Elder Scrolls Lore » Discussions

Lore Discussion: Nords, Mercenaries of Skyrim

  • April 8, 2016

    It was a little Dragon Break)))

  • Member
    April 14, 2016

    Best set of reasoning ever!

    With some but not all of these posts, people look at mercenaries with disdain. There is no dishonor in fighting for pay and doing the specialized work that Skyrim mercenaries bring. Practically anyone can be a city guard. Throw a shield and spear and set them in front of a gate.

    But to be able to handle serious problems of specific nature (extricating scrolls from ancient tombs, rescuing XYZ maiden etc, escort whomever) those require some field experience and hopefully knowing how to get the job done.

    Skyrim mercenary work is a little different than historic mercenaries in our real world. Mercenaries in our world were either hired because they  had specific battle skills that an army Leader needed (siege engineers, skilled longbowmen, specific cavalry, the swiss pike etc just to name a few) who were veterans and well trained, or they needed numbers to fill for a campaign that they normally cannot maintain in their standing armies.

    For Skyrim, mercenaries are more heroic individuals or small teams that operationally handle the harder missions (I need you specifically to go and retrieve a family heirloom from a bandit hold, go get this ancient text from a Falmer infested underground complex, etc).

    What they both do have in common is that they provide a needed service that run of the mill guardsmen or a Jarl's standing force cannot provide. There is no shame in this and since proof of arms prowess is held in high regard among the Nords, this is not only acceptable, but probably encouraged.  Heroes still need to eat, drink, bed lusty maidens, have a decent roof over their heads, maintain their equipment etc. This costs money and that is widely known.

    Now the real question comes down to is there honor in being a mercenary. Yes, absolutely. IF and only IF the hired sword sticks to his/her contract until it is completed.  No switching sides at the last minute for a higher bid. That brings dishonor and distrust by potential employers. Credibility is one of the few things that a successful mercenary group can cling to and therefor a sense of warrior codified honor. Hence the reason why the Companions are so popular. They get things done and take care of folks. Kodlac even spoke that members can pick up what contracts they wish, no one ordered them to do one thing or another.

    So why don't we see huge Fighter's Guild work going on? For one thing, there is a bloody civil war going on in Skyrim, along with vampires, and dragons etc. People, especially the very passionate Nords pick sides right away. We can see this even in little Riverwood where there are opposing views on the war in general the very moment you step foot into it.

    During the Civil War, there is coin to be had fighting either for the Legions or The Stormcloaks. Both sides actively recruit so standing mercenary companies really aren't needed or wanted. Stormcloaks may not want to hire mercenaries because they are fighting for an ideological cause. Imperials might hire temporarily but probably don't trust standing mercenary troops beyond single campaigns or missions. The other issue is coin. Neither side can really afford to hire standing mercenary companies.

    Now, post civil war, during reconstruction is a different story. Regardless of whichever faction wins in your world, mercenaries will be in demand and very available after the standing armies are no longer needing large amounts of troops. This is a draw down phase. It's not to say the mercenary talents aren't wanted, but what gold there is may be in sparse supply. So a lot of veterans are released from duty.

    During reconstruction bandit groups will start peaking as they prey upon trade routes etc. Local Jarls may decide to consolidate their power base and perhaps expand their influence against other Jarls. Now little bands of mercenary veterans are needed and hired to do on a short term basis what the local lords need. Once objectives are complete, these mercenaries are released.

    All of this leads to the conclusion that in Nord society being a mercenary is an honorable trade and perfectly acceptable. In my mind though, it also means as a Nord you keep your word and finish the contract to the letter, hell or high water. Never promise what you can't deliver. Make sure contracts will be something that you can sing about in any mead hall and gain glory from the story.

    Ok, I've rambled but these are my thoughts on the whole subject.

  • April 19, 2016

    Wow, very good opinion, Vulkhammer. I really like it, especially how you brought the real world mercenaries and the differences between those and Skyrim ones.

    I like the thing about mercs being more useful during after-war times, but I would like to point out here that they actually might be useful more even during war time. I mean, just think about it. You think that armies and city guard have time to deal with things like exterminating trolls or such? I think that mercs during war time actually have more work to do than after it, where armies don´t have anyone to fight anymore.

  • April 19, 2016

    This is a very good and logical approach Vulkhammer. 

  • Member
    April 19, 2016


    I think what you bring up is a very valid point. The only counter is when we look at the Civil war itself. Now the Imperials, as much as I love the little buggers, are stretched to the breaking point by the time we have characters entering into the game itself. The Empire can't afford to really lay down a normal operation with extra coin beyond what they use for their regular army. Stormcloaks are purely ideological and would not want to recruit hired muscle and really Ulfric can't afford them anyhow.

    However, individuals or very small groups as you say may be in demand by local Jarls for personal reasons. And am I correct that was where you were going with it. Which I agree to a point, just not on a large scale of forces.

    Let us call those individuals the Heroic Mercenary, much like the mighty Danish Warrior Beowulf. Mind you he too was legend, but there was nothing wrong with going around and hiring out your services to local lords with minimal teams which keeps costs somewhat low.

  • June 20

    Well, the Nords are a warrior culture for the most part (that and farming). Heck, to get to their afterlife they need to die in battle (if Sovngarde is anything like Valhalla). So when something comes up the "invisible" people would fight them. I say invisible because there is no way that a land like Skyrim actually has that few NPCs. There should be hundreds in each city or at least 1000 per hold (though you could argue all the warriors died in Great War). So there has to be NPCs in the world that we can't see. These are probably the warriors.