The Red Hammers are a mercenary faction with a fortified base and a legion of indentured soldiers. Do you need a recurring enemy faction? Then this might be for you. In the article you’ll find plenty of sellsword NPCs, their main base, and some interesting features of the surrounding area.
At the base of a mountain range sits a caustic wasteland, and at its center sits a smoking fortress. This is the Iron Fortress, home of the Red Hammers. Toxic smoke spews out of the forges, and piles of waste material dot the mountainside. This place is dangerous, even before you account for the inhabitants. Much of the water in the area is poisonous, corrosive or both. A lot of the landscape is unstable, thanks to the mining in the area and the pits filled in with mining waste.
The Red Hammers
The Red Hammers are a mercenary-cult run by Lukas Barrett, a former soldier with delusions of grandeur. They hire out squads of goons to whoever can pay them, and all their payments are funneled back into outfitting troops and fortifying the Iron Fortress, their home base. Their symbol is a crossed pair of forge hammers inside a circle.
Lukas was once a leader in a proper army. He led men into battle and saw success after success, until they came up against a cadre of magic-users. The mages annihilated his troops but, unbeknownst to them, Lukas was still alive. Severely burnt, but alive. As the mages surveyed the bodies, he laid as still as he could, holding back the tears, rage and shame.
When the coast was finally clear, the disfigured Lukas stood and looked at the dead, mangled bodies of those he was supposed to protect. And in his burnt and blistered ear, a voice whispered: “I can make sure you never feel this again. This loss. This pain. All I ask for… is devotion.” This was the voice of Adysus, God of the Forge.
Now, the scarred man sits atop a throne looted from a noble’s house, surveying the Iron Fortress and commanding his army of mercenaries and sell-swords, gathering profit and resources from across the continent.
Adysus, God of the Forge: Adysus is a minor god with dreams of grandeur. He has offered great glory to Lukas if he uses Adysus’ plans and gathers the materials to enact them. Both believe they’re playing the other.
The Five Generals
The Five Generals are Lukas’ primary underlings, taking care of whatever jobs the group is hired for. Each commands a small retinue of specially-trained troops suited to their command style, augmented by normal Red Hammer grunts. It is fairly rare for all five to be at the Iron Fortress at the same time, but if there’s no work, there’s nowhere better for them to be. That said, I recommend picking two that act as good foils for some of the player characters.
Tyolf the Holy, half-angel barbarian. Tyolf is blessed by the blood of an angelic ancestor, which he uses to glow and scream and smash opponents with bright-burning fury. Tyolf leads from the front but tries not to tap into his ancestor’s powers unless absolutely necessary, because it’s hard to lead when your mind is filled with screaming hatred and heavy metal hymnals.
Zundir the Thunder, minotaur. Zundir the Thunder is a large, deep-voiced minotaur who carries a heavy war pick. His years on the battlefield have given him a keen sense of structural design and crowd psychology alike. His commanding style focuses on strong, precise strikes against weak points, whether they be in buildings, people or groups. He always carries a map of whatever area he’s been deployed to, even if it’s the Iron Fortress.
Sh’ran the Spider, elf sorcerer. Sh’ran is an unsettlingly lanky elf. He prefers subtlety, diplomacy and betrayal to abject violence, and leads his troops accordingly. They might lose a fair fight, but they make sure that there are no fair fights.
Thrix the Blood-Mouth, lizardfolk warrior. Thrix is a vicious lizardwoman with no concept of “restraint.” As a commander, she has no need of subtlety or grace, and simply overwhelms her opponents with bloodlust and fury. After a successful mission, she prefers to dine on enemy leadership.
Jacob the Forgemaster, human blacksmith. Jacob is the odd one out of the Five Generals, being permanently stationed in the Iron Fortress. He oversees equipment manufacturing and maintenance, as well as smelting and refinement. He speaks Common with a thick Dwarven accent.
The Iron Fortress
Built into the base of Mt. Warmiotta, The Iron Fortress is a walled compound with a half-dozen buildings, including an iron refinery. Black smoke spews out of the complex at all hours of the day. The exterior of every building in the Iron Fortress is streaked with soot.
The Barracks: A gross, cramped building full of bunk beds. One end of the building has been cleared out to make space for a ramshackle kitchen and dining area.
The Armoury: Half forge, half depot, the Armoury is where the weapons and armour of the Red Hammers are forged and stored. The blacksmiths’ anvils are arranged in a circle around a statue of Adysus.
The Manor: Overlooking the rest of the complex is the Manor, home to Lukas and the Five Generals. The building is two storeys tall and has a cellar below it. The building has six bedrooms, three on each floor, and the cellar is dedicated to an altar to Adysus.
The Refinery: The refinery is a rough building which is constantly spewing smoke. The interior of the building is always hot and noisy, as collared workers turn iron ore and some other components into steel.
The Stable: The stable houses the horses and wagons of the Red Hammers. Neither stays here long, as a constant run of supplies is required to keep the organization fed and functional.
A bear also roams the fortress, lugging supplies around. His name is Rodney.
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Points of Entry
The Front Gates: Never hurts to ask, right? The front gates are large, iron gates opened and closed by a complex system of gears and counterweights. Two guards stand out front at all times, with two more in towers on either side of the gate. The gates remain closed when not in use, and the guards will not allow anyone in without a prior appointment, a substantial bribe, or a truly incredible amount of charisma paired with a believable story about a job.
The Mountain Slope: The mercenaries’ base is built right against the mountain face. They do patrol it, but it may be possible to sneak in above the walls by hiding in the trees of the slope.
The Air Shafts: An enterprising party may decide to climb in through the shafts used to bring fresh air into the mines. Luckily for them, the air shafts here are relatively simple: Straight shafts downwards into the mine. There are two that are large enough to fit an average human, and they are both easy to locate. They both go several hundred meters downwards, though, so be sure to bring rappelling gear.
The warriors of the Red Hammers are a diverse group, with many being picked up by squads on deployment. Every race in the land can be found somewhere among the ranks.
Each mercenary wears a plain metal collar, inscribed with only a number. Once fitted, the collar can only be removed with a magic key the higher-ups hold. This key can also tighten a collar remotely, to the point of killing the wearer. This works by simply pointing it at the right person and saying “Constrict.” Unfortunately, this affects every collar in a narrow cone, so anyone too close to the person being punished also suffers. This was not intended, but serves as a good way to make sure the mercenaries keep each other in line. A collar can be removed by pressing the key against the numbers.
The most basic unit of the Red Hammers’ army is a five-man squad, composed of two swordsman, a hammerman, and two archers. This is their minimum deployment for any job, allowing them to break into buildings, guard territory, and engage from a distance, as required. Below is a fairly typical example.
Reeve, half-orc swordsman. Reeve is a tall man with pale green skin and large, prominent teeth. His ears are large, pointed and lined with various earrings. Most notably, he has a ruby stud in his left earlobe and an ear cuff with a leaf motif on his right ear. He carries a heavy longsword.
Jamys, human swordsman. Jamys is a young, black-haired man with dark brown skin. He carries a rapier and a swordbreaker dagger. He is an exceptionally skilled wilderness scout.
Winnifred, human hammerwoman. Winnifred, or “Winnie” to her friends, is a tall, burly woman with short-cut blonde hair. She carries a war hammer with an axe head on the back side, allowing her to either smash armor or break doors. Or cut wood, if need be. She has a fondness for ale.
Ry, half-elf archer. Ry is a tall, wiry man with short, black hair and white skin. Ry was raised in a hidden elven village, but left to see the wider world. Unfortunately for Ry, he ran across the Red on the road, and was convinced to join. Now, he shoots people for money, and hopes to survive until the end of his contract.
Alenia, elf archer. Alenia is a tall, muscular woman with red, braided hair. Alenia was a bandit before joining up with the Red Hammers, robbing people on the roads and in the woods. She has very little empathy for other people.
Armaments of the Red Hammers
The weapons of the Red Hammers are functional, but not particularly impressive. The standard Red Hammers sword is a two-handed, double-edged weapon with a black cross guard and a leather hilt. The color of the leather varies depending on the source. A fuller runs most of the length of the blade, making it lighter without sacrificing strength.
The standard Red Hammers war hammer has a five foot long shaft, one flat head, and a slightly angled spike on the other. The languettes, which hold the head to the shaft, are made of blackened iron and often decorated by their owners, with cultural symbols or the names of old lovers.
Metal heater shields with the Red Hammers’ symbol on them are also carried by some troops, but these are less common.
The Red Hammers do not produce bows, but have a decent stockpile of captured ones for use by troops.
The Surrounding Area
The village of Eagle’s Harbour sits on the edge of a sizable lake. A dozen or so shacks sit along the coast, roughly following its curve. The buildings are covered in black soot, but here and there spots of bright paint are still visible. The roofs on some buildings have collapsed.
Eagle’s Harbour was once reasonably prosperous, selling fish and fish-derived goods to traders, but the mining activities at the Iron Fortress have left the lake completely dead, forcing the residents to either sign up with the Red Hammers or leave the area.
Every water source within about three miles of the mercenaries’ headquarters is poisoned from the mining and refining activities. It starts with a strange scum on top of the water, then progresses to a thick, green algae bloom. Finally, closest to the base, any still water is perfectly clear. Nothing lives or moves within it, and all the minerals have settled onto the bottom. Standing on the shore of this water for too long will cause one’s lungs to start burning.
Piles of waste rock litter the area around the mines and the base. Some are high up the mountain, overlooking the base, and others are below it. They’re difficult to climb, since the material is loose and irregularly shaped.
The iron veins run beyond the mountain itself and into the surrounding landscape, and as a result many mine shafts and tunnels dot the landscape. These can be viewed either as a hazard to adventurers not watching their footing, or an opportunity for a clever adventurer to get closer to the fortress without being seen… and ideally without getting lost in an unmapped tunnel.
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The Red Hammers as a General Threat
The Red Hammers are a mercenary organization, and as such, some of their troops could show up in almost any conflict. The example squad above could be on patrol or guard duty, and the Red Hammers could be used as a recurring opposition element, with the party occasionally taking down the Generals and finally Lukas himself.
Encounter: The Heirs of Harheim
A group of broke adventurers, gaunt with hunger, walks down the road. A weary mule walks behind them, carrying much of their armor and equipment. They are heading for the Iron Fortress, to enlist as sellswords.
Everyone in this group, save for Fen’Lar, used to live together in a place called “Harheim’s Orphanarium.” Unfortunately, it has since burnt down.
Fen’Lar, elf warrior. Fen’Lar is an elf from a far-off land, who wears armor made from the carapace of a giant beetle. It is an iridescent blue. Fen’Lar speaks in an archaic dialect of Common, which his people believed was still spoken here. Some of his comrades have picked up a few phrases in Elvish, because that was easier than puzzling out the strange “Common” words he uses.
Byvril, aasimar bard. Byvril is a tall, handsome man with dark skin and black dreadlocks. He sings angelic songs and hymnals in celestial tongues, supporting his teammates. He is Vitality’s boyfriend.
Vitality, tiefling sorcerer. Vitality is a violet-skinned tiefling with bison-like horns growing out of his temples. He has long, blond hair that he pulls into a ponytail when he expects trouble. Channeling the power that burns in his blood, Vitality destroys his enemies and defends his friends. Especially his boyfriend, Byvril.
Gozu, half-orc cleric of Adysus. Gozu is a tall, strong man with pale skin and red hair. He has a deep affinity for the forge arts, and believes that he will find like minds in the Red Hammers. He’s not terribly useful in combat, but great for maintaining equipment.
The group does not quite grasp how bad life among the Red Hammers would be. If the party knows of a safe-ish place with need of moderately competent soldiers, they could easily redirect the Heirs of Harheim there.
And there you go! Mercenaries, a wasteland, and some naïve adventurers. Check out the downloads below for more resources!
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I am missing where to download this as a pack of maps and give you money.
I’ve sprinkled a few map suggestions in at the bottom of the The Iron Fortress and The Surrounding Area sections. 🙂