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Old 05-04-2012, 09:08 AM   #1
Jasonft
 
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Default What sort of Hirelings do you use and why?

Game I am in currently (500 point supers) my character is a bit if an information addict in addition to being Very Wealthy, so he normally subscribes to a number of news services to keep him up to date on current events in various areas of financial importance to him. In effect he has several hirelings with Current Events/ Area Knowledge type stuff reporting to him.

This little oddity got me wondering - What sort of things have people regularly hired NPCs to do, and/or what sort of really strange reasons did you have for suddenly needing a hireling when you didn't have one before?
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Old 05-04-2012, 09:13 AM   #2
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Default Re: What sort of Hirelings do you use and why?

One of my players from some time back played a noble who hired/kidnapped/seduced a horse groom. That's the sort of thing that happens when your tip for fetching the horses constitutes a 150% increase in annual earnings.
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Old 05-07-2012, 06:46 AM   #3
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Default Re: What sort of Hirelings do you use and why?

Well, I use the 'standard' hirelings like regiments of mercenaries and officers to command them, as well as sailors, marines, naval officers and suchlike, up to and including pursers, chaplains and the full suite of ship's boys, acolytes, clerks, secretaries and apprentices.

Then there are grooms*, valets, batmen and body servants. Also Stewards and Chamberlains, which are the same thing with fancy names.

Also, there are two with a fairly ambigious status, being friends of a particular PC and ostensibly of a more-or-less 'gentle' birth, but with a lesser social status than that PC and not too proud to perform tasks such as helping them into their armour or handing them lances. I suppose that 'henchman' might imply that they were evil and incompetent and 'squire' implies an eventual path to knighthood**. Though 'hirelings' might be unfair, in as much as wages are not why they stay with the PCs and while they have been the repicients of much wealth since beginning their service, in both cases, they are genuinely devoted to their 'master/friend'.

There are also plenty of accountants and clerks, a fair number of military trainers and, the newest group, engineers and craftsmen to supervise the rebuilding of civil infrastructure in a wartorn land as well as manage mining operations.

All in all, there are maybe five thousand or so hirelings in the campaign, about a thousand of which have been named so far.

*Well, I suppose that one of them will rate 'Master of Horse' pretty soon, once the mansion is fully built and he's in command of several subordinate grooms.
**For various reasons, one has already rejected such status and the other comes from a society where he'd view knighthood as a charmingly old-fashioned honour, but not necessary to his social advancement in the way wealth and connections are.
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Old 05-07-2012, 08:43 AM   #4
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Default Re: What sort of Hirelings do you use and why?

A SAI analyst/secretary/current affairs tracker. The campaign hasn't started, but I'm expecting it to be of use.

----------

IIRC, Ubiquitous had a whole corporation worth of Felicia bioroids at his beck and call.
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Old 05-07-2012, 09:06 AM   #5
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Default Re: What sort of Hirelings do you use and why?

In my old steampunk campaign, the party once hired Lord Kelvin to help them with an engineering problem.
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Old 05-07-2012, 10:44 AM   #6
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Default Re: What sort of Hirelings do you use and why?

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
In my old steampunk campaign, the party once hired Lord Kelvin to help them with an engineering problem.
Sorry but i HAVE to ask... what kind of engineering problem? =)
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Old 05-07-2012, 11:50 AM   #7
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Default Re: What sort of Hirelings do you use and why?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mateus View Post
Sorry but i HAVE to ask... what kind of engineering problem? =)
The campaign started when Sir Hiram Maxim enlisted one of the PCs to supply a better steam engine (sextuple-expansion - the game world had some careful tweaks to physics) for his flying machine. This worked rather well, and another PC who was an acrobat was the first person with high enough default Piloting to learn to fly it. Rapid development resulted in the founding of the world's first airline in 1894. I think they got Kelvin in to help with designing adequate condensers to give their aircraft ranges measured in hundreds of miles, but I can't quite remember the details.
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Old 05-08-2012, 08:55 AM   #8
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Default Re: What sort of Hirelings do you use and why?

Not long after I started gaming, I read an article in Dragon Magazine #80 about what sort of NPCs can be found in a castle. (Who lives in that castle? by Katherine Kerr) Inspiration from that article led me to have my next character -- an AD&D 1st-Level Magic-User -- purchase a few dogs and hire a handler for them. A couple of other players got a bit upset with me when I refused to allow them to use the dogs and their handler as "ablative armor", which is what tended to happen to their hirelings. My DM, however, loved it.

On the few occasions anymore when I actually get to play rather than GM, my modern characters will usually acquire a personal staff that includes a batman, a secretary and a solicitor.
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Old 05-08-2012, 10:11 AM   #9
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Default Re: What sort of Hirelings do you use and why?

I'm prone to ignoring Advantages representing social preeminence in character creation, unless they are central to a character's concept, and instead declare that the acquisition of wordly influence, vulgar lucre or shining reputation are among the goals available to PCs in the campaign.

Thus, roleplaying and the accomplishment of various tasks is what generally leads to higher Wealth, Status, Reputation and even Social Regard and, yes, Allies, Contacts, Favours and suchlike in my campaigns. And I don't usually write it down on character sheet.

I won't bother to figure out whether Sir Michael is Filthy Rich or Multimillionaire at the moment. All his wordly possessions are written down somewhere, with or without a valuation in GURPS $*, his interests in merchant companies appear in the relevant ledgers** and whenever he earns or spends something, the player makes a note that hopefully trickles down the whole financial edifice to result in an accurate final tally.

I'll keep track of what the PCs' current perceived Status is and what their Reputations are, but as these were never paid for, they can fluctate according to where they happen to be and how long it's been since their last heroic action***, and how high their stock happens to be with the local elites.

Bringing this into some tangential relation to the subject, this means that NPCs tend not to be labelled Allies, Contacts or 'mere hirelings', but are instead classified by their relations to the PC and, perhaps informally by the players, by the level of trust their character has for them. This means that people that in campaigns run by other GMs, whose little ways no doubt differ from mine, would be part-and-parcel of the point value of various PCs in the form of Allies, Contacts, Patrons or similar, may be only 'hirelings' in mine. Formally, that is.

However, I've found that players want their characters to matter in the world. One way of doing that, mine have discovered, is to invest in character traits that in the real world tend to lead to rapid rise in fame and fortune. Few PCs in my campaigns lack some combination of positive Appearance, Charisma, Voice or at the very least Talents that enable them to earn the trust and liking of some group of people.

In fact, the average Reaction bonus is probably +2, added on top of at least +2 for Status in a lot of cases, with +10 or more often seen when dealing with certain groups. Sir Michael is Handsome and has Charisma 2, which combined with his Natural Soldier 2 and Overconfidence makes him a frequent hero to young soldiers (and young women, of course), Murlak is Attractive with Voice and Smooth Operator 3 (and social skills ranging from 18-24) and so on. They've frequently got a positive Reputation locally if they're anywhere they've been before and every player is alert to the vital necessity of generating good publicity for his character while simultaneously avoiding being so crass as to alienate established power groups.

Using their massive Reaction bonuses or the high Leadership or other social skills that they have, PCs in my experience tend to cultivate hirelings in order to increase the odds that they'll become personal followers rather than merely paid professionals. This models a lot of my favourite fiction, as well as suiting my sense of realism and plausibility.

Witness Captain Lucky Jack Aubrey's young reefers, irascible steward and stolid bargemen growing from members of a certain ship's complement into personal followers of the character that he both feels responsible for and whom he takes on every new commission that he can. See Tyrion Lannister accumulate a personal retinue one rapscallion at a time, winning them by force of personality, cunning, wit and the bottomless purse of the Rock. In a world of class divisions of any kind, each PC can easily and plausibly have a retinue of his own without it infringing on the territory of his other PC companions.

Loyal NPCs that have come to follow a character through some combination of fiscal renumeration and judicious use of social skills and traits on the part of PCs allow a GM to do many interesting things.

Naturally, they are a source of emotional investment in a world. While a scary monster that stalks outside the window of a PC's home and kills Red Shirt Guard #4 might be a perfectly satisfying encounter, it cannot be denied that it would add considerably to the emotional charge if the guard it attacked was, instead of a nameless and faceless entity, someone with a name and in-campaign history. Say like Faerthan, the Cormyrean man-at-arms who swore fealty to Sir Michael after he rescued him from a medusa's cave and broke the curse that turned him to stone, who has taught Sir Michael the finer point of knightly skills and who has been with the party for a year and a half in game time and some five or six years in real time.

More than this relatively cheap source of emotional wallop, such NPCs also allow the GM to present essentially administrative and, to some players tiresome, tasks in a roleplaying format. Selecting gear and mount for a tourney becomes a dialogue with a known NPCs, an opportunity to learn more about him and to assert more about your PC, by your choices and your methods of arriving at them, not merely an exercise of flipping through a gear catalogue and selecting the right bonuses. Dressing for a noble's banquet becomes a comic interlude with a long-suffering valet whose pride in the proper attire and utter respectability of his master far outstrips what meager worries the PC has ever had about such concerns.

Incidentally, the personal servant who fights a never-ending battle to rein in the sartorial extravagance or perhaps absent-minded indifference of his lord and master toward the proper appearances is a favourite character of mine. Whether he does it by means of perfectly respectful agreement and obedience that nevertheless radiate deep disapproval, so masterfully displayed by the inimitable Mr. Jeeves, or by a less well-bred method such as the shrewish nagging of the put-upon Preserved Killick, that naval steward of few virtues and many faults, a good servant is a joy for the GM.

This noble creature is a most versatile device allowing the GM to give players advice and slip invaluable exposition into a playing session, while simultaneously indulging a shameful fancy for worthless wordplay and valueless wit, not to mention the vital technique of unvocal approbation and even the very pinnacle of the valet's arts, the expression of valid vituperation for a vulgar vestment with a verbal phrase of weak worship.

Should such a personal servant also be a fighting man, like a knight's squire or his old master-at-arms, he can be a source of tactical advice, the taking or rejecting of which allows combat to be much more than a mini-game with dice and maps, but allows for a much deeper roleplaying experience. It is a very different thing to decide against all advice to take a seemingly crazy risk to go after a goal important to your character than it is to do it seemingly on a whim.

Players, even players who are deeply serious about roleplaying their characters 'accurately' and act as they believe they should act, oftentimes forget that the emotions of their characters are not on display for the others in the 'audience'. Having a sounding board, or even just a source of disbelieving exclamations, along on their adventures allows for opportunities for dialogue that establishes a character's motivations and mental state in a way that roleplaying purely alongside other PCs often does not.

Yes, I'm aware that players could carry on dramatic dialogues with other players while their PCs are fighting a battle or that they could even monologue incessantly whilst so doing. The truth is, however, that most do not. They become fixated on what their PC is doing and sometimes forget that the whys and wherefores of it are not always obvious to everyone else.

Also, even if the players never cease their in-character banter or even soulful and touching dialogue of astonishing virtousity, talking up a storm between themselves in every single scene, will GMs really tell me that they have no urge to participate in such conversations? Who better to inject a sarcastic quip that pleases the GM too much to keep silent than a loyal manservant of one of the PCs? Or, if the tone should need shifting, a lurking menance need acknowledging, what better 'director's assistant' can a GM have than a good hireling or ten, bravely setting out with the heroes and sharing their dangers?


*Mostly without. He has a lot of magical items that are hard to accurately put a price on and in any case, which he would not consider selling.
**Persistently known in our gaming circles as 'the lechers', due to the somewhat regrettable personality and proclivities of the primary book-keeper.
***Or how many people know of any decidedly unheroic ones, in the case of our noble merchant Murlak Solstice.
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