Questions about Companies, Mercenaries, and so on.

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Re: Questions about Companies, Mercenaries, and so on.

Postby Goober » Tue Feb 12, 2013 4:09 pm

gatlinggouf927 wrote:Continuing on the merc subject, I was having a hard time during the conceptualization of my faction because I thought of going the mercenary route, but thought of these issues then. I like to think i sort of found a middle ground. The Varangian Guard is made up of former UMFL soldiers, after their homeworld was taken over and converted by the Ijad, they left with the other survivors and were hired by Valhallan Industries, who made the refugees their personal PMC.

The Guard is sent around completing missions directly for Valhallan or for any other corporations or organizations (including the TEMs or TTMs) that pay Valhallan for aid. That by definition makes them mercs. The VG have the autonomy to make the hard choices to ensure their survival if not success. So long as they don't cross Valhallan directly, they're smart enough to know that without Valhallan they'll be stuck on whatever world they happen to be on with no resources.


This is the way I'm leaning for my Knights of Blood company as well. They have a lot of unique/advanced tech, so it makes sense that they're backed by a corporation of some kind. They're mercenaries since they're hired to fight for money rather than fighting for ideals or for a government, but they don't hire out to just anyone. And they're unlikely to defect since they depend on the corporation for their livelihood, transportation, and equipment. They're probably a little less loyal than your average soldier, since they're mostly in it for either the money or for the fight itself. Maybe a few have, or develop, corporate loyalty, but mostly they just have a good thing going, and don't want to ruin it.
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Re: Questions about Companies, Mercenaries, and so on.

Postby Joshua A.C. Newman » Tue Feb 12, 2013 10:54 pm

Dukayn wrote:
Joshua A.C. Newman wrote:Pirates are about loot because they're perpetually about to starve. That puts them in a situation very much like everyone else in this setting. What makes them unique?

To answer the question, nothing really I guess. But then I never claimed that they were unique in the first place.


Sure, they're unique! They're chabbing space pirates, man! Make something good up!

I have to admit, a lot of my desire for having these guys as my main faction and following that fluff mostly comes from my long history with the Ghost Legion pirate faction from a previous gaming group. There's an independence of not being part of either side in the overall conflict that appeals. I've never been much of one to throw my weight behind one side or the other.


There's not really an "either side" in the Solar Calendar. There's the Solar Union and its rivalrous branches of its militaries, there's the Free Colonies, who, at most, share a flag, and the Ijad, who refuse to take orders from anyone but their friends. The closest thing to a unified faction here is the SU, and that's because they're the only one with a government, and that's bigger than it can handle.

Pirates are good! Many of the FC companies out there would be considered pirates. If they refuse to work alongside any Free Colonies, then probably no one wants them to share the name, but that just means that they don't get to use the Federation Network. So they have to pay their phone bills. Whatever.

I'd love to see your pirates vs. a Free Colony company vs. another Free Colony company. I think that could be really neat.
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Re: Questions about Companies, Mercenaries, and so on.

Postby C_L » Thu Feb 14, 2013 6:19 pm

Joshua A.C. Newman wrote:Incidentally, Machiavelli recommends against using irregulars like mercenaries because they don't stick around when the going gets tough. Never mind switching sides; if things get hard, they'll just go home.

This is the basis of my merc company; they have nowhere to go home to.
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Re: Questions about Companies, Mercenaries, and so on.

Postby Joshua A.C. Newman » Fri Feb 15, 2013 11:28 pm

And nothing to fight for? Nothing to spend their earnings on?
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Re: Questions about Companies, Mercenaries, and so on.

Postby C_L » Sat Feb 16, 2013 1:46 am

Their spendings are purely survival-based; making any money off of non-contract based jobs is REALLY hard to do, and affording Gate Travel is pretty expensive, so...

But no, they don't particularly have any real motivations other than survival.
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Re: Questions about Companies, Mercenaries, and so on.

Postby ShortenWeaponry » Tue Feb 19, 2013 1:10 pm

My mercenary teams fight for money. That's their job. If they haven't done it they would get fired. The station which is their base has many places where they could spend their money.
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Re: Questions about Companies, Mercenaries, and so on.

Postby Joshua A.C. Newman » Wed Feb 20, 2013 11:25 pm

You guys can take my editorial comment in whatever way you like. This is it:

"Trite and boring."
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Re: Questions about Companies, Mercenaries, and so on.

Postby jadefalcon777 » Thu Feb 21, 2013 12:55 am

I will say there's certainly a dearth of convincing AND interesting mercenaries in fiction. Some of the other posters touched on how romanticized the notion is in fiction, but I can't think of many sources that even touch the whole supply/materiels thing, let alone motivation besides 'generic money-grubber.'
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Re: Questions about Companies, Mercenaries, and so on.

Postby XGundam05 » Thu Feb 21, 2013 1:14 am

If I might suggest some inspirational material, which may or may not fit:
Viper's Creed - good for ideas on motivations
Dirty Dozen - not mercenaries, but has interesting characters, group dynamics and is a good film
Warbreaker - by Brandon Sanderson, for the mercenary trio
Kelly's Heroes - okay, this one doesn't quite fit, but it's hilarious and the tank group is awesome
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Re: Questions about Companies, Mercenaries, and so on.

Postby Ryujin » Thu Feb 21, 2013 11:57 pm

Arguably, the iconic sci-fi mercenary trifecta are:

Jerry Pournelle's John Christian Falkenberg (Falkenberg's Legion/Codominium/Empire of Man)
David Drake's Alois Hammer (Hammer's Slammers)
Gordon R. Dickson's Donal Graeme (Dorsai!/Childe Cycle)

It's worth reading all the material associated with these three characters. They, to say the least, present viewpoints from different societal strata regarding mercenaries. It's also worth noting that all three authors have actually been in the thick of it, so to speak, for their particular generation.
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Re: Questions about Companies, Mercenaries, and so on.

Postby Soren » Fri Feb 22, 2013 4:53 am

Ryujin wrote:Arguably, the iconic sci-fi mercenary trifecta are:

Jerry Pournelle's John Christian Falkenberg (Falkenberg's Legion/Codominium/Empire of Man)
David Drake's Alois Hammer (Hammer's Slammers)
Gordon R. Dickson's Donal Graeme (Dorsai!/Childe Cycle)

It's worth reading all the material associated with these three characters. They, to say the least, present viewpoints from different societal strata regarding mercenaries. It's also worth noting that all three authors have actually been in the thick of it, so to speak, for their particular generation.


I do feel compelled to note that Pournelle is gleefully (if probably unconsciously) racist, and he's in favor of massacring civilians, if the way he writes Falkenberg is any indication. I mean, your call, but I find him and his fiction too gross to read anymore.

Drake's great, though. I might replace Pournelle/Falkenberg with C.J. Cherryh/Conrad Mazian - if the Company Fleet in Downbelow Station wasn't fundamentally a mercenary organization, I'm not sure what is.
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Re: Questions about Companies, Mercenaries, and so on.

Postby C_L » Sat Feb 23, 2013 1:45 am

Anything from the Hammer's Slammers setting is excellent. Will have to check out Sanderson's work there, too; he's quite good.

And yes, my Merc Company has only some interesting personality to make them likable; other than that, I'd just rely on the setting and the conflicts around them to provide them with any depth.
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Re: Questions about Companies, Mercenaries, and so on.

Postby Zero Revenge » Sat Feb 23, 2013 4:26 pm

Soren wrote:I do feel compelled to note that Pournelle is gleefully (if probably unconsciously) racist, and he's in favor of massacring civilians, if the way he writes Falkenberg is any indication. I mean, your call, but I find him and his fiction too gross to read anymore.

Ah, someone's read Lucifer's Hammer.

Anyway, aren't civilians always the ones caught in the middle? Horrible yet true, one may say it's realistic... Doesn't Pournelle have Falkenberg avoid civilian death though? The one short story with the people going to starve to death, due to economical collapse. He elects to save the many, by the slaughter of the political party.. or something.

It's been a long time.
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Re: Questions about Companies, Mercenaries, and so on.

Postby Soren » Sat Feb 23, 2013 11:40 pm

Zero Revenge wrote:
Soren wrote:I do feel compelled to note that Pournelle is gleefully (if probably unconsciously) racist, and he's in favor of massacring civilians, if the way he writes Falkenberg is any indication. I mean, your call, but I find him and his fiction too gross to read anymore.

Ah, someone's read Lucifer's Hammer.


And Oath of Fealty, 'female but not feminine' and THAT whole complex of issues. Also, as - I think it was Carlos Yu? - pointed out, any political operator with the savvy of a Huey Long or Richard Daley could pwn Todos Santos in a couple of weekends.

Zero Revenge wrote:Anyway, aren't civilians always the ones caught in the middle? Horrible yet true, one may say it's realistic... Doesn't Pournelle have Falkenberg avoid civilian death though? The one short story with the people going to starve to death, due to economical collapse. He elects to save the many, by the slaughter of the political party.. or something.

It's been a long time.


Yeah, but when you compare the way someone like Drake treats his civilian characters (Drake was an interrogator, he spoke enough Vietnamese to get a real ugly picture of what he and his were doing), there's a certain... well, it's just gross. 'Necessity' sounds nice, but it doesn't even hold water in the real world - people have been prosecuted for murder in lifeboat situations. Pournelle tends to group his civvies into 'grateful' and 'ungrateful' and set the dogs on the latter.

I'm skeptical of Pournelle's combat cred as well, but outing REMFs-turned-hawk isn't my business; I'll leave that to his fellow Korea vets, or someone who wants to file an FOIA request for his service record and go through that mess. I don't want up in his s**t that badly, I just think people deserve to know what they're getting into; I won't even tell you not to read him, if you can keep your lunch down long enough. I just don't want his name associated with mine unless I get to have my say on the matter.

Anyway, rant over. Suffice it to say, we're aiming for a more nuanced view than I think Pournelle is capable of providing. And, for the record, this is unrelated to his politics; H. Beam Piper and Poul Anderson were both righties, albeit unconventional ones, but they could be gentlemen about their viewpoints and they wrote better fiction. I get a whiff of the True Believer and the jackboot off Pournelle that I don't have the stomach for.

Oh! Back to the subject of the thread: the CL Moore/Henry Kuttner story Clash By Night is a very dark, very flavorful early SF-mercenary piece, which David Drake wrote a thematic sequel to (Surface Action). I highly, highly recommend them as a back-to-back read; they hit on the same themes of necessary evil in ways that I can enjoy.
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Re: Questions about Companies, Mercenaries, and so on.

Postby Joshua A.C. Newman » Sun Feb 24, 2013 10:32 pm

And let's not forget the Kumen Jungle season (season 2) of VOTOMS. The "neccessity" argument is best given a) TO mercenaries, who want to survive the day, get paid, and go home to their families who will be protected from oppression by your money, and b) BY statist individuals looking to make a name for themselves, obvious atrocities be damned.

"I just do it for the money" is the core reason anyone does anything in the Solar Calendar. It just always has interesting implications. Ijad community self-reliance (Bhadal) has to do with not wanting to be beholden to anyone else's bribery or withholding, lest it affect one's ability to feed one's kids. The Free Colonies' federation has to do with being able to meaningfully participate in the galactic economy such that they can feed their kids. The SU's expansion has to do with gaining enough of an income as a civilization that it can feed its kids.

"For the money" means you want to spend it on something. Even if you're just spending it on very fine hats (see: Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, Conan), then it still has a personal and social impact, such as cheesing off someone wealthy enough that they'll retain Pinkertons at great expence to chase you to Bolivia, or sacrifice you, your friends, or a duped princess to their snake god.
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Re: Questions about Companies, Mercenaries, and so on.

Postby Soren » Mon Feb 25, 2013 12:35 am

Joshua A.C. Newman wrote:And let's not forget the Kumen Jungle season (season 2) of VOTOMS. The "neccessity" argument is best given a) TO mercenaries, who want to survive the day, get paid, and go home to their families who will be protected from oppression by your money, and b) BY statist individuals looking to make a name for themselves, obvious atrocities be damned.


Not even, it's the excuse you give to the paying public at home, who hire mercenaries, then tell themselves they're not responsible, they just like cheap consumer produ- oh wait.

Also 'statist' isn't a real political term and you're legitimizing craziness by using it. Say 'authoritarian'. There's no categorical difference between private oppression and state oppression and we should be reflexively suspicious of the sort of person who thinks there is.

Joshua A.C. Newman wrote:"For the money" means you want to spend it on something. Even if you're just spending it on very fine hats (see: Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, Conan), then it still has a personal and social impact, such as cheesing off someone wealthy enough that they'll retain Pinkertons at great expence to chase you to Bolivia, or sacrifice you, your friends, or a duped princess to their snake god.


"For the money" is also one of those motivations that tends towards mission drift - it might start out being for the money. It probably doesn't stop there.
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Re: Questions about Companies, Mercenaries, and so on.

Postby gatlinggouf927 » Mon Feb 25, 2013 9:32 am

Joshua A.C. Newman wrote:(see: Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, Conan)


Ahhh... a sign of money well spent XD

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Re: Questions about Companies, Mercenaries, and so on.

Postby Joshua A.C. Newman » Mon Feb 25, 2013 3:00 pm

Soren wrote:Also 'statist' isn't a real political term and you're legitimizing craziness by using it. Say 'authoritarian'. There's no categorical difference between private oppression and state oppression and we should be reflexively suspicious of the sort of person who thinks there is.


Yeah, you're right. In this case, the problem guy (if memory serves) serves a state, but it's not like it would be any different if he was Paul Reiser.
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Re: Questions about Companies, Mercenaries, and so on.

Postby thunderclam » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:25 pm

So if one were to write an MFZ novel that featured a mercenary group...

:lol:
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Re: Questions about Companies, Mercenaries, and so on.

Postby Joshua A.C. Newman » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:47 pm

... then they'd better care about something, cuz "money" is a boiled turd of a motivation. Hence, my editorial comment above.
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