Friday, March 25, 2016

The Disappointing Hirelings of D&D5e

I try to do a 5th edition D&D post on Fridays, because I like the game and it makes me keep revisiting the material so I can learn it better. I've been posting about hirelings, so why not see how D&D handles them?

I started in the DMG, because that's where I expected to find the rules on hiring NPCs.

What does the DMG say about them?

Not much. Page 94 says they aren't terribly important and they "rarely become important in an adventure" - okay, maybe. If we're talking the bartender who serves you a drink or the bosun's mate on the ship who you never interact with.

The Player's Handbook has them listed under equipment, with all of two lines for "unskilled" and "skilled" hirelings. And a cost for messengers per pile, cab rides, and ship's passage and such.

That's really about it besides vague guidelines for some people costing more to hire.

I found this all rather disappointing. I like hirelings, sidekicks, allies, henchmen, and camp follower types a lot. I think they add a lot of value to campaigns. But these rules are pretty sparse. The morale rules mention monsters, and could be used with hirelings, but that probably goes without saying. Are there rules for hiring NPCs, recruiting henchmen, loyalty, costs, etc. out there for 5e I need to be aware of? Did I miss some information not listed in the TOC or index under hirelings, or elsewhere?

If not, I'll need to see about porting over the GURPS or AD&D rules for hirelings to 5e.


  1. I love AD&Ds henchmen and hire long rules myself. And yeah, in the right campaign they are important.

  2. The limited rules for henchmen and hirelings is problematic, because one of the easier ways to dominate 5e combat is to bring lots of friends. If you're not playing a necromancer wizard, the other way to do that is to hire or recruit people.

    The party in the 5e F2F game I'm playing in recruited 4 5th level paladins (knights from the monster listing) for some dungeon clearing when we were 7th to 9th level or so. They were completely amazing: doing PC level damage (or better) in aggregate, adding 2 or 3 PC's worth of hit points, and giving us four more pairs of eyes to watch unexplored hallways and four more bodies to block enemy movement points.

    I'm pretty sure our GM just handwaved the rules, but it'd be nice to have something in that pretty book that he paid for with hard cash.

  3. If you'd like a great NPC/henchmen resource look for a book called Allies & Adversaries, it's a must have of great NPC stat blocks.

    1. I'll check it out, I see it's PWYW so I'll get it for $0.00 and contribute later if it's good stuff.


  4. I think you may end up having a problem with this one Peter...

    Ever since 3e, D&D has been "balanced" around the core concept of a 4-5 man party, no more - no less. There have been plenty of rules crafted to rebalanced or shift the balance to allow for more (and less) PCs, to cover having Henchmen, etc. But it's never 'balanced' well.

    Now... I know your style, is "Balance? Shmalance!" but I'm just pointing this out.

    1. 5E is not that bad, but you need to factor in henchmen that fight into encounters if you're concerned about balance. Or play it old school and let the players figure it out (for example, why my players pursued one dungeon with their henchmen which the felt they had an edge on, while they ran away from another, much tougher dungeon --as they perceived it-- earlier).

    2. I figured that would be the case - I wouldn't really look at "balance" per se. A module or adventure might have balanced encounter for X PCs of Y levels but be less so if you hire help. I've got no issues with that!

  5. "5E is not that bad..."

    Good to know. I haven't played 5e yet (I'm not a big fan of D&D system wise) but from my reading of the rules it read like a return to the "Grand Old Days" of the BECM Moldavy style... but I didn't really delve into the DM's sections.


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