her blindingly fast fist shaped mace. While female mercs often gain reputations as war whores, Souvannakhiry is a virgin devoted to Terat, the Goddess of War and will KO any man who tries to enter her temple.
7. Matuck the Persuader
It is rare to see a goblin selling his services as a mercenary, but few goblins are quite like Matuck. Raised as a house slave of a wealthy family, he grew up in a life of poverty and brutal servitude until one day he exacted his revenge. Leving the house to burn with the bodies inside, Matuck Greenskin, Matuck the dirty little goblin, went into the world to sell his newfound skill: hurting people. While rarely ever seen in the front lines of combat, Matuck is hired by personages who are unable to morally or viscerally stomach torture and interrogation. Matuck smiles with his broken goblin smile and tells his 'boss' that he will get what they want from the prisoners, unruly peasants or overly righteous rebels.
8. Armenteros the Veteran
Armenteros has seen more combat by his 21st year than most men see their entire lives. He has also seen his friends butchered on the field of battle, bears scars to show how close he came to joining them. Unlike most other mercs, Armenteros has lost his nerve and is no longer suitable for combat duty. The fresh mercs and many soldiers revere Armenteros for surviving horrific battles, those who know what the dour faced man has lost pity him. This tired soldier would love nothing more than to retire from the sword, but he knows no other profession, and lacks the money to secure any sort of pension or placement as an oblate.
9. Silent Wygle
Elves make for rare mercenaries, but like the rest of his arboreal kin, he is a crack shot with the longbow. With his keen eyes and sharp elven ears, Wygle sells himself as a scout and a look-out and patrol guard. What is odd is that Wygle has no friends or associates among the other mercs and speaks so rarely that many think his tongue to have been cut out by orcs. While stone-faced and an excellent warrior, Wygle is an elven criminal, and is wanted in distant elven lands for the murder of several of his kinsman. This fear of discovery combined with a general distaste for humanity lend Wygle is title.
10. Fat Gurney
Clad in enough leather belts to equip a company, Fat Gurney drips with as many daggers and throwing weapons as he does droplets of sweat. Bordering on 400 pounds, Gurney is a cold and calculating man who rigs gambling games, counts cards, throws knives with deadly accuracy and has fast fingers despite their sausage-like appearance. While most line soldiers scoff at the out-of-shape mercenary, with his years of experience and unique thieving and bluffing skills, he is easily a match for most any soldier less than five years in his spurs.
11. Crazy Govindeisami
Few mercs are as obvious as Crazy Govindeisami. Clad in a jacket of bright red leather dripping with tassels of cheap stones, feathers, and glass beads he stands out even in a crowd of gypsy tinkerers. Govindeisami is a consumate troublemaker, stirring up things between various folk with rumors and gossip as well as a fair amount of pranking and petty theft. Much of this is a ruse as Govindeisami is a consumate assassin-stalker. Having trained as an assassin years ago himself, Gov turned his skills to protecting targets from assassins, and he is very good at his job. The problems he causes are relatively minor but cause major headaches for imposters and intruders, and those cold eyed killer swho worm through the social morass without fail overlook the obviously juvenile and harmless clown in the red jacket until they feel his dagger slide between their ribs.
12. Cole the Outsider
An average looking man of mediocre skill with the axe and sword, Cole is a mole. He was trained in the special service of a kingdom or some other major power and now masquerades as a mercenary. He does this to gather information about the mercenaries that he encounters to determine which are suitable to be hired, who needs to be assassinated, and other black operations. While his tuxedo has been replaced with battered chainmail, the cloak and daggers are all very real and Cole is starting to loose his nerve since he has been placed as a merc so long. He wonders if he has been forgotten or has simply become a liability to be written off in the next orc raid.
13. Zuleger the Unhappy
A grim faced man of middle years, Zuleger hails from a very distant land that can only be reached by lengthy sea voyage. Unlike other expatriots, Zulegar can go home, just as soon as he is able to find enough to coin to purchase passage aboard a transoceanic ship. Being an ethnic foreigner, he has an accent, laments the condition of the food in country and frequently grouses about how much he wants to go home. Tales of his homeland have grown exaggerated, but not quite to the point of being outlandish. He might claim to have three beautiful wives back in his homeland, but he's not to the point of claiming to be displaced nobility or some other nonsense.
14. Mammican the Featheringham-Man
Having come from a distant land that enjoys an afternoon isiesta/i, Mammican is often perceived as a lazabout and worthless mercenary. While is not spit-polished as the home guard, or as flashy as the other more extravagant mercs, he is avery competent fighter, but what is more, he is a good liason between fighting men and civilians. Many mercs, and regular soldiers for that matter have an image of being a locust swarm devouring all food and supplies in their path, Mammican cajoles better supplies from locals by actually offering to pay for the goods rather than demanding them as most often do, or resorting the raiding like tactics even in friendly territory.
15. Busy Nenniger
Gnomes are rare in the ranks of mercenaries, but Nenniger has found himself a place among the soldiers-for-hire and their gear and mounts. Operating as a freelance tinker and blacksmith, Nenniger stays constantly busy making shoes for the cavalry horses, mending damaged saddles, repairing damaged armor and other things that can be accomplished with fire, hammer, tongs, and patience. The other mercs are of mixed opinion of the small bundle of energy that is the clean shaven gnome. While he is a valuable asset in keeping their gear in shape, the higher ups have started to expect the same level of work out of the other mercenaries that they get out of the gnome. Nenniger knows this and is torn, since working a forge is as stressful to the gnome as sitting in an alehouse taproom is for most soldiers.
16. Bogenschneide the Kingswoman
Never going by her first name, this war tested woman was filled with a monarchial pride and a burning desire to serve her king in what she saw as the most noble profession; a soldier. Unfortunately, the King's Army didn't allow women into the fighting ranks, but she could serve if she were to be a scullery maid for an officer or a general's concubine. Insulted by such offers, Bogenschneide took up a hauberk of ringmail and a polearm and joined a mercenary pike phalanx. Since then, she has found a good living selling her skills as a bounty hunter, a mercenary, and as a personal bodyguard.
17. Steady-Hand Debutiaco
A man of iron nerves, nothing unhinges Debutiaco, not demons, dragons, or unshappen cosmic horrors ripping at the edge of sanity. As a crossbowman, his concentration with his weapon borders on unnatural as he could take an arrow himself and not loose focus for his own shot. Calm and calculating, Debutiaco is a natural born sniper in the era before weapons well suited for sniper action. Secretly Debutiaco worships a death/chaos cult and part of his steel-handed demeanor comes from his absolute lack of fear of death and the other comes from a slowly spreading case of nerve killing leprosy.
18. Eager Czolba
Most mercenaries and soldiers comlpain about nothing to do, but secretly that is exactly what they want, nothing to happen. On the other hand, Czolba has a burning desire to make a place for himself and the only path he sees to that is making himself a wealthy and respected war hero. But to become a war hero, there has to be a war. Until the call comes for him to flock to his lord's or another lord's banner Czolba trains and fights under the aegis of being a merc. He is meticulus in the care of his arms and armor and the leaders frequently have to reign in his enthusiasm. In any other occupation, Czolba would have long been hung or locked in the gaols for violence or murder.
19. Freeman Taguz
A true giant among men, Taguz is a full blooded ogre who has joined with the side of humanity to fight as a mercenary. While compentent with his ogre sized axe and cudgel, Taguz rarely gets to fight since the sight of this gient clad in well made armor and bearing quality arms remains a very effective deterrent to small bands of rebels and bandits. Since being 'civilized' Taguz has gotten a taste for tea and poetry though he doesnt understand much of it. He still likes his meat to be flame seared on the outside and nearly raw on the inside.
20. Mezquita the Mouse
Not all mercenaries are stout hearted soldiers of fortune. Mezquita is a bundle of raw nerves and twitching muscle, loud noises make him jump, surprises make him scream out often like a little girl and the men take great delight in tormenting the diminutive man whenever possible. However, Mezquita knows many secrets about all of them since he is a latent wererat. Since the shapeshifting was carried by blood, his changes are not under the sway of the moon, but he also lacks a concrete understanding of his conditions and he accounts his activities as a larger than usual rodent as a strange series of dreams that have afflicted him since puberty. Until he uncovers the true nature of his condition and abilities, he will remain a target for the other mercenaries.
21. Handsome Kalkwarf
Looking the part of the romantic swashbuckler, Kalkwarf became a mercenary because he refused to be shaved and tattooed as was the custom of soldiers in his homeland. While only nominally an expatriot, Kalkwarf desires to see the world, taste it's banquet of foods, see it's great vistas, and sleep with it's many women. his nocturnal activities chasing the fairer sex often draw him from his post, but he has gained a few valuable tidbits from pillowtalk with the wives of absentee lords and guildmasters.
22. Sweaty Kasch
Named so for his copious amounts of sweat and often offensive body odor, Kasch is a wolf among the sheep. He is a fanatic who'se home village, homeland, personal ideology or the like was offended by a certain personage of power. Kasch has since devoted his life to honing his skills and getting close enough to deliver revenge at the point of a special dagger. While most of the men are fine with this merc, higher-ups have noticed his secretiveness and isolation from the other men. Such things don't bode well and unless he finds a way to ingratiate himself, Kasch will find his employ as a merc terminated early, forcibly or otherwise.
23. Zalamea the Gladiator
While never having been a gladiator, Zalamea's preference for one on one combat has earned him his title. While nominally a mercenary, Zalamea harbors dreams of founding a cult of personality and raising a mercenary army under his own proletariat banner. Silent in his views, Zalamea hates the nobility for the excesses of their wealth, incestuous court politics, and detachment from the common people. While nowhere near his goal of an army, this mercenary has garnered a certain amount of allies and pledges from like minded mercenaries as well as a few underground groups with similar goals.
24. Nasty Nicolaides
Most often filty and reeking of strange odors, Nicolaides is a man of many secrets. His biggest secret is that he has become addicted to a potion of his own make. The cost of the components forced him to find a high income job that didnt ask too many questions and thus he became a merc. What is worse is that he is slowly propagating use of this addictive potion through the other ranks. While under the influence of the potion, the soldiers and Nicolaides are almost supernaturally alert and focused on their tasks. When the potion wears off the soldiers become listless, suffer bouts of nausea, vertigo and frequent nosebleeds. It is only a matter of time until he is found out, but to forstall that day, Nicolaides has stockpiled both loot and vials of his potion for when he has to run.
25. Lucky Heximer
While mages are rarely mercenaries, Heximer is both a mage for sale, but also has extensive contacts among the criminal underworld. While initially this supplied him with the reagents he needed for his sorceries, it was not long before he used his merc ties to funnel illict monies, drugs, and slaves away from the underworld. He is making himself invaluable to the made men of the guilds as well as lining his pockets with no small amount of gold. Should his actions come to light, the mercenaries he works with would be blacklisted and they would certainly make sure that Heximer never went to trial. Indeed, the mage knows that if he is found out it is likely that the authorities or the bosses would ever find his corpse.
26. Paguirigan Guardson
Paguirigan's father was a guardsman, as was his father and his father before him. It was demanded by the family that Paguirigan make every effort to join the city guards, and when that city guard rebelled against it's lord tradition demanded the Paguirigan follow loyalty to the captain. Now he is a mercenary who never wanted to fight to begin with. He hates sitting watch, seldom takes care of his weapons and dreams of a day when he might be discharged from the unit before ending up as goblin fodder. The others know that he is a weak link and more than once other mercs have caught him trying to escape and have thoroughly beaten him for his attempts to desert.
27. Blonde Piwowar
A female mercenary is rare, a ravishing beauty as a mercenary is even rarer. Piwowar took up the sword and spear at an early age and found herself good at fighting. While blocked from joining a guard unit or the royal army, she became a bragging, swaggering merc straight out of the bard's tales. Convinced of her own greatness, she strides into battle without caution or consequence. Thusfar her luck has held and she's never been wounded in battle. She has a strange birthmark on her shoulder that a mystic would recognize as a sign of favor from the God of Chance.
28. Delsordo the Grappler
Adept at wresting, Delsordo is an excellent in-fighter. He is often posted at doors as a final sentry or last line of defense for VIPs or important prisoners. There was once a time when he was an incorrigible gossip but this ended after it was discovered that he was the person who leaked the location of a hidden noble to an assassin by accident. Delsordo doesn't gossip now that his tongue was cut out and receiving 39 lashes. When confronted by an assassin, his preferred move is to catch the assassin in a submission hold and slowly suffocate them while staring into their eyes as they die.
29. Pujal the Wanderer
Born to a poor family, Pujal didnt have the connections or wealthy to find a position in the city guard, and without a war on, there was no call for able-bodied men to stand in the levies. Filled with a wanderlust, he became a mercenary and wants to experience everything. To this end he has picked up a bit of thievery, a few cantrips, and a genuine Holy Symbol as well as his trusty two-handed sword. He wants to dine on dragon, marry an elfin princess, live in a tower and become a knight of the realm. He indulges these fantasies as a mercenary and is one of the most reliable, if overenthusiastic mercs that can be met.
30. Dochterman the Snake
This whip-thin man was named for his unblinking stare and sinuous movements when knife-fighting. The name is quite appropriate for another reason, as Dochterman is an informant for an outside agency. He secretly reports to a King's Advisor, or to a member of a High Guild detailing the failings of the unit or individuals. Dochterman aims to become a second in command, a puppetmaster of a mercenary company and leter gain a Merc Guild seating. He protects himself by sniffing out other informants and 'selling' them to the captain of the merc unit.
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? Responses (12)-12
As amusing to read as it is useful. I can see a few of these sell-swords showing up in my games...
Now this I like. 5/5
So many delicious plot-hooks! Greatly done!
Very good indeed, though the entries for '30' are starting to creep up in size - some of these folks really deserve full write ups of their own.
Here's an idea for the next quest - 'Fleshing the 30's - build a full sub using a person from any of the 30's listings...'
While potentially useful, this one doesn't seem to have much in the way of...variance. It keeps the same tone throughout the entire piece.
Don't know why I missed this before.
Great bunch, i'll pretty sure 1 or 2 of them may be dropping into my partys lives soon enough.
Nice, and I like that these are better fleshed out than most of the '30' subs. I'd give a slightly higher vote were it not for some typos and that the names sounded a bit too much like they came from a random name generator.
Well, most of them did come from a random name generator. A random name generator will give a suitably random series of names, since using any sort of theme or base language is usually pointed out pretty fast. AHA! All those names are German, or it looks like all your names came from a book of Irish and Gaelic baby names.
This 30 has exactly the right amount of detail -- you don't bore us with paragraphs for each entry, but give us more than just a line or three to use during play. Mercenaries should run the gamut of races and backgrounds, and I was happy to see a lot of variation in this list. I especially liked number 11.