While reading over Condottiere, one of the things I found interesting, is that part of the influx of mercenaries comes from soldiers that fought during the Hundred Years War. In your own campaigns, if there have been large battles recently, what happens to the soldiers after the wars are over? Even in today's 'modern' society, there are difficulties making sure that those who served in war time are treated right when they come home. How much harder in a society that has not the modern lifestyel or the modern thinking?
But all things turn. Even as the mercenaries rose from outside sources in Italy, they fall to outside sources that have adopted to war quicker and with more efficiency than those in Italy. The rise of national armies against divided city states proves one method superior to the other.
In terms of mercenary use, when the land is rich with them, different methodologies may crop up. Much like discussions of Democrats and Republicans in American society, these teachings tend to break into different factions and are almost politics in and of themselves. When crafting some of the background of the setting, think about some simple philosophies that different mercenary companies would follow and how they interact with each other.
In terms of Graham Turner's art, he's good. His work lends a solid feeling that isn't fantastical but is stylized. If you like the cover, which is from the battle of San Romano, 1432, then chances are you'll enjoy the interior art by him as well.
Lastly, I'd like to mention the cover. The commander isn't wielding a sword. Instead, he's wielding a batton, an instrument to denote his rank and his leadership. In a game with magical items, something that augmented command or charisma or allowed a user to influence a large group of soldiers, wither issuing them commands, fortifying them from magical fear, or showcasing the user's own ability, would be desirable and perhaps even common to those with the funds to purchase them.
When I look at different books for ideas and inspiration, I'm also looking for different ways and methods I might use that inspiration in the first place. Of course in a historical material, there would be no magical rods of command, but it's an old school magical item and fits the theme well.
When looking at material, try to think about not only what its teaching or its original use is, but how it may beenfit in different ways than originally intended.
For example, what if the humanoid hordes are finished with their wars and instead of turning on the humans, seek out employeement with them by the thousands? Instant mercenary armies. And if what the book mentions here is true, there would be many parallels. For example, the mercenary armies were often devastating to the surrounding landscape, engaging in acts of pure carnage and rapine of both land and people. At the same time, the employers of the mercenaries were often worse, assassinating the leaders and refusing to honor the contracts that they themselves had drafted.
Now with hobgoblins, orcs, and other races doing these vile acts, the poor treatment of the employees almost seems justified eh? A few tweaks here and there and things like half-orcs and half-hobgoblins become that much easier to explain. A history of hogoblin nobles arising from their mercenary roots becomes more tangible. An integration of these races to the setting, only to have them crushed later by other national armies, becomes part of the background.
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