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Lackeys, Hirelings, and Henchmen

Lackeys, Hirelings, and Henchmen

Don Quixote and his sidekick Sancho Panza by Gustave DoreMelchior huffed and puffed around the last corner. Even though he’d be dressed down for loafing, he felt a genuine affection for his employers. He skidded to a stop. The dragon, who was devouring Fargrim the Chaste, raised his head to gaze at him. Melchior pushed his helm (a well-seasoned dinner pot) higher on his head, smiled weakly, and started to back away. It was then that he realized he was going to have to look for another job.

Every adventuring company needs someone to darn their socks and feed their familiars. Every GM needs someone to sneeze before the surprise round or to lose that map of the Endless Crypt…

If your campaign needs a shot in the arm, consider adding a few well-placed NPCs. Give that irresponsible party-splitter someone to take care of. Or plant a secret plot device with those know-it-all veterans. If you think about an adventuring company as a party of low-level European nobles, it’s not odd to picture them traveling with a group of helpers.

Since the creation of our favorite game, each succeeding version has minimized the role of these most useful of NPCs.


A lackey is someone who does menial tasks or runs errands for others. In a fantasy setting, this might also mean a creature that would be considered a monster. A party might start with one lackey and soon have a lackey for each player. The lackeys would then report to a henchman. Typically, lackey wages might be 3–5 sp/day and would include many of the following tasks:

  • Animal feeding and grooming
  • Carrying supplies and equipment
  • Delivering messages
  • Gathering food and firewood
  • Gathering spell components
  • Linkboy (torchbearer)
  • Setting up tents

Lackeys are unarmed and poorly equipped. Their employers are wholly responsible for their care and feeding. Lackeys would certainly only speak when spoken to and would dine apart from the party. During combat, lackeys should run away unless trapped and would give the players no advantage in combat.

Lackeys should have names and a minimal back-story. They can interact with their employers but should only serve to make the characters lives easier, not harder. Lackey’s should be played by the GM and could be a source of hidden plot devices (and fun).


A hireling is a person who typically has a skill or trade and is hired to perform a specific task. By obtaining hirelings to follow them around, an adventuring party could fill gaps in the party with a cleric or even an artificer. Hirelings are responsible for their own equipment and food. At no time should hirelings be exposed to danger. Typical hireling jobs and prices per day follow:

  • Alchemist, 20 gp
  • Artificer, 20 gp
  • Carpenter, 5 sp
  • Leather Worker, 4 sp
  • Mason, 5 sp
  • Sage, 30 gp
  • Sailor, 3 sp
  • Scribe, 5 sp
  • Ship Master, 20 gp
  • Steward, 2 sp
  • Tailor, 3 sp
  • Teamster, 5 sp
  • Valet, 3 sp

A higher-level adventuring company might have a lair or property where they may hole up. Any masonry or carpentry would be hired out. Also, it would be customary to have a caretaker or steward look after the place when the party is gone. Certain hirelings can be retained on a monthly basis at a discounted price.


A henchman is a trusted follower or right-hand man and should be desired by the experienced player. They should be paid a hefty sum up front, then a percentage of the loot afterwards. Their loyalty is based on the characters Charisma. The higher the Charisma the lower a percentage the player would pay and the more loyal the henchman would be.

Henchman should serve as a buffer between players and townsfolk in many situations. Loot must be fenced, gear repaired, rumors gathered, provisions restocked, and tributes paid.

It’s certainly advisable to protect henchmen, but at some point, they may have to face danger. A henchman might act as a page or squire for a warrior but not as a mercenary. Depending on the employer’s Charisma, henchmen may be more resistant to the GM’s machinations. For party purposes, you could share expenses for henchmen and lackeys.

Henchmen can be volunteers, or they can be solicited. The players can post notices, hire a crier, or recruit someone from a tavern. You can even have a missing players’ character serve as a henchman for the session.

While a huge encampment of people following your party around should be avoided, a small one might help to exercise their roleplaying muscles. If your party has reached 3rd–5th level, they could have a Lackey. Having reached 7th–10th level, they could attract henchmen. At 15th level, they may need hirelings. As always, NPC’s should add to the fun and not distract from it.

(This article first appeared in Kobold Quarterly #17. Check it out for yourself.)

40 thoughts on “Lackeys, Hirelings, and Henchmen”

  1. Oooooops! I cut a bunch out of the KQ Submission and sent it to Scott thinking that it didn’t make the magazine. Sorry for the confusion and thanks for the comments.

  2. @Minion #2 – You’re in the top tier anyway, although I appreciate the sentiment. You may have a gift basket, or a puppy, your choice.

    Mr. Fishy, on the other hand, has always given me the creeps…

  3. @Minion #2 – OK, but you have to clean up after it. If I find any half eaten gnomes laying about the lair it’s going back to the 4th plane. Uh, how those half eaten gnomes moan…

  4. Yes, of course Master! Thank you Master!

    I have given the flame-retardant pooper-scooper to Minion #13 with strict instructions reference Gnomes.

    And I have drawn you a bath, poured your favorite libation, and picked up your dry cleaning…

  5. Master, may I clean your favorite shiv in minion #2’s blood? Recent brownnosing of minion #2 has made me aware that consolidating my position is required.

    eyes Minion #2’s back…….

  6. Simon the Overthinker

    I once opined for minions. I have decided after several recent posts that Todd is welcome to them!

  7. @Simon the Overthinker – they are indeed more trouble than I expected… but they are so damned cute!

    I don’t know what I’d do without the adorable little schemes and plots to gain favor…

  8. Simon the Overthinker

    Todd, the Overlord of Schemeing Minions, Purveyor of Gnome Jerky, Master of the gate to the fourth plane of messy consumers.

    Truly a dizzying title considering the work conditions all things considered. Not sure if “cute” comes to mind in considering. I can see the relative entertainment though and I here the Gnome jerky flies off the shelves…

  9. Simon the Overthinker

    Apparently I got trapped by the word “consider” in my previous post. I tried poaching one of your minions for proof reading. I think I will send him back…

  10. Master, your ability to attract new minions never fails to impress me! Especially when they don’t even realize their own state or fate.

    We will equip the one known as Simon (Minion #3) with the proper minion garb as soon as possible.

    Master, you are most wise, I admit that I feared Minion #2’s ambitions, but with the introduction of Minion #3 you’ve introduced a new balance of power, well done Master!

    As your premier Minion I feel elevated by your decision!

  11. Simon the Overthinker

    Minion #1 is obviously good at bootlicking but does seem short in understanding the true underpinnings of the Overlord Todd’s true plan for world dominion through snackable food sales et al. As such I would submit that he be allowed to maintain title as minion #1 working for the truly expert hireling Simon the Overthinker in pursuing Master Todd’s grand plan.

    I will also sumbit I am concerned that the esteemed MR Allman may have lost control of the overall purpose of an otherwise excellent posting.

  12. Master sells weapons, Minion #3.

    Master, Minion #3’s former name seems to be false, he is not an overthinker! Minion #1 suspects that he is a spy working for the forces of Good. He must be dealt with.

    Minion #1 will retrieve Master’s favorite shiv from storage!

  13. Simon the Overthinker

    I may suggest that Minion 2 may be required to replace minion 1 as minion one seems to again misundersand the full scope of the masters plan. Weapons are a front that encourages a need for quick service snacking on such things as Gnome jerky or Elf blood Frapaccino’s where margins are much higher. Weapons are a gateway into creating a snack food addiction on low cost, high profit goods. This lack of understanding coupled with a fascination with a shiv is worrisome in one so high placed in the organization.

  14. Master,

    There seems to be a quarrel between Minions 1 and 3. I have taken the liberty of booking the amphitheater for a gladiator match so they might settle their differences in a manner suitable for substantial sales of snack food. Oh, and I also took the liberty of burning down the snack food competition’s warehouse. You will find yourself sole purveyor of Gnome Jerky and Elf Blood Frappacinos.

    And Minion #7 has not yet returned with your Thesaurus and Webster’s Dictionary. May I send out Sparky to search for him. Yes, the Hell Hound Puppy is now named Sparky.

  15. Lackeys, Hirelings, and Henchmen – Bah! as all can see minions outclass them all.

    Minion #2 has gained great favor.

    I’ll hear arguments for position, but I believe this may be settled.

    Good boy Sparky, let go of #7… eeew, I’ll miss #7.

    Yes, Mr Allman has in fact lost control… but such is the way with evil machinations.

  16. Master? Do we not honor Mr Allman with our continued posts?

    Master, was Minion #1 not the first to heed your call? Minion #1 feels slighted by Minion #2s continued elevation….

    Minion #1 must regretfully inform Master that Master’s favorite shiv could not be retrieved from storage.

    Minion #1 would respectfully ask Master to spend some thought regarding its current or future location.

    Be well, Master

  17. Simon the Overthinker

    I must admit Minion 2’s use if Minion 1’s shortsighted Shiv fascination and taking advantage of the information my brilliant mind has already deduced of Master Todd’s grand plan to position himself as soul purveyor of snack items to combat troops and entertainment events does bespeak upper management potential. I will have to reconsider my position on Minion 2 replacing Minion 1 keeping in mind his current relationship with Sparky.

  18. Master,

    I find it worrisome that Minion #3 still uses the moniker “Simon the Overthinker”. This bespeaks of a bit too much independence, even though I believe he has the important issue of snack food well in hand.

    And @ Minion #1, Sparky retrieved Master’s favorite Shiv from underneath your bed.

  19. @Minion #2, you wouldn’t recognize Master’s shiv even if it was stuck to the hilt in your scrawny chest.

    I have added Sparky to the snackfood processing roster. Spicy dog is a favorite in some cultures. You may retrieve the unprocessable parts at Minion #3’s desk.

    I concur that the Simon the overthinker monniker is unbecoming.

  20. Controlling your fellow minions is hell, spending just a few days with them will leave you with the urge to kill them all.

    I wonder how the Overlord manages?

  21. Simon the Overthinker

    I am saddened by the bickering over titles by Minion 1 and 2 as this detracts from the service required by Master Todd. As for the Spark solution, excellent work. Thank you for the leftover bits. I was able to successfully trap several Charnel Cows and have sent them off for processing as well. Truly an excellent repurposing of materials. As for how the Overlord manages, his profits are handsome and compensate for the sad state of internal politicking created by Minion’s One and Two.

  22. All reference to Minions by number is hereby ended. All minions will choose a name based on what it is you do best.

    For example, the minion who will best handle my business might choose a name like “Mr Hooper” the venerated shopkeeper. The minion who will oversee my “Lackeys, Hirelings, and Henchmen” might choose name such as “Mongo the Feared”.

    I will hear your names and be done with this…


  23. S. Sigma, purveyor of bureaucracy and employee relations

    S Sigma, formerly the overthinker, prepared to handle the dirtiest of tasks, corporate management of the masters operations.

  24. S. Sigma, purveyor of bureaucracy and employee relations…

    At first blush this appears overlong and rather “labor unionish”, however, in our quest to legitimize my operations (which we deny the existence of), this title shows a public face the Master approves of.

    So be it!

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