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Hirelings in Peril: An Option for Your Fifth Edition D&D Game

Hirelings in Peril: An Option for Your Fifth Edition D&D Game

 Walter Howell DeverellLet’s face it: sometimes you need a tank and you just don’t have one in the party. Whether you’re looking to hire a few meat shields or trying to ensure that you have a vital role covered in a smaller-than-average party, hirelings are a way to shore things up a bit.

Hirelings are designed to be simple and to get out of the way when you don’t need them. You only have to worry about a few things.


All hirelings have a peril threshold. This is a single-digit number. Hirelings also have a peril die; at the beginning of any fight, it starts at d4. Any time a monster turns its attention to one of your hirelings, roll that hireling’s peril die. If your roll is higher than the hireling’s peril threshold, that hireling is out of the fight (or is considered down). Otherwise, don’t worry about it. A hireling’s peril die can’t go above d12, and when it’s at d12, you can’t use hireling abilities that increase the peril die.

Special Abilities

All hirelings have special abilities that make them useful. Anyone can use a hireling’s special ability at any time, provided you satisfy the requirements of the ability and are willing to pay the cost. In many cases, the cost of using a hireling’s ability is increasing its peril die; the more useful hirelings are in a fight, the more the monsters see them as a threat.

Some special abilities have different costs, and some are designed to be used in non-combat situations. A good hireling has at least one combat ability and one non-combat ability.

Healing a Hireling

If you heal a hireling who’s still in the fight, reduce that hireling’s peril die by one step (minimum d4). If it’s a lot of healing (15 or more hit points), reduce the die by two steps. If you’re healing a hireling who’s down, that hireling is back in the fight, but its peril die stays where it is.

If a hireling is down at the end of a fight and you don’t give it some healing, that hireling dies. Very sad.

Temporary hit points work the same as healing, except that you can’t revive a downed hireling with temporary hit points. If you give a hireling an AC bonus, reduce its peril die by a step (minimum d4).

The Cost of Good Help

Hirelings don’t usually work for free. The Player’s Handbook lists costs for hirelings; you can use those costs if they make sense. Particularly skilled hirelings might instead work for a share of the treasure. Others might have some non-monetary reason for following you around.


After everyone in the party has leveled up, you can give your hirelings one advancement each from this list:

  • Add 1 to the hireling’s peril threshold, to a maximum of 9.
  • Add +2 to a damaging or healing ability, or +1 to another kind of ability.
  • Work with the DM to give the hireling a new ability.



Peril Threshold: 7

Defender: When a monster attacks you, increase the bodyguard’s peril die by one step and immediately roll it. The attack misses you.

Flank Attack: When you hit an enemy, increase the bodyguard’s peril die by one step to deal +5 damage.

Vigilant: As long as you pay the bodyguard 1 gold per night, that hireling always takes a watch shift when you set watch and always spots incoming threats during that shift.


Peril Threshold: 5

Healing Hands: Restore 3 hit points for every step by which you increase the healer’s peril die. A character can benefit from this ability only once per short rest. If you use this ability between fights, record the healer’s peril die value; the die starts at that value at the beginning of the next fight.

Tend the Wounded: Whenever the party takes a short rest with the healer present, every Hit Die spent heals 2 additional hit points. You have to help the healer keep their healing kit stocked, though; spend 50 gold whenever you have significant down time.


Peril Threshold: 5

Strike from the Shadows: As long as the burglar’s peril die is d4, you can increase that hireling’s peril die by two steps to deal 10 damage to one enemy. Otherwise, increase the burglar’s peril die by one step to deal 5 damage to one enemy.

Fade Away: During any round in which nobody used one of the burglar’s abilities, decrease that hireling’s peril die by two steps.

Locks and Traps: The burglar will unlock a lock or disarm a trap for hazard pay. Hazard pay is at least 5 gold, but as much as 20, depending on how dangerous the task is. If the task is at all dangerous, increase the burglar’s peril die by one step and roll it immediately. If it’s really dangerous, increase the peril die by two steps and roll it immediately.


Peril Threshold: 4

Arcane Bolt: Increase the mage’s peril die by one step to deal 5 damage to an enemy, or two steps to deal 5 damage to two different enemies.

Burst of Fire: Increase the mage’s peril die by two steps to deal 5 damage to each enemy in a group, provided they’re all within a 10-foot radius sphere.

Scholar: During a short rest, the mage will identify any magic item, appraise any mundane item, or decipher any script (within reason) for 10 gold apiece.

3 thoughts on “Hirelings in Peril: An Option for Your Fifth Edition D&D Game”

  1. This seems like a decent system to use if you are unexpectedly out a few players. Like if only 2 of the 5 show up to game or something. This could work to fill the gaps if for some reason the DM just can’t pull traps out or really think they will need a healer. This little supplemental ruleset would work out ok.

    I think if you have a group that is always small it is probably better to just build games/modify games around the players that you have.

  2. Hello,

    I like these houserule. I will certainly use it my dd5 or pathfinder games.
    As a french language speaking guy, would you mind if i translate it and post it on a french DD5 board ?

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