Thursday, March 7, 2019

Retainers - Overlooking a Rule Again

The other evening I rolled up a bunch of potential retainers for my old & improved West Marches campaign on 3x5 cards. And looking once more at the rules in the Mentzer Basic Set, I again noticed a rule I never used back in the day but had noted when I did my Cover to Cover series.

Once hired, a retainer will serve until their contract expires (as set when negotiating their service) OR until they gain a level.

Frank even made a note that a retainer just shy of gaining a level may ask to stay on just long enough to level up (not that anyone should know in character how far they are from gaining a level, or even that there are levels to gain for most classes, or that killing monsters and taking their stuff is the way to gain levels... so there are a few holes in the concept -- but I like it!).

I guess that's what, in AD&D terms, would separate a retainer from a henchman. The henchman is there come rain or shine, while the retainer is just there to make a buck and if possible gain a level of experience.

Recently, when I have had players with hired sellswords or porters and the like, I have the hirelings make a morale check at the end of the adventure to see if they are willing to stay on. I think I need to remember this "quit after gaining a level" rule, as it means the players will need to renegotiate their contracts if the retainer becomes more powerful/capable if the player wants to keep that retainer around.

I'm looking forward to the extra bit of characterization and complication that having retainers will bring to the game.


  1. If your players like hirelings and dickering then that is a wonderful idea!

    I’m trying to get my table of mixed new and old school players to start relying on them. So I am going to try Vyzor hirelings:

  2. I don't remember reading that Vyzor post before. Thanks for the link. I'll be borrowing that list of NPCs (although maybe not the entire system).