Thursday, January 9, 2014

Henchman Week, Day 2-ish: Finding Henchmen & Greasing Wheels

Anywhere you go, finding henchmen is never as easy as finding mercenaries. In Ur-Hadad, for example, one can merely head to the Spearmarket to hire a good sword arm or a dozen, but finding someone you can really trust to have your adventurer's back is not so simple of a proposition. Even finding someone interested in risking his or her neck in some dank dungeon by holding a torch for you isn't very likely at the neighborhood watering hole isn't terribly likely, so how do you do it?

Greasing The Wheels

This type of response requires an investment
Before you can start finding applicants, you have to get the word out that you're actually looking for some quality back up, which of course begs the question of what sort of quality of back up you're looking for. Again, I'm going to draw a distinction between 0-level henchmen and 1st+ level henchmen, but either way, you'll need to grease the wheels to get the henchman train rolling. 

When looking for 0-level henchmen, the player character invests 5gp (or the equivalent, in case anyone out there is taking everything I say at face value) in a few carefully-applied rounds of drinks. If he wants better results, he can spend an additional 5gp on spreading the word around. So far, this is identical to the system used in Meatshields! because, simply put, it makes a lot of sense. By getting folks drunk enough, you can probably find a person or two willing to venture into the dungeon with you. Enough said. 

When looking for henchmen with class levels, however, things are a little different. Well, only slightly. Following the same sort of scheme, the player spends 10gp per level of henchman desired (remember that desired level can be no higher than one level lower than the PC's level) per each potential henchman he'd like to interview/examine for the job. For example, let's say a player is looking to hire a thief to work for his 3rd-level fighter; each thief he'd like to interview for the job will cost him 20gp to find if he plans on finding a 2nd-level thief, or 10gp each if he's looking for a 1st-level one. Usually, I'll prepare 3 different options for players, depending on what they're looking for, so if the player wants a full range of choices, he's going to have to invest three times; anything less and I'll roll for which potential henchmen (potenchmen?) come looking for a job. 

Something I Forgot

How I recruit all my henchmen
As I mentioned in my previous post, if a player plans on hiring a henchman with class levels, he has to first (a) be between adventures, (b) be in a settlement of significant size to support a henchman of the desired level (again, check out ACKS for level of NPCs in various sized towns) and (c) tells me the session before what sort of henchman he's looking for. A fighter? No problem. A rogue-y type guy? Sure thing. A healer? You bet, man, just give me a chance to draw up some options. 

While there is a chance that there would be an NPC of the appropriate level in a small, isolated community, that person (from my perspective) probably already has a job or position of responsibility within that community and isn't likely to be or want to become an adventurer. In larger towns and cities, however, it makes more sense to me. The requirement that the player be "between adventures" was put into place to reflect the amount of time that it would take to find someone (or someones) of the appropriate ability. You can scrape together a group of mercenaries or 0-level men-at-arms pretty swiftly, but real, seasoned adventurers take a bit longer. 

A Numbers Game

While potential henchmen with class levels are found on "pay per interview" basis, spending the small amount of up to 10gp for 0s doesn't tell you how many you would get. I treat an attempt to recruit henchmen in a small town or a village as the baseline for this numbers game and modify it from there. Use the points below to generate a number of potential henchmen.
  • Baseline: 1d6 0-level henchmen
  • Settlement is smaller than a village: -1
  • Settlement is a large town or city: +1
  • Settlement is a large city or metropolis: +2
  • Paid for advertising: +1
  • Employer has a good reputation: +1
  • Employer has a bad reputation: -1 to -3
A "good reputation" and "bad reputation" really mean the PC's reputation as an employer of henchmen. For example, in the Iron Coast campaign, +Scott Cambers's mage, Drako, has a terrible reputation for hiring henchmen since few of them ever make it back to civilization alive. These days, Drako's taken to having to employ his own stabled PCs as henchmen just to have something to do in combat other than die. 

A Shot At Greatness... Or Ignominy

Every henchman has a chance to have some serious skeletons in the closet. For each henchman interviewed or considered for employ, the recruiting player should roll a die. If that die comes up a "1," then there's something special about that henchman that should impact the story at some point. Maybe she's heir to a noble household, but is running away from her responsibilities, or maybe he's the last male descendant of a long line of demon-cursed bastards who will bring woe down upon his employer. It is important, however, that the employer not know what this thing is... at first. It will, of course, come up over the course of the campaign. 

I start my players rolling a d20 and then descending down the standard dice chain (a d12, then a d10, etc) down to a d4, where the die stays until a "1" is rolled, at which point it resets. It's important that I keep track of which die each player is using for his "something special" die. Henchman recruited from a PC stable never gain the benefit of such a roll. [Note: Up until now, I've been doing all this in secret. As I was writing this post, I realized that it made more sense for me to allow the players to roll the die, so they'll know that something is up with a particular henchman and to put the players more squarely in control of their own PCs' fates.]

Next time, we'll look at actually hiring your future henchman.