Many an RPG splat book has been written about military campaigns, but not very many were written by an author with both a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. Filled with interesting historical notes, campaign flavor and plenty of new 4E rules and options, Soldiers of Fortune presents an in-depth look at how and why mercenaries fight.
The term mercenary usually carries a connotation of disloyalty, or of loyalty only to money. As author Matt James (U.S. Army veteran of the Iraq war) points out, historically mercenaries were a vital part of any nation or kingdom’s army. It was not economically feasible to maintain a standing army, so hired mercenaries allowed military forces to be raised quickly when needed. Mercenaries often served in the lands where they lived, and thus could be quite loyal to the rulers who had hired them. Thematically, much of this book revolves around creating a more accurate portrayal of the life of a pseudo-medieval professional soldier.
The first few sections of the book present campaign hooks, motivations, strategies and some very cool ways to run military conflicts entirely as extended skill challenges. All of this is anchored to Open Design’s Midgard campaign world, but only loosely — any of this material is easily applicable to any campaign world. Each chapter is sprinkled liberally with faux-historical quotes from legendary leaders from Midgard, including an entire chapter that is basically a fantasy Sun Tzu’s Art of War.
Later sections are very crunch heavy, with a long list of new powers for mercenary characters. These are presented as a theme, like the Dark Sun themes, but very extensive. You don’t get a full new class, but there are a ton of new powers for your martial power characters to choose from. Naturally, you’ll find a selection of mercenary appropriate paragon paths and feats as well. There’s a handful of new magic items, plus some new item types like Battle Standards that can play an interesting role in a large scale conflict.
The “DM’s section” of the book is rounded out by a full adventure for 7th level characters and a nice bestiary. A lot of the “monsters” are various military troops from regions within Midgard, but you’ll find some strange creatures and fantastic mounts in there as well.
This is one of the better 4E supplements I’ve seen in a while. RPGers who are also military buffs will especially love this book (and I know there’s a lot of overlap in those areas). You can grab a PDF copy at RPGNow. Open Design has the print version available for order (you can get the PDF version there too).