How many henches does your party have? How many is too many?

So, in the last ACKS game I ran, one of the players (our paladin) got very excited about the idea of founding an order of knights, and picked up henches whenever he met someone interesting, quickly hitting six. The rest of the party more or less followed suit, and now six players have 21 henches between them that they usually bring all of them, minus a handful that are running errands. It's quite a large entourage, but it soaks XP viciously, and the party frequently complains about slow progression. I'm not sure any of them would be willing to give up their henches though, as henches are like extra turns and actions and I mean the only thing more fun than casting fireball is having three henchmages so you can cast FOUR fireballs. 

I think a 27 man adventuring party is kinda excessive though, and it certainly slows combat down a bit. I'm not running that game any more though, so it isn't my problem, but I'd like your advice on how to either avoid it or deal with it next time. Also, the current DM hangs around on these forums, so he might appreciate it too. 

My crew - the maximum. From the very beginning. The "party" is 29 people plus more than double that in horses and pack animals.


They started at 5th level, and everyone went for the most Charisma they could manage, for the most henchfolks they could have. They're all detailed on our campaign wiki. In my game, PCs without retainers would have looked weird (it means you're a nobody of no consequence), so I was expecting it.


It meant that personal-scale combat was skirmish-level from the off, but it worked well. We had a conflict with 100 participants resolved in about an hour and a half - it would take longer than that to run a combat involving 10 participants in D&D4e.


It also means the PCs have "backup" characters readily available. Septimus was sidelined by a poisoned wound for a couple of weeks, his player took up the assassin henchwoman in the meantime and kept in the game that way.

I think the only way to deal with it is for the players to discuss it before the game begins.  Once things get going, it's hard to convince a player that he or she needs to dump one of his henches while the others get to keep theirs.

It's just a matter of making sure everyone's on the same page with the pros and cons.  I think most folks pick up the pros of added skillsets and added combat effectiveness pretty quickly, but it's the cons of shared treasure and shared XP that don't show up until later on.

If the party feels they're not progressing well, they may be underchallenging themselves.  Moreover, in a dungeon full of 30'x30' rooms and 10' wide halls, it's REALLY hard to bring a lot of people to bear.  Try sending them on a quest to clear out a troll lair in the wilderness.  Sure, they can bring a lot of arrows to bear, but a lot of henchmen are going to die.  Those missing shares, combined with the increased loot, should give them the rapid progression they desire.

Yeah, just to echo Jard, a 27-man party should be looking to punch above their weight class/level.  Look for lairs; look for treasure maps -take a month of down time for some Find Treasure hijinks.  If you do find yourself in a classic dungeon, try heading straight down instead of trying to clear the upper levels.

Is the GM sending the party on quests, or is the party picking their goals?

My group hovers between 4 and 6 folks, so I typically allow 1 henchman per player accompanying on adventures. Practically, I agree that a party as large as you guys are saying (20+ people) won't be able to bring their numbers to bear because of the facing restrictions in narrow dungeon corridors and rooms.  30 people don't matter if only the first rank or two can actually fight - although I suppose a party with enough fighters could rotate in and out of the front ranks. 

I should add, there are no dungeons in my game; it's historical and they make no sense, so the only places where they'd have trouble bringing their numbers to bear is urban combat. Even then, streets aren't that narrow, and you have to worry about attackers from higher up, which changes the dynamics.

This is an interesting topic to me because I started with 2E, and generally I play with people who started with 2E. So henchmen at low levels aren’t a really big part of our game plan.

We’ll usually have at most one per person, even in ACKS, until we start doing bigger things. In our ACKS Dark Sun campaign, we had one henchman for the whole party until we were fifth level, when we went up to two. (Only three people in the party, admittedly.)

We did have hirelings, though, I made sure we had caravan guards and guards/groundskeepers for our house, but few henchmen. If the campaign had continued longer, we’d have started recruiting more henchman as our income allowed us to branch out into being moguls and claiming land and such, but during the dungeoneering phase of play, henchman aren’t a big part of our campaigns.

On a related note, how did you guys rule ranged attacks in dungeons? To SOME degree it should be possible to attack from behind the 2nd rank, but it also seems like there should definitely be a hard cap on how effective bringing 4 fighters and 26 archers should be. (Also, what about wizards, who just need line of sight? How many people can you have between you before you can't see?)

I ruled that anyone engaged in melee was an invalid target, but other than that i never put a cap on ranged attacks. this tended to result in a lot of archers shooting over the melee line.

I'd say the hard limit on bringing 26 arches is the length and width of your hallway.  again assuming the standard dungeon width of 10', and acknowledging that the bow is a 2-handed weapon, you're squeezing at most 4 archers in every 10'x10' block of hallway, which means you'd need 70' of hallway. incidentally, that's beyond torch range: who's holding the torches? the mages? seems like that makes them pretty great targets.

In my game it depends on how tightly-packed the party is. I figured that if you are putting three men abreast in a 10' dungeon corridor, that's the equivilant of "Formed Foot" from Domains At War. Two men abreast would be the equivilant of "Loose Foot." 

If my party decides to pack together into a close group they can bring more defenders to the fore and more spears to the second rank... but every rank the archers have to shoot past (including enemy ranks) I count as a -2 to their attack. Also, it is difficult to change what rank they are in.  

If they opt for a loose formation, archers can shoot without penalty and changing ranks is easy, but you can fit far fewer people in an area. Also, enemy archers can easily shoot a caster if the party's front ranks are not packed.

I find they usually opt for a loose formation, but it varies by their situation.

yeah, my players got a little annoyed when I started enforcing that 3 abreast meant that nobody could walk past that rank in a 10' corridor.  They had been using 3 frontline defenders, 3 decently armored spearmen, and then would have the frontliners withdraw when they got low.

Ooh, I like that.