Chances of hiring Henchmen

This isn't a specific ACKS question; it's relevant to its B/X roots.

The game presumes that PCs (generally, all of them) will eventually hire at least one, often more than one, henchmen to join them in their adventures.

Yet, with the default "fair" offer (monthly pay and/or equipment and 15% of the individual employer's treasure), the chance of a CHA 9-12 getting a hire is only 28%.  For CHA 6-8, that chance drops to 17%.

How does this work in play? Is it the case that only those characters with CHA 13+ realistically get henchmen? Or is there an expectation that the PCs will be interviewing and extending offers to several people before getting even a single hire?

So far, in 2 different games I've run, the process has seemed more like the henchmen were interviewing mentors rather than the PCs hiring employees.  The process of interviewing is pretty dull, as no one (GM included) are all that interested in investing a lot in a character who may not even be around past one scene based on a single hiring die roll (and even if hired, may not survive their first hostile encounter).

I'm totally on board with the notion of the players having henchmen; it just seems I'm missing something in this process.


By RAW, everything you just said is true. I usually work around that by subverting the system a little.

One tactic I take is that I'll seed some potential henchfolk into the adventures with an eye toward hiring and knowing that as long as they receive a fair (standard) offer, they'll say yes. I also try to make hench-hiring at least mildly entertaining while not lingering on it too long.

Another tactic is that - if the players are well-known in an area - I'll apply a small boost (usually +1) to hiring rolls due to reputation. It's not RAW but it pushes the typical hiring roll up to closer to 42% success instead of 28% and for heroes with at least a +1 CHA it gets them closer to a 59% chance on the roll.

That's usually enough to ensure that at least few hirelings make the cut.


In my campaign henchmen usually can be bribed in one form or another as they are pretty greedy. Gifts, parties and more loot usually does the trick.

This is how we roll, too. It got to the point that I had to standardize henchman reactions to hiring bonuses →

Oh, this reminds me of a question I had awhile back:

Do you still get the bonus to reaction rolls for offering sweet deals if the potential hireling has just requested a sweeter deal because I rolled a 7?

Yes, you may interview several before you reach terms.  In a small market that may happen over several sessions rather than being a job fair, line of candidates out the door kind of thing.

A 6-8 allows a second, higher offer, rerolled at +1.  So it's only 28% if they're determined never to overpay.  Which, granted, some players and groups are, but that's a play decision, not something hard-coded into the odds.

I usually handle interviews in third person to move through them quickly.  Sometimes we drop into first person after all; darn roleplayers any way, get off my lawn.  *shakes fist*  Which reminds me, in one instance where we role played it out I just forgot to roll.  The conversation led to the npc accepting, and I didn't want to back up.  I'm making an effort to roll for everything while I try out old school play, but my usual take on npcs is the more I already know about them the less I have to roll.

In my current tabletop group, average of third level, not everyone has henches.  That's okay, it's not my job to tell them how to play.

A tangent- for better or for worse, I'm not always teaching the exact game rules when it would slow down a session.  I use the rules to get results, but I present those in plain language if it's faster.  That's led to a couple of idiosyncrasies in our game.  A 20% share of treasure is now the party standard, one player is massively overpaying his henchman (but accomplishing his goal of loyalty), and the party has occasionally hired mercenaries for dungeon delves by paying them 20% shares - effectively buying one-shot party henchmen.

I did a somewhat poor job of shrouding the hiring process in secrecy, but it did result in a fairly robust team of henchmen for each PC.

We started with the base offer of 15%. to a maximum of +2, you could offer +1% share for +1 to the reaction roll.  There was also the option to offer 1% less for -1, but most players never bothered with that.  On a "try again", the player would have to beat their previous offer by 1% to get a base reroll, and had the option of adding another 2% for another +2.


I was also open about stats and proficiency, which turned into a very abstract form of interviewing.  By the time the party found their way to a class III market, they had the capacity with subhenching to hire a large number of level 0s, so they simply picked the most promising stat blocks and equipped them generously in the hopes they'd make it to higher levels.  This could easily be imagined as a job fair.


If I were to start a new campaign, I might try to find more description driven ways to describe henchmen without giving away the stat block until a hiring occurs.


If I were to start a new campaign, I might try to find more description driven ways to describe henchmen without giving away the stat block until a hiring occurs.


This is my standard way of handling it. I have the players meet potential henchmen just as they would any other NPC, and I try to be descriptive to give them a sense of what the NPC is like, but sometimes it is not all it seems - sometimes it's more.

That said, my players LOVE their henchfolk and don't think of them as resources but tend to fully embrace and flesh them out... So we don't have a problem with them enjoying the hiring phase.

once hired, the players were pretty good about fleshing them out, and I also was able to let the party roleplay with complete control over what the henches did. I never had to step in and say "Actually, your henchman will NOT walk blindly into the hallway you all know is laden with traps".

I'm glad to hear that... I often hear horror stories about the way henchfolk get used in games and it makes me a little sad for them.

Probably the closest thing to utilitarian hench use was the party mage, who considered his two mage henches just a cheap way of boosting spells per day, and frequently mixed up their names. What was interesting was that he only felt this way in-character; out of character he made sure to differentiate between them and roleplayed their minor grumbling at having such a master. To his credit though, when several of his henches were turned to stone, he did make a point of hauling them to his sanctum and unfreezing them a year later when he was strong enough to cast the spell, and then gave them a respectable retirement package. 

That is an awesome story. Makes me want to start a "tell us your best henchfolk story" thread.

One thing I try to keep in mind is that ACKS is built on the chassis of Moldvay & Cook's B/X D&D (and Gygax's 1974 D&D before it).  Within the spirit of those systems, it's important to understand that these interaction mechanics exist in a vacuum, which is meant to be filled it by the actual circumstances of play.

In that same spirit, I have found it helpful to default to a guideline I originally encountered in a game called Dogs In The Vineyard, by Vincent Baker: "Say 'Yes,' or roll the dice." 

What this means is that you only rely on the randomness of the dice if an interesting conflict is created by the possible outcomes.  Otherwise, you give the players what they want, at least for now.

In play, that means that a given player can sometimes bypass hiring rolls entirely by playing out the negoitiations between the parties such that rejection become anticlimatic.

The rules as written only need be applied when the characters attempt to recruit hirelings without first earning their relationship through play.  Amoneus the Pleasant, with his CHA 18 and Diplomacy, can convince a stranger to risk his life with no more investment than a promise of riches and a round of ale.  Bob the Unremarkable doesn't attract such easy devotion; he has to earn people's trust the old-fashioned way.  If he doesn't have time for that, the dice come out and they aren't terribly likely to favor his cause.

So if both the Judge and the players have put time and effort into the party developing a relationship with the mercenary company that calls themselves the Brave Companions, then no roll need be made to determine whether they accept the group's offer to hire them for the upcoming campaign. 

On the other hand, Vargo Hoat's sellswords are notoriously fickle, cruel, and amoral.  Their continuing loyalty is far from certain.  That creates an interesting potential for conflict, so the Judge should be making loyalty rolls at every crossroads, to determine when (not if) the Bloody Mummers show their true colors and turn on their employers.

this attitude is very similar to the approach some people on these boards have put forth with regards to thief skills: they offer an opportunity to succeed automatically, but don't have to be resorted to. clever use of 10ft poles and other tools can be used to detect or harmlessly spring traps.

Yes, that's exactly how I handle thief skills as well.  The rules for hearing and surprise already allow any character the ability to sneak in the hands of a Judge who's willing to use them as a toolkit rather than an unchanging edifice.  The rules already give any character the ability to find a trap by using caution and asking smart questions, and to disarm it if the mechanism is accessible to them.

A successful check against a thief skill is an automatic success that allows the problem to be bypassed without requiring the player to interact with the obstacle in detail.