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Icelander 12-27-2018 11:54 AM

[MH] Caribbean by Night
In a world outwardly like our own, where occult tides and otherworldly incursions threaten humanity, rough men must stand ready to bar the gates of reality and live and die to protect a society which remains in blissful ignorance about the stakes. These are their stories.

The PCs are funded by a mysterious and eccentric billionaire, J.R. Kessler of Galveston, Texas. Along with a loose network of academics, reporters and various contacts, as well as teams composed of former policemen, special operators and intelligence personnel, the PCs confront preternatural threats that either originate from outside our reality or pose a risk of opening a way for other realities. Their area of operations is concentrated in and around the Bermuda Triangle, one of twelve Vile Vortices that Kessler believes represent areas where the fabric of reality is especially weak.

Kessler himself is a colourful character, having been born almost a hundred years ago to poor immigrants in Galveston and achieved great wealth through somewhat murky methods, before discovering, in the twilight of an adventurous, if immoral existence, that the world he knew was threatened by insidious influences which rendered all old certainties moot.

If one were to believe Kessler's own tales, he spent his formative childhood years as a rumrunner deck hand during Prohibition, knew every thug and racketeer of 1930s Galveston by name, fought in WWII with the French Foreign Legion, was initiated into several occult societies in Egypt and Morocco*, knocked out Hemingway once during an epic drinking bout, ran a casino in Cuba until Castro's rebellion, invested racketeering profits in oil and natural gas and rapaciously despoiled former European colonies in Africa and Asia of mineral and petrochemical wealth.

Kessler holds a US citizenship by birth, a French one by blood and Domincian (Commonwealth of Domincia) and St. Lucian ones by investment. It's entirely possible that Kessler actually holds more citizenships in exotic nations with 'understanding' immigration regulations, but simply chooses not to reveal this fact to others.

Kessler employs a host of accountants, tax lawyers and financial managers, mostly, it seems, to ensure that no one can ever gain an accurate picture of his true holdings, with layers of offshore companies surrounding even the simplest of his investments. Kessler pays a fair bit of taxes in the US, but has fought the IRS for decades to ensure that this is kept to a minimum, registering everything he can in St. Lucia or other Caribbean island nations, not to mention owning a network of offshore companies in, it seems, every tax haven in the Caribbean.

By now, the ancient Kessler lives on his yacht, the Penemue, which is ca 220'-280' long and was built in the 1960s as a very fast super yacht, though nowadays she's distinctly small for a billionaire's plaything, let alone home of record.

In this thread, I'll be asking forumites for advice, opinions and assistance with all sorts of things. For instance, I'll need help to portray the Gulf Coast of the United States accurately, never mind the Caribbean islands (I've visited neither place as yet).

To start with, I'll need to name and describe the crew of the yacht Penemue. Kessler has owned the yacht since the 1960s and has lived on it continuously since the early 1980s. The crew of the Penemue are exposed to some strange sights and need to be absolutely loyal. As a result, they are highly paid and, ideally, have been with him for a very long time, perhaps having a familial connection to prior employees. Kessler very much favours family retainers over simple employees, at least when it comes to the people who live with him.

These are the crew positions I'll need filled:

Captain: Augustus 'Gus' Starr (b. March 27, 1963; Houston, Texas). Retired USN Captain of the USS Bonhomme Richard, former USN SEAL officer.
First Mate: Brandon McBride (b. 1957, Beaumont, TX). Former Chief Warrant Officer from USCG (served 1976-2006).
Chief Steward: Jean-Michel Alexandre, Kessler's right-hand-man, been with him since 1986. A stern, dangerous-looking Haitian who seems more bodyguard than domestic servant. Served in the French Foreign Legion for some time in the 70s and 80s.
Executive Secretary: Mary Marchant. For all intents and purposes, Ms. Marchant is in charge of anything she wants to be.
Chief Engineer: Teryn Gilbert.
Chef: Eugenia "Aunty Genie" Seraphine. Dominiquais (Commonwealth of Domincia) obeah woman, who is equally capable at whipping up callaloo and curative elixirs. In her fifties, has worked for Kessler since she was a girl and treats him with fond familiarity mixed with an exasperating tendency to exaggerate his frailty and protect his health, whether he likes it or not.
First Steward: Ramon Alejo Reyes Jr. (b. October 12, 1979, Manila, Philippines); retired Chief Culinary Specialist (CS7/E-7) from the US Navy who served two Presidents in the White House, between 2004-2012.
Head of Security: Guillaume Armant (b. 1965, Paris, France).
Bosun: Clifford 'Cliff' Payne (b. 1965, San Antonio). USCG (1985-2005), retired as MCPO (E-9).
Engineer: Carlos Camacho.
Medical officer: Dr. Dao Van Sang.
Librarian: Alfred L. Lapointe (b. September 14, 1965, DRC/Congo), an English and History graduate of UT Austin. Expert on Shakespearean dramaturgy, John Dee and the occult underground of Elizabethan London. Looks like Ernest Thomas.
Armourer: George 'Baz' Bannerman (b. September 12, 1962, Durban, South Africa). Former 22 SAS (1982-1992), son of Edward 'Ned' Bannerman, former head of Kessler's personal security.
Sous chef: Cosimo LaRocca (b. 1986, New Orleans). Classically trained chef, who might walk into a head chef position on any luxury yacht or even have an excellent chance at re-starting his promising restaurant career, but owes Kessler an unspecified debt. Considers Aunty Genie an amateur in culinary matters and resents her authority, but must admit that she is a gifted amateur. Is also terrified of her and therefore complains to the crew and guests, never to her face.
Crew chef: Dale Johnson (b. 1975; Houston, TX). Former SEAL who lost both legs. Not a haute cuisine chef, but a good fry cook and excellent barbecue man. Main duties are perimeter security, allowed in the kitchen only on sufferance by Aunty Genie. Mostly cooks for the night shift or when an away team needs a meal at odd hours.
Senior Deck Crew: Cord 'Boats' McCall (b. March 18, 1978; Port Aransa, TX). US Navy from 2002-2011, retired as E-7, Chief Boatswain's Mate (BMC).
Nurse: Astrid Andersson. Kessler's private nurse. Indecently young and devastatingly attractive, which must surely be wasted on the old reprobate. Aunty Genie keeps trying to convince Kessler to replace her with one of her many nieces or cousins from back home, who'd not only take better care of his health, but would also be much better for the state of his immortal soul, being well-brought up girls who'd never dream of flirting so shamelessly with a man of his advanced age.
Janitor: Lazaro Calderon (b. 1956; Miami, FL).
Interior Crew: Ophelia Agnes Goddard (b. 1998, Domincia). Niece of Aunty Genie. Trusted with cleaning alchemical gear.
Deck hands (4): Names needed. Might double as security, in which case they'll be recruited from the Coast Guard, Navy or another branch of the military where operators might learn boating, small unit tactics, waterborne assault, etc.
Interior crew (3): Names needed. Will almost certainly also handle personal security.

Edit: See new crew list for the Penemue. I'm still looking for a few interior and deck crew members.

If forumites suggest a nice name, description and quick background for a position, they might get the right to name the character, either their own name or someone else's they feel should be an NPC in my campaign. I'm thinking of using names of forumites for several characters, i.e. have someone named Cole, Douglas, Brett, Rice, etc.

*Most of whose membership, he comments scathingly, were less enlightening company than gangsters and racketeers, as well as having about as much useful occult and esoteric knowledge as the average comic book reader.

Apollonian 12-27-2018 05:49 PM

Re: [MH] Caribbean by Night

Originally Posted by Icelander (Post 2231381)
These are the crew positions I'll need filled:

Captain: I was thinking that a Texan with experience in the US Navy or Coast Guard might do. Maybe in his early 50s, retired after 20 years in 2008 and has been with Kessler since. Probably has a parent who knew Kessler.
First Mate: Preferably a Chief Warrant Officer from the Navy or Coast Guard.
Butler (Chief Stewardess): Kessler has a right-hand-man who occupies this role, a stern Haitian who has been with him since the mid-80s. Haven't named him yet. He'll also be the purser, possibly with some assistance at the clerical side.
Chief Engineer: Has to be incredibly competent, at a wide range of tasks.
Chef: Ditto.
Bosun: Needs to be extremely competent.
Deck hands (2-4): Might double as security, in which case they'll be recruited from the Coast Guard, Navy or another branch of the military where operators might learn boating, small unit tactics, waterborne assault, etc.
Engineers / mechanics (1-2): Might specialise, with one serving as armourer.
Medical officer: Either has to be a Special Forces medic (or the equivalent), a bona-fide doctor (and a very good one) or someone with Esoteric Medicine who can brew healing Elixirs. Ideally, of course, two or more of the above.
Sous chef: No idea.
Crew chef: No idea.
Librarian: Not usually a full-time position on yachts, but this one is special. Will be very learned in occult and esoteric matters.
Secretary (1-3): Must be efficient and extremely discreet.
Interior crew / stewards (2-4): Will almost certainly also handle personal security. One will have a strange job which includes cleaning alchemical gear and might be an apprentice magician.

Given his advanced age, I suggest that Kessler might want to employ more than one medical professional on the yacht, especially if he expects trouble (and why wouldn't he?). This might also let you set up a fun little dynamic between the no-nonsense modern physician and the Esoteric Medicine expert who have to work together to keep Mr. Kessler hale and happy. (I would also suggest that one of them might need to be a nurse, as opposed to a physician.)

Also, shouldn't the butler be chief steward, not stewardess?

Icelander 12-27-2018 06:35 PM

Re: [MH] Caribbean by Night

Originally Posted by Apollonian (Post 2231439)
Given his advanced age, I suggest that Kessler might want to employ more than one medical professional on the yacht, especially if he expects trouble (and why wouldn't he?). This might also let you set up a fun little dynamic between the no-nonsense modern physician and the Esoteric Medicine expert who have to work together to keep Mr. Kessler hale and happy. (I would also suggest that one of them might need to be a nurse, as opposed to a physician.)

One PC, Edward Alvin Smith, actually has pretty impressive military first aid skills, including field surgery, and he's a fair alchemist as well. Granted, he learned his alchemy in another world and his elixirs actually do not work all that well on humans, but he's bought a medieval grimoire in Arabic, written by a not-at-all-mad Moroccan, to teach himself esoteric medicine and curative magic as it applies to humans.

Still, while Smith used to work for Kessler (before Smith was lost in the Bermuda Triangle), Kessler wasn't expecting him to come back more than twenty years later and would have hired someone as chief medical officer in the meantime.

I suspect I'll give him a nurse, a doctor on board and then have the chef be learned in elixir-making. She can either come from the Gulf Coast (likely a place with a tradition of rootwork and/or voodoo/hoodoo) or one of the Caribbean islands.


Originally Posted by Apollonian (Post 2231439)
Also, shouldn't the butler be chief steward, not stewardess?

Yachting magazines are weird. I saw Chief Stewardess used without regard for the actual gender of the person in more than one place. But, yeah, he's certainly the Chief Steward / Major-domo / Châtelain.

Icelander 12-27-2018 07:45 PM

Left Hand Path Demonologists
For reasons entirely unrelated to any hypothetical villains, I'm looking for rituals that your classic dark magicians in a modern subtle magic setting might know, if they were not an ancient order of esoteric knowledge preserved over centuries, but had an institutional history shorter than the Die Hard franchise.

Let us say that there was a coven / cult of New Age satanists on the West Coast, specifically connected to, say for the sake of argument, UC Berkeley. Charismatic, plausible leader, preying on spiritually searching, socially awkward or just plain lost college kids, selling pop psychobabble in a condescending, post-colonial, glorifying Krishna and Vishnu (or Kali, Durga, Ahriman, etc.) kind of way.

Mythological antecendents decidedly murky, eclectic and syncretic. Equal parts New Age mhsticism, rebellious anti-Christianity, Hot Topic chic and a few courses of comparative mythology, cultural anthropology and freshman philosophy of religion. Not to mention demonology learned from Hollywood and RPGs.

But in the setting, there are incorporeal beings of great power that seek to interact with our world. At least there are now. They might have just emerged in the past couole of decades or they might have always existed and simply been having a century of limited connectivity, but now they hover outside the visible world, seeking attention, belief, a certain kind of mind. Seeking, in other words, someone to invite them in, offer them form and function, sacrifices and ceremony.

At some point, what was a silly social club, 'daring' rebellion against social norms, dabbling in drug use and the scene of the occasional sexual assault became something much darker. Unsavoury spiritual presences, whether accurately termed 'demon' or not, could offer incredible power and esoteric secrets to those who'd pact themselves to them and feed them as they desired.

I've established that a hypothetical magician who once belonged to the coven can summon some sort of inhuman presence to inhabit a physical body constructed out of mud mixed with blood. The presence is normally incorporeal, but it is not a ghost and likely was never alive, or at least is not the identifiable soul of a mortal now, whatever it may have been. The summoning requires a ritual performed in a place of negatively-aspected mana and, apparently, the sacrifice of a living person. It probably also requires an expensive fetish item, though the PCs did not stay to investigate the remains, but instead followed a 'surviving' mud golem body to try to find its creator.

What else might he be able to do?

dcarson 12-27-2018 08:52 PM

Re: [MH] Caribbean by Night
For UC Berkley occult you might want to look at the thread on Jack Parsons.
Only black magic user to have a Lunar crater named after him.

Icelander 12-27-2018 09:39 PM

Re: [MH] Caribbean by Night

Originally Posted by dcarson (Post 2231464)
For UC Berkley occult you might want to look at the thread on Jack Parsons.
Only black magic user to have a Lunar crater named after him.


Of course, in my setting, Parsons was born well after the last plausible recorded paranormal events (some time between 1888 and 1900) and died a few decades before the first instances of preternatural events occured again (ca 1975-1990, known only to a few people who've personally experienced them and have the Will or other traits to overcome the Facade). His ritual magic, while possibly amounting to both Thaumatology and Path skills in GURPS terms, actually produced no more useful results than in real history, due to the No Mana that existed on Earth during Parsons' entire lifetime.

Even taking the fairly controversial thaumatologic view that even during the 'dead mana' years of the 20th century, parts of Earth were Very Low Mana instead of No Mana and preternatural phenomena still occured, merely subtly enough for it to be extremely difficult to distinguish from coincidence, placebo effects, unreliable witness testimony or confirmation bias, it's pretty far outside established magical theory to suppose that Parsons was ever able to work ritual magic with enough power to accomplish actual summoning of, possession by or even contact with inhuman entities.

All the same, modern Hermetic magicians in my campaign prize the research and scholarship of Parsons and others like him, who kept alive traditions and even advanced the theory, even during a century where no rituals would work as intended. Certainly, many of those who started to study magic in secret in the years since the late 80s and early 90s have used the work of occultists like Parsons to build their magical traditions on.

In fact, I had played with the idea of the PCs' Patron, J.R. Kessler, possibly having known Jack Parsons at some point in his youth. Astute readers may have noted similar anti-authoritarian, libertarian, even anarchistic streaks in their natures, not to mention that both men flouted social conventions and taboos, were brilliant but unstable and had colourful sexual escapades at times when that was frowned upon.

What are the odds that Parsons might have visited Galveston at some point in his late teens or early twenties? That would be at some point between 1931-1939, when Galveston had a reputation similar to what Las Vegas would later gain, as the 'Free State of Galveston', haven for gambling, speakeasies (during the Prohibition, which ended in the first years of this period) and all forms of vice.

Icelander 12-28-2018 12:40 PM

Crew of the Penemue, Ideally with Familial Connections to Kessler's History
I've added some names and backgrounds for crew members of the yacht Penemue in the first post, but I'm still missing a lot of individual crew.

The Penemue is owned by the billionaire J.R. Kessler of Galveston, the PCs' Patron in Monster Hunting matters, but the PCs will live aboard it. Well, at least, two PCs will have permanent staterooms there*, a situation which started a few months before the start of play, with other PCs actually having homes and not being weird murder hobos who live with their eccentric centenarian boss (and his retinue) on a yacht.

Considering Kessler's sense of obligation toward employees, former and current, and his feudal insistence on absolute loyalty in return, it makes sense that he'd not only provide substantial assistance to the children of people he employed in his younger days, but that he'd also prefer to hire such children for sensitive positions which require living in close proximity to him. So, employees should, as much as possible, be the children or grandchildren (or at least relatives) of former Kessler retainers or, alternatively, old army buddies from his WWII or French Indochina War days.

So, for example, two surviving former Legionaires in their 80s, from the 1er Bataillon Etranger de Parachutistes (1er BEP), own houses next to Kessler's compound on Domincia. I've not named them yet, but one was Belgian and the other Swiss, though they've had Domincian citizenship for over three decades now. If these men had any active, intelligent, adventurous descendants between the ages 20 to 67 in 2018, it's highly plausible that Kessler would employ them in trusted senior positions, at least if they showed any ability.

Kessler will also have former security personnel who worked for him between 1955-1985, who are by now too old to carry a gun and sail into adventures, but who might have children or grandchildren ready for the task. Between 1955-1970 or so, Kessler had a couple of bodyguards in his household and occasionally hired mercenaries for security when he visited dangerous places. Mostly, he'd have done so through former Legionnaire contacts, of course.

Kessler employed more bodyguards and mercenaries in the 1970s and 1980s, largely because he could no longer trust to his own skills and aging body, so he had to hire a team of mercenaries for many things which he'd have done himself with a couple of friends in the 1960s. Mercenaries working on behalf of Kessler were involved in various murky doings in Africa and elsewhere during the period between 1969-1981, growing his wealth from substantial to astronomical in the process, as he acquired shares in petroleum fields, gas lines and mines yielding not only copper, gold and diamonds, but also more exotic metals, such as cobalt, titanium, uranium.

Around 1982-1985, Kessler started to actively recruit highly skilled former military and intelligence personnel, both from veterans of the French Foreign Legion (with whom Kessler retained links of tradition and affection) and any other professional military where Kessler could extend tendrils of influence, for permanent positions in some of the Private Security Contractors he had established. By somewhere around 1985-1987, Kessler had developed and fielded what amounted to his own special operations team and has retained that capability since.**

Actually, in the modern day, he could probably field more than one team. With the number of former SOF operators and other military veterans in the crew of the Penemue, Kessler is effectively protected at all times by a Personal Security Detail that rivals that of many heads of state, for quality, if not quantity. Then he has a primary field team, consisting of the PCs, a couple of experts and a security element of former SOF operators. A number of Kessler's regional agents will also be protected by highly skilled mercenaries / PSC close protection experts who are former SOF or have equivalent training and experience useful to monster hunters.

Aside from salaried employees, however, Kessler will be able to call on numerous former SOF operators who know about his activities, but do not work full time for him, but are more than willing to take lucrative commission work. These will be former employees, relatives of former employees and friends and people Kessler tried to recruit, but who proved unwilling to accept full-time employment, which likely would have carried with it relocation.

Does anyone have suggestions for character names, short backgrounds and descriptions of looks and personality for the crew positions I still haven't filled in the first post?

Or any commentary in general?

*I'll try to get them to accept sharing a stateroom, as the yacht is only 150 feet long and space is not actually infinite on it. Especially not given how many other people live there, the fact that it has a sizable library, a fully-equipped machine workshop with a lot of gunsmithing tools and a weird room full of alchemical and thaumaturgical equipment.
**Though he lost some eight operators in 1995 and it took him considerable time to replace them.

Icelander 12-28-2018 11:20 PM

Mercenary Nationalities and Background
Peculiarities of history mean that the relatively small field of professional mercenaries has in the past received disproportionate influxes of certain ethnicities and backgrounds.

Often, local politics or being on the losing end of a civil war results in many men with military training and experience no longer being welcome or at least not expecting economic success at home. Historical examples are Greeks and Macedonians in the Ancient World, English veterans of the 100 Years War, the Irish 'Wild Geese', German landsknechten from wartorn areas in the Thirty Years War, etc. Or mercenary work abroad may be entrenched in the local culture as a good career for likely lads, e.g. historical Switzerland or modern Nepal.

Allegedly, the ranks of the French Foreign Legion and the small worldwide fraternity of freelance mercenaries swelled with ethnic Germans after WWII. The post-WWII era saw a lot of German-speaking men with extensive military experience economic hardship at home and, perhaps, feel unwelcome in what amounted to an occupied country.

Aside from that, the new technological innovations of WWII meant that any veteran from an air force, motorized unit or certain naval vessels were sought-after by TL6 militaries to teach new skills, especially if they could obtain equipment as well. Research reveals numerous anecdotal examples of mechanics, pilots, landing craft operators and the like from many different countries that fought in WWII striking out as adventurers and mercenaries in the late 40s and early 50s. No doubt the independence of India and Pakistan meant the demobilization of many British soldiers who had planned on a military career and no doubt a healthy number of them found work as the pros from Dover in exotic locations, teaching the fledgling armies of newly independent former colonial states modern military methods and British discipline.

In the 60s, the iconic mercenary is French-speaking, likely a pied-noir from lost Algeria or a Frenchman of European origin whose colonial homeland no longer belonged to France. To a lesser extent, some were Belgians in the same predictament, and, of course, other Europeans who'd lost their homelands through colonial independence. This always included some Englishmen, but actual subjects of the British Crown have a long history of claiming to be working as freelance mercenaries while they are actually still carrying out the policies of Whitehall or other mandarins within the labyrinthine Old Boy network of the tottering British Empire.

In the 70s, English and Boer-speaking white men from British colonies in Africa became the mental image of 'mercenary' to many. The social unfest in South Africa, enthusiastic anti-Communism of many veterans there, the eventual end of apartheit and the rise of Zimbabwe from former Rhodesia combined to create a pool of white Africans who saw themselves as stateless and possessed valuable military skills. Of course, black Africans also fouvht as mercenaries, and in much greater numbers, but they were rarely perceived as belonging to the same international fraternity of professional soldiers for hire. This was, of course unfair, discriminatory and blatantly racist, but professional mercenaries reflected the social mores of the societies that shaped them.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, the iconic mercenary, Legionnaire or private military contractor has largely become East European. In actual fact, by the numbers, most private security or private military personnel are probably from Latin America, for the simple reason that there are a lot of unemployed men in Central and South America who have served a stretch in the military and for whom even minimal pay for security work for Triple Canopy, Xe, Academi, etc., represented a windfall. Better equipped, more highly paid contractors may be Eastern European, Ghurkhas, or, increasingly, US citizens who've learned their trade in the military.

What I'm wondering about are two things. First, how accurate are my impressions?

Second, what nationalities would one find among mercenaries in the late 1980s and early 1990s, i.e. in that in-between period, where the WWII veterans have long since died and retired and so, really, have most of the post-colonial lot, apart from South Africans and former Rhodesians, but PMCs/PSCs haven't yet become as heavily corporate as they are now and might not yet have discovered the economically priced, militarily-trained, best-value-for-money human resources in Eastern Europe and Latin America?

In other words, at the height of Kessler's mercenary recruitment between 1982 to 1996, who was he recruiting?

His contacts would have been old and retired mercenaries he employed in the 60s and 70s, former French Foreign Legionnaires, police, Coast Guards and (small) militaries of a number of Caribbean islands, as well as perhaps some valuable contacts into the US and French military and intelligence communities.

johndallman 12-29-2018 05:26 AM

Re: Mercenary Nationalities and Background

Originally Posted by Icelander (Post 2231718)
Second, what nationalities would one find among mercenaries in the late 1980s and early 1990s, i.e. in that in-between period, where the WWII veterans have long since died and retired and so, really, have most of the post-colonial lot, apart from South Africans and former Rhodesians, but PMCs/PSCs haven't yet become as heavily corporate as they are now and might not yet have discovered the economically priced, militarily-trained, best-value-for-money human resources in Eastern Europe and Latin America?

People who'd been released from Western militaries as they shrank after the end of the Cold War are one major source. Several PMCs were founded in the 1970s and 1980s, and checking their history may give more clues.

Icelander 12-29-2018 08:33 AM

Re: Mercenary Nationalities and Background

Originally Posted by johndallman (Post 2231748)
People who'd been released from Western militaries as they shrank after the end of the Cold War are one major source. Several PMCs were founded in the 1970s and 1980s, and checking their history may give more clues.

Yes. I probably should have specified my period more narrowly.

With the end of the South African Border Wars in 1989, thousands of experienced, elite, professional soldiers who had been fighting in African civil wars for years already were released. Many of them felt betrayed, rootless and landless, especially with the ongoing political changes of the 1990s. Instead of becoming freelance mercenaries, as happened in similar circumstances in the past, they were instead mostly employed by increasingly professional Private Military Contractor firms, the most iconic of which was Executive Outcomes.

Such professionalized PMCs were a fairly recent development, at least on such a large scale, though antecedents in the form of small companies of expert consultants, executive protection specialists and military trainers, can be found dating back to the 1960s. For some reason, ex-SAS chaps seem to have dominated this niche market and one might speculate whether the unofficial policy of Whitehall and British mandarins in other offices to use 'former' special operators to advance official policy through unofficial means might not have been a key to the market-leading position of British and Commonwealth PMCs during the time of transition from the chaotic era of freelance mercenaries toward the era of PMCs/PSCs as licensed and regulated entities owned by powerful multinational conglomerates.

Of course, the enormous Reductions-In-Force that Western militaries saw in the wake of the end of the Cold War and the utter collapse of many of the former Warsaw Pact militaries meant that in 1990 and onward, the landscape of military contracting was irrevocably altered. At one and the same time, the ability and inclination of former Cold War powers to carry out military interventions with their own forces was sharply curtailed, while literally millions of professionally trained military and security personnel became available due to the RIFs, dwarfing the previous sources of trained fighting men from Rhodesia, South Africa and the like, in their mere thousands.

I can find plenty of sources for the rise of the PMCs in the period from 1989 to the modern day, and, actually, for other campaigns I have run, I have familiarised myself somewhat with that subject. I probably should have confined my query exclusively to the decade of the 1980s. Before the end of the Cold War, the end of the South African Border Wars and the changes in South African politics combined to fuel the meteoric rise of the modern PMC/PSC, what was the state of the mercenary market?

It seems that by the 1980s, the traditional freelance soldier of fortune was in decline, but his replacement had not yet emerged. There were South Africans fighting in other African countries, but they were doing so for what they saw as ideological reasons, and usually with the support of their own government and armed forces. The end of Rhodesia seems to have provided a pool of rootless, stateless white veterans, many of whom either emigrated to South Africa or fought in the Border Wars in Angola and Namibia on behalf of South Africa, against Communism.

But aside from this (and, indeed, one PC actually is a former Rhodesian who joined the French Foreign Legion after 1979), I don't seem to find much material on the state of the international mercenary market in 1982-1989. There was an emerging high-end PSC market led by ex-SAS chaps out of London, many of whom still seem to have been carrying out British policy, and then there were the South Africans and Rhodesians, at this time still mostly funded and controlled by South Africa for distinct military and political goals in neighbouring countries, not independent of national policy and oversight as they became in 1989 and later.

What other backgrounds and ethnicities seem plausible for the people who were hired by Kessler at this time?

For example, in the background story of the Rhodesian PC, Edward Alvin Smith, he met J.R. Kessler in 1986, in Mali, when Smith and some other members of the French Foreign Legion were engaged in a confused and terrifying firefight alongside mercenaries in Kessler's service in a cave system in the Land of the Dogons. Kessler was there investigating reports of rich uranium deposits, which he planned to acquire for one of his companies, but as he had a (mystical) reason to believe that some threat to his life would occur in Mali, he not only used political influence to get a detachment of the Legion sent in to provide security for his scientific teams and prospectors, but he also hired his own personal team of hardened mercenaries.

In 1986, who would those mercenaries have been?

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