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.


  1. Normal combat isn't such a bad problem for Hirelings, but Fireballs basically mean the instant end of all the party's Hirelings.

    Maybe the answer is letting Hirelings level up in a Hireling class, which gives bonus lifting and a little extra movement speed, and more HP and saves, but no extra combat ability.

  2. Isn't the coloured one in one of your far-auld posts of times past?

    I can't for the love of me even bring my players to enjoy the conveniences of hirelings, nor mules, nor dogs. Monster/animal summons and mounts? Definitely, but not the standard lot types. Charisma is the dump-stat around here, unless there's a sorcerer about.

    They seem to always want leadership however, if only for some meat-bags to take the heat.