Wednesday, February 22, 2012

hired help

It just came to me recently that one of the biggest differences in game play between how I ran things when I was young and how the old school games were actually designed involves henchmen.  When I was a pup, I ran adventures where the party was self sufficient, players rarely hired on people except perhaps as a service provider in town or a tracker in the wild.  Everything focused on the players and they didn't need anyone's help.  In the Labyrinth Lord campaign I'm playing in (Zharillia), we have to hire henchmen, it is vitally important that we hire henchmen and if we do not hire henchmen we will not succeed. We are low level adventurers who can be killed in one blow.  We have to hire guys to hold our torches and to fight beside us (not the same guys, and certainly not the same wages!).  This is not a bad thing, on the contrary it gives everything a feeling of accomplishment.  This difference between play styles I've know intellectually, but experiencing it now I've started to think on how I'm doing things in Beacon.

a couple guys to hold the torches
When designing Beacon I wanted to include henchmen.  I knew I wanted to have that element in the game but I hadn't really thought about it much.  I did include a chart on costs for hiring porters and guides and guards and such, and some play testers even took the cue and hired a couple folks to drive wagons and fight for them.  What I didn't do however was write up any hireling management or morale rules.   Aside from outlining the costs, the PC/NPC interactions were implied.  I guess you could lift rules from 3e or AD&D for these things and I'm sure it would work fine.  I'm all good with keeping rules light and having GMs borrow or build house rules to suit, but once again I find that I would like to have a stated mechanic available that fits with the game too.

I really think I need to put in three bits of information; how many hirelings a player can manage, a short word on the basic hireling contract, and a simple morale system.  The Labyrinth Lord and Swords and Wizardry Charisma tables give a range from 1 to 7 retainers and a morale number from 4 to 10.  I can't remember how its handled in AD&D but the OSRIC book gives a spread of 1-20 (the 20 comes at charisma 19).  Not sure I want to put a number on henchmen.  Some people can manage loyal armies or even nations, and some cannot even keep a dog loyal.   If I do place limits on it, I'm thinking that I'd like to say either a character can manage a number of hirelings equal to their charisma score, or go with a fixed number formula like 10 +/- twice their charisma bonus, but again I don't know if that's reasonable.  Money talks and if you can pay people you should be able to hire them.  I guess the argument for very large groups is that a character can only have so many people personally responsible/loyal to them and then those people in turn have others responsible to them.  Anyone outside the hireling limit would be in that second removed category perhaps.

Management of hirelings and morale will naturally be based on DC and Charisma.  In either case for morale and loyalty I'd use DC, starting at 10 and modifying based on situation conditions, the player's charisma bonus, as well as any other factors (like good treatment, high/low pay, hireling disposition) apply to the rolls.  I want to make sure everything sticks to core d20 mechanics established instead of flinging in a new look-up chart or dice mechanic out of the blue.  However this shakes out it, all of this should add no more than a small paragraph to the rules.  Almost all the pieces are there already I just want to make mention of them.


  1. At themoment im using LL standard + something found on the net, but i would like to see more detailed rules about hirelings!

  2. I am currently working out my exact rules for hirelings (by which I mean everything from slaves to dogs to horses to classed followers), but currently use 4 hirelings + CHA Bonus(or penalty). So that creates the 1-7 range, which I think meshes nicely with reality, where you can only control so many units directly, and for more, you need middle managers/sargents/dog handlers whatever.

    1. Yea, (4 +/- Cha bonus) is a good idea and less confusing than (10 +/- 2/Cha bonus), I wanted a larger number to deal with King Arthur situations where you might have 13 knights or something, but maybe 1-7 is good if I put in something to leverage the communication skill, like an extra hireling per point in communication. I'm very much behind the idea of skills as improvement and even a sour uninspiring bastard can learn management skills.