Mercenaries get better with gear?

Ok, as I understand Mercs, you need to buy their gear to outfit them as well as pay for them to actually work for you.

But…if you take that same Light Foot, capture the gear of a Heavy Infantry and give it to him, he starts charging you more for the privilege.

Is that right?

Mercs come with gear appropriate to their type. If you hire Horse Archers, they have horses, and so on.

You can change their equipment, but just because you equip someone with new gear doesn't mean they can use the gear. Here's the exact rule from Domains at War: 

"Not every [person] can qualify to become every type of troop. Some lack any talent with animals, and cannot become cavalry; others are nearsighted and cannot become archers, for instance.

Any conscript able-bodied enough to be conscripted in the first place can be trained to be light infantry. 50% of conscripts have the strength and stamina to be heavy infantry. 50% have the agility and vision to be slingers, bowmen or crossbowmen. Up to 25% have the skill and seat to be light cavalry and only two-thirds of those (17% of the total) to be medium cavalry. Longbowmen must be drawn from those with the strength of heavy infantry and vision of bowmen, so only 25% of conscripts can qualify. Horse archers must be drawn from those capable of being both bowmen and cavalry, so only 12% can qualify. Heavy cavalry must be drawn from those capable of being both heavy infantry and medium cavalry, so only 8.5% can qualify. Cataphract cavalry must be drawn from those capable of being heavy infantry, bowmen, and medium cavalry, so only 5% can qualify."

"Training troops takes time, ranging from one month for light infantry to a full year for cataphract cavalry. During this time, the leader who levied the troops incurs costs for ammunition, training gear, marshals, and so on (see the Military Specialists section of this chapter for information on marshals). He must also provide for the equipment for the troops. The Training and Equipment Time and Cost table shows the time and cost to train various troop types. Trained conscripts have the same characteristics as mercenaries of their type. They must be paid wages appropriate to their troop type. "

With this in mind, let's consider the case where Joe Mercenary, a light infantry, is equipped with chainmail, shield, and sword, giving him the equipment of heavy infantry. Let's assume Joe Mercenary is among the 50% of light infantry who can qualify as heavy infantry and he receives adequate training. Since the value of the equipment he's been provided is (40gp +10gp+10gp) 60gp while the difference in wages is (12gp-6gp) 6gp per month, I'd say that Joe Mercenary would be willing to work for his old wages (6gp) for ten months in exchange for the provision of the equipment.


This is really neat stuff, Alex. I’ve missed every opportunity to get in on these playtest documents so far, but I’ll be jumping at the opportunity when the kickstarter for DaW hits.

You and me, both, Jard.

Thanks for that Alex. So you only have to pay their wages. Good stuff.

Once again: sweet. Can’t wait. On pins and needles. Hurry! ;-).

Thanks for the enthusiasm! We're very close to the Domains at War kickstarter. We simply want to finish the art and layout for Player's Companion first, so that we're not raising money for a new project until after our current backers have gotten their prior product. 


Alex. This post fills me with deep joy.

I am so very pleased to see that you’re going to be taking what I consider to be a responsible approach to funding your releases. As a project manager, it’s a good sign to me that you know not to bite off more than you can chew, and very reassuring. I wait, impatiently, for the day my postman delivers the PC :wink:

Thanks, James.

I think the Autarch core team has a good cycle in place. I get the majority of the writing for the project done before the Kickstarter. Tavis runs the Kickstarter and provides me playtesting feedback. Meanwhile, I start working on the next product, aiming to have it ready for Kickstarter by the time the prior book is laid out. It's sort of the design equivalent of move-and-fire tactics!

I'm super-excited to get both PC and D@W into your hands.


My apologies for necroing this, but I just purchased ACKS recently and started poking around on the forums. When I read this, it started making me wonder about the less competent soldiers. To make sure I’m doing my math and logic right, there are three independent variables - “Strength & Stamina”, “Agility & Vision”, and “Skill & Seat”. All of the other restrictions are either percentages of one of those (medium cavalry) or combinations of them (longbows, horse archers). Given the odds of 50%, 50%, and 25% for those three “abilities”, 18.75% of recruits will be good for nothing other than light infantry (50% that don’t have strength times 50% that don’t have agility times 75% that don’t have skill equals 18.75% that have none of the three). That seems to be rather reasonable, that 1 out of 5 recruits would be adequate for service, but not able to become a more specialized type of soldier.

Do the qualifications you mentioned (Strength and stamina, skill and seat, etc.) correspond to ability scores or proficiencies in any way? Could a straight-3s character be a suitable cataphract cavalryman? If not, where is the line drawn?

It's funny you brought this up, because it was an issue I was just dwelling on myself as I work on final drafts for D@W. I think the answer, for simplicity, is going to be "no".

ACKS assumes that...

  1. All PCs, regardless of STR and CON, are able to carry heavy loads for long periods of time, and can do so without permanently injurying their bones, tendons, or muscles.
  2. All PCs, regardless of STR and CON, are able to ride animals for long periods of time, and can do so without enormous inflammation of their thighs, blisters, bruises, and so on.
  3. All PCs, regardless of WIS or CHA, have the stoicism and intestinal fortitude to embrace pain, hardship, and suffering and to undergo excruciating suffering in pursuit of their goals. ("Sure, we'll wade through this leech-infested quicksand to get through to the treasure!")
  4. All PCs, regardless of DEX, have human senses in the normal range. 
  5. All PCs, regardless of WIS, have no difficulties maintaining self-discipline and following orders when they want to.

In other words, in the interests of *player* agency, ACKS assigns PCs a relatively super-human level of *character* agency. ACKS characters never gain weight because they can't resist carbs, unless that's what the player wants. 

These are obviously all false assumptions when applied to the gross pools of humankind, and it's these assumptions that the 50/25/12/6% rules are intended to address. The difference between a Light Infantry and Heavy Infantry NPC may not be his STR or CON stat, but rather his personal willingness to endure the discipline of formation fighting and his pain tolerance to bear the strain of the breastplate for hours on end. 

One certainly could try to model all sorts of stat bonuses or penalties for different troop types, but I think it ends up causing more problems than it does benefit the game, particularly as it creates a discontinuity with Fighter PCs who don't have such bonuses or penalties. It also makes ability scores more important and ACKS tries to avoid the ability-scores-uber-alles vibe.

Even if it was based on stats, they wouldn’t be significant - on a 3d6 straight down, 50% is 11 or better and 25% is (roughly) 13 or better. If “strength and stamina” was taken to be STR or CON, “agility and vision” to be DEX, and “skill and seat” was INT, the only one that would require a stat bonus would be cavalry, who would get one extra Proficiency, presumably the slot they use on Riding. For the units that need strength or agility, even with an 11+ requirement to join, half of the unit would have an 11 or 12 and have no bonus, which would (in my mind) justify the unit as a whole not having a bonus. It may not be intended to work that way, but it does work out on a broad scale with minimal hand-waving.

Nicely put, sir!

I’ve been thinking more on this, and it should be possible to recruit units that have attribute bonuses, but they would be rare. A +1 bonus occurs only 25% of the time, so 1/4 of troops (roughly) should have a particular +1 bonus.

So, if you wanted to recruit light infantry with +1 strength, only 25% of the soldiers would qualify (and they would all come out of the 50% that can be heavy infantry/heavy cavalry/longbowmen).

By contrast, if you’re working from the assumption that “strength and stamina” means at least a 0 strength modifier, 50% of your heavy infantry could have a +1 bonus. They’ve already been filtered down to the 50% that have at least average strength, so the 25% of recruits with +1 strength would be 50% of the 50% that can be heavy infantry. Likewise, a unit of crossbowmen could be filtered down by half to get a unit with a +1 dexterity modifier, making for a crossbow unit that is more accurate and has better defense.

As far as costs go, as a rough guesstimate (read: I have no idea if this is balanced or not) I would increase the cost of the unit by 50% for each point of bonus. These are hand-selected troops, and as such, they will expect higher pay to compensate for their superior talent. Being paid like regular mercenaries (i.e. without the higher pay) would mean a -1 to base morale for each +1 of bonus not paid for.

So, if you wanted a truly elite King’s Guard of heavy infantry with +1 strength and +1 constitution bonuses, using the standard heavy infantry from the core ACKS rules, each one would cost 24 GP per month instead of 12 GP, and only 1/16th of the men recruited would qualify for such a unit (1/4 for strength and 1/4 for constitution). If they were paid 18 GP per month instead of 12, they would lose a point of morale and be at a -1 instead of 0.

A useful baseline for cost comparison might be the wages of a 1st-level fighter, since the benefits derived from +1 Str and +1 Con (+1 to hit and damage, +1 HP) are equivalent to what a L0 merc with d6 HD gains from levelling into fighter.

(Except for a class proficiency and a cleave, I guess… those are hard things to put a price on)

Do mercenaries improve under any circumstances? The party’s wagon guards have been in a few skirmishes, and the party wants to know if they ever improve

The rules for advancing mercenaries are in the Domains at War books. The gist is that mercenaries level up almost entirely from being paid with the spoils of war. some of them will make it to 1st level and become veterans, but few will make it beyond that.

XP gets split with everyone in the battle IIRC, including NPC mercs and henchmen.

As I recall, it takes something like 100xp for a normal person to gain a class level (which is automatically Fighter if that XP came from adventuring).