Thursday, November 20, 2014

Hireling Loyalty: Obey Under Protest

So what do you do when a hireling really has no choice but to cooperate with an order?

DF15 addresses the question of following exceptionally dangerous or unreasonable commands. But what if the hireling is in extremis, and can't really say no?

This could be because of external threat, or poor planning, or bad circumstances. What if they are stuck in a fight or trapped in a dungeon and then issued a command they'd prefer to refuse?

Try this:

I Obey Under Protest: If a hireling is ordered to do something especially dangerous or unreasonable, but can't refuse do to circumstance, make the Loyalty check (per Dungeon Fantasy 15: Henchmen, p. 30) normally. If the hireling passes the check, he will obey normally. If the hireling fails his or her Loyalty roll, the hireling will obey anyway, but Loyalty will permanently drop by 1, or by the penalty for Poor Treatment, p. 30, whichever is worse. On a critical failure, Loyalty drops by 5, and the hireling will bad mouth the PCs back in town, for a -1 to their ability to recruit new hirelings for 1d months. On a critical success, the hireling's loyalty will increase by 1 temporarily (due to increased confidence, or from resignation!) The effects are immediate, which means continued lack of choice will steadily degrade the hireling's loyalty. If the opportunity arises to refuse, desert, or shirk, the hireling should make another Loyalty check; on a failure, the hireling will do so. If the original check was a critical failure, this second roll automatically fails!

That is a circumstance that DF15 addresses, but doesn't exactly spell out consequences beyond "otherwise fails to perform." This optional rule deals with that exact circumstance - when the PCs essentially give orders a hireling would refuse except that he can't. These aren't really necessary rules, but I have fun spelling out just how badly people take it when you order them to do things they don't want to do, but can't avoid.


  1. I have played out a related situation; the support team during my previously mentioned troll fight all got an even share, with the exception of a hireling of a dwarven earthmage/artificer who was trying to secure pieces of the dungeon by installing gates, using rock to mud/earth to stone to anchor them. His faithful laborer,
    Who hauled his wounded master out of the fray, and went back to get chests of essential earth, instead got half of his master's share, and was given a potion of healing to carry, and one for his own use. Dwarves are miserly and greedy, but code of honor won out to compensate the hireling, who went and bought a helmet with the money. The others who got a full share volunteered immediately for the second foray.

    1. That's a great example of PCs knowing when to be generous - it's better to spend some extra and reward loyalty and competence, then to have NPCs wandering around town with t-shirts that say "I rescued a PC from certain death and all I got was $30 and this lousy t-shirt."

  2. That is useful. I think that having rules for social interactions with NPCs is something that would be really useful to me because I am not very good at playing non-combat NPCs and how they interact with the PCs. Social interaction that is realistic can add a lot of fun to DF IMO and having rules for that is really helpful.

    1. DF, p. 30, is a great place to start for that. Not to excessively plug my own book - but I wrote those rules to fit that niche!


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