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Private Military Contractors
aka: Private Army

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Tagon: Mister Grizzly, my men and I may not be nice people, but we're not bad people. We're hardworking, honest, and true to our word.
Ozvegan Griz: And sometimes you're bound by your word to kill people.
Tagon: But they're almost always bad guys and we only do it for the money.


Private Military Contractors (PMC) are mercenaries, soldiers and other combatants employed by a private company or other organization and fighting on behalf of clients. While such soldiers of fortune are regarded with wariness in most settings, they're generally considered distinct from criminal enforcers, mafia hit men, and the like. The polar opposite of conscripts.

In the real world, they are usually ex-soldiers with decent to slightly-above-average equipment from the United States — the largest company, and largest number of companies, are American. Other common national backgrounds are former Soviet Republics or South Africa. Of course, there are plenty of less professional and less affluent outfits out there, some of which will hire just about anyone who'll take them up on their offer. It's a great summer job! In fiction though, they tend to get all the latest and most expensive vehicles and support equipment as well, and are often recruited and trained by the company itself. Fictional mercenary groups often hire unique individuals or groups of various special types of fighters: ninja, ronin samurai, dishonored knights, mages, shapeshifters, and left-over warriors of defeated organizations, nations, or races that need to make ends meet. Some PMCs are just a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits.


These characters can be depicted as anything from heroic to villainous; in a conflict, they usually are allied with the richest party's faction, but sometimes have a strict honor code that prevents them from switching sides mid-battle. If they get too enthusiastic about their job, they may become Blood Knights and try to start a War for Fun and Profit. On the other hand, they do have to deal with the risk of their employers double-crossing them when the job's done. And if their clients run out of money before the fighting's done, things will get ugly in short order in one or more of many ways.

In recent years, there's come to be a distinction between a "mercenary company" and "corporate mercenaries", especially in Western (American) television and movies. The traditional mercenary who hires himself out (or himself and a dozen of his best buddies) is seen as somewhat honest, with at least a personal code of honor of some kind (even if it's just "do the job, get paid"); determined to accomplish the mission for which he has been paid and takes his reputation very seriously; and is scrappy yet skilled. This character is usually played moderately sympathetic, or at least as an antihero. They will typically have some attention given to their, quite possibly colorful, personalities.


In stark contrast, the "corporate mercenary" is usually just a Mook or Red Shirt of some kind, and the "character" takes the form of the PMC corporation itself. Corporate mercs are usually depicted as being up to no good, or are the hand-puppets of some shadowy organization which is itself up to no good. They are portrayed — when anything more than Faceless Goons — as amoral, ethically-challenged, and professional but hardly ever inclined to argue with Corporate Headquarters. If former military, many will have been dishonorably discharged. Unless the writer's bent on defying What Measure Is a Mook?, they will almost never be the "good guys" in recent years. Their parent company usually has a name based loosely or thematically on "Blackwater" in a No Celebrities Were Harmed Expy of that real-life PMC — examples include "Blackriver", "Red River", "Blackthorne", "Murkywater", "Starkwood", "Bluewater", "Belltower", and "Merryweather".

Note that although this trope description uses the terms "PMC" and "mercenaries" interchangeably, in Real Life the distinction between them is extremely Serious Business. This is because the international treaties that establish The Laws and Customs of War explicitly forbid the usage of mercenaries in warfare. While traditional mercenaries might be tolerated in practice, legally they are neither lawful combatants, nor non-combatants, and thus aren't eligible for protection and respectful treatment under, for example, the Geneva conventions. When captured, they are treated as a criminal gang at best, and at worst as complete outlaws.

Private military contractors are the way that some people try to weasel out of this ban on mercenaries. Even though the largest of these companies employ materiel that is ordinarily associated purely with the military — armor, helicopters, light warships — on paper, they are just your garden variety mall guards writ large, and they are not authorized to wage war on their own. Officially, these units may be employed only in some duties not involving actively engaging the enemy (though they can do this if forced), such as escorting convoys and guarding some civilian structures. In practice this mandate could be, and often is interpreted very broadly — "While you're on patrol, don't go and get into a fight with the insurgents at yonder hill three klicks to the southwest, but if they fire first, or if you see anything indicating a possible threat, then by all means, do whatever you must." Note that not all PMCs necessarily are thinly disguised mercenaries; a private military contractor is any non-government organization contracted by the military, which may include as mundane things as a contract to make and serve food for an army in peacetime.

Real Life PMCs run the gamut from dirty-working Hired Guns outfits to highly-scrupled organizations with very strict rules about what they will and won't do, and for whom. Some PMCs provide armed security for Christian (and occasionally Muslim) charities in war-torn regions like Darfur (the contractors who do this kind of work often give their clients a discount rate—it's charity, after all). Others patrol African elephant habitats hunting heavily-armed ivory poachers. Even those who take corporate contracts are much more likely to be doing "rent-a-cop" work making sure nobody blows up a pipeline than "massacre uncooperative village" jobs (although that does sometimes happen). Some PMCs are good people doing good work for good reasons (and making a living doing it). Others are willing to work for drug cartels. It is a very large and diverse category that probably shouldn't be painted with a broad brush, good or bad.

Another example that is much common in Real Life but very rare in fictionnote  are Private Intelligence Agencies. This sector boomed after 9/11 so much that many functions that were once held by the likes of the CIA or the NSA are begin outsourced to third-party contractors. To show how much power and importance they now have, Edward Snowden, which leaked thousands of documents of the NSA's global surveillance program, was not a NSA agent but actually employed by Booz Allen Hamilton.

A PMC can provide a villainous Evil Army if one doesn't actually want to insult any real country's Armed Forces. If they're too much of an army, then they are an N.G.O. Superpower.

Mercenaries are the basic, land-based version of this trope; at sea and in space, they're privateers operating under letters of marque.

A sub-trope of Hired Guns, and can overlap somewhat with the Professional Killer. If employed by a Mega-Corp, then Corporate Warfare can be expected. Commonly a favorite industry of a Proud Warrior Race.

Compare with Murder, Inc., a completely criminal enterprise devoted to assassinating selected targets, compared to the quasi-legal PMC. Compare & contrast with Pinkerton Detective.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Knight Sabers of Bubblegum Crisis and Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 build their own Wonderful Toys, but pay for the materials by contracting their services.
  • Macross:
    • SMS in Macross Frontier. They're portrayed in a positive light, and early on are actually more prepared to fight the Vajra than the regular military.
    • Macross Delta has Chaos, who are unique in that they also operate the Idol Singer group Walkure. This is because Walkure is actually a "Tactical Sound Unit" whose singing is designed to stop a Hate Plague that is itself spread subliminally by song. The series does point out a downside to being in such a mercenary group: mercenaries cannot claim Prisoner of War status and do not have the same rights as actual soldiers when captured.
  • The Extra Order mercs from the first arc of Black Lagoon, who are described as war-junkies and take things to Psycho for Hire levels at the Yellow Flag before Revy and the Lagoon Company take them down. They were probably a Shout-Out to the real-world Executive Outcomes, below.
    • The Lagoon Company itself might also qualify as mercenaries of the modern-day pirate persuasion.
    • Lagoon Company functions more as a black market goods and personnel courier. Balalaika's personal branch of the Russian mob is more of a straight example, however.
  • After most of the members of the eponymous Hellsing organization are killed, its leader Integra hires the mercenary group called the "Wild Geese", (see under "Film", below) led by Pip Bernadotte, as a replacement Redshirt Army.
  • The Gundam metaseries provides several examples:
    • The PMC Trust in Gundam 00, a massive coalition of dozens of PMC groups, and powerful enough to have their own dedicated nation. The first season of 00 features two episodes to the Gundams tearing the place apart.
      • Note that the PMC Trust is stated to have an arsenal of almost a hundred of Mobile Suits (granted, some of them probably belonged to the AEU who helped defend the place), and Celestial Being only has 4 MS at their disposal. And the Gundams still wrecked the place in just 4 hours...
    • Serpent Tail in Gundam SEED Astray. In Gundam SEED Destiny Astray, special forces unit of the Eurasian Federation have also deserted to form Mercenary Unit X.
    • Terminal of Gundam SEED Destiny, which grew out of the original Three Ships Alliance and hired enough new soldiers to become an N.G.O. Superpower on an even greater scale than before. They are an underground armed organization that answers solely to Lacus Clyne, and are not affiliated with either the Earth or ZAFT forces. During the final battle, they get several warships from both sides to defect to them.
    • The League Militaire (late UC era). They're quite specifically not the Federation military, they just rose up due to the Federation being too apathetic to oppose Zanscare. It's later revealed that one of their primary sponsors is Anaheim Electronics, a major player in the area of Mobile Suit and weapons design, which explains where they get all their advanced equipment.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans is centered around one originally called CGS but is renamed Tekkadan early in the show. They both fight and ally with several other mercenary groups over the course of the show.
  • In the series Area 88, the fighter pilots at the eponymous airbase mix elements of this trope and the Foreign Legion. At one point, they fight the Wolf Pack, who play it straight.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima!, Mana Tatsumiya explained that she was once a part of one of these named Kanbanurae. She traveled to so many battlefields across the far corners of the globe that main lead Negi questioned whether she could actually be 15 years of age. Keep in mind, at the time she was 7-10. Also, Nagi Springfield's group the Ala Rubra used this as a front for their work in the Muggle world.
  • The organization Mithril in Full Metal Panic! is one of these, and a large proportion of the show's characters, including one of the two main characters, are members.
  • If you play through the original sound novels for Umineko: When They Cry, both the TIPS and Ange mention that along with the rest of Amakusa's long resume, he also trained Blackwater troops.
  • After the formation of the United Federation of Nations in Code Geass, the Black Knights become this to them, with Zero as its CEO.
  • Berserk has mercenaries as its primary characters, with its lead character Guts having been trained as one from childhood. The Golden Age arc of the manga, which the anime covers, follows a mercenary company called the Band of the Hawk that Guts was a part of, and in particular the events that would lead to its idealistic leader, Griffith, undergoing a nasty Face–Heel Turn and becoming Guts's number one enemy.
  • The Ninja villages of Naruto are a fantasy version of this. The villages are answerable to their nation's daimyo due to their role in national security, but they can contract missions with employers of other nationalities as well. Though what their lower-level personnel does can be tasks as mundane as finding cats or doing yard work, the higher-ranked missions often include bodyguards for important political figures, working in place of regular military, or assassination (not that we see them doing the last two parts very much).
    • The Grass Country Arc was about gathering info from The Mole as a prelude to assassinating Orochimaru, and in the course of which a plot to assassinate Sasuke was uncovered. The following arc revolved around a mission to assassinate Akatsuki duo Hidan and Kakuzu before they captured Naruto. We do see stuff like that, though admittedly these are all security matters and not hired mercenary missions.
    • Prior to the founding of the villages, shinobi clans more closely filled this role.
    • This is also what Akatsuki did to raise funds when they weren't pursuing their own agenda. Not that we ever got to see it.
  • Essentially what Hunters in Hunter × Hunter are. The difference is, the Hunters Association is a looser guild. Hunters take their own jobs, but the Guild provides contacts and perks.
  • Arqon Global Security of Viper's Creed is a PMC tasked with the elimination of "Mech Bugs", stray war machines from a war that ended eight years prior to the story, and still attack cities at random. It is a notable example since the main characters are a pilot and his operator working for Arqon, plus their companions and the overall staff make up most of the cast. Basically the anime is about the PMC.
  • Trident from A Certain Magical Index.
  • Several PMCs show up in Jormungand. Koko's bodyguards are on the books as employees of a PMC owned by H&C Logistics Incorporated. The Chinese PMC Daxinghai are the primary antagonists of the first season, and HCLI gets into a fight with British PMC Excalibur in Perfect Order.
  • The Deux.Ex.Machina Wizards in Date A Live also operates in this way, although they more like either Murder, Inc. or Psycho for Hire. As the company's private Wizard, they considerably more poweful and well-trained than the Wizards from AST and SSS. Unfortunately, some of them are just trained to be loyal fanatics and psychopaths who will obey Isaac Ray Peram Westcott's and Ellen Mathers orders without questioning them.

    Comic Books 
  • Colonel Neopard (real name Groft Van Moor), humanoid leopard space mercenary in Paperinik New Adventures. The sequel also features Commander Alyonesse, Neopard's greatest rival-and girlfriend (he even named his ship Dama Elenthari after her real name, Dama Elenthari Lleyr Dalagh). Somehow, their relationship works perfectly.
  • In one The Punisher comic where American special forces are trying to capture Castle, one of the soldiers who was injured is told that Blackwater (real life PMC) won't hire him now.
    • In a recent issue, Castle had a run-in with a bunch of Private Military Contractors, hired by Norman Osborn. Their group's name? Blackwater. It doesn't end very well for them.
  • Mark Hazzard: Merc was one of Marvel Comics The New Universe titles.
  • Jon Sable belonged to a mercenary company before returning to the U.S. in Jon Sable, Freelance.
  • Moon Knight is former merc Marc Spector; he was working in Africa when he had his life-changing encounter with an Egyptian god.
  • DMZ has a company that is mix of Haliburton and Blackwater called Trustwell. Their private army is ruthless, amoral and brutal.
  • Red Sonja frequently works as a mercenary.
  • Deadpool, the Merc with the Mouth. It's right there in the name. He's been a temporary member of the Six Pack, who also do this kind of job.
  • Slade Wilson, AKA "Deathstroke the Terminator", who is the original character Deadpool is expy'd from.
  • Silver Sable from Marvel Comics is the ruler of her own micronation who employs her mercenary group Wild Pack as a way to support her nation. She also takes many jobs on her own and has employed superheroes such as Spider-Man from time to time.
  • The ex-IRA mercs in Sin City are just soldiers of fortune that have the weaponry of a small army. It's hinted that the Colonel might use his Guild as one of these considering he recruits snipers and even black helicopters.
  • The company "Red River" in The Boys is closely aligned with Vaught-American, a corrupt company behind the existence of superpowered individuals in VA's quest for control over the US government. They prove to be very competent and ruthless, most notably when they wipe out the Captain Ersatz of the X-Men with frightening ease.
  • In 2012's Vertigo graphic novel, Shooters, the private military contractor is much closer to real life; the PMC is shown guarding supply trains, and bodyguarding diplomats, including the guy responsible for the protagonist's friendly fire incident.
  • In Marvel's Spider-Gwen, Earth-65's version of Tony Stark owns a mercenary company called "War Machine". Frank Castle and Kraven the Hunter are both former employees.
  • The second {Milligan/Allred) version of X-Force were basically Private Military Contractors doing occasional crime-fighting superhero work to keep up their image.
  • Robin Series: Strader Pharmaceuticals hires a group of unethical Private Military Contractors to clean up the evidence of their fatal and incredibly dangerous unethical testing of a new Psycho Serum by tracking down and killing the already dying victims.

    Fan Works 
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfics:
    • Equestria Divided: House Whitegold doesn't have an army like the other factions; rather, most of its forces are composed of mercenaries of various species — chiefly ponies, griffons, diamond dogs and zebras.
    • Racer and the Geek: A very significant part revolves around the lives of mercenaries by focusing on one individual. The story takes a very nuanced approach to the trope.
    • Welcome To The Brothel: The main characters are almost all mercenaries fighting a bloody civil war.
  • Pokémon fanfics:
    • The Life of the Legendaries depicts Silph Co. as owning Kanto's navy, army and air force.
    • Pokédex: In the past, before firearms were invented or Pokémon taming became widespread, Gallades would often seek out human wars to fight in for pride and glory, taking payments in Rare Candies and vitamins when the fighting was done and leaving for the next conflict.
  • In An Entry with a Bang!, several down-on-their-luck merc groups like the Buron Cavalry were dragooned into joining Vorax's expedition to Clancy-Earth and are Heel Face Turned. At one point, Buron Cav head Major Staedele gets into a disagreement with Blackwater's CEO after noting how C-Earther PMCs are not up to snuff for the full-scale independent open warfare demanded of BattleTech merc groups.
  • Naruto: Soldiers of Fortune is a Naruto fanfic where ninjas working for villages are replaced with mercenaries that work for private military contractors. Still no guns though.
  • Forward features a mercenary firm called "Skyhawk Intervention" which directs a number of other mercenary companies across the 'Verse. One of the stories features a mercenary group called Talon Company who are the main villains for that "episode".
  • The Return: Willard International Consulting are PMC in theory, although in practice they come across more as an N.G.O. Superpower.
  • In the Forever Knight Wars, a series of fanfic round-robins in which factions focused around the different characters have a free-for-all, the Mercs are a notable presence. They will take jobs from anyone in any faction; payment is negotiable and extremely variable, but they are fond of chocolate.
  • In Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover, Aria hires the Blood Pack to burn a significant portion of the Omega space station since Kill It with Fire is the best way to deal with Flood. It's noted that the Blood Pack are the most destructive of the big three and don't care if civilians haven't evacuated yet.
  • In the Girls und Panzer fanfic "Of Blood And Steel", Original Character Henrietta is the daughter of a CEO of one such group, and as such, gets ostracized by he schoolmates who have family in the army, especially in her JROTC program. She says she's used to it, though.
  • Red Fire, Red Planet: Brokosh is a Lethean mercenary who used to work for a group called Hanson's Harriers, although he's currently in the Klingon Defense Force.
  • Mercenaries Of Fortune: Ghost Force 969 is a PMC organization that, because they are the only military force in the world that can deal with the threat of the Shadows, they are effectively a N.G.O. Superpower.
  • In addition to the aptly named Project Freelancer, in it's third act, I Against I, Me Against You introduces Whitewater: a company of Equestrian mercenaries hired to perform a hit on the main characters.
  • Sonic X: Dark Chaos:
    • The Metarex are depicted as an extremely powerful version of this, funded and controlled by both their Seedrian cyborg leaders and the mysterious "M" who happens to actually be Maledict.
    • Tsali also founded his own private military company, although it's been almost completely destroyed by the start of the story (he's the only member of it left).
  • Roanapur Connection: What the Golden Company are shown to be in Eye of the Storm, though they seem to run the mill of taking on security guard or low profile work for the most part since the Russia-EU war ended. Which Nathan and Ganabati seek to change. But they also are implied to have a vast history like the White Company did in real life in fighting in many conflicts across European History, along other numerous RL merc groups if Ganabati’s pov is anything to go by. They are heavily hinted to be Plausible Deniability for the EU to operate in places they don't or can't be seen to have a hand in.

  • In American Sniper, a couple of PMC's show up during Kyle's various tours of duty in Iraq. In a rare twist, they are presented in a heroic light for once. Aiding the American forces in firefights against the insurgents.
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004). The Flying Legion, clearly inspired by the Flying Tigers.
  • In the 2004 remake of The Manchurian Candidate, the Communist conspiracy of the original book and 1962 movie was updated for the post-Cold War times by making the villains a Mega-Corp named Manchurian Global instead, which also happens to be a PMC, or at least have a PMC division. Part of the reason the wanted the eponymous Manchurian Candidate to be their sleeper agent in the White House was so they could get him to send their troops into the Middle East, among other reasons.
  • The Dogs of War (1981), though the film removes much of the political points made by Forsyth about the links between big business and war.
  • The Wild Geese (1978) depicts the recruitment of a mercenary force to free an imprisoned African leader, only for the force to be abandoned when their sponsors strike a deal with the current rulers of the country.
  • War, Inc..
  • Blood Diamond has plenty of mercenaries, with Leonardo DiCaprio playing a former Zimbabwean Rhodesian merc-turned-diamond smuggler.
  • Lord of War, so many, from South America and Little Odessa to Africa and Asia.
  • Outpost has the eponymous installation investigated by a group of mercenaries firmly on the anti-hero sign of things. Their resumes are a Royal Marine (the commander), a US Marine (his second), a former IRA guerilla who joined the Paras, a UN Peacekeeper, a Foreign Legionnaire, a Russian Alpha Group soldier, and a yugoslavian man whose unit is never named.
  • The mooks in Shooter.
  • The MNU troops in District 9 fall hard into the evil end of the spectrum.
  • Spoofed in Water (1985), a comedy about an island in the West Indies that strikes a deposit of pure mineral water. Annoyed at the competition, the French hire a group of mercenaries to blow it up.
    French agent: "This is a dangerous mission, and some of you will die. But remember, in a world gone mad, you will die for a principle that you all hold close to your heart. Money!"

    Mercenaries: "Viva franc! Viva deutschmark! Viva dollar! Viva numbered bank account in Switzerland!"
    • After nearly throttling the island's governor to death, the mercenary commander then leaves him his card.
    "If you are in need of an army, just call."
  • All the human soldiers and pilots in Avatar, even though they seem to represent the US military, are actually ex-soldiers and Marines now working for the RDA corporation mining Pandora. It is notable that almost all of them are mentioned to have dishonorable discharges from the US military and took the job due to their lower standards in terms of what is acceptable, though this fact is not mentioned in the movie proper.
  • The Hurt Locker. The protagonists run across a unit of British PMCs who've captured two Iraq insurgents for the bounty. Like the rest of the movie, they seem to exist for the sole purpose of being ridiculous so that Jeremy Renner can look more badass.
  • In The A-Team, the bad guys (at first) are from the Blackforest PMC, a thinly disguised expy of the Real Life Blackwater.
  • In both Merc Force and the remake, Mercs, the eponymous characters are a band of mercenaries roaming space looking for jobs.
  • Jake Wyer and Sam French are both these in 50/50. Of course, they both come to believe in the cause they are fighting for.
  • Rico and Dolworth in The Professionals.
  • The Big Bad in National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets is the head of a PMC, justifying why his Mooks are always armed and following all his orders.
  • The Expendables are about a group of mercenaries who take any job they can get. It's a handy excuse for putting together some of the most legendary action heroes together and make every one a badass. There is even some nods towards the way they operate, as they find out their most recent "employer" is actually CIA looking to pass off some Dirty Business onto their shoulders.
  • In Sleepy Hollow, the Headless Horseman is the vengeful ghost of one of the Hessian mercenaries hired by Great Britain during the American Revolution.
  • In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Lex's henchmen are a group of PMCs led by Anatoli Knyazev.
  • In Rambo IV, after a group of missionaries disappears in the Burmese jungle, the pastor of their church hires Rambo and a squad of mercenaries to rescue them.
  • The Chinese film Wolf Warrior II is set in an African country suffering a civil war. The brutal rebels have hired the Dyson Corporation, who are described as the most expensive mercenaries in Europe. Towards the end of the film, the mercenary leader shoots the rebel leader after spotting an opportunity to take over the country himself. Remember children, Evil Is Not a Toy!
  • Venom (2018): Despite being a nominal Research, Inc., the Life Foundation employs hit squads with armored vehicles and high-tech Attack Drones, who somehow get away with a high-damage Chase Scene through the streets of San Francisco.
  • In Guardians of the Galaxy, the Ravagers, led by Yondu Udunto, act in this capacity when Ronan the Accuser attacks Xandar, defending the planet while the Nova Corp engage Ronan's ship in orbit. After being shot down, Ronan's second in command, Korath, tries to get Yondu to order his men to turn on the Nova Corp. Yondu responds by using his Trick Arrow to kill Korath and all his men. After the battle, Yondu demands the orb containing the Power Stone, and departs.
  • Predator's main characters are a heavily armed mercenary band, but they are far from unscrupulous. Main character Dutch outright states that they specialize in hostage and rescue operations, outright refusing to take contracts that only involve killing. When it comes out that they were tricked and there were no hostages at the outpost they were sent to attack, they are extremely unhappy with their employer.
  • Predators: Our main character Royce is former American special forces soldier turned mercenary due to his Blood Knight views. He starts the film totally selfish and ruthless but evolves over the course of the story.

  • The Black Company in Glen Cook's The Black Company series.
  • Hammer's Slammers, from the eponymous David Drake novels. While Drake mostly uses them to tell stories based on historical events, their mercenary nature plays an important role in their characterization. In the series background, war has become so very expensive that mercenaries are common, and usually the most competent soldiers. The Slammers interact with other mercenary companies and are sometimes shortchanged by their employers. At other times, they play both sides off against each other.
    • The Slammers also originated as an expy of the French Foreign Legion, an Army of Thieves and Whores organized with a promise of citizenship on the planet recruiting them. But after seeing them in action the president who hired them decided he didn't want their kind on his world, so Colonel Hammer packed up and turned them into mercenaries, until he saw an opportunity to come back and pull off a coup. And after that he hires out companies of the planetary army.
  • Carrera's Wedge from the Takeshi Kovacs book Broken Angels.
  • The Dendarii Mercenaries from Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga appear to be entirely this; in actuality they're Barrayaran-employed irregulars (and still not averse to taking lucrative contracts that don't conflict with that). While several galactic powers, and a few individuals, have figured out the truth, it's still not common knowledge. Even among the Dendarii themselves. This cover works because there are plenty of bona-fide mercenary companies around. The books include Randall's Rangers (before Cavilo took charge) and the Oseran Mercenaries (before Miles dazzled them into working for him). Other companies are referenced as existing at a variety of scales.
  • The Falkenberg's Legion books have a ton of mercenaries, ranging from independent military companies (such as the eponymous Mercenary Legion) to planetary armies sold out to pay for their expenses.
  • Gordon R. Dickson's Childe Cycle has several worlds hire mercenaries out as part of the interstellar market. There are two notables:
    • The Dorsai, basically a Planet of Hats of the greatest mercenaries and military minds in the colonized universe.
    • The Friendlies. Although from a religious Planet of Hats, the Friendlies live on poor resource worlds. To survive they are hired out as mercenaries. Unlike the Dorsai though, the Friendlies suck at warfare, but their cheap price and numbers make up for it.
  • World War Z has a self-proclaimed mercenary [he doesn't like the politically correct terms of PMC or Private Contractor] re-counting his experience of the war. He admits that he's become "addicted to murder" and worries about what life will be like when he has no more zombies to kill.
  • Present but not particularly common in the Star Wars Legends. Most mercenaries are pirates turned privateer for a little legitimacy and extra cash, and they're usually pretty poorly equipped—mercenary fighter squadrons in particular are known for using "Uglies", mashup starfighters cobbled together from different fighters.
    • Aurodium Sword is basically a PMC (of the real-life "non-mercenary" sort) that provides personal security for VIPs.
    • The Mandalorians. They usually tend to be rather more competent at their job than other mercenaries, in no small part due to their culture placing high value on combat prowess and their having spent the bulk of their history as warriors and conquerors.
    • The Mistryl Shadow Guard is this, mixed with Amazon Brigade.
    • There's a mercenary talent tree for the Saga Edition of the Star Wars RPG.
    • The Red Moons (featured in the short story Blaze of Glory) are a group of mercs who became disgruntled with the New Republic. Feeling that the Republic wasn't doing enough, the Red Moons decided to do something it.
    • The Han Solo Trilogy: Black Sun has several such companies under its control, and lends one to Durga in Rebel Dawn to protect Besadii's operation on Ylesia (the Hutts normally rely on Gamorreans and other guards who are essentially thugs, and far less effective) in return for thirty percent of the profits over five years. This makes liberating the slaves there far more difficult for the Corellian rebels and the smugglers which they enlisted.
  • Robert Asprin's Phule's Company are part of the Space Legion: technically a branch of the military, but they're often hired by private groups when they're between assignments, which is most of the time. Interestingly, Regular Army units can also occasionally be hired.
  • Lord Commander Staffa Kar Therma's Companions in W. Michael Gear's Forbidden Borders series.
  • The Dogs of War by Frederick Forsyth, later a film starring Christopher Walken.
  • The trope is played in various ways in Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books. In that world, there is a well-organized Mercenaries' Guild that regulates the profession. Bonded, licensed companies are consummate professionals who are irritated with the stereotype — non-Guild mercs are far more likely to fit the negative aspects of this trope.
    • In By The Sword, Kerowyn becomes the the leader of the Skybolts, a bonded mercenary company. After Kero gets dragooned by a talking white horse, the Skybolts negotiate a permanent contract with Valdemar rather than lose her. Before that, Kerowyn's grandmother and her partner were members of the Sunhawk company in Oathbreakers.
    • On the other hand, the "Tedrel Companies" were a band of unlicensed, un-bonded fighters, largely criminals, recruited by Karse. They succeeded in killing the Valdemaran king, but they also pillaged and looted their way back home, costing Karse more than they expected.
  • Joel Rosenberg's Metzada series has a planet of Jews whose only valuable export is mercenary services; which sucks, because their ancestors were exiled to an unterraformed planet, and they must constantly import food and air, which is rather pricey. So they'll take any work they can get, even if they utterly hate their clients.
  • The tie-in novels based on the original Mutant Chronicles games had "free-lancers" who performed everything from bounty hunting to corporate espionage. The armies of the Mega Corps are technically PMCs, but since corporations are the closest thing to governments left in that universe, they function more like national armies... with Executive Meddling in the form of company agents who go along on missions to enforce corporate protocol and the bottom line.
  • Elizabeth Moon's The Deed of Paksenarrion novel series has the title character run away from home to join a mercenary band.
  • The Vatta's War series also by the Elizabeth Moon deals with these heavily, particularly the Mackensee Military Assistance Corporation whom Kylara Vatta, The Captain, both hires and is hired by. The MMAC is depicted as being very strict in who they will do business with, with their contracts spelling out certain actions their employers might take where they will consider their contract terminated on the spot and withdraw immediately, in order to avoid any association with this trope's negative trappings.
  • In Simon R. Green's Deathstalker books, the Families employ hordes of these. A few of the main characters are ex-mercenaries, as well (and one of them is only helping overthrow the evil empire for the loot that will be in it for her if they succeed).
  • Soldiers Of Barrabas, or SOBS (a 1980's Gold Eagle action series by Jack Hild) is ostensibly lead by a mercenary who's 'soft' on his native country, and so willingly seeks contracts that advance its interests. In truth they work directly for the US government as a deniable dirty tricks team.
  • The "Free Companies" mentioned in Consider Phlebas by Ian M. Banks. The Space Pirates the protagonist hooks up with like to call themselves one, but don't quite make the grade.
  • Market Forces by Richard K. Morgan is set in a world where Mega Corps are in virtual control of everything, and the world's military and intelligence forces, from the SAS to the CIA, have been privatized. Another example of this trope is the Wedge in Broken Angels, who are an elite company of interstellar mercenaries.
  • Tom Kratman:
    • In Carrera's Legions, the hero loses his family in a 9/11 analogue and forms a PMC to avenge them. It grows to be an NGO superpower, and then to the de facto & de jure military of the nation it's based in, Balboa.
    • Countdown has M Day, Inc, founded by a former US Army officer who was forced out of the service around the end of the US involvement in Afghanistan. An excursis, with a publishing date following the period of the novel series, also talks of the rise of other PMCs in the face of the governments commanding national militaries becoming unwilling or unable to act against the rising tide of barbarism destroying civilization.
  • Turner belongs to one in Count Zero, the second book of William Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy.
  • In the Dale Brown novel Rogue Forces, Patrick McLanahan is now official head of the Scion PMC, with ex-POTUS Kevin Martindale as the "silent owner".
  • The Dresden Files:
    • In the novel Changes, the vampiric Red Court makes heavy use of an unidentified South American PMC to guard the Mayan temple where they're having their happy blood sacrifice holiday.
    • There's also Kincaid, who is a lone gunman for hire who spends most of his time protecting the Archive but is willing to do side jobs if the pay is right. The Red Court and White Court make use of a number of mortal mercenaries, as does John Marcone's outfit when they need extra firepower. In fact, Odin's troops, particularly his Valkyries, are for sale as hired muscle to people in the know.
  • Terran soldiers in Andre Norton's Star Guard are described as mercenaries, but in fact they're conscripted by Earth's puppet government on the orders of the extraterrestrial super-government Central Control and hired out to various planetary wars.
  • John Dalmas' The Regiment was made up of the T'swa, troops who didn't really care whether they won or lost — what was important was "playing" war skillfully. Since they considered reincarnation a proven fact and thus also didn't care if they died, T'swa were very effective soldiers. They were not motivated by money: advanced psychological placement assigned those children best suited for military training, just as it did for all other facets of T'swa society.
  • The Reynard Cycle: Mercenaries abound, both in the form of professional companies who operate independently as well as government sponsored troops who get loaned out to countries in need of extra fighting men. In The Baron of Maleperduys, Reynard has Bruin recruit an entire army's worth of hired swords in order to combat the Calvarians.
  • In P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath, the Kencyr people live in a resource-poor area but are exceedingly good at fighting; they make ends meet by hiring their troops out as mercenaries. Judging by examples in the series, about a quarter of the Kencyr peoples are mercenaries out on contract at any one time. Their rigid honor code makes them sometimes difficult employees, but their skill keeps them hired.
  • Conan the Barbarian often joins or leads mercenary units.
  • The White Company by Arthur Conan Doyle involves an English "free company", as they used to be called, being raised in England and Calais to travel to Spain and help Pedro the Cruel re-gain his throne.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Mercenaries are generally called "sellswords". They can be hired individually or in an established company. Each sellsword company has its own name, style and reputation, ranging from the motley and brutal Brave Companions (disparaged as "the Bloody Mummers") to the elite and greatly respected Golden Company. While sellswords are rather notorious for their fickle loyalty (the only exception being the Golden Company), they are generally regarded as competent warriors. Jaime notes that, unlike many wealthy knights of Westeros, sellswords must survive by their skill at arms alone. Some sellswords can grow quite rich and elevate their social position, the most notable being Bronn, who becomes a knight and marries into a noble family.
    • There is another type of mercenary called a "freerider," which is less defined in the books, but explained by the author as a mercenary with a horse who attaches himself to an army free of charge and takes his pay in booty after the battle.
    • Sellsails are mercenary sailors in it mainly for the loot: buccaneers, basically. Salladhor Saan is a notable example, a wealthy pirate who hires out his fleet to Stannis Baratheon. The Iron Isles, the Sisters and the Stepstones have a semi-steady side-gig of selling the use of whole flotillas or fleets. When they aren't going full-pirate, that is.
    • Hedge knights are landless knights who hire themselves out to landed knights or lords to fight in their armies. While granted an air of respectability by their title and the oaths they swear, they are effectively just elite mercenaries.
  • Elayne in The Wheel of Time has to turn to mercenaries to help secure her claim to the Lion Throne. They are not played with the remotest hint of sympathy. On the other hand, they're not portrayed as avaricious turncoats, like so many other works, either. At one point a mercenary captain tries to ask Elayne for more money after saving her from an unanticipated threat, and she points out that he was acting within the bounds of his contract and must continue to do so. He grumbles, but the group continue to fight on her behalf. She isn't worried about their loyalty, since no one would hire a mercenary band that changed sides in the middle of a campaign.
    • On the other hand, the (second founding) Band of the Red Hand, while loosely associated with the Dragon Reborn, has spent the majority of its existence effectively taking mercenary work so they could keep paying the soldiers' wages while their leader was absent. They're played sympathetically, contain a reasonable fraction of the Mauve Shirt characters of the series, and besides a bit of lovable roguery, are among the most professional military organizations in the world - and damn proud of it!
  • Mary Gentle's Ash: A Secret History follows Ash, the female commander of a mercenary company in a rather different fifteenth-century Europe.
  • "Bellarion the Fortunate" by Rafael Sabatini (1926) is set in 15th century Italy, when pretty much all war was conducted through hired mercenaries.
  • Xenophon's Anabasis is about his own experiences as a mercenary in Persia and his company's long and dangerous journey home after their employer died. Despite being written in the 4th century BC, this work served as the inspiration for The Warriors.
  • Bob Lee Swagger took on rogue members of Graywolf Security in I, Sniper. When he later faces down the Big Bad, his Graywolf bodyguards don't engage him, as company rules prohibit them from attacking law enforcement personnel (which they suspect Bob to be).
  • Joe Pike from Robert Crais's books used to be a relatively ethical mercenary. Some less than ethical ones appear too.
  • Korr Military Solutions, Inc. is one of the PMCs leading the charge against the Daemon and they are definitely unsympathetic.
  • The Dirigent Mercenary Corps series follows an officer in one of these. The planet Dirigent's hat is providing mercenaries and exporting weapons to settled space at large. The DMC is noted to have strict self-imposed limits on what types of contracts they will accept (a violation of these limits in the backstory is viewed as My Greatest Failure by the organization) and prides itself on its soldiers' professionalism.
  • Chris Bunch's Star Risk, Ltd. series is about a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits that operate a PMC that does mainly bodyguard and anti-piracy work. The company hires outside help (like Ace Pilot Redon Spada) when they need extra manpower. They also repeatedly butt heads with the much larger (and decidedly malevolent) PMC Cerberus Systems.
  • Michael Z Williamson's Better To Beg Forgiveness follows a team of Combat Pragmatists from a PMC called Ripple Creek who're contracted to protect a president, and their attempts to keep him safe after a coup is launched.
  • The Oregon Files is centered on a group of mercenaries called The Corporation, led by an ex-CIA Handicapped Badass operating out of a Cool Boat with a dilapidated appearance named the Oregon.
  • Niccolò Machiavelli warns against using hired troops in The Prince:
    "Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous; and if one holds his state based on these arms, he will stand neither firm nor safe; for they are disunited, ambitious and without discipline, unfaithful, valiant before friends, cowardly before enemies; they have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is; for in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy."
    CHAPTER XII How Many Kinds Of Soldiery There Are, And Concerning Mercenaries
  • In Harry Turtledove's Videssos Cycle the Empire of Videssos hires mercenaries from neighboring countries to fight the Yezda. Each country specializes in supplying different types of troops.
  • In The Quest of the Unaligned, the hero starts the book as a ninth-level security chief in the First Tonzimmelian Security Force, which appears to be a cross between this and a police force.
  • In Honor Harrington, it's mentioned that the Andermanni Empire was founded by a particularly capable mercenary captain named Gustav Andermann. He first captured the planet of New Postdam (though considering that the planetary microorganisms ate chlorophyll, the inhabitants were happy to be captured by anyone who could clean up their planet and give them enough to eat), then went on to build an empire from there (at least partially financed by organizing and hiring out mercenary companies).
  • In An Instinct for War, Machiavelli's jail guard used to be a mercenary, and Wallenstein's armies are basically mercenary forces. One of the issues discussed in the book is the question of armies organized for profit, or armies organized to fight for a state.
  • Journey to Chaos: The Dragon's Lair mercenary company that Eric joins is composed of sword swinging warriors, spell slinging mages, more covert warriors (spies and assassins and such) as well as Combat Medics. Most of the time, they're hired to help keep the monster population under control. Since Eric is a novice in this book, he is only hired to do grunt work. Tiza would prefer playing this trope straight.
  • Unsurprisingly, the BattleTech expanded universe dedicates everything from minor side plots to entire trilogies to its own various mercenary outfits. The Gray Death Legion, the Kell Hounds, Wolf's Dragoons and Camacho's Caballeros are all rather prominent examples, while somewhat less well regarded in the fandom the Black Thorns got two entire novels dedicated to them in their time, and numerous smaller units put in occasional appearances at the very least as well.
  • In the Deverry novels, the Silver Daggers started out as one of these during the Time Of Troubles. They were so instrumental in ending the three-way civil war that later generations of kings were afraid that they might be used to overthrow them and put another king on the throne. The Silver Daggers' charter was guaranteed to last in perpetuity due to a boon posthumously granted to their original captain by Maryn I, so instead a law was passed banning all other mercenary units, and prohibiting the Silver Daggers from acting as a single unit ever again, forcing anyone who wanted a mercenary army to hire them one or two at a time — assuming that they could find enough of the now scattered soldiers of fortune to make it worth the effort.
  • The ICA and Puissance Treize (French for "Power Thirteen") are treated as this, only for assassins in the Hitman novels.
  • In The Iron Teeth a few of the bandits start out their working lives as this, until things go south. For example, Vorsha worked as a mercenary — until her employer decided that outlawing her company on trumped-up charges beat paying them. And, if Herad plays her cards right, her band could well function as a decidedly murky company of these, too. She's already made one or two shady deals with lords which lean in this direction.
  • In The Girl from the Miracles District, there's the Order of Shadows, for which the main character works. Their main service is assassination, but they also dabble in protection, corporate espionage, and warfare.
  • Kings of the Wyld: The mercenaries, of course, though they're treat far more sympathetically than is normal for this trope. Furthermore, the entire setting is based on a pun regarding the word "band:" Mercenary bands are treated exactly like rock bands, with tours, frontmen, bookers, gigs, and of course money and fame.
  • The Four Horsemen Universe: Nearly all wars in The ’Verse are fought between mercenary companies that command fees greater than the GDP of entire terrestrial nation-states.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Davos hires his old friend, the notorious pirate Salladhor Saan, to provide additional ships for Stannis Baratheon. In Season 4, he also proposes hiring the expensive Golden Company to aid in Stannis' war.
    • Daenerys goes to Astapor to purchase Unsullied, eunuch slaves who are considered the finest soldiers in the world. Later she also meets up with the Second Sons, one of the many "Free Companies" utilized by the various cities and states of Essos.
    • Westeros is also filled with independent sellswords and hedge knights who bounce from job to job, most notably Tyrion's lancer Bronn. In fact, Bronn is eventually knighted as "Ser Bronn of the Blackwater"! Though this is just a funny coincidence and not an intentional reference to the real-life PMC...
    • After being exiled from Westeros as a fugitive, Jorah became a sellsword and served with the legendary Golden Company for a while, before meeting Daenerys.
  • The Last Ship features a rare heroic example. Tex Nolan is a contractor who joins the Nathan James's crew at Guantanamo, where his company had been hired to guard Al-Qaeda prisoners. His past is a bit ambiguous, though he's actually from Reno, is a single father, is former US military (it's implied that he was with Army Special Operations Forces), and signed up for the Gitmo contract because it was easy money. Tex is friendly, happy-go-lucky, and an all-around good guy. He just happens to be very good at doing bad things to bad people. He's also very scrupulous about who he's willing to shoot.
  • The villains of the pilot episode of Knight Rider 2008 were from the really shamelessly transparent "Blackriver" corporation, an organization of evil US military contractors.
    • It is not exactly clear how stealing the control codes for a US military satellite and selling them on the black market to enemies of the US, when the FBI knows from the start that you're the ones behind it, plays into this business model. You would think that sort of thing would be bad for business.
  • The UnSub of one episode of Criminal Minds is a Cold Sniper who initially appears to be a Serial Killer, but is in fact a mercenary who is making his kills look like a serial killer to mislead authorities, tracking down a battered wife who is in hiding. However, the real villain of the episode is her husband and the sniper's boss, a Corrupt Corporate Executive who works for the powerful and politically tied mercenary company "Black Cross", he actually manages to be less sympathetic than the actual killer.
  • The Unit featured a company called "Blackthorne", which tried to recruit one of the members.
  • The seventh season of 24 (as well as the TV-movie prequel 24: Redemption) has the Starkwood corporation, who, among other things, give weapons to genocidal African rebels in exchange for permission to use innocent villagers for weapons testing and plan attacks on American soil to get Senate investigations off their backs.
  • During the first season of Jericho, the PMC Ravenwood tries to loot the town of Jericho (and successfully raids the nearby towns of Rogue River and New Bern). In season 2, it is learned that they are a subsidiary of the Big Bad, Jennings & Rall.
  • In FlashForward (2009), one set of antagonists are a PMC called Jericho.
  • In Occupation, a drama set during the Iraq War, an ex-British army soldier teams up with an American to form a PMC, which recruits another character.
  • A couple episodes of Castle, dealt with the villain of the week using mercenaries.
  • Bodie, Lewis Collins' character in The Professionals, is a former mercenary. This provides the basis for the plot in a couple of episodes.
  • An episode of The Philanthropist had a corrupt group of mercenaries deliberately sabotaging peace efforts in Kosovo in order to sell arms. Subverted in that the entire PMC was not corrupt and fired the corrupt ones when presented with evidence. Of course, the company could've just been covering its own ass by shifting blame to subordinates.
  • Highlander had a plot with an immortal using his private army to invade the house of a friend of Tessa's after the guy's son raped the immortal's (adopted) daughter.
  • The main antagonists in the fourth season of Damages are the owner of a mercenary firm called High Star, yet another Blackwater Brand X, and a corrupt CIA agent who he did black-ops work for.
  • One Villain of the Week on Burn Notice was Ryder Stahl, the owner of a company called Security Associates. Mike's cover ID was of a Kenyan diamond dealer who needed a village ... removed.
  • On the Person of Interest episode "Nautilus", the number of the week is hunted by a "Private Military Contractor" group known as "Silverpool". Reese even mentions Blackwater when describing them.
    • On the very next episode ("Wingman"), Blackwater is name-dropped again as the former employers of "Egret".
  • On Leverage's "The Homecoming Job" the Villain of the Week was a PMC Blackwater Expy that had shot up a group of US Army reservists. Their client was one of the wounded soldiers who was unable to pay for his medical expenses. While it was initially assumed that the reason for the shooting was simply that the mercenaries panicked, it was later found that the company was actually stealing money from Iraq and using it to bribe a Congressman in order to continue to be given no bid contracts.
  • One episode of Babylon 5 features a group of Raiders acting as one for a rogue Centauri nobleman. In the end they betray him, as they know they can't fight the military of the Centauri Republic (a Vestigial Empire but still a superpower), but get offed by the Shadows before they can do more than tell their employer about it.
    • The Expanded Universe mentions that Raider groups will sometimes hire themselves out to various governments, effectively acting like this.
      • Also the Belt Alliance. They started as a union for workers in the asteroid belt that armed themselves to fight against Raiders and PMC groups working for companies trying to take their mines. After First Contact the Belt Alliance evolved in a sort of shipping company / shipping union hybrid (with the single largest privately owned merchant fleet in the galaxy, as most of Earth's merchants work for them), while their armed forces continued fighting Raiders, both to defend Belt Alliance shipping and as PMC for other companies. It's mentioned that, in spite of their antiquated equipment (limited to light weapons by Earth Alliance law), they are very effective against Raiders due having focused all their weapons on killing fighters, with the very presence of Belt Alliance escorts keeping away the smarter ones.
  • On Lost, Martin Keamy and his men.
  • In AmericanOdyssey, a PMC named OSELA features in the pilot. Their troops don't much care for adherence to rules of engagement or for basic courtesies between regular US forces and mercs.
  • NCIS has to deal with PMCs from time to time. This includes busting one of their commanders for illegal bounty hunting.
  • Madam Secretary's second episode "Another Benghazi" has Vesuvian, a PMC that Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord had criticized in an article she wrote in her academic career for being too quick on the trigger, but whom she is now forced to hire as extra security for the US embassy in Yemen after Congress won't spring for Green Berets. Then the embassy is bombed and Arabic-language news blames Vesuvian for shooting first. Reconstructed in the end: Vesuvian didn't shoot first and actually saved the ambassador's life by getting him out before the bomb went off, and the CEO of the company credits McCord's article for prompting him to make several changes in company policy to cut down on civilian casualties.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent: In "Boots on the Ground", the Victim of the Week is an activist who been infiltrating two rival private contractors. This leaves plenty of suspects with military training.
  • The Punisher (2017): Billy Russo, after leaving the Marines, started a military contractor firm called Anvil, and he recruits former soldiers to serve as his operatives and do wetwork for Rawlins.
  • In Kamen Rider Build, Namba Heavy Industries manages to be this with their Guardians, mass produced Mecha-Mooks that they're willing to give use of to anyone with enough money to buy them. They later expand into selling use of Riders and Kaisers to the highest bidder, with the intent being to mass produce those and sell them to the highest bidder. Of course they kept the strongest version, the Hard Guardians, reserved for their own private use. It's to the point a large portion of the armies of every single faction in the war is composed entirely of Guardians given to them by Namba. In fact, the entire reason Namba helped start the Civil War in the first place was precisely because of that.
  • Arrow reinvents the Blackhawks as this, possibly because they're an existing DC military team whose name already sounds a bit like "Blackwater".
  • Cannon: In "A Flight of Hawks", Cannon's investigation leads him to a band of mercenaries who are planning to kick off a brushwar in Africa.

  • "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" by Warren Zevon. Roland is a Norwegian mercenary hired to fight in the Congo Crisis of the 1960s. He is betrayed by a fellow mercenary and goes seeking revenge, despite being dead. It's them implied he goes on to become a spirit of conflict, following the major ideological wars across the world and in some cases inciting them ("Patty Hearst/heard the burst/of Roland's Thompson gun/and bought it").
  • Contractor by Lamb of God
  • "Ride Across The River" by Dire Straits.
  • "Mercenaries (Ready For War)" by John Cale.

  • Revolting People is a comedy set in Baltimore just prior to the American Revolution. With the exception of the CO and the senior sergeant, all of the "British" soldiers in town, an entire brigade of them, are Hessian mercenaries.

    Tabletop Games 
  • This is a classic Plot Device in tabletop games in general. Whether they're sword-swinging fantasy adventurers, Wild West bounty hunters or futuristic mercenaries, a time-honored means of getting Player Characters involved in a plot is to have someone hire them to accomplish some task or another.
  • BattleTech is full of mercenary armies. Many of the high-grade mercenary armies are a match for or even superior to the best armies of the various governments, and some can even get titles and holdings in the neo-feudal system of the 31st century. The setting also has both honorable mercs (the Gray Death Legion, Wolf's Dragoons, The Kell Hounds) and dishonorable ones (the Crater Cobras, Little Richard's Panzer Brigade, the Waco Rangers). Many Pirate groups are failed mercenary units. Running a small Mercenary Company is the standard campaign mode for the game. A few notable examples:
    • The Gray Death Legion was one of the few Inner Sphere units to come out with wins in their initial clashes with the Clans, and for their service to House Steiner were given the planet of Glengarry; Grayson Carlyle himself was given the title of Baron. Twenty years prior to the Clans, they made a major Lost Technology discovery and shared it with the Inner Sphere, putting the kibosh on ComStar's plan for technological monopoly.
    • Wolf's Dragoons were originally a "scouting party" sent by Clan Wolf to infiltrate the Inner Sphere before the invasion (and sabotage the invasion that Clan Wolf was opposed to). They quickly distinguished themselves with their prowess and LosTech and were ceded the world of Outreach, which they made into the Mercenary capital of the Sphere. When the Clans invaded they revealed their origins to the Successor States and sided with them instead of the Clans. Unfortunately the Word of Blake nuked Outreach during their jihad and destroyed most of the Dragoons, though Clan Wolf evacuated two dozen Dragoons and several civilians.
  • Fading Suns has the Muster guild, which offers many kinds of muscle for hire, but began as, and is still mostly made of, mercenaries.
  • Pretty much the driving force behind Shadowrun.
    • The player characters are "Shadowrunners" - mercenaries assembled on-demand like a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits in as heist flick. Of course there's nothing stopping the DM from making a PMC for the players to join, and the setting fiction many shadowrunners incorporate their teams, becoming small PMCs.
    • The best-known subsidiary of arms manufacturer Ares Macrotech is Knight Errant, which is essentially a first-world army for hire.
    • Seattle's law enforcement has been contracted out to the megacorp Lone Star Security Services since 2023 - when the Mayor of Seattle's response to a police strike was to hire contractors and dissolve his police force.
    • More conventional PMCs do exist in the game's backstory—the most prominent are MET2000, Tsunami, 10,000 Daggers and Combat Inc.
  • This is the meat of Cyberpunk2020. The most conspicuous PMCs are Arasaka and Militech, two of the largest corporations of the game's setting.
  • Games Workshop games:
    • Warhammer:
      • The Dogs of War are an entire army of mercenaries who mostly hail from Tilea, the setting's analogue of Renaissance Italy and the Condottieri. More individualistic examples are the Regiments of Renown, legendary mercenaries with interesting special rules that can be attached to other army lists.
      • Maneaters are Ogres who have returned to their homelands after serving as mercenaries abroad, with new skills to share (and often a costume inspired by their former employers). When the Ogre Kingdoms were first introduced, there were also rules for other armies to hire Ogre units as Dogs of War.
      • The Empire fields Free Companies, militia or mercenary companies that support their standing armies. This is despite the fact that regular Empire infantry already dress like and are organized like real-life Landsknecht mercenaries.
    • In Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, the Grundstok Company, also known as the Grundcorps, are a group of professional mercenaries who hire out their services to the mercantile Kharadron sky-fleets to protect them from the vicious aerial monstrosities of the Mortal Realms, as well as any other threat they might face. Highly trained and outfitted with advanced weaponry, the Grundscorps are well worth their high price.
    • Warhammer 40,000:
      • The Kroot who serve the T'au Empire as auxiliaries secretly do some mercenary work on the side, to ensure that they get plenty of useful genetic traits from their prey. There used to be an official Kroot Mercenaries army list, though it hasn't been updated for recent additions and most of its units had to be converted in some way.
      • Orks and Aeldari have bands of Freebooters and Corsairs, respectively, that occasionally hire themselves out to clients - which sometimes include Imperial nobles, or even Inquisitors, who want some plausible deniability. Some Drukhari bands make the same offer, which most of their customers regret later.
      • The squads of Marauders who often fight alongside Renegade & Heretic armies are a mix of corrupted pirates and mercenaries who fight because they are being very well paid to do so rather than for the glory of the Dark Gods. To represent their status as more professional soldiers, the 8th Edition rules make Renegade Marauders one of the most reliable units in a Renegades & Heretics force, but they are the only infantry unit in the army that cannot be dedicated to one of the Chaos Gods.
      • The Squats are a highly mercantile species of Abhuman who approach every aspect of life as a business, including warfare. Squat mercenaries are highly sought after renowned for their skill, determination and reliability, especially when fighting against Orks. Early editions of the Epic scale version of the game represented this by allowing any army, except Orks and Chaos, to include companies of Squad mercenaries in their force.
      • Many minor Xenos races, such as the Loxatl and the Sslyth, willingly serve as mercenaries for other alien races, the forces of Chaos, or even radical Imperial forces. What they ask for in return can vary, ranging from precious gems, the looted possessions of the enemy or even their choice of slaves. Such races are usually confined to the background material but when they do turn up in the game itself they are often incorporated into a specific faction's army list or as optional rules.
    • The Demiurg often act as mercenary forces for other races, especially those under threat from Ork raids. Battlefleet Gothic represents this in-game by allowing any fleet, except Orks, Tyranids and Necrons, are able to hire Demiurg cruisers as mercenaries. Due to their lack of investment in the battle however, these mercenary ships will attempt to disengage from combat should they suffer too much damage.
  • Since many Traveller characters have a military background, they often find themselves doing mercenary work. Basing a campaign around the characters being in a mercenary outfit was common, and supplements, rulebooks and premade adventures were issued to support such campaigns.
  • Dungeons & Dragons has any number of ways to involve mercs.
    • Hobgoblins, are generally more of a militaristic society than one composed of PMCs, but that just makes them more valuable when they do hire their units out to others.
    • The Eberron setting has several groups, such as the troops of House Deneith and House Tharashk's ogre/troll contacts in Droaam. For non-House versions, the Red Gauntlet regiment and the Manifest Legion (mercenary summoners) are also up for contracts.
      • Speaking of Droaam, the setting's Gnolls have decided that they're going to position themselves on every side of every conflict under the reasoning that that way, they'll grow in power and influence no matter who wins. They refuse to fight each other though.
    • Forgotten Realms got a special sourcebook "Gold and Glory" for most known of these, along with inherent adventure hooks. With understanding that small adventuring bands impossible to list due to great numbers and overall turnover rate also do a lot of the small-scale work in this field, and sometimes happen to hire, be hired by or grow into larger mercenary groups.
  • The New World of Darkness has Blackfire, a PMC that's well-connected and clued in to the nature of the supernatural. Whether they're upstanding or bastards depends entirely on the Storyteller, though the sample adventure that comes with them implies that they're not entirely on the up-and-up — mainly because one of the three heads of the company got possessed by a fragment of an ancient spirit that desperately wants out of its current prison.
  • Orpheus, from the Old World of Darkness line, has a company called NextWorld, a private contracting firm that deals with security, surveillance, and protection, while having much more questionable dealings under the table. And they have access to the same methods and technology that the other ghost projecting firms do, so they can deal with supernatural issues or exploit spiritual abilities and loopholes to get the job done. They're even hired at one point by a mysterious third party to take out Orpheus Group, which they do with great success, and continue to ruthlessly hound the survivors and remnants afterward because their client didn't technically tell them when to stop.
  • Delta Green has the real-life Constellis Group, a real-life conglomerate which includes PMC subsidiaries such as Academi (Former Blackwater) and Triple Canopy, as possible employer for the PCs. However, since the writers did their research, they are a more realistic and accurate version of this trope. They are mostly very well-armed security guards that work in government contracts in warzones, the job is notable for it's lack of stability and high layoff rates, with most of the military contractors begin veterans and ex-military without any other marketable skills. In short, working for an actual PMC sucks.
  • The Russian Tabletop RGG Age of Aquarius has a heroic PMC called ЗАЩИТНИК ("DEFENDER"). Like the SeeD from Final Fantasy VIII (by which they are inspired), mercenary activities are only a front for their more noble goal.
  • Eclipse Phase features Direct Action, a hypercorp formed from the remnants of old earth's militaries, they act as the Planetary Consortium's primary enforcers. Since there are few traditional nation-states remaining there are hundreds of smaller PMCs including the Ultimates, a group of Social Darwinist Nietzsche Wannabes who hire themselves out as mercs while waiting for an opportunity to seize control of the system.
  • The Legion Martien from Rocket Age are often hired out to various Martian principalities as mercenaries. Some Martian Freebooters bands also count, in particular the Mavericks, who are effectively American deniable assets.
  • Warbirds player characters are, as a default, assumed to be employed by one of these in the form of the Guild. Since the Guild can provide superior upgrades and weaponry to its Ace Pilots, and has control over titanium (much of which it uses to make its planes better), it's adept at poaching up-and-coming pilots from various countries. It also doesn't object to hiring out a squadron to each side in a conflict; since pilots in Guild warbirds are likely to survive going down, as long as it's making more from the clients than it's spending on replacement planes, it's satisfied.
  • In Broken Gears, the Australian Army also doubles as a large PMC, because this way the Australian government can pay for its costs (they need to be large enough to prevent a potential British take-over of the place) and get hard currency for international trade, and the soldiers also get live fire training.

    Video Games 
  • Battle Brothers has the player running a mercenary company in a low fantasy medieval setting. The player can seek out and negotiate contracts including acting as animal control for villages, fighting the undead and other monsters, hunting bandits, or augmenting military forces in conventional warfare.
  • All of the playable characters from Dirty Bomb are mercenaries being hired either by the criminal syndicate Jackal, or the Central Disaster Authority. None of them have any allegiance, except to the side that offers them most.
  • Contract Wars and it's more realistic tactical shooter sister game, Escape From Tarkov features two PMCs duking it out within the fictional Novorinsk special economic region; BEAR (Battle Encounter Assault Regiment), a Russian-based PMC covertly working under the arm of the Russian government and USEC (United Security), a western-based PMC working for TerraGroup.
  • MAG focuses on an all-out war between three mega-PMCs (each of which have replaced government armies - they've been downgraded to little more than a glorified National Guard).
    • In a decidedly odd subversion of the "not allowed to make war" deal, the PMCs are specifically fighting each other to prove that their group is more capable of defending the objective...from other PMCs (technically, the concern is terrorists, but the PMCs are the most frequent attackers). In other words, the PMCs are fighting and causing damage to the very things they're being hired to protect, so that they can be hired to protect it.
  • Mercenary organizations play a big role in some of the Metal Gear games:
    • The PMCs are also used as a callback to the original Metal Gear, where Big Boss built Outer Heaven as a refuge where disillusioned and disavowed soldiers could go, effectively becoming mercenaries, or a sort-of proto-PMC. His goal of creating a world where soldiers are always needed is essentially fulfilled by the War Economy (which is probably one of the reasons why he renounces his original beliefs at the end, it's clearly not a good thing), and the parent company that owns the five major PMCs is actually named "Outer Heaven".
    • Three of the five featured PMCs in Metal Gear Solid 4; the first two encountered have their members portrayed as mercenaries in that they're performing offensive operations, while those of the third are identically dressed and equipped like the first (since the second was in South America) but are performing security... and executing curfew violators in an effort to root out "resistance members". All three are operating for the governments of the countries where they're found, although in the South American location the rebels have hired a local PMC of their own, and the militia have local PMCs assisting in the Middle East. Of note is Werewolf, which seems to field only unmanned units for recon and security.
    • The origins of Outer Heaven are explored in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, starting out as the Militaires Sans Frontieres. Unlike most examples, however, the Militaires Sans Frontieres were portrayed in a positive light. Another Private Military Contractor in the game is the Peace Sentinels, but they are portrayed as genuine bad guys. It's strongly implied that the Peace Sentinels are rogue CIA operators.
    • In addition to Venom Snake's Diamond Dogs, a revival of Militaires Sans Frontieres, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has three other PMCs (called "Private Forces" or PFs in the game) operating in Angola, mostly made up of ex-SADF or former Rhodesian SAS. They are often seen working with UNITA rebels and the largest of them is a front for Cipher, with the other two implied to be as well.
    • A similar theme seems to exist in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Raiden is a member of Maverick Security Consulting, Inc., which similar to the Militaires Sans Frontieres, are overall portrayed in a more positive lightnote . Likewise, Desperado Enforcement LLC, similar to the Peace Sentinels, are portrayed as genuine bad guys. Raiden later learns that many of the Desperado mooks are Punch Clock Villains; it's only their heads, the Winds of Destruction, who are outright villainous.
  • The ArmA series had Black Element debut in the ArmA: Queen's Gambit Expansion Pack and return as ION, Inc. in the Arma 2: Private Military Company DLC, by which time the Blackwater resemblance was much more overt, complete with the renaming, international condemnation for involvement in the deaths of civilians, military/intel connectionsnote , a case of additional motives besides the contractnote , disavowed operatorsnote , being the self-proclaimed "North America's largest private service contractor"...
    • ION, Inc. and its parent company Vrana Industries would reappear in Take On Helicoptersnote  and once more in Arma 3, suggesting that business hadn't been lacking in the twenty-plus year gap between Take On Helicopters and Arma 3... if in a less stereotypical direction for a PMC and its parent corporationnote .
    • The big reveal in Private Military Company is that a certain unspecified government contacted ION, Inc., directly or through Vrana, and wanted Chinese involvement in Takistan's nuclear program covered up, and whether or not he himself or ION/Vrana were paid off, field leader Mark Reynolds is onboard with that even if it means squelching out on the protection contract with the UN weapons inspection team. The player can choose to fight their way through pro-Reynolds ION contractors to gun down Reynolds and expose the nuclear program and the attempted cover up, but the canonical ending was that the player and Henry Asano joined Reynolds in killing off the UN weapons inspectors — along with any ION contractors not already in on the plan — and successfully covered up the whole thing, with the player character getting a hefty bonus and moving up to ION Head of Operations by the time of Take On Helicopters.
  • The Player Character in Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction and Mercenaries 2: World in Flames.
    • In the first game, the player is a member of the PMC Executive Operations (ExOps, see Real Life Examples for why this name was chosen). In the sequel, the player presumably still works for ExOps, though after the tutorial level and the refusal of the Corrupt Corporate Executive to sign the damn check, he goes into business for himself to bring him down, while Fiona and the rest of the support staff tag along for opportunities for fun, profit, and lulz.
    • Also, there's the massive oil super-conglomerate known as Universal Petroleum, which contracts out a "low-rent" PMC known as Tactical Solutions to do security work. Of course, in this case, "security work" includes deploying a battalion of tanks, a virtual air wing of helicopters, and over a thousand foot infantry, complete with military-grade air support. The scary part is that some real-life PMCs (i.e. Blackwater and Executive Outcomes) could match what UP's mercenaries do in-game.
  • A small army of primate PMCs are hired by Constable Neyla in the first Prague episode of Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves.
    • One of the villains in Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, El Jefe, is the leader of Private Army that specializes in taking over countries for the highest bidder.
  • Army of Two—the player characters work for a PMC.
    • The final mission of the game is an assault on the very same (corrupt) PMC headquarters that the player characters have been working for most of the game, and at the end they decide to found their own PMC that won't plot attacks on American forces in order to build a case for privatizing the U.S. military.
    • In the sequel, The 40th Day, most of the 40th Day initiative are stated to be various mercenaries working for PMCs, with enough collective strength to take over and occupy the city of Shanghai.
  • In Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3: Uprising it turns out the war-weary Allies are now relying heavily on the PMC/weapons developer Futuretech, who were able to hire large numbers of veteran disenfranchised soldiers following the end of the war, to provide a great deal of their security.
  • In Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. you play as a former Air Force pilot working for a PMC fighting an alliance of anti-American South American states known as Las Trinidad who defects back to the Air Force once the PMC betrays the U.S. because Las Trinidad made them a better offer. To be fair, the immediate flip-flopping of the PMC for the better offer is mentioned as being against the Reykjavik Accords that legitimized PMCs in the first place, and at the end of the game, in addition to repealing the Accords, the US carries out a private and probably illegal operation to assassinate the CEO of the PMC after an international manhunt fails to find him.
  • In the High Treason expansion pack for Act of War: Direct Action, powerful mercenaries can be purchased for a limited time with "insurance" money, if the mercenaries survive half of the money is given back to you, if not you don't see a return on your deposit. The mercenaries are tiered as "Official" (Heavy Infantry and Medics), "Unofficial" (AA-Guns and Tanks) and "Illegal" (Fighter Jets and Low Yield Nukes). They also play a minor role in the storyline. When Richter is forced to go rogue and flees the USA, he ends up having to rely on mercenaries for a few missions. The missions contain some debating regarding the morality of using mercenaries during which it is mentioned that a good chunk of the mercenaries were trained by the US even though Richter remains ethically opposed to their use.
  • Among other things, the Umbrella Corporation's "Security" in Resident Evil seems to have the military strength of a small country. Specifically, the UBCS (Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service) is explicitly staffed with mercenaries.
  • Mantel in Haze is described as a Private Military Company, though in the game itself it's acting on its own and hasn't been hired. It's a particularly ludicrous example of this trope, since it's stated to have all but replaced all national armed forces. And Mantel is not just a PMC, but a super-corporation that has, apparently, taken over most of North America.
  • Jagged Alliance has you hiring mercenaries from the Association of International Mercenaries (A.I.M.) to complete your missions. A.I.M. seems to work as more of a mercenary union/guild rather than a PMC, as members are hired on an individual basis and bring just themselves plus their starting equipment if you chose to pay for it, leaving you to provide any other equipment, further training and transportation within the area of operations.
    • Jagged Alliance 2 would introduce the More Economic Recruiting Center (M.E.R.C.) as an alternate provider with its own membership. The locals who can be recruited for dirt-cheap salaries (with stats to match) and the rebels (who are seconded to your force without pay) are not mercenaries, however.
    • That A.I.M has very strict standards, they won't even think about hiring or lending mercs to people with criminal backgrounds or Child Soldiers. The events of the first two games in the series seemed to have lent them a strong degree of international legitimacy as well, so they don't seem to be willing to hire their mercenaries out to morally unscrupulous individuals. When the legendary ex-A.I.M. merc Mike shows up partway through Jagged Alliance 2, the other A.I.M. mercs respond to him by calling him a "traitor" for working with someone as out-and-out evil as Deidrianna.
    • In-game, many of the antagonists you end up fighting are also mercenaries. Lucas' red-shirt wearing goons in the first game are all mercenaries he's hired to wrest control of the fallow trees, and Deidrianna's troops in the third are an even mixture of fanatically loyal soldiers, conscripts, and mercenaries. As the game progresses, Deidrianna begins to rely more and more on professional mercenaries to make up for the fact that many of her people are rebelling and her poorly-trained and poorly-armed conscripts have been regularly slaughtered by your own mercs.
  • Perfect Dark has an excessively large security division of the dataDyne hyper-corporation, which is contracted to an alien race (albeit somewhat unwillingly), as well as the protagonists workplace, Carrington Institute. The sequel and extended universe adds the contractable security sectors of another two hypercorps; Zentek and Core-Mantis Omniglobal.
  • C.E.L.L. from Crysis 2 are portrayed as both incompetent and unprofessional compared to the Marine forces. They fail to effectively fight the Alien Invasion (granted, they were originally hired to quell riots and fend off the occasional alien raiding force while the marines fought the real invasion), attempt to kill the protagonist simply because of a grudge their commander has on the guy he thinks he is, and blatantly refuse to follow orders to stand down from their corporate CEO, just to get their vengeance on the protagonist. That said, we still see them gain some small victories against the much more advanced aliens when forced to fight, and they're very dangerous on a tactical level against even the superpowered protagonist. At the start of the third act, the Marines disarm and arrest most of them. In the third game, they control the world's energy supply with technology looted from the aliens.
  • Far Cry:
    • In Far Cry 2, the main enemies of the game are members of two PMCs, augmenting the local forces of each faction. The APR hired American PMC MacGrudder-Powell, while the UFLL hired Bastion UK.
    • Hoyt Volker's Privateers in Far Cry 3. As his personal merc army, they maintain a "military occupation" style stranglehold on Rook Island's southern island for him, while safeguarding his human trafficking/drug manufacturing organization. They certainly look the part, and their equipment and tactics are a cut above that of both your native allies and the pirates you've been fighting for most of the game.
    • Far Cry 4's Royal Guard, the Elite Mooks in charge of northern Kyrat, are implicitly stated to be foreign mercenaries, mostly of Chinese origin.
  • Browser-based nation sim Cyber Nations uses this as the source of soldiers; they don't come from your population, which tends to be convenient at times.
  • In Final Fantasy VIII, most of the playable characters, including the hero Squall Leonhart, are part of the PMC organization called SeeD. It was originally founded for more noble purposes, but turned to hiring out its soldiers in order to bring in enough capital to keep operating, and soon lost track of its intended purpose.
    • In Final Fantasy VII, Cloud is ostensibly a mercenary for the first hour or so. We find out later in the story that this is meant to be taken almost literally.
    • Final Fantasy VII's SOLDIER is itself technically a PMC, as it is run by the Shinra Electric Power Company, a megacorp that has largely assumed government of Midgar.
  • In F.E.A.R., the Armacham Technology Corporation intends to market its Replica soldiers as a PMC. Armacham also keeps a small army of heavily-armed mercenaries as part of both their Security division and their Black Operations division; the former protects Armacham assets while the latter eliminates threats and cleans up evidence of their extensive misdeeds.
    • Senator David Hoyle gets his own in F.E.A.R.: Perseus Mandate to help him do a little ATC shoplifting. They call themselves the Nightcrawlers. Apparently, they're a free-standing army.
  • In Aliens vs. Predator 2, the General Rykov's Iron Bears are mercenaries being employed by the science team on LV1201, involved in morally dubious operations. After the arrival of the Colonial Marines, they attempt to strand them deep within the Alien hive while Rykov and the Predator stalk each other.
  • The Armored Core series seems to have moved away from an official PMC as of Armored Core 4, making the player more of a private mercenary for hire. There's still an organization of some sort backing the player, but it's only alluded to, never really discussed in detail.
    • Collared is pretty much just the Lynx's hangout, as its members are already sold to specific corporations or are freelancers. The organization is pretty much tradition by this point.
  • Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando featured the "Thugs-4-Less" organization. One of their slogans pretty much says it all: "You bring the cash, we'll bring the thrash."
  • Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War has beleaguered Ustio hire mercenaries to bolster their forces. You, Cipher, are one of them. Admittedly, though, no organizations are outright named. In Ace Combat: Joint Assault, player character Antares is a newcomer to Martinez Security, another one of these.
    • The Scarface squadron from the first two games seems to be one of these, as well.
    • Ace Combat Infinity's campaign starts the player out as a new arrival to a company called "Arrows Air Defense and Security", flying as the new number four for their Bone Arrow squadron.
  • In Team Fortress 2 the world is secretly controlled by two holding companies. Each company has a branch dedicated to this trope, and both of them employ the nine playable classes to try to destroy the other company.
  • In Air Rivals/Ace Online, players start as mercenaries under FreeSKA and only decide which of the two sides to join at level 11.
  • The GUARDIANS Security Corporation from Phantasy Star Universe is a combination of this and Law Enforcement, Inc.., but with A Lighter Shade of Grey.
  • The Mercenaries Guild, from Privateer.
  • General Shepherd's Shadow Company from Modern Warfare 2 have most of the trappings of PMCs, though the SOCOM emblems they wear make their true nature somewhat difficult to discern. Modern Warfare 3 likewise has the Russian Loyalist faction assisting you for half of the game treated as one of these; in multiplayer, they're just called "PMC", where they're matched up against African Militiamen.
    • On the other hand, Menendez's troops in Call of Duty: Black Ops II are explicitly PMC's. Unlike Shadow Company and many other examples, they are not Americans, but former Cuban special forces operators who went mercenary. Which makes sense in context, really, given both Menendez's hatred of America and his own Latin American heritage. However, although they are clearly Cuban mercs being led by Menendez in the campaign, in the multiplayer they are led by a presumably American CO with a gruff voice, and the soldier chatter is all done with a distinctly Australian accent. That in and of itself may have something to do with DeFalco, Menendez's Dragon who has a British accent.
    • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare's backstory states that after a massive terrorist uprising, the world's use of PMC forces rose sharply as the government-fielded militaries had proven ineffective. The largest of these is the Atlas Corporation, who by the time of the game is the single largest standing army in the world, governmental or otherwise.
  • The Mass Effect universe is filled with various mercenary groups, such as the Blue Suns, Eclipse, and Blood Pack. These groups make up a significant portion of the second game's enemies, as it takes place in a region of space outside of Citadel jurisdiction.
    • Wrex in the first game was a mercenary and bounty hunter for centuries before he teamed up with Shepard.
    • Zaeed Massani is a mercenary, the co-founder of the Blue Suns, and one of the toughest characters in your party.
    • Furthermore, each of these companies has their own distinct styles. Eclipse, for example, makes heavy use of asari Vanguards, salarian Engineers, and mechs. The Blue Suns use elite squads of heavily-armed human, turian, and batarian soldiers. Blood Pack use regenerating vorcha and krogan troops, and a hefty amount of flamethrowers.
    • It is worth noting that in addition to standard PMC jobs, the majority of the mercenary organizations in the setting also run large-scale criminal enterprises as well. As a result, a lot of the mercenary groups are also effectively heavily-armed, militarized versions of The Mafia. In one neighborhood this is made explicit when a recording notes the Blue Suns regularly collected protection money.
      • One notable subversion is the Talon mercenary unit from Mass Effect 3: Omega. Originally they were a small-time outfit on the eponymous station that was just as terrible as all the rest (but not as numerous). Then Cerberus invaded and Nyreen Kandros seized on them as the core of La Résistance. By the time Shepard and Aria show up, the Talons are more selfless and disciplined than some of the setting's actual standing armies.
    • Mass Effect 3: Citadel also had the CAT6 mercenaries, named after the Alliance's "Category 6" discharges (dishonorable discharges due to either substance abuse or mental stress). They're frighteningly well equipped with customized Cerberus equipment, and are even stronger than the already-formidable soldiers they ape (because there are millions of Cerberus mooks, and only a few hundred of them).
    • Various minor groups are present in the background. One group consisting of a couple dozen armed thugs, the Grim Skulls, are wiped out by Saren Arterius in the Mass Effect: Revelations prequel novel. Another, the Grim Angels, was one of the many groups that Zaeed Massani ran with... they all died. Small groups like this act as the antagonists of several side missions in Mass Effect and Mass Effect: Andromeda, usually being so irrelevant that they don't even get names.
    • Technically all of the multiplayer characters in Mass Effect 3 are paid by the job. In some cases, they're serving members of an allied government (humans, turians, asari, salarians, geth, quarians) and paying them just simplifies the supply lines a little. In others, such as the batarians, vorcha, and volus, they're more motivated by the money than anything else.
  • Splinter Cell had a few: Armed Guardian Services (ARGUS), Shetland's Displace International, and Conviction added the Black Arrow company. There's also a more heroic example in Paladin Nine Security, the PMC run by Sam's friend Victor Coste, who assists Sam throughout Conviction.
  • Fire Emblem has a number of mercenaries within the games.
    • Notable are the Greil Mercenaries in Fire Emblem Tellius, of which main character Ike is a member. They fall under the "mercenary company" heading, working for the side they think is right even when working for the other side would mean greater profits.
    • In a few games, entire countries hire out their military forces, because their land is unsuitable for farming and mercenary work keep the country afloat. Starting with Thracia's Dragon Rider army, they're usually flying units, and even their royalty are mercenaries.
  • Magoichi Saika's group (their Japanese name Saika-shu literally means "Saika group") in the Samurai Warriors games. Most prominently shown in the second game, where in Magoichi's story the "Saika Mercenaries" first fight alongside Oda Nobunaga at Anegawa the behest of Magoichi's friend, then against Nobunaga at the next battle. Once he's on the other end of their guns, Nobunaga does not take this well.
  • War Craft III: Mercs can be hired from camps, and mercenary heroes, in the expansion, from tavenrs. Mercs can be quite useful in story missions as when you aren't given the means to make more of your troops but are still picking up money they can fill in gaps in your forces and in skirmishes as they can give you access to spells normally reserved for another faction.
  • Bladestorm The Hundred Years War has the player as an up-and-coming mercenary working for the English and the French in the eponymous war. Although there's no official group or organization monitoring the mercenaries, there are a lot of them working in sort of a loose-knit coalition, such that even facing off against a mercenary on the battlefield doesn't mean you can't be friends. Kicking the snot out of the English or French King, on the other hand...
  • In Civilization III, the Carthaginians and Dutch have Numidian and Swiss mercenaries as their respective special units.
  • The Total War series often has mercenaries available for purchase, justified given the time periods and subject. The upside is that mercenary units are typically much better than the levies you'll be using in the early game, join your forces instantly, and can include specialized units based on where you're recruiting from. The tradeoff is their high upkeep, limited availability, and of course the fact that your opponents can hire them too.
  • In Assassin's Creed II, Ezio can hire squads of condottieri troops to assist him in battle. They can't parkour around on rooftops, but they are very tough and carry heavy weapons, making them superior to most of the city guard. In addition, they allow Ezio to make flanking moves and attack enemy troops from behind, which are one-hit-kills.
    • The majority of the enemies in both Assassin's Creed II and Brotherhood are also condotierri working for the Borgia family. There's also a distinct visual difference between the Borgia mercenaries and the condotierri working for Mario Auditore and Bartolomeo (and, by extension, the Assassins).
    • In Assassin's Creed III, the player can run into Hessians, who are considered elite mooks. The player themselves is stated to be a privateer working for the Colonials during the naval missions.
  • In Strike Commander, PMCs have become quite powerful, and operate their own armoured and airborne vehicles. They work for different nations to augment armies and carry out percision strikes. The player belongs to one such unit that specializes in F-16 fighter jets. The game takes you all around the world as your squad assists in other countries' wars. Stocking inventory for your squad means buying Sidewinder missiles and laser-guided bombs, among other things.
  • In Red Faction, once the player character and his comrades have killed most of the Ultor security guards, Ultor brings in "mercenaries" for backup. It's mostly an excuse for the Mooks to get tougher, and to start dropping cooler guns when you kill them.
  • A recurring theme in the MechWarrior series. Both Mechwarrior 2 and 4 have an Expansion Pack that casts the Player Character as the commanding officer of a small mercenary organization. The expansion packs add a layer of openness to the traditionally linear games, allowing the player to take sides in conflicts (such as the Steiner vs. Davion civil war in Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries) and betray (or be betrayed by) their clients. Both the spinoff games, Mech Commander and MechAssault cast the player as a mercenary.
  • In Batman: Arkham City, new Mayor Quincy Sharp has bought out part of Gotham and walled it off to serve as a replacement prison/nuthouse for Blackgate and Arkham Asylum after the events of the previous game. It is policed by a PMC called "Tyger", which is a perfect example of the villainous corporate mercenaries subtype. They are ordered to kill anyone who tries to escape, commit Police Brutality (though it's hard to feel sorry for, say, Black Mask) and at the same time let the inmates free to do whatever they want to each others (at one point deciding not to investigate a murder where the victim had his face cut off while he was still alive), are willing to kidnap innocents in plain sight and in front of journalists and throw them in Arkham City without any sort of trial, and in the end they partake in the culling of Arkham City, and seem to be really into it. However, it's revealed that the reason why they committed these actions was because they were brainwashed, making it a subversion.
  • In the campaign on StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty you can hire mercenaries in the Hyperion from Graven Hill, who hangs out in the tavern drinking mai tais. Mercenary units are much tougher than their regular counterparts, can be purchased from the Merc Compound, and are created instantly, but have a limited pool per mission. Examples include everything from Hammer Securities, who are corporate professionals that provide their specially modified Marauder armor and troops to use them, to the Hel's Angels, pirate fighter pilots who do some mercenary work on the side, to the Jackson's Revenge, an old battlecruiser that some say is cursed. Some of these mercenaries used to be former Dominion and Confederate forces eking a living.
    • Raynor's Raiders, the player's forces, also do some mercenary work to fund their revolution against Mengsk. Mostly retrieving Xel'naga artifacts for the Moebius Foundation.
    • There is also a mission where you have to collect enough minerals to hire a merc before the enemy does.
  • The Veteran Combat Initiative in Alpha Protocol. They can end up as your allies or your enemies — or one and later the other — depending on your choices. They're mostly evil though, being comprised of dishonorably discharged veterans.
    • Of the course the main plot of the game involves a PMC named Halbech, which is behind the game's conspiracy.
  • South African Vermaak 88 from inFAMOUS 2, by the time the game starts, news reports mention they're the largest and most lucrative private army in the world. Bertrand uses Kuo's conduit gene to turn them into the "Ice men" and intends to use the now insane and superpowered mercenaries to inspire genocide towards conduits by selling them to world leaders as weapons of war.
  • PMCs are ubiquitous in the year 2027 portrayed in Deus Ex: Human Revolution and also play a significant role in the plot. The one that plays the largest role in the game is Belltower Associates, a British PMC that has taken over as the police of Hengsha, a Chinese two-tiered city, and serves as security for Tai Yong Medical, who pretty much own the city as well. Both the leadership of Belltower and TYM are members of the Illuminati, too, and the Spec Ops troops are part of a covert Belltower unit. Amusingly, Belltower is also contracted out to the Australian government to fight in their civil war against separatists who are backed by China, which causes a lit of tension between Belltower's executives and the Chinese government.
    • Incidentally, while Belltower comes across as an Expy of Blackwater, background material indicates that the company was founded as a result of Blackwater's breakup.
    • The comparison between Belltower and Blackwater becomes even stronger in the sequel, when, hit by the one-two punch of both the Aug Incident and Jensen helping expose their illegal detention camp in the DLC, Belltower is forced to downsize and rename themselves "Tarvos Security Services" to escape it's bad press, much like how Blackwater re-branded itself as XE Services and, later, Academi.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • The Fighters Guild, an organization of "warriors-for-hire" who operate throughout most of Tamriel. The Guild is chartered by Empire of Tamriel to provide training and employment to citizens of the martial persuasion. The Guild got it start during the reign of the Akaviri Potentate Versidue-Shaie, who dissolved and outlawed the private armies of nobles throughout the Empire. Given that the citizens of Tamriel still had a need for protective services beyond what the Imperial Legions could provide and that there was a need to prevent thousands of unemployed soldiers from straying into brigandry, Versidue-Shaie ordered the formation of the Syffim (the Tsaesci word for "soldier"), the group that would eventually become the Fighters Guild. Fighters Guild Halls can accept contracts from any citizen of the empire, as long as it does not violate any laws or customs. These most often involve dealing with dangerous wild animals, collecting bounties on criminals, protection and bodyguard services, and, at the highest levels, dealing with supernatural threats including vampires, necromancers, and Daedra worshipers.
    • Oblivion takes a rather unsubtle swipe at this trope with the Blackwoods Company, an Evil Counterpart to the Fighters Guild. They are a group of mercenaries who are undercutting the Fighters Guild by taking their contracts for cheaper and then cheating on them for profit. They are also much more ruthless in fulfilling their contracts, not above using hallucinogens to make the Guild massacre an innocent village.
    • The Companions in Skyrim are a regional variant that operates only within Skyrim. (Due to their presence, the Fighters Guild stays out of Skyrim.) The Companions trace their organization back to the original 500 Companions of Ysgramor, who slaughtered Skyrim's native Falmer (Snow Elves) and claimed Skyrim for the Atmorans (ancestors of the Nords). They fulfill many of the duties that the Fighters Guild performs in other territories.
  • Peacekeepers International in Call of Juarez: The Cartel, an Expy of Blackwater. Their CEO, Michael Duke is a Corrupt Corporate Executive who started selling high-end firearms to the Mendoza cartel after PI went bankrupt following an incident where they bombed a children's hospital in Iraq.
  • The Warsworn in Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning are a faction of honorable mercenaries that make up a good chunk of the forces fighting against the Tuatha. The Warsworn were originally formed to hunt down the Niskaru, but they were forced to become hired swords to make ends meet.
  • While all the major corporations in the X-Universe series operate their own warfleets, most fleets are purely for protecting their own supply chains. The only true PMC in the bunch is the Split Strong Arms.
  • The eponymous Star Fox team are mercenaries fighting for the Cornerian military. After the credits of Star Fox 64, the team is paid a check for how many enemies they've fragged multiplied by 64.
    • The games also feature rival mercenary team Star Wolf.
  • In DUST 514, an upcoming FPS tie-in to EVE Online, the player characters will be immortal clone soldiers turned mercenary. EVE players will be able to hire them to defend or seize planetary assets.
  • The Shop in the Soldier of Fortune series.
  • The Murkywater mercenaries, inspired by the real life counterpart Blackwater, show up as enemies in one level in PAYDAY The Heist. They're no more resilient than a SWAT unit, but they have better reaction time and accuracy. They become more prominent in PAYDAY 2, featuring as enemies in more heists, including "Shadow Raid" where they're shown (or at least mentioned by Bain) to have a hand in a lot of dirty business - up to and including funding terrorists with drug money, and "Meltdown", where they have access to, of all things, nuclear warheads.
  • Your player character can become one early in Dragon Age II; the other choice is to join a smuggling gang. In both cases, the shady organization is keeping the Hawke siblings as indentured servants for a year in payment for sneaking you into Kirkwall after you've fled your homeland.
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition has (potentially) two groups of mercenaries run by main characters: Bull's Chargers, run by the Iron Bull, and the Valo-Kas Mercenary Company, run by a Vashoth Inquisitor. Both groups are examples of 'good' mercenaries; they screen their clients, scrupulously operate within the law, and adhere to codes of conduct regarding fair treatment of prisoners and fellow mercenaries. The Chargers have taken jobs from nobles to wipe out rival nobles, but hey, that's nobility for you. A Vashoth Inquisitor and Iron Bull can occasionally talk shop about the mercenary life.
  • The Kinect game Blackwater, based on the Real Life PMC group. One review condemned using them despite heavy praise for the earlier Mercenaries.
  • Merryweather, in Grand Theft Auto V. They are essentially a Blackwater expy, and Trevor mentions they've been cleared some time before the event of the game to operate on American soil and as it turns out, for the purpose of providing guard duty for a nuke. In a subversion, they're not immediately hostile to the protagonists, nor are they specifically hired against them until the final mission with option C "Deathwish". Trevor simply demolishes their operations on three separate and increasingly spectacular occasions, and afterward they switch to It's Personal, crashing an already-complicated Mexican Standoff / Blast Out involving Michael (and Trevor promptly joins after it begins), then go after the protagonists in the final heist, even if apparently nobody paid them for that.
  • Several 'corporates' exist in Vector Thrust- examples include APEX Solutions, a relatively small company focused mainly on logistics and aerial power, and Samson Strategic Services, one of the largest PMCs in the world offering a massive range of logistical, tactical and force application power to anybody capable of affording its services. Worth noting is that while some PMCs are depicted as the stereotypical Blood Knights itching to make a profit by any means possible, there are just as many companies concerned with their ethical and social imagery in the public eye and maintain a strict sense of justice and discipline in their employees.
  • The New Conglomerate in PlanetSide 2 is a collection of Mega Corps, libertarians, mercenaries, and pirates. The Terran Republic at one point had mercenaries, until they were all executed for treason.
  • The "IMC" faction in Titanfall are the field operatives of Hammond Robotics, a Mega-Corp out to squash the resistance on the "Frontier worlds" that they have a vested interest in. Their enemies are the Militias of the Frontier.
  • Titanfall 2 adds two more PMCs.
    • The 6-4 who are badass consummate professionals and have a reputation for taking contracts for less money by working for the underdog in a conflict, in this case they are employed by The Militia.
    • The Apex Predators who are equally badass and substantially less nice, they work for the IMC and make up all of the bosses the protagonist fights throughout the single player campaign.
  • The Crimson Lance in Borderlands was this to the Atlas Corporation, actively seeking the Eridian technology in Pandora. In Borderlands 2, Hyperion is powerful enough to not only have a huge robot army, but a private army consisting of soldiers that can deploy turrets, snipers with ridiculous accuracy and Infiltrators that can cloak and attack you with their shotguns. And in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!, Dahl is revealed to have a Space Marine private army, and a Legion is big enough to take control of an entire space station, complete with ten-foot-tall mechs, turrets and jet fighters.
    • All the 8 corporations are implied to have their own private army. Aside from Hyperion, Atlas and Dahl, we only get to see Torgue's biker army in a DLC.
    • The Vault Hunters themselves could be considered a heroic example-they don't work for any of the corporations but for themselves and their friends, and will do anything for money, from delivering messages to crashing a wake. Wilhelm in particularly was explicitly stated to be the best merc in the galaxy before he botched a job that tarnished his reputation.
  • Crusader Kings has a lot of mercenary companies, many of them based on historical examples as seen under Real Life, that can be hired, very expensively, if you need extra troops or galleys. Under certain circumstances they can be landed, and a few can be vassalized. But, once you run out of gold they'll send a message regretfully informing you that they have to cancel their contract.
  • In Imperium Nova Houses that operate in the Military sphere can hire out their military units as mercenaries, and they can specify which House can hire them if they don't want them used against them, or want to use a weaker House as a proxy. They don't take time to train and use the tech level of their founding House, but they cost anywhere from 10 to 250% more than training the units yourself.
  • Bombshell's protagonist is ex-military and working for a mercenary outfit. Her departure from the military was nominally a honorable discharge, but she had a big cloud hanging over her due to a particularly prominent failure which cost her her an arm and her team. She considers the mercenary outfit (and the new arm they gave her) to be her second chance.
  • In WildStar the Exile Free Companies are Granok mercenaries who were driven off their homeworld by their Elders for breaking "The Way of Stone" and using Dominion technology to fight off their invasion. Now they serve as the Exiles de facto standing army but will fight for anyone (except the Dominion) if the price is right.
  • The Last Man Battalion in The Division were a Private Military Company operating in New York City to keep order following the outbreak of Green Poison, but went rogue when their extreme methods of peacekeeping caused rifts between them and government forces, resulting in LMB turning a considerable chunk of east Midtown Manhattan into their own little fiefdom.
  • One of the factions in Pandora: First Contact (unofficial Spiritual Sequel to Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri) is called Imperium (formerly Empire Management). It's a PMC that has risen to Mega-Corp levels thanks to its partnership with the Noxium Corporation, known as the Ceres Cartel. After Noxium develops interstellar colony ships, Admiral Heid, the leader of Imperium, dissolves the partnership and absconds with the first ship, intent on getting to the newly-discovered habitable world in order to keep Imperium involved in all of humanity's conflicts, wherever they may be. They are the Expy of SMAC's Spartan Federation: strong military with poor economy and science.
  • Evolve has numerous groups employed by the gigacorps such as Hightower and Orion Secure Solutions. The group seen in game is Ebonstar Tactical Solutions, the hired guns of Nordita. Several of the maps (Armory, Barracks, King's Fort, Wraith Trap) are Ebonstar facilities and you can make use of some of their equipment in the Evacuation campaign.
  • Fallout:
    • Fallout 3 has the Talon Company Mercs, who pop up occasionally in the Capital Wasteland, usually fighting other factions such as super mutants or scavenging in pre-war tech buildings. If you play a good karma aligned character and finish the "Power of the Atom" quest in favor of Megaton, Mr. Burke will send them after you as well.
    • Fallout 4 features the Gunners, a group of semi-professional mercenaries with good equipment, disciplined ranks, and exactly zero morals; stand in their way, and you will go down. If you have enough money to pay their price, they'll do anything, from raiding old pharmaceutical companies for experimental drugs to stealing eggs from a Deathclaw nest. One potential companion, MacCready, is a former Gunner who joined for the money, but grew so disgusted with their kill-happy ways he leaves them to strike out on his own. They are not happy with his choice.
  • The titular Brigadors from Brigador are this mixed with Villain Protagonist and Punch-Clock Villain
  • Throughout the Uncharted series, Nathan Drake and his friends frequently fight against entire private armies that have been hired by the main villains to help them search for lost cities and hidden treasures around the world.
  • Girls' Frontline has several with the player working for Grifon & Kryuger Security Firm and fighting against the rouge forces of Sangvis Ferri Industrial Manufacturing Company, Ltd. However, both companies have few (in SF's case) no human commanders and workers. Most of the heavy lifting is handled by Tactical-Dolls, Autonomous Dolls reprogrammed from their civilian versions to serve as soldiers. One such T-Doll is Springfield, who are both domestic servants/housewives in the civilian sector and riflemen for GnK, using Springfield bolt-action rifles.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey: Jack's Squad falls neatly in the corporate mercenary mold. They are a platoon of guns-for-hire send by an unknown third party to investigate the Schwarzwelt with an "eye for development" (read: "profit and wealth"). Worth noting that their cross-dimensional mobile base, the ''Lighting'', is far more powerful than the other ships of the U.N. Schwarzwelt Investigational Team, being able to create a Pocket Dimension where the squad's HQ is located. The game explicit compare it to a fully customized and tuned out vehicle whereas the other ships are cars straight from the assembly line. Pretty much all the members except for Captain Jack are incredibly rude and greedy trigger-happy psychos who readily admit to your face that they are looking for excuses to fill you with lead.
  • The InGen Mercenaries in Jurassic Park: The Game, in contrast to the movies, are mostly decent if cold folks who are Just Following Orders: they genuinely want to help, and even seem to feel guilty for their role in driving the Isla Sorna natives off the island. Billy's decision to betray InGen is fueled mostly by knowing they don't give a damn about their hired guns and certainly won't care about their deaths, and his outright Face–Heel Turn to villainy is largely the result of Oscar's death and snapping under the pressure of Dr. Laura Sorkin's increasingly stupid and short-sighted actions that led to the gruesome deaths of the other mercenaries, particularly his buddy D-Caf.
  • Kiseki Series has Jaeger Corps, who are effectively PMCs that vary between the classic mercenary companies or corporate mercenary folds and are typically dealt with as antagonists. They traditionally have an intense rivalry with the Bracer Guild due to the conflicting nature of their line of work (Bracers are independent warriors dedicated to helping and protecting civilians).
  • The 2018 BattleTech video game features Markham's Marauders, the Player Character's mercenary company. They're presented as a small-time, company-sized outfit that mostly do jobs in the Periphery, and one out of many merc companies in the Inner Sphere. The Marauders (canonically) served the Aurigan Restoration during the Aurigan Civil War, and provided employment and training for several MechWarriors-in-exile that would later go on to serve in the royal guard of the Aurigan Coalition.
    • The Grey Death Legion (see the tabletop section) also makes an appearance during a Flashpoint and as part of a recurring event where they'll headhunt one of your MechWarriors.

  • The Lancers of Project 0 fall on the corporate mercenary side
  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • Tagon's Toughs are one group in a universe full of them. Notable in that they have an In-Universe reputation as vaguely ethical semi-skilled suckers with milliseconds of genius who will gladly take almost anything if the money is good and are willing to let people get away with suckering them as long as they're paid well. In many cases this is actually their selling point; Crazy Awesome, Hot-Blooded, Lower-Class Louts who are Only in It for the Money and will hit any Acceptable Targets you ask them to, Never Hurt an Innocent, and put up with all manner of abuse as long as they get to choose their own deployment, armament and payment.
    • "Pranger's Bangers", on the other hand, are Consummate Professionals who are considered much more skilled than the Toughs. They just lack their luck and Crazy Awesomeness. It's notable that when the Toughs ended up fighting the Bangers in an alternate timeline, the Toughs accidentally ambushed the Bangersnote , killed their boss and all his elite troopsnote , and then went on to survive several revenge attacks. Don't underestimate the value of good luck.
    • "Sanctum Adroit" are much more Lawful-aligned than the Toughs; they've built a reputation on respecting the letter of the law in all their operations - even the client has to beware if they catch them breaking the law.
    • There are numerous single, independent antagonists that function more like bounty hunters.
  • The Majan Hunters of Cry Havoc are just one of many mercenary companies, known in universe as 'dogs of war'. These companies are seemingly used to support small national armies.
  • The 1st Investment Recovery Battalion from My Life At War are one of a few mercenary companies. They seem to be rather professional mostly used for heavy-duty corporate security.
  • The CORE in S.S.D.D was a company of mallcops before society collapsed. Now they're a vast army for hire that can conscript troops from client nations and has replaced many states armed forces and is one of the few things keeping the Collective of Anarchist States from conquering the rest of the world.

    Web Original 
  • Netland`s TOAST Industries contracts out its own internal force group, as well as selling hardware to other PMCs (and the PCs).
  • In Darwin's Soldiers, Pelvanida guards are explicitly stated to from an unnamed private security company. And they carry some serious firepower.
  • Red vs. Blue has the aptly named Project Freelancer as the focus for much of the series' backstory. Additionally, the group of Insurrectionists the program was at war with was revealed to be a UNSC splinter group acting as a private security force for Charon Industries.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • A lot of modern military contractors, at least those operating in Western countries, are somewhat of a subversion of the trope in the sense that they are not really capable of doing what a real military does: they are more of glorified, heavy-duty security guards without the means to engage in "real" combat where heavy military equipment is involved. The Other Wiki has a list of some of the most notable examples.
    • This may be in part because of the United Nations Mercenary Convention, which prohibits the "recruitment, training, use, and financing of mercenaries". Using private military contractors for offensive operations would arguably be a violation of international law. However, China, France, India, Japan, Russia, the UK, and the US are not signatories to the treaty.

Currently active

  • Academi, formerly Xe Services LLC, Blackwater Worldwide, and Blackwater USA. Should be noted that it's their actions, command structure, and actions of their chairman and CEO, Erik Prince (a former Navy SEAL), that separates themselves from more mundane contractors. That, and the mind-boggling extent of both the access to equipment and the variety of businesses that they have. Ironically, though they were perhaps most notorious for their security work (and allegedly fighting alongside coalition military forces in Iraq in the 2004 Battle of Najaf), their chairman/CEO would eventually announce a scaling back of that work (due to the criticisms) in favor of the other services. Blackwater's also interesting in that they're one of the few mercenary companies to have been deployed in America. After Hurricane Katrina, they actually arrived ahead of the National Guard.
  • G4S deserves special mention for being the 3rd-largest private employer in the world as of 2012 (and have reached 2nd place as of 2016, behind only Walmart).
  • This video provides a quick overview of the 7 largest PMCs in the world as of 2016. Both Academi and G4S are on that list.
  • Chinese PMCs are rather new: private security companies were heavily restricted in China until the government relaxed the relevant laws in 2010. Since then, they have been very active in recent years; this is a result of them heavily investing in African infrastructure (e.g. hospitals, airports, schools, mines) in some extremely volatile places like Sudan. One of the bigger names in this industry is Shandong Huawei Security Group. The "One Belt, One Road" initiative to open up new trade routes for China across Central Asia and the Indian Ocean has also proved to be a boon for Chinese security services providers.
  • The Russian Wagner Group is possibly one of these. Allegedly they are used by the Russian government to provide forces for allies in conflicts where it suits them to have plausible deniability, but aside from the (quite sensationalist) media stories there is little proof of them even actually existing. One of their reported feats was having been brazen enough to launch an attack on a US base in Syria, which was said to end poorly for them. They've also been purportedly active in Eastern Ukraine, Syria, Sudan, and the Central African Republic in recent years.

Historical/Defunct examples

  • A well-known example is the private firm Executive Outcomes, which contracted its former South African soldiers to win wars, not fight them. The firm, based in Africa, was responsible for several contracted wars, in which other firms that were owned by EO's parent company gained access to oil fields, diamond mines, and the like. Executive Outcomes folded in 1999, but the majority of its operators and equipment were shuffled around into other private military firms owned by the parent corporation. To add to the irony, while most of EO's members (at least initially) were ex-military of the Apartheid Era South Africa, one of their first clients was the anti-apartheid MPLA government of Angola against which they had fought during the Apartheid. EO was even pitted against their former allies, the UNITA rebels. Money is God indeed.
  • UK firm Sandline International was another case of a real-life Private Military Company, and had close links with Executive Outcomes. After it shut down, most of the staff went on to form Aegis Defence Services. Check Sandline's (still exisiting) website and check their company profile which reveals some interesting tidbits such as that Sandline will work for. Their involvement in the situation in Sierra Leone, including the coup against Kabbah, was a source of embarrassment to former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook in 1998.
  • Mercenary armies were used during the Congo Crisis and Biafra War, with several mercenaries rising to fame such as Bob Denard, 'Mad Mike' Hoare and Rolf Steiner.
  • The Flying Tigers were American pilots who were effectively hired out to the Chinese to fight Japan shortly before the outbreak of World War II.
  • In the Spanish Civil War, both the Loyalists and Nationalists employed mercenaries (particularly the Condor Legion, which bore the same relationship to the Nazi military machine that the Flying Tigers bore to the US military). Fighter and bomber pilots especially were highly sought-after.
  • George MacDonald Fraser, in Quartered Safe Out Here, tells of a British officer who recruited local tribesmen to harass the Japanese during WWII. Similar types were generally known in the partisan war and espionage game as they always have been.
  • As late as World War I, it was considered acceptable for officers to take a leave of absence to go off and fight in someone else's war, provided one didn't fight for one's own country's enemies or their allies. It was considered a valuable way to inject some combat experience into what would otherwise be a purely peacetime officer corps, as well as build up some goodwill on the sly, while still being technically a private venture, and as such completely deniable.
  • In 19th and early 20th Century America, corporations would sometimes field a virtual army of mercenaries to break strikes and enforce their interests.
    • The Pinkertons were the most notorious and powerful example, to the point that they outgunned the U.S. military during the Homestead Strike, ultimately leading to the Anti-Pinkerton act in 1893.
    • Coal and Iron Police of Pennsylvania were another notorious example: although commissioned by the state legislature, they sold the right to appoint officers individual mine and foundry operators (who would then hire whomever they wanted, usually thugs who would work cheaply). They were primarily used as particularly brutal strike breakers but had full arrest powers on company property. They also served as political muscle for the large industrial interests, which was a factor (along with a number of assaults, rapes, and murders) that led to their disbanding by order of the governor in 1931. The Coal and Iron Police existed alongside the Pennsylvania State Police (which initially only had jurisdiction over rural areas) for 25 years but had more effective power prior to that date.
  • The Russian Civil War had various foreign mercenary units, sometimes formed from stranded POW or civilian workers and sometimes former Imperial regular units from seceded territories, who fought for the White and Red sides. The Reds had the Latvian Riflemen and the Chinese International Units. The Whites had the Czech Legion. Since the whole place and time was extremely lawless and unpleasant, most of them were just Bloody Mummers with guns.
  • Foreign mercenaries were common in China between late 19th and early 20th centuries. With the regular armies in disarray, Qing government, at both national and local levels, hired numerous foreign mercenaries to lead its forces against various rebel forces. Some of these, such as American Frederick Townsend Ward, were genuine foreign adventurers seeking profit and adventure, while others, such as British Charles "Chinese" Gordon, were regular military officers instructed by their governments to help the Chinese government survive. After the empire fell and China was divided among numerous warlords, numerous foreign mercenaries were once again recruited to help these armies.
  • The Medieval Italian compagnia di ventura or companies of adventure, which were basically private mercenary armies ready for any city state to hire. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the Italian city-states of Venice, Florence, and Genoa were very rich from their trade with the Levant, yet possessed woefully small national armies. In the event that foreign powers and envious neighbours attacked, the ruling nobles hired domestic and foreign mercenaries to fight for them. The military-service terms and conditions were stipulated in a condotta (contract) between the city-state and the soldiers (officer and enlisted man), thus, the contracted leader, the mercenary captain commanding, was titled the Condottiere. The mercenaries then formed private companies and armies which sold their services to the states. The condottiere armies got much criticism from Niccolò Machiavelli, but in the Real Life they proved to be more competent than usually imagined. (Of course, Machiavelli's real concern wasn't so much with their effectiveness as fighters as the fact that the state's military force was a heavily armed gang loyal only to their last paycheck, thus creating instability; Machiavelli was also a big believer in the ability of a citizen-army to instill virtue in the population, so that had an effect as well. Basically, Machiavelli wanted a state to rely on its own people to fight its wars because they had skin in the game and because having the people defend the country encouraged patriotism.)
  • Modern standing armies were originally collections of mercenary units under permanent contract to a given ruler (not always mercenaries strictly speaking; most were lawful subjects of the ruler, but they served under the same terms). They were usually raised privately by a local noble often from his neighbors. In fact much of the modern traditional ranking system was originally commercial in concept.Colonel for instance originally meant "CEO of a regimentum(regiment), that is a mercenary band with a standing royal contract.
  • For several hundred years, Swiss mercenaries were considered to be the finest soldiers in Europe. They even wore garish outfits so that everyone on the battlefield would know who they were. This is why the Vatican has the Swiss Guard, and why they wear such funny uniforms. Swiss mercenary companies would not fight an enemy force that included another Swiss mercenary company, so national loyalty was apparently more important than money in this case.
  • Another famous Renaissance-era group of mercenaries were the German Landsknechts, who were modeled after and considered the primary rivals of Swiss mercenaries. The Landsknechts used a combination of halberds and pikes, much like the Swiss, but also employed a comparatively larger number of early firearms and artillery. They were also famous for the zweihander, a sword that could be as long as six feet designed to be used like a halberd to fend off multiple enemies and to obstruct enemy pikes. They did not share the Swiss's scruples about fighting their countrymen.
  • Another common source of mercenaries during 17th and 18th centuries was Ireland. Most European Catholic nations during this period had a few units of Irishmen in their armies. This was actually encouraged by the British as every young Irish male with military skills remaining in Ireland was a potential rebel! Descendants of these Irish mercenaries would become heads of states in France (Patrice de MacMahon) and Chile (Bernardo O'Higgins) even before there was an independent Ireland.
  • One common variation known was for a ruler of a small country to simply "rent out" his army to belligerents. These were not strictly mercenaries; the soldiers in them tended to be enlisted in the forces of their lawful prince. However someone enlisting would likely know what he was in for. German states were famous for this; their soldiers were such a good buy and their rulers so willing to deal, and they were often times not busy with a war on their own account as major powers were, and so could spare troops. This is the origin of the infamous "Hessian mercenaries" in The American Revolution.
  • For much of European history, especially in times when Patriotic Fervor was a smaller consideration, it was not considered dishonorable to fight in a foreign army as long as one does not fight against one's own government. When a petty-noble was left unemployed, he would often look for work for a foreign ruler. If he was promoted enough he might even change countries and be remembered in history more by the country he fought for then by the country he was born in.
    • Von Steuben was an example of one of these that took American service during The American Revolution.
    • John Paul Jones, was a Scotsman (and very much anti-English at that), but is most famous for his service to Russian Empire and United States.
    • Prince Eugene of Savoy was Italian but spent his life in the service of the Habsburg monarchy.
  • In the years leading up to The French Revolution, one of the French king's Household Cavalry regiments was known as "Le Royal Suedois" (The Royal Swedish) because all its officers and the bulk of its enlisted men were expatriate Swedes, while the infamous "Royal Allemand" used in the attempt to repress the riots of Paris had its officers and enlisted coming from Germany.
  • The largest private armies in history were perhaps the Presidency armies employed by the Honorable East India Company of Great Britain, which essentially ruled the Indian subcontinent for roughly a century. They were eventually nationalized (along with the rest of the EIC's infrastructure) in the aftermath of the Indian Rebellion of 1857, itself triggered by a series of mutinies among the native soldiers.
  • Another famous example is the Almogavars, infantry shock troops recruited all over the Iberian kingdoms with an origin in the Kingdom of Aragon who were feared for their ferocity and their War Cry, "Awake, iron!", which they would shout as they struck their weapons with a piece of flint, making enormous sparks. A group of them led by Roger de Flor formed the Catalan Company, which was hired to help protect the Byzantine Empire, which they did with great success, but then their leaders were murdered by orders of the Emperor - which led to the Catalan Revenge, a two year long war of revenge and looting. The Almogavar survivors would later move to the Duchy of Athens, but after being denied their pay they went and conquered both the Duchies of Athens and Neopatras.

Alternative Title(s): Private Army, Private Military Contractor, PMC


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