Mercenary Theme

Mercenary Theme

John Leech, Comic History of Rome, Hanno announcing to the Mercenaries the Emptiness of the Public CoffersTo celebrate the impending release of Open Design’s Soldiers of Fortune sourcebook for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, author Matt James brings you additional material for a military campaign.


Warfare has permeated history since the first mortals ever drew breath. Whether the motive is a matter of pride, a warm place to sleep, or even boredom, war has existed in all forms and will continue to exist until the end of time. Even the gods conduct war, bickering over notions far more confusing than any mortal could understand.

Mercenaries in popular culture are often portrayed as uncaring individuals whose only desire is to see profits from dangerous work. While much of this image reflects the truth, often soldiers of fortune work for causes greater than themselves. Presented here is an optional theme you can apply to your character, especially if you are considering the mercenary as your character’s backstory. You may also find this background combines well with the options presented in Soldiers of Fortune, an Open Design product introducing the fantastic and exhilarating world of mercenaries…

Mercenaries are often defined as forces organized outside of conscription, bolstering existing military operations. While usually bound by the laws and edicts of warfare, mercenaries mitigate weaknesses in a general’s army.

As a mercenary, you have chosen this line of work for its pay and prestige, and you may have little to no interest in loyalty or fealty to kingdom or cause. You have accepted your lot in life and are using your talents and abilities to forge an honest living.

Mercenaries come from all walks of life and from all professions. From the book-smart wizard to the dastardly rogue, mercenaries are more than brutes with weapons.

Building a Mercenary

Mercenaries have a propensity for combat in close quarters, and most prefer the element of surprise and unorthodox combat.

Secondary Role: Striker or Defender
Power Source: Martial
Granted Power: You gain the mercenary’s resolve power.

The powers presented below are available to any character who has applied the mercenary theme.

Mercenary’s Resolve (Mercenary Feature)

You take advantage of the battlefield and slip into the perfect position.

Move Action                      Personal

You shift 2 squares.

Call Out Your Foe (Mercenary Utility 2)

You can coax your enemies out of their hiding places.

Minor Action                     Close
burst 10
A creature you have seen during this encounter becomes invisible.
You mark the creature, and it becomes visible until the end of your next turn.

Boxing Manuever (Mercenary Attack 3)

You bully your opponent into the perfect position.

Encounter • Martial, Weapon
Minor Action                     Weapon
One creature
Primary ability vs. Fortitude
1[W] + ability modifier damage, and the target slides 2 squares.

Mercenary Duel (Mercenary Attack 5)

You call out one enemy for a duel to the death.

Daily • Martial, Weapon
Standard Action                               Melee
One creature
The target is marked until the end of the encounter. No other mark may supercede this one.
Primary ability vs. AC
3[W] + ability modifier damage
The target takes a −2 penalty to all defenses (save ends).

Small Unit Teamwork (Mercenary Utility 6)

Mercenaries work well in small, effective teams.

Minor Action                                     Close
burst 5
Each ally in the burst gains a +2 bonus to all attack and damage rolls until the end of the encounter.
Any ally who moves more than 5 squares away from another ally with this effect loses any benefits of this power.

Precision Onslaught (Mercenary Attack 7)

You deliver a precise attack, setting you up for a devastating follow-up.

Encounter • Martial, Weapon
Standard Action                               Melee
Target: One enemy
Attack: Primary ability +2 vs. AC
Hit: 1[W] damage
Effect: You gain combat advantage against the target until the end of your next turn.

Lord of War (Mercenary Attack 9)

Your experience in combat helps you to drive your enemies back with devastating results.

Encounter Martial, Weapon
Standard Action                               Melee
One creature
Primary ability vs. AC
4[W] + ability modifier damage, and you slide the target 1 square. You can then occupy the square the target left.
Each ally within 5 squares can make a melee basic attack as an opportunity action.

Motivated by Blood (Mercenary Utility 10)

Life at sea has afforded you certain skills associated with working on a ship.

No Action            Personal
You or an ally is bloodied by an attack.
You gain a +2 bonus to all damage rolls until the end of the encounter.


About the Author

Matt James is an industry freelance writer and game designer for Dungeons & Dragons. He has credits with Wizards of the Coast and Open Design and is a contributing writer to and Pen & Paper Games and a regular guest on the Tome Show. When not prancing through various fantasy worlds, Matt is chained to his desk working endlessly on developing his website, You can also follow Matt’s gaming insights on Twitter: @matt_james_rpg.

8 thoughts on “Mercenary Theme”

  1. Wow! ‘Lord of War’ is nasty. It could easily be a lower level daily. Nice work Matt, these are all facinating.

  2. These are great. Lord of War is definitely a good one. (For PCs that is!) Call Out Your Foe is pretty cool too with a neat trigger and effect.

    The fluff text for Motivated By Blood seems incorrect. Am I missing something there?

  3. I like it!

    I have no idea what Matt intended with the life at sea references for Motivated by Blood.

    Perhaps Scott was editorially moved to discuss the ruthless nature of buccaneering as a lifestyle choice?

  4. This sounds awesome! I’d love to play this as my next character. I’d have to work on some Paragon level powers with my GM, but you have really set forth the flavor of the package. Thanks for sharing this!

    I’ll third the comment on Lord of War. 4W plus permanent mark that goes on top of normal marks plus 5 melee basic attacks is better than most Paragon level dailies. Reduce to 3W, until end of encounter, and grant one ally a basic attack from anywhere on the battlefield would be more in keeping with the power level of 4e.

  5. Hey guys, I was away at the DDXP convention over the past week and just got back to looking at this. I make a mistake, and you are correct. The level 9 power should be a daily (as is the case with all level 9 powers, generally speaking). That aside, I am shocked at the warm response this theme has produced in the form of e-mails, comments, and even phone calls! I’m humbled by the awesome praise :)

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