Saturday, March 19, 2016

Hireling Optional Rules - Mistreating the Hirelings

One thing I never really liked as a GM was the whole "meatshield" and "cannon fodder" approach to hirelings. That is, treating them like suicidal idiots not worthy of consideration unless they turn out to be useful.

That is, treating them like disposable meat.

It's fair to hire potion tasters to taste potions, and guards to guard, and low-rent guys on the basis of "you go through the minefield first."

It feels less so to assume they'll commit suicide for you for low pay, and treat them like dirt at the same time.

Same with hiring soldiers on the grounds that they make great laborers and cooks and torchbearers when needed.

Or hiring torchbearers and laborers and cooks and ordering them into combat when it's expedient.

Feel the same way?

What if that mattered?

Here are some optional rules. They're partly tongue in cheek, but they actually work using the Reaction Rolls and Loyalty scores from DF15.

All of this assumes a basis of risk acceptance, just like the rules in DF15.

Say my name!

It's nice when someone knows your name. New hirelings don't expect this automatically, especially if they hire on as part of a group.

If you address a hireling by his or her actual name when making a request, roll any Reaction Roll at +1. Give a +1 to any Loyalty rolls from hirelings routinely addressed in this manner.

Forgetting a name doesn't affect a roll, nor does, "You, there, with the halberd!" Routinely forgetting a name after multiple adventures or weeks on the job does count as poor treatment, however.

Insulting nicknames are worth a -1 to Loyalty rolls and a -1 to Reaction Rolls from the NPC. These include bu aren't limited to "Mutt and Jeff" or "Itchy and Scratchy" or "Huey, Louie, and Dewey." Really insulting ones ("Hey, Meatshield #2!") might be worth -2 or more, and may trigger disadvantages like Bad Temper, Stubbornness, or Berserk. If a Loyalty roll is failed by 5+, permanently lower loyalty - the nickname might fade from use, but not the memory of it!

Hirelings Not Included

Sense of Duty includes a +2 reaction roll bonus in dangerous situations. This only applies if the Sense of Duty covers the hirelings and the PCs act as if it does. It's fine to have Sense of Duty (Adventuring Companions) with the caveat that this includes your core group but not one-time hirelings, but then you can't claim your +2 to their rolls. They aren't in the group and they know it. The same goes for other conditional modifiers for Code of Honor, Reputation ("Sticks by his friends"), and so on.

Not My Job

Hirelings asked to do something within their usual skills and specialties react normally. Asked to function outside of it, and they might balk.

Outside of their specialty, apply a penalty of -0 to -5, depending on the request. A specialist Skirmisher who totes his heavy crossbow might only react at -1 or -2 to deploying in melee, but at -3 when asked to max out his encumbrance carrying loot he's not entitled too ("Here, carry these 12 broadswords we looted from the orcs. There might be a pittance in it for you if you don't die this delve!"), and at -5 when asked to taste a potion to see if it's actually a harmful elixir or poison. Conversely, a potion taster might just sip that potion without even requiring a roll, but react at -3 when ordered into melee or -5 or more when told to cover the rear while the party pulls back.

This can be handled by hiring for multiple jobs, or raising pay enough for bonuses to offset it. Utterly loyal hirelings - such as minions and most Allies - don't even require a roll! (If using the "Appearance Rolls as Loyalty Rolls" rules from DF15, p. 28)

Exception circumstances may change this - you can usually ignore these penalties when carrying buddies out of harm's way, when forced into sudden combat, etc.


  1. I like this. It is a subtle nudge to role-play and enhances the game world.

    1. Thanks. I like to make it clear that you don't need to coddle hirelings or treat them like dependents. But if you treat them poorly, with disrespect, or like interchangeable armed pack mules, they aren't going to be as loyal.


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