Monday, June 7, 2010

Henchmen Advancement

A player will often times gain a henchman or two along their adventuring career. These henchmen often get frozen in time. Although they will get hand me down equipment from the adventurers, their level often remains the same. What are a player and GM to do?

I like Hackmaster’s system of allowing the player to ‘give’ their experience. The henchmen doesn’t need to be present for this to happen, but can absorb it through a player’s retelling. At other least this way a henchman can advance, but at the sacrifice of the fan of the player, which I am not a fan. But it is an interesting alternative and I am sure someone more inventive than me can figure out to get this to work.

Another way for henchmen to advance is to do an hourly study or training system. This many hours of training equals this many experience points. This allows the professional type henchmen to advance their skills without having to risk their necks fighting trolls. A simple math formula can be created (plus a gp cost).

The other way is have the henchmen do dungeon delving with you. When players do this I usually give the henchmen one share of the experience. If there is a party of six characters that have a small group of henchmen go with them I split the experience seven ways and then the henchmen experience is divided equally among them. It’s a slow advancement, but at least they are making progress.

If you have any systems you use or suggestions please let me know.


  1. I've always been a fan of giving the henchman xp for accompanying the party into the dungeon. They all get a share to split amongst themselves, plus I could see players giving additional xp from their own share for going above and beyond (especially in the form of treasure, if you give xp for gold).

  2. I had never thought of giving henchmen your experience. That sounds like a rather novel approach.

  3. I can see the player giving experience to the henchman as reasonable if henchman are basically utterly loyal unless the player really acts against them. In that case, the henchmen are like another piece of equipment, essentially, and put experience into them is just a strategic move.

  4. The Joy of the milestone system I use is that the Henchmen will never get to level 1 (to start adventuring as a normal PC) until they do something notable.

    In the game Im running, a character's mangy dog managed to single handedly kill a demonic mutant that had been terrorizing the area. The dog thus passed the first milestone and gained enough experience to hit level 1. Now its another Character.

    The handful of cooks and porters who just stand back? They did nothing of note and gain no xp.

  5. I don't give hirelings anything, unless the situation warrants some kind of "promotion." I use the standard AD&D rule for Henchmen and the like, giving them a 1/2 share of xp.

  6. James beat me to the punch with the half share rule.

    What Midian uses is that NPC's strongly associated with a player-character (such as a familiar or close henchman) gain a level everytime the pc does. No individual experience is tracked. This keeps whatever level discrepancy existed at the start, avoiding the problem of what happens when a henchman (even at half xp) catches up to the pc.

  7. I've typically done the same thing as James, 1/2 x.p. for henchmen. However, more recently I've made a distinction between those who can gain levels and those who cannot, at least in our C&C games. Character class NPCs earn xps, just like PCs. 0-level NPCs do not. I have no real rational for it, but it has worked okay.

    Word Verification: "phied"--being lied to by a phony

  8. Not being totally familiar with Hackmaster, I'm not sure if it was the designer's intent, but a system like that where henchmen and proteges can be given XP by the PC can be used to alleviate player frustration in early editions where XP is capped per session, usually allowing a PC to gain no more than one level at a time, though I've seen it houseruled in other ways too. Rather than just losing those extra XP from the session, the player can divvy them up among his hirelings, followers, etc, giving some satisfaction to having earned them.