In my campaigns I’ve always tried to provide the party with useful NPC companions. Hirelings add an extra dimension to play, I think. It’s fun to watch the PCs train, protect and deal with the hired help. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to come up with distinct personalities for the NPCs. I know I am guilty of playing them without much flair. To remedy this, I’d like to present a random table of personalities you can use to add some life to the henchmen and hirelings of your campaign.
|1) The Critic|
This fellow incessantly critiques the party’s battlefield performance. He offers all sorts of constructive criticism, such as “Perhaps you should try to get hit less.” “You should be more accurate with your bow.” is another one of his gems. If a character actually listens to the NPC’s coaching, allow an occasional bonus to an attack roll.
|2) Holy Man|
Quite the zealot, this henchman is always proselytizing to the party. The NPC hopes to convert the characters to his faith and will preach about the virtues of his deity morning, noon and night. He will point out that all of the party’s good fortune is due to his deity blessing the group. Conversely, any bad luck that befalls the party is because they have failed to embrace the “one true faith.”
|3) Shady Character|
The henchman seems to have an aversion to crowds, in addition to a secret he’s reluctant to share with the group. When the party enters any sort of settlement he will pull the hood of his cloak over his head and skulk in the shadows. Once indoors he will insist upon sitting with his back to a wall and will nervously watch anyone who walks through the door.
This hired hand is always drunk. The characters are never able to catch him in the act of drinking, nor are they able to find where he hides his hooch. A descriptive GM should play up the inebriation, having the NPC snooze through watches, or make lewd comments to high born ladies.
|5) Give Me a Raise|
Always eager to renegotiate his salary, this hireling brings up his rate of pay at inappropriate moments. In the henchman's mind, tense parlay or the death of a PC are perfect opportunities to haggle for a few more silvers. Even if the party rewards his service with the occasional boon, he will still mope and whine about the party “holding out on him.”
The henchman claims to have the ability to commune with the mystical spirit world. He frequently offers to read the PCs’ fortunes and even pretends to speak with the dead. When a foe is killed in battle, the hireling looks skyward as if he can see their spirit departing for the afterlife. Also, he claims to sense spirit activity in certain areas and will warn the party about “hostile energies.”
|7) Duty Shirker|
When combat breaks out, the hireling is nowhere to be found. No amount of calling the coward’s name will bring him out of hiding. Not until the battle is over will the fellow emerge from cover. The vanishing act is rather impressive and sudden, almost like an innate magical ability...
|8) A Man's Man|
Pain means nothing to this character. He has an amazing ability to withstand damage. No matter how serious his wounds, he will shrug off the injury and will insist upon fulfilling his duties. He expects others to have a high pain threshold and will often tease those who succumb to their wounds.