FM: Mercs and its predecessors lays out a fine little minigame mechanic for mercenary contract negotiations. I like the bargaining point system, as a concept. Given the level of standardization in the mercenary industry of the Btech world, I like the contract framework as well.

The hitch that I keep running into is the resulting mission pay. By-the-book contracts result in steep operating losses right out of the gate. Salvage appears to be the ONLY way for a merc unit to make money - but not every mission will lend itself well to loitering around a battlefield and picking at the bones. Ignoring transportation costs (which are their own issue), the mission pay being based on unit payroll rather than unit assets results in things like well-paid (but battlefield useless) infantry brigades, and starved-for-cash Battlemech lances.

Has anyone developed (and by extension, where may I find) alternative metrics (BV or Unit Asset Value, for example) to base the pay formula off of, or other means of augmenting contract pay that is based on the unit's attributes rather than GM fiat (especially with a focus on maintaining neutrality and consistency)?

  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't recall the exact rule set that we used, but your experiences mirror mine. Our unit was continually in debt excepting the rare occasions when we managed to head shot a mech and capture it. Those mechs turned into great salvage. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Pat Ludwig
    Oct 12, 2010 at 14:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, I've been running a variety of units through simulated contracts to playtest the thing. Salvage is the ONLY way to not come out at a big loss. I don't think mercs should get rich on mission pay alone, but they clearly need to at least cover their expenses. \$\endgroup\$
    – qoonpooka
    Oct 12, 2010 at 15:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @qoonpooka The section on Wealth & Property in 'A Time of War' does not specifically address mercenary contracts, but it does lay out fairly clearly the expected salary ranges and the theory behind assigning salary rates and bonus structures. (pp 335, 336). If nothing else, these could serve as a check for the figures produced in whatever system you settle on. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 19, 2011 at 12:38

2 Answers 2


I've been doing some thinking about this recently. I'm not aware of any published contract system that does exactly what you want - so I'm writing one. There are two obvious measures of a unit's asset value: the BV (as a metagame measure of combat power) and the cash (C-Bill) value of the mech assets. (Cash values are listed on all the recent edition record sheets, and many of the old ones.) It will also help improve the plausibility of the contracts if the bargaining point costs for each section reflect the specific nature of the contract a little more.

Now the question is where to add these assets into the contract negotiations.

There are two obvious places where the assumptions of FM: Mercs lead to the problem you describe, and both are easily changed. The first is, as you correctly point out, the base monthly pay need not (and should not) be derived from salary alone. Adding about 0.1 to 0.3% of the base cash value of the mech/vehicle assets deployed to the base salary makes a large, but plausible, difference to the result. This not only represents the actual battlefield effectiveness of the unit better in negotiation, it brings a fraction of the asset cost under the payment multipliers - which increase for riskier missions.

This percentage should itself be something to bargain over - I haven't tested calculations properly yet, but try a base of 0.1% for 5 bargaining points, to a maximum of 0.3 to 0.5%. Add 5 points to the base bargaining pool, so that the first 0.1% is effectively free (unless voluntarily relinquished for points elsewhere). (Infantry-only units don't get this 5 point freebie. They just don't have the prestige. Poor ground-pounders.)

The other crucial area to change is not the salvage rights, but the support rights section of the contract. Firstly, note that battle loss compensation covers "equipment destroyed or damaged in combat", which should certainly include mechs and vehicles. FM: Mercs assumes an employer typically offers only (some fraction of maintenance costs) or (some small proportion of battlefield repairs). This is unlikely as written, as it simply fails to compensate mercs for their ongoing costs and capital asset risk.

(An example quick, crude fix would be to ignore all other changes and have the base Battle Loss Compensation, before offers, be 100% instead of 0%, reversing the order so employer bids it down first. However, this is a poor fix. It's unlikely in-universe, as it means large units make no profit over small ones on garrison duty, and employers would never sign such a contract, as it gives mercs no reason to minimise costs to the employer.)

I recommend that garrison, cadre, riot duty and most 'quiet' security contracts default to providing both types of support right, instead of the employer knocking off 20 bargaining points by doing so. This should save enough points for the mercs to go for a high percentage of everyday maintenance costs, or of combat losses.

(Yes, this seems backward compared to combat contracts, but it's not. In garrison-type contracts, the employer doesn't expect to actually need to pay anything for battlefield losses, and the merc unit doesn't expect much salvage. That's why mercs take those contracts, for low profit, low risk recovery-and-training time.)

Other changes should also reflect the nature of the contracts more.

'Combat' contracts, especially high-risk 'Extraction', 'Objective Raid' and 'Assault' contracts, should add a higher percentage of the unit asset value to the base salary. For high-risk short-term missions, have unit assets added to the base salary at a much cheaper rate - maybe as little as 2 bargaining points per 0.1% - and with a higher cap, say 2.5%. This reflects the employer assuming, and paying for, some combat losses. (Experiment, but don't go too high - remember these figures will be multiplied by about a factor of 6 or 7 once all the mission/employer/unit rating multipliers kick in.)

Salvage rights for many 'Diversion' and 'Extraction' missions should be worth less, probably 5 bargaining points less than usual for the employer (or reduce all the buy-back modifiers by x1), simply because those missions often won't give you time to salvage at all.

'Guerilla' contracts should definitely have battle-loss compensation bought at reduced cost in bargaining points for the mercs; try half-cost. These contracts expect massive risk to the mercs and a prolonged period out of supply surviving on salvage; mercs would expect some chance of making good their losses. Possibly, offering full salvage rights should only gain the employer 15, not 30, bargaining points on a guerilla contract.

I'd also suggest the addition of a 'risky garrison' clause. For some number of bargaining points (I suggest around 3-5), the contract states that 'garrison' pay assumes routine duty, and in the event of an actual planetary invasion pay increases to the 'defensive campaign' rate. (This should also kick-in the .5 extra "fighting the Clans" bonus, in the event of a Clan attack.)

I'm still looking at this issue, so comments welcome.

(Additional note on cash vs BV:

I prefer to work with cash value of 'mechs/vehicles as this fits better with the universe feel, but some games may prefer to use BV. Begin by fluff-texting the BV into the universe; given the organised nature of BTech mercs, I'd suggest making it an official MRBC-maintained statistical measure of a vehicle's historically proven battlefield effectiveness.

Now make the BV contributed by the unit an addition to the base mission pay. As a starting point, try adding 5x the total unit BV to the base crew salaries before calculating the monthly contract pay. Consider reducing the 'garrison duty', 'riot duty' and 'cadre' payment multipliers a little, as these missions won't typically involve major capital asset risks.

Alternatively, add this into the battlefield losses section, by figuring out a cash multiplier for the 'loss value' of a mech of given BV, and use this for the contract - I recommend about C3000 x BV to start with, but I haven't tried it myself, so test. Note that smart players will exploit this, as BV varies less than cash cost, so whatever figure you pick, light mechs will be 'worth' more than their face cash value, especially some very effective light-to-medium designs, and assault mechs 'worth' less.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for a helluvalot of work. I'll wait for final edits and to see if anyone else takes a stab at this before accepting, but I consider is a very strong contender for the bounty - and a convincing argument in favor of me paying more attention to this site. Thank you so much for this! - I will be negotiating some contracts with D, C, and B grade units and then running some scenarios with MegaMek to see what sorts of final results you get. This'll take a while, but should be valuable information. \$\endgroup\$
    – qoonpooka
    Jun 10, 2011 at 11:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, @qoonpooka. It's definitely worth waiting a few days; someone might improve my answer, or use it as a basis for a better one. Please let us know how your final results go; everything in here is an early guess and it hasn't been stress-tested in play yet. There's bound to be need to adjust the points values. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tynam
    Jun 10, 2011 at 12:58

Have you looked at the 'revised worksheet' under the errata section? It seems to have a fairly sophisticated contract worksheet among other things.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I hadn't. There's not much changed on there, TBH. It's good to have the thing listed though. (+1). That contract still has the fundamental problem of using unit payroll as the base pay figure. Merc units risk tremendous capital assets as well and aren't being compensated for that risk - something a real business would simply walk away over, no questions asked. \$\endgroup\$
    – qoonpooka
    Oct 13, 2010 at 11:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Guess what its like that in real world too. The big names command big salaries but trying to break into the elite and build a name is cheap. There are african SOF's that can be hired abroad at rates for a week that Blackwater commands for an hour. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2015
    Jun 13, 2011 at 18:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Chad: True... but not many of them have the kind of armour and air assets which are routine for BTech mercs. (Or for Blackwater/Xe, come to think of it.) The average player BTech merc company is a step up (in equipment, not necessarily troop quality) from that typical african SOF entry level you're talking about, since it's effectively an armour platoon. (And a merc company with its own dropship/jumpship is a closer strategic equivalent to a modern carrier group than to anything else I can think of, even if it's only a company-level force.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Tynam
    Aug 15, 2011 at 20:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Tynam - Blackwater and Xe would be the equivelent of GGL or BWC. They are the elite. The average group you can buy cheap runs out of South America or Africa uses cheap weapons and equipment that most americans wouldnt get on. The mercs risk their life for less a day than most of us make while reading SE. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2015
    Aug 16, 2011 at 14:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Chad: You are correct about the modern-day mix. One factor in this in the real world is that transport costs are extremely cheap. That's not true in BTech - transport is so expensive that it would be crazy to waste it on cheap forces, and indeed no power group in BTech does. The 'average' BTech merc company assumed by the rules is in fact a rich force by our standards. (The BTech equivalent of the groups you're discussing is an infantry or armour company without mechs - which ought to be much more common in-universe, but only on defence.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Tynam
    Aug 17, 2011 at 8:26

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