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A mercenary is any monster identified by the is_mercenary() macro and ultimately defined by the M2_MERC flag:

Common traits

Mercenaries are human and considered part of the Yendorian Army; they have special rules for generating their starting weapons and armor, and are among some of the relatively few monsters that can be bribed. All mercenaries are chaotic, and are not valid polymorph forms.

As fighters, they only have one weapon attack and lack monster magic resistance, though the higher-ranked mercenaries have a slightly higher resistance stat and are capable of two weapon attacks per turn. Mercenaries will follow the player to other levels, even if they are currently peaceful; like all humans, they do not respect Elbereth.

Starting inventory

Mercenaries start with weaponry varying from short swords to silver sabers, and armor varying from leather armor to crystal plate mail; most can also be generated with gloves, boots, helmets, shields, and wands. In addition, Yendorian army foot soldiers (i.e. those that are randomly generated) may also receive C- or K-rations. The exact contents of each trooper's inventory is dependent on their experience and rank.

All mercenaries are eligible for a random offensive item.


As lower-ranking mercenaries, soldiers and watchmen have a 13 chance of being generated with a random weapon from the set of all polearms, plus lances and dwarvish mattocks - if this is the case, they will always get either a knife or a dagger as a secondary weapon, with equal probability.[1] Otherwise, their primary weapon will have be either an ordinary spear or an ordinary short sword with equal probability, and they will have a 34 chance of taking a knife as a secondary weapon.

The following information pertains to an upcoming version (NetHack 3.7.0). If this version is now released, please verify that it is still accurate, then update the page to incorporate this information.

Lances and mattocks no longer generate as starting weapons on watchmen and soldiers.[2]

Higher-ranked mercenaries randomly take one of two primary weapons with equal probability, and also have a 34 chance of taking a knife as a secondary weapon. Sergeants choose either a flail or a mace; lieutenants choose either an ordinary broadsword or a long sword; and captains (including watch captains) choose either a long sword or a silver saber.


Each rank of soldier has a particular target AC as follows:

Rank Target AC
soldier or watchman 3
sergeant 0
guard −1
lieutenant −2
watch captain −2
captain −3

The game uses a complicated procedure to outfit each mercenary with a selection of armor giving roughly the target AC. Depending on how the dice roll, a soldier might be given less armor or might be given enchanted armor that takes them beyond the target. Each mercenary is generated with one suit of body armor, and will always receive leather armor at bare minimum. All ranks are eligible for ring mail or studded leather armor; sergeants and above, including guards, are eligible for splint mail or banded mail; and lieutenants and captains, including watch captains, are eligible for plate mail or crystal plate mail. In addition, mercenaries of all ranks may be randomly generated with any of the items from the following list:

There is no guarantee that any particular non-body armor slot will be filled, and they can be given multiple items for any slot.

Other equipment

Yendorian army fighters that are randomly generated have a 13 chance of being generated with a K-ration, and an independent 12 chance of being generated with a C-ration; sergeants and above also have a 13 chance of being generated with a bugle.[3]

Unlike all other monster types, low-ranking mercenaries have only a 113 chance of being generated with random defensive items, miscellaneous items, and gold;[4] other mercenaries have the same chance as normal.


All mercenaries can be bribed by throwing gold at them, which will turn them peaceful if successful. The amount of gold necessary for this is as follows:

x + \frac{G + 1d5 \times {\mathit XL}}{{\mathit Cha}}

G is the total gold in your open inventory and x varies depending on the exact type of monster: 150 for soldiers, 250 for sergeants, 500 for lieutenants, and 750 for captains. Yendorian army soldiers only have a two in three chance of accepting the offer, while directly bribing the watch will always fail.[5]


That should do. Now beat it!
You successfully bribed a mercenary, turning them peaceful.
That's not enough, coward!
An attempt to bribe a mercenary failed.


In some variants, some mercenaries are made into "racial monsters", meaning that they can be of various creature types such as elves, orcs, and dwarves - this is accompanied by changes to the inventory they are generated with, e.g. foregoing boots for a centaur watchman. These mercenaries will still appear as @ to the player.


In GruntHack, all mercenaries are eligible to be racial monsters.


In dNetHack, the Field Marshal's Baton grants warning versus mercenaries.


In EvilHack, soldiers and the Watch can be of various races.