Hirelings and "The Mule Abides"

Eric Minton made a recent interesting post about Hirelings on “The Mule Abides” about players ditching or eliminating hirelings in order to game the XP system for more benefit to the PCs.

He said: (I previously posted on the subject of)“…how players try to ditch their hirelings in order to avoid giving them a share of treasure… it’s an emergent behavior that comes out of the intersection between rules and player goals: if the aim is to acquire gold and XP, and hirelings bleed off gold and XP, then it’s in the PCs’ interest to ensure that the hirelings perish in the line of duty before they can get their share… “

Minton then goes on to describe some of his suggestions for dealing with the topic; well worth a read if such things are of interest.

But it also sparked some thoughts in my own brain about hirelings in D&D… and reminded me of some thoughts I had in recent years on the subject.

I think when we first started playing D&D, we were playing a ‘sandbox’ game without really knowing it. We would roll up player characters, then we would have these player characters traipse off into the dungeon to kill things and get treasure. There was no ‘overarching plot or goal to it (and, in the context of this post, I’m avoiding arguing over whether or not that was a good or bad thing). We believed that one could not have XP levels that one did not earn and EVERY PC had to start out at level 1. We just thought that was how it was done.

At some point, however, in my childhood gaming group, we started rolling up PCs that would be of the appropriate level for a published adventure that we wanted to play if we did not already have one. This seemed like fun at the time… and that is still how we ‘do it’ in the game group I currently play 3.5e with.

One of the things I proposed to the group of guys I play with is a campaign where players all had to start out at level 1 but players could have more than character. Only 1 character could be your “active” PC at a time — all others would be temporary NPCs while the primary PC was under the player’s full control. Although I thought the idea had merit, the few players who expressed an opinion didn’t like the idea.

I was not running a game at the time that I made the suggestion. Any thoughts?


2 Comments on “Hirelings and "The Mule Abides"”

  1. 1d30 says:

    One issue is what the “off” PCs are doing. Can his high-level Magic-User make scrolls while that player's Fighter is off adventuring?

    I'm also doing “rags to riches” as in everyone starts at Level 1 even if the rest of the group is Level 5 or 6.

  2. JDJarvis says:

    Multiple-PC's can work well for a campaign that gives the players room to have multiple PCs. A campaign with down-time tasks and slow healing leaves lot's of room for multiple PCs. A DM also has to really keep track of where and when the PCs are. Don't be afraid of splitting the party.

    I ran an AD&D game for years where players could have as many PC's as they liked but were encouraged to only have 2 active at a time. The mechanical method to encourage this is a player only got one share of EXP to divide among characters no matter how many characters they had in an adventure. We ended up with characters in different realms, different time zones, on different planes and different worlds so they had the room to have multiple PCs. We still had an almost utter TPK even with the characters spread out all over the place…they tried real hard to get everyone killed.


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