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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Does Your Party Use Henchmen / Hirelings?

Back in my early days of RPG gaming (late 90's) all of our PCs had henchmen, but we rarely if ever used them. I'm not sure we understood the concept 100%, as we saw henchmen as "the new PC to replace my old PC when he dies and gets to inherit all of his shit."

Heck, even the old TSR adventures that had pregens (because they were inevitably originally tournament modules) didn't include henchmen. The adventures were balanced (if we can dare say that word) apparently to not need henchmen.

In the late 80s to mid 90s - the college years - my players experimented with a henchmen or two, but they inevitably became "party henchmen" or even "party controlled (N)PC." More than an NPC, less than a PC, controlled by the players with final decision making by the DM.

Yeah, I don't know if we ever really grasped the concept ;)

So, did you use henchmen / hirelings back in the day? Do you use them now?

21 comments:

  1. If i have under 5 players henchmen standard, familiars, pets, servants, wives all common

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  2. Henchmen where a way to dodge ENC issues. Pay a bit to hire one and assume they are trucking piles of loot out of dungeon on the parys behalf.

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  3. As an ACKS (Adventurer Conqueror King System) GM, I'm seeing a lot more henchmen being used. Partly because of the death/debilitation that occurs during normal play but also as a means of getting additional characters into the campaign. As my various groups are advancing in levels (and so breaking through the different 'tiers' of the game) they are using their henchmen to do minor tasks/missions for their higher level 'mains'.

    As an example, one group started out with a single character each. They quickly hired a couple of NPC hirelings to act as torch-bearers and porters/camp-helpers. Once they had a few levels under their belts, some of them hired henchmen to tag along and run errands for the main group - stuff like riding ahead of the party to the next few villages/towns to arrange for supplies, accommodation or sniff out possible adventure leads. Once the main group had levelled out of the 'adventurer' band (level 4+) and were in to the 'conqueror' tier, they found themselves relying more and more on the lower level henchmen to do the menial stuff so that they themselves could concentrate on the meat and potatoes of being an adventuring company - hunting treasure and killing stuff! Once they reach the 'king' stage (name level and above), they will predominantly be concentrating on managing their strongholds and running whatever domains they have acquired. The henchmen that used to do their donkey work will now be played by them to do what they used to do in the previous tier and in turn, those henchmen will have hired their own henchmen and hirelings to move on up the food chain themselves.

    This is not at all like it used to be when I started playing in the 70s - back then we were just a bunch of murder hobos that rampaged through whatever area our GM dumped us in for that particular adventure. The thought of giving up any of our 'hard-earned loot' to pay for someone to carry our shit for us would never have entered our minds.

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  4. As trap detectors because they're more portable than a 10' pole?

    Often the groups I've gamed with were so big (we at one point had over a dozen regulars) that henchmen were neither needed nor wanted. Currently they're used to fill holes in the party's composition .

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  5. In my very first game of D&D (AD&D, nominally), I asked if I could hire people to help me out. The DM was taken by surprise, but let me hire mercenaries straight from the charts in the DMG. He had no idea how to handle them, though, so my first level magic-user was the only PC to survive that adventure, mostly by throwing mercenaries at everything. It's amazing how many traps you can avoid if the mercenaries just do as they are told without question, no matter how many have died in previous traps. Since then, even as morale and loyalty became more important, I have been very much in favor of hirelings and make sure to hire some in nearly any game they are allowed. They are also the best way for a low-level party to avoid Sleep spells. Henchmen, on the other hand, are XP sponges, and only rarely worth the trouble at lower levels.

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  6. Played a lot of AD&D in the early 80's and we never really got how henchmen and hirelings worked.

    Sometimes we'd play whole sessions and forget that we even had any with us. I'm not DMing at this moment, but I'd like to run a hard core game where these kinds of elements become necessary.

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  7. Yes, we do. I even wrote about them today after reading your post.

    http://dungeonfantastic.blogspot.com/2014/11/how-do-you-treat-henchmen-and-hirelings.html

    I hired a few in your game, too, but they didn't help very much. I might do so again if I think they're useful. A backup 1st level guy with us would be good, although the drain on XP would kind of suck. I hate getting less XP just because I had a little help. :)

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    1. Cheap-ass hireling that I am, I followed Peter's lead and talked about this as well.

      http://gamingballistic.blogspot.com/2014/11/tenkars-hirelings.html

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  8. When we were playing DCC last spring and later AD&D this last summer, we used hirelings and henchmen. Hirelings got no XP or share of loot. Henchmen got a share of XP and loot. The way it started in DCC, everyone had multiple characters (keeping one as a backup for the inevitable gruesome death). Any new character that was recruited started at level zero and worked their way up. Then when we switched to AD&D, each player controlled their primary character and a secondary character, plus a few zero-level hirelings who never leveled. We had a huge party of 15-20 people trudging around the dungeon! It was classic!

    The hirelings were never treated as cannon-fodder. In fact, quite the opposite. The hirelings were a LAST RESORT! They were there to drag fallen PCs off the battlefield and stabilize the dying. They carried the loot and protected the magic user in the rear. The player characters did everything they could to protect the fragile 4 hit point hirelings! Because you needed them to save your shit when things went south!

    When we switched to fifth edition, the players themselves abolished multiple characters. They preferred to play one at a time. However, the idea of securing some zero-level hirelings has been discussed, primarily for the same reason as above - someone to save your shit when things go south.

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  9. We use them more now than we did back in the day.

    We're usually benevolent with them, not using them as pure canon fodder or trap detectors. Usually.

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  10. I've always used them. The trick is to run them such that the players get emotionally invested. A nice horrible death of a beloved henchman has brought the players to the verge of tears more than once, especially if the party suffers a TPK as a result of this loss. Good times!

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    1. Oh yes! I've had players go out of their way to save or help a henchman - sometimes to greater effort than they do with other party members.

      If the players get emotionally invested (rather than simply seeing them as little more than XP sponges) it becomes a whole lot easier to use them as plot devices... muahaha!

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  11. When I first started playing, no.
    Now, always if available.

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  12. My players often use hirelings (extra muscle and pack/torch bearers).

    But I can't remember anyone ever recruiting a henchman.

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  13. Hench-critters and Hire-things don't come up much here until PC's start to establish bases of operation, or something similar. One PC is a cleric, and is hiring out workers to renovate an old church to re-open it. Another has started a brewery/inn sort of thing, and hired people for that. We are still "adventuring," so settling down isn't quite the plan yet.

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  14. Hirelings and Henchmen are available in my D&D game. Hirelings (unclassed NPCs) must be equipped and are paid a daily wage + living expenses (plus a bonus if they are expected to fight). I developed my own Hireling pay rates because those which are suggested in the rulebooks border on the criminally cheap. Henchmen (leveled NPCs with an actual Class) get an agreed-upon cut of the loot and also draw XP, so they are not as desirable to low-level PCs.

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  15. We usually had a few in play back in high school (1e days)... usually recruited from random "adventure party" encounters who'd team up with the party until escaping the dungeon. Now I run an OD&D game, and my players have hired torch bearers, but no leveled NPCs yet.

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  16. Always had henchmen - I know the rules distinguished "henchmen" from "hirelings" but we didn't make much distinction, the NPCs who accompanied the player-characters were "part of the gang"; if slaves or recruited at an agreed-upon pay they didn't get share of the loot but otherwise were the same as player-characters: shares of loot, had a character sheet with statistics, weren't cannon-fodder any more so than the player-characters. When we'd take a break to go to the local bar for clams & beer, we'd pick out a number of seats for the actual people + the hirelings because we'd forgotten they weren't actual real-world people.

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  17. I don't recall ever using retainers in past campaigns, whether I was the DM or a player. The closest I came was the "funnel" in the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG where you start with four 0-level losers and the assumption is only one will survive the first adventure. (Actually, thinking about it more, there was a short-lived 3e campaign where I encouraged the players to hire a 0-level warrior on a day where the fighter player couldn't attend.)

    Now we are playing B/X D&D and we use retainers extensively. The rules seem to be balanced for a party of 6-8 (treasure amounts, # of monsters appearing, etc.), and when you're playing a more lethal variant of D&D it helps to have a standby character that can be switched over to without breaking stride.

    Like Peter and Douglas up above, I wrote up a post about using retainers in my campaign, including my house rules for managing them:

    http://belowtherustylantern.blogspot.com/2014/11/retainers-in-idalium-campaign.html

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  18. In my old 3rd edition game we had a party consisting of a Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, and Wizard (pretty standard stuff). We hired several people to accompany us on adventures. There were a dozen Mercenaries, a cook, an animal tender, a barrister and clerk (they stayed in town, though. The barrister helped us avoid pissing off the local lords, and the clerk took care of our finances.), and a pair of lackeys. The lackeys were particularly helpful; we would keep one in the town closest to where we were adventuring so that he could keep an eye on whatever we may have left behind, and the other lackey came with us and was furnished with a horse so that he could carry messages back and forth if we needed him to. The Mercenaries we divided into four groups of three. We'd take two groups into the dungeon with us, and leave the other two groups at our base camp as lookouts and guards.

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  19. Cave of Chaos was set up for you to hire F1 henchman in the tavern and even exceptional E2 or D2 characters so we used them from the start .I do remember having tom dick and harry the F1's rounding out our party. We generally went through them pretty quick though. harry may have gotten a +1 dagger before it was all over for him and he may have made second level before he joined the rest in the meat grinder. There was some emotional attachment. Players still talk about not saving Morc the Orc the rebel orc we rescued from the Hobgoblins. We used them and it certainly helped low level party survivability.

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