Excerpts Archive | 9/2/2011
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Hirelings and Henchmen
Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium Excerpts

A dventurers are a cut above the commoners inhabiting the world—they have talent, specialized training, and access to magic that makes them akin to gods among mortals. Well, maybe not that far, but heroes are something special. Who else can beard the dragon in its lair? Who else can survive a trap-laden gauntlet to root out the goblin bandits lurking in the cavern beyond? Who else can put down zombies by the dozens?

The thing is, for all that heroes can accomplish beyond most peoples' wildest imagining, adventurers need the common people. Non-adventuring men and women do the things that heroes are unable or unwilling to do. What good is a knight without the suit of armor someone else made? How is the paladin going to survive his or her quest without a sword in hand? Horses? Someone has to breed them and train them. And when the adventure is done, when the heroes return, burdened with their spoils, they're bound to be craving a hot meal and warm bed that only the sleepy little communities on the frontier can provide. The mundane tasks fall to the ordinary people to handle, and without those people, there's little point to squaring off against monsters and plundering their vaults.

Commoners are content to leave the adventuring business to the professionals. They happily take their coins and provide services in return. They listen to the tales of high adventure, danger, and daring, living through the stories the adventurers tell, but they are also relieved to go about their lives without having to follow in those people's steps or face those same challenges.

That said, with the right motivation, these common people might be coaxed from relative safety into a wider world of adventure, accompanying the heroes on their quests and lending aid, albeit in minor ways, to help the heroes accomplish their goals. These companions are the henchmen, the lackeys, the hirelings, and the servants. For the right price, they can lend their unique talents to an adventurer's cause.

Hirelings and henchmen have been part of the Dungeons & Dragons® game since the beginning. In older editions, henchmen gave adventuring parties a bit of extra muscle, took the brunt of enemy attacks, and gave the heroes the extra help they needed to achieve their objectives and survive their challenges. Thus far, 4th Edition has nibbled on the henchmen concept by offering different avenues for characters to acquire companions. Certain classes, such as the beastmaster ranger and the sentinel druid, have pets. Dungeon Master's Guide 2 provides extensive rules for creating companion characters, either from scratch or by adapting an existing creature to fill this role. While these options are sufficient for most groups, there's something missing—an element of leadership that harkens back to the classic experiences of the game. This appendix provides an expansion to the existing options that cover hirelings and henchmen and puts in your hands the ability to gather and hire the nonplayer characters you need.

The optional rules in this section add a level of complexity that might not be suitable for every group. For large parties, hirelings and henchmen add to the challenges posed by having so many people around the table. Novices might find extra characters in the mix too difficult to manage, and adding several nonplayer characters can dilute other characters' roles in the party.

On the other hand, hirelings and henchmen can solve some of the problems that arise from having too few players in the group. They can step into missing roles, bolster characters having a tough time performing in their role, and act as special rewards for roleplaying or fulfilling a quest. They can serve as a development from the campaign's unfolding story. Before you put this material to use, check with your Dungeon Master to ensure that a companion is suitable for your group.


The young man who carries your torch lights the way down the dungeon corridor. The valet cleans and mends your clothes, ensuring that all the final preparations are made before you meet the king. The mercenary guard watches over the camp at night, letting you get your rest before you continue your hunt for the troll that made off with the merchant's daughter. These characters are all hirelings: men and women in your employ whose efforts make your travels and missions easier.

Hirelings are similar to companion characters in that they accompany you, but they differ in the capabilities they possess. Hirelings are minor characters and thus do not provide the same degree of support a companion character can provide. Where a companion character might work for a share of the treasure, a hireling is directly in your employ and works for a fee.

Hireling Statistics

Regardless of a hireling's occupation, all have certain common statistics.

Level: Hirelings exist at every level. Heroic tier hirelings are the common kinds one expects to find pretty much anywhere people gather. Paragon tier hirelings are experts in their fields. Finding nonplayer characters at this level of accomplishment who are willing to work for someone else can be hard. Epic tier hirelings are tremendously rare; they are the greatest crafters and artists in their respective fields. Such characters have plans, ventures, and goals of their own to pursue, so they are never available for hire without the DM's consent.

Price: A hireling's price depends on his or her level. The price is generally per day of service. Long-term service can sometimes be gotten at a lower rate or in return for a share of any profit from the expedition or undertaking. Included in the price are the hireling's initial fee, salary, food, equipment, and the materials the hireling might need along the way. It's important to note the price is an abstraction intended to simplify the process of acquiring and maintaining hirelings.

Duration: A hireling remains in your service for as long as you keep paying him or her.


Cost: Standard

Few fighters are willing to sacrifice a two-handed weapon or their shield to haul the party's torch. When no one is able or willing to attend to the group's light, a linkboy provides an extra pair of hands.


Cost: Standard × 3

Sages are experts in a particular field of knowledge. Few sages venture from their personal domains, though if you can convince one to accompany you, his or her knowledge is yours for the asking.


Where hirelings are minor supporting characters, lending aid to an adventuring group in small ways, henchmen are nearly full-fledged characters in their own right, whose presence in the adventuring group gives the heroes an edge. These characters are counted as full members of the adventuring party. Henchmen have many of the same features, traits, and powers available to player characters, but simplified to allow a player to manage a henchman at the same time that he or she plays a primary character.

Henchmen, also known as companion characters, can take many forms. Some might be beasts and monsters, being creatures drawn from the Monster Manual or Monster Vault books. Others are akin to characters, using the same kinds of powers available to heroes. A few might be unique, crafted by a DM or drawn from a published supplement such as the ones presented below.


Mercenary Captain

A veteran officer from a disbanded mercenary company, Ghesh is now a sword-for-hire, selling his services to anyone who pays him the highest price.

Ghesh cuts an impressive figure. He's tall, muscled, and covered in glittering bronze scales. He keeps his equipment in impeccable condition, cleaning and oiling his mail and spear every night before bedding down.

Command comes easy to Ghesh, and he's not one to keep his opinions to himself. He believes his battlefield experience gives him the wisdom to advise his comrades in all things, from the way they grip their weapons to the tactics they use in combat. Some people find Ghesh domineering, though none deny his expertise.

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