Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Henchmen or Pit Detectors

In my early days of D&D henchmen were called followers. For some reason we came up with this rule that you gained the number of followers equal to your Charisma +1d4. Why the additional d4, not clue. We used our followers pretty much as pit detectors. Tied a rope around their waist and had them lead the way. If they disappeared through the floor it was noted. We'd pull them up and hope they could find another pit for us. Not once did these faithful followers ever complain. If one died in a fall we cut the rope and tied it to the next follower in line. Not one peep did he make.

Henchmen don't play a big role in most of the campaigns I have participated in lately. Allies are gained through role-playing and having similar goals. It's all complicated and strategic. But I do miss the old days where having a small legion of no named minions of pit detection. Last night I started play testing Castles & Crusades and the party running through the adventure definitely could benefit from a few worthy red shirts. All DMs, or in this case a Castle Keepers, should practice the death scream of the red shirt. Totally worth it. Good for a laugh and fun to do.

I am considering being more responsible and having the henchmen specialize in jobs that assist the players. I've been reading a lot of rulebooks of late and I would like to bring back the henchmen, a support staff for the players. And for once they will have names. Names they can drink to at the tavern after a good haul. "To Jameson, the best damn pit detector I've ever known. Salute."

I'm interested in how others handle these henchmen in their games. So please let me know.


  1. Back in my Rules Cyclopedia days I'd use tons of followers/henchmen, but that's mostly because it was all solo games, so the extra bodies were necessary.

    Since then, not so much.

  2. Tim, you've inspired a two part blog post from me on this - this is a great question! I've linked to your blog from my post, I hope you get some additional comments.

    I didn't post the link in case you think it's rude to do that -- if you're OK with it, I'll post the link in a followup comment?

  3. @David - Absolutely...you need to have a red shirt to show you what the danger is so your character can deal with it properly.

    @Chgowiz - Please post the link. Not a problem at all. You never have to worry about me thinking its rude or improper. Now I get to read two more posts from you. That's a win win for me.

  4. Henchmen start out as hirelings. The players pay them to be there. I usually write their stats on little notecards and give it to one of the players, for the most part, they get to run it, however I get the final say so, it isn't a PC, it is still an NPC. If the player is good to the hireling, and the hireling is happy, then it might become a henchmen, which is still the same deal, but henchmen have more personality then hirelings. I am also more apt to allow odd requests because the henchman is now a friend and might do weird stuff, however it is still subject to regular morale checks, same as any other NPC.