One players vs. the crowd player

The ACKS rules are great and they offer tools to give an incredible debt to a campagin. In my current campagin I have two different players. One of them just love to handle henchmens, followers and such. He, in particular, love the ACKS rules. When he created his arcane spell caster character he randomly got the Summon berserker spell, as one of his staring spell. The second player, is completely oposite, and does not like to handle henchmen. He loves to develop his main character. This is very troublesome.

The first player, summons wave after wave with berserkers. He had the battlefield filled with 16 berserkers at one time. The second player felt useless. Any good advice on how to handle this? 

I got some really good advice from the Autarchs. One is related to a rule regarding handling trained animals: 'A character proficient in animal handling can safely control up to 20 guard creatures and 6 hunter trained creatures. An un-proficient character can safely control up to 6 guard creatures, if an animal trainer has taught him the appropriate commands.' Berserkers must be difficult to handle, and control are limmited to 6. The other advices remined me on the dispel magic, the cleave ability of high HD monsters, and spells like sleep and fireball. 

I also thought on something like this: Berserker are called from the afterlife, and are the spirits of dead berserker barbarian warriors. These fighters are engulfed in a battle rage whenever they fight any humanoid. The berserkers will by default regard all other humanoid creatures, except for the spell caster, as enemies. They are difficult to control. Those who are not controlled, will do nothing but fight each other (first choice) as they do each day in the warrior’s afterlife, other humanoids (second choice) or else be inactive.

The next challange is regarding the second player. Is there anything he could get to fill his henchmen slots instead of henchmens? There is also an issue with XP. I've seen some thoughts on this issue on the forum, but I'm not sure of the conclusions.

As a good Game Master, I would like to se all my players to enjoy the play and the campagin. Any thoughts?

Summon Berserkers is one of the most powerful 1st level spells, possibly in the same tier as sleep in terms of ability to swing a low level combat.  It's an unfortunate side effect that it also takes a while to run.  If your player who doesn't like handling henchmen is feeling a little left out, you might try controlling the barbarians yourself, possibly even having them to suboptimal things that make sense for a berserker.

On the henchmen front, getting henchmen tends to be an efficient use of your resources since they're often almost as effective as a PC but only take around 1/6th of a share.  Where they begin to get less effective is either A) when you have to sit around for a while and their monthly wages start adding up or B) when they're mostly low level and you run up against a high level monster that can effortlessly cleave through them (or equivalent effects like cloudkill that mostly affect lower levels).  Other things you can try to make the solo person feel more effective is have fights happen in tight chokepoints where not everyone can bring their forces to bear, this also reduces the utility of henchmen. 


overall though, you should see it evening out as you get higher in level.  the solo player will have more disposable income and will be able to cleave through lots of low level mooks, being roughly as effective as a pack of berserkers, but for an infinite number of rounds.

For this and similar reasons, I do not like Summon Berserker (or the other book Summon spells), and don't allow them.  Although it's a little for that to be useful advice to you.

Possible retcon to the spell?  Say it summons the caster's ancestors, and there's a finite number that qualify as berserkers.  When they're killed in the duration of the spell, they stop answering the call permanently, leaving the caster with a smaller pool to draw from.  Should discourage him from using it as first and last resort to every problem.

I like the idea of making them actual raging berserkers not under full control, but notice in this instance it could be the fighter character taking the brunt of it.  Another poster has talked about nerfing the spell to 1d4 berserkers.  I wouldn't necessarily use all three of these nerfs, but one or two might be good.


​The next challange is regarding the second player. Is there anything he could get to fill his henchmen slots instead of henchmens? [/quote]

I let a player buy a war tiger once.  That thing was a buzz-saw in combat sometimes, but the player started after my first players and was a level or two behind them, so nobody seemed to mind too much.

Doesn't have to be a tiger exactly, but maybe one tough war animal would give the player more to do without triggering his "I don't want to roleplay a bunch of different people" reflex.

Also, what levels are we talking here?  If the one character has done mighty deeds you might even have a henchman or two seek him out to learn from him, though this turns on judging how much he wants to run other classed characters.

Thank you for your comments.

We are talking level 3-5 (at the moment).

It is important to me to be true to the rules. However, the Summon Berserker spell has a lot of unaswered questions. 

I believe that between the the hints in the text, lay the answer to the challange. My idea was that when a player summons more berserkers than he can control (more than 6), the out of control berserkers will act as they do in the afterlife. But what kind of act is this? Do they attack each other like the warriors of Valhalla? Do they just attack nearest creature? Are they inactive? Berserkers are after all only berserk when attacking humanoids, but what is the consequense of this?

The animal henchmen is a good idea. I've also been thinking on giving the character henchmen like resources.  Not all henchmens needs to follow the charactes into the wilderness. 'Party splits' also offers great campagin opportunities for me as the Game Master. 

There is also the possibility of giving a sentient magic item. This item takes one or two henchmen slot, but may provide henchmen type benefits. Much like a familiar. Has lay on hands or different types of lore (alchemy, healing, etc). A henchmen trapped in a magic item. How about that?

A while back I tried to create a non-combat henchman set of rules, but I hadn't really done much work on it recently. I envisioned things like blacksmiths and alchemists sending you off to the dungeon with buffs.  Unfortunately, it was kind of difficult to balance a henchman that has no risk of dying or becoming disloyal through calamities.  It was also primarily motivated by some of my players initially feeling left out compared to players that maxed out henchmen. 


As we've gotten into 6th and 7th level, however, the henchman-heavy portfolios are constantly at risk of going bankrupt from wages, while those with only 1 or 2 henchman have the funds to bankroll things like magic research and stronghold construction.  One of the henchman-light players is running something like 30,000gp above the rest of the group.  If given the opportunity to turn that money into a stronghold, that's 15,000xp.  Alternatively, 27,000gp/xp worth of reserve is also a nice cushion to get a little reckless with and still come back with a formiddable new character.

I have two seperate groups in my campaign: 

Group One - Has embraced henchmen and have now hired their first sub-hencmen

Group Two - Avoid henchmen as XP stealing leeches.

Even the second group has seen the value of henchmen in getting access to skills they don't have (especially non-combat skills).  In later stages of play, hencmen become more important.  Having those hench slots open may be an advantage.  

Even Batman has Alfred (and sometimes Robin).  There are many non-combat henchmen that are very valuable in the midgame, e.g. a private mage to identify potential magic items or create potions, a venturer to buy and sell stuff, a bard for good press, etc. Or just have the PC bank his extra cash.  Make sure to enforce the morale rules for the other PC as well, as henchmen can become a cash drain as they advance in level.   

Summon Berserkers is a pretty powerful spell, but it basically only lasts for one combat.  If you have multiple encounters per day the mage will run out eventually.  Design adventures that cant be solved by using that spell or with combats in which that spell isn't as useful - (say a creature that is only hurt with magic weapons or a series of small waves of attackers every 4 turns).  

What class is the other PC?

There is a lot of paths to be taken. I would listen to your advice and hopefully avoid the bad paths.

The other PC is a Cleric.


Since the other PC is a cleric, put in some puzzles that are best handled by use of cleric spells - augury, speak to animals, speak with dead, etc.  

One of the new PCs HATED his cleric (who was several levels behind) until he hit 3rd level.  Now he loves him, despite the fact he is out cleaved by the others in his party.  You can also introduce the cleric PC to the benefits of a congregation (p. 123 ACKS core).  

Frank - I have a player in my own campaign who is similar to what you describe; he prefers to focus on his own PC and doesn't like henchmen, and he has a similar complaint. (Making it worse, he chose a class with Charisma as its prime requisite and has an 18 CHA; he'd be the best leader in the group with awesome henchmen but won't hire them at all.)

I find this to be a difficult situation to resolve, on a certain level, because having henchmen is part of ACKS's game mechanics. How would you handle a player who says that he hates dealing with equipment and asks that we just not worry about what everyone is wearing and carrying? And then complains that other PCs are more effective because they use equipment?

The right solution is the solution that works for your campaign. A lot of the suggestions from your fellow Judges above seem really workable to me - a powerful magic item, a pet, etc. 



Just a follow up on this, having dug up a link to an older discussion we had here with regards to the henchman slots and things to do with them.  May help to give other options to those players that dont like to go all in on the henchman aspect.


I believe that between the the hints in the text, lay the answer to the challange. My idea was that when a player summons more berserkers than he can control (more than 6), the out of control berserkers will act as they do in the afterlife. But what kind of act is this? Do they attack each other like the warriors of Valhalla? Do they just attack nearest creature? Are they inactive? Berserkers are after all only berserk when attacking humanoids, but what is the consequense of this?


I really like the idea of a Summon Ancestral Spirit "insta-hench" spell. Lots of room for juicy background details, historical mysteries, linking into all these ruins and dungeons...

Regarding Summon Barbarians. First, I introduced the limmit of controll to maximum 6 creatures. I told the player that last time he had summoned 8 barbarians, he had noticed that two of them where out of controll. Luckily, nearest target had been an enemy. He took the hint. He has limmited himself to one Summon barbarian spell active at the time. Next, I used the monser cleave ability. This was highly effective. I actually had two spellcasters in the campaging. The first randomly got the spell and then he taught the other. I convinced the second spellcasting player to trade inn his Summon Berserker spell, will a Wolf Call spell I found in the Heroic Fantasy handbook. The Wolf is called upon outside combat, but last the day. Further, I said that to Summon Berserkers, you need barbarian bloods in your veins - an ancestral link (something only one of the players had). So instead of 8-24 berserkers, there is currently a wolf and 4 berserkers - in addition to the party (with henchmen). Fully operational!

Regarding henchmens. Regarding the priest that hated hechmen micomanagement - but still wants to have a piece of the cace. First, I let five commoners (a mob of fanatics) start to follow him. Not very useful in combat, but they require game attention (daily service, they cheer in combat and give the character some tlc, etc.). Great campagin opportunities and the character like the fuzz. They get xp, take one henchmen slot and would increase in numbers. Second, I introduced the idea of Assets. An asset, in my definition, is a henchmen that is under my controll - not following the players on adventure. They do not get xp. Its like leaving a henchmen to look for magic items. In the campagin, I let the priest connect with his church. He befriended a local priest which natrurally could do favors for him with regards to the church organization. This became a potential henchmen and an asset (it took a henchmen slot). The benefit? He could store valuables 'safely' at the church. Provide healing and restor life and limb scrolls. In my campagin, an asset like a church - will always has a face of an individual. I roll once a month, to see if something happens to the asset. No micromanagement, and player is happy.

It seems that the campagin is back on tracks. Thank you all for your advice.

Sorry for all the typos and gramatical errors. I wince in embarrassment.

Frank, I love the solutions that you've adopted! Thanks for sharing them so that other players can benefit.