I was wondering, how should one handle a henchman who levels up without having the minimum prime requisite stats for fighter? What about a starting character who has less than 9 in all stats (rolled an npc mage whose absolute highest stat was a 9 int, almost didn’t hit viability)? Should their be a perma-noob/“expert” class (maybe 1 HD, 1 fighting, and 2 thieving, with all the thief-skills traded for more general proficiencies sprinkled through the level progression, and class proficiencies slightly broader than the general list?). I actually made a hunter-archetype 0-level man who is the spitting image of an archer-build explorer, save for his 8 strength.
I love Normal Mens. The ultimate underdog.
I build my henchmen like this. If they have crappy stats, I give them a 9 Strength. Unless, they qualify for something else. Then they become a crappy Thief/Cleric/Mage/Whatever. This is all predicated on whether or not the Normal Mens survive the dungeon.
If you like the Underdog normals, you should know that my current character is a former 0-level henchman and the most veteran character in the group (I borrowed someone’s henchman a couple times when my normal group couldn’t meet, when that group disbanded, I was granted the character permanently). John, son of a fisherman, the henchman who lived, now is one of 2 3rd level party members in a group of mostly 1st level PCs and has the groups most powerful divine and arcane casters as henchmen. He has 24 hp in a group where 7hp is the 2nd highest (except for my caster henchmen who have 10 and 11 hp). He wields a magical sword and has fallen only once in battle. There are jokes that the campaign will turn out to be the Hero’s Journey of John.
As for class-leveling, I don’t think any normal man should get something like casting just out of the blue, regardless of intelligence. Normally it takes months of study with a 9th level mage to have a chance to become an arcanist, a week adventuring with a 1st level mage or two shouldn’t really cut it. Clerics should require similar devotion. Scoundrel types can be obtained through the carousing hijink, but similar jobs might get you there. Still, there should be some limitations on advancement, this isn’t 3.x D&D, this is a semi-realistic system.
I agree that if you want a henchy to become a PC it should be fighter (probably the biggest disconnect in DCC, a few days in the dungeon and John the Pig-Herder has now the ability to cast spells!). In the case of your under-strength henchy, I would allow him to get stronger to get to the minimum Str 9. As long as that made sense, i.e. not Str 5 up to 9, then it is believable to me.
The other option, having just read it, is make him a Lackey class PC (Dex Prime Req) in the House Rules part. What an awesome class.
Or if his Dex is “close enough” to 9, up Dex so he becomes a Thief.
It is awesome. I would have suggested it if you hadn’t.