Building a Mercenary Force I: Recruiting

A core component of the developing Book 1: Mercenary Second Edition are mechanics that will allow players to hire their own squads, platoons and companies, and arrange them into fighting units. These rules are very much at the playtest stage, but we wanted you chaps to see them and make comment.

Without further ado, we first present the rules for recruiting mercenaries.



People are at the heart of the a mercenary force, be they frontline soldiers or support personnel. Well-defined recruitment procedures will ensure these employees will also be steady when under fire.

Going to planets in the hopes of finding the right personnel to hire, recruiters are often charismatic and persuasive, and attempt to get as many recruits as possible from each trip. To do this depends on the type of world they visit, the nature of mercenaries they are after, and their own personality. On a low-technology world, a charismatic recruiter might do a lot worse than visit settlements with the equivalent of a soap box, and harangue gathered crowds with stories of riches among the stars. On more developed planets, ploughing through networked databases and scattering advertisements online will likely prove more fruitful.

Recruits will have their resumes reviewed, checked and vetted before being passed on to the next stage where their skills are tested. This usually takes the form of several exercises designed to highlight any potential weaknesses and demonstrate the necessary skills, and it is at this point that a number of recruits will be dismissed, having failed to demonstrate those skills or shown to be mentally or psychologically unsuitable for the unit.

After this, recruits will be indoctrinated into the unit and taught how their skills will be applied within the context of other serving personnel. The ethos of the unit will also be made clear, as well as any rules or regulations they will be expected to follow.

Only after this lengthy process can the mercenary force be sure the new recruits will be a worthy investment.


The Recruiting Process

Despite any glamour that may be attached to the role of a dashing recruiter hitting a new world and beguiling young men and women to fight for his force across the stars, most of the work during recruitment involves going through reams of resumes drawn from immense databases.

To recruit personnel, a character must select the type of mercenary he is looking to recruit from the list on page XX, then make an Admin check.

This takes 1-6 weeks and includes selection, basic training and induction, assessment and shake-out of anyone who does not make the grade. However, multiple recruitment campaigns may be performed during this period, either for different types of mercenary or to gain larger numbers of the same type. The recruiter may make a number of Admin checks equal to the level of their Admin skill to recruit mercenaries during these 1-6 weeks.

A number of modifiers are applied to the Admin check, starting with either the recruiter’s Int or Soc modifier.

The rest are dependant on the type of mercenaries being recruited and the world on which recruitment is taking place, as shown on page XX. The referee is free to add further modifiers, dependant on his campaign and the actions of the players.

The Effect of a successful Admin check after all these modifiers have been applied will determine how many recruits have been found with the necessary skills and attitude. Roll a number of dice equal to the Effect – this is how many suitable recruits have been gained.

The recruiter is under no obligation to accept them all, but this is the maximum that can be hired with this recruitment campaign.

Population Code Recruiting DM
0 (Few) or 1 (Tens)
2 (Hundreds) –4
3 (Thousands) –3
4 (Tens of thousands) –2
5 (Hundreds of thousands) +0
6 (Millions) +0
7 (Tens of millions) +2
8 (Hundreds of millions) +2
9 (Billions) +4
10 (Tens of billions) +4
11 (Hundreds of billions) +6
12 (Trillions) +6
Government Code
0 (Anarchic) +1
1 (Company or Corporation) +0
2 (Participating Democracy) +1
3 (Self-perpetuating Oligarchy) –1
4 (Representative Democracy) +0
5 (Feudal Technocracy) –2
6 (Captive Government) –2
7 (Balkanisation) –2
8 (Civil Service Bureaucracy) +2
9 (Impersonal Bureaucracy) +2
10 (Charismatic Dictator) –2
11 (Non-charismatic Leader) +2
12 (Charismatic Oligarchy) +0
13 (Religious Dictatorship) –4
Law Level
0 +2
1 +2
2 +1
3 +1
4 +0
5 +0
6 –1
7 –1
8 –2
9 –3
A +2
B +1
C +0
D +0
E –2
X –4
Scout or Naval Base present –4
Pirate Base present +2
Halve recruiting time -4
Double recruiting time +2
Pay 10% higher salary +1
Pay 25% higher salary +2
Pay 50% higher salary +3
Pay 100% higher salary +4
Pay 10% lower salary -2
Pay 25% lower salary -4
Pay 50% lower salary -6
Recruits to have Tough +10% trait -2
Recruits to have Tough +20% trait -4
Recruits to have Weak -10% trait +1
Recruits to have Weak -20% trait +2


Planetary Population: The number of people living on a planet has a fundamental effect upon the efforts of a recruiting mercenary. The larger a population, the more likely there will be potential recruits. Planets with negligible populations (0 or 1) will usually have no chance of producing recruits, simply because there are not enough people to draw upon.

Government: The government of a world can affect the attitude of potential recruits. A democracy might give its citizens the freedom to choose a mercenary’s life, but a balkanisation of warring states might not take too kindly to mercenaries stealing their soldiers.

Law Level: Worlds with laxer laws, especially those based around the freer use of personal weaponry, tend to be happier hunting grounds for recruiters rather than those whose citizens enjoy a safer, if stricter, way of life.

Starport: Better facilities at a starport can greatly aid a recruiter’s efforts, while the lack of a well-functioning starport often means a population is not used to space travel and will be far less willing to leave their world.


Salaries and Equipment

Once recruits have been brought on board, they must be paid their agreed salary (the standard rate listed on page XX, plus or minus any adjustments made by the recruiter) and equipped. It is up to the owner of the mercenary force as to what equipment recruits are given, from weapons and armour to basic kit. However, referees will have the option to increase or decrease the effectiveness of mercenary units in battle if their equipment is markedly above or below the standard expected for those troops.

The table below lists typical mercenaries that can be recruited, but both players and referees should create their own to suit the requirements of the campaign and their own mercenary company.

In general, a monthly salary should be Cr. 1,000 for a recruit with a primary skill (the skill most applicable to the role they are being recruited for) of level 0, Cr. 2,000 for skill level 1, Cr. 3,000 for skill level 2, and Cr. 5,000 for skill level 3.

Skills the referee deems harder to acquire or otherwise be rarer in the marketplace (such as perhaps Heavy Weapons or Flyer) should command up to a 50% higher salary, as should recruits with multiple primary skills. The Tough +10% and +20% traits (see page XX) should typically command +25% and +50% higher salaries, respectively. In all such cases, the referee should be prepared to make final arbitrations for salaries of unusual recruits.

Recruits of skill level 4 and higher should be extremely rare, few in number and extremely expensive – mercenary forces are normally better off recruiting lower skilled personnel and increasing their skill levels through training and battle experience.

Recruit Salary Skills Recruiting DM Standard Equipment
Accountant Cr. 3,000 Admin 2, Advocate 1 +0
Combat Medic Cr. 2,000 Gun Combat 1, Medic 1 +0 Assault rifle, knife, flak armour, medikit
Computer Operator Cr. 2,000 Admin 1, Computers 1 +2
Electronic Warfare Operator Cr. 4,000 Comms 2, Sensors 1 -1
Gunship Pilot Cr. 3,000 Flyer or Grav, Heavy Weapons 1 -1 Autopistol
Heavy Weapons Soldier Cr. 2,500 Gun Combat 1, Heavy Weapons 1 +0 Machinegun, knife, flak armour
Intelligence Analyst Cr. 4,500 Recon 1, Sensors 2, Tactics 2 -2
Mechanic Cr. 2,000 Engineer 0, Mechanic 1 +0 Tool kit
Militiaman Cr. 1,000 Gun Combat 0 +2 Assault rifle, knife, cloth armour
Rifleman Cr. 2,000 Gun Combat 1, Recon 1 +0 Assault rifle, knife, flak armour
Sniper Cr. 3,000 Gun Combat 2, Recon 1, Stealth 2 -1 Sniper rifle, flak armour
Special Forces Soldier Cr. 5,000 Explosives 2, Gun Combat 3, Recon 3, Stealth 2 -4 Assault rifle, knife, flak armour
Tank Crewman Cr. 3,000 Drive (tracked) 1, Heavy Weapons (field artillery) 1 +0 Autopistol, flak armour
Truck Driver Cr. 1,000 Drive 0 +3


NCOs and Officers

Mercenary forces are not undisciplined rabbles (or, at least, they should not be), and require just as many NCOs and officers as government-backed military forces.

In general, NCOs should have the same skills (combat or otherwise) as the people they lead, along with one or more levels in Tactics (military), and perhaps a level in Leadership (the latter becomes more important the higher ranks they are).

Officers should have at least basic combat skills and one or more levels in both Leadership and Tactics (military). Effective officers should also have a level in Admin, though some mercenary forces have dedicated administrators to take this burden away from the fighting men.

NCOs and officers receive a salary dependant on their skills, as detailed previously, but gain an additional amount due to their given rank, as shown on the table below.

Rank Salary Increase (Cr.)
Corporal +500
Sergeant +1,000
Gunnery Sergeant +1,500
Sergeant Major +2,000
Lieutenant +2,000
Captain +3,000
Major +4,000
Lieutenant Colonel +6,000
Colonel * +8,000

* The Colonel of a mercenary force is often the owner or, at least, one of the owners and so will also receive a proportion of the profits the entire force earns. The salary, in comparison, is mostly symbolic and some Colonels forgo it altogether.


Alternative Pay Method

In an effort to defray starting costs, some mercenary forces operate on a split salary and share scheme for their recruits. While each member of the mercenary force is paid less on a monthly basis, they have a direct share of the (perhaps not inconsiderable) revenue the force brings in. A referee may choose to impose DM-1 to recruiting checks if this method is used, particularly if rival mercenary forces are not using it.

Under this salary-share scheme, salaries are halved.

Total payments to a mercenary force, after salaries and expenses have been paid, are divided up into equal shares. Each recruit receives one or more shares according to their rank and skill specialisations.

Before shares are determined, the mercenary commander (and possibly  his business partners) take 50% of all revenue after salaries and expenses as profit. Salaries of deceased members of the unit are paid to next of kin or another designated recipient; only surviving members of the unit receive shares. The remainder are divided into equal shares, with each recruit receiving one or more shares dependant on their rank in the force and level of skill, as shown on the table below.

Rank Number of Shares
Private 1
Lance Corporal 2
Corporal 3
Lance Sergeant 3
Sergeant 4
Gunnery Sergeant 4
Sergeant Major 5
Lieutenant 5
Captain 7
Major 8
Lieutenant Colonel 9
Colonel 10

Recruits with a primary skill of levels 2-3 will receive shares equal to one rank above their actual position. Recruits with higher levels in a primary skill will receive shares equal to two ranks above their actual position.


Design Notes

There are, of course, all sorts of things we could add to these rules, with more types of personnel being a start (don’t worry, they will be in the final version!). We could also lock down a far tighter regime for hiring people and what their skill sets are actually worth. On this side, we have kept things a little looser and provided guidelines rather than hard rules, as the buck always stops with the referee and he knows better than us what his campaign needs. An important consideration for us with these rules is that the players should be allowed to attempt pretty much anything (and you will see this line of thought come back in future previews when we start looking at, say, inadequate admin or medical facilities within a mercenary force). We also want to keep things fairly simple so a referee can leave the book in the hands of his players to work out what they want most of the time, but have the ability to make a quick (and easy) ruling when needed.

Anyway, have a wander around the Marches or the Reach and recruit a few willing men and women to see how this part of the rules work out, and let us know of any issues on our forums. Next time, we’ll show you how to organise your recruits into a proper mercenary force, and then we’ll go through the rules needed to get them fighting!

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