Mercenary work can be harsh business, leaving the characters with some hard choices. Here are twenty new sellsword contracts for mercenary characters in fantasy roleplaying games.
Perhaps you have a game going, the characters have their own mercenary company, and now you need more contracts for the players to choose from.
“Evil is relative… You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company [quoted from Goodreads]
Mercenary work is often not what most folks would call ethical, but that is what making choices is all about. Finding the right job can be an adventure of its own. Sometimes the hard choice is the meaningful choice. Sometimes evil wears a smile.
The Clients and the Contracts
The size of the contract should be appropriate for the company. A simple band of a dozen fighters may be contracted by a merchant or a minor lord, while a larger company may be hired by major noble houses, guilds, and even nations.
Contract length varies with what needs to be done and the power of the involved parties. Sometimes it is just for a short time, or perhaps a full summer.
Sometimes unforeseen complications mean contracts are extended or canceled, leading to further complications with canceled payments and conflicting schedules.
Contract size increases the pay and stakes. Failure means dire consequences, sometimes impossible to walk away from. More people are watching, many wanting the company to fail.
Some available mercenary contracts:
- Blockade. The client wants to isolate a rival, with no reason given. The company is to block, bully, and chase off anyone attempting to enter the rival’s domain. Clients sometimes wants to make a show, sending a message, and sometimes discretion is required.
- Brigands. The local government needs mercenaries to track down and deal with a brigand army attacking outlying provinces and identify their employer.
- Boot Camp. A local noble is training a new company of soldiers and needs someone to show the recruits the ropes.
- Border Patrols. One of the border domains needs to strengthen the border.
- City Defense. The military of several cities needs reinforcements in these dangerous times. Accepting a contract means picking a side in an emerging conflict. It should be profitable, but choosing the wrong side can be fatal.
- Demon Attacks. A noble has fought demon cults and require extra security. The client does not reveal the source of the threat.
- False Flag. A local ruler needs mercenaries to pose as soldiers in a conflict between rivals. The ploy is to increase the tension in what must be a local power scheme. This charade is dangerous, with many unforeseen consequences, and can easily backlash on the company.
- Guard Duty. The client needs to reinforce the domain strongholds.
- A Show of Strength. The client fears repercussions for treason in the past and need to appear stronger during negotiations.
- Harsh Lesson. A lord needs to be taught a lesson about disloyalty, and shock troops are required.
Depending on the client and the target, this can play out in many ways. Sometimes this is straight-up assassination, or it may involve damaging property or just delivering a threat. The employer can be a noble or the government, other times criminals, and very often is the distinction moot.
- Night Patrols. The government needs someone to patrol an old battleground and roads at night.
- Noble Rivalry. Establish and recruit 500 soldiers for a local noble with some unsettled business. Imminent conflict is expected.
- The Raider Fortress. Raiders are gathering forces across the border. A local ruler seeks to root them out and learn if there is something more going on than just a safe haven for criminals.
- The Temple Dig. A church is excavating an ancient buried temple in the countryside and needs security.
- Road Work. The government is improving the roads and need guards to protect the workers and clear the area of monsters.
- Smuggler Hunt. The government or a church suspect unscrupulous merchants are supplying weapons and tools in exchange for plunder and slaves from monstrous raiders in the wilds.
- Negotiate Rivalries. A client wants the company to secure and possibly negotiate peace between local rivals. Tactics and opportunities depend on the rivals, and clever information gathering is required. The outcome can both be very profitable and peaceful, or a bloody disaster.
- A Straight Scouting Mission. The government needs scouts to survey the wilds. Monsters, brigands, ruins, and secrets await.
- Reclaim Lost Relics. A client wants the company to retrieve a lost relic on enemy territory. Guile or brute force are options, but discretion is required.
- Spring Prisoners. The local government needs someone to spring prisoners in a rivaling city or abroad. This requires stealth, intelligence, and well-timed brutality.
No plan survives contact with the enemy.
– Helmuth von Moltke the Elder
Something always goes wrong. A client never ever speaks the truth in this business.
- Cultists. Undead and dark cultists have reappeared, haunting old battlegrounds and ruins. This may be a prelude to growing darkness or just business as usual.
- Criminal Meddling. The Thieves’ Guild, or some other criminal faction, contacts the company offering additional information at a price, promising information that will make the company rethink its priorities. The offer may be genuine or false.
- Desertion. A sizable fraction of the company deserts at some point into the contract, leaving the company short-staffed. The reason may be past grievances or enemy meddling, as appropriate.
- Recruit New Specialists. The company needs new specialists, like alchemists, sappers, and wizards, to meet client requirements and improved odds. Candidates must be found, interviewed, and paid. Some of these new members will indeed have both secrets and enemies.
- Returning Enemies. Old enemies see the opportunity for payback and intervene against either the company or the client. The complications may include sabotage, assassinations, or outright engagement on the battlefield – depending on the enmity’s history.
- Rival Companies. A rival company is involved, either as a competitor or on the enemy side. Experienced mercenary companies often meet repeatedly, sometimes with shifting alliances, and rarely fight unless they absolutely have to. They would not be experienced otherwise.
- Ruins in the Wilds. The client suspect enemies may be using known ruins in the wilderness but leave the investigation to the company. Rumors of dragons and deep dungeons have deterred the government soldiers, which is unlikely to change anytime soon.
- It’s a Trap! The contract is not real, just a trap to destroy the company. The signs are all there: the job is too easy, the pay is also good, and the client is too friendly.