Welcome to The Free Companies, a book about warfare in the Hyborian Age. Within these pages you will find rules allowing you to play as a mercenary, soldier, officer, or generals. You will also find new feats, a handful of prestige classes, and new rules for looting entire cities.
If the contents of the book cover armies around the world, why did we call it The Free Companies? Why not Armies of the Hyborian Age, or A Military Gazetteer of the Hyborian Age?
Either of the two titles presented above would convey the contents of the book. Armies, soldiers, and the bright flame of war dominate this book. What they would not convey is the focus we placed on the individual soldier.
In the world presented by R. E. Howard the individual soldier, whether infantryman or king, drives the conflict. An individual can change the battle's tide with a strong arm and sharp steel. Armies may surge around him, thousands may die, but the hero takes centre-stage.
Just as importantly the clash of armies rarely dominates R. E. Howard's stories. When armies do battle they demonstrate not the tactical genius of the characters, but their relative power. The faceless spear-carriers provide bloody testimony to whom stands supreme among the powers of the world.
We choose The Free Companies to represent facet of R. E. Howard's work. The mercenary Free Companies of the Hyborian Age acknowledge the power of an individual soldier to change the world. They give characters a chance to take the centre stage even when mighty nations clash in war. Kingdoms vie for their services, while sorcerers entice them with gold drawn from forbidden stashes. Soldiers and peasant levies may be part of this book, but the mercenary ethos drives it.
Thus, the Free Companies, groups made up of companions drawn from a thousand backgrounds all searching for a way to transform good steel into bloody gold.
Beyond this introduction this book falls into three distinct parts: game systems, system information, and world information. Each section provides players and Games Masters with a variety of options.
The game systems part kick off with The Game of War, a section containing the first official printing of the Conan Mass Combat system. This token-based war-game allows players to engage in massive tabletop battles involving sorcery and siege engines. The book then moves on to present a narrative combat system in The Solider and The General at War. These two chapters together present an army combat system in which each character's actions have dramatic repercussions. Their actions can save their immediate companions, break the enemy lines, or shatter the enemy's will to fight.
The system information part covers Hyborian Age armies, siege weapons, feats and two prestige classes. This information covers three chapters: The Armies, The Tools, and the Secrets of War. All three are 'dual-stated' for both the mass combat and the narrative combat systems. With this information players will be able to play a mass combat siege, switch over to narrative combat while looting city, then flip back to a war-game to defend the city from its legitimate owners.
The world information section covers both mercenary organizations and the culture of legitimate armies. It covers enlistment policies, professional ethics, and the rules of looting obeyed by various groups. The last section covers how to use Hyborian Age military obligations (freely assumed and not) as part of an on-going campaign. With this information characters can follow Conan's footsteps as a mercenary or try to raise their fortunes as defenders of a single great kingdom.