I recently started reading the books that the Witcher game series is based on after thoroughly enjoying the games, but still haven't found a satisfactory answer for this. I understand that witchers were created to kill the monsters that had spilled over into their world, and had to undergo extensive mutations and training to get there.

My question is, why would they be trained to only kill monsters for money? It seems like a huge amount of effort to take these orphans, mutate them, train them and then send them off to be a mercenary. If the whole purpose of their existence is to kill monsters, then to me it just feels like the monetary requirement is more of a hindrance than anything else.

I understand that they are meant to be neutral, and not get involved with politics which makes sense. However, neutrality has nothing to do with it when it comes to monsters.

Am I misunderstanding the principles? Were they always told to only work if they're being paid, or is that a recent thing, due to a lack of monsters, and the general disdain for their trade?


3 Answers 3


Several reasons, derived from the books:

  1. Witchers have to live, too. They have living expenses and sometimes serious healing to pay for.
  2. Monsters are hard to kill and often require witcher level adaptation and skills to accomplish this. So as not to squander all that training on other stuff they keep to that specialisation.
  3. Witchers potentially would be extremely effective assassins. Were it not they just don't do that. This, together with the mercenary angle means they travel anywhere much more freely as politics and power-play are not a factor at all. The monsters are everywhere as well, after all.

Principles aside witchers themselves decide who is a monster and who is not. And sometimes fail to find a sponsor after an already completed kill.


Witchers are effectively members of the self-proclaimed witchercraft guild. Just like smiths, tanners, miners etc. It's their trade and since they, like everyone else, have bills to pay, they earn their living that way.

That they were taken into it by any means (including force, treachery or voluntary) doesn't matter. That they are mutated is the effect of wizardry which, in turn, was done "in the name of science" (or, in other words, "because I can") and is apparently so dangerous that only small fraction of the "applicants" survive it is almost beside the point...

There is no information if the first witchers were created to hunt monsters or if that's something they reinvented themselves as, but they are, effectively, raised, trained and taught in that spirit and according to craft rules in a community which is as close to a family as possible in that universe to be one. Mix with that mentioned already uniqueness, their origins (from the poorest and weakest) and you get a person who's ultimate motivation is to help and protect those who can't protect themselves from dangers literally out of their world. At least that how it always was - or was supposed to be.

On the other hand - get involved in politics and you're guaranteed to end up with a knife between your ribs. Thus the best way is to show that one's only interest is in money - which is a motivation the rich and powerful do get and can trust in. And since their training makes them superior fighters, what is a cause for concern for everybody else, especially to a lot of people who do not get their motivations and view witchers as a danger to themselves, money is an explanation that they do get and see as a means of controlling the witchers.

Put the problem that way and the self-imposed neutrality and appearance of mercenary attitude definitely looks like the best survival tactics and strategy, short-, medium- and long-term for a witcher travelling alone.

  • 2
    Good answer, except for the duh. ;) I get why witchers do ask for money, but not why they are taught to not do a job without payment. The two things are different. If, as you say, their "ultimate motivation is to help and protect those who can't protect themselves from dangers literally out of their world", it seems strange to tag on a "Oh by the way, make sure you get paid."
    – Ben Green
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 12:10
  • Not so strange when poor parents say that to their child...
    – AcePL
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 12:14

I think its because it perpetuates the theme that a witcher can be trusted, because money (and doing a quality job) is their only motivation. It builds trust. In the same way that you let exterminators tent your house or leave them alone with precious items in your house, they make your house livable again. Witchers are the same way. By each one perpetuating the same interest in gold, it makes common ground between the Witcher and contractor, to ensure that witchers can be viewed with trust, to continue their work. If a Witcher does something for free, it sends the message that some Witchers do the job for free, and hurts other Witchers passing through town who may REALLY need the gold because the town may hold out for a free Witcher or it may push them to try to lowball the Witcher who is putting his life on the line. It distorts the actual value associated with the craft and can drive prices down.

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