Friday, 11 March 2011

Hitler's Henchmen, Batman's Robin and Arthur's seating plan

Hitler, Goering, Goebbels and Hess

This is a post about the ability score Charisma. What I want to explore is the D&D rules regarding Charisma and how it relates to the numbers of unusual hirelings (OD&D), retainers (B/X) and henchmen (AD&D) one is entitled to.

If you are reading this because you are a neo-nazi, or Nazi apologist and stumbled upon this post, please move on. You won't find any support for your views here.

Neither do I think EGG was sympathetic but in his discussion on Charisma on DMG page 15 he says:
"Many persons have the sad misconception that charisma is merely physical attractiveness. This error is obvious to any person who considers the subject with perceptiveness. Charisma is a combination of physical appearance, persuasiveness, and personal magnetism. True charisma becomes evident when one considers such historic examples of Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Adolf Hilter. [emphasis added] Obviously, these individuals did not have an 18 score on physical beauty, so it is quite possible to assume that scores over 18 are possible, for any one of the named historical personalities would have had a higher charisma score - there can be no question that these individuals were 18's [emphasis added] -  if they would have had great attractiveness as well as commanding personal magnetism and commanding persuasiveness."

So how many henchmen did Adolf Hitler, charisma 18, have? One remarkable attribute Hitler demonstrated was his loyalty to a few key individuals (none were executed by him unlike many other historical individuals of similar megalomania) and baring Hess, all stayed loyal to Hitler to the end.
These key loyal individuals, let's just call them retainers, number five; they are Goering, Goebbels, Himmler, Bormann, and Speer. 
Now one can argue about any one of them, or perhaps suggest other Nazi's of similar influence and loyalty but Hitler Charisma 18 did not have the maximum number of retainers in any edition of D&D.

Retainer Maximum for Charisma 18
OD&D 12
Holmes 'large number' (but Charisma <13 = 5 (page 5&11))
B/X 7
Mentzer/Allston 7
AD&D 15

So numerically wise, charisma 18 Hitler fell short of his potential.

But were these Nazi's retainers as we understand the term in D&D?

Charisma Rules Retrospective
Men and Magic page 11 (hirelings of unusual nature)

Charisma is a combination of appearance, personality, and so forth. Its primary function is to determine how many hirelings of unusual nature a character can attract. This is not to say that he cannot hire men-at-arms and employ mercenaries, but the charisma function will affect loyalty of even these men. Players will, in all probability,seek to hire Fighting-Men, Magic-Users, and/or Clerics in order to strengthen their roles in the campaign. A player-character can employ only as many as indicated by his charisma score. In addition the charisma score is usable to decide such things as whether or not a witch capturing a player will turn him into a swine or keep him enchanted as a lover.
Finally, the charisma will aid a character in attracting various monsters to his service.

Holmes page 5 (followers)
Charisma is a combination of appearance, personality, sex appeal and so forth. Its most important aspect is leadership. A character of charisma below 13 can not hire more than 5 followers, and their loyalty will be lukewarm at best – that is, if the fighting gets hot there is a good probability they will run away. On the other hand, someone with charisma of 18 can win over a large number of followers (men or monsters) who will probably stand by him to the death. Also a female with high charisma will not be eaten by a dragon but kept captive. A charismatic male defeated by a witch will not be turned into a frog but kept enchanted as her lover, and so forth.

B/X (retainers)
Charisma is a combination of appearance, personal charm, and leadership ability. It helps the DM decide exactly how a monster will react to a player character. It also affects the number of retainers a character can hire (see page B21), and the morale (attitude; see page B27) of these hirelings. Charisma is never a prime requisite.
The adjustment to reactions may help or hinder “first impressions” when talking to an encountered creature or person (see Monster Reactions, page B24, and NPC Reactions, page B21). Charisma also affects the number of NPC retainers a player character may hire, and the morale (attitude) of those persons.
A retainer (or hireling) is a person hired by a player character (PC) to aid that character on an adventure… Retainers are more than just men-at-arms, soldiers hired to fight and protect their employer but only expected to take reasonable risks. Retainers are lieutenants or assistants to a PC and are expected to lend their skills and knowledge to the benefits of the party and to take the same risks the characters expect to face… A retainer may be of any level (0,1,2,3, or higher) and of any class (normal man or character class)… Hirelings are experts which can be hired by the characters... Retainers will
earn experience from adventures… however [they] only receive ½ the experience PCs would receive, because they were only following orders and nor making decisions on their own.
Specialists are not retainers and they will not go on adventures. Mercenaries are hired soldiers who will do typical army work. Like specialists they will usually not go on dungeon adventures and will only participate in wilderness adventures such as fighting other armies, clearing land of monsters around the castle, and defending the castle.

Mentzer/Allston (retainers)
Cyclopedia page 10
If he tries to hire retainers (bodyguards, assistants, and so forth), his Charisma will determine the number he can hire, and how loyal they will be.
Cyclopedia page 89
A party following a road, trail, or river or led 
by a reliable guide will not become lost. A guide 
is a retainer who knows the local area.

Cyclopedia page 132

A retainer is a person hired by a character to help on an adventure or a series of adventures. Retainers are sometimes called "hirelings."
Cyclopedia page 138
Retainers and Servitors
The ruler is directly served by stronghold retainers and servitors.
You're familiar already with the idea of retainers; some stronghold retainers, however, aren't so much paid specialists as unusually loyal and well-regarded employees or noble-born subordinates working with the PC because they admire the PC. Stronghold retainers are never relegated to menial tasks. Examples of stronghold retainers: 
artillerist, castellan, engineer, herald.

AD&D (henchmen)
PH 13
Maximum Number of Henchmen states the number of non-player characters who will serve as permanent retainers of the player character. It does not affect the number of mercenary soldiers, men-at-arms, servitors, and similar persons in the pay of the character.
PH 39
A henchman is a more or less devoted follower of a character. In return for the use of his or her abilities and talents, the henchman receives support, lodging, and a share of his or her master's or mistresses earnings - in the form of stipends or as a share of treasure taken.
DMG Page 34
Because [henchmen] are so useful , and because they are typically so devoted, there are charisma limitations as to how many henchmen a PC is able to attract.
DMG page 103
Hirelings: As these characters serve strictly as employees, they should be played as such - mercenaries interested in doing their job and collecting their pay.

CONFUSED - you bet!
What can we bring out.
A retainer is

  1. Devoted
  2. Subordinate to a master
  3. Will risk their life for their master
  4. Rewarded by their master
  5. Their number (and loyalty) is limited by their master's charisma

I think for Hitler it is reasonable to say that yes, Goering, Goebbels, Himmler, Bormann, and Speer were Hitlers retainers.  
What about Batman - he has two devoted to him - Robin and Alfred?

So what is Batman's charisma? B/X 4-5 since he only has two retainers. AD&D 5-6?

The question I have is, why wouldn't you want your maximum number of retainers?
King Arthur had a lovely round table with lot's of retainers...
This site gives him 12 - like Jesus' disciples.
12 - now we are talking - OD&D says max 12. and Arthur may well have had an 18 charisma.

You might need 12 if you want all those stronghold retainers that Cyclopedia talks of. But if average charisma in OD&D, B/X and AD&D gives only 4 retainers, how are you going to staff your stronghold?

I'm depressed and confused - you see in my humble on-line poll, top right in the blog for a few more days, and comments here. I had 11 votes for Either as a player or as a DM, what is the highest number of henchmen/retainers you have seen a single character have?
1 retainer = 3 votes
3 retainers = 5 votes
5 retainers = 1 vote
9 retainers = 1 vote
> 15 retainers = 1 vote

But the 15 retainers was for leading a small army - so sorry that doesn't count Tim.
Can you imagine what would happen as DM if say, five players each adventured with 4 henchmen each? How could you DM that?

My thoughts
I'm left very unsatisfied with the whole henchmen/retainer thing. I'm still not sure what they are, and I'm not sure how many one should be allowed.

My first thought was to just reduce the number of henchmen allowed. Make them really loyal like Robin and Goering. Hitler had 18 charisma and he had 5 henchmen - so 5 is the max and work back from that. It meant however that if a player wanted to adventure by themselves they would not be able to recruit many retainers to assist them. No problem - easily solved by the DM. In my KotB campaign the party have been hired by Brade the jewell merchant to search for dwarf gold in the caves of chaos. To protect his investment he sent Relag, one of his guards and a war dog. Relag isn't a retainer he is an ally. Job done?

Perhaps but then my mind started to think about charisma and it's interplay with the NPC world. The player will form relationships with other NPCs, couldn't the retainer maximum and the retainer morale be used in some way to account for the PCs relationship with the NPC world? What about patrons? Is there a way to use retainer rules to guide the PCs relationship with their betters not just their lessers? 
What I want to know is when the PC is arrested and threatened with execution - who might come to their rescue or speak up for them. Retainers would. What about the barkeep, or the lord who the players last worked for. Would they? Look at the way in history lords would hide people like Martin Luther, even at risk to themselves. Maybe they could roll a reaction roll using retainer morale. Success = they don't just allow the PC to rot, they try and help in whatever way is appropriate to that NPC.
What if we called retainers followers - Holmes did, AD&D described Henchmen as devoted followers and Blog's have followers. A follower isn't always a lesser since a patron can follow a career of an aspiring artist. A follower is just someone interested in you and loyal to you. How loyal, that depends on one's charisma.

So in my campaign when it says Corporal Sten is easily taken by a pretty girl, and he meets Cha 13 Kate the cleric, and rolls a 11 on a reaction roll - he becomes her follower. If she became in trouble he would help.
Likewise, when Lando the dwarf got drunk with Malek the barkeep and the reaction roll was again very high, Lando gained a follower. And Malek, unknown even to Lando but alluded to by one sentence from me as DM, put a good work in with the Captain of the Watch, when Lando was under suspicion of killing / not protecting the 16 year old keep boy Deris. Who incidentally had already become a follower of Lando.

But now, the number of followers of 4 for average charisma seems a bit shoddy. 4 people who really care - Mum, Dad, the wife and the dog?

My House Rule
Charisma bonus = max number of followers and their loyalty
1 additional follower is allowed above charisma limit for every two levels starting at level 3. 

A follower is any NPC loyal to the character, who if the PC is in trouble, would consider (morale check) coming to the PCs aid, doing everything they could to help the PC, at risk of life or well being. One can still called the hired dungeon help a retainer or henchman - that's their title, the rules they use are for followers.

Only the DM knows how many followers the character has. At the simplest to gain a follower a very positive reaction roll 11-12 modified by charisma is required to gain a new follower. Other actions, saving someones life, will not require a reaction roll and is up to DM decision. If the player has more followers then allowed the DM will remove a follower, DM choice, this could be because the new follower takes up too much of the characters time the other is neglected. Alternatively for every follower gained above the maximum, morale might lower. If PCs move away from an area and lose contact with a follower, morale might lower over time, until that person is no longer a follower, but may still be on friendly terms.

PC actions will increase or decrease follower morale.

Ok it's not fully worked through but I am starting to play test it and it's working - it feels right - we shall see.


  1. Very enlightening discussion!

    Maybe another similar word you could use is "contacts"? Or is that too casual a connection? It seems like in movies we often see protagonists on the run going to contacts for help. Their prior relationship to that contact may be tenuous, but in a pinch they can crash on that person's couch, etc. -- in other words, that contact "would consider (morale check) coming to the PCs aid, doing everything they could to help the PC, at risk of life or well being."

    I personally like the term "follower," and have adapted Sham's Entourage Approach, which uses "Loyal Followers":

    Food for thought!

  2. This is a much more balanced post than I thought it might be, and also a really interesting one.

  3. @ Carter - I think 'contacts' is a little too broad that doesn't reflect true loyalty and I would favour just a reaction roll for interaction with any contact. I read your post on Entourage and the link to Sham's in Feb - all good stuff. It was reading your post that encouraged me to pull the Hitler pic and draft out of the edit to finish pile and get it out there.

    @ David - glad you thought I was balanced. It was EGG who started with the Hitler thing. Interestingly if you read of Churchill's money problems he was often bailed out by friends - loyal followers perhaps? Some of these friends were of higher class and greater wealth than Churchill? Napoleon I know too little about to judge.

  4. So, where do Batgirl, Huntress, et cetera fall into this? If we take them into account things look less bleak for Batman.