Strongholds and Henchmen for 4e
One thing which differentiates Classic D&D and Fourth Edition is the fact that the earlier edition supported the idea that our heroes gain power and prestige as a result of their noble deeds. Or ignoble, in the case of the Thief. Tales of their heroism draw lackeys and supporters to their fold, and once they reach the heady heights of 9th level they receive permission from the King, Church or Clan to build a Stronghold of their very own.
It’s a testament to Gygax, Moldvay and the rest who recognised that gameplay in D&D should evolve as the PCs climb in level. It is something which is sadly lacking in later editions of the game.
Also, there are times when the heroes need nothing more than an extra pair of hands. This is especially true at low level (where the party lacks easy ways of shifting mounds of treasure) or if there’s only one or two players and an extra swordblade can mean the difference between success and failure. Classic D&D provided mechanics for Hirelings, Retainers and Henchmen of all kinds. Again, Fourth Edition D&D doesn’t.
Thankfully though, it’s all easily fixed.
Henchmen and Retainers are moderately loyal hirelings who generally act as baggage handlers and provide light combat support when the going gets tough. They are Minions who will retire from combat if they take any serious damage (ie, lose their single Hit Point). If they are hit, make a Death Saving Throw for the Henchman: Roll d20 – if it’s lower than 10, he’s dead; 10-19 he’s alive but wounded, unconscious and out of combat; 20 and he has survived and is still in the game (but likely to spend the rest of the encounter fleeing to safety). 1
Hiring Henchmen costs money. The average rate of pay is 1gp per level per day, though this varies widely according to danger, location, demand and (of course) greed. It’s common for a 25gp danegeld to be paid to a living relative or advocate in advance. This is lost if the Hireling is killed whilst in the service of the heroes.
Here’s a list of the Minions from Monster Manual I and II who are commonly avalable for Hireling work, along with their typical rates of pay (good luck if you hire Evil Henchmen!). Feel free to add your own and modify to taste:
|Henchman||Pay per Day|
|Human Rabble (Peasant)||1|
In Classic D&D there were 36 levels (or 72, if you count Immortality) and a Stronghold & small Dominion was granted at 9th level. In 4e, this could be awarded right on the crux of the jump from Hero to Paragon Tier. I recommend giving it at 10th rather than 11th (where the Paragon Tier starts proper) mainly because the PCs get a whole shedload of goodies at 11th level anyway (+1 to all ability scores, paragon path, encounter power, feat, etc) and 10th is close enough to Classic D&D’s 9th level to retain the old school feel – giving it at 9th itself feels a tad too early in Fourth Edition. It also gives the players a whole level to prove they’ve earned their title before embarking on Paragon-level quests.
Each class gains a different type of Stronghold and is granted a number of Followers according to their race and class. These Strongholds are commonly granted in untamed or uncharted locations where the first order of business is to clear the area of local dangerous creatures :D
|Class||Stronghold type||Granted by|
|Bard||Academy||Patron of the Arts|
|Druid||Sacred Grove||Druidic Order|
|Fighter||Keep||King or High Noble|
|Rogue||Hideout||Nearest Thief’s Guild|
|Shaman||Spirit Nexus||Spirit Guide|
The newly landed hero will attract 3d6x2 1st level, 2d6 2nd level and 1d6 3rd level Followers. Unlike Henchmen, Followers are full NPCs. Most of them will be of the same race and class as the hero, though some variety is expected. Generate a typical member for each type of Follower. As the hero gains levels, roll 2d6 and advance a number of Followers by one level each or spend to gain new 1st level Followers.
Example: Boris the Bold is a landed Dwarven Fighter with a Keep deep in the heart of Utterlight Vale. He has 13 1st level hearty Dwarven Fighters (three were lost during a Goblin raid), seven 2nd level Dwarven Fighters, two 2nd level Human Rangers, and four 3rd level Dwarven Fighter Captains. At 10th level he rolls 2d6 and gets 8 so he adds one level to two of his Dwarven Captains, one to a Human Ranger and adds another four 1st level Dwarven Fighters to his fold. He also gains a single 1st level Elven Wizard – a beautiful elven maiden in need of a place to hide.
The hero is expected to fund at least 50% of the build cost of the Stronghold themselves. That’s beyond the scope of this post; I highly recommend using the D&D Rules Cyclopedia for Stronghold building, maintenence costs and Dominion rules.
Till next time!
- This is a variation on the Minion rules from Mutants & Masterminds where Minions have a Toughness Save against damage. I’m considering adding this as a House Rule for all Minions in 4e. ↩