The Military

Following on from my thoughts about NPCs in general, I have been thinking about the military. In a modern world just about every nation has a standing Army, bunch loads of trained soldiers (sailors, marines, airmen etc) just hanging around whose primary aim is to fight wars, defend borders and project power around the world – but that is a fairly modern phenomenon. Before that things were a lot more basic.

A nation’s military was composed of small ‘private’ armies who were supplemented by mercenary companies and hastily gathered locals with basic military training. And worse, there were primarily contracted to local defensive and law enforcement duties as opposed to running around the neighbourhood prosecuting wars.

Wars still happened, of course, but they were expensive and the army had to be recruited, gathered together, and mercenaries purchased for each separate campaign. So the challenge now is to work out how that can be reflected by my standard NPC guidelines.

You can find the troop types referred to below on this page.


The Militia are made up of citizens who can be mustered to help defend their town and property in times of need. In a village this might mean chasing a monster away, standing up to some local thugs, helping catch a criminal or leading an evacuation if the place is over run. In town it might be manning the walls if they are ever attacked and turning out for a drill and practice sessions on a regular basis. Being a member of the militia is a form of Civic Duty, a bit like paying taxes or (in modern terms) joining the local neighbourhood watch – so people do it voluntarily, for local status, kudos and presence – if nothing else.

While they aren’t the best soldiers, don’t write them off - peasants tend to be strong and tenacious, most craftsmen (Experts) have learned the basics on combat, and there will be a few ex-professionals (warriors) to knock them into some sort of shape. In my games Militia tend to wear padded armour, fight with spears and have a few darts a missile weapons. They know enough to throw darts as the enemy engage and them fight as a unit (protecting each other) when the enemy close.

Militias are free, but they will only fight to defend their community, and then only when they think it is appropriate. The leader who depends on a militia to defend him is asking for trouble.


I am using this category to lump together various different types of ‘soldier’ who are employed by individuals or organisations in a protective role. Most of them are not employed to ‘go fight the enemy’ but to keep the home town, business or employer safe. It is probably best to think of them as a sort of militarised police force keeping the peace, rather than as an army in waiting. While the Militia provide a boost in numbers when required, these guys are the back bone of the defensive army.

Personal / Store Guard

In most fantasy societies there is no standing police force and people are responsible for protecting themselves and their property – so those people of means employ guards of one type or another. Many of these will be commoners with some basic training, there to deter muggers and thieves rather than to fight off a horde of ravening berserkers. Some will be trained warriors, but probably not very much real combat experience (probably L2) who decided that employment as a private guard, while less lucrative that the army, suited their lifestyle better. Guards of this type are often associated with the militia as well – warriors as junior officers, commoners as experienced rank and file members.

However, there are various types of guard. They include - the night watchman who patrols a building making sure that all the doors and windows are locked; the servant who controls access to the front door and accompanies the mistress of the house when she goes shopping; a uniformed security guard in a store; a fully armed bodyguard for that trip to the bank; a merchant may well employ a unit of caravan / ships guards.

Some individuals will have a duty to the town or regional rulers to provide troops in case of a national war, so a unit of Militarily trained personal or store guards might be acceptable in that role. However, it would also be acceptable to send mercenaries to fulfil that duty.

Town Watchmen

While a business often has a watchman, so does a town or a city. They patrol the streets looking for signs of disturbance or unrest. They don’t, generally, try to resolve a problem alone but they raise a Hue and Cry that attracts the attention of local guards, or militia men. It might be they have spotted a fire, a burglary or even some glowing muck leaking from a building. They start shouting and keep shouting (or blowing a signal whistle) until help arrives. Most militiamen or guards (private or town) will respond to a Hue and Cry. Criminals can often be apprehended in this way, and there are enough people around to make reliable witnesses if someone gets hurt.

Most town watchmen are Commoners, although many are members of the militia as well. See Watchman and Elite Watchman.

Civic Guards

These are trained soldiers responsible for guarding the town and helping maintain law and order. They may well be deployed at town gates (they don’t collect tolls, but they guard the people who do), patrolling the town walls or responding to a Hue and Cry. However, they might also be posted outside the town hall or provide an honour guard for the town mayor or (in larger towns and cities) other civic dignitaries.

Civic Guards will all be of a military class (a class with Martial Weapons skill) and will have Profession: Soldier as a skill.

Civic Guards are employed by the town, from local taxes for specific local duties – and as such are only beholden to their Town Council and mayor (or other civic head). They do not automatically get sent to fight in wars. However, a town or city will probably have a responsibility to their local rulers to send troops to help out when required– in which case a detachment of Town Guards may well be sent to fight. However, the town could hire a mercenary unit to fill that role on its behalf.

See Guards, Elite Guards and Skirmishers (for local countryside patrols)

Royal / Noble Guard

These troops perform the same role as town or personal guards, but are loyal to a noble (or royal) house. They may well be found forming a guard of honour for the noble, or acting as bodyguards for a member of the family. However, they will also be charged with guarding the home estate or may well be dispatched to look after the Noble’s interested in a distant part of the estate (ie the villagers ask for help chasing away some goblins – so the noble sends a Sergeant and 5 soldiers to help out).

Almost certainly a Noble will have an obligation to his own lord to provide military support when required, which could be provided from his house guards, a mercenary contract or a combination of the two.

The House Guard will all be of a military class (a class with Martial Weapons skill) and will have Profession: Soldier as a skill. However, the ‘house’ probably has a number of private guards (footmen, store guards etc) it can call on to fill some of these roles in times of emergency.

Elite Watchmen, Elite Guards, Skirmishers and Soldiers.


Mercenaries are literally people who undertake a short term military duty in return for a fee. If it turns into a long term employment and they form a permanent relationship with their employer, they become Private or Noble Guards.


You can always find the retired soldier (for example) who will work on a freelance basis as a guard, or to help discharge a military obligation. The fee will, of course, depend on the risk involved in the operation. They are nearly always a military class (a class with Martial Weapons skill) and will probably have Profession: Soldier as a skill. However, Caveat Emptor, as they say.

Any L2 or L3 warrior type listed below.

Caravan Guards

Organised teams of guards for hire. They generally come with their own officer and specialise in different types of guarding operation. Some will be mounted to provide fast defensive support, others will be infantry based while other might be marines prepared to defend a vessel at sea. Skill Sets will vary - most caravan guard companies will have a majority of Martial Classes, but may well be supported by casters and ‘specialists’.

Probably Skirmishers and Soldiers.


Take your pick. Adventuring groups are always open to ‘interesting’ employment, although they are probably more expensive (per capita) that any other sort of mercenary (except, perhaps, specialists). While there will be military skills it will almost certainly be supported by complex casting and stealth abilities. Again ‘Caveat Emptor’.

Take your pick of any of the character classes, rounded out by Warriors.

Combat Companies

Traditional mercenary Companies who are prepared to go to war and fight for money. Some mercenary companies choose their sides carefully, others will fight for whoever offers the highest fee. They will often come with their own officer, command and support structures.

Different companies have different specialisms - it is possible to hire a company of foot soldiers, a company of heavy cavalry, or a skirmishing unit. Or just about anything in between. However, a general company will likely have a mixture of all the L3 warrior types listed below – who all prepared to play their part in a fixed combat.

Specialist Companies

Specialist companies hire themselves out for specific tasks. They might be a team of combat engineers specialising in digging tunnels under city walls, or they might own a siege engine that they will use on your behalf. The possibilities are endless. (Note: Assassins probably fall into this category)

Standing Army

There are standing military units, but they tend to have very specific purposes – and they might not be directly owned and controlled by the state, but might for a part of a private army.

Border Patrol

If an area has a border with an enemy, or a lawless region that is home to bandits or tribes of humanoids, it probably requires some sort of professional border protection. This might be paid for out of a state-wide tax or by the ruling monarch - in which case the unit becomes part of a national standing army. However, the task might be delegated to a local noble, a town or even a commercial organisation - in which case it could be part of a private army or even a mercenary company.

These troops are professional soldiers – and are all from a Military class, probably with Profession: Soldier as a skill. And, because they likely to be involved in combat more frequently that other troops, they are generally more experienced and higher level that other troops. Don’t mess with these guys. Probablly Elite Soldiers, Elite Archers and Cavalry.

In some cases there will be a whole string of border castles, fortresses and towers working together to maintain security along the border.

Road Patrol

Generally light cavalry tasked to keep the roads between towns and cities open. In a well-developed and civilised area road patrols might not be needed - but the further a town is from the centre, the more liable it is to have wilderness areas around it and they will need to work to keep the road open. These guys ride up and down the road scaring away bandits and monsters that might want to prey on travellers and caravans.

Close to civilisation, this might be commoner messengers (probably militiamen) on Ponies, who provide a rudimentary mail service, and raise the alarm if they see anything in appropriate. Further out, this will be full blown light cavalry with missile weapons ready to defend themselves and travellers from the depredation of bandits and other hazards. Right down by the wild borders, it might even be a whole unit of heavy cavalry, capable of dealing with quite large threats.

This could be provided centrally, when the Road patrols become part of a standing national Army. However, it is just as likely that this service will be provided by a town that needs to keep its communications routes open, or a local noble who holds land because he keeps the road open. In some cases, it could be a purely commercial operation - think of something like the Pony Express running messages in semi-civilised areas.

Probably Cavalry Archers or Pony Messengers.

Wilderness Patrol

Away from the civilised heartland, towns and villages are surrounded by forests, commons, moors, heathland, rock-fields, mountains or other such wilderness areas – and someone has to ensure that it doesn’t become a haven for bandits and evil tribes. That falls to the wilderness patrol – a mix of rangers, scouts and skirmishers whose job it is to keep the wilderness safe. Often these are the first guys on hand when a village has a problem, although they often travel in small groups. And can’t provide heavy firepower support.

Again, this service could be provided centrally, by a regional or town authority, of by a local noble who is holds land and title for performing this military duty. Skirmishers.


In some cases a Chivalric / Military order might have been granted a charter (and possibly land) on the condition that they provide a Border / Road / Wilderness patrol.

In very strict countries (LN or LE) the ruler might have a massive army to maintain personal control - don’t rule it out entirely. In that case, they will have all of units above and probably many others as well.

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