A comment over on Erik’s blog feed made me think back to a campaign I ran (the Blasingdell campaign, the origin of Sterick the Red). It was a Fantasy game, before Dungeon Fantasy was a GURPS line. It was a map centered on the town of Blasingdell, and it had the fun of being started off by a “prequel adventure” which was an unabashed railroad ending in a set-piece battle that left all but one of the PCs dead, and the paladin possessed by Sterick’s spirit. The Big Bad was back.
Anyway, fast forward to the actual campaign, and the PCs had hirelings. Lots of them, actually. They had some basic fighters, as well as a small line of archers and/or crossbowmen. Since I’d out-and-out ripped off the cosmology from The Deed of Paksenarrion, they were probably Yeomen of Gird or followers of Tir.
That was a time where I never knew how many players would show up at my table. I ran the game out of my basement, with a 4×8′ sheet of plywood on take-apart legs as my stage. I think I could have as few as four and as many as fifteen players around the table on any given day. People would use the game to introduce their friends to RPGs, and so when they showed up (and I almost always knew them – the group was mostly connected through the Hwa Rang Do Minneapolis Academy, but not all) I’d hand them a henchman fighter. If they came back, I’d buff them up a bit.
The inclusion of henchmen allowed for – nearly made mandatory – some decent idea of formation tactics. It also allowed me to throw in some real numbers into the opposition.
The utility of such guys – though not nearly to the extent that Peter’s DF game has used them – was pretty high. They could protect you if you went down. They gave a shield wall to anchor offensive and defensive actions. And they provided a ready-made way of getting new players into a game by virtue of a pre-existing sheet, with some history.