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Henchfolk & Hirelings
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Henchfolk & Hirelings
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Robin C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/21/2015 13:55:03

RPG System: Pathfinder Converting to d20: Effortless

This book contains a collection of 100 NPC's that can serve as henchfolk and hirelings for your PC's adventuring group, and some notes on how to use them in your campaign.

The book begins with a brief introduction of the leadership feat in d20, and why it isn't very useful to most groups beyond the one main cohort gained. It then describes playing "old school" games where henchfolk and hirelings were an integral part of the adventuring group, and how this book is an attempt to update the older henchfolk and hirelings system to be usable with Pathfinder.

There is a page devoted to the various methods of recruitment based on town size, method and other modifiers. I found the recruiting system to be well made and ready to use. DM's will be pleased to find random tables to let them generate applicants by alignment, class, race and even alphabetical by percentile. This is a very useful feature for DM's who are randomly generating applicants! There is a page devoted to the process of interviewing, pay and upkeep, adventuring with and dismissing of henchfolk and hirelings. I found the information to be weak and not well detailed. The modifiers on interviewing seem to be very generalized (for example, not every applicant or employer will get negatives for interviewing with a different or non-standard race) and will need some customizing to your particular campaign. I also disliked that the payscale was represented as a flat monthly fee, with no regard for the work done. I don't think it's fair to the employer or the employee that accompanying an adventuring group into the "caverns of endless despair" merits the same payscale as staying behind and guarding a base camp. I will be creating my own system based on expected hazards and danger as well as duties expected.

The NPC's are pretty straightforward - listing their name, alignment, gender, race, class, attributes, appearance, background, personality and mannerisms. That's it - no statblocks (yay!).

The NPC personalities are system-less except for their character class and their attributes. They can easily be converted to d20 (or most any other system) with a minimum of effort, as all hirelings are standard races and classes.

While I appreciated the many different tables made for generating random applicants, I felt that the section on interviewing and pay needed a bit of work on the DM's part to fit with the campaign. All the NPC's were well done, and they were detailed personalities ready to walk into your campaign word and interview with your adventuring group with a minimum of work on the DM's part. I consider this a useful book, and several of these NPC's will be appearing in my game as applicants to the PC's in the near future.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
Thanks very much for the review, Robin. I\'m delighted you found the book useful! I hope it enhances your game.
Henchfolk & Hirelings
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Dark M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/15/2011 16:18:57

Henchfolk and Hirelings by Raging Swan Games

This product is 48 pages long. It starts with a cover, credits, ToC, and forward. (7 pages)

Tables (6 pages) It starts off with tables of NPC's listing their name, alignment, race, gender, class and what page they can be found on. The tables are broke up by alignment, class, and race. So if you need a good NPC you look at the good alignment tables, if you need a gnome you look at the gnome table. The tables help a GM more quickly find the right NPC.

Hiring Henchfolk (4 pages) The next section expands rules on how to go about hiring henchmen, dismissing them, how many you might find by the size of the local population, ways to find, and finally a random page of henchmen.

Henchmen (28 pages) This section lists all the henchmen, they are broken up by race in sections. They list the race, class, gender, alignment, ability scores. Plus they have about a paragraph each of appearance, history, personality, and mannerism. To help a GM breath life into a NPC on the fly. They don't have full stat blocks. There is the following henchmen by race. Dwarf – 8 Elf – 8 Gnome – 8 Halfling – 8 Half-Elf – 8 Half-Orc – 8 Human - 52

It ends with a OGL, ads, and back cover. (3 pages)

Closing thoughts. The art work is black and white and is ok. Editing and layout where pretty good. The tables where handy and it is extensively bookmarked. With it's plain text and black and white art it is very print friendly as well. Most of the NPC's are well done and would make for quick and easy NPC's with interesting personalities to use in a game. I personally find this a lot more handy than a collection of stat blocks. Others might be disappointed by the lack of full stat blocks. There is also a second ebook reader version as well. There is a few minor issues with the book, namely only the core classes are listed. Also some of the names are used more than one among the humans. I know it happens but with only 52 I think they could have come up with a name for each of them. So what's my rating? Well if you like or want NPC's with ready to use personalities that your players will likely enjoy then pick this book up. I am giving it a 4.5 star, mostly due to the lack of APG classes and more importantly the duplication of names in the humans. If you are looking for stat blocks you will find this less useful.

Trust me, I'm a Succubus.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Henchfolk & Hirelings
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/11/2011 12:16:37

This pdf is 48 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside the front cover, 1 page introduction to the subject matter, 1 page editorial, 2 pages ToC, 1 page back cover, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving 39 pages for 100 new hirelings, so what is actually within this tome?

The pdf kicks off with a one-page discussion on why this book exists, namely a significant dissatisfaction with the leadership mechanics and its problems. I'm sure we all experienced the unfortunate problem of cohorts simply not living up to being essential parts of a given roleplaying group and dying too easily/being just another set of (bad) stats. This pdf seeks to remedy that by providing a whopping 100 henchfolk and hirelings for your perusal. For ease of navigation, we also get a two-page table of the henchfolk to be acquired by the PCs sorted by alignment, with details on their classes and the respective pages as well as a two-page list by class as well as another one that presents the henchfolk by race. The alignments of the henchfolk covered are LG, NG,CG, LN, N, CN and LE, offering no cohorts for the NE and CE alignments. While I can understand the reasoning for not adding them as well and making e.g. one of the CN or N guys and gals evil is not hard, I'd love to see a sequel devoted to insane and/or depraved cohorts for NPCs/ evil parties.

The first rules presented cover the acquisition of new hirelings & henchfolk depending on the size of the town in which the PCs recruit as well as a d100-table to randomly determine applicants. The rules are simple, concise and easily implemented. Even better, they can not only be used for PFRPG, but for almost any fantasy-based roleplaying game. This is not where the rules stop, though: From easily used (Diplomacy-based) job interview with the hireling to be, to quick and easy rules for the hireling's upkeep, careful consideration is given to balance the additional support they offer for a party with costs, ensuring that the PCs don't simply amass a small army.

On to the hirelings, then: They are presented by race, starting off with 8 dwarven NPCs. While no full stat-blocks are given for the respective NPCs, they do come with alignment-information, basic ability-scores and their base class. More importantly, though, they all get the Raging Swan NPC-treatment, i.e. short information on appearance, background, personality and mannerisms are given. Each and every NPC within this book gets this treatment. My favorite dwarven hireling would be the clam, level-headed and kind, yet extremely unpleasant-smelling Torgal Helkrak, called "The Oyugh", whose Cha-score of 6 is explained via his lacking hygiene and conceals a kind, gentle heart. Among the 8 elven NPCs, my personal favorite would be the stark, raving mad Cydul Nailo, who is convinced that all that stands between him and the whisperings of the dread dragon in the sky is his trusted, dented helmet. If you can't come up with some cool ideas resulting from this delusion (or is it one?), I don't know what might spark your imagination.

Within the Gnomish ethnicity, none stood as much out as among the first two racial groups, though the almost pixie-like, hyperactive and kind cleric Ellywick Foler with her pet chipmunk makes for a cool little cohort who is ure to be endeared to the PCs if handled right. All the better when the DM wants to kill off a treasured associate to avoid TPKing the party... Among the 8 halfling henchfolk, the hedonistic, yet friendly Garrett Greenbottle (a sorceror of the fey-bloodline) caught my interest as well as the rogue Osborn "Ossie" Tealeaf, the latter for reasons I can't disclose here, with players reading this.

The 8 half-elven hirelings presented herein make for interesting companions, with Ilonal, a femme fatale cleric of the god of love ranking as my favorite, but while none fall into the dread emo-Tanis-trope, none really had me excited either. The most interesting ethnicity with regards to hirelings, at least for me, would be the half-orcs, as they are hard to portray as anything but the cardbox-cut out tropes in the few lines available for each individual. A very cool character is the shoddy make-up wearing, female cleric of the god of beauty and love who was reincarnated into a half-orc by a druid. Formerly, Gerbo Nackle was a dashing male gnome - cool idea and makes for a lot of cool developments. The intellectual diviner Farnsley Thaddeus Biddle is another prime example for good character writing. I do have a gripe here, though: There are two half-orcs named Feng, one who is just called "Feng" and "Feng the Fang" - It would have been easy to rename one of them, why go with the ambiguity?

The vast majority (52 if I haven't miscounted) of the new henchfolk belong to the race of humans. Unfortunately, once again the name-conventions are a bit lazy: We get 2 Digorys, two Alans, two Cajas, 2 Kenver and one Kenvern, 2 Kittos, 2 Petroks, 2 Rosens, 2 Sowenas - that a lot of duplicate names. While we all know the frequency of some names is higher than others, players often have a hard time enough to remember all the names (at least in my campaign that holds true!) that we don't necessarily need names that are all the same. Yes, most have at least a different surname, but unique names would have made for nice bonuses, especially given the fact that you can always take an existing name and apply it to an additional character. This minor problem of repeatedly-used names is, though, the only truly negative thing I can say about the wide plethora of characters found herein.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good, while I didn't notice any typos, double sentences or the like, I did notice some minor punctuation errors as well as a superfluous tab-blank in one of the tables, glitches that could have easily been caught by another pass at editing/formatting. Layout adheres to the classic, two-column Raging Swan standard and the b/w-artwork is nice, though (quite understandably) we don't get artworks for all the cohorts. The pdf is extensively bookmarked and we also get a second version optimized for use with e-readers. There being no statblocks per se, but only fluff with general attributes, usability of this pdf is not restricted to PFRPG, but could easily be adapted to just about any fantasy rpg. This being a crunch-light book, I'll rate it on the fluff and how the attributes of the respective characters are reflected in the flavor-text describing them. Interestingly enough, the amount of options of e.g. reasons for a low charisma are very high and, to be honest, none of the characters herein felt truly generic or like a walking trope. With the half-orc Krusk we even get a nice metagamey nod towards an iconic of yonder days of 3.X and, as you may have gathered from my favorites, some truly far-out individuals are among the hirelings. Rest assured, though, that more mundane people and even old and venerable characters can be found among the hirelings, offering for a nice and diverse set of individuals. I do have some points of criticism, though: Neither the APG, UM or UC are directly supported by these characters and while it is easy enough to make particular sorcerors or druids witches, it would have been nice nevertheless to at least have bracketed information à la "If you use the APG, substitute class XYZ for base-class ZYX" - in my opinion this would have enhanced the already very broad versatility of this book. Indeed, this book not offers a sufficient array of NPCs to serve as ideal backdrops for e.g. Kingmaker-campaigns or similar NPC-heavy campaigns, but could inspire whole campaign-arcs via the hooks for all the characters herein. Not all is perfect, though: The aforementioned name-issue is even more evident when e.g. considering Myghal, a monk hireling whose name is the exactly same as the one of a monkish villain from Villains I. An easily avoidable repetition. Another extremely minor gripe I have is the lack of one of the nice rhyming stances that feature prominently in almost all recent RSP publications. While none of my gripes per se are enough to detract a whole star, the accumulation of them makes it unfortunately impossible for me to rate this pdf the 5 stars its content would usually receive from me. While not enough to detract a star, this pdf still gets a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 until at least the name issue or the glitches have been taken care of. Don't be fooled, though: There is scarcely such an easily usable pdf out there and the value you get for your money is astonishing, making this one of the most expedient files to have as a GM. If you're DMing for a fantasy setting, any one really, be sure to check this out. You won't regret it. I hope there will be sequels.

Endzeitgeist out.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Henchfolk & Hirelings
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Jeff J. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/22/2011 10:28:05

According to the foreward, this supplement is an attempt to fix 3rd edition D&D's not-so-great Leadership feats and cohorts and replace them with rules that captures the spirit of first edition AD&D's henchmen rules. (I play GURPS 4e and Labyrinth Lord, so I am not in the target audience as far as the specific ruleset is concerned. However, I have experienced the same appreciation for henchmen at the gaming table, especially in situations where I only have a two or three players.)

Henchfolk are listed in a series of charts broken down by alignment, class, and race. A sidebar contains some concise notes about henchfolk, game balance, and their consequences for adventure design. There are a couple of pages with rules for attracting and hiring henchfolk. There is a d100 chart to allow the DM to randomly determine who answers the players' want ads. In my opinion, these concise rules for attracting and hiring henchfolk are very good. They make sense to me and can easily be translated into other systems (like GURPS) and they are far superior to the henchmen rules that I improvised on the fly while running a Labyrinth Lord campaign. The rules cover attracting henchfolk, interviewing them (ie, gaining a good reaction), and also the rates at which they gain experience.

The bulk of the product covers the 100 henchfolk in detail. Name, sex, race, class, and attribute scores are given... then appearance, background, personality, and mannerisms are sketched out with a few sentences each. (As my Labyrinth Lord game uses plain, unmodified 3d6 rolls for attributes, these numbers are a bit high for me... but that is easily corrected.) The information given is plenty to allow for an on-the-fly characterization in a role-playing session. Note that this is the sort of thing that is hurt by too much information-- what I really need is a good gloss and enough hooks to allow obvious things to improvise and riff on during play. That's exactly what is provided here. Players should be able to take these descriptions and run with them as they please-- there is little setting specific detail in them beyond what is typical in a generic AD&D type setting. For groups that aren't playing the henchmen rules for whatever reason, these henchfolk can be a great resource for populating the tavern when the PC's go back to town for supplies. The individual backgrounds and motivations of the henchfolk can provide a lot of ideas for DM's looking to add texture, drama, and a sense of setting to their games. (Note that Labyrinth Lord players will find these characters more useful if they are using the Advanced Companion-- the race/class combinations will often be a bit much for those that play an old school "Basic" D&D. GURPS players will immediately see obvious advantages, disadvantages, quirks, and skills to apply to these characters based on the descriptions.)

Now that I've described the overall contents, let me briefly list the things that were bothersome and/or not-so-great. At the front of the book, there is a note that states that the authors "won’t correct typos," but "will correct any game mechanic or balance issues that come to light." While I only saw a couple of typos in the product to begin with, this attitude strikes me as somewhat unprofessional. I'd prefer to see something that indicates that the authors stand by the quality of their product and will do what it takes to make it perfect. I find the Half-Elf and Half-Orc character background to be hard to swallow, but then... I don't play a lot of straight AD&D type games to begin with. (The implied world of these characters clashes greatly with how these "races" are presented in Tolkien's works, for example.) Finally... the illustrations do not appear to... illustrate... any of the henchmen in the book. It would have been nice to read an NPC and then see a drawing of him on the page. I could be wrong, but I think the drawings are of generic player characters and don't have much to do with the actual content. (This is evidently a cost cutting measure.)

One of the more useful aspects of this product is in the variety of henchmen. Some are "good servants" that will pretty much do their jobs without any fuss. Some have major problems that almost disqualify them from adventuring status. Some have ulterior motives that can come back to haunt the party. Some of them have higher goals that could influence the party in one way or another. Some of them have unusual situations in their background that could lead to complications. As a GM, it is really easy to get into a rut. If I'm improvising these sorts of details, I will often gloss over them completely (making all of the henchmen dull drones ready to do anything they're told) or fall into some other pattern that the players can pick up on. In either case, the players' suspension of disbelief is damaged. However, by seeding the henchmen list with some... uh... interesting folk... the players will learn quickly to pay attention during the interview stage. As henchmen come and go in the players' ranks, the PC's will experience a variety of perks and hassels in regard to the hired hands. Having these characteristics predetermined before the first want ad is posted means the GM can play the NPC's to the hilt without anyone feeling like he's arbitrarily slamming the PC's with complications or being capriciously nasty.

To sum up, this is a surprisingly useful supplement. It is cogent, well written, and has some nice illustrations. The writers are fulfilling a real need the is derived from actual gaming experience. I have seen lists of hirelings and NPC's elsewhere... but nothing with this degree of utility. This supplement is well worth the gold pieces.


Miscellaneous notes:

My rating is based on the overall utility of this supplement can provide in my GURPS Dungeon Fantasy and Labyrinth Lord campaigns. I am less concerned with any other factor besides what a product can do for me at the gaming table.

This product comes as two PDF's: a larger one optimized for printing and a smaller file optimized for ebook readers.

Full Disclosure: I was provided with a free copy of this supplement for review purposes.

My gaming blog is here:

My Labryinth Lord session reports are here:

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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