A selection of persons available for hire or actively trying to kill you in my D&D games. Loosely arranged in order from least-likely to succeed at killing you to most-likely. Individual people may be more or less deadly than their place on this list suggests, but we don’t care about that at the moment. Let’s deal in stereotypes.
Thug: He’s not too bright, and not particularly skilled, but he’s got his hands on a decent weapon and maybe some half-assed armor and he’s perfectly willing to end your life for the clothes on your back. His weapon is most likely an ax or a mace; if he has a sword, it’s a shitty one. Whether mountain bandit or street punk, this guy can be found everywhere, with a mercenary gleam in his eye and a willingness to break some skulls.
Merdallan Skirmisher: He’s been dragged away from his pleasant life of hunting (though not poaching, no m’lord, I would never stoop so low) to once again fight back the enemies of the Kingdom. Could be barbarians from the north or the mountains, or radical frost elves from Elsinier, or crazy painted elves from the south, or the godsdamned Empire (again, it’s like they can’t get enough of our land, eh?), it doesn’t matter to him. He’s surly, doesn’t really want to be here, but he’s a damn good shot with a bow. Just don’t expect him to be anything else. His only other weapon is a hunting knife, and he’s not about to stab people with it–he eats with that thing, you know. It’d be unhygienic.
Painted Elf Tribal: Don’t expect him to be working for you for very long; he’s just here for shits and giggles. As soon as your cause or your gold stops entertaining him, he’ll be gone.
Dwarven Crewman: He’s used to flying high above the ground, serving on his airship. He loves that old ship like he loved his mother (gods rest her soul), and will brook no criticism of her. He’s fond of his drink and his drunken singing and the sky and his gun. He’s got quite a collection of guns. And grenades, and alchemist’s fire, and assorted other things that go boom. Yeah, he’s got an ax, but you know, an explosion is just so…satisfying.
Merdallan Man-At-Arms: Don’t expect too much of this guy. Sure, he’s more than a match for your average bandit, but he himself is nothing too impressive. He just works for the Knight.
Imperial Legionnaire: He’s a ground-pounder, armed with a spear, a sword, a bow, a musket…Imperial Legionnaires are trained in all of them. He fights side-by-side with his comrades, and knows that they always have his back, no matter what hell they are marching through. The full might of the Empire stands behind him. “We are the Legion! We are iron! We are steel! DO NOT QUESTION! DO NOT FEAR!”
Merdallan Dualist: He’s from the south of the Kingdom, probably around the city of Chadrais. He’s got an elegant rapier, a crimson cape and a feather in his hat. He’s an alcoholic, gambling-addicted disavowed scion of some noble family, and if you bring attention to any of those facts he will challenge you to stand in judgement before the gods. Swords, pistols, it matters not. You and he will meet on the field of honor, and only one will walk away.
Frost Elf Warder: He’s been guarding the last domain of the true elves against the ravages of the lesser races for longer than you have been alive. He has spells woven into the very rock he guards, the very ice and the very wind. The elements are his to command. Or so he would have you believe, at least. His ancestors and his upbringing have led him to believe that he is the epitome of worldly perfection, and that no one else can stand against him. Which is true enough as long as all he’s fighting are northern barbarians or the occasional lost and half-starved expedition from civilized lands, but as soon as someone competent steps up don’t expect him to last very long.
Imperial Soulless: He is not a “he.” He is an it, a faceless plate of brass in a legion of similar metal men. Automaton, they call him, the Articulated Soldier, the Groundnaught Mechanical. He marches in time with his fellow soulless, always in time, moving like a clock, going through the motions over and over again–foot up, foot forward, foot down, a rolling gait that can eat miles and not even notice–and then, at the shouted order, different motions–load, present arms, aim, fire! Load, present arms, aim, fire!–the mindless motions of the perfect volley. He is armed with a simple sword, but it is just a beaten slab of iron with an edge. He does not know how to use it, not really; any decent swordsman will be able to figure out that he only has a few mechanical moves, and take that metal shell to pieces. The real threat he poses is in masses with his fellows, the long blocks presenting muskets and firing volleys with the beat and regularity of a blacksmith’s hammer.
Chancery Agent: He bears the Black Mark. In the service of the Chancery he has killed, blackmailed, stolen, forged, and worse. The Chancery does not have to follow Imperial law or obey strictures of Imperial etiquette or decency. The Chancery simply has to do its job. They preserve the Empire, against all enemies, against even the Emperor Himself, should the time come that that be necessary. He is armed with pistols, a sword, subtle poisons and specialized explosives. In his back pocket is the lettre de cachet, signed by the Chancellor himself; “What has been done has been done in my name, and for the good of the State.” He is the Man in Black, come to take you away.
Imperial War-Soul: He is either an aberration or a work of genius, depending on who you ask. Any engineer can throw together enough pieces of machinery to create an automaton, as complicated as they are; but it takes a true artist to craft a soul. Originally intended to be one of the Soulless Legions, the Soul is an automaton that can think, reason, feel emotion, and is in all respects (with the exception of having been made by mortal hands) a creature much like yourself. Some turn to simple fields, such as farming; many become involved with clockmaking, as part of a fascination with their own creation. A rare few–kept intentionally rare by the Empire–turn to the art of war. This is one of those few, allowed by the grace of the Emperor to take up arms against the enemies of the Illarym. He has every advantage of the Soulless, and none of the disadvantages. His swordsmanship is precisely masterful, his aim is impeccable, and his throwing arm strong. He does not eat, does not sleep, and does not tire. He is the perfect soldier, which is why the Empire is so afraid of him. True, he is as or more loyal than your average legionnaire, but even legionnaires desert sometimes, or turn to fight against their Empire. Even one such Soul fighting against the Empire would be dangerous–just look at the example so recently set by the Lead Prophet. A close eye is kept on the War-Soul, but he does not mind. Perhaps his will to serve is a side-effect of his creation, some hangover from the time from when he was intended to be a Soulless machine, or perhaps it is his own personality; there is really no way to tell, and frankly he doesn’t care.
Riven Pass Soldier (Imperial or Kingdom): Do not fuck with this guy. He has been standing on the walls in Riven Pass during the long watch, when the air is so cold it cuts like a knife and the wind is agony even through four layers of fur and he can’t see them out there but he knows the bastards on the other wall could be coming across no-man’s-land at any moment, slinking through the remnants of the last war, and he knows he needs to watch for assassins and Nature both, and he’s always on edge even in the canteen and even while sleeping and his sword is always near (but not too near, the metal drinks heat like a sailor drinks rum) and every action is measured against the cold and the enemy and the gradual wearing down of humanity that happens to everyone here, on the edge of the world, where the sky is the color of rough steel and the sun never shines, and so no, he will not be taking any of your shit. Get the fuck out of here. Go back to lands where you only have to worry about the people who are trying to kill you.
Laheim: He is the latest soldier from a long line of soldiers, the latest graduate from the war-schools of Laheim. He is the scion of one of the mercenary Houses of that grim northern city, and will fight for the glory of his name. He expertise is expensive, yes, but well-worth the price. Most of the money he earns will be sent back to his House, where it will pay for his retirement–and, if he doesn’t make it, for the training of another to take his place. When stealth is not necessary, he hangs bells from his armor. His breastplate is ringing and engraved, on his head is the pointed helm of Laheim and in his hand is a graceful sword. He is professional at all times, speaking little, moving constantly; wherever the Laheim are, there too is the sound of the bells.
Verdan Operator: When someone in Veras has a problem of a specialized nature, they call him. He himself may not have the most skill–there are many who could beat him in a straight sword-fight, he’d be the first to admit–but his equipment gives him an edge enjoyed by few anywhere else in the world. His emberlock revolver never misfires and always shoots true, the incendiaries he carries burn hot enough to turn bones to ash, his goggles protect his eyes from all but the most violent of blows or the brightest of lights, his filter mask scours poison from the air long before it reaches his lungs, and his articulated sheathe puts his sword in his hand almost before he begins to reach for it. The latest and greatest gadgets from the mage-tinkers of Veras are at his disposal, and there are few things indeed that can stand against the full inventive might of that city of wonders.
Merdallan Knight: He is the iron fist of the Kingdom. He is a wall of enchanted steel. He is invincible. His weapon is huge–a warhammer almost as big as himself, a sword just as large, a mace that could be used as a makeshift ram, an axe you could use as a decent table in a tavern–and he wields it one-handed. His armor is heavy with both metal and magic. The enchantments make it light, and almost invulnerable; it sheds force like a duck sheds water. Seeing him in full armor, weapon in hand, you could easily believe that this was no living creature but rather an automaton of some kind. But no, this is no machine that can be fooled by doing something its creators didn’t expect. This is a Knight, the living embodiment of the Kingdom of Merdallan, and if you face him head-on, you will lose. There can be no other outcome
Lomarian Master Craftsman: He is quiet. He is discreet. He is efficient. He is, above all else, a professional. He has risen through the ranks of the most consistently lethal assassin’s guild in the world to become one of their legendary Masters. He has left his own name behind, to be replaced by the title given to him by the Guild. In his hands any object is an instrument of death, but the one he prefers, the one that signals to the world that this life was ended at the word of the Guild, is his Craftman’s Bow, the double-armed crossbow constructed by the Monks of the Ascension to the demanding specifications of his order. The resurrection dart he has slotted into the bow will ensure no god can raise you from the dead. His aim is steady, his shot true. The Craftsman never misses.