Monday, October 13, 2014

Easy-Ass Retainers

I like the idea of the PC's tromping around with a huge retinue of followers. Adventurers are explorers, after all, and explorers need a ton of workers to do all of the boring, but necessary parts of exploring. It's evocative of expeditionary forces, sherpas trekking up Mt. Everest, and, of course, a lot of guys doing this...

... to make it possible for Indy to do this.

The problem is, combat turns into a logistical nightmare if you have to include all of the peons in the dice-rolling action.

Courtney Campbell, solved this problem handily. His simple rule was that each Retainer nets you +1AC and +1 damage with every hit. I'm a bastard, though, so I make my players choose one or the other at the beginning of each combat.

That's the basis for my Easy-Ass Retainer System (E.A.R.S.)

PC’s can hire:
Retainers – Up to 4.
They're handy, but they're major XP sinks too. They’re each paid at least 20% of the treasure that you recover. You can pay them more, if you want them to level up faster, and have higher Morale scores.
At the beginning of each combat, tell the DM if your Retainers are acting Defensively, or Offensively. If Defensive, you get +1 to AC for every Retainer. If Offensive, you get +1 to damage.  

Hirelings – As many as they can afford.
Hirelings are highly specialized. A linkboy carries torches for you, and that's it.
They will not fight for you. In fact, if you can’t pay them at the end of the month, they're pretty likely to rise up against you, en masse.
This jagoff better come through with the GP, or I'm pissing in his helmet

Stealth: For every 2 followers (Retainer or Hireling) with you in the dungeon, take a penalty of 1 to all Stealth and/or Surprise rolls.You can’t sneak up on people with a bunch of dirty peasants stomping around beside you. Somebody’s gonna step on a twig. Plus, the Horrors from the Depths are going to have an easier time tip-toeing up to you while you're lecturing little Baldric on proper torch-bearing etiquette.

Morale: Every Hireling/Retainer has a Morale score that the DM rolled up for them when they were created. If you socially interact with them enough, you’ll be able to figure it out. Morale checks happen when:
  • You tell them to do dangerous stuff
  •  A “Fear” type spell or effect is used on them
  •  A Hireling/Retainer/PC is gruesomely maimed or killed
  •  A particularly monstrous Monster has come out of the woodwork at them
Morale checks are handled with 2d6, which I will let the Player roll, because that will be funnier.

Failure: If the number rolled is higher than their Morale score, then they are selling you down the river while running like hell in the opposite direction. Also, they've probably taken your precious supplies and/or treasure with them. If you catch up to them later, and somehow manage to convince them to continue working for you, their Morale score will have dropped by 1 point.

Success: If you roll under their Morale score, they'll stand their ground, or do the stupid thing you told them to do. IF nothing bad happens to them as a result, then their Morale score goes up by 1 point, to a maximum of 12.

Of course, enemies are going to start targeting Retainers once it becomes obvious how much protection they're providing the PC's. That's cool. They've got HP and an AC, like everybody else. Maybe they can survive the ArchDracoLich's maelstrom attack, and maybe they can't. If not, hey, that's one less mouth to feed...
and one more Morale check for all of the other Hirelings... mwuahahaHahaHahaHAHaHA!


  1. It was me. Simple henchman rule.

    1. Duly noted, and linked to. Thank you, by the way. That rule simplified my game in a major way.