The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries is a self-help book for mercenaries, privateers, and pretty much anybody who acts roguish.

The Maxims

Each known Maxim is listed with the source where it is quoted.

1. Pillage, then burn [2002-02-07], [2003-03-08], [2004-04-04], [2004-07-22], referenced [2015-09-27].
2. A Sergeant in motion outranks a Lieutenant who doesn't know what's going on [2009-07-31], [2012-05-13], [2015-05-04].
3. An ordnance technician at a dead run outranks everybody [2009-11-01].
4. Close air support covereth a multitude of sins [2008-04-14].
5. Close air support and friendly fire should be easier to tell apart [2010-04-21].
6. If violence wasn’t your last resort, you failed to resort to enough of it [2005-03-13].
7. If the food is good enough the grunts will stop complaining about the incoming fire.[1] Mentioned, but not identified as a Maxim, [2011-04-20], [2011-05-25], [2013-05-26].
8. Mockery and derision have their place. Usually, it's on the far side of the airlock [2002-11-21].
9. Never turn your back on an enemy [2003-03-08].
10. Sometimes the only way out is through... through the hull [2009-01-17].
11. Everything is air-droppable at least once [2008-04-15], [2008-12-11].
12. A soft answer turneth away wrath. Once wrath is looking the other way, shoot it in the head [2002-11-21; footnote].
13. Do unto others [2003-03-08].
14. "Mad Science" means never stopping to ask "what's the worst thing that could happen?" [2] .
15. Only you can prevent friendly fire [2010-11-18], [2012-01-15].
16. Your name is in the mouth of others: be sure it has teeth [2002-11-21], [2015-05-12].
17. The longer everything goes according to plan, the bigger the impending disaster [2012-02-20].
18. If the officers are leading from in front, watch for an attack from the rear [2012-01-04].
19. The world is richer when you turn enemies into friends, but that's not the same as you being richer. [2013 Calendar]
20. If you're not willing to shell your own position, you're not willing to win [2012-01-15], [2015-03-03].
21. Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Take his fish away and tell him he's lucky just to be alive, and he'll figure out how to catch another one for you to take tomorrow [2004-04-04; number is not canon yet].
22. If you can see the whites of their eyes, somebody's done something wrong [2012-07-13].
23. The company mess and friendly fire should be easier to tell apart [2013 Calendar], [2013-03-15]; Referred to, but not identified as a maxim: [2013-05-26].
24. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a big gun [2012-03-18], [2013-09-14], [2014-06-16].
25. If a manufacturer's warranty covers the damage you do, you didn't do enough damage [2012-11-25].
26. "Fire and Forget" is fine, provided you never actually forget.
27. Don't be afraid to be the first to resort to violence [2003-03-08].
28. If the price of collateral damage is high enough, you might be able to get paid to bring ammunition home with you [2011-09-07].
29. The enemy of my enemy is my enemy's enemy, no more, no less [2003-03-08], [2003-09-29], [2004-12-31].
30. A little trust goes a long way. The less you use, the further you'll go [2003-03-08].
31. Only cheaters prosper [2003-05-11].
32. Anything is amphibious if you can get it back out of the water [2013-09-29].
33. If you're leaving tracks, you're being followed [2013-10-21]
34. If you’re leaving scorch-marks, you need a bigger gun [2004-02-29], [2014-12-12].
35. That which does not kill me has made a tactical error (T-shirt).
36. When the going gets tough, the tough call for close air support [2003-10-02].
37. There is no 'overkill.' There is only 'open fire' and 'reload.' (Canonized in the 2015 Schlock Mercenary Monthly Calendar. Misquoted regularly in the strip.)
Alternate version 1: There is no 'overkill.' There is only 'open fire' and 'I need to reload' [2004-02-23], [2004-04-06], [2004-06-23], incompletely referenced [2006-10-09], indirectly referenced [2012-07-04].
Alternate version 2 : There is no 'overkill.' There is only 'open fire' and 'time to reload.' [2004-04-06][3] , [2013-05-08].
38. What's easy for you can still be hard on your clients. (Canonized in the 2015 Schlock Mercenary Monthly Calendar. Mis-quoted without the number by Tagon as "Just because it's easy for you doesn't mean it can't be hard on your clients" [2004-03-26].)
39. There is a difference between "spare" parts and "extra" parts [2014-05-03, maxim cut off], (full maxim verified in 2015 Schlock Mercenary Monthly Calendar for March)
40. Not all good news is enemy action. [2013-05-22], [2014-09-05].
41. "Do you have a backup?" means "I can't fix this." [2013-10-04]
42. "They'll never expect this" means "I want to try something stupid."[4] .
43. If it's stupid and it works, it's still stupid and you're lucky[5] .
44. If it will blow a hole in the ground, it will double as an entrenching tool. [2014-02-18]
45. The size of the combat bonus is inversely proportional to the likelihood of surviving to collect it. [2015 Calendar]
46. Don't try to save money by conserving ammunition. [2015 Calendar]
47. Don't expect the enemy to cooperate in the creation of your dream engagement. [2014-01-19]
48. If it ain't broke, it hasn't been issued to the infantry. [2015 Calendar]
49. Every client is one missed payment from becoming a target [2015-03-11].
50. Every target is one bribe away from becoming a client. (Number not locked)
51. Let them see you sharpen the sword before you fall on it. [2014-09-24]
52. The army you've got is never the army you want [2014-02-22]. (Number not locked)
53. The intel you've got is never the intel you want [2014-02-22]. (Number Not Locked)
54. (no data yet - coming soon, though!)
55. (no data yet - coming soon, though!)
56. (no data yet - coming soon, though!)
57. (no data yet - coming soon, though!)
58. (no data yet - coming soon, though!)
59. (no data yet - coming soon, though!)
60. (no data yet - coming soon, though!)
-70. {NO DATA YET}


In the waning years of the 20th century a popular self-help book for businessmen (something about effective people and the habits they have in common) was lampooned on-stage by an improvisational comedy troupe which only four years later was completely defunct, giving rise to speculation that perhaps those in charge should have been reading the book more carefully rather than lampooning it.

Their sketch (something about effective pirates and the habits they have in common) went completely unnoticed (except by the attorneys for Covetous Franklinstein, who sent them a Cease & Desist letter) for several centuries, until the day an archeobibliologist named Joel happened across the script in the Gates Memorial Archive Of Banned Things From Ye Olde Internet. Our story would have ended there, except that Joel's younger brother Linc was in prison for privateering, and it occurred Joel that perhaps his wanna-be pirate brother would get a kick out of reading it.

As Linc read the script Joel sent him he laughed aloud ("Bury the hatchet! Hah!") and then realized that he was in prison because he was not an effective person, and was an even less effective pirate. So he began to write.

Most books written in prison do not tend to sell well, but this one did. Eventually, The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries was translated from Galstandard West into the other four Galstandard languages (East, Eight, Brown, and Peroxide), and became a handbook not only for pirates, mercenaries, smugglers, and privateers, but also for CEOs, trademark attorneys, and tenured professors [2002-11-21].

Some of the maxims have made it onto Challenge Coins.

Pedigree of Citation, and Authorial Notes

In-universe, The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries is quoted about as accurately as any other collection of aphorisms people might cite. Maxims 37 and 38 are good examples of this.

Authorially, The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries is difficult to write for. It needs to sound like pithy scripture, and even when I think I'm being pithy enough, it's not uncommon for me to find better wording long after the publication of the first strip in which a maxim appears. By way of example (and giving credit,) Maxim 37's final, canonized version comes to us courtesy of John Ringo. It's pretty obvious that his wording is better than mine (err... I mean TAGON's) so that's what I put in the calendar.

Since the actual, in-universe volume remains unpublished in OUR universe, I can get away with re-wording things here and there. Is this a ret-con? Of course it is! Consider: The original version of 70MoMEM was called "Seven Habits of Highely Effective Pirates," in which there were no "habits," only "rules," and there were far more than just seven of them. It was awkward from the word go, and was rescued (though I didn't see it that way at the time) by a cease-and-desist from Franklin Covey, owner of the "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" trademark.

This means that the entirety of The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries is a retcon. With that particular door open, I've decided that I'm allowed to step through it on occasion, provided I'm not actually re-writing old strips. All I'm doing is suggesting (very realistically, in my opinion) that the characters who quote this work do not always quote it correctly.

Maxim-ish Quotes

Often a character will say something that sounds aphoristically pithy, but there is no maxim referenced. Sometimes the quote is colloquial in the real world. Sometimes it just sounds clever. Since these things are not numbered as maxims, and because it seems appropriate to keep track of them in the same place, here's a list:

  • You don't really understand a thing until you've eaten that thing [2013-11-26]
  • "The size of the paying is inversely proportional to the likelihoods of surviving for the collecting" [2013-10-03] (The size of the promised paycheck is inversely proportional to the likelihood of surviving to collect it.) (Canonized with different text as Maxim 45.)
  • Everything's dangerous until we've killed it [2013-06-15].
  • Equipment that can't perform up to spec gets replaced. Equipment that won't perform gets abused until it will, or until it can't [2001-11-05].
  • Officer Training 101: Don't Taunt Murphy [2011-05-14].
  • The easy way is always mined [2005-05-06].
  • "Leadership through following the right grunt" - it's one more hallmark of a Lieutenant who won't get shot by his own men [2004-12-02].

Maxim Candidates

This area is for Howard's exclusive use. These may or may not get turned into Maxims. It's like a white-board that everybody can look at. DO NOT ERASE.

(NOTE: This area is blank because Howard has transferred it to another document. Don't panic. He's got this.)


The "Seventy Maxims" element of the Schlockiverse is the site of the only real Retcon Howard has engaged in.

the rear
  1. ^ As listed in the description for the 2012 Monthly Calendar in the Schlock Mercenary Store.
  2. ^ Resident Mad Scientist, back cover
  3. ^ Poster
  4. ^ Longshoreman of the Apocalypse, page 126
  5. ^ Longshoreman of the Apocalypse, page 126