Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Handling Hired Hands

Hirelings and Henchmen.  Sounds like a blue collar bar somewhere.

I run games where I have players only run one "active" PC.  It's just easier for everyone to keep track of the character they are role-playing. 

I also allow the players to include up to 3 henchmen or hirelings each but they are not handled the same way as the "active" PC.

Whereas players are roleplaying the PC, they are "in character" as the PC, they talk to the DM and each other as if they were the Player Character.

Hirelings and Henchmen are handled as though the PC is giving direction to or interacting with someone else.   I call it the "Chessboard General" approach.  The Player talks to the DM as if they are the PC, but communicates the activities of the hirelings and henchman as though they were describing an action they make on a chessboard with a game-piece.

As a PC, "I am going to tie up the horse and feed him then set up a perimeter with traps before we settle into camp."

Talking about henchmen and hirelings, "I ask henchman Jebediah to go set up the rear perimeter traps while I do the front and I tell hireling Frank to start pitching tents and stowing gear while we set the perimeter."

I as the GM will make all dice rolls and spot calls to see if henchman Jeb and hireling Frank actually follow directions, if they respond well to being told instead of asked, if they goof off instead of doing the job, etc...

I find this leaves the general playing of the hirelings and henchmen to the player and helps to encourage the role playing aspect of the game.  At the same time,  I don't just let the players have total "slaves" do their bidding  This can add new elements to the game and provide some interesting sideline activity during a less adventurous part of the game.  ie. .while traveling 100 miles to reach the next destination, etc...

Where henchmen are concerned, this also gives the players a backup PC if their primary active PC gets killed.   I give them the option to upgrade one of the henchmen to the new active PC and they have to stick with that.  It keeps the game going instead of pausing or interrupting the flow of the game.

Allowing hirelings and henchmen also adds more numbers to the party to take on adventures if there are only a couple of players in the game.    For example, in my game with my kids,  I only have the 13 and 11 year old playing.  That's two PC's to take on adventures that are be undertaken by at least 4 to 8 characters.

By allowing the hirelings and henchmen, they can have their two active PC's and I let them take about two or three henchmen or hirelings along bringing the party total up to 6 or 8 but still allowing them to be comfortable role-playing one PC

I admit,  I use the games to sneak in life lessons to my kids.  One of the nice things about hirelings and henchmen is teaching leadership skills and how to work with others.

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