This is far from a complete thoughts, but…
A recent thread got me thinking about how henchmen are supposed to be your sidekicks… the Robin to your batman, the Falcon to your Captain America, etc, but… you acquire them through what is basically the same hiring roll that you use to hire mercenaries, or any other hireling.
To me, this seems wrong, somehow. Not wrong enough to make it all go away, just so that I think it might benefit from some thought.
What if we broke down the mechanical merc/henchman boundary a bit. For simplicity, think about hiring lvl 0 or lvl 1 hirelings.
Lvl 0: Henchmen are paid 12/month. This is the same as heavy infantry, or twice the pay of light infantry. They have the same market availability as Light Infantry. This, to me, suggests that they are actually the same people as the “light infantry” but you are offering them twice as much money & asking them to agree to enter the dungeon with you. These same people can be hired as carousers or rowers, as well. This distinction can be handled by treating “dungeon duty” as something that costs double for this unskilled muscle.
Lvl 1: Here, we see that lvl 1 henchmen cost the same as lvl 1 ruffians. 25 gp/month. There are, however, many more ruffians available. I guess the draw at this point is the cut of treasure, rather than the wages. Mercenaries of lvl 1 are also paid an extra 12 gp/month to represent their experience, which makes a veteran light infantryman basically equivalent to a lvl 1 henchman.
In other words, they pay scales are roughly equivalent for “hirelings” and “henchmen”, at least for the baseline.
In a previous thread about treasure division and mercenaries in wilderness encounters, Alex said he treats the mercs like henchmen in terms of shares (I think). Domains at War also suggests that mercs expect a share of loot from battles they are involved in. Thus, though handled differently by default, this suggests the people in the game world don’t see it as that different. Ratios and splits between the DoW and henchman systems don’t scale well, but some system seems implied.
Sooo… the point of this is to ask… what if henchmen are just the same as mercs or specialists, with a contract that certainly assumes that they’ll go into dungeons, etc? Then the only real difference is that they are assumed to “love” their boss. And this love is assumed to exist from the initial hiring roll, which is the same hiring roll you’d make to hire them as a mercenary. This seems… off.
What if, instead of going full “henchman” right away, you had to develop that friendship, through multiple adventures. They start out as a hired gun, but at the end of each, you roll reaction rolls for your “people”… with mods for haul size, calamity and charisma. A system modelled after the detailed Intimidation rules, maybe? If one did this, then moving the loyalty up to a high enough level would correspond to converting the hireling into a proper henchman. Since it would happen only over time, you wouldn’t need to use a henchman “slot” to hire people like that Venturer you want to use as an agent or your healer. The slots would just control how many of these people you can hold in your “inner circle”.
And the interesting thing about this…? The players don’t know who is their loyal henchman and who is just a toady suckling up to them.