Private Military Company
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Basic Information

A private military company (PMC) is a company that offers expertise or services of a military nature, often including mercenaries.

Besides hiring out men with weapons, a PMC may also provide security training, train the client's own troops, provide military engineering skills or perform intelligence work.

Although their 'legal' position in the modern era is uncertain, a PMC is, theoretically, an extremely useful asset for an entity which is unable or unwilling to maintain one or more different types of military asset - perhaps because it cannot afford them, does not normally encounter the circumstances in which they would be employed1 or lacks the status to operate them. Like most outsourcing techniques, retaining a PMC allows the employer to shift the cost of capital assets and long term staff costs onto someone else at the price of a higher per diem whilst they are employed.

The staff of a PMC are also known as PMCs … in this case private military contractors.

These things go back a long way … albeit before the modern era they were usually simply called mercenaries (or privateers if by sea).



See Also

Executive Outcomes - an actual, real life PMC that managed to bring peace to two of Africa's nastier civil wars (specifically Sierra Leon and Angola). Peace that was, somewhat predictably, ended by subsequent intervention by the United Nations.

Game and Story Use

  • Making the PCs employees of a PMC is a good setup of thrusting them into dangerous adventures.
  • The players might enjoy their PCs running their very own small PMC, as this allows them considerable freedom of action (with the downside that they are also responsible for finding enough jobs to foot the bills).
    • Primarily it gives them the latitude to engage in military missions with military kit without the annoyance of a military chain of command hovering over them.
  • For obvious reasons, it makes sense for certain varieties of villains (mostly evil corporations) to employ PMCs.
    • They can also appear working as proxies for a national government (particularly if that government is working at arms length in this situation) or even for an NGO (maybe even including a charity)2.
  • The Advanced Recon RPG by Palladium Games put a lot of emphasis on PMCs as PCs.
  • The Millennium's End RPG by Chameleon Eclectic pretty much assumes that the PCs will work for a PMC called Black Eagle Security.
  • In some settings - notably Cyberpunk ones and some more space based sci-fi - the use of PMCs might be at least as normal as that of national troops.
    • The Battletech universe is a case in point where 'mercenary' companies provide a wide range of capabilities to a wide range of powers - varying from Mechwarriors through AFV, infantry and aerospace assets up to and including dropships and jumpships.
    • Medieval Europe was also full of PMCs of one kind or another.
    • A setting featuring a large number of minarchist states (which would include many feudal settings) would also, logically, have a lot of PMCs … and it might even be possible to retain them for a private war if you have the money.
    • Even within a minarchist nation - especially within one where private war is a recognised form of dispute resolution - PMCs may play a significant role. This sounds like sci-fi, but applies equally well to a lot of early medieval states where various nobles might well be at war with one another and quite legitimately hire men at arms to maintain their cause once their feudal levies have served out their duty.
  • Expect betrayals - historically a great many PMCs have ended up being shafted by their employers … the common trope is for mercenaries to change sides unexpectedly, often in combat. This was usually because their current employer had neglected trivial matters such as paying them. In the modern era, expect the UN to stick its incompetent boot in at some highly inconvenient point, usually leading to the ruin of everything you have achieved so far.
  • Competence for PMCs varies, as (to an extent) in real life, with the demands of plot. Any given company may be an elite force of hard-eyed veterans with special forces equivalent capabilities, an unprofessional but competent unit of rough-and-ready achievers or a mob of uniformed thugs barely competent to bully civilians.
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