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Archive for March, 2014

Look at the cover of the First Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide (DMG), the one with the wrap around illustration.  There we see two heroic men, a Fighter and Magic User, battling a Djinn for the life of their beautiful, blonde scantily clad thief.  Change the sexes, classes and combat equipment and you have the typical dungeon delvers we know and play today.

The First Edition Player’s Handbook was published before the DMG, and shows a distinctly different collection of characters.  All men I admit, but the Fighter and Magic User are assisted by a collection of Men-at-Arms, porters and other hirelings and henchmen. Now answer me this; on which cover do we see the Player Characters (PC) clearly triumphant?

Earnest G Gygax (Praised be his name!) came from a different class of tabletop player.  Schooled first in unstructured, Napoleonic LARPS, and on the cutting edge of medieval fantasy role playing, Gygax (long was his wisdom!) never mistook swords and sorcery as an excuse to violate physical laws or common sense.  If Mordenkainen, Robilar, Otiluke and Tenser wanted to schlep mounds of gold from Castle Greyhawk, you can bet your Bag of Holding they hired somebody to do it.

1.  So what is the difference between Hirelings and Henchmen?

“Henchmen are defined as the associates, companions and loyal (to a degree) followers of a player character.. They are useful in individual adventures as a safety measure against the machinations of rival PCs, provide strength to the character in his or her stronghold, and lastly serve as a means of adventuring when the PC is unable to.”  (DMG p 29 and 34)

“Hirelings are the servitors, mercenaries and employees of the PCs.  Most hirelings.. are typically employed at such a time as the character in question has an established stronghold.  Common, standard hirelings are the usual craftsmen and laborers taken on by lower level characters.”(p 28)

2. The Dungeon Master’s Guide makes my eyes bleed.  English por favor?

Henchmen are essentially first level non-player characters (NPCs), Fighters, Magic Users, Thieves and the like, who adventure alongside the PCs and get involved in the same kind of dirty work.  Hirelings carry torches and treasure, look after the horses, and clean up once the slaughter is done.  Although different in profession and outlook, the same social and economic factors impact loyal followers and mere servitors alike (see #7 below).

3. How do I hire hirelings?

If you’re hiring to adventure far afield from town and village count on spending double to triple normal wages for a three in six chance of finding the right person for the job.  Luckily for you lower level PCs that means 3 GP a month for a porter, or 9 GP/month for a pikemen.  Gygax (in his Beneficent Ambiguity) suggests each sort “will be found in the appropriate section or quarter of city or town,” or reference pages 28 through 34 of the DMG.

4. How do I hire henchmen?

Adventurers are pretty unique, so according to Gygax (may his pencil remain sharp!) only about one in a thousand city dwellers count as first level PCs interested in employment.  To find them he details several steps and outlines costs incurred for what we’d recognize as a full on marketing blitz minus the LinkedIn (p 35). Incentives begin with base one hundred gold pieces for a 25% chance of interest, then go onto magic items offered (+15%), quarters and support (maybe 5%) duties requested and shares of loot offered.  Never fear however, the eventual chance this NPC will sign on is affected by your Charisma Reaction Adjustment (PH p 13).

5.   What is a Hobilar and why should I hire one?

Expert hirelings generally follow divisions of labor similar to those found in our post-modern society.  Pikemen, archers, sages and castellan each play an important role protecting a stronghold or projecting a PC’s sphere of political influence.  Adventuring for the most part however requires a different kind of character – one most PCs would immediately recognize as their own, ie a henchman.

6. But Gary would never say never!!

Lighten up Francis.  While you probably want to leave Hobilars and other cavalry outside the dungeon (Gygax in his prudence says horses can’t dungeon crawl) there’s no reason you cannot bring a half dozen footmen with you.  Following that division of labor however your DM (may this being have mercy on us!) will only recognize the expert hireling as good at one thing – say archery – rather than being proficient with an entire arsenal.

7. How does my Charisma affect the loyalty and obedience of hirelings and henchmen?

Some situations will sorely test the loyalty and obedience of hirelings and henchmen.  Gygax (in his Infinite Anality!) identifies a raft of factors, from economic considerations like share of the spoils and organizational aspects like discipline and training, to cultural issues like alignment, race, length of employment and other special considerations on page 36 of the DMG.  To keep your DM honest and speed game play (may this being have mercy on us!) you may consider calculating some of this yourself beforehand.

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