"We've got money... let's just hire an army!"


Advice


My home group is going through Rise of the Runelords, and they've decided that an invading army is something best met with a horde of paid mercenaries, which they'll stay home and direct via messenger. They're around level 10, so they've got a good amount of GP--but needless to say, this doesn't fit the fantasy-hero tone and would be a huge waste of game time.

Any suggestions on how to derail this plan and get them back to tackling their problems personally? (I've also got a wizard PC who's determined to hire one or more 'shieldmen' to stand between him and any attackers because he can't be bothered to cast defensive spells, but that's another story.)


Let them. Have the mercenaries get wasted without causing the enemy much of a problem, due to being too low level. Having thus thrown away money, they are likely to rethink their strategy.

Or make the mercenaries throw their weight around, plundering villages and saying hello from the PCs.

Or go with it. The time sink isn't so bad if you decide on the outcome and then give the PCs the option of interfering.


General disclaimer: If the Pc's want to do something like this and you kill it, they will probably become a bit disillusioned and claims of Railroading will be thrown around.

I would suggest you hit a middle ground. Maybe make it so only low level Mercenaries are available, so the army will lose without the powerful PC's leading them.

You could also make it so that the mercenaries are not working well together. Since they would probably have to hire multiple groups to make up an "army". So the PC's need to step in and lead.


There could be several issues preventing them from doing this.

There might not be any available mercenaries willing to take on the job. If the task is too threatening, they might refuse or charge preposterous rates.

The mercenaries might be obviously opportunistic and make it pretty blatant they don't intend to actually stick around for the full contract.

There might not be enough available on short notice. Transit times might be too high for this to matter.

Logistical nightmares ensue from building an army literally out of random people from varying backgrounds and locations and loyalties. Most of them won't be organized enough to supply themselves on an army scale. Mercenaries fill gaps or provide specialized skills one can't casually recruit from the populace; they are not the bulk of your force unless you employ them all from one highly organized and professionally-minded source.

Anyone with even a bit of experience in the matter can advise the PCs to these issues.


Don't know Runelords myself. Some ideas though.

1) Bribe Harder - If they just throw Mercs at the problem, I'm sure some of their number can be counted Bribed into standing aside or even joining the invaders. "Well you boss, they're paying double and you'll be to busy to chase us down, sorry bye"

2) Low Standard - They are mercenaries and practiced combatants. They still don't have class levels unless you give it to them. These hired NPCs can blunt the first wave but a quickly gathered mix mash of different fighters with no history, should not be able to fully beat a well trained and drilled army. Morale can break pretty quick.

3) Interference - They want to use Magic to send commands? Have someone move to block or disrupt the spells. Maybe a traitor in the mercenaries or town guard. Maybe an advanced strike team got close and their own Wizard is trying to stop Message spells and the like. Does the army have seige weapons? Boulder crashes into the house/castle/tower/hiding place they are in.


Henchmen are fine (your Wizard's shield bearers) - the trick is that they're low-level NPC warriors the wizard is going to have to equip, feed and pay hazard pay wages to ... and once the shield bearer realizes the predicament they're in, stand a very good chance of simply balking and attempting to split at the earliest safest opportunity.

Costs to hire mercs are probably less prohibitive than getting them there in time to do any good. teleport at CL 9th can only transport 3 people at a clip, and the wizard has to burn 2 at a time (back and forth) and roll each time to be on target.

Mercenaries en masse are up to you. It takes a while to interview, hire (including hammering out the terms of the contract), supply, transport and bivouac any sizable body of men. Maybe they can hire 100 mercenaries in Kaer Maga or Magnimar ... but when they begin negotiating the contract, most mercenaries are going to balk at fighting large numbers of giants. If the PCs lie to the mercenaries about whom they're fighting, they'll be fighting both the giants and the mercenaries. If they're lucky, the mercenaries won't burn Sandpoint down around their ears to spite them as they high-tail it back to their ship. If they marched, the time-to-arrive-to-matter element is what has to be considered.

IIRC, mercenaries not only have to be paid their wages, their employer is often expected to pay for their equipment and provide all necessary logistics.

Hiring mercenary archers and infantry is one thing ... hiring heavy cavalry and horse archers are another tier of cost as combat-trained horses are not cheap, especially when considering "only" 100 horses. That's, what, 20k -30k just for the horses?


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Let them? I don't understand this need to stop players doing things within the rules that they want to do, it doesn't have to work, but you shouldn't stop it happening, you could so easily cause friction.


@ The Mad Comrade;

Wait the army/invaders are Giants?

"Hahhahahhahahahahahaahahahahah; okay you're insane. Only time we fight giants is if we outnumber them, not the other way around. Goodbye"

Yeah simply that fact alone would make most mercenaries do a double take. 1-2 is up their alley. A small pack or den is doable for some well geared ones. Army? "Boyo, the price just trippled and that's if we want to give dying a try"


People who fight for money are notoriously unreliable, especially when dealing with individuals and not states. You're the GM, so NPCs are *your* territory...


Calybos[/quote wrote:
Any suggestions on how to derail this plan

Don't! If that's how they want to play it, dig out the mass combat rules and have at it! If it derails itself, fine; if not, then they had glorious fun!


blahpers wrote:
Calybos[/quote wrote:
Any suggestions on how to derail this plan
Don't! If that's how they want to play it, dig out the mass combat rules and have at it! If it derails itself, fine; if not, then they had glorious fun!

The problem and worry is less "Did they have fun" and more "Let's skip this". We have no info on the players beside "They had this idea."

It can also lead to them just throwing NPC bodies at problems if it works out well enough. Large battles like this are good to splice things up but it might shift the playstyle of the whole campaign if they like it.

Really any suggestions for or against are subject to player reaction and their take away. OP as the guy running it, you'd know more about that then us.


Thus "NPCs are up to you". Mercs'll be fine squaring off against orcs and such. Giants and dragons? Uh ... nawp, not if we don't have to.

Sovereign Court

The problem with hiring people is that good people are expensive.

If you want to hire people to fight against normal goblins, that should be no problem on a level 10 budget. And it's a very reasonable idea; those enemies are beneath you, you're needed to do more important/difficult things, like take out the wizard who organized the goblin army.

If you want to hire people to fight CR 10 monsters, that's going to be much more expensive. Like, as expensive as hiring the PCs expensive. Also, if you send other people to do your adventuring, they also get your XP. That's just fair and reasonable, but it's a powerful deterrent to outsourcing stuff from your own pay grade.


Correct; don't just let the PCs do something implausible without using exceptional means to carry it out. Hiring an army takes time and funds and is subject to the usual issues one would have with hired. mercenaries--it's difficult to inspire mercs to "fight to the death" without being either a villain on par with the villain(s) you're fighting or a religious icon of at least regional supremacy.


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"Look guys, this is a good solution, but I'd really prefer not to run a mass combat. Please come up with a plan that involves me running stuff for your characters instead."

No need to come up with cruel ways to sabotage their plans, just talk to them like adults.


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There's a lot of logistical problems, starting with the fact that there isn't a large, convenient army of mercs by Sandpoint just waiting to be hired.

However, if they want to do it, and can solve the logistics, but you still want to preserve the game so things are actually being done... let them play the mercenaries. Pre-gen up a bunch of characters and give them to the players to play out, so you're still actually gaming. Depending on how you want your merc army to be, they can be higher level, or just give everyone a dozen Warrior level 2s to play apiece, then proceed to play out the adventure as written.


Tsotate wrote:

"Look guys, this is a good solution, but I'd really prefer not to run a mass combat. Please come up with a plan that involves me running stuff for your characters instead."

No need to come up with cruel ways to sabotage their plans, just talk to them like adults.

This is also an option. GMs are players too.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I haven't played or even read through Rise of the Runelords. However, in general, their are in fact good reasons why this wouldn't be a viable tactic.

The first is, in any sort of civilized area (i.e. lands claimed by a government) raising and equipping more than a handful of private soldiers is probably illegal. In places where that doesn't apply, logistics and supply are going to be nearly impossible.

The second is the expense is probably a lot larger than your players are expecting, a a large (around 200) professional army of humans (fighter 3), with an ARC of 3 costs 1 BP (around 4000 gp if you just want to use money) per week just to maintain and pay IF you are a kingdom and they are at least partially motivated by loyalty to the kingdom. I would expect a mercenary army to be more expensive. And that doesn't include any extra pay for the leaders of the army (which are expected to be PCs.) There are reasons the mass combat rules are connected directly to the kingdom rules. That small army, costing thousands of gold per week, would be the same ACR as a diminutive army of frost giants (about 10) against many more than that they would surely lose. To have an even fight against 100 frost giants, you would need a colossal human army costing about 16000 gp a week just to maintain.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Calybos1 wrote:
(I've also got a wizard PC who's determined to hire one or more 'shieldmen' to stand between him and any attackers because he can't be bothered to cast defensive spells, but that's another story.)

It is pretty unlikely he will be able to find people to do that. There is a reason having a cohort requires a feat.

But lets say your level 10 guy does find a couple of human warrior 1's who are willing to take his coin. Any area damage is just going to kill them instants. Whats worse, is they are terribly susceptible to any opponents mind control, and probably not loyal enough the attacking their boss would give them a second save. They would be more a liability than a help, and of course the next time the wizard goes to Mercs R Us to get replacements, he will either have to pay a lot more or find out that people aren't quite as willing to throw away their lives as he might have hoped.


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Here's a good thread on how much each unit of ten soldiers should cost by CR.

I'll second the many comments on letting your players have some success with this strategy. Describe the mercs taking care of some of the early invasion encounters, then describe situations that need PC help.

The Exchange

I wouldn't trust anyone to defend MY TOWN, so I'd handle it by myself. Or maybe hire a few adepts to make life difficult for the invading army...


Are that many mercenaries available at such short notice?

But do agree with the posters suggesting that if the players are telling you that they just aren't interested in playing out those battles, pushing it is a bad plan. So, go off script, push any storylines they are interested in.


I'd suggest that the wizard mentioned in the OP select the Recruits feat to acquire a small posse of loyal shield-men that (probably) won't leave him dying in a gutter. ;)


I'd also recommend reviewing the mass combat rules. That should contain reasonable rates for amassing a mercenary army, and should also cover the rules for handling army vs high CR foes. Remember that if they are not personally leading the charge, they'll have to rely on the leadership of their commander to hold the army together, and not their own. Additionally I'd recommend coming up with a reasonable amount of time for giving orders such that they are acting on information a couple rounds old and giving orders that will arrive a couple rounds late.


Multiple low level shield bearers is pretty piddly. Typically an on par encounter kills 1 then walks through the hole using its ac to ignore the attacks of opportunity. That or an AOE spell insta kills them. Might want to point this out

Honestly I would say let them do this as it gives opportunities for all types of players. Firstly you have the RP. How many people die due to them hiring people instead of doing it themselves(make sure they know they can do it themselves)? Bringing that many armed men into any area causes plenty of problems for them to deal with. Miscreants or enemies might take this as an opportunity to make problems while getting paid. Any players that enjoy tactical game play will probably enjoy maneuvering an army. Also there are some encounters hordes of mooks cannot kill leaving combat for the players. Monsters with DR and fast healing can decimate literally any number of low level soldiers. Hence you have an encounter for the players to do.


Calybos1 wrote:
My home group is going through Rise of the Runelords, and they've decided that an invading army is something best met with a horde of paid mercenaries, which they'll stay home and direct via messenger.

Well, for starters, are there enough mercenaries in the area to amass an army on short notice that haven't been hired by the other guy already?

Then there's the issue that you can't actually command an army by mail, especially if it doesn't have a commander out in the field with it. At least one PC or a notable NPC won over by the PCs would have to serve as the nucleus of this force, and you'd obviously only want an NPC who couldn't be bribed or won over by the other guy.

Calybos1 wrote:
They're around level 10, so they've got a good amount of GP--but needless to say, this doesn't fit the fantasy-hero tone and would be a huge waste of game time.

So they're certainly high enough level that if they want to start setting up a base and having an army, that's a conversation you and your group need to have directly and OOC.

Calybos1 wrote:
Any suggestions on how to derail this plan and get them back to tackling their problems personally? (I've also got a wizard PC who's determined to hire one or more 'shieldmen' to stand between him and any attackers because he can't be bothered to cast defensive spells, but that's another story.)

Well, for one thing, if there's an army and they can't fight it with another army because it's too strong and there's some maguffin they need to do or they need to assassinate the leader to get the rabble to disperse from infighting and lack of leadership, then that needs to just be made clear to them and if they don't know this then they need to find out and should reasonably be able to do so instead of being punished by you.

As for the Wizard, sounds like he either wants Craft Construct and about a week or two of downtime to make a bodyguard(likely a Waxwork Creature or Graven Guardian) or Animate Dead and some lead-plating and disguise measures.

The Mad Comrade wrote:
Hiring mercenary archers and infantry is one thing ... hiring heavy cavalry and horse archers are another tier of cost as combat-trained horses are not cheap, especially when considering "only" 100 horses. That's, what, 20k -30k just for the horses?

Light Combat Trained Horses are 110 gp each, so that's 11,000 gp for 100 of them. Heavy Combat Trained Horses are 300 gp each, so that's 30,000 gp for 100 of them.

Of course, given the fact that combat training basically just amounts to "Will the Horse know the attack command and be any good at using its natural weapons?" one can pretty safely skip it.

At 75 gp each, that's a paltry 7500 gp for 100 light horses for some horse archery. 3000 gp if you're ponying up for ponies for Small-sized types.


Just kindly remind your players that the person in charge of this army organized the defeat of Fort Rannick and it's standing army using three people, and is known to employ shapeshifters.

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