Guidance on XP for Mercenaries

So, what’s the share of XP for mercenaries who battle alongside a PC during some overland hex crawling. Not a full-on battle, like in Domains at War XP rules, but say a group of 4 PCs being escorted through the Radically Darkwood by 10 cavalry.

They encounter some ogres and the cavalry helps, alongside the PCs, fight off the ogres.

What’s the share of XP that goes to the mercs? Not sure if this is outlined in DaW or anything for smaller scale stuff.

I’m almost thinking something like a henchman share (50% share) divided equally among them.

But, any other thoughts?



Not an official Autarch, but throughout the rules, mercenaries who are not henches do not get XP for combat.

With that said, I think the rules imply (and DAW: Campaigns implies even further) that cash bonuses above and beyond the base pay for a unit are worth XP at the usual 1:1 ratio.

I would restrict that, of course:

  1. The employer’s GP threshold is the maximum amount of bonuses that employer can provide, that will give XP. More than that is nice (and may help morale), but won’t give XP.

  2. A mercenary has to survive to bring the bonus back to civilization in order to get XP from it.

  3. A mercenary has the same limits on levels gained per trip to civilization as a PC (i.e., at most they can level once and get XP up to 1 short of the following level).

  4. A mercenary who has leveled gets higher pay. Cash bonuses have to exceed the new, higher pay.

Hey Thomas, thanks for the reply!

I’m mostly concerned with slow advancement for adventuring style overland campaigns for smaller units. Since we’re getting up into King level in my campaign, and using the DaW rules, it makes sense that some mercs active on campaigns should get a little XP for these types of encounters perhaps. I’m drawing on the below snippets from DaW - Campaigns. Now, granted these are for larger scale battles. But, clearly they imply units should advance to “veteran” status eventually.

Mercenary units with experience of real war are known as veterans. Veterans will generally be 1st level fighters or explorers. They will have morale scores 1 point higher than the base morale for their troop type. If recruited into a leader’s army, veterans must be paid twice the wages of normal troops of their type.

Experience Points from Spoils: Each participant (whether a commander, a hero, or a creature in a unit) earns 1 XP for each gold piece he collects from the spoils of war. Troops will expect that at least 50% of any spoils captured will be shared on a pro rata basis in relation to their wages. If this does not occur, the Judge should make a morale roll for any unpaid troops.

For ease of play, troops’ XP can be tracked on a unit-by-unit basis. 0th level characters can be advanced to 1st level as per the rules in ACKS under 0th Level Characters and Experience from Adventuring. In general, it requires 100 XP for a 0th level character to become a 1st level fighter.

DaW seems to agree with you about XP for spoils.

The DaW seems to imply that mercs can only become 1st level veterans and are capped at that. But, I’m not sure if that’s a hard and fast rule.

Mercenaries only get XP from spoils (treasure). They generally would get a pro rata share based on the lesser of a half share or their wages (you can't give them 1,000gp just to level them up). They can advance past 1st level, it's just that it would take years and years of fighting. In an appendix to DAW I worked out what percentage of mercenaries would have advanced to 2nd and 3rd level. It's a small but real number. 

You can allow them to advance as henchmen, but at that point hiring mercenaries becomes an easy way to circumvent the henchmen limits from  CHA. If the number of mercs is within the permitted henchmen totals, though, then the mercenaries who are leveling up with an adventuring party probably ARE henchmen. 


Couldn’t you theoretically advance mercenaries by only bringing a small number of them along to collect spoils? Say the 5,000gp was split among only 50 mercenaries of the same wage, they could all level up to 1.

Are these rules expected to work well for small mercenary parties or are they only intended to cover using mercenaries on a scale of 100s ?

I ask because my group has about a dozen mercenaries they bring along for overland travel, and I’m trying to figure out how to handle that.

The rules are intended to cover mercenaries organized in companies of 120+.

A group of a dozen mercenaries regularly accompanying the adventurers on wilderness expedition sounds like it should be handled as a group of henchmen to me. Each PC can have an average of 4 henchmen, so an average party of 4-6 adventurers could easily have 12 henchmen.

My rule of thumb is that when mercenaries have been with the PCs long enough that they have distinct names, equipment, and XP, they have probably become henchmen.

I have been sort of ad-libbing the way mercenaries are done and slowly integrating rules you post from Domains At War whenever it seems relevant. Having missed the ACKs and PC kickstarters, I still don’t have access to the DaW playtest rules and wait with bated breath for the DaW kickstarter.

It started out that they hired a few mercenaries to come with them while exploring the wilderness and to guard the entrance to a dungeon when they went in. I have forbidden any mercenaries from coming in with them. When they hire mercenaries, as best as we could infer from the core rulebook (which is fairly light on details about mercs), it seemed they have a fixed set of gear that they can’t deviate from (giving a bowman a longbow doesn’t make him a longbowman) and have no stats. I just assumed +0 to all attributes, so your typically hired mercenary is 11+ to hit AC0 and veterans, if assumed to be level 1 fighters, hit AC0 on 10+.

Initially we tried treating them like henchman for the purposes of XP, so they would get a 1/2 share of XP for any overland fights. At that time it wasn’t clear when they would be expecting to get more than just their monthly wage as spoils, but there was very little treasure to be gotten overland. Regardless, a number of bowmen and a few light infantry helping to kite a skittering maw in this system resulted in a number of them gaining over 100XP and therefore leveling up. They did “henchify” one mercenary who survived a charge from a direwolf and therefore earned a name of “Wolfscar”, but otherwise most mercs are nameless Bowman 1, Bowman 2, etc.

So far it hasn’t broken the game apart too much because the players spend about 3/4ths of their time down in dungeons, but the mercenary rules have certainly created a lot of odd situations. Even if they were treated as henchman, wouldn’t that make the regular henchmen less valuable? After all, mercenaries are available in somewhat larger quantities and come with a set of equipment already, unlike level 0 henches.

In the campaigns I have run, once the PCs begin to advance in level, they rarely hire 0th level or 1st level henchmen. Instead they are generally hiring 2nd-4th level henchmen. Having 0th level mercenaries become henchmen is therefore not really a benefit, per se - as those are henchmen slots which could be filled with higher level henchmen. 


That definitely makes sense. If things really break down I might propose putting an end to that.

Just out of curiosity, when you were writing everything up for mercenaries, did you have any specific uses for them in mind that were distinct from henchmen? Having only read the rules and having this be my first foray into “old school” play, I wasn’t sure how to advise my players on when they would want to hire mercenaries vs. when they should hire henchmen.

What I mean is, a PC can look at the hireling availability table and say “Oh, when I need to identify a potion, I’ll try to hire an alchemist. When I need to train an animal, I’ll try to hire an animal handler.” But when do they say “hmmmm, I’m going to need to hire a cataphract” or “perhaps I should hire some longbowman”. Is it intended strictly for garrisoning a domain and the differences are largely cosmetic until Domains at War? Essentially, if you need 60gp worth of garrison, it doesn’t matter if that’s done by 1 cataphract or 2 longbowmen or 4 bowmen?

In writing the rules, my sense was that mercenaries would primarily be hired in these cases:

  1. Guarding PC campsites, pack animals, and bases
  2. Garrisoning strongholds
  3. Protecting merchants on mercantile caravan routes
  4. War!!

With regard to garrisons, yes, for 60gp worth of garrison it can be 1 heavy cavalry, 2 longbowmen, or 4 bowmen. This is perhaps slightly unrealistic but it works well. Certainly when you actually go to war, having a combined arms force that’s been wisely built makes a huge difference…

So, since spoils of war are only earned in scenario 4, do mercs earn any XP for any of the other scenarios? Based on the wandering monster tables, caravan guard duty would seem to be nearly as harrowing as war.

Alex, yup. This is basically what my PCs have been doing. The situation is, when guarding campsites or on the way to campsites and bases, they will encounter monsters and assist in fighting them off. Usually, it’s no big deal because a lot of wandering monsters don’t have plunder. However, some do and this is where I’m wondering what a fair way to distribute XP to say, a small company of mercenaries on a caravan as guards.

I hire 20 infantrymen to guard my caravan of spices from City A to City B. I go along with them. We are attacked by 4 ogres and with our combined arms fight them off. The ogres are carrying 400gp in loot.

How is the loot split? What percentage should the 20 mercs get? How much of that should be XP?

I’m almost leaning toward having mercs be considered “henchmen” as a whole unit. So, 20 infantry guys would get a 50% share of XP between them and 15% share between them, as if they were equivalent to 1 henchman.

And, then capping them at 1st Level. To get them higher than 1st, they need to move into “henchman” status, and that takes up CHA slots.


I think there should be a mechanic for caravan guards to gain xp, but I don’t like the artificiality of the level cap. The mechanic should be set up like the spoils of war mechanic, so that one would have to have a long career as a caravan guard to earn a significant level. Maybe set it up so that the 5th level guard captain from the Merchant entry in the monster list has, say, 15-20 years of experience, is bumping up on middle age, and is grumbling that he’s getting to old for this shit.

James, that’s a great example. And, I totally agree about the slow advancement. Pretty much what I’m trying to figure out for smaller companies of mercenaries so they don’t level up like crazy on overland treks.