Over at the Underworld Cleaning Service, George published Hirelings & Henchmen: My Players Hate Them! Oh no! He says that his players “don’t want to split the XP and GP with them.” I understand. It’s how I played AD&D.
These days, however, I’ve added some house rules to my campaign which seem to change this. This is what I posted as a comment on his blog, slightly edited.
The way it works in my game: hirelings are 0 level humans and want 1 gp/day if they are to fight (so-called men-at-arms). XP for monsters are distributed per party member, but in my game, XP for monsters makes up for an estimated 10% of the XP total gained. It’s not a lot.
Most of the XP is gained for treasure. Now, if a hoard is found, I don’t distribute the appropriate gold XP right away. Players distribute the gold amongst the player characters, and if they make it back to town and waste it, this gains them the remaining 90% of their XP. Thus, 0-level hirelings don’t get any of this 90% share. They cost 1 gp/day which is the equivalent of 1 XP/day. My players don’t mind.
When the 0-level hirelings have gained 100 XP, they gain their first level. I don’t keep count and thus I usually just use the rule of thumb that if a player character gets more than 100 XP because of monsters in a single session, all the hirelings part of that expedition will gain a level.
From then on, they are considered to be henchmen. They no longer need to roll morale checks at the beginning of every expedition and they demand one third of a treasure share. This is when players end up sharing a lot of XP. By now, however, players either no longer want henchmen, or they really love them, or they feel it’s only fair to give them a little bit of gold. In any case, none of my players have said “we don’t want to split the XP and GP with them.” These henchmen have been around for several sessions and they survived at least one big fight with the player characters.
In my games, the big fights where two manticores, and a few days later, a wraith sorcerer. How can you fire a hireling who joined you in that big basilisk costume as you tried to trick the manticores?
I’m not sure how exactly you are splitting XP and gold between player characters and hirelings, but perhaps tweaking your method will make hirelings more interesting to your players.
I find interactions with hirelings to be a fun, light-weight role-playing opportunity. You can role-play as you hire them for an expedition, as they make demands, as they tell player characters that they don’t want to sleep in caves, as they complain about preferring the other alehouse, as they talk about their family at the fireplace, as they demand their share. Remember the Icelander acting as a guide in Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth? I love that scene! I like role-playing hirelings that retire from the adventuring life as they fail their morale checks at the beginning of an expedition and open a shop instead. I like role-playing hirelings as they roll terrible results on the Death and Dismemberment table…