Talk to me about hirelings.  How have you used them in your games (as GM or player)?  How do you find their crunchy…

Talk to me about hirelings.  How have you used them in your games (as GM or player)?  How do you find their crunchy…

Talk to me about hirelings.  How have you used them in your games (as GM or player)?  How do you find their crunchy bits (skill, loyalty, cost) influences play?  Do you find them becoming an important part of the game, or mostly just background?

16 thoughts on “Talk to me about hirelings.  How have you used them in your games (as GM or player)?  How do you find their crunchy…”

  1. The one hireling we’ve had in our ongoing game was basically just a porter. I think he might have had skill points in Protector (?), but mostly he just hauled stuff.  After the shite hit the fan and they needed his help, he demanded an unreasonably increased cut of the loot.  The party refused and he got all sulky.

    Later, when the fighter and artificer got attacked by a big-ass puff adder, the porter intentionally got in the artificer’s way.  The artificer then used him as a human shield. He died.

    The ongoing guilt trip we get to lay on the artificer’s player has been priceless.

  2. In our last campaign, two NPCs became hirelings at the players’ request. One was an imprisoned thief with much-needed skills, the other was a likable Dwarf with strong ties to the ongoing fiction. Players used them occasionally as background characters, and they provided a nice pool of replacements if the PCs met an untimely fate.

    Their mechanical impact was useful, but less memorable than their fictional importance.

  3. This is of interest to me, because I’m about to start a game which I’ll be GMing and likely only going to have 2 players. I expect a hireling would be fairly necessary with the low player count. We are all new to RPGs.

  4. I had a while in my campaign where I only had two players.  They picked up a hireling as well, and I played him up as a woodsman/lumberjack because they were in a smaller town and looking for someone with the tracking skill.  The players liked his mechanical benefits and really enjoyed his fiction so much that when he died, they brought his ax back to his family.  It really surprised me how that one guy turned into a fair bit of roleplay and fun.

  5. My wife plays a Wizard, who travels with two NPCs: a Warrior and a Priest. These are hirelings in terms of rules, but their cost is special as they are friends of the character. They actually started as a Fighter and Cleric, but I found it too weird running 2/3 of the party as a GM.

    The hireling approach in this sense is largely fictional with some mechanical benefits. The warrior adds her skill to the Wizard’s damage, which can make a big difference. Because they have no HP, you can throw them around and even kill them fictionally, if it makes sense to do so. They just can’t be awesome like the PC(s) because they are not true adventurers with awesome abilities.

  6. At the beginning of our campaign, the group talked a bunch of bandits to work for the group for awhile until the majority of them died to giants’ clubs. While they were around, we temporarily upgraded one to a Fighter while one of the players’ characters was dead.

    Later, one of the characters found a Horn of Valhalla, and can now summon a handful of spectral Viking warriors who fight for him until the end of a fight.

    The hireling rules are great and would work really well for old school D&D-style adventures where you’re expected to be a small army of sorts. 

  7. Thanks for sharing, y’all!  Follow-up questions…

    Aaron Sturgill Did you stat up the two hirelings? If so, what skills did you give them?  Did those skill points matter?  How did you use them in making your GM moves?  Did they survive?

    Charles Persall Cool!  How did he die?  Also, when the players went looking for a hireling, did they go looking for “a woodsman, someone to track our prey” or did they go looking for “a hireling with the track skill?”

    Chris McGee Do you keep track of their Loyalty? Do they have a Cost at all? For the Fighter to add to her damage, does she have to roll +Str to H&S?  (I’m curious how that works in play, especially with a non-combatant PC.)  Does the Cleric have the priest skills (ministry & first aid), or do you let him actually cast healing spells (like during a fight)? 

    Curtis Hay While the bandits were working for the PCs, did you stat them up as hirelings?  If not, why not?  Was their Loyalty ever tested?  If so, did you make the Order Hirelings move or just run with what felt right?

    The Horn of Valhalla sounds freakin’ sweet.  Similar questions, though: are the spectral Vikings statted up? Do they have costs or Loyalty?  Do they ever refuse to fight, or drag their feet about it?  Do they remember being summoned each time? 

  8. They wanted someone who knew the area, but could still hold his own in combat. I came up with the burly lumberjack. He died from a tough fight with cultist. The finishing move came when the bard failed a metal hurlant roll and dealt high damage.

  9. Jeremy Strandberg, the bandits and the Vikings are all statted using just the hireling stat system (ie skill, loyalty, and cost). The bandits were low loyalty and skill. There was a nonspecific mix of Burglars, Protectors, and Warriors. Their cost was stated as a cut of the profits and not being turned in to the king. I didn’t feel the need to have the players pay them each session, and they didn’t last long enough for it to become a real concern anyway.

    The Vikings are high skill (I don’t remember numbers off hand) Warriors, and their cost and loyalty are handwaved because they’re spectral, temporary, and just the effect of a magic item. Whether they remember being summoned or not hasn’t come up, as they disappear once combat ends.

  10. Jeremy Strandberg Loyalty and Cost are strange in this case. Because they were full blown characters previously, she treats them as equals, including with treasure. So, their Cost is actually friendship/trust. If that is betrayed or perceived to be, problems can arise.

    The ex-Cleric has two skills: Priest and Protector. The ex-Fighter also has two skills: Warrior and Protector. This allows the Priest to heal (at a temporary cost of -1 from pain) and to take damage on her behalf (raise her Armor by his skill at cost of -1 to skill until healed). It allows the Warrior to increase her damage output by adding her (the Warrior is a woman) skill to her (the Wizard’s) damage roll as well as take damage on her behalf like the Priest.

    That arrangement works really well so far – the Wizard is the center of attention while the “hirelings” aid her mechanically in the background. I simply narrate their actions when they step in: “Anya, the kobolds move to flank you with their spears, what do you do?” “I cast a magic missile at the closest one.” “Roll to cast the spell. Brienne (the Warrior) sees your peril and shifts between you and the other Kobold.” (rolls a 10 and does enough damage to kill Kobold 1) “Alright, the Kobold shrieks as the magical bolt blasts through its face, then falls to the ground, lifeless. Meanwhile the second Kobold tries to spear you as Brienne gets in the way. Give me a d6. (She rolls 4) Alright, with Brienne’s addition to your armor, you take no damage from the spear, but it’s lodged in Brienne and the Kobold is pushing it deeper. What do you do?”

    I do not give them PC abilities now so the Priest does not cast spells and the Warrior doesn’t Hack and Slash. I treat them as they mechanically are written and it works well.

  11. Chris McGee Thanks! That’s exactly the kind of description I was hoping for. 

    If you’re willing to keep talking about this: when do you use the warrior’s damage bonus? Like, in the example above, if the magic missile wouldn’t have dropped the kobold on its own, would you have had Brienne add her skill to the damage?  Would you then have let Brienne’s protect skill also reduce the damage from the other kobold?

  12. Jeremy Strandberg I let Brienne add damage regardless of distance, etc., unless for some reason she can’t at all. This is because I assume it to average out across various opponents and don’t use the damage as part of the fiction unless it specifically enhances it (it doesn’t make sense to assume Brienne attacks the same individuals as Anya fictionally).

    Defense wise, Brienne has to be close by.

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