I’m in full-on playtest and writing mode on the Heretical D&D project, which is why my schedule for Reloading Press and Sunday Review have both been disrupted.
It occurs to me that the other side of the ‘treat the hirelings like dirt’ coin is that all hirelings have a sell-by date. That is, in all probability, the portable meat-shield, torch-bearer, and trap-checker doesn’t think of himself that way.
He thinks of himself as someone who will do something really dangerous, with one of two prospects in mind.
Retire. Yes, the ever-popular work really hard and then don’t work at all, or buy/build an inn, or whatnot. These guys probably want (or have) a mate and spawn at home – or maybe the goal is to be able to afford a home. Once they gather up a suitable share of treasure . . . they’re done. They go buy that house, build that inn, find a mate and make with the baby-making, or become a merchant or craftsman or something. But they will stop carrying torches for the PCs and engaging in insanely high-risk behavior.
Get Better. The alternative is that once they “level up” a few times and get experience at the hands of a higher-powered patron – and that’s what the PCs are to the hirelings, really – they’ll decide they are an adventurer in their own right. Since henchmen and hirelings start at 63 or 125 points or so, and heroes are 250, it would make sense that somewhere around 180-190 points a hireling will start to decide that he needs to team up with some other former hirelings and start a band of his own. The other thing that might occur is they ask for a raise. These guys are now basically starting adventurers (sidekicks in a Monster Hunter campaign are full-fledged heroes in many other campaigns, and there’s nothing impotent about a 200-point DF character) anyway.
Note: this isn’t system-specific, either. In D&D, for example, low-level “hirelings” are probably the same as the PCs were when they were 1st level, and will probably act more like future PCs than not!
The overall point here is that the hired help is going to have an exit strategy that doesn’t always start with “feet-first.” Bilbo got 1/14th of the loot, after all, and he was a very lucky rank amateur. These guys that you hire will have a plan and dreams of their own.
|Hirelings have dreams too, you know|
It may even be that as they get close to achieving that dream, their behavior changes. They’ll either refrain from really dangerous stuff (almost there! Must . . . not . . . die!) and start refusing to discuss how they’re a “short-timer,” since that inevitably leads to a gory dismembering death, or start taking wild, implausible risks – perhaps even disobeying orders – to get that one last share of treasure that means that they’re done.
But either way, starting hirelings will have a point beyond which they will not go . . . at least not with the PCs as “boss.”