Looking back over some old — sometimes very old — campaign journals, I note that hirelings are most notable by their absence. It seems to be taken for granted in all the old-school rulebooks that PCs will hire flunkies to do their heavy carrying and what-not, but we almost never did as far as I can find.

Maybe it's because we were always too cheap to pay wages, but I think it's more likely because we were a bunch of softies who felt guilty at the inevitable demise of such fragile creatures, for whom we felt a responsibility of care. It's bad enough having to constantly replace horses, especially if (by some miracle) they'd lasted a couple of adventures without being gutted and eaten by some hideous abomination.

It's a pity really; the addition of a miscellaneous group of sometimes questionable reliability or loyalty, largely reliant on the PCs for their very survival, can add an interesting social element to running a party. It actually makes Charisma useful, instead of becoming the inevitable dump-stat. And if, as we were, the players are basically decent types who played basically decent types, the very vulnerability of the hirelings to a ridiculously dangerous environment can provide the DM with a host of side-quest ideas.

NOTE: The picture to the right, of Bearer No.4, was one of the very first things I coloured in Photoshop 2, but I can't for the life of me find the coloured version, so this will just have to do. The one to the left is a recent thing that I doodled in Painter VIII.


Skulls galore  For a bit of primeval mystic hoo-ha, I made a couple of primitive runestones. They stand about 70mm tall, and one has a...