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Author Topic: Who do you take with you on adventures?  (Read 3626 times)

HappyDaze

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Who do you take with you on adventures?
« on: December 30, 2019, 03:38:50 AM »
This is a D&D question, but not necessarily limited to 5e (although that is what I'm currently using):

When going on extended adventures out in the wilderness, do your PCs bring along hirelings?


I'm not talking about powerful combatant NPCs, but stuff like porters, linkboys, personal servants (valets), a cook, someone to care for horses, local guides, basic mercenaries (guards) to protect the camp, etc. that are mainly used to form, populate, and defend a base camp that the players set up.

Omega

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Who do you take with you on adventures?
« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2019, 04:35:54 AM »
Before they got mostly phased out, I tended to take along a few retainers or hirelings/mercs to watch my caravan home. If possible I tended to hire folk in town or city for research or prep for the adventure rather than drag them along as I just did not like endangering the NPCs leaving them outside unless I had a good idea they could handle themselves without us.

HappyDaze

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Who do you take with you on adventures?
« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2019, 10:11:43 AM »
Quote from: Omega;1117676
Before they got mostly phased out, I tended to take along a few retainers or hirelings/mercs to watch my caravan home. If possible I tended to hire folk in town or city for research or prep for the adventure rather than drag them along as I just did not like endangering the NPCs leaving them outside unless I had a good idea they could handle themselves without us.

Phased out? By your group or by the writers of the game? 5e contains bare bones info on hirelings--mainly just daily wages--but they're not entirely gone.

I certainly agree on using hirelings for adventure prep/info, but I am really looking for any experiences with those that go on the expedition such as the helpers that accompanied Indiana Jones in the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark or those in The Mummy (Brendan Fraser version).

tenbones

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Who do you take with you on adventures?
« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2019, 10:28:31 AM »
It's pretty common in my games - fantasy or sci-fi, for my group to bring hirelings. In my last campaign, for example, which was a Star Wars Bounty Hunter/Mercenary themed game, the PC's routinely hired guides on worlds where they felt unfamiliar to the terrain or wanted extra intel on flora and fauna or just local knowledge.

Expeditions beyond the party "just roughing it" almost always required porters and extra sellswords to protect basecamp etc (which implies the usual cavalcade of support staff to justify all the other inevitable non-essentials that get tacked on). Pretty common in my games. But I'm also a very big stickler for environmental gameplay - which I know a lot of GM's just gloss over. Not me.

When my PC's are traveling to "hard-to-find" destinations over rough terrain... they feel quite pleased about succeeding making it there. And hirelings are almost always a big part of that. Tons of side-quests have spun off over hireling drama too. Someone "disappears" in the middle of the night - turns into a mini-search and find mission. Intra-hireling drama can spill over into the main adventure. RP around the campfire is always opportunities to gin up potential interesting stuff "When I was a boy, hunting in these woods with my Pa, we found this old outlaw mineshaft about five-miles from here..." or whatever. Or maybe a "hireling" is plant from the PC's adversaries - are they a spy? saboteur? Hirelings are always good potential for other things.

David Johansen

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Who do you take with you on adventures?
« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2019, 11:14:17 AM »
One of the reasons I dislike the 'skill packages' in Mongoose Traveller so much is that you're supposed to hire people to fill the roles you don't have the skills for.  Do you know how much opportunity to insert npcs those packages that 'make sure you have the skills needed for the campaign' takes away?
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rawma

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Who do you take with you on adventures?
« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2019, 12:23:46 PM »
We almost never brought NPCs along if we had to split XP with them; we did tend to bring pack animals or a wagon to justify having an appropriate amount of supplies.

I seem to recall some games (Call of Cthulhu, maybe) suggesting that monsters kill NPCs first to give the appropriate level of immediate deadliness without killing the PCs too quickly.

From The Hobbit, I learned that it's a good idea to bring a Wizard, but also pack your own pocket-handkerchiefs since you can't count on the Wizard remembering important things like that.

HappyDaze

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Who do you take with you on adventures?
« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2019, 12:31:49 PM »
Quote from: rawma;1117697
We almost never brought NPCs along if we had to split XP with them

That's very metagamey; is there any good in-world reason for not taking available help with you? I can see not being able to afford the help, or the need to sometimes travel light without attracting attention, but the idea of "if we accept help, we won't become more personally powerful as quickly" doesn't sit well with me. In any event, NPCs like commoners (porters, etc.) and guards (mercenaries to guard camp) don't sip from the XP gained.

Omega

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Who do you take with you on adventures?
« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2019, 01:39:46 PM »
Quote from: HappyDaze;1117690
Phased out? By your group or by the writers of the game? 5e contains bare bones info on hirelings--mainly just daily wages--but they're not entirely gone.

I certainly agree on using hirelings for adventure prep/info, but I am really looking for any experiences with those that go on the expedition such as the helpers that accompanied Indiana Jones in the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark or those in The Mummy (Brendan Fraser version).

1: Phased out by groups and in a way TSR then WOTC. 5e brings them back in a small way. But its still very PC oriented. The companion rules they squirrelled away in Essentials is an interesting twist on this though.

2: This same up in a video discussion recenrly about NPCs that end up being more than intended.
Most memorable was Inonu the gnoll/grimlock thingy the PCs picked up while playing through the epic Darkness Gathering series. Inonu joined the group as they were exploring looking for something to help with the crisis as he was impressed by their prowess. Actually survived the brutal battle with the Neolithid. And was rewarded with a weird tentacly illithid glove the party found but had no use for. Thing was on a critical hit with it, it would extract the targets brain. You can see where this is about to go right? Yep. Poor Inonu would at least once a battle score a critical and yoink someones brain. Which he had no idea what to do with so just tossed them and happily continued on.

Another was the Blue Kobold faction of in a Tyranny of Dragons campaign ran. First session the groups blue dragonborn bluffed his way through an encounter and ever after they kept running into this group here and there and getting help in one form or another. They essentially became the party's un-official retainers and would often lament the fate of a kobold named Daern whenever the PCs asked them for help. Poor Daern.

As for myself. In Gamma World ended up picking up a mutant rat NPC named Pestilence whos primary mutation was the power of disease. Which my human PC happened to be mysteriously immune to. Which was a good thing as she initially could not turn the power off and saw it as more a curse. But later it saved the group when we were captured by the Knights of Genetic Purity and sentenced to death. They dismissed her with no restraints as her power registered as a useless defect. Pestilence ended up accounting for probably 75% or more of the kills as we fought our way out as the party was either depowered in various ways. Or in my case. Had no powers at all. Ended up rescuing and picking up another mutant who became my second NPC follower who ended up having an ongoing grudge with a recurring villain the party had a hard time putting down.

In BX D&D in what became the "Phantasm Lord" campaign I ended up impressing the oft mentioned spectral merchant. Who ended up becoming a retainer/partner of sorts. And spectres were one of the most powerful undead in our BX campaign. Mostly helped with information gathering and occasional scouting and healing via potions as we lacked a thief and a cleric. It was just my MU and a pair of Fighters. Though tended to forget that we were susceptible to things like, oh, GRAVITY for instance. ow... pit trap... ow... And also why I stress that listed alignments of monsters are a generalization and especially in BX never a guarantee. We got trounced a couple of times by the campaigns thoroughly wicked gold dragon mastermind. We brought the spectre along for what was looking to be the final confrontation which we did not expect to win. But hey. Did you know that level draining works on Goldzilla? Why yes. Yes. it does. :cool:

Other memorable NPCs I had were a pair of fighters who guarded my caravan home who had this weird knack for attracting curious critters. Like rust monsters. Why did it have to be rust monsters... Or one particular rust monster that seemed to be happily following them. They eventually gave up on metal armour and weapons and went with leather and wooden weapons till I could afford to equip them with silver armour and weapons. Which later proved a boon as they were able to fend off a pack of werewolves on their own. Thank you rust monster? :o

Chris24601

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Who do you take with you on adventures?
« Reply #8 on: December 30, 2019, 03:16:37 PM »
The game I'm mostly done writing started out with 4E's tactical combat as a foundation, but player interest led to having to incorporate all manner of hirelings (to the point that, if its sapient, you can theoretically hire it).

Many of the PC backgrounds also include options to gain more skilled (generally) and loyal followers you don't have to actually pay for (well, not in the sense of a daily wage... you DO have to pay for their food, shelter, transportation, clothing and other gear) and the aristocrat background even encourages you to take those options and use them for mundane tasks even if the PC could do it themselves... because what's the point of being a noble if you can't have people do things for you.

The result is that just about everyone has some companions unless they specifically don't want them (the vigilante in our urban/crime-focused game for example doesn't want the entanglements of companions, but the brothel madame has a bouncer, some cut throats and three ladies working for her).

The "free" followers that can be gained by the follower-heavy backgrounds top off at one elite warrior type (a bodyguard, enforcer or medic), three warriors (a lance of men-at-arms, a tribal warband or a band of thugs) and three non-combat followers (apprentices, acolytes, attendants, lackeys or a troupe of entertainers).

The default for a knight or minor noble with the companion options would have a squire (bodyguard or enforcer), lance of archers (men-at-arms), a valet, a page and a porter to handle baggage and beasts of burden (the squire would handle their lord's personal mount) as their basic retinue. They can then hire on as much additional muscle as they can afford.

The only balance for travelling with additional forces is that they cost money and that means they'll cut into the profits of your adventuring efforts. They also make fights less challenging and the default leveling method is that you level up when the GM decides you've faced enough challenging situations to have actually learned something from it... you don't improve much by throwing fifty hired soldiers at two dozen bandits.

Shasarak

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Who do you take with you on adventures?
« Reply #9 on: December 30, 2019, 03:33:53 PM »
I tend to look for one NPC to round out whatever the party needs in terms of skills, magic or fighting.

Then it would depend from adventure to adventure.  For example if we were heading into a wilderness then maybe I might pick up a Ranger type character or going into a Dwarven area then a Dwarf NPC would be useful.  If the party happened to get a home base then we would tend to aggregate our NPCs there.
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Zalman

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« Reply #10 on: December 30, 2019, 04:08:45 PM »
Quote from: HappyDaze;1117698
That's very metagamey; is there any good in-world reason for not taking available help with you? I can see not being able to afford the help, or the need to sometimes travel light without attracting attention, but the idea of "if we accept help, we won't become more personally powerful as quickly" doesn't sit well with me. In any event, NPCs like commoners (porters, etc.) and guards (mercenaries to guard camp) don't sip from the XP gained.


I see the in-game equivalent of not wanting to share XP as being the desire to act solo in general, unburdened by others who might cramp your style. Very S&Sish, it seems to me. Traveling light isn't just about attracting attention, it's often just a character's (or party's) primary adventuring personality.

As Ash Williams said, "At heart, me, I'm an alone wolf."
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Steven Mitchell

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Who do you take with you on adventures?
« Reply #11 on: December 30, 2019, 04:18:33 PM »
We don't tend to use hirelings much on adventures, as we typically have a big group of PCs, often of varying levels.  Hirelings tend to be used to guard the home base instead.  Now, some people that become hirelings are found on adventures.  Those of course accompany the party back to base, and thus may be involved fairly heavily towards the end of an adventure.

HappyDaze

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« Reply #12 on: December 30, 2019, 05:04:47 PM »
Quote from: Shasarak;1117717
I tend to look for one NPC to round out whatever the party needs in terms of skills, magic or fighting.

Then it would depend from adventure to adventure.  For example if we were heading into a wilderness then maybe I might pick up a Ranger type character or going into a Dwarven area then a Dwarf NPC would be useful.  If the party happened to get a home base then we would tend to aggregate our NPCs there.


I'm assuming these are henchmen or allied NPCs with class & levels, right? If so, that's not what I'm talking about. I'm referring to generic low-end help. Sure, they'll have names, but not individualized stats or gear.

HappyDaze

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« Reply #13 on: December 30, 2019, 05:07:32 PM »
Quote from: Zalman;1117724
I see the in-game equivalent of not wanting to share XP as being the desire to act solo in general, unburdened by others who might cramp your style. Very S&Sish, it seems to me. Traveling light isn't just about attracting attention, it's often just a character's (or party's) primary adventuring personality.

As Ash Williams said, "At heart, me, I'm an alone wolf."

If Conan could bring a crew of pirates, a mercenary unit, or a band of savages along on his adventures, he often would. That's very S&Sish to me.

Shasarak

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Who do you take with you on adventures?
« Reply #14 on: December 30, 2019, 05:51:40 PM »
Quote from: HappyDaze;1117731
I'm assuming these are henchmen or allied NPCs with class & levels, right? If so, that's not what I'm talking about. I'm referring to generic low-end help. Sure, they'll have names, but not individualized stats or gear.

I dont get it.  All NPCs have class and levels.
There will be poor always,
pathetically struggling,
look at the good things you've got! -  Jesus