Mercenaries are warriors who fight for a commission.
In the Empire, mercenaries were traditionally scorned both because they forsook service to their country as soldiers in the Imperial Army and because their sale of loyalty to the highest bidder often left them at odds with the local authorities. However, Imperial bureaucrats were known to employ mercenaries and treat them as expendable. The logic behind this was that mercenaries would either die on a mission or complete a mission, either of which would have been a positive result for the Empire. This did not stop the Empire from exiling or executing some mercenaries.
In the Kingdom of Avernum, on the other hand, mercenaries made up a much larger part of the population. Similarly, the Abyss contained many of the more dangerous people of the caves. In the significantly more difficult life underground, versatile and capable people such as mercenaries became integral. Jobs such as protecting merchant caravans and powerful civilians often fell to mercenaries.
Mercenaries can demand wages on par with or higher than those of soldiers, depending on their reputation. Most mercenaries are organized into troupes, granting better protection and offensive power and also making their strength appear more formidable. A mage who travels with mercenaries or who believes in the mercenary ideology of selling loyalty may be called a "rogue mage". Mercenaries are distinguished from bandits in that bandits are recognized as criminals in most states, whereas mercenaries are sometimes tolerated. Bandits also display a blatant disregard for the sovereignty of the state they inhabit, while mercenaries are more likely to obey the law.