In the Castles & Crusades game my group is playing, our last session involved hiring several men-at-arms and a lantern bearer. One player was unable to make it and although we have a fairly reliable ranger henchman, I thought we needed a little extra manpower to face the thouls we knew were lurking in the dungeon. (Thouls, if you haven’t heard of ’em, are part troll, part ghoul, part hobgoblin aberrations first described, as far as I know, in the D&D Basic “red book” rules. I can’t find a picture from that but there is a nice picture at Curmugeons & Dragons.)
So at some considerable expense we managed to hire three men-at-arms (Jimmo, Jakko, and Jonno) and a lanternbearer (Torchy Flamer, esq., who we also equipped with a 10′ pole since he is not a fighting-man!). Hirelings are a fairly new concept for our party. I never used to hire them back in old days, because I worried about giving up precious XP and because we used to always have a ton of players. This time there were three PCs so we were feeling cautious.
Now, I was planning to use them as personal bodyguard (I play a feeble Illusionist) but another PC was adamant that if they get “danger pay” they should be in the front lines fighting, so as a compromise we had Torchy & Jakko stay in the rear with my illusionist (Dagodart Stav) and the other two in the very front. Needless to say, the hirelings were quickly lost. Now to some extent the we could not have avoided casualties, as the first thing we did was wake up a flock of ten striges, and they pretty much swarmed us, as striges do.
But the bigger takeaway lesson is that men-at-arms are not meant to be in the front lines. 425 GP down the drain, and I don’t think anyone in Erados (the village we hired them in) will ever apply for a job with us again. Dang.
But this has been a persistent feature of the campaign — we are re-learning all the “old school” dungeoneering principles. Some I used to know, some are totally new to us. One player who hadn’t been playing a lot before joining our group wondered what we’d do about traps after our thief was killed a few sessions back, and was surprised to hear that original D&D didn’t have thieves! Well, I was surprised too, but I had played enough AD&D to remember the exhaustive checklist of searching doors, floors, walls, and ceilings in the days before “Spot checks.” We’ve all been playing mostly 3rd-4th ed. D&D in the past few years so it is both trying and exciting to relearn the old school approach.
The whole campaign has been like a refresher course in old-school gaming. Thouls, striges, rumors of Perytons, magic daggers and swords glow, hirelings, henchmen, and on and on. We just bought some horses to speed up travel and I think we’ll be hiring a groom soon. And replacing poor Torchy.