AD&D Mercenary Troops for Dummies

The Black Company by Glen Cook is getting its own TV series - SciFiNow - Science Fiction, Fantasy and HorrorRecent discussions on the sociable medias got me curious about mercenary armies in the venerable grande olde dame of tabletop RPGs.  Let’s take a look at the rules and requirements for putting together a Black Company of your own.

We’re going to make a few assumptions to simply the process.  In fine Gygaxian form this process is infinitely adaptable, but for the sake of clarity, let’s go with a simple outfit of about 100 medium infantry.  We will also use the easiest numbers to calculate, and err on the side of spending too much on these guys rather than too little – poorly paid mercenaries have a tendency to disloyalty, don’t you know.

Bear in mind that Gygax urges one sergeant per ten troops on page 30 of the DMG, but under the section on sergeants on the next page he indicates a minimum of one sergeant for every ten soldiers with as many as one per five.  To keep the numbers simple, let’s use one sergeant and ten soldiers as our basic building block.

Lieutenants, at 2nd or 3rd level, can command as many sergeants as they have levels and we’re going to use 2nd level LTs to keep the math easy.  You can mix and match to save a few bucks, but using consistent levels here also simplifies the book-keeping.

Next, we need a Captain at 5th to 8th level.  These guys can command one score of troops AND [Edit: see below] one lieutenant for every level of experience he has.  Gygax explicitly excludes sergeants and support staff like cooks from the Captain’s command limit, which is very helpful as it simplifies the financial accounting as we will see later.  Since we are looking to build 100 man companies, we’ll go with a 5th level Captain.

This leaves us with a 116-man company that consists of a 5th level Captain, five 2nd level LTs, and ten 1st level sergeants commanding one hundred 0-level soldiers.  So that’s a total of 106 men in our Company, including command.  Now let’s look at how much all this muscle costs us per month.

Hospitaller Sergeants | Medieval knight armor, Medieval knight, Knights hospitallerThe Captain and LTs are easy.  They each cost us 100 gp per level, which amounts to 1,500gp.  Things get a little more complicated with the squaddies.  The sergeant costs ten times the rate of troops, and this is where using ten-man squads makes the math a little easier.  The table on page 29 details the per/man cost and using our basic Company we just need to multiply that rate by 20 to find the cost per squad or 200 to find the cost for our full Company. You want to run cheap and hire light footmen?  Normally 1gp, each squad costs 20gp and ten of them will run you 200gp.  That makes the total salary of our troops 1,700gp per month.  You want those pricey heavy horsemen?  That’ll set you back a cool 2,700gp per month.

Again, that’s 1,500gp for command staff, and 20x the monthly cost list on page 29.  It’s just that easy to build a basic fighting company for your domain.

The Big Company

[Edit: Revisions made to this section after it was pointed out that LTs are not required, and that each troop type requires its own Captain.  That means that our three supporting troop types require a captain each, but we can dispense with the LTs.  This raises the cost by just 500gp per month.]

Let’s work another example from the top, this time using the best and brightest command staff.  An 8th level Captain (800gp) commands 160 troops requiring sixteen total levels of LTs, which can be a mix-and-match of 2nd and 3rd levels. Our commanding officer will be a 6th-level Captain with three 5th-level Captains beneath him in the ranks.  That leaves us with a 2,400gp command staff cost, but let’s mix things up and use combined arms this time. The total cost will be 2,100gp regardless.

  • The core of our Company will consist of heavy foot.  If we take 9 squads of those, it’ll run us 1,200gp, and we’ll use three of our LTs for this.
  • We want some light foot for zipping around the battlefield grabbing easily defended strongpoints.  Two squads of those will run us just 200gp.
  • Some shooters?  Let’s go with 3 units of longbow at 600gp.
  • We’ll spend the rest of our manpower budget on two squads of cavalry.  If we split the difference and go with the multi-purpose heavy horse we will add 1,600gp.  That may be expensive, but we need some heavy hitters.

So far we are up to 5,700gp per month, but we still need support staff:

  • We need one armorer per 40 troops, which includes the command staff.  our 160 troops needs 17 guys yelling at them to move in the right direction.  Call it a round 180 men, and we’ll need five armorers for 500gp per month.
  • Blacksmiths.  The first one we hire can care for 40 men OR horses, and each additional blacksmith can care for another 160.  With 176 men and 20 horses to care for, we’ll just need two these guys.  Fortunately, that cost includes assistants.  We could use dwarves who care for three times the men at ten times the prices, but we won’t.  That brings the total up to 60gp.
  • Gygax requires us to pay for weapon makers at a rate of one per 80 men, which runs us up to 300gp.
  • We may want to hire a couple of scribes at 15gp each, to help keep track of pay and orders.  And some cooks, messengers and general cutboys.  We’ll throw all of these, and some bonus gold for high achievers to keep the boys motivated, into a miscellaneous pot of 100gp per month.

That leaves our big, combined arms Company with a total cost of 6,600gp per month.

Stacks of gold coins. stock illustration. Illustration of metal - 12785948


Kind of a fun exercise, once you get your arms around the few simple ratios.  And with this, you too can think about building a domain and maybe taking the fight out into the borderlands where so much of the lost wealth of the Fallen Empire waits to be wrested from the arms of the humanoid forces of chaos.

Thanks to friend of the blog Scholar-At-Arms for pointing out you are not required to pay LTs to serve as go-betweens: