Mercenary guide


This guide was written on the Crime & Punishment forums by Alekseyev Karrde, CEO of Noir Mercenary Group. The reason was that pilots looking to hire mercenaries were often unsure on how to do so:

"In response the frequent posts asking how to research mercenary corporations or otherwise go about using or hiring mercs, I’ve written this as a guide for employers. I have been a mercenary CEO since January 2008, and thus I am writing this from the mercenary-to-employer perspective. This is here to help those looking for mercs or who are thinking about it, to try and make the process easier and more efficient. It should not be considered an all encompassing guide, because there are as many variations on how mercs operate and charge as there are merc corps in the game. However, it should serve as a solid general introduction. and I will continue to update as long as I’m in the biz."

Contents

Concepts and Terminology

Asset Denial

Consists of offensive operations to specifically prevent a target from performing economic activities like ratting and mining.

Contract

The agreement between the merc and the employer under which the merc is bound to operate and the employer is bound to pay for their services. See the contract section for more information.

Contract History

An itemized listing of a mercenary corporation’s previous work.

Contract Manager

The person in a mercenary unit who negotiates and schedules contracts. They are the best points of contact for prospective employers and are usually publicly listed. Some groups have this role filled by several people working together.

Damage

Usually measured through the mercs killboard, it’s the estimated ISK value of how much they unit destroyed. Griefwatch and EVE Dev killboards measure damage very differently so be sure to check or ask which the merc corp uses. Griefwatch counts the value of ships, modules, and rigs through a master database. EVE Dev tracks ship value only and does it through a database the killboard owner can update.

Infiltration/Sabotage

The act of putting in one or more characters into a target corporation for the express purpose of gathering internal information, acquiring access to corp assets, and either reporting that to the employer, sowing dissention, and disabling/stealing those assets.

References

Past employers of a mercenary unit who have made themselves public and will vouch for them.

Surveying the Market

There are generally three ways to go about finding which mercenaries are active and looking for work.

Checking Crime and Punishment

The Crime and Punishment forum is the home of the lawless of EVE. It’s also the place to go if you’re looking to hire mercs (the two aren’t really related by whatcha gonna do). Many merc units that are active will have corporate threads on the top three pages. They will usually have points of contact and offered services. Links to killboards or websites, a contract history, their current status, feedback from employers, posts of support from friends, and smack from current/former targets may also be present. While you won’t find every active corp on the market in there, this is a very time efficient method because you can browse who’s available and what they can offer.

Posting in Crime and Punishment

A variation on the above, this is where a potential employer posts, sometimes using an alt, that they are looking for mercs and then wait for response to the thread or in their mail. The quality of response may depend on your level of description in your OP, which could be as vague as “I’m looking for mercs,” to a fully fleshed out “open contract” which mercs can take or leave. Be aware that some units who already have contracts lined up may not be inclined to go out of their way to approach you.

Merc Contracts Chat

Privateers Alliance and Noir. have recently collaborated to establish an in-game meeting place for contract managers and potential clients. The channel is called "Merc Contracts" and has become popular with the contract managers of active merc corps of varying styles and sizes. The channel is moderated to promote a scam free and constructive environment, with official contact points for participating merc units kept up to date in the MOTD. The strong moderation and high numbers of participating units makes it an excellent place to find what you're looking for.

Asking Around

Check with your friends and contacts and see if they have a unit they would recommend to you. You might be surprised who you know that’s hired a mercenary unit or knows one of repute. The more established merc corps have developed a reputation. If you are a CEO or other corp/alliance director, another good place to ask is the "CEO" channel. Several current and former merc CEO's hang out in there.

The Contract

Significance

For a mercenary, the contract is everything. It’s the mechanism that sets us apart from garden variety PVP corps and pirates. From our perspective, it provides us targets, defines our objectives, and guides our tactical decisions. For the employer, it’s both the guidelines to get you the results you want and an outline of your obligations for payment. Violating the contract once agreed on, by either party, is a big no-no in the merc world.

Common Elements

Aspects of almost all contracts will include target, duration, start date, mission type, and payment terms. Other things that might come up are a focus on a particular area, standings, conditions of target surrender, and potentially anything under the sun. That contracts are default confidential is a pretty universal standard, unless of course the employer volunteers their identity or allows the mercs to explicitly.

Negotiation

Unless you go with an open contract, in which all of the above items are stated and you simply want to know who would take that job on those terms, you will have to negotiate. Always negotiate with the contract manager; if it’s an alliance it might not be the first CEO you grab and some corps may delegate that role to a representative. The “who,” “what,” and “where” are usually pretty employer oriented, the contract manage you’re talking to might have suggestions on method but it’s your job, your goals. The “how much” is the most common area of negotiation. Every merc unit has different payment structures, it’s best to get a handle of what those are and work in that frame work; upfront flat fee, half up front half after, % based on damage, and whatever you work it the employer is expected to at least pay the war fee.

Example of an Open Contract

Topic: ATTN MERCS
I would like to hire one mercenary corporation or alliance for the following contract.
Target- Band of Goons (alliance)
Duration- 2 Weeks
Type- War Dec
Fee- War Dec fee + 1.5 billion ISK (half up front, half on completion)
Bonus- 500mil for damages in excess of 1 billion ISK
Interested contract managers should EVE mail this character or post on this thread within 5 days.

The anatomy of a posting like this is first to let mercs/contract managers know they should look at your thread, accomplished by the ATTN MERCS title or a title with other keywords such as CONTRACT (caps optional). Second, give the details. Against who, what kind of contract, how long, what's the reward, any performance expecations/requirements. Third, provide instructions for how contract managers should show their interest. Finally, when you have a selection of units that want to take the contract on those terms, pick your final choice out of that bunch. If you really want to be considerate, and save yourself some spam, edit your OP title when the contract has been taken.

Vetting

Importance of Research

Buyer beware. In no industry in EVE is this maxim more applicable than in the services industry, and mercenaries are one of the biggest service providers around. The tools you need to do your research are all around. Check Crime and Punishment, look for the thread of the unit impression if they have one, look at their past performance, look at their killboards, talk with people they have worked with if its listed, ask other mercs about them. Avoid trusting one source too highly unless it’s someone you know; try to get a holistic picture of who the unit is and what they can deliver. And finally, just because they are cheap does not mean they will be effective and just because they are expensive does not mean they will be worth it. Always do your homework.

Just Ask

When in doubt, just ask. If you want to know why they performed like they did on a given contract, just ask the representative. Same thing about their biggest gangs, what they are good at, references, if they can make a special accommodation for you in some way, etc. The representative will probably have an answer for you, and if you feel like its something you need to check at least you have a baseline to work from.

Killboards

Every merc unit will have a killboard. Almost always this will be publicly viewable and links will be provided if they aren’t listed already. Important things to look for are overall efficiency, past contract/campaigns listed, amount of damage done on contracts, and their efficiency doing that damage. These values will be what they will be, it’s up to you if they are up to the level of what you’re looking for. A killboard will not show certain contract types, a subjective assessment of effectiveness, or contract goals/instructions.

Contract Histories and References

Contract histories are very important for establishing past performance and experience level. It is not unreasonable to expect them to be publicly listed, and if they aren’t I would advise against hiring any unit that won’t give you one when you ask. References are a trickier subject because mercenaries normally operate under client confidentiality. Some past employers may have made their identities known during a units history but do not be surprised if this is not that case.

The Question of Startups

Mercenary corporations that have just started or have only recently begun to do mercenary work are a special case. Some people prefer not to trust them, but I would caution against just brushing off a new unit solely because they just started. After all, even the major names currently in the market were in their shoes once. They will not have a contract history, or it may be very short. They might have a killboard if their corp was PVPing before they got into the merc business but that performance will not necessarily translate. My suggestion would be to look at their general level of professional presentation, check any killboards if they have them, and ask if the CEO can give personal references about his character or ability. It is not unreasonable for startups to get just the war dec fee for their first job or two, and lower rates even some period after that. But after they have the makings of a track record, bear in mind you’re paying for people’s time so expect for them to work at fair rate or not take the job at all.

The Job and the Aftermath

Tracking Progress

From your conversations at the contract phase, you should have the killboard of the unit you’ve hired. That’s the first place to look for how things are going. Keeping an EVE mail conversation going with your contact is also fine, although it’s important to give the unit a little breathing room. After all, hopefully you’ve hired them because you believe they know what they’re doing; if you want frequent updates make that desire known before the job starts. Some units may have a tighter relationship with clients during the job while others may only want to talk to you when the job is over.

Payment

Unless you paid a flat fee upfront, when the job is over there will be pay involved. Even if the unit fails horribly, if they didn’t breach the contract and the contract did not involve pay based on achieving an objective, you must hold up your end of the contract. By all means don’t hire them again or recommend them to anyone, but a deal is a deal. If the contract is by % and you notice the unit is killing beyond your ability to pay, be upfront about this right away and contact one of their representatives. If a unit breaks contract then naturally you would not be expected to pay them. Each unit will have a different deadline of when they need their ISK by, however a day or two after the contract is over is a good standard. If an employer defaults on payment or otherwise breaks contract...my advice would be don’t. At the least you’d be blackballed, more normally you’ll get a hoard of angry professional PVPers after you which can manifest in some very, very unpleasant ways.

Follow Up

Some merc units will give you a summery report along with your invoice. Once you’ve paid, feel free to provide the unit with feedback. It’s always very rewarding for a merc unit to know they got the job done or even exceeded expectations. On the other side of things, if you didn’t like the experience of working with them let them know in a constructive way. This would also be the time to volunteer yourself as a reference if you wanted to.