Conan the Mercenary is a supplement for Robert E. Howard’s Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of published by Modiphius Entertainment. It is the third in the ‘Conan the…’ series of supplements which focus on and take their inspiration from Conan himself at various stages of his life and what he was doing. Over this series, the supplements will track our titular character’s growth and progress as he gains in skills and abilities and talents. Thus this third supplement, following on from Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Thief, looks at Conan as a young man and his life what he did after he left his homeland and took his next steps on his career which will take him from barbarian to king, essentially the equivalent of a Player Character having taken the first steps in his adventuring career. Yet whilst the stats for Conan himself at this stage of his life do appear in the pages of Conan the Mercenary, and so hint at his step as covered in the next supplement, Conan the Pirate, they are more a side note than a feature, for the supplement continues the path south begun in Conan the Barbarian to examine and explore more of the countries of the centre, where East meets West in the Hyperborean Age—Khoraja, Koth, Ophir, and Shem. Not necessarily the most warlike of countries, but the most likely to hire and in need of mercenaries, or sell-swords, dog soldiers, and sword-sisters. Conan the Mercenary supports the role of the mercenary and warfare in Robert E. Howard’s Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of. It includes new archetypes, talents, backgrounds, and equipment to help players create more varied Mercenary characters and Game Masters more varied Mercenary NPCs; a gazetteer and guide to the fractious lands where the rulers have good reason to employ mercenaries of all kinds, whether that is to protect borders, put down insurrection, buy off rampaging mercenaries, and to strike at their rivals—whether internal or external an array of detailed NPCs and monsters, including unique nemeses; and mechanics to help bring mercenary campaigns and other activities and attitudes to your game, including sieges, battles, skirmishes, small operations, and more.
Conan the Mercenary opens by introducing new options for the Mercenary type character, building upon the content in the core rulebook for Robert E. Howard’s Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of. This includes the fact that the mercenary can have two Homelands (although only gains the benefits of one) to reflect how well-travelled he is, and has access to two new Mercenary Castes, Born Soldier and Child of Camp Followers—the latter tying to the vivid description of the camp followers later in the supplement, and both complete with stories and associated traits, whilst there is just the single new caste Talent, ‘Scrounger’. Similarly, there are two Mercenary Natures—Professional and Blood-crazed, whilst the Archetypes include ‘Asshuri’, ‘Captain’, ‘Champion’, ‘Messenger’, ‘Unseasoned’, and ‘Veteran’. Mercenary Educations add tables for War Stories, Personal Belongings and Garments, notable Weapon and Provenance, possible Mercenary Names. These add flavour and detail, whilst the Mercenary Talents are primarily built around the ‘Veteran’ Talent tree, only available to those who have served in a mercenary company, whilst the other ten Talents, such as ‘Hostage Taker’ or ‘If it Bleeds…’, are available to all Player Characters. The new ‘Tools of War’ begin with ‘Engines of Destruction’, the siege weapons employed by armies and mercenary companies to break castles, fortresses, and cities, but they get more personal with oddities such as the mancatcher and repeating crossbow. Perhaps more interesting for most players is the examination of high quality Akbitanan steel, whose forging is kept secret by the skilled craftsmen of Shem. The resulting weapons can strike fear into the opponents of anyone wielding them and so they are in great demand.
Physically, Conan the Mercenary is a slim hardback, presented in full colour, illustrated with an excellent range of fully painted artwork. It is well written, is accessible, and comes with a reasonable index. The maps of the nations detailed in Gazetteer are a bit bland though.