Monday, March 21, 2016

Cross-Post: Hirelings

Don't be like Red Luigi.
So it's a thing that is going around. Two posts at Dungeon Fantastic, and one at Gaming Ballistic. I think they have already said a bunch of interesting stuff on the topic, but in any case, I decided to gather up my thoughts on the subject.

Pictured: Don Knotts meets
Patches the Hyena.
First off, anyone that cares about having hirelings in a Dungeon Fantasy or similar GURPS setting, should definitely look at Dungeon Fantasy 15, it's got a bunch of really useful low point level templates. I'm not reviewing that right now, but if I were, I'd tell you it is a great book with a bunch of utility that goes above and beyond the call of duty of prescribing hireling stats.
That out of the way, what has already been said about the topic in the three mentioned post (and as these things are wont to do, there may or may not be more in the coming days that I forget to mention as the meme spreads) has already been good. Dungeon Fantastic discusses various mechanical consequences to in-character and meta behavior of treating hirelings like disposable pawns, and Gaming Ballistic goes into a bit of editorial on how better to flesh out a hireling so that his or her success, failure, betrayal, or death can have some measure of logical consequence. That being said, I'll try to add to the conversation rather than just duplicate everything being said.

Hireling Loyalty

Dungeon Fantasy 15, among many other books, has guidelines for simple loyalty mechanics when employing hirelings. This is the default Dungeon Fantasy mechanic to apply to someone using hirelings as living land mine detectors. Specifically, mentioned on the page are penalties for "Poor Treatment." For a more in depth treatment of loyalty, refer to Social Engineering, p. 39, and for information on Hirelings, check either Basic Set - Campaigns p.517-518 or Social Engineering p.22.

Benefits of Being a Good Boss

Why should a player want to be nice to their hirelings? Well, if not being a psychopath that just throws away imaginary friends like that isn't enough of a motivator, here are a few more carrot than stick methods for encouraging good leadership
  • It might be the only direct way to developing a permanent ally. Dungeon Fantasy 15 includes mechanics in the loyalty section for transitioning a hireling to an ally when a very high loyalty is reached. As it is a little difficult to achieve that measure of loyalty, and the advantage isn't expensive, I'd personally think about giving the advantage for free if the permanent relationship negotiation is well role played.
  • It might be a path to a positive reputation. Following the previous potential house-ruling of giving away free allies (well, free if you think building a relationship over a very long time is worth nothing) it might be a reasonable boon to give a benevolent employer a positive reputation, favor, or contact group (hiring agency?)
  • Be nice!
  • Another optional house rule, looking at the random traits table on p.31, it is organized with the best traits towards the higher numbers, and the worst towards the lower numbers (aw geeze, good numbers are high? How is a GM supposed to cope with so much inconsistency?) So maybe, borrowing from the idea of getting a reputation as a kind master, better, more talented people are drawn to you, and all levels of this specific reputation go towards bonuses on this table.

Penalties for Being Mean 

On the other hand, inversely, we could also approach the issue with more stick than carrot implementations.
  • Less capable people are trusting someone to be a patron for them, and betrayal by such a person could be somewhat dangerous in a Dungeon Fantasy setting. It is not out of genre for a grieved husband or wife, who may be no match for the heroes, but is willing to go to extreme measures to make them pay. Perhaps a player gains a very secret vengeful enemy. This could manifest by some kinda hiring of an assassin. maybe it was a scorned pious and devout follower who asked the gods for justice, or an insanely desperate dabbler in the occult who makes some kinda pact with a devil.
  • Pretty much any of the above mentioned boons can be easily inverted and turned into a punishment. Instead of an ally, the character earns an orphan as a dependant (maybe enforced by some kinda deity.) A negative reputation instead of a positive reputation, and negative modifiers on the random traits for hires.
  • It might simply be against one of many popular disadvantages like a code of honor, Sense of Duty, etc. Playing against character means less or no character points for the session, or maybe even more serious repercussions... acquiring the nightmare disadvantage, as the character recalls those pained screams for help every night until they can make amends and come to terms. Holy classes especially might be vulnerable to violating a code to which their divine abilities are contingent.
  • Repeated offenders can become villains. I guess this is a valid path for some players, and could even lead to some interesting story developments. Interesting developments like being hunted down by all the king's horses and men, being banned from all cities with orders to be shot on sight, the hosts of hell inviting you to join them, or the servitors of heaven marching to smite.

Closing Thoughts

I mean, when it comes down to it, there are lots of fun ways to approach the situation, and probably none are bad as long as they are fun. If you can't tell, I absolutely loathe the idea of players disrespecting hirelings, but that doesn't mean my type of fun is everyone's fun. I mean, realistically, a Jo-schmo at the end of his rope signing up to help a bunch of dungeon delving treasure hunters. People might be able to wave it off like, "Oh, Schmo knew what was comings to 'im. Dungeons is dangerous things. It's only natural someone dies every once in awhile when wes talking about dungeons, innit?" So sure, it might be realistic that no one even suspects the "conquering heroes" of being awful... but really? Realism? In my Dungeon Diving campaign? Where supposedly omnipotent gods can see every sin you commit, where the right magic expert can divine the truth of anything? Where we have giant anythings? I dunno man. 

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