The Soldier of Fortune

Category: Archetype of the Week
Created on Thursday, 24 September 2009 Written by Steve

Most warriors fight for a higher cause: king, country, God, or honor. The soldier of fortune fights for a much more practical reason: to earn a living. In theory, the soldier of fortune is a mercenary whose only loyalty is to his own self-interest. In practice (at least in fiction), soldiers of fortune often discover that there are limits to what they’re willing to do in the name of greed. A few even turn on their employers in favor of what is right.

Likely Stories

Soldiers of fortune can appear in nearly any type of adventure story. The first recorded use of mercenaries was by Pharaoh Ramesses II in the 13th Century BC, and they still exist today in the guise of private security firms like Blackwater. In addition to joining organized military units, soldiers of fortune can make a living hiring themselves out to private employers, serving as bodyguards, bounty hunters, and general purpose hired muscle. The most popular historical examples of this type of soldier of fortune are the Japanese ronin and the gunslinger of the American West. The archetype also appears frequently in science fiction, from cyberpunk’s street samurai to the Fett dynasty of Star Wars.

The Name Game

Because soldiers of fortune come from so many different time periods, nations, and even planets, there are really no standard naming conventions, though names that sound slightly dangerous generally prevail when it comes to fictional mercenaries. Nicknames are also popular.

The Numbers

Since the soldier of fortune’s main job is to serve as hired muscle, Body is the most important Word, with the Nerve necessary to handle the rigors of combat a close second. A good Brain Number can also be useful, especially for soldiers of fortune who serve in command positions or operate as solitary guns for hire.

Suggested Jobs: Almogavar, Amsaig, Armed Guard, Artillerist, Assassin, Bodyguard, Bounty Hunter, Civilian Contractor, Commando, Condotieri, Duelist, Enforcer, French Foreign Legionnaire, Gunslinger, Gurkha, Hessian, Hired Gun, Hitman, Knight Errant, Landsknecht, Man-At-Arms, Mercenary, Musketeer, Myrmidon, Pit Fighter, Ronin, Scout, Sniper, Soldier of Fortune, Street Samurai, Swiss Guard, Swordsman, Thompson Gunner, Thug For Hire, Varangian Guard

Suggested Gimmicks: Citizen of the World, Danger Sense, Grizzled Veteran, Gun-Fu, Hard To Kill, Knows a Guy, Lightning Reflexes, Lucky, Nerves of Steel, Reputation, Tougher Than Leather, Undead

Suggested Weaknesses: Danger Junkie, Getting Too Old For This Shit, Headless, Man Without A Country, Never Leave A Man Behind, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Sadist, STD Magnet, Victim of the Past, Wanted Man, War Wound

Suggested Skills: Acrobatics, Ambush, Bayonet, Climbing, Contacts, Contract Negotiation, Demolitions, Dodge, Foraging, Forced March, Fencing, Flame Thrower, First Aid, Foreign Language (Specify), Gambling, Heavy Weapons, Horseback Riding, Intimidation, Jousting, Knife Fighting, Martial Arts, Politics, Quick Draw, Skydiving, Stealth, Tactics, Tracking, Wilderness Survival

WWPHITM? Sonny Chiba, James Coburn, Chris Cooper, Sybil Danning, Johnny Depp, Vin Diesel, Robert DeNiro, Clea DuVall, Sam Elliot, Brendan Gleeson, Gene Hackman, Ice Cube, Samuel L. Jackson, Vinnie Jones, Lucy Lawless, Jet Li, Mr. T, Liam Neeson, Chuck Norris, Clive Owen, Lori Petty, Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, Gina Torres, Lee Van Cleef, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, Christopher Waulken, John Wayne, Carl Weathers, Bruce Willis, Chow Yun-Fat

Tag Line: “The deal was made in Denmark on a dark and stormy day, so they set out for Biafra to join the bloody fray.” –Warren Zevon, “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner”

Tools of the Trade: The soldier of fortune’s primary tools are his weapons, which can range the gamut from pointy sticks to high-tech laser guns. Depending on the genre, the character’s Job, and the current mission, he may also need access to body armor, survival gear, and other specialized equipment.

Where You’ll Find Him: Most of the time when a soldier of fortune is on the job, he’s working round the clock and will therefore be with his unit or protecting his client most of the time. When between jobs or on leave, the soldier of fortune is usually found in dive bars and other shady establishments, often in exotic cities. If the soldier of fortune actually owns his own home, it can be assumed to contain a hidden cache of deadly (and probably highly illegal) weapons.

Social Circle: Most of a soldier of fortune’s companions will be other soldiers of fortune, former clients, and other contacts he has made throughout his career. Additionally, the character will probably have associates in any locale where he has been stationed for an extended length of time.

Sample Character: Jayne CobbJayne Cobb (C)2002 Fox Telivision

Body: 15

Brain: 8

Nerve: 13

Job: Public Relations (13)

Gimmick: Balls of Steel (14)

Weakness: Greed (14)

Skills: Weapon Trivia +3; Pilot Shuttle +2; Stealth +1

WWPHITM? Adam Baldwin

Dumb Fact: Is the hero of Canton.

Tag Line: “Time for some thrilling heroics.”

HP: 15

YY: 3

Inspirational Materials

Books and Comics



Deathstroke the Terminator

The Dogs of War, Frederick Forsythe



Fistful of Dollars/Last Man Standing/Yojimbo

The Killer

The Magnificent Seven/The Seven Samurai



Shoot’em Up


“Desperado,” Alice Cooper

“The Gringo’s Tale,” Steve Earle

“Jungle Work,” Warren Zevon

“The Mercenary,” Iron Maiden

“Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner,” Warren Zevon

“Warrior,” Steve Earle


The A-Team

Have Gun Will Travel



©2012 by Hex Games
The Soldier of Fortune.
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