Non-Union Henchmen and the Minimum Wage

Hello, all!

I've a player who's running a Venturer with an 18 Charisma, Seduction, and an extra rank of Bargaining (so 18 Charisma, Diplomacy, Seduction, and Bargaining x2 for those playing at home).  She's recently gone into the market for henchmen and has gotten it into her head that her phenomenal skill at negotiation should translate to a (heavily!) discounted rate on the cut of treasure she'll need to offer them to secure their service and loyalty.  Now, I have my own ideas on how to handle such notions, but I'd like to benefit from the communal wisdom of the assembled Judges and put the matter before you.

First question for discussion: should the 10% discount from Bargaining be applied to the share of treasure that a henchman is paid?

Second question: should an employer be able to negotiate a henchman's cut any lower than the 15% baseline established by the core books, by accepting a penalty on the hiring roll?

Third question:  how steep a penalty should be imposed in exchange for such a discount?

Fourth question: even if the henchman were to accept the employer's offer, how might his morale be affected as time goes on?

And finally, am I under any obligation to inform my player of any modifications I am imposing to his hiring rolls and morale modifiers?

As I mentioned, I've already answered these questions provisionally, but I'd like to check my work against the ideas of others before I put them into practice.

Thanks in advance for any insight you have to share.

1) On the one hand, bargaining says goods AND services, where adventuring together might count as a service.  On the other hand, it lists only a 10% bonus for buying and selling, not paying.  I'm inclined not to offer it, or at best i would allow 10% off the henchman's static monthly wage.

2) I allowed players to lower the offer by 1% for a -1 penalty to the reaction roll to the offer to a maximum of -2 for -2%. However in my game the players never saw a city bigger than Class III, and it took them a lot of work to get there, so they never took the chance and usually offered more.

3) see 2.

4) I feel like the results of the reaction roll already cover changes to morale, but it's possible that this edge case warrants some additional rules.

5) I told my players what effects their offers had, but I ran a fairly open game.  Considering the monster your player created, it seems like they're the kind that enjoy breaking the game and, if faced with limited information, would resort to trial and error (which is very easy with 0th level henchmen in a large city) in order to suss out the underyling mechanics.

Thanks for the input.  I definitely agree with you about the basic Bargaining question, but I wanted to check my answer against someone else.

My gut reaction to a straight -1 per 1% discount is that it's too lenient.  With or without a cap on the possible discount.  Considering that the player needs only a 9+ to secure acceptance and that she's rocking a +5 or higher bonus on the roll (depending on how I allow the modifiers from the various proficiencies to stack), that just seems like an invitation for a charismatic character to pick up all her henchmen at the maximum discount.  Even with the penalty, she only fails on a natural roll of 2.  Even a natural roll of 3 allows her to improve her offer by 1% and try again.

As far as the results of the standard reaction rolls already covering the possibilities when a henchman accepts a lowball offer, I don't think I agree.  A henchman might get sweet-talked into taking a crappy deal for themselves, but they'll always know that they're getting shortchanged.  That might be okay so long as they're well treated otherwise, but I can see things going downhill in a hurry if they suffer any further calamities, or even if they just level up a couple times and see themselves as having better prospects.

clearly your PC will need to institute a "no talking about your salary with the other henchmen rule." :-P

You might try something like -1 for -1%, -3 for -2%, -6 for -3%, or just -2 per 1%, but that pretty much puts negotiating for a discount permanently out of reach for everyone but this character.

Consider the worst case scenario: your +9 PC offers everyone she talks to 6%, resulting in a rate of success identical to someone with no proficiencies whatsoever and 0 charisma.  bump that up to 7% and you eliminate the chance of refuse and slander, and bumping it to 10% results in no chance of failure. Eventually, they'll accrue seven henchmen who collectively get 70% of a share.  It might take someone with 0 charisma longer, but they'll eventually get 4 henchmen that take up somewhere from 60-70% of a share depending on sweetened offers.  

In exchange, the 0 charisma character might have rolled better in dex or str or con, or a mage might have better int for more spells, and they all got to spend their proficiences on other things.  The venturer might be overpowered and min/maxed, but can you definitely say it breaks the game any more than other old school minmaxed characters?  I'm not so sure.

Obviously, you should do what feels right for your campaign, but it seems like this player wanted to build this kind of a character and be awesome. If the character is going to break the game in an unfun way that nobody at the table wants to explore, i'm not sure that's something best fixed with more rules.  I'd be more inclined to either say initially "hey, this seems cheesy and un-fun" or "alright, we're going to try it as written, but I reserve the right to add new difficulties if this gets crazy".

I'd extend the 10% discount to both wages and treasure share, but a 10% reduction in a 15% share is just a 1.5% reduction.

Consider: A henchmen earning 100gp per month and entitled to 15% of an 800gp treasure haul. The henchmen expects (100gp) + (.15 x 800) = 220gp. A 10% reduction in that would be -22gp, leaving 198gp. That translates to (.9 x 100gp) + [0.9 x (.15 x 800)] = 198gp.

It's a nice savings, but it's not game breaking.

As far as applying penalties to hiring, I'm with Jard. Let the character have a reasonable chance of bringing the cost of henchmen down to 6% or so. If it makes them feel wealthy and lets them be surrounded by minions, that's cool! Venturers are hardly an overpowered class.





Just my two coppers,

I think part of the OSR / Retroclone style of play is that the world is balanced, but not in the party's favor. Rather, the balance stems from interacting systems (call it Gygaxian Naturalism?) It should be a lot of fun watching the henchmen and mercenaries rack up, but there should be fun consequences that are naturally in keeping (consequences and not punishments). And as far as interesting loyalty questions go, what happens when the Goblins with the scary Ogre mercenaries offer the player's mercenaries and henchmen higher rates (assuming there is a good reason for the goblins to be that wealthy...)