Saturday, August 17, 2019

Hirelings and Henchmen for Traveller

Hirelings! Everyone could use a little help now and then, even your PCs. They can't rely on the Random Encounter to bring along a helpful troop of soldiers or adventurers. What to do? Hire them and bring them along yourself! A solo player in particular would benefit from having some helping hands by his side.

There is a problem though. How do the PCs do this? The only concrete advice or discussion of hiring NPCs we get in The Traveller Book is crew salaries on page 55. Ship crews are specialists, trained to operate a multi-million credit ship. This should not be the standard rate of pay for NPCs.

When the PC party is small, or the danger is going to be large, hired NPCs can spread the work-load, and supply needed skills. NPCs can also be convenient red-shirts for the referee to signal impending danger. The Referee can harm an NPC, giving the PCs a chance to react to the danger.

A general assistant NPC should will expect Cr 300-500/month. That's enough for 'subsistence' to 'ordinary' living standard, plus a potential for profit. A general assistant, a factotum or dogsbody, has average stats and one or two skills at zero level.

Better trained NPCs (skill-1) might ask Cr 500-1,000/month. Any NPC with skill-2 or better will work as a contractor on a specific project. At that skill level, they can be in business for themselves. NPCs with higher mental stats will ask for higher pay. Depending on difficulty and danger, a Senior or Master Technician could ask Cr 2,000 to 10,000 for the job.

I break out hired NPCs into two categories: Hirelings and Henchmen. Call them what you will.

Hirelings are non-adventuring NPCs. They perform functions but only in the context of a normal employee. They do not travel or explore or fight.

Hireling guards should be at skill-0 level. At this level they could oversee a number of no-skill thugs in simple operations such as “don't let anyone in the warehouse”. Thus weapon-0 hirelings will not serve as bodyguards or enforcers. PCs should not rely on NPCs for their personal safety anyway.

Hirelings with high EDU scores can serve as researchers or information gatherers. This will increase the probability of hearing Rumors.

Hirelings are not invested in the PC's schemes in any way and should not have important info on missions. If the PCs do this, the Referee can take the opportunity to introduce some complications into the PC's lives. Nota bene.

You all know your assignments. Get to work, team!

Henchmen are adventuring NPCs. They will explore and travel and fight sometimes, but are not as reliable as other PCs. An NPC with skill-1 in most cases should be able to get regular employment in a business. Why are they knocking about with the PCs? Henchmen have plans, and the Referee should have a few ideas of what motivates the henchman.

Henchmen: Fire Support on Demand.

The referee in secret makes a throw on the Reaction table for the NPC's loyalty. The hiring PC's social skills, particularly Leadership, will modify this throw. When the NPC is in a situation of danger, or when their continued service may be in question, the Referee should throw against their loyalty score. If they exceed it, then the NPC will act against the interests of the PCs. They may leave, steal something, betray the PCs to enemies, etc.

Loyal NPCs will do what is asked, but not come up with ideas or input. Just “if you say so, boss” reactions. The NPCs are not there to substitute for they players' planning and imagination. If the players make an effort to reward their henchmen, it is possible for their loyalty score to go up. Referee's discretion. The reverse is also true. Use them as minesweepers or 'meat shields' and their loyalty score will go down.

Where do you get them?

Anywhere there are people, there will be those who are in need of employment.
When the PCs say they want hirelings, the Referee throws 2D to determine the number of applicants. Leader, Carousing, and Recruiting skill (Bk4) can influence the quantity of respondents. The nature of the work will also have an influence. Dangerous or possibly criminal work will not get as many applicants. For every Cr1,000 the PCs spend on advertising, throw an additional 1D. Next the Referee makes up UPP stat blocks for the applicants and announces to the PCs how many applicants they got. Players should not see the stat blocks.

Henchmen should be searched for like Patrons. Weekly the player can make a throw for 5+ on 1D to locate a potential henchman. PCs with recruiting skill get one additional throw per skill level and may get multiple henchmen in a week. The referee provides stat blocks (I recommend Supplement 1: 1001 Characters) and makes a Reaction throw for each potential henchman. If they work out a deal, the Referee also secretly throws for the henchman's Loyalty, modified by Leadership skill and better-than-average pay. 

Here the referee can do a little roleplaying. Don't just read out the stat block. Interpret it and give the players an impression rather than facts. See skill grades below. The NPC claims that he is trained in X, Y, and Z. But is he? Is he really as well trained as he claims? Not every NPC should be a lying crapweasel, but every once in a while throw one of those in there, and then the Referee has an NPC who can create plot points. Credentials should be required – and can be Forged.

The Grades of Skill
  1. Technician
  2. Senior Technician
  3. Master Technician
  4. Senior Master Technician
  5. Expert Technician
  6. Senior Expert Technician
  7. Master Expert Technician 
Technician can be replaced with the skill description: Pilot, Mechanic, Driver, Marksman, Medic, etc. Most Traveller players will recognize that ranks of Master Technician and above are unusual and worth more.

First up, Karl Jorgerson, age 34, former Army Lieutenant. He's a trained Driver of tracked vehicles, and a Senior Mechanic. Also a good rifleman. (accurate)
Next up, George Higgins, age 30. Two term Merchant, made 4th officer. He's an Electronics Technician, a trained Steward and knows contra-grav vehicles. (false, he's actually 2-term Other. Why is he lying?)
What was his name again?

Hireling NPCs may get a detailed personality and backstory from the Referee. This is only necessary if the PCs take enough interest to find out. In my current once-a-month game, one of the leading PCs has a manservant, which I control. The player has a very detailed backstory for his PC, but none for the hireling. He's not asked me to concoct one either. The hireling remains a stat block until I decide to make use of the NPC as a plot device somewhere.

Henchmen may deserve more attention from the Referee, as they participate in adventures with the PCs. Referees should avoid the temptation to use the Henchman as 'their' PC and overshadowing the player characters. The players will not appreciate an NPC upstaging them. That creative effort is better put into making the Villain of the adventure a more dynamic character.

Nobles and Henchmen

Characters of high Social Standing can accumulate large retinues of NPCs. The only limit to the size of a retinue is the PC's ability to pay them. These NPCs are sometimes called retainers. This term implies a long-term relationship between the Noble and the NPC. Retainers should also have Loyalty scores. I have mentioned in other posts the articles "Robe & Blaster" and "Relief for Traveller Nobility" - they give suggested benefits for being a Noble, among them is having retainers - manor staff, managers of holdings, personal guards, etc. 

Image Credits
We're Hiring

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