Grenadier Miniatures 2004 – Hirelings

There are two types of adventuring hirelings, combatant and noncombatant. Useful animals can also be purchased. You may roll on the STARTING RETAINER table once during PC creation. Consider the retainer to be paid up for one delve. The retainer comes with the basic equipment noted, but you may want to purchase additional gear for them. Below are also prices if you want to continue their employment (derived from Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox, since OD&D does not give guidance).

  1. Bodyguard (leather, dagger, d4: 1 sword, 2 mace, 3 battle axe, 4 spear)
  2. Torchbearer (dagger, 6 torches)
  3. Porter (dagger, backpack, 3 small sacks, 1 large sack)
  4. Squire (dagger)
  5. Mercenary (leather, sword, dagger, light crossbow, case with 30 quarrels)
  6. Shieldbearer (leather, shield, dagger)
  7. Servant (dagger)
  8. Dog (spiked collar, leash)


  • Combatant (5 GP): bodyguard or mercenary
  • Noncombatant (2 GP): torchbearer, porter, squire, shieldbearer, servant
  • Trained animal (20 GP): war dog or mule

Prices are per delve, other than the animals, which are owned outright. A delve is generally understood to be a single expedition, usually no longer than a few days, but occasionally as long as a week. Expeditions longer than a week require more payment. It is expected that the job ends (and wage must be renewed) once the party returns to town or civilization. Retainers expect that their meals will be provided.

Morale and loyalty will be handled as per Men & Magic. Animals have a loyalty rating just like hirelings (this is a house-rule), but their loyalty will increase after every expedition during which they are treated well. Unlike the monster-dogs of AD&D, war dogs here are 1 hit die creatures. Dogs don’t show up in OD&D, so I’ve just given them the same price as mules.

Bodyguards will attempt to defend their employer, while mercenaries will generally be more offensive. Torchbearers, porters, and servants will stay out of combat and in general will only fight if cornered (if threatened, they will run). Squires will stay near employers during combat and provide replacement weapons or reloading, though they may flee if the danger becomes too great. Note that squires may also be used by classes other than fighters (consider tome-holders and scroll-bearers). Shieldbearers usually carry a large shield that requires two hands to use, and will grant a small AC bonus to their employer where appropriate (just remember that a trusty shield on your own arm cannot fail a morale check or be slain).

It is also possible to find more specialized hirelings (such as: sage, bard, chronicler, alchemist, assassin, spy, standard-bearer, messenger), but they will be much more expensive and often will refuse to accompany adventurers into danger.

All hirelings are 0 level humans with one hit die. Do not bother rolling ability scores unless your PC dies and you need to promote the hireling to full player character status. If this happens, you may also choose an adventuring class when you return to civilization.

Thanks to all those on G+ that provided useful suggestions when I brought up this topic.

15 thoughts on “Retainers

  1. Ed Dove

    Good stuff!

    I especially like the idea of giving every PC an effectively free retainer for their first expedition. That both increases the chance that PCs will survive their first expedition and also helps players understand that having retainers is both possible and useful.

    1. Brendan

      Yeah, and I see two other major benefits:

      1. Lethality is more palatable, because players have effectively two chances (even if their main PC is more valuable).

      2. Players have something to do right away if their PC dies (rather than needing to roll up another character and wait for it to be integrated).

    2. Ed Dove

      Both good points and useful benefits.

      I’m really going to have to seriously consider doing this in at least my LotFP games, if not my AD&D games, too.

    1. Ed Dove

      Also, as Alex Schroeder mentioned in the G+ discussion, “if you are using Shields Shall Be Splintered, then a shield bearer makes sense: he or she carries an extra shield.”

    2. Brendan

      I loathe relying on Wikipedia for historical information, but that being said, there is this:

      A shield bearer was usually a lightly armored soldier who often accompanied a soldier of a higher rank with a protective shield. Thus commanders were often protected by several shield bearers.

      The Spartan hoplites developed larger hoplite shields when the Macedonian phalanx came up. A shield bearer carried it on the march. In combat he served among the light armed troops, usually as slinger.

      I’ll let you know if I come across any mentions in more reliable sources.

    3. Ed Dove

      Wikipedia is okay. Nature found its science articles almost as reliable as Encyclopædia Britannica‘s. Several science & medical researchers have found its science & medical articles comparable to those in peer-reviewed science & medical journals. Its main problem seems to be susceptibility to vandalism, not unintentional error.

      Have you found it particularly bad for specifically historical information?

    4. Brendan

      Well, look at that shield bearer article. Not a single reference. Also, the writing is usually bad (in terms of quality and style). I haven’t exactly noticed errors, but I’m usually looking up things that I don’t know much about. Wikipedia is, however, a great source for public domain images.

    5. Ed Dove

      Yeah. I noticed that lack of references. That is a problem. And you’re right that the writing quality & style often are mediocre at best, too. I sometimes find the writing quality so bad (typos, incorrect punctuation, poor grammar, etc.) that I just have to fix it.

  2. LS

    As a fellow GM and RPG writer, I think it’s a little odd that you would have to roll for a retainer, even if it is just for one delve. Unlike everything else you’re rolling for (ability scores, gold, spells) a retainer comes to be in the character’s service due to deliberate actions on the character’s part. A fighting man may not want to hire a mercenary or bodyguard, but a porter or torch bearer could be a great idea. (Which isn’t to say a fighter would never want a mercenary retainer, just that it might not be their first choice.)

    As a player in said game, I rolled a squire. Lets do this.

    1. Brendan

      The roll is only really for the “free” first level retainer, though I suppose a ref could use the table to decide what retainers are available for hire after play has started. Since the prices between combatant and noncombatant are different, I would not expect the table to otherwise be used after character creation. Agree regarding the fighter/torchbearer example, but sometimes it’s fun to try to work with what you get randomly, MacGyver-like, if that makes sense.

      Just in terms of personal philosophy, I like everything to be presented in table form to speed use and help with idea generation. One can always just ignore the numbers and pick, of course. When one is playing with save or die effects and one hit is on average equal to one hit die, it’s hard to really get an over-powered character.

    2. Hedgehobbit

      I like the idea of random retainers because it gives the starting character a small sense of a past. So they don’t seem like they just popped out of the womb.

      Brendan, have you looked over the henchman rules from Hackmaster? There are some interesting ideas in there.

    3. Ed Dove

      I agree with LS… and Brendan… and Hedgehobbit.

      Rolling for a PC’s starting retainer does seem nonsensical because it doesn’t take into account that PC’s choices.

      But, what it does take into account, simulate & suggest is that PC’s unknown past. Especially if you don’t assume that the PC hired the retainer, but, instead, that the retainer for some reason volunteered to go on one expedition with the PC.

      And rolling also introduces a random element that both the players and the referee will need to use their brains both to make sense of and to make use of — which is one of the most fun things about ‘old-school’-style RPGing.


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