Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Mercenary's Guide To Ur-Hadad

Captain Chogrun Versk of the mercenary band known as the Brotherhood of the Blue Mark steps forward to give all interested parties five things every mercenary needs to know about Ur-Hadad and how to survive and profit there. 

Five things any mercenary worth his salt needs to know to get by and get rich in Ur-Hadad? Why should I tell you? Then we'll have every scuzz-bum with a rusty chopper strap a serving tray to his chest and try to make it big off what I say! Hmm, maybe I'll just give a fake account to throw 'em off the scent, eh?

Nah, I'm just yanking your balls, chum. A good merc knows to do the job he got paid for and you paid me solid coin for my thoughts, an' I'm sure you're planning on a solid profit from 'em, too, so I figure, spirit of enterprise being what it is, you'll get what you paid for.

Image by Temarinde @ DeviantART
#1 - Make a friend outside of your mercenary company so, in case the lot of you get slaughtered, there'll be someone left outside your family to say something nice at your funeral. Some mercs'll say that bartenders and serving wenches are great for this, particularly since they're going to see a hefty portion of your coin. Me, I say forget them, they move on to the next mark the second you step out the front door. Instead, claim a tavern as your favorite, but make friends of the drunks who spend time there. All of them. By rounds for the house. Never turn down that beggar looking to buy a drop of grog or bit of brew. Folks remember where their booze comes from and get all misty-eyed when the supply gets shut off. If you want to make sure enough people are properly bereaved when you pass that the gods themselves will take notice of their lamentations and provide you a seat of honor at their tables, nothing gets the job done like sobbing drunks.

#2 - The Spearmarket sells more than just sword arms, you can find swords there, too, but not usually the best. The armorers and weaponsmiths of the Spearmarket are competent, and can provide you with enough materiel to support your rank-and-file, but if you want a choice spot of equipment custom-built to your specifications, don't even think about looking in the 'Market. Take this chopper at my belt here. I had that made by a down-on-his luck artisan over in the Scuzzberg district. Here's the thing: most of the best smiths of arms and armor are flat broke, so don't expect to find them in nice places. Their work is too good for a merc company to afford for the grunts and often too functional for the hoity-toity tastes of nobles who'd rather have silver filigree on a blade than a good edge. Any armorer or weaponsmith operating out of a dump of a shop is more likely to produce master-grade gear than any of the chumps in the Spearmarket.

Image by JasonRoll @ DeviantART
#3 - Every army marches on its stomach, and yours is no different. Once you've secured a contract, your next move, before you start spending any advance you've got on whores and ale, start arranging your provisions. Here, you've got two solid options: Dockside and Mustertown. Dockside, you'll end up with better quality food that's been prepared for the sea voyage to Ur-Hadad (which can sometimes be a very long trip), fresh fish, tubers and rice from the western colonies, and large quantities of fruits from the south to keep scurvy at bay. In Mustertown, you'll sacrifice quality for price, paying as low as one fifth of what you'll pay Dockside, but you might need to buy five times as much just to keep your grunts happy. For my money, I'll take Dockside every time; the smaller load of provisions means less I have to spend on pack mules and drovers, much less mess cooks.

#4 - Keep a talented tailor on retainer so you can dress for success. When negotiating, you need to match your attire to the customer. Merchants don't tend to like merc who dress better than they do, while nobles won't hire anyone whose clothes don't look more expensive than Uglothi pleasure slave. At the same time, your grunts might need to dress for the job, too. If your client is looking to hire heavy cavalry, dress them like Volczik hussars, but if they want light infantry, you want Escali skirmishers. Never lie to your client and say your men actually are Volczik or Escali (unless they are), but you can imply that they are, particularly if you draw attention to their "native garb." In my experience, clients will pay more for reputation alone; and there aren't many Hadadi merchants or nobles who can tell the difference between a fake Volczik and a real one at a muster distance.

Image by lathander1987 @ DeviantART
#5 - When times are tight and you can't find a foreign war to go off and fight, Ur-Hadad's under city is full of ancient horrors and forgotten tribes of beastmen and long-lost treasures that are just begging to be slaughtered or uncovered. Yes, it can be dangerous, but you're a mercenary. Act like one. With the right bribes to the right criers, you can easily whip up a fake scare related to something in the under city. Once some well-meaning citizen steps up to do his civic duty and, say, offers a bounty on vermen scalps, all you need to do is traipse down into the under city and start your bloody harvest. We call scams like this "rat catching" and it doesn't pay well, but at least it pays. Plus, it gives your grunts something to do after the whore money has run out. Who knows, occasionally you find some lost elven or ophidian treasure down there, too. Don't make a habit of going down there, though; it can take days to wash the stink off.